A New Season in 2015

Happy new year friends!

Two thousand and fourteen has been a bittersweet year. There has been some good stuff and also some not so good stuff.

As I reflect over the past year, I am thankful for my amazing church, Faith Community Church and what God has been doing in our worship ministry. Some of the highlights include growing our team’s technical skills; an increasing sense of His presence in our worship; and an amazing leadership team who have together taken the ministry to a new level.

I’m grateful for the opportunity for our team to do new things, push boundaries and continuing to grow outside our comfort zone.

I’m also grateful for increasing fruitfulness in my work as a lawyer, both within my own firm and also in the broader profession and a personal re-orientation in what it means to be a marketplace minister.

But 2014 has also met with some personal and family health challenges. Towards the end of the year, I had a tear in the membrane at the back of my eye which led to some fluid leaking into the middle of my eye. Praise God that three injections later (directly into the eye which was pretty traumatic!), my vision is clear again.

In November, my father-in-law also had a major operation to install a heart pump. Most doctors have never heard of this in Australia, but in Singapore, they have been just under 50 cases of the procedure. Even though his heart was weak, the rest of his vitals were in order so he was able to receive the pump. Now, he is stronger than he has been all year! It did result in my wife being in Singapore for the last 2 and a half months, so I have had to fend for myself (whilst looking after Lucy our pug!). And just as I was leaving for Singapore last month, Lucy had a corneal ulcer which covered most of her eye. (We are really grateful to Cindy our vet who has been looking after Lucy in our absence).

Whatever season you went through, I am believing God for you that 2015 will bring in a new season in your faith.

When I’ve gone through difficult times, I would play this song “New Season” over and over again and declare the truths it presents over me. Here is a video I found of the song (as originally recorded) with Ps Michael Pitt’s powerful exhortation at the beginning:

Here are the lyrics:

It’s a new season, it’s a new day
Fresh anointing is flowing my way
It’s a season of power and prosperity
It’s a new season coming to me

Verse 1:
The devil’s time is up no longer can he bother me,
‘Cause the Creator of the universe He fathers me,
and it’s transferable my children’s children shall be free;
it’s a new season

If you don’t know by now, you need to know it’s jubilee,
Where debts are cancelled and your children walk in victory.
It’s so available to you right now just taste and see,
it’s a new season

Verse 2:
The new millennium presents a new horizon,
And no greater time for us to make a choice and take a stand.
All that we need, is resting in His hands;
it’s a new season

All that was stolen is returned to you a hundred fold,
Tried in the fire but you’re coming out gold.
Cling to His hand, yes, to every promise take a hold;
it’s a new season

May these promises hold true for you in 2015

I am declaring Deuteronomy 28:1-13 over my life and yours:

“Now it shall come to pass, if you diligently obey the voice of the Lord your God, to observe carefully all His commandments which I command you today, that the Lord your God will set you high above all nations of the earth. And all these blessings shall come upon you and overtake you, because you obey the voice of the Lord your God:

“Blessed shall you be in the city, and blessed shall you be in the country.

“Blessed shall be the fruit of your body, the produce of your ground and the increase of your herds, the increase of your cattle and the offspring of your flocks.

“Blessed shall be your basket and your kneading bowl.

“Blessed shall you be when you come in, and blessed shall you be when you go out.

“The Lord will cause your enemies who rise against you to be defeated before your face; they shall come out against you one way and flee before you seven ways.

“The Lord will command the blessing on you in your storehouses and in all to which you set your hand, and He will bless you in the land which the Lord your God is giving you.

“The Lord will establish you as a holy people to Himself, just as He has sworn to you, if you keep the commandments of the Lord your God and walk in His ways. Then all peoples of the earth shall see that you are called by the name of the Lord, and they shall be afraid of you. And the Lord will grant you plenty of goods, in the fruit of your body, in the increase of your livestock, and in the produce of your ground, in the land of which the Lord swore to your fathers to give you. The Lord will open to you His good treasure, the heavens, to give the rain to your land in its season, and to bless all the work of your hand. You shall lend to many nations, but you shall not borrow. And the Lord will make you the head and not the tail; you shall be above only, and not be beneath, if you heed the commandments of the Lord your God, which I command you today, and are careful to observe them. 

These blessings are available now to us because of Jesus’ perfect obedience and His righteousness imputed to us. He has taken the curses of the law that we might receive the blessings of obedience. We are blessed not because of our own merit and works, but because of Jesus’ finished work!

So whether 2014 was full of triumphs and victory or moments of discipline and recalibration, may 2015 be your best year yet as you step into your new season!

Blessings Reel – July 2012

At the beginning of the year, following Joseph Prince’s first sermon of the year, I posted that 2012 would be for me a Year of Unceasing Fruitfulness. Reflecting over the 7 months that has already come and gone, I am all the more convinced of this.

Last week, I was watching the movie adaptation of Dr Seuss’s The Lorax. I thought it as a kiddy film, but Ling wanted to watch it so we bought the DVD.

I’ve never read the book before, but essentially the film is about a completely synthetic society devoid of trees. Years ago, a young, ambitious citizen exploited the environment out of capitalist greed to produce something called a Thneed (it’s sort of like a snuggy-like product) and decimated the entire tree population. And so, the next generation grew up never having seen a real tree. (Yes I know, there seems to be a strong environmental agenda!)

The plot revolves around one boy’s quest to find the last remaining seed in order to regrow the tree population. And his attempts to thwart his arch-villain who tries to eradicate that last seed so that he can continue to sell air to the inhabitants of the town.

And the theme of the film centres around the word “Unless…” The entire motif is revealed at the end as the moral of the story:

Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot,
Nothing is going to get better. It’s not.

As the movie was unfolding, and I was trying to figure what “Unless” was all about, my mind was led to another “unless” quote, this time, found in John 12:24 in the words of Jesus:

Unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds.

I was struck by the significance of these two quotes together. In The Lorax, it took a boy to care a whole lot, to risk his life in order to plant a seed, so that society might be redeemed.

And then I think about how God cared about the world a whole lot, that He sent His son to lay down his life, so that humanity might be redeemed.

When Jesus was talking about the kernel of wheat falling to the ground and dying, He was alluding to His own death and sacrifice, so that many seeds would be produced; so that amongst other things, we can experience unceasing fruitfulness.

Paul says it this way in Galatians 3:16-18:

The promises were spoken to Abraham and to his seed. The Scripture does not say “and to seeds” meaning many people, but “and to your seed”, meaning one person, who is Christ… For if the inheritance depends on the law, then it no longer depends on a promise, but God in his grace gave it to Abraham through a promise.

In other words, we enter into the inheritance and promises of blessings to Abraham not by our adherence to the law, but through the sacrifice of Christ in laying His life down (the seed falling to the ground and dying) so that many seeds, and ultimately, fruitfulness would be produced. Aren’t you grateful for the grace of God?

In this context, I want to highlight some fruitful blessings for the month of July:

First, I am grateful for the opportunity to spend a few days with my cousins, aunt and uncle from Canada, whom I have not seen for over 15 years! They’re all really blessed and doing well, but it was great to hang out with them and get to know them a bit better. They are really wonderful people!

Second, I believe that Ling is increasing in anointing in her healing ministry. She has always had an unusual compassion for the sick and this year, when we planted ourselves in Faith Community Church, Ling wanted to join the healing ministry even though she had for the longest time served in the music ministry. But over the last few months, she has read a lot about healing and actively taken part in FCC’s Healing Rooms.

During the time I was sick with the flu, I was coughing incessantly one night and by about 2 am, I was still awake coughing. It must have kept Ling up too, but I think she was more concerned about me! She turned to me, sharply rebuked the cough and then told me to breathe deeply five times and I would fall asleep. Admittedly, I am not too good with this whole healing business (I believe God heals, but sometimes my experiences don’t match up with what I’m supposed to believe) but I was too tired to argue, so I started breathing deeply. Once…twice…three times. By the fourth breath, Ling tells me, I was snoring away. What an amazing grace of God over Ling’s ministry!

And lastly, I was really blessed by Pastor Benny’s message about surrender versus commitment. It was one of the most profound messages I’ve heard in recent years, and it has impacted me deeply.

I’m excited about the next five months of unceasing fruiltfulness and how God will use me, even in some small way, to impact the world. I am blessed so that I can be a blessing.

Have you been blessed lately? If so, please feel free to share here.

Blessings Reel – June 2012

I know we are already well into July, so reflecting on June has come just a bit late.

Last week at cell group, as we were ending the worship time, one of the cell members blurted out an extempore prayer reflecting on God’s goodness and our need for perspective. “Perspective” is an important word because it often goes together with “faith” (another important word that I want to talk more about in my next post because it links nicely with what Pastor Benny Ho preached last Sunday at church).

As I have said in previous posts, I really believe that this year for me is the Year of Unceasing Fruitfulness – a theme which God impressed upon me during the first church service I attended at the beginning of the year at New Creation Church when I was in Singapore. I believe that in the course of this year, God will continue to help me bear unceasing fruit even in the midst of drought and that each month, I will have a different kind of fruit to thank God for.

To be honest, I struggled a bit to try to think of what the fruit for the month of June would be. I had gone from the exhilaration of Converge to long hours at the office trying to sort out all the 30 June deadlines. It was a trying month.

But during cell group last Thursday (and I believe the Holy Spirit was really orchestrating a move amongst us), another cell member shared that we often approach God with a spirit of complaining rather than thankfulness, particular in relation to our job when we’ve been in the same job for a long time. Rewind to the days when we didn’t have a job, the job we’re in now was the biggest miracle and a long-awaited answer to prayer. But (for me, 6 and a half years later), it’s almost like the presence of God had left the office (yes, I know, that last sentence wasn’t theologically sound, but that’s how I felt).

So, as I reflect on the month of June, I’ve decided to shift my perspective.

I am grateful for the blessing of my job. I get to help people and be a godly influence in the workplace. God uses my job to help me pay my mortgage, living expenses and provides financial resources for me to pursue a lifestyle of generosity. When I look at it this way, as a matter of perspective, my job has a been a huge blessing from God. It’s not just a once-off blessing, but a continuous, sustaining blessing from the hand of God. And for that I am grateful.

And I am grateful for the end of another financial year!

And I’m also grateful, as I reflect on being unceasingly fruitful, my fruitfulness has nothing to do with my own efforts and righteousness, but by Christ’s efforts and His righteousness. There’s an old hymn that goes like this:

I dare not trust this sweetest frame

But wholely lean on Jesus name

Dressed in His righteousness alone

Faultless to stand before the throne

If the blessings of God were due to my righteousness and doing, I’d be one of the most unblessed people ever!

But as I was watching Joseph Prince’s Grace Revolution DVD the other night (recorded live at Lakewood Church), Prince shared a really interesting thought about God’s irreversible righteousness.

In Genesis 12:14ff, Abraham had gone down to Egypt and had lied to Pharaoh about Sarah being his sister. Pharaoh then took Sarah into his household. The result? God inflicted Pharaoh and his household (not Abraham) with serious diseases. And Abraham and Sarah were then sent away with sheep, cattle, donkeys and servants. In other words, Abraham was blessed and prospered despite his sin of lying.

And then in Genesis 20:1-17, the episode repeats itself with Abraham doing the exact same thing, this time to King Abimelech. In verse 3, God appears to Abimelech (not Abraham) and says to him that he is as good as dead because he took Sarah, a married woman. Abimelech then sent Abraham and Sarah away with sheep, cattle, slaves and 1000 shekels of silver. Again, Abraham was blessed despite what he did.

This so grated against my performance-centered conditioning that it was hard to take in. I have been taught for a long time that God’s blessing accompanies our obedience, our doing the right thing.

Galatians 3:5-9 says this:

Does God give you his Spirit and work miracles among you because you observe the law, or because you believe what you heard?

Consider Abraham: “He believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness.” Understand, then, that those who believe are children of Abraham. The Scripture foresaw that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, and announced the gospel in advance to Abraham: “All nations will be blessed through you.” So those who have faith are blessed along with Abraham, the man of faith.

What an amazing revelation! God doesn’t work miracles and blessings in our lives because we observe the law, but because we believe! Because we believe, we are children of Abraham and are blessed along with him. And as we are blessed, we can also be a blessing!

Lastly, I am blessed to be able to say that this post is my 100th! Never in my wildest dreams would I have thought that this humble blog would have gotten this far!

Blessings Reel – April 2012

It’s amazing to think that a third of the year has just flown by. And not just any year, but the Year of Unceasing Fruitfulness.

I like the idea of fruitfulness, because it has got nothing to do with what you do and what you can achieve; rather it has to do with where you are planted.

Think about it this way: a seed grows into a tree because all the potential has already been put into the seed. We have been created by God with potential. And not only potential, but unique potential. And yet, none of that is activated unless we are planted in good soil. The soil makes all the difference!

As we abide in Christ, we bear fruit naturally. We are blessed with fruitfulness. And our fruit becomes a blessing to others. We are blessed to be blessing!

Last month, Pastor Benny began sharing from the book of Ephesians. The first chapter of Paul’s epistle says this (v7):

In [Christ] we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace that he lavished on us with all wisdom and understanding.

I like that God is a lavish God. He always does exceedingly abundantly above all we can ever ask or think. But I also like that even though God lavishes His grace and favour on us, He’s not indiscriminating and random. Rather, He lavishes with wisdom and understanding. A father who indiscriminately gives everything to a child spoils the child; a father who gives with discernment provides the child with what is best for the child.

April has been a full-on month for me and many times I’ve felt like maybe I wasn’t cut out for doing the whole Converge thing! Yes, I’ve always thought it’d be cool to have a day of worship, but organising one is something else! Thankfully,the program is now finalised. I’m really glad that many ministries have put their hands up to serve together on the Day of Worship.

And I’m also grateful for my cell group. I’ve really enjoyed going to cell group and even though I’m usually quite introverted, the people in my cell group have really included us and made us feel at home. God is blessing us with some great friends! And I’m really inspired by my cell leaders. My cell leader Ernie is really balanced and wise and Wen is an eternal optimist, able to see the best of every situation. I’m glad that God has planted us in this cell group for this season to inspire us to be better people!

So God has been looking after us; and even though we’ve worked hard and I’m a bit tired now, I know that I am blessed!

I’ll finish off with a tweet from Nicky Gumbel:

Happy moments, PRAISE GOD

Difficult moments, SEEK GOD

Quiet moments, WORSHIP GOD

Painful moments, TRUST GOD

EVERY MOMENT, THANK GOD

Amen and amen!

Blessings Reel – March 2012

Psalm 23:5-6 says:

You prepare a table before me
in the presence of my enemies.
You anoint my head with oil;
my cup overflows.
Surely your goodness and love will follow me
all the days of my life.

The Message versions says His “beauty and love chase after me every day of my life!”  What an amazing God we serve!  We don’t need to chase after His blessings, but as we allow ourselves to be led by Him – our Good Shepherd – His promise is that His goodness chases after us.  This means that even when we least expect it, God’s blessings sneaks up on us and surprises us.  In other times, it bears down on us – we can’t escape it!

I can’t believe that we are already one third of the way through the year.  In this Year of Unceasing Fruitfulness, I believe that I will not feel it when heat comes, but my leaves will be evergreen.  As Joseph Prince shared at the beginning of the year, each month will bring a new manifestation of fruitfulness.

One of the major blessings for this month is a vicarious one.

My wife had been looking for a job for some time now and was a bit discouraged after receiving a few rejection letters.  However, one day she was told that the government was going to offer her a position but that it would take some time to process.  The job would be fairly run-of-the-mill, but the hours would be great and it would be a part-time position, leaving her time to do stuff around the home and to be involved in ministry.

As she was waiting for the job to come to confirmed, she saw an advertisement for a job that she had really wanted with a boutique public relations, branding and design firm.  She applied for it not really expecting anything and within a couple of days, she was asked to “go in for a chat”.  Then she was asked to work for a day on a freelance basis.

After the freelance day, she wasn’t sure whether she’d be offered a formal position, but then we went on a trip down to Dunsborough for her birthday.  When we got back, she was formally offered the government job, but she didn’t sense that it was what she really wanted, especially because she wasn’t sure if the boutique firm would give her a job offer.

So, being a wise husband, I suggested to her that she should go back to the boutique firm to ask what their intentions were, otherwise she would take the government job.  The response from the boutique firm was:  “don’t work for the government – we want you to work for us!”

And best of all, even though the job was advertised as a full-time job, the boutique firm was prepared to let her work a three-day week – so she gets a four-day weekend every week!  I’m so envious!

That’s the provision of God.

There have been other blessings too of course.  We’ve finally found a home church to settle in and in the past month, we’ve met some really great people and made some new friends in our cell group.

And as far as this blog is concerned, it has now been going for four months and readership has steadily grown over that time.  Last month, we hit 1,012 views!

I’m grateful to God for His blessings in my life.  God has a way of causing our cups to overflow!  His blessings sneak up on us and surprise us.

Blessings Reel – January 2012

Okay, I admit the title to this post is a bit tacky, but I’m in a tacky kind of mood.

I actually can’t believe that it’s February and January 2012 has already come and gone.

During the first sermon for 2012, Joseph Prince shared on “Unceasing Fruitfulness” and one of the things he mentioned was that the tree of life had 12 fruits. These fruits speak of 12 different blessings for each month of the year. Looking back over the last 31 days, I can say that I’ve experienced the blessings of God.

It’s a bit difficult to say which one blessing is the one fruit for January, but here’s some of the things that I’m grateful for in the last month:

  • First day of the year: a brilliant sermon at New Creation Church on “Unceasing Fruitfulness” to set the scene for the next 364 days (actually 365 as this year is a leap year). In the year of drought, I can experience unceasing fruitfulness as I meditate on God’s word! Amen.
  • Ling and I had a great time in Singapore for holidays, with plenty of eating and shopping and spending time with her side of the family.
  • At work, I won a difficult appeal in the Refugee Review Tribunal for a Coptic Christian from Egypt. The Tribunal accepted that Australia owed my client protection obligations. The Immigration Department is now processing the remaining requirements and I expect that this client will be granted permanent residency in the next couple of months. I don’t care what people say about the refugee situation in Australia, but when you sit across the table from some guy whose life is on the line, all the ideological grandstanding about boat people and border protection goes out the window. This guy is extremely relieved!
  • We got to go to the Influencers Conference (or parts of it) and heard some inspiring preaching. A friend of mine had booked for the entire conference and wasn’t able to make it, so Ling got free use of his pass for a whole day!
  • We had a great jam session with some old friends from Full Gospel Assembly.
  • We had the opportunity to meet with an apostolic leader in the city and I sense that God is starting to open new ministry doors in 2012 (even though I feel a bit disenfranchised at the moment not being part of a local church). I’m also privileged to be able to serve alongside Shaw Cheong and Judy Low in some developing projects as part of Grace and Fire MInistries.
  • We started going to Faith Community Church for the month and I was completely floored by Pastor Benny Ho’s sermon last Sunday. I’m on the way towards building a strong, consistent devotional life.
  • My blog is going well. It’s only been going since December and as at 31 January 2012, it’s recorded 1353 views! (Okay some of that was me looking at the blog myself, but most of it was legit!) I hope it’s been a blessing to others so far!

And to cap it all off, on the last day of January 2012, a friend told me that Pastor Benny Perez had tweeted my blog. In fact, his church had tweeted it first, and then Benny Perez retweeted it. What an honour. I’m actually not sure how twitter works exactly, but I’m thankful that at least on this occasion, my writing has gone half way around the world!

So looking back through January, I’m thankful for all that God has done for me. I’m deeply loved, highly favoured and greatly blessed!