12 Fruit for 12 Months: The Year of Unceasing Fruitfulness in Review

Unceasing Frultfulness

So we come to the last day of 2012 and it’s always good to end by revisiting the premise set forth at the beginning. It helps us to see how far we have come and how faithful God is.

As I shared in an earlier post, we were at the first and last services of 2012 at New Creation Church. New Creation Church itself went through an amazing journey this year, settling into some swanky new premises at the Star Performing Arts Centre.

On 1 January 2012, Pastor Joseph Prince announced that 2012 would be the Year of Unceasing Fruitfulness based on Jeremiah 17:7-8:

Blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord, whose confidence is in him. He will be like a tree planted by the water that sends out its roots by the stream. It does not fear when heat comes; its leaves are always green. It has no worries in a year of drought and never fails to bear fruit.

And then, taking his cue from the tree of life in Revelations which bore 12 different fruits, Prince declared that in 2012, we would experience a different fruit each month of the year.

He finished the first service by asking us to present three different requests to God, believing that in the course of the year, God will provide an answer to each one of those requests.

I remember still lifting up those requests during that service.  The first was that Ling and I would find and settle down in a new church family. The second, that I would see our investment property sold at a particular price. The third, which I was even too scared to fully articulate, was that God would use me to somehow bring unity amongst worship leaders in the city of Perth.

Miraculously, I saw God answer each and every one of those requests over the course of 2012!

So here is 2012 in review – 12 fruits for each month!

JANUARY: REST AND REFRESHING

We had a great time of rest in Singapore and was inspired when we went to New Creation Church with the theme for the year. It set the course for the year of our experiencing great blessings even in the midst of drought. Even when heat came, we remained ever-green!

We also connected with an apostolic leader in Perth, Wendy Yapp, who has been instrumental in encouraging us forward in our ministry in the city.

FEBRUARY: A NEW HOME IN FAITH COMMUNITY CHURCH

We were so blessed to settle into our new church family, Faith Community Church!

The messages we’ve heard Sunday after Sunday have been inspiring and life-changing. Pastor Benny Ho is a visionary and a brilliant teacher of the Word. And we’ve enjoyed meeting new people and being part of the church’s various ministries.

MARCH: LING IS BLESSED WITH A NEW JOB

Ling had been freelancing for a while and had been wanting to get permanent part-time work. God oversupplied and she found herself in a dream job in a dream company with great colleagues. How she ended up in that job was a miracle!

APRIL: AN AWESOME CELL GROUP!

It’s one thing to be part of a church, but another to actually be part of the church community.

We are really grateful to our cell members and our cell leaders, Ernie and Wen for making us feel included and loved.

Having such a great bunch of new friends has been instrumental in seeing us through a period of great transition in our lives. It has been one of the great highlights of the year!

MAY: CONVERGE

Converge full logo

 

We got to be part of the Converge organising committee, putting together a week of events during which the church came together in our city to pray and worship. I was privileged to help organise the Day of Worship – 14 hours of non-stop worship – anchored by different church groups throughout the day.

JUNE: ANOTHER FINANCIAL YEAR IS OVER

For the industry I work in, everything revolves around the financial year i.e. 1 July to 30 June. God sustained me for another year in my job!

JULY: LING JOINS THE HEALING MINISTRY

I was really grateful to see Ling begin serving in a new ministry in healing and intercession. This was something that has been on her heart for some time, and even though I miss serving together with her in worship, I have seen how excited she has gotten every time she sees God works in a person through healing.

Also, Pastor Benny preached one of the best sermons of the year on surrender versus commitment.

AUGUST: CINDY RATCLIFF COMES TO PERTH

Cindy Ratcliff signing

Metrochurch hosted one of my favourite worship leaders, Cindy Ratcliff. And we got to take a photo with her!

And I started serving again in worship ministry at Faith Community Church! Team 3 and Lisa Palm (our worship director) rock!

SEPTEMBER: ARROWS COLLEGE

I was so blessed to attend a one-week module on worship at Arrows College taught by Ray Badham. It was great to see a fresh perspective from a seasoned teacher of worship and also to catch some of the passion from the other students.

OCTOBER: INVESTMENT PROPERTY SOLD

We sold our old apartment! We had been thinking of selling it for quite a while, but the timing had never felt right. So one of the requests at the beginning of the year that I presented to God was to sell the apartment at a specific price. However, as the year was panning out, the economy wasn’t doing well and I began to think that it would be unrealistic to sell for that price.

However, just as we listed the property with our real estate agent, property prices started to recover and we went out on a limb and put up a higher asking price.

Miraculously, within one day of the home open, we had an offer at the asking price, which far exceeded the price I had specified in my request at the start of the year! God is good!

NOVEMBER: JOURNEYING TOWARDS GLOBAL DAY OF WORSHIP

I was privileged to work with a great bunch of worshippers in organising GDW!

DECEMBER: GLOBAL DAY OF WORSHIP

Global Day of Worship

In December, I had the privilege of seeing GDW come to fruition and how God exceeded my wildest expectations!

I really believe (as one of the intercessors had prayed) that it would be an historic moment in our city and that God will orchestrate greater unity amongst the church in Perth, particularly at a grassroots level!

And this blog reached 15,000 hits yesterday!

So, it’s been an amazing year. Never would I have thought the year would have been so fruitful! But God is true to His promises and He always oversupplies, doing exceedingly, abundantly above what we could ever ask or think. The year 2012 has indeed been a year of Unceasing Fruitfulness. I am so thankful to God for what He has done in and through our lives. If 2012 was great, I believe that 2013 will be greater still. I can’t wait to see what great adventures God has in store for us!

Happy New Year and God bless you. May 2013 be your best year yet!

Blessings Reel – August 2012

Ephesians 1:11-12 says this:

In him we were also chosen, having been predestined according to the plan of him who works out everything in conformity with the purpose of his will, in order that we, who were the first to put our hope in Christ, might be for the praise of his glory.

The Message paraphrase puts it this way:

It’s in Christ that we find out who we are and what we are living for. Long before we first heard of Christ and got our hopes up, he had his eye on us, had designs on us for glorious living, part of the overall purpose he is working out in everything and everyone.

August has been a busy month, but it was entirely filled with God’s blessings.

First, there was the Israel and the Church Conference with Peter Tsukahira and David Davis. I am always dumbfounded whenever I hear people teach about Israel. I’m not a fan of those who teach about Israeli politics and somehow try to use the Bible to justify their stance, but it’s completely different when teachers take a biblio-historical perspective and show us how Biblical prophecy is being fulfilled right before our very eyes.

If anything, it makes me love the Bible more. Sure, people try to challenge the authority of the Bible in all sorts of ways, but frankly, I’m tired with apologetics and proof texts and all that stuff. Skeptics can argue about these things all they want. But when I see the heart of God for Israel, both in the Old and New Testaments, and see how current and historical events pertaining to Israel are fulfilling prophecy, you have no doubt about the divine authorship of the Bible, and God’s passionate heart for His chosen people.

You might say that before the foundations of the world, God had already predestined to reconcile Israel to Himself in conformity with the purpose of His will for the praise of His own glory.

Second, getting to see Cindy Ratcliff lead worship in Perth was pretty much a dream come true. Okay, so maybe there is a bit too much celebrity-ism in worship, but the take-home message was that God uses humble vessels like Ratcliff to entrust big visions and ministries. I was impressed by her voice, stage presence and songwriting skills, but above all, I was inspired by her lack of pretension; her love for people and her passion for God’s presence.

Third, a friend of mine for whom I was praying survived a job cull in his company. Even though 75 per cent of the team lost their jobs, my friend experienced God’s favour in being able to keep his!

Fourth, I finally signed up for Bible School. Well, sort of. I’ve always wanted to try going to Bible School, but it’s difficult to take such a big step. But I am grateful that Pastor Benny organised Arrows College and an impressive faculty to teach a 10-week course. I couldn’t arrange to take 10 weeks off work, but I am going to a one-week module on “Worship and Songwriting” being taught by Ray Badham.  I’m really looking forward to it.

Fifth, this blog reached 10,000 hits in August. It is only by God’s grace and I am trusting that it will grow from strength to strength. This month, as part of Faith Community Church’s Season of Prayer, my wife has forced me to “fast” (i.e. give up) checking up on my blog stats. I was quite obsessed with seeing how many hits the blog was getting each day, but I’ve decided to leave that issue up to God.

Finally, I was blessed to become part of Faith Community Church’s worship team. After having not served in a church worship ministry for over a year, it’s great to get back into a ministry which I feel God has made a life-long calling for me.

As Peter Tsukahira shared during the Israel and the Church Conference, based on Ephesians 1:11-12, before we were even born, God had already designed us with a destiny. When God starts restoring us to the dreams He had for us, this is “our calling”. And the Holy Spirit gives us gifts to support our calling – gifts which are more than just talents. This is called “our anointing”. The gifts and calling are without repentance, i.e. God does not change His mind on them.

When we align with God’s calling and anointing, we come into our inheritance and we begin to bear fruit.

Indeed, this is a year of alignment, and a year of Unceasing Fruitfulness! It is indeed “in Christ that we find out who we are and what we are living for!” Amen!

Reflections on Cindy Ratcliff’s Visit to Perth

It has been an amazing start to the weekend, first with Cindy Ratcliff’s ministry to the worship teams from different Perth churches on Thursday night, and then with the Just Worship event last night at Metrochurch, during which Cindy led worship.

My wife and I were really thrilled because at the end of the evening, we got to take a photo with Cindy and her husband Marcus. Our good friend and worship leader, Joanna, also got into the photo!

What really blew my mind was the fact that Cindy, her husband and their team didn’t have to come to Perth. But not only did they come, they did so at their own cost. Why? Simply for the purpose of, as Marcus Ratcliff puts it, “to leave a deposit”. I wasn’t exactly sure what they meant by the “deposit” and in what form exactly it took, but here are some thoughts and principles which I felt were deposited in me as I reflected on the last two evenings:

1.  A Call for Worship Ministers to Prayerfully Plan the Journey of Worship

As I mentioned in my previous post, when I first heard the We Speak to Nations album (Lakewood’s first live release), there was a real sense of capturing the atmosphere of worship rather than a showcasing of new songs.  

During last night’s worship, even though Cindy did do a few new songs, there was a planned focus, flow and progression in her worship set which, in my view, is missing in many churches today.  I could be wrong on this, but in my experience, a lot of worship leaders are still putting songs together which don’t necessarily mesh thematically or flow in tempo and feel.

We need to recover the sense of worship as journey.

2.  The True Mark of Leadership is Humility and Servanthood

Because I’ve been making all this fuss about Cindy Ratcliff in the last couple of days, some people were remarking that maybe I had put her on a pedestal.  Perhaps… But I think we have a lot to learn from her about leadership.

Cindy leads a worship team of 1000 people, some of whom are recording artists and world-class musicians, yet she comes across as level, easy-going, normal and above all, humble.  There was never any hint of her coming across with a sense of entitlement.

It reminds me of Philippians 2:5-11:

Think of yourselves the way Christ Jesus thought of himself. He had equal status with God but didn’t think so much of himself that he had to cling to the advantages of that status no matter what. Not at all. When the time came, he set aside the privileges of deity and took on the status of a slave, became human! Having become human, he stayed human. It was an incredibly humbling process. He didn’t claim special privileges. Instead, he lived a selfless, obedient life and then died a selfless, obedient death—and the worst kind of death at that—a crucifixion.

Because of that obedience, God lifted him high and honored him far beyond anyone or anything, ever…

Behind every leader that God elevates is the spirit of servanthood.

3.  It Happens to the Best of Them

I often get annoyed when little technical things go wrong.  But last night, about 30 seconds into the first song, the projection of the words failed.

I have seen worship leaders react in a number of ways when things like that happen, but Cindy’s approach was completely seasoned by humility.  After the first song, she welcomed the crowd and very seamlessly made the point that the technicians were doing their best to get the words up, but she encouraged us that even if the words don’t come up, we should try our best to sing along and she will prompt us with the lyrics where appropriate – because after all, we were there to worship God together.

When things like this happen, they often reveal the attitude of our hearts.  Do we get frustrated and annoyed? Or can we let go and do our best in the situation before us?

4.  Excellence, Heart and Faithful Ministry

I’ve been pressing this point of late, but I believe that excellence in ministry is not an afterthought or a secondary requirement.  I see excellence and the heart of worship as two sides of the same coin.

And when the two combine, a powerful synergy is created.

I have worked with bands where because the music isn’t tight, everyone has had to work extra hard to carry each other (this is a difficult concept to articulate, but if you’ve been part of a band, you’ll know what I mean). I’ve also been in bands where the musicians are technically excellent, able to support and cover each other, and where musicians are humble enough to let others soar at opportune moments.  In those times, a worship leader doesn’t have to do much, but you begin to realise that everyone on stage is, in effect, leading worship together.  It’s the difference between my coming out of a worship set feeling exhausted, and coming out of it feeling light and invigorated.

The musicianship was of a such a calibre last night.  Even though there were only 3 musos and a bass track, the music just enveloped you and made it easy for you to engage with God.

5.  Worship Meets Justice

I love “Just Worship” events because as far as worship is concerned, it’s where the rubber hits the road. It’s about worship which pleases the Lord, not just singing him nice songs in an electrified atmosphere to make ourselves feel good, but where worship and justice intersect.

Micah 6:6-8 says this:

How can I stand up before God
and show proper respect to the high God?
Should I bring an armload of offerings
topped off with yearling calves?
Would God be impressed with thousands of rams,
with buckets and barrels of olive oil?…

But he’s already made it plain how to live, what to do,
what God is looking for in men and women.
It’s quite simple: Do what is fair and just to your neighbor,
be compassionate and loyal in your love,
And don’t take yourself too seriously—
take God seriously.

The Contemporary English Version says that God demands that “we see that justice is done”. Justice completes our act of worship. In worship, we bless God so that He blesses us, so that we, in turn, might be a blessing.  This is the cycle of worship.

So, I am glad to say that in an atmosphere of powerful worship and encounter last night, those who gathered raised $20,000, every single cent of which will go to Telethon to help children with medical needs in our community.

I am grateful to God for sending Cindy Ratcliff and her team to deposit something into my heart, and into our city, which I’m sure has left us all transformed.

 

Cindy Ratcliff’s Insights into Worship Ministry

I just got back from an amazing evening at Metrochurch’s OneNight with Cindy Ratcliff, the Senior Worship Leader of Lakewood Church. I had always been a big fan of Cindy’s ever since I heard the album We Speak to Nations. That album was for me a return from an artist-centric approach to worship music back to the grassroots of home-grown church worship (albeit on a scale that most of us wouldn’t usually experience). There is an unusual sense of God’s presence particular in the medley culminating in the song “Show Me Your Glory”.

After hearing Cindy in person, I am now even more of a fan. I was impressed by the strength of her leadership in a ministry with people like Israel Houghton, Steve and Da’dra Crawford (from the Christian group, Anointed) and world-class vocalists and musos. But even more impressive was her transparency, humility and sensitivity to the Spirit.

Cindy shared insights into worship ministry in the context of her own journey to Lakewood and building a worship team which numbers about 1000 members today (that’s right, their worship team is larger than most churches!). I thought I might just quickly record some of her thoughts here:

// As worship ministers, we need to guard the condition of our hearts. The purity of our hearts displays the glory of God.

// What you do in private sets the stage for what you do in public.

// Submit to your leaders and champion their vision. Your ability to submit sets an example of how people should follow you.

// Choose to think the best of the people in your team, even though it’s much easier to think the worst of them. Doing this helps diffuse conflict quickly.

// Be yourself – be confident in who God has made you to be.

// The job of the leaders in the ministry is to provide a touchstone and sense of family for members of the team and to provide prayer support. They do not do counselling. For counselling, these are referred to trained counsellors in the church.

// Have accountability to people close to you (like your spouse – they are like your personal Holy Spirit!). They keep things from getting to your head.

// About worship musicians who play on the secular stage: they are not there to partake, but to impart. In other words, they are sent out as missionaries as positive influences in the secular arena.

Above all, from what I heard tonight, I think the secret to Cindy’s success in ministry is her reliance on the Holy Spirit. Worship ministry often throws up tricky questions like “how do you balance skill and heart?” or “do you allow non-Christians to play on your band?” Cindy’s response to these questions was about knowing what is right for your team in a particular season or situation. More than a prescription (on the one hand) or gut instinct (on the other), I am again reminded that effective leadership requires that we lean in and listen to what the Spirit is saying, just like how Jesus would only do what He saw the Father doing.