seventeen

It’s 1:00 AM. Last day of 2017. And I’m sitting on my bed with my air cooler, repeatedly humming the lyrics from the music I’m currently obsessed with, “A million dreams are keeping me awake …”; alternating with, “Why don’t we rewrite the stars …”.

I just had an absolutely random thought. I’m propelled to write something on my blog, pretty much as a year-ender article, or something that could discuss the highlights of my year.

I don’t know. I feel like every passing year brings something so significant that affects my way of life in many, different ways. And I thought it would be a good opportunity to talk about the people and things and events that I encountered this whole year that had impacted me in one way or another. Things that inspired me, made me value my life a little bit more, and enabled me to rethink my life’s purpose more carefully and thoroughly.

I mean, I don’t know who’ll get to read this blogpost, or if anyone would bother. But I guess, it’s really more for me. I need to write this for myself—to help me reflect on how every one of these (let’s call them) “subjects” had made my year an interesting one; or how each one had made a difference; and perhaps, why I will choose to keep them in my life for the coming years, the coming successes, the coming endeavours. Let’s start.

1) Books

img_3066I think everyone knows that I’m a book lover. No. I’m a book addict. And a book hoarder. Sometimes, even a book maniac. A secretly imploding one. Well, this year was probably the year I bought the most books in my life. I purchased 24 new books in the last 365 days. Twenty-four. Christian life books, Bible study books, prayer books, selected fiction books. Have I touched each one of them? Yes. Have I finished reading all of them? No. Maybe if we had 8 more hours in a day then I’d be able to spend extra time on a couple more. But books give me so much joy. They inform and inspire and intrigue and impel my hungry soul. They’re my treasures. I simply can’t live without them. My love for reading has ridiculously escalated this year. I’ve never enjoyed it more.

 

2) Music albums 

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I don’t possess any luxurious things in this life. There’s only two things I treat as luxury—my library, and my record collection. For me, music albums are as much of a work-of-art as the music itself. If I really love the artist and his or her music, I have to have the physical copy of it. I enjoy how artistically the photos, lyrics, credits, and other cool stuff are put together in the one album. It makes you value the existence of the art and the artist a lot more. This year, I bought a stack of albums, old and new ones; some of them were gifts from friends and family. And they’re kept very safely in my room. Some of my favourites include Emeli Sande’s “Long Love the Angels” (2016), and Sam Smith’s “The Thrill of it All” (2017).

 

3) Tea

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I’m in love with tea. Tea is life! It gives me peace of mind and absolute relaxation, particularly Green Tea. This year, I took it upon myself to learn to like the tea types I used to find intolerable like Jasmine, Oolong, Ampalaya (Bitter Melon) and Moringa. Now, I got a good, abiding, vital relationship with these guys. I also got more friendly with White Tea and Matcha. Oh, by the way, some of my favourite brands include: Yogi, T2 and Twinings.

 

 

4) Writing

327bceaa-936c-4820-a6d4-f53a7a6cfd2dI wrote a lot this year, both in prose and poetry forms. Many of them have not been published publicly yet, because I feel like I can still improve and/or develop them further. They are all stored in my journal. Thankfully, I got more comfortable writing short poems and song lyrics. I also started writing haikus, which was quite interesting, because for some reason, it’s the most challenging one to do. Additionally, I’ve attempted writing some poems in Tagalog; which just makes me realise how badly I need to be in a Filipino literature class to be good at it. Basically, I would write anywhere, whenever I get that unreflective urge to; even in my workplace while working (most of them were done and edited there, to be honest).

 

5) Composing

img_4142I always seemed to have some sort of fear when it comes to composing—fear of not being able to match my melodies and my lyrics, or of not finding the perfect rhymes, or of sounding lame and freaky, or of not living up to my own artistic standards through this medium. I don’t know. But in 2017, who would’ve thought that I would be able to compose, co-write, and orchestrally arrange a musical theatre piece that has been used for a play last September? I spent two days working on the score. It was a very smooth and spontaneous process, which surprised me because in the past, scoring an original piece was not always comfortable and smooth-flowing; especially for someone so fuzzy, scrupulous, over-elaborate like me. It was totally refreshing!

 

6) Concerts

img_1838In the last two years, I have committed to investing in live concerts, and will continue to do so in the coming years. This year I went to quite a few significant events like Lea Salonga’s concert at the Sydney Opera House in February—this was phenomenal. I came to see Hans Zimmer and his fantabulous team at the Qudos Bank Arena in May. I also got to watch the sensational pop star, Ariana Grande at the ICC Theatre last September; and the extremely talented Leroy Sanchez at the Metro Theatre, mid-November. These concerts were all awe-inspiring and soul-stirring in their own unique ways. I look forward to more live events next year!

 

7) Ben Platt

img_4819Ben made a lot of difference in my life this year, more than I could fully express in words. Earlier this year, for some reason I felt like my love for performing was slowly losing its grip on me. I questioned a lot of things. What used to be meaningful and special to me seemed and looked so superficial and pointless. After watching him perform songs from Dear Evan Hansen, I just saw pure talent and exceptional prowess—something I had always aspired and strived for. He made me get in touch with my passion for performing again. His remarkable artistry ignited a new kind of love for the arts in me. And for that, I will always be thankful. He is my Broadway icon and I will always look up to him.

 

 

8) Dear Evan Hansen by Pasek and Paul

7b3812b2-6fc7-483c-95f5-1d5e5415ceb1I just realised I haven’t formally written anything about this brilliant musical just yet. But I guess, by now everybody knows that I’m crazy for it and I’ve raved about it countless times. Dear Evan Hansen is simply the musical play of this generation that’s given a voice to people who felt inferior and insignificant. It has made a lot of people reflect on where they stand in the society; how each one of us is contributing to the solution and/or the problem with social anxiety, unbelonging, depression, suicide and relationship dysfunction. It mirrors us. Hence, we can take a better look at our own issues, our own dilemmas and rethink of how we deal with them. Furthermore, Dear Evan Hansen has redefined, if not, set a new trend for musicals today because of the amazing work of Benj Pasek and Justin Paul who seriously deserve the limelight for their genuine talents and innovative approach as composers.

 

9) The Greatest Showman

img_4796Another fantastic work by Pasek and Paul, which I recently raved about on this blog. I am just obsessed with this work of art, this enormous culmination of artistry, zeal, synergy and creative excellence. It’s taught me to “dream with my eyes wide open.” Here’s what I got to say about it. 

 

 

 

10) Keala Settle

showman-660x330I said this before, and I will say it over and over again: Keala Settle is a formidable force of nature. This artist just blew me away and continues to do so. She has a divine touch on what she does. And like Ben Platt, Keala offers something inimitable and unique to her audience and to other artists she gets to inspire. Her fire is contagious, and her kind of fire is what our generation of artists need today. I am unspeakably thankful for what she does. Watch her electric workshop performance of “This is Me” from The Greatest Showman here.

 

11) Family

img_4760Let’s talk about the people I’m thankful for, people I know in person and are related to me. And as expected, family’s always first. This year has been quite a challenging one for my family. And what I got to witness and appreciate is how my family stuck together through the serious hardships. No one’s bailed out. Everyone’s presence is all that mattered. I think our love for each other continues to grow and mature and expand as it also gets tested and measured by difficult circumstances that I can honestly be thankful for. I may not always verbalise it, but I love them inexpressibly. And I’m thankful that they’re the ones given to me in this life.

 

12) Bimby

img_2446The sadness when Bimby left us this year was unthinkable. He would have turned 3 today, the day we found him and adopted him. He was an important family member that radically changed our home. Yet still, I choose to be thankful that the Lord gifted us to him for almost three years. Bim brought our family together, and would always mellow the atmosphere, whatever tension or drama arose. And even now, his memories bring solace to us, with a slight pinch in the heart.

 

 

13) Friends

img_4227Truth be told, I only have a handful of true friends. True friends who I don’t need to see often to keep a good relationship with. True friends who are altogether loyal, honest, trustworthy and reliable. True friends who make me feel loved, understood and accepted. And I’ve never treasured them more until this year. I don’t know why or how, but that’s how I’m feeling. And I believe when people say that you don’t need a lot of friends; just a few good ones you can count on and trust is enough. If they’re reading this, I want to tell them how important they are to me, and how thankful I am for standing by me in the jumpiest and moodiest points of my life. You guys are tops!

 

 

14) Second family

img_4599-e1514710153403.jpgimg_4820They go by the name “Filozart” (I didn’t pick the name, and I’ve always been honest to say that I wish it wasn’t it, Ha-ha!). These people give me a second home, a home away from home. They give me a second family that I laugh and cry with, a second family that I discuss the most random, sometimes unusual things under the sun. They taught me to be honest, to be truthful of what I really feel without fearing judgment by the cruel society. They taught me to face my fears, and work around my insecurities. They taught me to break out of my inhibitions, and leave my comfort zone. They taught me that only I can set limitations to myself; it is only I who will and can determine how far I can go, how fast I can run, how high I can jump. They helped me discover myself in interesting, dumbfounding and uncomfortable ways. I will always treasure them.

 

15) God’s Word

img_3047In 2017, I fell in love with God’s Word like I’ve never done so before; high up to a whole new level. It’s become my lifeline. I read it like my life depended on it (and as it should). My craving for wisdom and knowledge, for more of God’s say and involvement in my life had grown drastically this year. I recognised my weakness and dumbness, and my need for God. His say is all that matters at the end of the day. And He’s given us a chance to know Him and get connected with Him through His Word, through accepting Jesus, the true and eternal Word. I’m thankful that He’s given me that desire and hunger. I developed more consistent Bible reading habits; I read and studied more than ever; I gained more understanding of God, myself, the world, and why things are happening as they are. It’s not always fun and positive; sometimes God will confront you and make you realise the ugly things in your existence (like pride and envy), and how it is your fault that these things remain with you. And the learning does not finish. A verse or a chapter  a day is not enough to solve my personal issues, all the more the world’s. Understanding the Word, living it out, obeying it—this is all just the beginning of a life-long seeking for God’s truth and will. And His plans and purpose always prevail.

 

16) Dirty Bibles

img_4278This is the product or the “overflow” of my quiet time with the Lord that came to fruition late in July. It’s like the Holy Spirit had finally succeeded with the persistent divine nudging. This is the place where I share my personal Biblical reflections and  insights. I wanted to document what I’m learning and what I’m understanding from God’s Word that might enlighten or encourage whoever reads it; and to somehow help others who got the same questions and confusions as I have. And although I’m being interrogated with the name choice and all the potential “connotations” it may pertain to, the Lord knows the heart behind it. At the end of the day, it got people’s attention—but instead of finding something nasty, they are led to the place they’ve always been running away from: their appointment with God. And I will continue to do my best, use my research and writing abilities to bring the Gospel of Jesus to my own sphere and to the larger world. So help me God!

 

17) The G-O-D

img_4725This year, I went through some temperamental seasons—sometimes I’m awkward, awful and angry; sometimes I have it all figured out. This is my normal. This is my reality. But there’s always Someone who remains the same through these mercurial times. He is my constant. My faithful and consistent companion through life’s scornful roads. The One who reminds me of my identity and my inheritance. He is my Provider and Protector, my Guard and Guide. He is my comfort and pace, my joy and my strength. He is My Saviour and King. The One who was, is and will be in control. And I continue to seek Him and trust Him with my life. I continue to know and learn the things He wants me to do, the things He wants me to achieve, the places He wants me to go, the people He wants me to connect with. I continue to learn how to live for Him; how to serve Him and bring Him glory wherever He places me. I want to share Him with the ones who forgot about Him or turned their backs on Him. I want to be good for Him. I want to live out His grace, and love Him the best way I can. I am His, and His love for me has defined who I am and will be.

 

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17 Thoughts on The Greatest Showman

I cannot stop talking about this movie ever since I saw it on Christmas Day (which I think was its first day in Australia). It’s all over my social media accounts; I’m pretty sure I’ve mentioned it to every single person I met up with in the last couple of days. I bought the soundtrack right away and had been singing the songs nonstop. I’m mad about it basically.

So here’s a few random thoughts I have about the film, its music and whatever else in it, which I will deliver not really as a movie critic, but as a music lover, a musical theatre freak, and a Pasek-and-Paul fan. Also, I did 17 because, well, we’re in year 2017, and it’s almost over (?). Anyway, I don’t know how this is gonna go, but let’s start it off.

  1. The film was simply fantastic. The overall production was highly entertaining and absolutely delightful. Ace direction by Michael Gracey. Marvellous performances delivered by the stellar cast headed by the incomparable Hugh Jackman. To be honest, I don’t have to say much about Jackman; he was plain astounding.
  2. Apparently, it’s a musical biopic about the life of P. T. Barnum, founder of Barnum & Bailey Circus. I think it’s the kind of production that highlights the artistic and performance aspects more than the history. So, I guess you can ignore the spectators who doubt its historical accuracy and truthfulness.
  3. More than anything, the music had really stood out for me. It was just remarkable. I have to admit I did have high expectations when I learned that it was written by Benj Pasek and Justin Paul, and they have exceeded all of them!
  4. As each song was introduced in the progression of the film, I was taken aback—struggling to breathe and recover from each one. And I am not even exaggerating. I was deeply moved. I kept telling myself, “Woah, this is too much to take!”
  5. The colourful melodies, the enthralling harmonies, the impeccably written lyrics wrapped in strong, catchy hooks and appealing phrases, and the exhilarating musical arrangements; not to mention the riveting choreography, vivid set and costumes, and excellent camera work—it was a huge creative buffet I thought I came ready for (but wasn’t), and still wanted to devour everything anyway!
  6. The arrangement and dynamics of the music, as well as the language and poetry in the lyrics effectively conveyed the disposition, drama and dilemma of the characters singing the songs. It was powerful and genuine; and it wasn’t hard to empathise with them and understand where they stand.
  7. Interesting story-telling: I love how they used very modern, contemporary music to tell a story situated in the 19th century. Old-fashioned sight, modern sound. Striking contrast that pretty much worked.
  8. “A Million Dreams” beautifully set an enchanting atmosphere for the film (although this was actually the second song, it was the first “complete” one as “The Greatest Show” was not shown in full yet) as the young Finn‘s wonder-stricken character was introduced, then gracefully segueing to the entrancing rooftop dance with Charity (Michelle Williams). The song’s reprise sung by their two little girls just melted my heart.
  9. My favourite scenes were perhaps the major production numbers such as “The Greatest Show”, “Come Alive”, “This is Me”, and “From Now On” that were pillars of the film. The vibe, the cinematography, the synchronicity, the life and energy in each number remained consistent all throughout the film, and had only escalated in the film’s progression. The direction made sure you would anticipate and increasingly enjoy each one.
  10. Keala Settle is a formidable force of nature—she really stood out from the rest, not just because of character’s stunning beard, but because of her incredible vocal prowess and her fierce, unchallengeable soul.
  11. We found ourselves an anthem for self-acceptance and self-empowerment in the song “This is Me”. It’s very timely and universal—accepting your imperfections, turning your peculiarity to individuality, and  just unapologetically being you in a harshly judgmental world.
  12. Zac Efron and Zendaya had awesome chemistry while the film compassionately deals with their characters’ romantic predicament (i.e., interracial love affair), all spotlighted in their breathtaking aerial duet in “Rewrite the Stars”. This was just captivating.
  13. The Jackman-Efron bar duet was pretty intense—from the glass exhibitions, chair slides, deviant camera movements and all. Very well choreographed. One of my favourite moments in the film.
  14. The two female arias such as “Never Enough” (sung by Michelle Williams playing Charity) and “Tightrope” (sung by the character of Jenny Lind played by Roberta Ferguson, in the singing voice of Loren Allred) were both phenomenal and gave the two female characters their soul-baring moments.
  15. Back to the music, Pasek and Paul have the unique ability to combine a variety of genres and styles and turn them into a delectably cohesive body of work. The soundtrack was incredibly eclectic, and harnesses a diverse range of rhythms and feels—pop, rock, folk, ballad, soul, and some gospel. Any person would have at least one or two favourites from the list.
  16. I also realise how Pasek and Paul particularly fuse contemporary music and musical theatre, in terms of musicality and overall approach/atttitude—so brilliantly that it engenders a whole different sound. Musically, you get a tasteful integration of band and orchestral music, often with a soulful flare. I feel like they’ve also done this approach in the Tony-winning Broadway hit, Dear Evan Hansen.
  17. The Greatest Showman was a complete, soul-stirring artistic experience that satisfied my artistic cravings, visually and aurally. And I don’t think I’ll get over it soon. At least not in the next two to three months.

 

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Image grabbed from Just Jared.

#9Mornings 9: Peace of the Prince

(Read John 14:27)

Because of Jesus and His ultimate sacrifice, we finally have peace with God (Romans 5:1). His sacrifice reconciled us with the Father, which therefore fulfilled His role as the Prince of Peace. But apart from having peace with God, Jesus’ first coming and sacrifice also gave us the peace of God.

Jesus said in John 14:27, “Peace I leave with you; My peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.

This peace comes from knowing, believing and accepting the truth that the Lord is in control. 1 Peter 1:2 says, “May God give you more and more grace and peace as you grow in your knowledge of God and Jesus our Lord”. As we grow to understand the depth, richness and wonders of His love, we get to learn how to rest in His power and wisdom, and give our lives in His divine care (Ephesians 3:18–19, Psalm 27:13-14, Psalm 37:39-40, Psalm 55:22).

Our trust in Him grows, and we rely on His goodness and faithfulness to us. We may not know what the future brings nor can we predict it; but we learn to trust that “if God is for us, who can be against us?” (Romans 8:31). This is how we know that He truly makes all things work together for our good (Romans 8:28). We can be sure that His purposes will prevail and be fulfilled (Psalm 33:11; Proverbs 19:21; Isaiah 45:9; 46:9–11).

Because of Jesus, we can be confident that “nothing can separate us from the love of God.” (Romans 8:39).

And this is the kind of peace we get to experience; the peace that truly “transcends all understanding”, so different and life-changing. It’s like no other. And we have Jesus to thank in this whole lifetime and beyond.

Let the incomparable peace of God rule in our hearts this Christmas and always.

Have a blessed and grace-infused Christmas! Thank You, Jesus!

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For further reading/reference:

#9Mornings 8: Peace with God

(Read Isaiah 9:6)

Hundreds of years before the birth of Jesus, the prophet Isaiah foretold God’s plan and will to enter history as our Prince of Peace. Jesus is our Prince of Peace. He came to the world one peaceful night, with no extravagant fanfare, in the humblest of places.

The angels announced His birth to the shepherds, proclaiming, “Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests (Luke 2:14). This signified the ultimate purpose of Jesus’ role—to establish peace between us and God.

Romans 5:1 says, “Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.” In our sinful and broken state, we are considered enemies with God (Romans 5:10). “But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8). Isaiah further prophesied, “He was wounded for our transgressions; He was crushed for our iniquities; upon Him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his stripes we are healed (Isaiah 53:5).

This is the salvation that we sing about—Christ Himself dying on the cross for sinners who deserved wrath and death, reconciling us to God.  All our sins, transgressions, and iniquities have been forgiven because Jesus bore them, crucified them on the cross with Him. Christ, who knew no sin became sin on our behalf, so that we could be made right with God (2 Cor 5:21).

Because of this sacrifice, God’s people have been restored to a relationship of peace with Him (Romans 5:1). And this ultimately fulfils Jesus’ role as “Prince of Peace”

If we embrace Jesus by faith, we can be forgiven. When we acknowledge Him as Lord and Saviour, we also receive Him as the heavenly Prince who established our peace with God.

Jesus, the Son given, the Christ, the Prince of Peace —made it all happen.

 

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Further readings/references:

Knowing the Peace of the Prince

Jesus is the Prince of Peace

#9Mornings 7: The Grateful Gives

(Read 2 Corinthians 9:11)

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Christmas is a very special time of the year because it is a time of giving. People give a lot more than usual during this season for varying reasons and intentions.

For Christians, gift giving normally reminds us of the wise men who traveled from very far to honour the newborn Jesus with gifts such as gold, frankincense and myrrh. But most importantly, we give gifts to thankfully remember and celebrate the true and greatest gift given to mankind—our Saviour and King, Jesus Christ. He is God’s most precious and valuable gift He gave out of His incredible love for us—”God so loved the world, that He gave His one and only Son …” (John 3:16).

We must also recognise that God is the giver of everything as “every good and perfect gift is from above” (James 1:17). God is always able, and He has promised to bless us abundantly so we could channel these blessings to others who are in need, both physically and spiritually (2 Cor 9:8, 11). We are blessed by God so we can bless others; we are enriched so we can be generous (Zech 8:13, 2 Cor 9:11).

In 2 Corinthians 8, Paul was encouraging churches to give financial gifts to believers who were in need in Jerusalem. He encouraged believers to have the heart to give voluntarily, out of what they have, and motivated by love and gratitude for what Jesus Himself had given us—”For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though He was rich, yet for your sake He became poor, so that you through His poverty might become rich” (v9).

Steven J Cole says, “When we give, we act as God does.” Give because God has given to you. It is our natural expression of gratitude for the grace and mercy we have received in Jesus; not only during Christmas season, but year-round, as a way of life.

And so this season, see giving as an opportunity, a privilege. Be a blessing to others. Find a way to give not just to the people special to us like family or friends, but to the ones you do not know personally, and who are in actual need.  Let’s donate to charitable organisations and foundations. Give out of what you have—from material and financial needs, food, shelter, clothing, medicine, etc.; to sharing and sacrificing our time with people who need company, encouragement, love and support; to volunteering or helping out in certain causes that aim to support other people in any way possible. Gifts do not have to be grand to be valuable; they simply need to be given out of compassion and thankfulness for the blessings you have personally received. And the love and grace of Jesus is reason enough for us to give generously, even sacrificially, to those who are in need.

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#9Mornings 6: What Grace

(Read Titus 2:11-12)

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The best Christmas gift anyone has received and can receive is God’s grace. And it is the probably the most important concept that we must know, understand and live by.

Grace is commonly defined as God’s unmerited favour, or God’s love in action. But it’s beyond being just “unmerited”—it is favour granted to sinners who deserve His judgment and wrath, yet the Lord chose to show them favour. A Christian pastor said, “Showing kindness to a stranger is ‘unmerited favor’; doing good to one’s enemies is more the spirit of grace” (as in the concept of Love your enemies in Luke 6:27-36).

Grace is embodied fully and tangibly in the person of Jesus Christ (see John 1:17). The first coming of Jesus Christ, which we celebrate during Christmas, was God’s saving grace dawning upon this broken, sin-infested world. Grace means God sending His one and only Son, to die on the cross so that we unworthy sinners may be saved from sin and death (which what our sinfulness deserves), then be reconciled to God and receive eternal life and citizenship in heaven (see John 3:17, Romans 6:23, 1 John 4:10, 2 Timothy 1:9-10).

And that is the good news of the Gospel! When you understand and experience the grace of God in Jesus Christ, it propels you and teaches you to live a life that pleases Him; to live sensible, righteous, godly lives, so we can draw those who live otherwise to the Saviour amidst the sin-darkened age. Through His grace, God has blessed us with the abilities to “deny ungodliness and worldly desires” so that we can live out a sensible, righteous, and godly life (Titus 2:12). His grace also enables us to point people home to God and/or to draw them back to having a personal and intimate relationship with our Saviour.

And that is how what the grace of God does—it saves us, then it propels and teaches us to be godly people who do good deeds, as we look forward to second coming of our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ who sacrificed Himself for our salvation. Remember what Ephesians 2:8-9 teaches, “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast.” This Christmas, take some time to reflect on how the grace of God works in your life, and how you can live it out right in and under His amazing grace.

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For more readings/references:

#9Mornings 5: Mary Did Know

(Read Luke 1:46-56)

Mary’s hymn of praise, or commonly known as the “Magnificat” is one of the most iconic and celebratory moments in the Bible. After Mary was visited by an angel foretelling the birth of Jesus (see Luke 1:26-38), she met with Elizabeth who was pregnant with John the Baptist (see Luke 1:39-45). They shared the inexorable joy that’s about to come their way.

Mary’s song expressed her personal praise to the Lord for His treatment of her, and how the Almighty God had blessed the righteous through all generations. Moved with joy and gratitude, Mary sang of God’s favour and blessing in her life, and in the lives of the people who fear Him, who humble themselves before Him, and serve Him (v48-55).

Mary knew she was uniquely blessed, and magnified the Lord’s name, still recognising her humble state as a servant of God in a place of utter thankfulness. She declared the goodness and faithfulness of God over her life and her community (v48-55).

Mary knew and understood God’s consistent character and nature. She knew that the Lord loves and cares for the poor and the humble, always lifts them up, and never forsakes those who are in need of Him, especially His own dutiful servants (see Ps 102:27, Ps 149:4, James 4:10, Prov 3:34, Luke 6:20, 1 Pet 5:6-7).

Mary knew and acknowledged that everything that comes from God’s hand, is out of His mercy and grace (see James 1:17, James 4:6, Psalm 84:11). As one commentary says, Mary knew that “God owes her nothing; she owes God everything.”

Mary knew that when she accepted this blessing and responsibility, she had nothing to fear, because God Himself was her “Saviour” (see Isaiah 41:10, Ps 27:1). She trusted God enough to surrender her life, her future to His will, responding, “I am the Lord’s servant. May your word to me be fulfilled” (Luke 1:38).

Mary knew that God’s plans always prevail, and He never breaks His promises (Prov 19:21, Isa 14:27). She knew that God is in authority and His Word never fails (Deut 4:39, Joshua 21:45).

Let’s all learn from Mary’s example of humility—a servant who fears and honours God, who joyfully remembers His goodness and love, and who trusts in His plans and purposes.

 

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#9Mornings 4: Light in the Dark

(Read John 1:4-5)

In a world covered in spiritual darkness because of sin, we need the Light.

Jesus is this Light. He declares in John 8:12, “I am the Light of the world; he who follows Me will not walk in the darkness, but will have the Light of life.”

Jesus came to a world of chaos, a world full of pride, hate, greed and self-centredness; divided and prejudiced; a world where the religious leaders were misleading the crowd, where people misunderstand and misinterpret God’s precepts, plans and purposes (Romans 3:23, Matt 23:23-24, Isa 64:6)

But in His first coming, Jesus brings in His light “that darkness has not overcome” even up to this day (John 1:5). He embodies hope in our despair; He whispers peace in the midst of the turmoil; He becomes the inextinguishable light in the surrounding darkness.

Even in our personal spiritual journey where darkness persist to break in, Jesus is the light we need to illuminate our skies, to expose the lies and snares of the enemy, and to free us from the bondage of sin. His Light does not in any way excuse our sins, but instead, His sacrifice on the cross propels us and brings us to a place of repentance, with a desire to change our life direction.

Jesus said in John 12:36-37, “Believe in the Light while you have the Light, so that you may become children of light.” When we receive Jesus and believe in Him, we become rightful children of God, “not of natural descent or human decision, but born of God” (John 1:12-13).

We become children of Light when we follow Jesus. When we follow Jesus, we believe and obey His Word even though oftentimes we cannot clearly see the next steps. But we can trust that His Word will be “the lamp to our feet and light to our path” (Psalm 119:105). We can be sure that Jesus will always lead us to the right direction, according to God’s will and purpose.

 

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#9Mornings 3: Immanuel

(Read Matthew 1:23)

It was around 735 BC when the birth of Jesus was predicted by the prophet Isaiah to the nation of Judah (see Isaiah 7). And interestingly, Jesus was named hundreds of years before He was even born!

His name “Immanuel” translates to, and basically summarises the real essence of Christmas in these three words: “God With Us”. However, “Immanuel” is not really a personal name for Jesus, but rather a title or description of His role of bringing God’s presence to humanity.

When you look more closely into it, and reflect on this phrase more deeply, doesn’t it stagger you? The Lord, the Almighty God made a way to be physically with us, to dwell visibly among us. It speaks of the loving nature of our God—that out of His grace, He has given us a Messiah, a promise He had fulfilled us a long time ago because He is a faithful God (see Deut 7:9, Heb 10:23, 1Cor 15:57, Acts 15:11, Eph 2:8-9)

And notice how He didn’t send an angel or some sort of delegate or representative to do the job. He did it Himself, He came down Himself to rescue His people, to give life and hope to this desperate world. His name “Immanuel” merely signifies what kind of God we serve—a God who cares, a God who is personal, a God who is present.

Therefore, the best part of Christmas is not just the festivities or the presents we give and receive; but it is knowing that the presence of God with us. In sorrow and joy, in trials and successes, He is with us.

 

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#9Mornings 2: Word Became Flesh

(Read John 1:14)

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We must realise that the Word of God is more than printed pages in a book. The Word of God is the person of Jesus Christ.

John 1:1-5 say, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through Him, and without Him nothing was made that was made. In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.”

The Word (or Logos in Greek) refers to no other than Jesus Christ. And this passage speaks of the relationship between the Son and the Father even before everything was created. Jesus was right in the beginning with the Father and was God Himself (v1-2); was involved in the creation (v3); and is the invincible light of all mankind (v4-5).

Jesus Christ is the divine expression of God, the complete embodiment of the invisible and incomprehensible God. Everything that God is, His truth and totality is expressed in His Logos (Word), and this expression IS God. In Jesus, we see God. Verse 14 says, “…We have seen His glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.”

Jesus was the Word. The Word was God. The Word became flesh. In other words, God became human. Hence, Jesus Christ was fully human, and Jesus Christ was fully God.

John 1:18 says, “No one has ever seen God…” God the Father, the Creator of the universe is Spirit, and is invisible to the human eye. In Biblical history, the law has been given to Moses by God (v17); and Yahweh has spoken through the prophets, all His promises and precepts. But there came a time when people, including leaders and so-called law enforcers had violated His words, and easily disregarded these divine commands from an “invisible God”, that they continued living in sin and rebellion (Ezekiel 22:26; Matthew 23:37).

And in due time, the Word (Jesus), the total embodiment of the nature of God, became flesh, was born human, and came to live with us (Matt 1:23; Rom 8:3; Phil 2:5–11). God’s Word in the person of Jesus, the “one and only Son, who is Himself God and is in closest relationship with the Father, has made Him known” (v18). And while the law came through Moses, “grace and truth came through Jesus Christ” (v17). God Himself came down to preach the truth about His goodness, love and redemption to all mankind in the person of Jesus Christ.

Jesus is the gift of grace sent to mankind, to save us from sin and death, and to offer us eternal life regardless of our racial or social backgrounds (Colossians 3:11). Jesus—who experienced being human Himself, who got tempted, got hungry, got thirsty, became physically weak and tired, even experienced death—has become our High Priest who can empathise with us, having experienced all these, yet lived a sinless, spotless life, in complete surrender and obedience to God (Hebrews 4:15). And He offers us grace, He offers us mercy. He wants to forgive us, to be reconciled with us, to show us His loving ways, and share heaven with us. If only we will attempt to get close to Him, accept our need for Him, and embrace this priceless gift He is offering by His incarnation.

We must seek Jesus, and ask His Holy Spirit who dwells in everyone who’s placed faith in His name to make the living and active Word of God to be made flesh, and be alive in our own lives.

 

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Some substantial reads/references:

What does it mean that the Word became flesh (John 1:14)?

Jesus is the Eternal Word of God

The Word Became Flesh

 

 

#9Mornings 1: God so loved

(Read John 3:16-17)

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John 3:16 is probably the most popular and widely used Christian statement of why Jesus came to earth. And it points us to one simple thing: the love of God.

Jesus is the manifestation of this love. Jesus came to reveal God’s unfailing love and faithfulness to mankind (John 1:17). Because He loves us so, God made THE way for us. Jesus is that way (John 14:6), our way back to the Father.

Jesus offered Himself–fully God, He became fully man, took on flesh and blood, and dwelt among sinners (John 1:14). He lived a perfect and blameless life, in perfect obedience and surrender to the Father’s will (Heb 4:15, John 18:29).

As God had done with Abraham in Moriah, God had provided the perfect sacrifice for our sins; but this time, it’s His own Son. Jesus died in our place. He had to be born man to die for us sinners–to save the lost, to give His life a ransom for many, and to give us life (v17, Luke 19:10, John 10:10, Mark 10:45).

God loves you, the sinful and broken you, that He was willing His own Son, heaven’s perfect Lamb to save you. His love is so immense, so powerful that He did not even spare His own Son (Romans 8:32). His love is so consuming and unconditional that even when we’re still sinners He died for us (Romans 5:8).

He offers eternal life through Jesus; we gain eternal life by believing in Him, and placing our faith in His sacrifice.

Jesus is the Father’s gift of grace to mankind, out of His boundless love. The gift of grace that we do not deserve. And this undeserved gift is, and must be the main reason for the season, the reason why we’re thankful, the reason why we celebrate.

#JESUS
#Godsolovedtheworld

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9 Mornings

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Growing up a devout Catholic (I am now a reformed Christian), my family observed some really important Christmas traditions. One of them was the Simbang Gabi (Night Mass), sometimes called Misa De Gallo—it is a series of nine dawn Masses celebrated for the Advent season, in preparation for Christmas Day, which commemorates the first coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. (Does that make sense? Just Google it for yourself perhaps.)

Now, I just thought it’d be interesting to design a Bible study plan via Dirty Bibles that is stencilled through the 9-day event, except that they will be Bible devotions (straight from the Scriptures, minus all the fuzz that comes with it. Also, no need to wake up before sunrise!)

I mean, this celebration perhaps is the pinnacle (apart from the Resurrection) of our Christianity—honouring and believing in the love and the grace of God revealed to us in the person of Jesus Christ, who was fully God and fully man; the eternal Word who became flesh and dwelt amongst us, the real Saviour of mankind (no offense to the Justice League).

It’s the perfect season to get keep our Bibles open and busy again. Dirty it up with markings and annotations, with creases and tears. And pray with the very words from it, knowing and believing in our hearts that our God is alive, and He desires for us to get closer to Him each day.

Ready for this? Start here.

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R