Organic discipleship

by Rev Jason Phua

Bible Readings: Philemon 1:1-25; Psalms 101:1-8

READ (Verse chosen for reflection)
Philemon 1:10-11 “I appeal to you for my child, Onesimus, whose father I became in my imprisonment.”

I am always encouraged by the passion and conviction the Apostle Paul had for one-on-one discipleship. Despite his missionary journeys, setting up churches, equipping leaders of these churches and enduring persecutions from the authorities, he spent time to mentor and guide many individuals. Onesimus was one such individual and here, the Apostle appealed to his former master to receive him like a brother in Christ. Paul even asked of Philemon to charge to his account; anything that Onesimus might have wronged or owed. This showed the depth of Paul’s relationship with Onesimus and Philemon.

Just a few days ago, I was talking to a friend about how pastors these days need to learn how to handle a wide scope of things. Gone are the days when pastors can just focus on preaching the Word, mentoring and pastoral care. Now many of us have to oversee ministries and lead in committees. Hence, the time for one-on-one discipleship becomes challenging. Yet, both of us agreed that no matter how “macro” our work has become, we should still make it our priority to get “onto the ground” and do discipleship the organic way. This is so we can continue to learn to love people and keep in step with what is truly happening in the life of others.

Help me O Lord, to out first things first and not let the demands of the world dictate what I should do. Amen.


Day 44

by Rev Joel Yong

Deuteronomy 25:4 GW
You shall not muzzle an ox when it is treading out the grain.

God’s care extends even to animals.
Here He gives rules on how animals should be allowed to eat even as they are out at work.

Jamieson Fausset Brown records in commentary:
“This is a charge to husbandmen. It teaches us to make much of the animals that serve us. But we must learn, not only to be just, but kind to all who are employed for the good of our better part, our souls.”

Humane treatment of animals is commanded here but it goes beyond that.
It teaches masters of animals and slaves (employers in the modern context)- to care for those who labor under their supervision.

Day 43

by Rev Joel Yong

Deuteronomy 22:1 GW
You shall not see your brother’s ox or his sheep going astray and ignore them. You shall take them back to your brother.

The Israelites were meant to be a people who were not self-centered. If something happened to their neighbor- they were to be concerned about it.

Hence if they spotted a lost animal they were to chip in and help restore it.

It’s dangerous when people start watching out from themselves and disregard what happens to people they don’t know.

In a church it can happen easily.
For example a prayer request gets circulated but we chuck it and ignore it if we do not know the person well. But for a well-known personality – everyone says “Oh I will pray for you.”

No wonder Jesus taught us that if we gave only to those we knew – it was something even pagans would do. It doesn’t differentiate us as followers of God.
But if we gave and loved, even to our enemies – just like the good Samaritan- that is the mark of a disciple who follows Jesus.

Burning down His temple

by Rev Jason Phua

Bible Readings: Jeremiah 51:54-52:34; Proverbs 26:18-19

READ (Verse chosen for reflection)
Jeremiah 52:13-14 “And he burned the house of the LORD, and the king’s house and all the houses of Jerusalem; every great house he burned down. And all the army of the Chaldeans, who were with the captain of the guard, broke down all the walls around Jerusalem.”

O how aggrieved the people must be to watch the burning of the house of the Lord and all the great houses in Jerusalem! To think that at one time of the history of Israel, the temple of the Lord was fearfully made in reverence and worship of Yahweh. Yet, the Lord our God had given it to the hands of the Babylonian army to be destroyed. Indeed, the Lord has no need of shows of piety if our hearts are not truly with Him. Jeremiah 52:13-14 reminded me of David’s cry to the Lord in Psalm 51; that what the Lord is truly looking for is our faith in Him. A broken and contrite heart; He will not despise.

It is clearly said throughout the Bible that we can only please God with our faith in Him. Faith does not mean that we can freely sin and then offer superficial acts of service or words to try to cover our tracks. Such was condemned in Isaiah 1:11-14 when the Lord said that He was “sick” with all the festivals keeping, incense burning and burnt offerings; for all these were “false and sinful”. Faith in God means the sincerity of our hearts to follow Him even in the most difficult of circumstances. It means faithful obedience to what is given to us in His Word. It also means that when we sin, we sincerely repent and strive to be holy. Indeed, we can have the largest number of people in our congregation, build the most beautiful of churches or even develop the most sophisticated discipleship programs; yet, God will not even consider all these things if we do not have sincere faith in Him.

Lord our God, we spent so much time and effort to do what we thought is pleasing to You; but all these are but secondary to what You really want from us. Teach us what is truly important to your heart so that we can be pleasing to You. Amen.

Day 42

by Rev Joel Yong

Deuteronomy 20:1 GW
When you go out to war against your enemies, and see horses and chariots and an army larger than your own, you shall not be afraid of them, for the Lord your God is with you, who brought you up out of the land of Egypt.

The Scriptures teach that the God of Israel is King over the universe. There is no one like Him. No one outranks Him and no one outperforms Him.

We tend to get sidetracked when we look at a report book, at a payslip, at a bank savings account book, at a health report, at our age and the remaining days of our life – and think surely there is no way we can get out of this.

But God isn’t limited by these things.
That is why David the little shepherd boy went up against Goliath the giant war veteran.
And won.

It’s not about what we have got.
It’s about who our God is.

It ain’t over – not till the fat lady sings – but rather until God says so.

Day 41

by Rev Joel Yong

Deuteronomy 17:1 GW
You shall not sacrifice to the Lord your God an ox or a sheep in which is a blemish, any defect whatever, for that is an abomination to the Lord your God.

The offerings that the people made to God – were meant to teach them to honor Him and respect Him.

If they were not careful- over time, its meaning would be lost. And it would be an empty rite they followed.

Perhaps they would begin to think that they were doing God a favor and that He needed their offerings to stay alive.
Perhaps they would think that they could just get by with the requirements and give Him the sick and diseased animals from their flock.

But here- God explicitly teaches the people not to. It is hated by God when people fulfil their offering requirements with corners cut.

It shows disrespect. It shows a flagrant lack of regard that God is the sovereign Lord of the universe. It shows a taking for granted that all our income actually is possible because of God.

And it shows a crazy assumption that He doesn’t know and is not watching what we do.