My recent silence here is only explainable by the sheer busy-ness of March. A full recap will be provided in the upcoming month review.
This post is a summary post encapsulating the event from the immediate Easter Long weekend that has passed:
Three major events transpired on Good Friday to make it a really long day out. Beginning with the Easter service at church, being rostered on the worship team meant an earlier 8am start time, not that dissimilar to a normal work day. With a sharp 1-hour session, I did have a period from 11am onwards where I could relax and just rest in the Lord. To me, even though I may be busy, I am always mindful of not losing sight of the bigger picture and how God may want to use me in any given moment. Making the connection with a new believer/visitor to my church was thus the result of being faithful and attentive to how God was to use me late that morning.
The drive into town and the Melbourne Exhibition and Convention Centre was delightfully quick and uneventful; my pre-booked parking space enabled me a seamless drive directly under the MECC and I strategically found a vacant car park almost literally in front of the Door 8 area, which turned out to be the closest access point to the complex and where I needed to go. Even though volunteer registration and briefing was super quick, I still had to wait longer than usual for my appointed shift in the Good Friday Appeal Plenary phone room.
A number of conversations relating to the Good Friday Appeal have been focused on the fact that I have now been volunteering for some 5-6 years. In contrast, a number of friends have been on the waiting list to be invited to become a volunteer! From memory, I think I did wait for a good part of a year since I had signed up shortly after the Easter before. My personal involvement this year saw me take 20+ calls, with the volume ramping up through 5pm onwards. Two observations from this year’s experience were that the initial 3pm later shift was fairly quiet. I found it impossible to take calls whilst the bands were doing their warm-up/sound checks, so I avoided taking calls during those moments and if I had just started a call, I politely requested that they call back. Separate analysis of this year’s record $17.4M tally will be performed in the Good Friday Appeal page.
Immediately following my volunteer shift, I had to leave at 6pm to pick up visiting relatives from their city hotel. Driving them to our cousin’s place for a home-cooked meal was part of the time shared with family. This dinner event was planned somewhat at the last minute (Tuesday) but it was definitely where God wanted me to be; the alternate dinner plans with a Discovery Bible Study (DBS) group was simply not on the cards for me. Dinner was a scrumptious occasion thanks to the culinary skills of my cousin-in-law.
Our church celebration service was planned such that the Easter message – that Jesus is risen and has conquered death and is raised to life – was communicated via the sharing of the nine baptism candidates. I took the opportunity to sit in the front row so I could film the service. The resultant 10 videos are available on my YouTube channel:
- Main Video / Ps Chee & Sharing
- Daniel Miguel
- David Ngo
- Linda Ly
- Yulao (Sanny) Ma
- Mark Ting
- Nimalka Wijesekera
- Samantha Mak
- Shao-Ting Chih
- Tao (Chuck) Che
In the tradition of other baptisms, my life-group celebrated our own member’s baptism over a pre-booked lunch of chicken rice at a local restaurant (chicken rice being their specialty). Obligatory group presents had also been organised, but since our life-group member already had a bible, we selected other gifts for her encouragement. The last baptism listed above was for one of the newest believers who I have met via a start-up DBS gathering. His baptism was a celebration of his two-week old faith, and the few of us who have journeyed with him thus far pooled together to get a Chinese-English bible for his specific needs.
The main video above (first link) has some basic video editing touch-ups, including the mixing of full-screen slides for the key bible verse from Romans 6:4-5:
4 For we died and were buried with Christ by baptism. And just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glorious power of the Father, now we also may live new lives. 5 Since we have been united with him in his death, we will also be raised to life as he was.
To help improve the visibility of each baptism candidate’s sheet where they wrote down the thing/feeling that they had felt prior to knowing God as their Lord and Saviour – loneliness, emptiness, stress, depression – I inserted pop-up titles to enhance the viewing experience. A further experiment in the realm of video editing was the image overlay of the final cross, where Pastor Chee concluded that all these things – loneliness , emptiness, stress and depression – all have been defeated in the power of Jesus on the cross, where he was raised to life.
Discovery Bible Studies
Easter is a perennially busy time for me. Fortunately, I get busy with things that matter to God and thus, He has sustained me throughout. The use of Discovery Bible Studies has been a trend that continues to evolve since the life-group is also integrating studies in the DBS format to provide us with greater structure. Discovery Bible Studies focus on a selected passage from the bible – they can be from any part of the bible, but there exists a preference for a Gospel passage or a parable. The structure of the study can begin with worship and other items, but the core study commences with 2-3 people reading out the passage, often with different versions each time to help convey the meaning of the passage. The next step then involves other people retelling the story/passage in their own words, ideally without referring or re-reading the passage whilst retelling the passage. When I volunteered in this capacity, I found it challenging to simply retell the story without adding in my own commentary and interpretation! This second activity is a great exercise in developing reading comprehension skills.
For the next phase in DBS we then focus on answer the question – what is God saying in this passage, or what do we learn about the nature/character/wisdom of God from the passage. If the passage is a parable with Jesus, this is our opportunity then to focus on the moral of the parable. In the next question considered by the group, we then focus on our reaction, application and understanding. As a result of what we learn about God, we then ask ourselves what does the passage teach us about ourselves or other people? The final question in the study is to consider how we apply the lessons – is there a command to obey or example to follow? How does God want us to live our lives?
In the second and final part of DBS, we are given two challenges:
- What will you do this week to obey what you have learned?
- Who could you share this passage with/your story with/God’s story with, in this coming week?
DBS ends with a time of prayer, which is flexible in format given sharing and prayer requests can be shared corporately and prayers offered corporately in sequence, or individually and a more concise Asian-style prayer format ensues where everyone prays at the same time. This DBS format has been utilised a few times by various groups and each time, the connection to God is affirmed and strengthened.
Luke 8:28 – 39: Jesus Casts out Demons into the Pigs
At the first DBS session held, we looked at the parable from Luke 8:28-39, where Jesus cast out demons into the pigs. The DBS discussion focused on various aspects of the situation, starting with the man that was demon-possessed. In spite of the 2000 demons possessing the man, he was still able to call out to Jesus as the superior spirit for help. The lesson we took away here, was that no matter how low we go, whether or not demons are part of the cause, the name and power of Jesus is unsurpassed. We spent a considerable amount of effort and energy pondering the reason why the pigs had to die/drown. Part of the answer discovered here was that the scale of the demon possession and change in the man required a significant sign. The fact that it affected the livelihood of the pig farmers (Samaritans) was also significant because it also showed that Jesus was reaching out beyond the immediate Jewish community. The final point that we considered was the reaction and final instruction of Jesus – he would not let the man follow Him, but instead commanded the man to return to his hometown and preach the Gospel. This was significant because the man’s testimony of being freed from demons would have the greatest impact on his hometown and local community. It was these people who were ultimately touched and saved by the sign of this miracle. Had the man gone with Jesus, then the local population would have been none the wiser.
Psalm 27: A Psalm of Faith by David
This was the first DBS session held in life-group, and this was a great Psalm to initiate the group through. As a typical lamentation, the Psalm takes us on a journey where the first half builds our foundation of faith in God. The first half was made famous in modern times by Darlene Zschech when she proclaimed these verses as part of her introduction to the worship ballad You Are. The core message of placing our faith in God helped to encourage the group and seek Him more. The Psalm gave us courage and confidence to know that God is with us through the times of trial and tribulation.
Matthew 21:18 – 22: Jesus Curses the Fig Tree
In this parable, the study was conducted using a slightly different format based on a method espoused by the International House of Prayer (IHOP) . In this format, we were given the opportunity to write down keywords and topics that God led us to discover as we meditated on the passage. For myself, I found the symbolism of the fig tree quite interesting. Where a topic kept gnawing at our minds, we were encouraged to park it in a separate area of the sheet called the “Pursue” section, where we could deeper afterwards. The final parking lot was for all distractions that our minds were led to think about during the time of meditation and reflection with God. The study and passage itself was quite an interesting passage to derive insights from. There was the fig tree itself, plus the fact that Jesus cursed it instead of giving it a second chance. In our discussion and later research, it turned out that the fig tree was symbolic of the nation of Israel. The challenge and command to obey here is to be fruitful, with the fear/risk that if we are not fruitful, Jesus will one day treat us in the same way He did to the fruitless fig tree. This parable touched upon the aspect of lukewarm faith, and how God calls us to be hot or cold, preferably hot of course! The other key area for examination was to have a genuine faith such that we could move mountains.