Why Trust God?

Let this be an encouragement for you today. I believe that the Bible has already stressed this enough, and the message is really simple: TRUST IN THE LORD.

Why? Because:

  • He is able (Ephesians 3:20)
  • He is sovereign (1 Chronicles 29:11-12)
  • He is wise (Job 9:4)
  • He is loving (Ephesians 2:4-5)
  • He is faithful (Deuteronomy 7:9)
  • He knows you better (Jeremiah 29:11)
  • He always has, always does and always will provide (Philippians 4:19)
  • He is consistent (2 Timothy 2:13)
  • He makes it possible (Matthew 19:26)
  • He is true to His promise (Psalm 18:30)

If God has already taken care of you all this time, what makes you think that He won’t and can’t for tomorrow and the coming days?

It may look complicated and confusing, but that’s exactly the reason why we must trust a God that’s sovereign and loving. I’d rather cling to that Someone who I know cares for me and knows me, than rely on my own strength where I am sure to fail. And what’s the promise? A straight and sure path.

Pray that you learn how trust God in the middle of difficulties and trials, and of good and hopeful times.

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When Jesus Called Matthew

First, let’s read this passage from Matthew 9:9-13:

As Jesus was walking along, He saw a man named Matthew sitting at his tax collector’s booth. “Follow Me and be My disciple,” Jesus said to him. So Matthew got up and followed him.

Later, Matthew invited Jesus and His disciples to his home as dinner guests, along with many tax collectors and other disreputable sinners. But when the Pharisees saw this, they asked His disciples, “Why does your teacher eat with such scum?”

When Jesus heard this, He said, “Healthy people don’t need a doctor—sick people do.” Then He added, “Now go and learn the meaning of this Scripture: ‘I want you to show mercy, not offer sacrifices.’ (From Hosea 6:6) For I have come to call not those who think they are righteous, but those who know they are sinners.”

Jesus met Matthew, a known tax collector of the time. And I mean, we know the track record of these tax collectors, right? But Jesus, surprisingly wanted to involve this man of questionable reputation in His ministry anyway.

On that same night, Matthew organised a dinner for Jesus and His mates, along with his own friends who were also tax collectors; and guess what, a bunch of other notorious folks! Like, what kind of party would you imagine this to be?

And so the “holy and clean” Pharisees, upon seeing this horrendous view were like, “What the heck is this Jesus, the self-proclaimed Jesus, the “son of God Jesus”, the radical nomad Jesus, doing with this bunch of societal riff-raffs? Is it not enough that He’s been blaspheming in the streets, now He just had to party with this pack of criminals?”

And Jesus had one thing to say to them: “The sick people need a physician. They need Me.”

This story reveals what Christ came to this earth for: to show mercy to sinners; to show mercy to people who know their lives are a mess and are in need of fixing. He came to show mercy to the ones who can actually be brave enough to admit they are a wretch, they’re miserable, and they’re lost.

Interestingly, Matthew had the desire for his friends, the people he belonged to, to meet this new friend, who, regardless of His political/societal status, chose him and trusted him enough to make him a disciple of His. 

You could not meet Jesus and not be moved and compelled to get others to Him, especially the ones that matter to you, and the ones you know need His help. Matthew wanted to share the hope that he received firsthand from Jesus, and tell his friends about it.

You can’t receive mercy if you think you’re good enough. You can’t receive Christ if you’re too full of yourself, and think you’re OK on your own.

Christ came for the sinners. He came to bring them hope and a new life. If there were no sinners, the Son of God wouldn’t have come.

Everyone is a sinner. You, who’s reading this, is not an exception. You and I need Jesus as much as these notorious people do. And He calls us to repent from sin, and submit our lives to Him and follow Him.

Let’s take some time to examine our hearts, our perspectives, our motives. Let’s check how “sick” we actually are, and ask the Lord for His help, for His mercy, for His deliverance from our sins. Let’s ask Him how we can follow Him and live for Him.

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Dirty Bibles

I got something special to share. There has been something (or Someone rather) burning in my heart for the past few months, and it has finally bursted out of me. Not a great use of figurative language.

I’ve been praying about it after God has put in my heart the desire to study the Word more frequently and persistently, to seek His Holy Spirit, and to share my learnings with others, as I gradually learn how to abide effectively in His Word, and by the guidance of the Holy Spirit. (I believe that it was Him who somehow inspired the name as well during one of our sessions together, because it literally just came into my mind while I’m conversing with Him!)

And so, recently I have activated a Facebook page called “Dirty Bibles”, a page where I share Biblical reflections, citations and insights from my personal study time with the Lord, which is persistent and ongoing. I call it the overflow of my “quiet time”, or “secret place” time with the Lord.

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The aim is to encourage the people within my spheres, and as many people as possible to to open up their Bibles and spend time to understand and meditate on the living and active Word of God–His precepts, promises, wisdom, teachings, stories. Bible says to keep His Word on our lips, and meditate on it day and night (Joshua 1:8).

Just before I started, I had to check if someone already took that name anywhere online. And then I encountered a couple of other people coining the term, but none have actually taken it as an identifying label anywhere. And so I thought I’d take it upon myself to grab it and start off the project!

Then I heard a Christian minister saying that “the more you read the Bible, the dirtier it will get!”, which I just absolutely nodded exhilaratingly to. And then I thought, well the word “dirty” may have negative connotations. So in the About section of the page, I made sure I state that the adjective does not intend to mean filthy, immoral or dishonourable. But “dirty”, as in dirtied with fingerprints and tears; wrinkled, sometimes dishevelled, because of frequent use. The pages become dirtied with notes of revelation, of wisdom, of aha moments, of divine encounters. Every page marks and highlights the very Word of God for you and me. (Quoted from my About page)

“For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.” (Hebrews 4:12)

I believe that the Bible is our only authority, and the Gospel is our only hope. And I believe that a dirty Bible is a mere reflection of a tedious and persistent search for God’s truth and wisdom in the pages of the Scriptures. Notice that I use the word “persistent” repeatedly, only because that’s literally the attitude I’m going for–being persistent.

A dirty Bible produces a clean heart, and helps you live a clean life. An open Bible keeps us close to God.

The Lord said that if we seek Him wholeheartedly, we will find Him (Jeremiah 29:13). I believe that. I stand firmly on that promise. And He never fails on this one, because now I’ve realised that the more I seek Jesus, the more I learn about Him and understand Him. The more I know Him, the more I hear His voice, and the more Jesus becomes personal and real to me.

“Seek the LORD and His strength; seek His presence continually!” (Psalm 105:4)

And so, make sure you Like this page, and I invite you to read the Scriptures together, and feel the presence of Jesus where you are reading and seeking Him.

Get them Bibles dirty!

Be still

Someone needs to be reminded of this right now. God wants to remind you that He is still God.

No matter how bad things look and feel like, He is still the Lord whose name is above every name, whose power is unparalleled.

And you can put your hope in Him.

You can rest in His presence; and in His presence there is peace, there is fullness of joy, which you’ve tried your best to find everywhere else, but failed.

He has the answers; in His Word lies the solution.

In Jesus you are complete and made whole.

You are loved.

You are justified.

You are restored.

You are renewed.

(Photo from YouVersion)

I got surprised!

I think the people who really know me know that I’m not festive at all. And so I’m not into parties and social gatherings. And to be honest, I do not know exactly why. I’m the kind of guy who just prays through his birthday day for the most part. For me, it’s just a personal thanksgiving day, which I spend just looking back on the past year, and being grateful for how it had unfolded for me.

Yesterday was quite eventful.

Two days after my birthday, unbeknownst to me, a certain team of people have come up with a surprise birthday celebration for me. This cunning team of “suspects” apparently included some of my closest, closest friends, and, to my surprise, my family.

It was well planned out. And up to now, I’m still trying to put the pieces all together as to how it was all conjured up for as short as two weeks. Apparently.

As I try to wrap my head around it, I am feeling utterly overwhelmed by all of it (understatement). I am still in shock (understatement). I am tremendously thankful (understatement). And I am extremely happy (understatement).

But after it all, I got reminded that I am fortunate, I am blessed and well loved by these people who are collectively my family. They’re the “village people” who have helped raise me and shape me into who I am today. I thank the Lord for them. This memory will always be remembered and treasured.

And so here are some photos from yesterday.

25 Promises

What is one supposed to feel when he realised he’s just turned twenty five? Twenty freakin’ five. Right now, to be honest, I’m still in a huge state of denial. Because the reality is, this number carries with it some inescapable truths and implications that would just rock me to the core, for sure. And that’s for a different blogpost.

See, I was really keen to share something on my blog like I’d always do when there’s a special occasion. Maybe make a list of some personal stuff like “25 things to do before I turn 25”, or “25 facts about me”, or maybe “25 life lessons” (which I sort of already did on my 24th last year with this blogpost). But really, I didn’t feel like any of these would be useful or fun or engaging anymore.

And so I had to stop and reflect, “What is really in my heart lately? What matters to me the most in the last few months?”

The answer didn’t come to me like an aha moment or an unexpected mental surprise. The answer was simple. The answer can be precised in three letters: G-O-D.

The Word of God (His promises, stories, precepts, wisdom) has become my lifeline. In fact, now I read it like my life depends on it. And the more I get to read His Word, the more I get to know God; the more I get to meet Jesus personally. And I tell you, I can’t get enough of Him.

Now, the Bible records thousands and thousands of God’s promises He made known to humanity, in many different areas of life (i.e., faith, guidance, supplication, protection, family matters, etc.). And God’s promises are always a Yes and Amen (2 Corinthians 1:20).

I believe we need to cling to these promises, especially now that everywhere we look, there are horrendous things that are happening in our world, one after the other, because of people’s wrong decisions and evil choices. But in the middle of it all, let’s choose faith. Let’s choose to seek God, and trust Him and His written Word.

And so, I am citing 25 of the most inspiring and empowering promises that God has given us in His Word. He’s been faithful to me for twenty five years, whether I have been aware of it or not. I am making a choice to stand on His promises, and declare these over my life day by day, in any season, in victory and defeat, in my highs and lows, whether I feel good or when I don’t. I encourage you to do the same.

1) Jeremiah 29:11

For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the LORD, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope.

2) Isaiah 40:31

But they that wait upon the LORD will renew their strength. They shall mount up with wings as eagles; they will run and not be weary, and they shall walk and not faint.

3) Mark 10:27

But Jesus looked at them and said, “With men it is impossible, but not with God; for with God, all things are possible.

4) Proverbs 18:10

The name of the LORD is a strong tower; the righteous run to it and are safe.

5) Philippians 4:13

I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.

6) Matthew 11:28

Come to Me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.

7) Joshua 1:9

Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged, for the LORD your God will be with you wherever you go.

8) Philippians 4:19

And my God will meet all your needs according to His glorious riches in Christ Jesus.

9) Isaiah 41:10

Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with My righteous right hand.  

10) Deuteronomy 31:8

It is the LORD who goes before you. He will be with you; He will not leave you or forsake you. Do not fear or be dismayed. 

11) 1 Corinthians 10:13

No temptation has overtaken you except such as is common to man; but God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will also make the way of escape, that you may be able to bear it.

12) Galatians 5:16

I say then: walk in the Spirit, and you shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh. 

13) Proverbs 1:23

Turn at My rebuke; surely I will pour out My Spirit on you; I will make My words known to you.

14) Matthew 6:33

But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you.

15) Malachi 3:10

Bring all the tithes into the storehouse, that there may be food in My house, and try Me now in this,” says the LORD of hosts,“If I will not open for you the windows of heaven and pour out for you such blessing that there will not be room enough to receive it.”

16) Proverbs 3:5–6

Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct your paths.

17) Isaiah 65:24

It shall come to pass that before they call, I will answer; and while they are still speaking, I will hear.

18) Jeremiah 33:3

Call to Me, and I will answer you, and show you great and mighty things, which you do not know.

19) John 16:13

However, when He, the Spirit of truth, has come, He will guide you into all truth; for He will not speak on His own authority, but whatever He hears He will speak; and He will tell you things to come.

20) Psalm 37:4

Delight yourself also in the LORD and He shall give you the desires of your heart.

21) Isaiah 40:29

He gives power to the weak, and to those who have no might He increases strength.

22) Isaiah 54:17

No weapon formed against you shall prosper, and every tongue which rises against you in judgment You shall condemn.This is the heritage of the servants of the LORD and their righteousness is from Me,” Says the LORD.

23) James 4:7

Therefore submit to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you.

24) Lamentations 3:22–23

Through the LORD’s mercies we are not consumed, because His compassions fail not. They are new every morning; great is Your faithfulness.

25) Psalm 91:1-2

He who dwells in the secret place of the Most High shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty. I will say of the LORD  “He is my refuge and my fortress; My God, in Him I will trust.”

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alas dos y medya

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Transitions. Quite a familiar site. A place I have known for so long, I have known too well.

And it feels like I have never left that area. Not that it’s my favourite place.

But it seems fixated within the fabrics of my being.

Every filament breathes out a different story, every crossway speaks of change.

Each endeavour, each hope meticulously interwoven with the fibres of time.

And I walk the tedious walk, along the perpetual intersections.

One transition after another.

.

R.

Is it Jasmine or Mulan?

I don’t think there could be enough earthly description for the kind of impact Lea Salonga and her music has on me. Broadway Superstar and Singing Voice of the two Disney Princesses mentioned in the title, Lea made her fabulous and fierce debut at the Sydney Opera House, Friday night, February 3rd, along with her brother, the magnificent Maestro Gerard Salonga who conducted the astonishing Sydney Symphony Orchestra (That is like too many good things combined already!).

Heads up: there will be no performance snapshots displayed on this blogpost because I simply was not able to take any. Basically, I couldn’t bring my camera (a mirrorless one) out without the security guys assuming that I was recording the performance, as video recordings were not allowed at all. And so I just didn’t bother sneaking it out, not even taking a single photo.  Moreover, I do happen to know of Lea’s strong distaste for mobile devices being in use during a performance, whether in a theatre environment or a concert event (especially camera flashes). And this time, I was sitting right in front of the freakin’ stage! First row, ladies and gents! I thought I didn’t wanna ruin someone’s night. So, yep. No phones. But it turns out to be the rightest decision I’ve ever made in a concert setting.

Lea’s performance as always is brilliant and flawless. Her calibre has not ever languished. Her inimitable ability to connect with her audience through song and stories, and her scintillating wit just makes her audience love her more. Her pitch―just impeccable. Her voice―let’s just say that it has the power and the colour that you will never get enough of.

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She had a fantastic repertoire, which spans from musical theatre favourites, her Disney classics, of course; and some newly fashioned pop tunes, that once you hear them you’d probably utter, “I never thought that song could sound like that!” She always does this. Last time, she brought Bruno Mars some new flavour. This time, she took a tune from One Direction and a Cyndi Lauper classic, and plainly made them hers.

One of my favourites would be “Another Hundred People” from Stephen Sondheim’s “Company.” Her phrasing and intonation were fastidiously on point as she moves through a very complex melodic trajectory.  And man, this was a good opener for a SOH concert, I tell you that.

“I Enjoy Being A Girl” from Rodgers’ and Hammerstein’s “Flower Drum Song” is something I’ve always dreamed of hearing live. I have always adored her rendition ever since I saw it on the Broadway Concert DVD. Lots of fun. This song is simply hers.

Her Disney classics have also never failed to grace any occasion. She sang “Reflection” from Mulan, and of course “A Whole New World” from Aladdin, with a very lucky audience member (unfortunately, it wasn’t me). Lea said that she’s oftentimes asked, “Are you more like Princess Jasmine or Fa Mulan?” to which the answer is seemingly obvious according to her. I remember her funny commentaries a few years back in one of her shows I got to see on YouTube somewhere about Mulan’s character identity and bravery, and the fact that she doesn’t need to “have big boobs to save China.”

“Miss Saigon” would never be MIA. She brought her impassioned rendition of “I’d Give My Life For You” and “Too Much For One Heart.” This was shortly followed by a medley of Michel Legrand’s renowned classics, which was ended with “A Piece of Sky” from “Yentl.” It was breathtaking!

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Photo by Robert Catto

One of the “new” songs I heard from her (“new” because I’ve actually never heard this piece before, nor have I heard her do it) was “Burn” from Lin Manuel Miranda’s “Hamilton.” This has left me dumbfounded. She gave the song and the character who sings it, Eliza, a bit of a background at the beginning, which was pretty dark and dangerous. Then, in a flick, she threw me into that dimension and I was hardly breathing. And I promised myself I’m watching Hamilton after this night!

“Send in the Clowns” did not need any introduction. The mini melodic riff was enough to preface the melody, and emancipate the poignant spirit of the piece. Needless to say, it was a very moving rendition.

Furthermore, her iconic Les Miz pieces would always show up and show out. “I Dreamed A Dream” and “On My Own” sounded as though she was merely breathing through it, but certainly without losing the weight of their respective characterisation. Absolutely phenomenal.

A couple more hits from musicals got the audience euphoric and singing nonstop such as her supposed finale number “Defying Gravity” from “Wicked”, and the unstoppable-unrelenting-unsinkable “Let It Go” from Frozen. She made some funny comments on how parents go through the horror of their kids’ perpetual fondness of this song. Apparently, a lot of people could relate.

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Photo by Robert Catto

What I am very happy to witness upfront with my eyes barely blinking, was the way Lea would transform into the different characters each song belongs to, from head to toe. Man, she does it in seconds. And there is so much honesty, so much rawness, so much truthfulness in each one. Aaand she would do it one after the other. How do you become 5 different women on the same stage, in one succession, in one go, with no take twos, in front of an Opera House-sized crowd? Explain that to me.

I mean, she’s all experienced and a master of it by this time, I’m sure. But I still see it as simply “supernatural.” I really got no more to say about that. And I’m sure it’s only one of the many special reasons why she’s considered phenomenal in the world stage.

Also, may I just note that the two overtures were just tremendously remarkable. Kudos to the genius musical arrangements of Maestro Gerard Salonga. Plus, the SSO was truly world-class. I’ve not much more to say, really. So much power. So much artistry.

I also got a list of some songs I was really wishing she would have done (again):

  • “Still Hurting” from “The Last Five Years”
  • “He Touched Me” from “Drat! The Cat”
  • “Nothing” from “A Chorus Line”
  • “Someone Else’s Story” from “Chess”
  • “Someone Like You” from “Jekyll and Hyde”
  • “Two Words”
  • “The Journey”

The show was nothing short of exceptional. No performance photos or recordings were taken for me. But it made me immerse myself in the whole experience, the Lea Salonga experience. No audio recording or video file could ever capture or duplicate the magic and the brilliance one gets to encounter in her shows. I was fortunate to take it all home, one hundred per cent.

She continues to inspire me to nurture my love for musical theatre. She continues to make me proud to be of Filipino descent. She continues to prove that excellence can be truly achieved with hard work, resilience and consistency, and that longevity in this industry she’s chosen is something you really work hard for and commit to.

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Photo at the Intimate M&G after the show.

Photo courtesy: Robert Catto, Theatre People, Limelight Magazine