The Waiting Father
Author: Helmut Thielicke (translated by John Doberstein)
Publisher: James Clarke & Co (London: 1960), 192pp.

This is not just a "good" book.  It is a "must-read" for any preacher, professional or otherwise.  The Waiting Father is a collection of sermons on the parables of Jesus.  But they are no ordinary sermons.  They are sermons preached with such incisive power that readers and listeners are compelled to re-think and re-evaluate their life, faith and everything else they hold dear.
People sometimes ask what it is that makes a good preacher.  And the answer has to come in two parts: first, a good preacher is one who sits humbly and constantly at the feet of greater preachers; and secondly, a good preacher is one who first learns to hear the howl of the wolf in one's own soul.  And Helmut Thielicke's works will perform both of these functions for the minister of God's Word who aspires to preach with some depth and integrity.  To give you a taste of Thielicke's capacity for driving us to the end of our spiritual tethers, let me single out a few specimens of his profound preaching from this collection.
The title of the book, The Waiting Father, is of course a re-phrasing of what is traditionally known as the parable of the prodigal son.  For Thielicke, what is significant about the parable is not the son's prodigality, but the amazing tenacious love of the waiting Father.  And he concludes therefore that "to separate ourselves from the Father is at bottom not merely 'unbelief' at all, but simply the most monstrous kind of silliness." (p.26)
Nonetheless we do.  We leave church.  We backslide.  And we blame others for our "loss of faith."  Is this entirely fair?  Maybe not.  In the end, we turn our backs on God because somebody offers a better bid price.  In his sermon on the parable of the sower, Thielicke observes: "Everyone has an axis around which his life resolves; every man has his price for which he is prepared to sell himself and his salvation." (p.58)
Every man has his price.  Some of us will beg to differ.  Like Peter, we want to protest our faithfulness.  If only people knew how grateful we are to God or what God has done in our life.  We would never deny Christ, much less betray Him.  Perhaps we should read Thielicke first, and let him lambast our spiritual cocksureness into smithereens, and maybe it is only from the ashes of that brokenness that we would become fitter instruments of God's grace.
This theme of spiritual arrogance is probed intensely in several of the other parables.  On the story of the rich man and Lazarus, Thielicke suggests that it is the "spiritual wealthy" who drive the Lazaruses of the world into deeper misery and consign them to a backdoor existence (p.44).  In his exposition of the parable of the Pharisee and the publican, Thielicke almost sends a chill down your spine in his parody of the Pharisee's prayer on the lips of the publican.  In other words, he turns the whole thing round, makes the publican the "bad guy" who is proud of his honesty (about being immoral), his ruthlessness (in being true to himself), etc.  What is the issue?  Self-justification; and we do that all the time, sometimes using God's name for our own self-affirmation.  And then Thielicke concludes, "No confession of sin safeguards us against pride.  Even humility is not a virtue which is immune to the devil." (p.129)
I could go on.  There are 16 sermons in that book, every one of them a mine of precious gems for those on a quest for spirituality, truth and integrity.
As a preacher, it thrills my heart to have discovered Thielicke.  And it embarrasses me to think I dare pretend to have anything worthwhile to offer before God and men when I stand in the pulpit.  And it compels me to want to seek and drink more deeply from the fountains of spiritual wisdom, and to long for the crumbs that fall from the master's table through preachers far more competent than I am.  May Thielicke's writings do as much for you.

(Review by Rev Ng Seng Chuan)

    The speaker at chapel last week (April 10, 2002) was Paul Kendagor, a full time student at BGST.
The focus of the message was this very simple but interesting idea of how John the Gospel writer defines himself.  John nearly always defines himself as "the disciple whom Jesus loved."
    We define ourselves by our work, and sometimes others by their weaknesses, e.g., "doubting Thomas," or Judas "the betrayer."  What makes John's self-definition fascinating is that it is passive.  John defined himself not by what he did (i.e., as the one who loved the Master), but by who he was, viz., the one whom Jesus loved.  (Is there a hint here that we miss the point of Christian discipleship when we define ourselves by what we do?).
    Being the object of God's love has its transforming grace.  John was with Jesus at the trial before the high priest, he was with Jesus at the foot of the cross, and it was to John that Jesus entrusted his mother Mary.  And it was John who understood the implications when he went to the empty tomb, and John who recognized Jesus' resurrected form when the risen Lord set breakfast before His disciples.
The speaker closed by illustrating how this idea - that we are the objects of God's love - would change the way we walk the path of Christian discipleship.  For one thing, we would serve God not with that familiar feeling of being tired and over-stressed, nor even from a sense of compulsion as if we had no choice in the matter, but with the energy and enthusiasm of those who are "in love."  For another, we would learn to love others, not out of a sense of reciprocation ("I'll be nice to you if you are nice to me"), but in imitation of God's self-sacrificing and forgiving love.
    What we want to be known as would certainly make a difference to the way we live, and we need to see ourselves individually, more than anything else, as the one whom God loves.
    Chapel speaker for this week (17 Apr) is our alumni, Mr Benny Fang. He will be speaking on "BGST: Past, Present and Future".

1.  EASTER APPEAL. Praise God for 26 persons so far who have responded with a total giving of $24,780 towards our total need of $100,000. We are looking to the Lord for 13 more to give $5,000 each and 10 more to give $1,000 each. We appreciate gifts of any amount. We acknowledge each gift with a letter. Kindly let us have your return address. But if you wish to remain anonymous, we would like to inform you that all such gifts will be acknowledged individually in BTW so that you can be sure that your gift has been received. Please join us in prayer for the remaining amount that is needed for our operational expenses.

2. COURSES IN TERM 3, 2002. For those who plan ahead, here is a glimpse of the courses that will be offered:

  • New Testament Foundations II (Dr Quek SH, commending 24 Jun, Mon, 7.30-9.30pm)
  • Old Testament Foundations I (Dr P Satterthwaite, commencing 9 Jul, Tue, 7.30-9.30pm)
  • Principles & Practices in Worship & Speech (Rev Ng SC, commencing 26 Jun, Wed, 7.30-9.30pm)
  • Skills in Lay Counselling II (videoclass,Rev Dr Tan S Y/Mr Yam Keng Mun, commencing 26 Jun, Wed, 7.30-9.30pm)
  • The Christology of the New Testament (videoclass, Dr Colin Warner/Dr Quek SH, commencing 27 Jun, Thu, 7.30-9.30pm)
  • The Educational Ministry of the Church (Dr Ng PC, commencing 4 Jul, Thu, 7-10pm)
  • Understanding Esther and Ruth (Dr P  Satterthwaite, commencing 12 Jul, Fri, 7.30-9.30pm)
  • Biblical Basis of Missions (Rev Dr David Harley, commencing 19 Jul, Fri, 7.30-9.30pm)
ADDITIONALLY, some students have approached us concerning the following required courses. If you would like to take these in Semester II (from July 2002), kindly let us know so that we can ascertain if a video class can be run for: (1) Biblical Hermeneutics & Interpretation, HE101, 3 credits; (2) Introduction to Church History, CH 101, 3 credits.

3. "TREASURING THE NEW TESTAMENT." On Monday, Apr 22, 7.30-9.30 pm in the main sanctuary of our Bishan Campus, Dr Quek Swee Hwa will give a Special Lecture cum Slide Presentation on the New Testament. Part One will comprise showing of a Presentation of "Journeying with Paul" and "The Seven Churches of Asia" and will be specially relevant for those who are interested in joining Dr Quek in a 13-day Bible Lands Study Tour to Turkey and Greece this year. The dates are: Nov 25, Monday, leaving Singapore for Istanbul, at 2315 hrs. Returning to Singapore on Dec 7, Saturday, at 1620 hrs.
Those interested in a longer stay may opt for a 5-day extension to either of the three destinations: Cairo, Israel, or Rome. The extension group(s) will return to Singapore on Thursday, Dec 12 at 1620 hrs. For more information, call Serene Woon at 63538071. Part Two will be a talk on treasuring the New Testament in understanding it, preaching from it and cherishing it despite denials of its authority and trustworthiness.

Wishing you God's blessings on your Birthday!
Mr David Chan Chee Chung  18/04
Mr Kang Cheng Guan  18/04
Dr Lee Soon Tai  19/04
Mr Lee Soon Yong  19/04
Dr Jeffrey Lum Kah Leong  19/04
Mrs Thankip Vel Zahau  21/04

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This page is updated on 16 Apr 2002.
    Mar 2002