Blessings Reel – February 2012

I’m a few days late, but reflecting on the month that’s passed, I am amazed by the goodness of God in our lives.

As I have said, this year is the year of Unceasing Fruitfulness. And like the Tree of Life in the book of Revelations which bears twelve different types of fruit, we can expect twelve different manifestations of blessings each month of 2012.

A fruit has its origin in the seed. Once the seed is planted, it germinates and grows into a tree. When the tree is mature, it begins to bear fruit. The DNA of the fruit however is in the seed. In other words, an apple seed can only bring forth apples.

Our seed however is Christ, for in Him and through Him and to Him are all things.

Galatians 3 says that Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us, for “cursed is everyone who is hung on a tree” (v13). Paul goes on to say that Christ redeemed us in order that we might receive the blessing of Abraham.

In verses 16ff, Paul says:

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.

The blessings of obedience to the law is now available to us through the Seed, i.e. Christ, not because of anything we can do, but because of God’s grace through faith. So we can expect to receive blessings of health and healing, prosperity, peace, salvation, favour, divine help, guidance, wisdom, God’s presence, joy etc through Christ, the originator of all blessing.

For me February has been a month of closures. On one day at work, I had three complicated cases come to closure, the most spectacular of which was a guy who had claimed that he was a victim of domestic violence at the hands of his ex-wife. When the Immigration Department assessed his claims, they said that he did not have a strong case. To be honest, I didn’t think he had a strong case. But I responded to the Department’s concern the best I could. After several weeks, I was still not optimistic; I thought his case could be rejected at any time. But to my surprise, and quite miraculously, the Department agreed with my submissions and granted him permanent residency. He was so happy he started telling everyone what a great day it was, including the guy who made us coffee at the coffee shop!

But the greatest closure for us was the fact that we had finally found a church to belong to after 7 months of wandering. And we sense that as one chapter closes, a new door has opened for us in Faith Community Church and we are excited as to what the future holds.

So I’m thankful to God for the blessing of new beginnings.

As we move forward in this chapter, I want to finish off this post by acknowledging some wonderful people who have walked alongside us, supported us, encouraged us and dialogued with us over the last 7 months, in no particular order: Ps Daniel Ho, Ps Judy Low, Shaw Cheong, Wai Kin and Anna, Joanna and Dan, Bernard and Vicki, Pastor Yoy Alberastine, Pastor Binh Nguyen, Pastor Benny Ho, Wendy Yapp, Cao, Cindy, Joe, Jos, Louis, Mons, Stephanie Truscott, Derwin, Derek, Jenn Yong, Joy, Samson, Addie, Sharon, Adrian and June, Esther, Matthias, Dave and Yvonne, Juls, Jade, Esther, Bryan, Clem, Drew, Amy, Alan, Adrian, Matt, Jess, Pastor Koon Hee and Jin, Darren, Chi Yen, Edmund and Sharon and so many more of our friends who had coffee with us, hung out with us, served with us and just generally poured into our lives during this last season: even if it was just over a meaningful meal together. We learnt a lot and heard your hearts. Thanks so much for sharing in the journey!

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.

In Honour of the Worship Revolution Band 2010/11

I can’t believe we are now in the second last week of 2011. It’s been an amazing year full of God’s faithfulness and favour. In another post, I will reflect more broadly about this year, which was filled with some amazing transitions (though not yet complete) and faith-building experiences.

But today, I want to honour and appreciate a bunch of people with whom I have had the privilege to serve alongside for most of 2010 and for half of 2011.

The Worship Revolution Band started in around May 2010 as part of a restructuring of the worship team in our church. We finally went from a rostering system to being allocated specific bands.

We took the opportunity to cast a bold vision and set some crazy goals for ourselves, with our main outlook being to reform and energise the worship of our church. We reached some milestones, fell way short on others, but after about a year of being together, I can look back and say that we were well on our way to achieving our primary objective.

We defined our culture as being spiritual (who isn’t?… well, I suppose the carnal ones amongst us might not be, but I could only see our team members being full of Jesus and therefore spiritual), unified, fresh, authentic and fun. We didn’t want to miss out on fun, because serving God should be fun and fulfilling.

Together, we wanted to spur one another on, bring cohesion to the band, improve together and celebrate our progress.

After many months of learning to function together, we started to add fuel to the function of worship to unleash the fire of worship. We wanted to balance excellence against the prophetic and the spontaneous. We learnt together (some of our guys went to group singing lessons with Stephanie Truscott) and inspired each other.

Here are the people who made the Worship Revolution Band one of my most fulfilling ministries in recent memory:

  • Co-Worship Leader: Derwin Bong. A young, passionate and sensitive worship leader. I hope he leads worship again soon. City of Perth, look out.
  • Music Director: Addie Choon. We worked really well together because Derwin and I could cast the vision and direction and Addie would make it happen musically. A really talented guy who plays bass and keyboard with a very keen understanding of worship ministry.
  • Vocal Director: Kelwin Wong. One of the few people I know who can harmonise with himself in three parts. Known for recording harmonies so the singers could learn their parts before rehearsals. One day, he will star in a musical!
  • Singers: Ling Chua (my awesome wife and a worship leader in her own right), Kelwin, Tri Tran (one of the hardest working people in our team!), Minh Lam (our resident culture-vulture. One day, he will help the church cross the culture divide), Melissa Loong (faithful minister and super creative) and Liz Tran (one amazing female vocalist!).
  • Keyboards: in the early days, Jeremy Wong (who retired to become a missionary-in-training; one of the most radical, sold-out-for-Jesus types I know) and Matthias Yap (an upcoming keyboardist we were privileged to serve with).
  • Bass: Addie
  • Guitar: Ivan Manalip, a faithful guy who wins the most-improved award.
  • Drums: Samson Tan, a great personal inspiration to me, revivalist and all-round nice-guy and Bernard Lim, who always thinks outside the box and challenges me creatively. Really enjoyed working with Bernie.
  • PA: Wei Koay, a faithful servant who is always willing to sacrifice huge chunks of his time to serve the Kingdom.
  • Honourary AV (we didn’t have AV people on our band, but we claim these guys): Jess Tran and Adrian Chee, our great friends and who always celebrated with us.
  • Honourary Dancers: Joan Manalip (one of the most creative and inspiring worship dancers) and Sharon Chia (another great friend on the journey who we’ve claimed as a “daughter” even though she isn’t that young anymore!).

So, as we end 2011, I want to extend my heartfelt thanks and appreciation to my awesome co-labourers, friends and inspirers. You have made my own journey a fruitful and fulfilling one. I hope to serve with you guys again one day!

With much love,
Lester

A New Chapter

It is always difficult to start something.

The starting of a thing often sets its future course.

But life is often more about the journey.  The grace of God is greater than the best of our starts.  So no many how we start, there is always the comfort of knowing that His grace is sufficient for the journey.

So to start again is exciting.  It’s the abandoning of the familiar in favour of wading into unfamiliar ground.  This process always involves more faith.

I’m looking forward to the new chapter.

On 24 July 2011, after 21 years (for me) and 10 years (for my wife) in our home church, my wife and I felt the call to move into new territory.  We weren’t really sure where God was leading us, but we have spent the last few months now seeing what God is doing amongst the churches in Perth.

What we’ve seen has surprised and encouraged us.  Later on, I will share about my sense of the worship landscape in the city.  But it’s been amazing to see the move of God amongst the churches in its various manifestations.

We’ve also had the privilege of taking part in a city-wide prayer event in the form of the Commonwealth Prayer Initiative.

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 sensed a call to unite churches in worship.  Can it happen?

Two thousand and twelve promises to be our best year yet!