The Year of His Restoration

Every year when I’m in Singapore, one of the things that has now become a bit of a custom is for me to attend New Creation Church’s Vision Sunday which is held on the first Sunday of the year.

It’s not that I’m not into my own church’s vision, because I am. (In Faith Community Church this year, we are moving into the phases of Mentor and Release and I’m definitely positioning myself for that). I have noticed however that most church pastors cast a vision which is intended to set the course of the church’s activities, programs and culture. Joseph Prince’s visioneering is actually quite different. He sets a course which, for me, is almost always personal.

So I quite like the idea of tracking with my church’s corporate vision, but also seeing how the prophetic course announced by Ps Prince plays out in my life.

In my previous post, I declared that God was unfolding a new season. In the song “New Season”, the lyrics say this: “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, to every promise take a hold / It’s a new season!”

In this post, I want to elaborate on what that new season looks like in light of Joseph’s Prince’s vision for 2015: the Year of His Restoration!

The underpinning verse is Isaiah 42:22:

For this is a people robbed and plundered;
All of them are snared in holes,
And they are hidden in prison houses;
They are for prey, and no one delivers;
For plunder, and no one says, “Restore!”

This is the year we say “Restore!” where we have suffered loss! It is not man who restores, but God! And when God restores, it is always greater in quality or quantity or both!

Things that God will Restore

Here are the things that God will restore:

1. God will Restore the Years that the Locusts Have Eaten

Joel 2:25-27 says:

So I will restore to you the years that the swarming locusts has eaten…

You shall eat in plenty and be satisfied,
And praise the Lord your God,
Who has dealt wondrously with you;
And My people shall never be put to shame.
Then you shall know that I am in the midst of Israel;
I am the Lord your God
And there is no other.
My people shall never be put to shame.

I don’t know about you, but I have lost time. There have been times over the years when I have not walked closely to God. I have wasted time being idle instead of fulfilling His purposes; I have wasted time in sin, being angry, or insubmissive, or being disobedient to God.

In the natural economy, time can never be got back. But God can and He will restore the years that were lost!

2. God will Restore our Souls and Minds

In Psalm 23, David says of the Good Shepherd that “He restores my soul”.

God will restore us emotionally where we have felt drained. He will restore our minds so that even though we grow older, our minds will function just as well as in the days of our youth!

I have often felt that my memory isn’t as good as it used to be – for example, I used to remember song lyrics really easily and now it’s a lot harder. I look at my worship director, Dave, for example and wish that I could be as sharp as him in memorising lyrics. Well now, instead of lamenting my fading powers of remembrance, I say “restore!!!”

3. God will Restore Our Health

Jeremiah 30:17 says “For I will restore health to you and heal you of your wounds, says the Lord.”

The word for “wounds” refers to long term conditions, which means that God will restore us from sicknesses we’ve carried for a long time.

The past year has been a testing ground in the area of health! This year, I declare “restore!” and believe for restoration of the membranes around my eyes, that they will strengthen and thicken! I declare “restore” for my physical health and the health of my family members!

The Way God Restores

Now, here’s the clincher. In the Bible, God’s restoration always exceeds that which was taken.

Pastor Prince exposited from the law of Moses in Exodus 22:1 which states that when a man steals an ox, he must restore five oxen for an ox. In Leviticus 5:14, when a person sins agains the holy things of the Lord, he must make full restitution and add one-fifth (or 20 per cent).

So the party that is injured ultimately gains in the time of restoration.

And Prince made this really interesting point. Because of the fall of man, God gained more through redemption than He ever lost through the Fall. Whereas before He had one begotten Son and man with whom He fellowshipped, through redemption, many more were adopted into God’s family!

And because of the Fall and God’s redemption, mankind gained more than it ever lost:

  • In the Garden of Eden, there was long physical life, but now we have eternal life.
  • Everything in the Garden depended on obedience, so man’s tenure was insecure. The Tree of Knowledge was always there and sin would always be a possibility. Through redemption, our security is based on Christ’s perfect obedience!
  • Adam was a steward. But through redemption, we are more than stewards – we are joint heirs with Christ.
  • Adam had the earth. But we have both heaven and earth!

What an amazing thought! I’m so grateful for God’s restorative purposes in my life!

The key to God’s restoration? It’s in resting in Him. When we rest in Him, He works. As in Psalm 23, God leads us to still waters and feeds us in green pastures. And when we rest in Him, the Psalmist says, He restores us!

I’m so excited for the things that God will do in my life this year. Even though the past year had met with its challenges, I believe that this year, God will restore the things that were stolen, in my time, in my health, in my soul, and in every other aspect of my life.

This year, in 2015, I am declaring “Restore!”

 

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 – 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!

Asian Worship

A few years ago, my then drummer Samson Tan said to me “it’s about time the church started singing Asian worship songs”. I had previously listened to albums by City Harvest Church and New Creation Church, but never really taken to them. But since Sam suggested it, I thought I’d indulge him and we started introducing the song “God of My Forever” (by CHC) to the band and then to the church.

It has since become one of my favourite songs.

Songs that have come out of the church in Singapore bear a different quality to mainstream worship music.

On the one hand, the lyrical style is a bit less developed. For example, the lyrical content of many of New Creation’s songs tends to be reflective of the preaching of the church so that at times, in an attempt fit some of Joseph Prince’s great phrases – which sound great spoken – the lyrics appear really clumsy (like one of the songs that has the rather unpoetic words “irrevocably saved” in it).

But there are two important distinctives of the Singaporean worship song. First, the melodic quality. Whereas a lot of mainstream worship has embraced grunge and hip-hop, driven by rhythm and atmospherics, the songs of New Creation and City Harvest hearken back to the old days when worship songs had soaring melodies which sounded great even when with a simple accompaniment. In other words, the songs stand on their own without the need for much musical embellishment The same can’t necessarily be said of some of the newer songs from Hillsongs.

The other distinctive is the engagement of “spirit”. I can’t really adequately describe this quality, but there is a spirit-driven spontaneous element within a lot of the Asian songs that goes beyond a mere performance of the song.

In days to come, as the poetry and lyricism become more refined, I believe that Asian worship will truly rival some of the mainstream offerings in the worship market.

Until then, here are three of my favourites:

God of My Forever

Come Holy Spirit

I See Grace

Come Holy Spirit was in fact significant for me because in 2007, we ministered to a church in Sapporo and realised that this song was being sung in Japan. For us, it was a much needed prophetic invocation of the power of the Spirit on the worship in Japan, to move beyond sung truth towards spirit and experience.

I hope you guys enjoy these!

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!

One Thing is Needful

As some of you may know, we’ve been spending a few months now visiting different churches throughout Perth. Since the start of the year, we have made a more concerted attempt to settle in a home church so for the last couple of weeks, we have started going to Faith Community Church (FCC) to absorb a little of the culture there.

Because it’s a church full of South-East Asian migrants, the congregation has been at about half strength. This week, Pastor Benny Ho returned to the pulpit after a three-week break.

The service was extraordinary. We liked FCC at half strength, but today the worship was pumping and Pastor Benny hit the sermon out of the ball park.

I’ll get to the sermon a bit later, but one of the things we have been looking for in a church is a strong sense of the presence of God in worship. Now, apart from the manifest presence (e.g. cloud, gold dust, unusual miracles etc, which seldom happens now within a contained Sunday service in the Western church, except maybe at somewhere like Bethel Church in Redding), I appreciate that it is very difficult to gauge the strength of God’s presence in any church setting. There are many different things that trigger that “sense” in you, and what does it for me may not do it for everyone. But I’m wired a particular way, and the elements in FCC’s worship today simply pushed all the right buttons.

I was completely engaged and I can say that it’s been a while since I’ve been able to just jump and close my eyes (not at the same time of course, as that would be dangerous) and just focus on God. At the end of the worship, I realised my car keys had flown out of my pocket onto the floor 2 seats away!

Here’s one of the songs they did that really spoke to me: Here in Your Presence by New Life Worship:

After the worship, Pastor Benny preached on “Realigning Your Relationship with God” from the following passage in Luke 10:38ff:

Now it happened as they went that He entered a certain village; and a certain woman named Martha welcomed Him into her house. And she had a sister called Mary, who also sat at Jesus’ feet and heard His word. But Martha was distracted with much serving, and she approached Him and said, “Lord, do You not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Therefore tell her to help me.”

And Jesus answered and said to her, “Martha, Martha, you are worried and troubled about many things. But one thing is needed, and Mary has chosen that good part, which will not be taken away from her.”

Now, before I talk about the sermon further, I want to make a quick comment about sermons these days. Recently, I attended the Influencers Conference. Now, I only went to two night sessions and I also heard a Sunday message streamed from Paradise Church on Sunday. Whilst the types of messages I heard were really inspiring, I found that they were almost devoid of Scripture. There might be one starting passage, and then one keyword becomes the springboard for a number of tangential thoughts the preacher may have. A lot of what ends up being shared are great life principles which could just as well have come out of a motivational book. Now, I’m not saying this is necessarily bad, but what I’ve found is that I am personally more inclined to more Bible-based teaching.

Joseph Prince is a brilliant example. Whilst he is sometimes controversial, and I don’t always agree with everything he preaches, no preacher I know uses as much Scripture as Joseph Prince. That is comforting because if he errs, he is less likely to err spectacularly.

So back to FCC. What I’ve always admired about Benny Ho is his ability to combine both Scriptural exegesis and personal application with inspiration, conviction and a good smattering of humour as well for good measure.

Opening with the text in Luke 10, Pastor Benny said that most people interpret this passage to suggest that waiting on God is superior to working; that Mary’s example ought to be extolled above Martha’s. But Pastor Benny refused to believe that, so he studied the Scripture further and he concluded that in fact, the passage doesn’t teach that one is better than the other. Instead, the passage is about the many things that distract us; the some things that are necessary for us to do; and the one thing that is needful.

The one thing, being a strong devotional life, helps us determine what the some things we need to do are so we are not distracted by the many things. Wow, what a great reading of this passage.

It is out of a strong devotional life that ministry is released, i.e. ministries are not built; they are released.

In that context, it is possible to be completely rested even whilst we are working because resting is not a physical posture, it’s a condition of the heart.

I loved how Pastor Benny illustrated the point by flipping the story on its head: imagine Martha serving out of a place of rest; joyfully cooking, greeting guests etc. Mary may be sitting at the feet of Jesus, but if she is not at rest, she might start to criticise or resent Martha in her own mind. Who is at rest in that scenario?

Pastor Benny makes the point: “I like Martha before dinner, and I like Mary after dinner!”

Pastor Benny then concluded his message with a powerful prophetic word from Genesis 2:10-15:

A river watering the garden flowed from Eden; from there it was separated into four headwaters. The name of the first is the Pishon; it winds through the entire land of Havilah, where there is gold. (The gold of that land is good; aromatic resin and onyx are also there.) The name of the second river is the Gihon; it winds through the entire land of Cush. The name of the third river is the Tigris [Hiddekel]; it runs along the east side of Ashur. And the fourth river is the Euphrates.

The LORD God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it.

Eden (meaning “pleasure”) was the place God had planted Adam and Eve to work. There can and should be pleasure in ministry! But the streams that feed the river are significant.

  • “Pishon” means increase;
  • “Gihon” means to burst forth;
  • “Hiddekel” means powerful and strong; and
  • “Euphrates” means fruitful.

This resonated with me with the theme of this year preached by Joseph Prince at New Creation Church: in the year of drought, we will experience unceasing fruitfulness. But not only that, it’s increasing fruitfulness that bursts forth and is replete with the power of God.

The key is a strong devotional life, or as Joseph Prince says, godly meditation for good success. I am challenged to build a strong devotional life, so that Godly empowered ministry will flow from me for the edification of others! This year is going to be a great year!

The Year of Unceasing Fruitfulness – Part 2

Today, I want to continue with the thought of 2012 being the year of Unceasing Fruitfulness. It is certainly a word which has resonated with me and it is one, which, it seems, has resonated with many Christians as well.

In his New Year’s message, Joseph Prince shared the key to unceasing fruitfulness by cross-referencing Jeremiah 17:5-8 with Psalm 1.

Psalm 1:1-3 says:

Blessed is the one
who does not walk in step with the wicked
or stand in the way that sinners take
or sit in the company of mockers,
but whose delight is in the law of the LORD,
and who meditates on his law day and night.
That person is like a tree planted by streams of water,
which yields its fruit in season
and whose leaf does not wither—
whatever they do prospers.

The key is to meditate on the Word of God. Prince shared the thought that to “meditate” was to “mutter under one’s breath”; to keep the Word of God on our lips.

I want to bring this thought into the context of apostolic worship.

I believe that true worship transforms the worshipper. This happens in a number of ways. It is true that encountering God exposes our own sinfulness and convicts us to change. It is also true that we become like who (or what) we worship. But worship also transforms us, often not in a sudden, electrifying moment, but through a gradual process. This is where I think Biblical meditation and worship through singing intersect.

I remember many years ago, Integrity Music released Scripture Memory songs, Scripture set verbatim to music. It was a powerful and effective way to memorise Scripture. This is in fact how I memorised Romans 8:1 (“There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus…” – sing with me if you remember this song!) It’s actually a shame that not more worship songs these days record Scripture in this way.

So, the process of singing is one way by which we can take a Scriptural word or thought and internalise it by repetition. It is a psychological phenomenon which I am not equipped to explain, but I can only point to the evidence of my little niece who, at the age of 2, is just beginning to form sentences of longer than 3 or 4 words; and yet she can practically sing an entire song on her own (she needs to work on her pitching though, but not bad for a 2 year old!)

Do you ever get a song stuck in your head and it just keeps repeating over and over again? When I attended New Creation Church on the New Year’s service, the worship leader led the song “Unmerited Favour”. It’s actually got some awkward phrasing, but it now keeps playing in my head:

Now I’ve got every reason to rejoice
Your unmerited favour is on my life
It’s got nothing to do with what I did
But it’s all about what You’ve done for me
And because of the cross it’s plain to see
I’m irrevocably saved now I am free
And I’ll rejoice
In everything You’ve done
In everything You’ve done

Almost unconsciously, I am declaring the favour of God over my life! The power of music is not just to play over in our minds, but also to bypass our minds and affect our emotions. In fact, when coupled with the gestures of worship (such as bowing, dancing, lifted hands), it becomes a way we love God with our heart, mind, soul and strength.

So one way we can meditate day and night is to let the songs of the Lord ring in our hearts, increasing our faith to believe God for His will to be done in our lives.

It is therefore not surprising that the psalmist is also a prophet. The songs are forthtelling – bringing the future Will of God into our present.

I want to leave you today with a song (which is a bit dated now) but which captures the thought of “Unceasing Fruitfulness”. It’s called “Lord I Live by Your Word”, written by Mark Altrogge and recorded by Kent Henry. The lyrics paraphrase and capture Psalm 1 and Isaiah 55:10-11:

As the rain and the snow
come down from heaven,
and do not return to it
without watering the earth
and making it bud and flourish,
so that it yields seed for the sower and bread for the eater,
so is my word that goes out from my mouth:
It will not return to me empty,
but will accomplish what I desire
and achieve the purpose for which I sent it.

Here’s the song:

As we begin 2012, my prayer for you is that in your life, God’s Word will not return to Him void. It will accomplish His will in your life. It will surely succeed. His Word transforms the desert, and His Word will transform You. May His Word water the soil of your heart and bring forth unceasing fruitfulness (and not only that, but also increasing fruitfulness) in 2012.

The Year of Unceasing Fruitfulness

I had taken my seat in the cinema at Marina Bay waiting in anticipation for the start of the service. It was an interesting experience for me. Even though we would usually visit New Creation Church whenever we were in Singapore, this was the first time we were attending the service at a satellite location via live feed. I wasn’t quite sure what to expect.

The screen moved from rolling announcements to live feed as the worship leader took the stage. The first song started: the chorus of “Great is the Lord” – one of my favourite songs of all time.

It was part emotion, but mostly the presence of God. I sensed tears welling up. This was gearing up to be a great first church service for 2012.

After the worship ended and the chairperson read a couple of testimonies, Joseph Prince took to the pulpit. The whole congregation, linked through satellite at various sites in Singapore, waited in anticipation for him to release the vision for 2012.

Prince started with Jer 17:5-8:

This is what the Lord says:
“Cursed is the one who trusts in man,
who draws strength from mere flesh
and whose heart turns away from the Lord. That person will be like a bush in the wastelands;
they will not see prosperity when it comes.
They will dwell in the parched places of the desert,
in a salt land where no one lives. “But blessed is the one who trusts in the Lord,
whose confidence is in him. They 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.”

In that context, Prince announced the vision for 2012: the year of unceasing fruitfulness.

Wow! That really really resonated with me.

There are two types of people: those who trust in man. They are like a bush in the parched land. They don’t experience prosperity when it happens upon them.

And then there are those who trust in God. Even when the heat comes, they won’t feel it. In the year of drought, they continue to be fruitful.

I’m making this my theme for the year too.

I’m not sure what the economic situation will hold. Life might throw some curve balls. But because my confidence is in the Lord, I will be like a tree planted by the waters. My leaves will be ever green.

In Rev 22:2, Scripture says:

On each side of the river stood the tree of life, bearing twelve crops of fruit, yielding its fruit every month. And the leaves of the tree are for the healing of the nations.

No natural tree bears twelve different types of fruit: only the tree of life which is a picture of the cross. Because I am in Christ through the cross, I can bear fruit. I can be fruitful in every area!

So this year, I thank God for unceasing and increasing fruitfulness. In finances. In my job. In my ministry. In my relationships and family. It’s going to be an exciting year ahead.

And I believe that in 2012, my life will be impactful because the leaves are for the healing of the nations.

A Heart for Revival

I am writing this post from Singapore, where I am currently on holidays.

Singapore holds a special place in my heart. It was the place where I experienced two spiritual milestones that shaped in me a heart for revival.

I went on my first short term mission trip to Singapore in 1996. You might say: “Singapore is hardly a place to go for a missions trip.” But I can’t quite picture myself yet carrying a shovel with me to the toilet so I was very happy to volunteer for an urban mission. After all, there are still many unreached peoples in many large cities around the world. (My next mission trip was to Hong Kong, my third to Sapporo, so I still haven’t gone “third world” yet).

A church in Singapore, Yishun Methodist Mission (YMM), was prototyping a city-taking strategy based on principles taught by the likes of Ed Silvoso. At the time, the spiritual warfare movement pioneered by C Peter Wagner, Cindy Jacobs and others was beginning to gain a great deal of traction in wider charismatic circles, and the pastor of YMM was about to put some of those principles into action. About 16 of us from Perth joined the members of YMM in implementing the strategy, which was primarily based around the thought of “showing the community God’s love in a practical way, with no strings attached”.

We blessed the local community surrounding YMM with free Christmas gift-wrapping services; free washes and vacuuming for local taxis; cleaning a coffee shop (which on reflection is probably quite close to a third world experience!) and running a free community carnival.

Even though I had gone on this trip to help out with whatever was needed, I got connected to an anointed worship leader from the church and one afternoon, as everyone was letterdropping some leaflets advertising the free carnival, the worship leader asked me to stay back and prepare to lead a session of worship and intercession. I was quite nervous about doing the whole thing (I had just started leading worship in our church’s main service) but we just began worshipping together and picking some songs. Little did I know that this would birth a new ministry of intercessory (or apostolic) worship in me.

When everyone came back from the afternoon of letter dropping, we started worshipping and people began to “get into it” but I thought nothing more of it than that. Then one of the pastors on our team pointed to one of the girls and said “I believe you have a word from God”. We found out later that actually she didn’t have a word, but I think the pastor picked her because she was bowed on the floor and probably looked incredibly spiritual at that moment. She said later that she just took a step of faith and started speaking. Suddenly, God poured out his compassion on her, and through tears, she released a word about God’s heart for the lost in the community.

As most of us would have experienced, crying is seldom a solitary pursuit; when one person starts, the floodgates open. So before long, many of us were catching this compassion and praying through our tears.

Our missions program had suddenly gained divine impetus.

Ater that experience, I started reading more about the concept of city-taking and I was being challenged about whether our cities could in fact be taken for Christ.

The second milestone was in 1998 when a delegation from our church went to the International Cell Church Conference hosted by Faith Community Baptist Church in Singapore.

We were incredibly blessed listening to Ed Silvoso as he shared how God transformed cities in Argentina after the church started implementing city taking principles starting with the legendary Plan Resistencia prototype.

Silvoso shared about new paradigm shifts that were elemental to city transformation, including that there is only one church in the city, consisting
of many congregations. I still consider this to be one of the keys to a city experiencing revival.

Then in the night rallies we had the privilege of listening to Argentinian revivalist Claudio Freidzon, who emphasized the need for a hunger for the Holy Spirit. At around that time, I was reading Tommy Tenney’s The God Chasers which started to spark a spiritual hunger
in me. It was amazing that, as a stadium full of people started crying out for God, the Holy Spirit moved and entire sections of people fell backwards under the power of the Spirit.

Today, I can’t say that I’m necessarily hungry for God. Sometimes it’s hard to be in a Western society where hunger for comfort comes first. I think that is something in which we all need to experience a personal breakthrough.

Recently I spoke to a pastor from Singapore who shared about how since those days, God has united his church in Singapore under the Love Singapore movement. Once when they had a church wide prayer-walk in the city, the numbers of Christians who came out of the woodwork were so startling that it got the government worried. That is the sort of revolutionary influence which the church should exert.

On Christmas day this year, we went to a combined Christmas service at New Creation Church. It was held at the Singapore Indoor Stadium and here is a picture of us queueing at 9 am to get in for a 10 am start. Hundreds had already joined the crowd.

It may be Singaporean “FOMO” (i.e. “fear of missing out”, or in the local vernacular, “kiasu”) but I believe that Singaporean Christians exhibit a passionate faith seldom found in the church in Perth (or most first world communities for that matter). Just seeing the numbers gathered in one place was mind-blowing but this was only one of three or four megachurches. Practically every suburb in Singapore has a life giving church making an influence in their community.

This year, my involvement with the Commonwealth Prayer Initiative in Perth (with almost two hundred churches participating thanks to the efforts of Wendy Yapp and her team) has awakened in me the possibility of seeing revival in Perth in my generation. God is already engineering one of the preconditions: the unity of the church in the city.