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!

Steppin’ Out: Reflections on Global Day of Worship

Global Day of Worship1

It’s now the 364th day of the year (sorry I started writing this on 30th December and I’m only finishing it on the 31st).

Today, I was challenged as I went to New Creation Church (I’m in Singapore at the moment) for the final service of 2012. I was there during the first service of the year (watching it via livefeed in a movie cinema) on 1 January 2012 when Pastor Joseph Prince announced the theme for the year: Unceasing Fruitfulness.

Today, the challenge was from Psalm 90:12 – that God might teach us to number our days because there will be days that aren’t lived for God and which will be completely lost. God can (and does) redeem those days that were lost, but only in today’s terms.

I can say that 2012 has been a year filled with God’s fruitfulness in my life.

One of the highlights for me was the privilege of being able to organise Global Day of Worship for Perth this year.

The story was one of God’s orchestration, because frankly, I had never organised something like this before.

It all started a few months earlier as I was on Facebook posting a photo (as I often do) of something I was about to eat. At that moment, my friend Wendy Yapp Facebook-messaged me and joined me into a conversation with Global Day of Worship director, Eunice Barruel.

Within minutes of our chatting to each other (via the keyboard and my dessert’s subsequent melting) we struck a chord and Eunice asked if I could coordinate GDW in Perth.

I was hesitant at first.

I’m sure you’ve all had that feeling – when faith and doubt fight it out and you are left really not sure of what to do. So I said to Eunice that if I could get a team together, then I would do it.

When I said “team”, I meant “musicians and worship leaders”, which really was quite short-sighted of me. Not long after, it became quite apparent that the task was bigger than just getting musicians together to facilitate worship: there was venue hire, logistics, marketing and a whole lot of other peripheral (but important) things to organise too.

But within a week, some of the core group of musicians had agreed and so I guess I had to eat my words and commit to organising GDW.

One of the things I learnt was that sometimes we need to just step out in faith. Hebrews 11:8 says that “by faith Abraham, when called to go to a place he would later receive as his inheritance, obeyed and went, even though he did not know where he was going.”

I think we seldom understand the gravity of what Abraham was doing. If you think about it, it was much more than a man going after God’s promise by faith. Can you imagine what Abraham must have gone through?

  • He was being asked to change his religion.
  • He was being asked to abandon his culture.
  • He had to leave behind his extended family and his property.
  • He had to move a lot of people and possessions; presumably he had to explain himself to a lot of people who were questioning what he was going to do.

And for what? The writer of Hebrews says that Abraham had no idea where he was going. He just knew that God had promised him a city with foundations whose architect and builder is God. And so, in faith, Abraham stepped into the unknown. In that same step, he also left everything that was known.

I’m not saying that I have experienced anything that dramatic, but organising GDW was a step of faith. I had no idea how it would work out. People used to ask me “how many people are you expecting to come?” and I would say, “I have no idea. I haven’t even really thought about it. I suppose, a hundred?”

But beyond just a worship event, and beyond the fact that we would be participating in a world-wide 24-hour continuum of praise, I believed that GDW had to be something which was also a step towards unity amongst worshippers in the city.

So part of the process of assembling the team was also about getting musicians and worship leaders from different churches involved.

We had some anointed worship leaders with whom I had worked in the past, but then more prominent worship leaders came on board, including Mel and Daron Crothers and Michael Battersby. In the end, there were musicians from 10 different churches on the team. This was only something God could have done!

And I believe that this is just a stepping stone to further expressions of unity amongst worshippers in our city.

As GDW drew near, I was re-reading some of my old posts, and I came across this in my very first post:

Even though we had doubts when we stepped out, like Peter we sensed the voice of Jesus steadying our steps and keeping us from sinking.

We’ve also felt the call to unite chuches in worship. Can it happen?

I didn’t know what to expect when I wrote that on 4 December 2011.  But just a year and 150 posts later, God showed me that it can happen!

I could not for a moment imagine that on the night of GDW, over 250 people from different churches would show up in passionate, rousing worship and intercession, inviting the rule and reign of God into our city.

It was more than the night of course: it was also the brothers and sisters from different congregations appearing out of the woodwork, offering help with planning, promotion, advice, logistical support and prayer cover. It was indeed a team effort!

If there was any doubt that God was a covenant-keeping God who is able to fulfill his pomises and plans, one of the worship leaders also shared with me before one of our rehearsals a passage of Scripture that (unbeknownst to her) had been a life theme that I had carried ever since I was baptised in 1991. It was from Jeremiah 1:5-10:

“Before I formed you in the womb I knew you,
before you were born I set you apart;
I appointed you as a prophet to the nations.”

“Alas, Sovereign Lord,” I said, “I do not know how to speak; I am too young.”

But the Lord said to me, “Do not say, ‘I am too young.’ You must go to everyone I send you to and say whatever I command you. Do not be afraid of them, for I am with youand will rescue you,” declares the Lord.

Then the Lord reached out his hand and touched my mouth and said to me, “I have put my words in your mouth. See, today I appoint you over nations and kingdoms to uproot and tear down, to destroy and overthrow, to build and to plant.”

This passage was actually prophesied over me during my baptism by the mother of one of the worship leaders on our team 21 years ago. The next I heard it declared over me was in 2007 when I led a mission team to Japan to conduct a worship seminar. And now, here was the verse again. I knew that what we were doing with GDW was not only significant for the city, but it also significant for the nations.

To hear that Word released at such an opportune time was overwhelming – I sensed that God was reassuring me even in the moments when I was constantly asking the questions: who am I? and why am I even doing this?

I have a lot more to share about GDW, but I will probably leave it for another day.

But I will conclude with this: we are all on journeys and I have definitely not arrived by any sense of the word. But I’m glad that God often marks our lives with milestones to remind us that He has plans for us and that He will fulfill the dreams He puts in our hearts. Being part of GDW was one of those moments.

Here’s the video again if you missed the event:

Photograph courtesy of DTW Photography and Darren WoonVideo courtesy of Peter Liddicoat and Visual Reality Productions.

Global Day of Worship Song: Rooftops

As we are getting closer to Global Day of Worship on 12.12.12, I thought I might start sharing some of the songs we are doing so that you can familiarise yourself with them in preparation.

I believe that what we do in corporate worship is never confined to those on the platform. Rather, both the platform ministers and the congregation should be joining together to give an exuberant and glorious offering to God, the audience of one.

In my younger days, I used to keep the songlist a secret so that it wouldn’t ruin the “element of surprise”. Now, I believe that, where possible, the congregation should be just as prepared as the music team.

So with this philosophy, I’ll release Youtube links of some of the songs that we will be doing, particularly the less familiar ones. Ultimately though I believe that we have chosen songs that are widely sung in the body of Christ.

Today, I am posting Jesus Culture’s “Rooftops”.  Enjoy!

ROOFTOPS

Here I am before you
Falling in love and seeking your truth
Knowing that your perfect grace
Has brought me to this place
Because of you I freely live
My life to you, oh God, I give
So I stand before You God
I lift my voice because you set me free

So I shout out your name from the rooftops I proclaim
That I am Yours, I am Yours
All that I am, I place into Your mighty hands
I am Yours, I am Yours

All the good You’ve done for me
I lift up my hands for all to see
You’re the only one
Who brings me to my knees
To share this love across the earth
The beauty of Your Holy Word
So I stand before You God
I lift my voice because you set me free

Here I am I stand with arms wide open
To the One the Son
The everlasting God
The everlasting God

Songlist for Global Day of Worship Perth

I’m glad to announce that after a lot of prayer and thought, we’ve finally crafted the songlist for Global Day of Worship Perth. I really appreciate Pastor Yoy’s and Derwin’s input into shaping all the songs that we had to choose from.

Here it is:

SONGS – PART 1 (LIVE STREAMING)

  1. Shout to the Lord (A) // Mel Crothers
  2. You are good (A) // Lester Ong
  3. You (A) // Derwin Bong
  4. Our God (A) // Yoy Alberastine
  5. Rooftops (E) // Celesti Weck
  6. Your Presence is Heaven (Bb) // Derwin Bong
  7. Jesus at the Centre (D) // Yoy Alberastine
  8. How Great is Our God (B) // Sung in Noongyar, Tagalog, Afrikaans, Chinese, Bahasa and English

SONGS – PART 2

  1. Cornerstone/The Solid Rock (C) // Lester Ong
  2. I See the Lord (E) // Stephanie Truscott
  3. You’re Worthy of it All (A) // Yoy Alberastine
  4. You Deserve the Glory (A) // Stephanie Truscott
  5. Worthy is the Lamb (A) // Mel Crothers
  6. Hosanna (I see the King of glory) (E) // Celesti Weck
  7. Hosanna (Be Lifted Higher) (E and up) // Lester Ong
  8. History maker (F) // Yoy Alberastine

At Converge earlier this year, we tried doing How Great is Our God (World Edition). This time, we are aiming to incorporate the local indigenous language, Ngoonyar, along with Tagalog, Afrikaans, English, Malay/Indonesian and Mandarin. This reflects the multicultural nature of the Australian church landscape.

I encourage you to make the effort and come be part of this momentous event!

Your Presence is Heaven to Me

We often prepare songlists for church services which go for 25 minutes. It gets quite easy and routine. You do four songs, two fast, two slow, maybe have a scripture reading somewhere, a bit of open worship after the first of the slow songs and finish up with some enthusiastic applause.

But how do you prepare for a 2 hour worship set with 6 worship leaders? And also make sure that it spans the generation divide?

This is what I’ve been struggling with as we prepare for Global Day of Worship in Perth.

I can tell you now that I think I bit off more than I could chew!

Here are a few things I learnt in the last couple of days about the process (in no particular order except where this is obvious):

// Focus on God first!

// Then focus on the journey of worship.

// Make sure your songs help people to worship (a timely reminder from Pastor Yoy)

// Make sure there are some newer songs that are currently relevant.

// Make sure there are some older songs that aren’t so old that no one remembers them.

// Work on tension and release – break the tension at key points.

// You don’t need as many songs as you think. Give some time over for “soaking”.

// You don’t need to do all the songs that you like. Remind yourself this is not the last time you’ll do something like this.

// Cull, cull, cull again!

// Worship lots in the process, lest you lose focus again and start thinking through the unending variables.

One of the songs young Derwin suggested, which is fairly new, is “Your Presence is Heaven to Me” by Micah Massey and Israel Houghton. It’s an amazing song and I think God will really use it to draw people to His presence.

Here is the video:

And here is another version which medleys “Forever Reign”, “There’s Just Something About That Name” and “Your Presence is Heaven”:

I worshipped a lot with this song as I was preparing – and it helped bring in the focus.

In Exodus 33, Moses prays a prayer of desperation. “God, You might get us into the promised land; you might bring us victory, success, prosperity, wealth, but if Your presence doesn’t go with us, don’t take us from this place”.

There’s something about worship that invites and invokes the immediacy of God’s presence (Ps 22). How we need His presence more and more!

I can tell you now that if we do the Global Day of Worship just for the sake of playing music, or even getting churches together (whilst all good reasons), it would be in vain if God’s presence didn’t show up.

How important is God’s presence? The whole Biblical narrative is about the loss and recovery of God’s presence. The fall is about banishment; the law is about hosting God’s presence; the Psalms is about inviting His presence in song; the Prophets are about not taking God’s presence lightly; the Gospels are about God’s incarnate presence through Jesus; Acts is about God’s empowering presence through the Spirit; the Epistles is about God’s presence being manifested through the church and Revelation is about the permanence of God’s presence in the new Jerusalem.

Lord, we need Your presence!

How Do We Have Great Faith?

Someone gave me a bookmark once which had a little sample of mustard seeds laminated onto it. I was surprised how tiny the mustard seeds were.

In Matthew 17:20, Jesus said “if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there’ and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you”.

Really? How can an extremely tiny amount of faith (mustard seed-size) cause such a tremendous result (moving mountains)?

I am currently reading Tim Keller’s new book Center Church and he makes this observation about faith and salvation (which I think is equally applicable to whatever circumstances we might be facing):

It is not the quality of the faith itself that saves us; it is what Jesus has done for us. It is easy to assume that being “saved by faith” means that God will now love us because of the depth of our repentance and faith. But that is to once again subtly make ourselves our own Savior rather than Jesus. It is not the amount of our faith but the object of our faith that saves us. 

Imagine two people boarding an airplane. One person has almost no faith in the plane and the crew and is filled with fears and doubts. The other has great confidence in the plane and the crew. They both enter the plane, fly to a destination, and get off the plane safely. One person had a hundred times more faith in the plane than the other did, but they were equally safe. It wasn’t the amount of their faith but the object of their faith (the plane and crew) that kept them from suffering harm and arriving safely at their destination.

After I read that, it clicked.

We can have the smallest amount of faith, as long as we act on it (in this example, get onto the plane). When we do that, the result is entirely up to God because it is not the volume of our faith, but the Person in whom we place our faith that matters.

That’s why even a tiny amount of faith in God can cause mountains to move.

Recently, I was asked to organise the Global Day of Worship here in Perth. Of course, Wendy Yapp encouraged me to do it, but all I knew was that it was important that worshippers throughout the city join together to form a stream for unity. To be honest, I was daunted by the task of organising the event. I just like to worship together with other people, and I could happily just slip in and be part of someone else’s event. But to actually organise something myself – well, that made me feel so, uh, responsible.

And to be honest, I didn’t have much faith. I said to the team when we met up recently that I’d be happy if even a handful of people showed up. I was sharply and rightly rebuked! My teammates said I should expect the auditorium to be filled and that in fact, I should expect it to overflow until people would have to be turned away or might have to worship from outside. And the troops rallied around to try to make this vision into reality.

Now, just a couple of weeks later, all sorts of things are happening with promoting the event that I could not even have planned for or dreamt about. A Christian bookstore, a Christian radio station and some well connected network leaders are all on board to promote the event. Other Christians in the city have come alongside me to offer their help. It’s just been an amazing journey.

Elsewhere in the gospels, Jesus said that the mustard seed might be the smallest of seeds, but when it grows, it is the largest of garden plants (Mt 13:31,32).

How you start may not always be how you end up. If we place our faith in God, no matter how much (or little) our faith, God is able to produce the results. It’s all about Him, not about us!

Global Day of Worship: 12.12.12

I’m really excited to be part of Global Day of Worship 2012 on 12 December 2012.

Imagine this: at 7 pm on 12 December 2012 in every time zone, Christians will gather in unity to worship for an hour or more. Globally, this means that as the earth rotates, we will move from one group of worshippers to another in the next timezone so that essentially, for 24 hours, a continuum of worship will be happening across cultures, denominations and church backgrounds.

As we worship together around the globe, we are making a statement that the church is united around the famous name of Jesus. But beyond that, we are also inviting the rule and reign of Jesus onto this earth and into every sphere of society.

We are already getting a team of awesome musicians and worshippers together for this amazing event.

Spread the word! More details to come soon.

If you are interested in participating, please email me on lesterong@iinet.net.au.