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Issue No. 44 08 - 14 Nov 2010
Ignored by Mickey Chiang

Jeremiah, “The Weeping Prophet”, is generally credited with writing the book “Lamentations”, which is full of powerful references to tears and to weeping. For instance, Jeremiah prophesied that after King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon had destroyed Jerusalem, the city (which he personified as a once-great princess) “weeps bitterly in the night and her tears are on her cheeks” (Lamentations 1:1-2). A bit lower down we read, “For these things I weep. My eyes run down with water” (Lam 1:16).

What sort of a man was Jeremiah? What do his books tell us about him as a servant of God that might be useful and worthy of emulation by us who aspire to be servants of God today?

God appointed him a prophet to the nations (Jeremiah 1:5) and sent him to the leaders of Judah with unwelcome messages about the coming destruction of Jerusalem and their armies by Nebuchadnezzar, who would be an instrument of punishment in God’s hand. The destruction of Jerusalem? But that was where God resided, in his wonderful Temple! Surely God would not let his Temple be destroyed? And how could God use a cruel and ruthless man like Nebuchadnezzar? And against His chosen people? Unthinkable!

To make things worse, Jeremiah was about twenty years old when God called him into God’s Prophets Service, the original GPS. To find your way in the ancient world, you plugged into that GPS. But which ruler or high official would pay any heed to a prophet who was a youth?

Jeremiah was very brave to convey such unwelcome messages to rulers, high officials and priests. Many prophets had been killed in those times for bearing unwelcome prophecies. Could God not have sent an older prophet of great stature and a proven “track record” to bear His messages to the rulers in a more authoritative way? But perhaps God had done so and those prophets had been killed?

Isn’t it significant that the very first verse of Jeremiah tells us that his father Hilkiah was “one of the priests at Anathoth” (Jer 1:1). After all, for none of the other prophets was it ever mentioned at the outset what his father was. Did being a priest’s son give Jeremiah some degree of protection? However, it was ultimately God who protected him through all the years he served God. We can take comfort in that and put our own fears at rest when we too speak what God places on our hearts and in our mouths.

Jeremiah was no mindless mouthpiece. He even dared to argue with God! “Ah, Lord God! Surely you have utterly deceived this people and Jerusalem, saying, ‘You will have peace’; whereas a sword touches the throat!” What an indignant accusation. Do we dare to argue with God and accuse Him of deception? Yet, if our relationship with God is a close and loving one, should we not express what is really in our heart?

Jeremiah was also an Ignored Prophet. Who heeded his prophecies that God was summoning the Babylonians and other peoples to destroy Judah, to wipe out its armies and to burn down Jerusalem in punishment for their sins? Certainly not successive kings of Judah, or their officials and priests; they did not repent. Amazingly, even when Jeremiah’s earlier prophecies were fulfilled, they disbelieved his subsequent prophecies! How frustrated and dejected Jeremiah must have felt. In the eyes of the world Jeremiah was a big flop. But Jeremiah did not give up. We who are called to preach or teach from the word of God will do well to emulate Jeremiah’s patience, perseverance, and refusal to give up in the face of rejection and lack of results. What is important is to do the will of God – and to leave the results to Him.

Several other things stand out in Jeremiah’s two books. One, he must have had a very powerful memory to retain all the things that God told him to say to various people, and to faithfully write them down.

Two, Jeremiah was a poet of great talent. Much of what he wrote is set in poetry. In fact, he was a poet of high intellect, for it took great intellect and imagination to craft acrostic poetry in which the first letter in each successive line followed the order of the Hebrew alphabet. Like Line 1 starting with an A (Aleph) and Line 2 with a B (Beth) and so on. The first four chapters or laments of Lamentations are acrostic, with 22 lines of verse in each, except for the 3rd lament which is specially ingenious. The verses in each stanza there start with the same acrostic alphabet, so there are 66 lines in that chapter, or three times the usual 22 verses. How about that?!

Chapel Notes  

Mr Simon Wong (Grad Cert. in Tent making, 2010) and his wife Selina shared with us on a ministry they are currently involved in, named “OCTOPUS.” The following is summarized from their presentation:

OCTOPUS is an acronym for “Outreach of Carmel TO Polytechnic and University Students.” Inspired by Jesus’ teaching to love and offer hospitality in Matt 25.35: “For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in,” OCTOPUS was established in July 2008 by Mt Carmel BP Church, a church near to many tertiary education institutions, to reach out to the growing number of foreign students attending exchange or long-term study programmes in these institutions. The vision is to extend Christ’s unconditional love to international students in Singapore through friendship and hospitality, helping them to move in a positive direction in their spiritual journey towards knowing Christ. OCTOPUS is organized to reach out to two groups of students:

1. Long-Term Students

This group aims to minister to long-term foreign students, who come from various countries and academic levels and usually stay more than a year in Singapore. They are not yet Christians, but keen to learn about Christianity. The group meets once a month and operates like a Care Group. They are introduced to spiritual disciplines such as songs and praise; bible study; sharing and praying. You may ask, “Why would these students participate in these activities?” Friendship and hospitality are key attractions. The hope is to progressively lead them into a personal relationship with Jesus and assimilate them into church one day.

2. Exchange Students Group

Simon is the facilitator in this group. The group primarily engages international students attending exchange program in the National University of Singapore. Personal contacts, referrals (by previous exchange students) and social networking sites are used initiate contact with these foreign students. Face-to-face contact is then established shortly after they arrive in Singapore. Students are invited to events such as “Tour Around Singapore in 1-Day”, Nature Walk in Sungei Buloh or National Day lunch and celebration in a Singapore home. Thereafter, they are invited to homes for a dinner-cum-discussion session fortnightly. A key feature of such home-based gatherings is “saying grace”. Despite the religious diversity of the group, the invitation is always made to join in a prayer of thanksgiving before the meal. They are reminded that we have opened our homes and availed ourselves in the name of Christ. Another key feature is the topical discussion after meal. This is usually about 60 to 90-min long, during which students are invited to express their views on a topic related to life journey. As a facilitator, Simon provokes thoughts by asking challenging questions and moderate discussion. Most of the time Simon and the befrienders listen to their opinions, but whenever possible they will also provide a perspective based on Christian values and beliefs. On some occasions, it was possible to share the Gospel.

The OCTOPUS ministry has taught some valuable lessons. One important one is that having a network of Friends of International Students (FIS) was a critical success factor. Families from the church befriended students and followed up with them throughout the semester, inviting them for family events and home-cooked meals. Recently church Care Groups also came to the fore with more structured serving in both groups of long term and exchange students. Also, while events were good crowd pullers, it was the befriending that contributed to maintaining the relationship after the event. In other words, friendship is a process, not an event. The following words are Simon’s closing challenge: “Singapore reminds me of the city of Corinth in Paul’s days. Corinth was a thriving trade centre, the capital city of the Roman province of Achaia and the seat of the governor. Paul probably saw the world at the doorstep of Corinth and the opportunity for the church to carry out the Great Commission to make disciples of all nations. It was a fertile ground for sowing and reaping. Perhaps Paul had this in mind when he reminded the Corinthians: “Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously” (2 Cor 9.6). May his words inspire us to seek out and capitalize on new indigenous frontiers open to us for sowing and reaping as Singapore welcomes foreign talents to study, work and live among us.”

There will be no Chapel Service on Nov 17, a public holiday (Hari Raya Haji). Chapel Services resume on Nov 24.

Faculty News  

Dr. Satterthwaite will continue his series of Sunday Sermons (4 Sundays in November) at Bethesda Frankel Estate Church on “Psalms of Darkness, Psalms of Light”, (Psalms 39, 88, 118 and 150).

Dr Edwin Tay will be teaching at Telok Ayer Chinese Methodist Church on 14 November 2010 from 10.45am to 11.45am. The topic is “The Necessity of the Atonement.”

Dr Ng Peh Cheng will be leading the Visiting Evaluation Team (Asia Theological Association) to accredit a seminary in Bangkok, Thailand (November, 16-19). She appreciates prayer for safety, wisdom to lead and make good decisions.

Courses for 2011
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