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Lessons from the Olympic Games  

1 Corinthians 9:25; Ecclesiastes 1:4

The 2004 Olympic Games in Athens has just ended.  What terrific, heart-pounding performances by the top athletes of the world! How we cheered, or felt cheered, when an Olympic record was broken. For we know it takes years of training, special exercises, expert coaching, hard practice, competition, perspiration and sacrifice, to win a medal, or, better still, break a record.  Paul put it succinctly: “Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training …. to get a crown that does not last; but we do it [strict training] to get a crown that will last forever” [1 Corinthians 9:25].  How much training, and coaching, are Christians getting today, and how much sacrifice is being asked of us?  Just as an Olympic table tennis competitor needs to know his or her bat, and is expert at using it in all circumstances, does a Christian not need to know the Bible and be expert at using it in every circumstance?


It is so difficult to shave off even a millisecond off an Olympic record.  How much more difficult it is to save one sin-stained soul! The athletes at the Olympic Games strain every sinew and muscle to push against the limits on what the human body can do. But who set the limit on how fast a human being can run 100 metres?  Or swim 50 metres?  Someone must have, for the truth is that we are designed to run or swim up to a certain top speed.  The evolution-theorists believe that every improvement comes about by chance, through random mutation of a gene.  But if everything was because of random mutations, then a mutant fast-running gene would surely have cropped up by now, and the fortunate person having it could run 100 metres in, say, 7 seconds.  Do we see any such individuals anywhere today?


Could it have happened in the past?  Possibly, but think about it:  If the great Olympic champion Jesse Owens possessed such a fast-running mutant gene, how long would it take for this mutant gene to spread hereditarily so that every person on earth had it? How many million years would it take, I wonder?  Would any mathematician care to work this out? 


By the way, are Owen’s children champion athletes too?  After all, they have his genes, don’t they? It would be interesting to see how many grandparent-parent-and-grandchild medal winners there have been in the history of the Olympic Games.


Ecclesiastes 1:4 tells us in a thought-provoking way that there is Someone who designed this earth and everything in it.  “Generations come and generations go, but the earth remains forever” sets us thinking about why generations of all species of living things die when they reach a ceiling age.  Why can’t humans live forever too?  Isn’t it because a life-span limit has been set for human beings, just as it has been set for every species of plant or animal? 


Whether we like the idea or not, we are all creatures of a great Creator.  Look at the immensely complex double-helix of a DNA strand and you will realise that there is no way such a complex, brilliantly organized, structure could ever come about by chance.  It was designed.  That makes you and I top-brand designer products made by the Creator himself, the Maker of everything who wants to be called Yahweh, or Jesus.


Thus, we were designed to run at a certain maximum speed.  Sure, better shoes, faster running cinder tracks, better nutrition and training, and better muscle-building and running techniques will see running times drop, but ever so slightly only.  I watched the Games on television and just reveled in the knowledge that, like other human beings, I am wonderfully designed and made. 


But even Rolls Royce limousines break down.  Recently, I brought my mother for a post-operation checkup at the world-class Singapore General Hospital.  It was packed with people with countless medical problems.  So many things can go wrong in each and every part of the human body.  The fact that I can see, hear, walk, talk, breathe and do all the numerous things that humans do is to me a miracle, a gift from my Maker.  Not believing in miracles is nothing less than not believing in God.  For miracles are what God does.  


Chapel on 18 August was taken by Dr Aquila Lee who spoke on the text from Matthew 13:44-46.


We all know that Jesus taught in parables. Over one third of Jesus’ teaching in the Synoptic Gospels is in parables. Out of eleven “kingdom” parables, Dr Lee spoke from Matthew 13:44-46 about the parables of the hidden treasure and the pearl; they are often called “twin parables” because they teach the same lesson.

Usually, God’s kingdom is likened to one who sows, a king who gives a wedding feast, ten young virgins, and so on. The comparison, however, is not to a person, but to the story that follows.

Then what was Jesus trying to teach with these twin parables? Five different options have been suggested: the value of the kingdom of God; the need to search for the kingdom; the hiddenness of the kingdom; the joy of sharing in the kingdom; and the sacrifice required to enter the kingdom.

Two elements are commonly found in both parables: one is in both a precious object is found, and the other is in both the men sold everything they had to obtain this precious object. Was Jesus emphasizing the value of the kingdom or the sacrifice involved in possessing it? There are several reasons for concluding that it is the sacrifice rather than the value of the kingdom that is being emphasized in the parables. First, the value of the kingdom of God would be obvious for both Jesus and his hearers. Second, the emphasis lies with each man selling all and purchasing the treasure at the end of both parables. Third, most of the English Bible translations translate v.44 in past tense, but the original Greek is in present tense: “then in his joy he goes and sells all he has and buys that field.” This change from the past tense at the beginning of the parable to the present tense highlights the cost or the sacrifice.

When Jesus told these parables his main point was a call to decision. The great value of the kingdom demands the supreme decision. One should sacrifice all one has to possess this great treasure. In other parts of the Bible this is described as a call to “repent,” to “follow” Jesus, to “believe” in him, to “take up the cross,” to “keep his words,” to “take up his yoke,” to “lose one’s life,” or to “hate one’s family,” etc. Here the call is figuratively portrayed as selling all. So if we understand the main point of the parables as “sacrifice” meaning a reluctant decision, then indeed we are missing the point. Although the main point of the parables was not the joy of sharing in the kingdom of God, it is nevertheless “from joy” that the man sells all that he has. It is clear, therefore, that Jesus meant to portray the decision to possess the kingdom of God as a “joyous sacrifice”! Even today Jesus wants us to “hold fast the confession of [our] hope without wavering”, “to work out [our] own salvation with fear and trembling”, and to “be faithful unto death” (Rev 2:10). Having “found” the kingdom of heaven, we are urged to stand by our “find”.


Today, 25 August, Dr Quek Swee Hwa spoke further at chapel on two parables, Mark 4:1-9; 26-29.


Prof. Alan Millard will be speaking at Chapel on 1 & 8 September.


Dr Aquila Lee will be conducting two courses, ‘Who is Jesus?’ (NT210, 1.5 credits, starting 15 September) and ‘The Parables of Jesus’ (NT216, 1.5 credits, starting 3 November).


1. A warm welcome to Prof. Alan Millard who will be speaking at two public lectures:

  • “The Bible in its Context: Assyria, Babylon & Egypt” - 28 August, 7.00-8.30pm

  • “Reading & Writing in the Time of Jesus” - 4 September, 7.00-8.30pm

 Prof. Millard will also conduct two lectures:

  • The Bible it its Context: A Reliable Record? (OT150, 3 credits). The public lecture on 28 August covers the first session of this course.

  • Writing & Books in the Old Testament World (OT260, 1.5 credits, starting 30 August)

2. Dr Ng Peh Cheng will be giving a motivational talk to Sunday School Teachers at Zion Gospel Mission on 28 August.  

3. Our Dean, Dr. Quek Swee Hwa, has been invited to the Istana on 27 August to receive a President’s Social Service Award 2004. Dr Quek is the President of the Bible-Presbyterian Welfare Services. He has served as Chaplain at the Ling Kwang Home for Senior Citizens and the Bishan Home for the Intellectually Disabled. His chaplaincy ministry has also extended to the prisons system and drug centres since 1979.

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Budget for the month of Aug 2004 = $  51,200

Funds received to-date (23 Aug)   = $  20,529 

Funds needed for current month   = $  30,671


Budget for Aug - Dec 2004            = $271,735


A Blessed Birthday to…

Ms Rosalind Teo  30/8

Mdm Theresa Liew  30/8

Ms Nancy Haryanto  31/8

Mrs Sophia Yap  1/9

Ms Lim Bee Lum  2/9

Mr Lau Pak Soon  3/9

Mr Leong Weng Kam  3/9

Prof. Teo Choo Soo  4/9

Mr Victor Chua  4/9


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