BGST FACULTY & STAFF WISH ALL OUR READER A BLESSED CHRISTMAS!

A most amazing thing
(Mark 3:2)

The Holy Bible talks of many amazing things, even miraculous things.  So, many of its sentences are very amazing too.  Which is the most amazing sentence in the Holy Bible?  To me one of the most amazing sentences in it must surely be Mark 3:2.

 The context was this: Jesus had gone to a synagogue on the Sabbath, and a man with a withered hand was already there.  Mark records: “they were watching him to see if he would heal him on the Sabbath, so that they could accuse him” (of breaking the Sabbath).  Who were “they”?

 “They” were Pharisees and teachers of the law, and they had been watching Jesus closely, to catch him breaking some Commandment or some of the numerous laws, rules and regulations that had been made by Pharisees and teachers of the law, the rabbis, over the centuries since Moses wrote the Torah.  Did they set a trap for Jesus by having the man with the withered hand present in the synagogue, knowing that Jesus would visit it?  Perhaps, if not probably.

 Now if they were watching Jesus closely, didn’t they see at least some of the many miracles Jesus had performed?  Most assuredly they did.  Large crowds were following Jesus as he traveled from place to place (Matthew 8:1).  His reputation for miraculous healing was so great that a leper sought him out, bowed down before him and asked for healing of his incurable disease (Matt 8:2).  In fact, his reputation was such that it extended beyond the Jewish community.  Soon after the leper was healed, a Roman centurion sent representatives to ask Jesus to heal his servant.  Even Romans believed in Jesus’ miraculous powers.

 We know that some Jewish scribes were present when Jesus healed the paralytic in Nazareth, the one who was lowered through a hole made in the roof of the house Jesus was in.  Jesus had healed him, saying, “Take courage, son; your sins are forgiven” (Matt 9:2).  Were the scribes amazed at this great act?  Yes!  They said in amazement, “This fellow blasphemes!” (Mark 2:7).  They asked, “Who can forgive sins but God alone?”

 “They” were following him around, all right.  So they saw him heal the man with the withered hand. “Stretch out your hand!” Jesus commanded him (Matt 12:13), and as the man did so his withered hand “was restored to normal, just like the other (hand)”. Did the Pharisees and teachers of the law yell out, “Wow! What a miracle! Hallelujah, praise the Lord!”?

  Huh?  What did you say?  They didn’t? Then what did they do?  Mark 3:6 tells us that “The Pharisees went out and immediately began conspiring with the Herodians against him, as to how they might destroy him”.  Why?  Because by healing on the Sabbath Jesus had broken their beloved laws?  You mean they were watching him but didn’t notice the great miracle of healing right before their eyes, but saw only the committing of a religious crime?  Now that’s what I call really amazing!

  While crowds of people were amazed by Jesus’ miracles, the Pharisees and teachers of the law were so in love with their own man-made laws that they could see only the breaking of a law and not the miraculous signs that Jesus performed, signs that proclaimed Jesus to be none other than God himself, come down on earth.  Just after seeing Jesus cast out demons from a blind and mute man and seeing that man regain his eyesight and ability to speak, they asked Jesus, “Teacher, we want to see a (miraculous) sign from you”!

 Didn’t they see the sign he had just performed?  Hadn’t they witnessed any of the many miracles, the “signs”, that Jesus had performed?  Were they not there when Jesus fed the 5,000 and the 4,000 with just a few fish and a few loaves of bread?  Hadn’t they seen Jesus make a withered hand whole and normal again?  Wow, it’s really amazing how blind people can be, without realizing it!  Truly, there are none so blind as those who would not see. 

 This Christmas they will hear about Jesus, but will fail to see the signs that proclaim who He really is; instead, they will choose to convince themselves why they should reject Him.  Ours is the noble task of helping them see the truth about our most amazing and wonderful Jesus Christ the Saviour.  Tell someone about the real and really amazing Christ this Christmas.  Is there a better time to talk about the Christ than Christmas?

CHAPEL NOTES

 Chapel on 7 December 2005

 

(Immortal, Invisible, God Only Wise)

by Rev Ng Seng Chuan

For chapel today, I chose to offer some reflections on God’s character, based on W. Chalmers Smith’s hymn entitled, “Immortal, Invisible, God Only Wise”. 

 What I found fascinating about the hymn is that sense of contrast, almost like a series of oxymorons (“unresting, unhasting”) that pervades the hymn.  Add to that the implicit functioning of the Trinity, and it becomes an interesting elucidation of God’s nature and modus operandi.

 With Stanza One repeated in Stanza Five, and hinting thereby the “inaccessible” God being revealed at the end, Stanzas Two to Four respectively deals with each person of the Trinity.

 First, there is God the Spirit at work, maintaining the balance and rhythm of the universe (“rulest”), yet infusing it with the promise of the possibility of “love”.  This characterization issues with it the call to be “unhasting…nor wanting, nor wasting…”      I had interpreted the word “waste” in the sense of being wasteful, though one astute listener helpfully pointed out afterwards that it should more appropriately mean “wilt”.  (Yes, I did get fairly instantaneous feedback!).  Kudos to attentive listeners out there!

 Secondly, there is God the Giver of Life (a hint of Christological connections, surely).  And God the Giver has given us everything we need, supremely given of Himself in incarnation and crucifixion.  And this would call from us gratitude for gifts “great and small”, a sense of veneration for all of life (“in all life Thou livest”), and an acceptance of life’s points of origination and termination (“blossom…perish”).

 Finally, the Creator Himself is portrayed as “Father of light”.  We are offered in Stanza Four a vision of God’s holiness (with angels “veiling their sight”), a hint of the  illusion of God’s hiddenness, and an illumination of God’s habitation – which is not in the transcendent beyond, but “hidden” in the depths of the human soul.

 To me, the hymn is a profound theological statement, with incisive practical insights.  As I walk away from this hymn, I could feel it said of me as Samuel Taylor Coleridge would of his “Ancient Mariner”:

  “A sadder and a wiser man

  He rose the morrow morn.”

 Chapel on 14 December 2005

 Our alumnus Andrew Lee was speaker at Chapel on 14th December. He began by noting the challenges and complexities of life in Singapore. How are we to be faithful to the gospel in modern Singapore? Andrew focused on four issues, which he addressed with texts taken from Philippians.

1) Are we hiding our faith? That was not Paul’s way: he went to prison for his faith, and everyone knew about it (Phil. 1:12-13). Some Christians, however do not want to be known as Christians: they would rather not face the scrutiny.

2) Are we determined to choose service over stardom (Phil. 2:4)? Philippians describes three people who chose servanthood: Timothy (2:20); Epaphroditus (2:25–30); and Jesus himself (2:5–11). It is a quality increasingly valued even in the secular world these days. So how come many Christians do not seem to value it? How can we relate to others without a degree of affection and humility?

3) Are we prepared to look beyond small differences (Phil. 2:1–2; 4:2)? Do we understand the importance of Paul’s injunctions to ‘be of one mind… one purpose… living in harmony’? This requires humility and resolve, along with an ability to focus upon the ‘big picture’ – that is, upon Jesus himself. Paul shows this attitude in Philippians 3, when he reviews things that used to be important to him, but now count for nothing ‘compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord’ (3:4–11).

4) Are we willing to reject materialism (Phil. 4:12)? It is not just the rich who are tempted to materialism: Matthew 6 defines materialism as an undue concern with our needs, something that can affect rich and poor alike. Certainly in Singapore there many who ‘make a good living’ but live poor lives.

Perhaps the secret in handling all four of these issues is to count our blessings: that will help us to see how glorious the gospel is (so how can we not share it?), how much God has forgiven us in Christ (so how can we remain conceited?), how important it is to know and live for Jesus (so how can small differences continue to divide us?), and how faithful God is (so why can we not trust him for our needs?).  

NEWS BITS

1. BGST Library will close at 1pm on 24 Dec (Saturday) as it is Christmas eve. School reopens on 27 Dec.

2. A warm welcome to Mr Sanga Miller who visited us on 16 Dec. Mr Miller is from North East India.

3. Change of Commencement Dates.

  •   Old Testament Foundations 1 (OT101, 3 credits) starting Feb 2 (new date).

  •   Better Speech for Leadership & Ministry (AT231, 1.5 credits), starting Feb 22 (new date)

  •   Communication Skills for Speakers & Church Leaders (AT232, 1.5 credits), starting Apr 12 (new date)   

A BLESSED BIRTHDAY TO 

Ms Jenny Low  12/12

Mdm See Poh Chan  12/12

Mrs Ang Tiong Keng  13/12

Mr Clive Lim 14/12

Mr Lawrence Yam  15/12

Mdm Joyce Tan  16/12

Mr Ian Chng  16/12

Mr Edwin Chua  17/12

Ms Patsy Lim  17/12

Mr Royston Koh  17/12

Mdm Sim Hong Siang17/12

Mr Teo Chee Khiang 18/12

Ms Elaine Ng  18/12

Mr Chua Mun Kiong  19/12

Ms April Sim  19/12

Mrs Penny Teo  20/12

Mdm Loh Mei Ling  21/12

Ms Lim Sio Leng  23/12

Ms Adelene Ho  23/12

Mr Beh Soo Yeong 24/12

Dr Chan Shaw Yan 24/12

Mr Jack Lim  24/12

Mrs Lily Gay  24/12

Mrs Rina Lai  26/12

Mr Stephen Yung  26/12

Mr Ho Kok Inn 27/12

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Last update : 22 Dec 2005. 
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