Old vs New

This passage is meaty, confronting and simply straightforward, containing glorious truths. Let’s go.

(Read Colossians 3:4-11)

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This passage is meaty, confronting and simply straightforward, containing glorious truths. Thoughts to ponder:

  • Christ is the real source of life, whose fullness and total glory will be revealed to us in due time. The concept of life that we have now is nothing compared to the “real thing” in Christ.
  • When we finally meet Him, we will be changed, perfected, and become like Him in glory, communing eternally with our incomparable God.
  • God simply hates sin. He is both loving and just. He disciplines because He loves. He is love to begin with, but will never be unified with sin. Sin is death.
  • As we look forward to our future glory, God wants us put our sinful nature to death (as mentioned within v5-9), and constantly strive to live pure and holy lives. He Himself is holy and He wants us to abide by His righteous nature.
  • Die to be born again (in spirit). Let the flesh be crucified with Christ, let your sinful nature die daily so you can find the life that Jesus has brought through His resurrection.
  • Christ has given us a brand new identity that we must learn to put on and cultivate. We are the saved ones, the redeemed, the forgiven. This new nature is continually renewed as we grow in knowledge of Him; this is divine maturity nourished by the Holy Spirit within us
  • Jesus looks beyond our racial and cultural backgrounds. He establishes who we are, and who we become in Him, and the future that we have with Him as God’s children and citizens of heaven.

#OldvsNew
#dirtybibles

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Jesus can

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This one’s from a little story in Mark 9 where a dad approached Jesus and asked Him to free his son from a demonic spirit. Read Mark 9:14-29.

Let this be your prayer for today.

Jesus simply can. Jesus can turn any situation around. He can heal your sickness. He can take away the pain. He can bring you peace. He can bring breakthroughs. He can perform astounding miracles. You just got to believe and not doubt His matchless power. Pray even that you learn to not doubt the Lord’s power and authority, just like what the dad did in this passage. Believe and give your battles to God, from the smallest ones to what seem to be insurmountable. He got you covered! You just have to place your faith in Him and not doubt His sovereignty!

#DoubtNot
#Heispowerful
#NothingisimpossiblewithGod
#dirtybibles

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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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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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Now, what?

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While on the train today, I pulled out my daily devotional. And everything that’s written there has astonishingly validated what God has been putting in my heart the past few days.

I’ve come to realise that lately, the Lord has been teaching me an important lesson: how to live one day at a time—how to prioritise nothing but the now, and just live in the moment.

Present tense

It’s great to be futuristic and always think ahead, but the future will be no good if the quality of the present isn’t well taken care of.

I believe that focusing on the now also helps us develop and strengthen our trust in the Lord—that He will be there from top to finish, that He’s in the beginning and in the end of every chapter, ’cause that’s what He promised.

Failures vis-à-vis Victories

I also learned that the mistakes of today do not define you solely for the rest of your life.

Your everyday triumphs help establish your identity and validate your goals, so do your mistakes. They’re both essential in the process.

Today’s mistakes are tomorrow’s learnings. Today’s victories are tomorrow’s benchmarks.

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R.

This sign

 

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When I look at this, I’m constantly reminded. I’m reminded that there’s enough reason to face another day with so much optimism, motivation and renewed hope; that I can put my trust completely on my Saviour.

I’m reminded that there’s someone who will look after what I am not capable of handling or changing.

That if my human abilities fail, His grace and faithfulness won’t.

That if my plans and dreams don’t succeed, His plan and purpose will take over.

That if I’m filled with fear and doubt, His promises will be my hope.

That if everyone has turned their backs, His comfort and His peace will be there to remind me I’m safe and valued.

That if the waiting time gets frustrating, His Word will constantly reassure me of His perfect timing.

That if I get lost, or refuse to find my way back, He will be waiting for me to come home.

And He will remain the same.

And He will remind me of these things again in case I’ve forgotten.

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R.

Timeout!

The start of the year has been pretty rough for me. I know, we’re only in Day 8.

Well, there are just things that are beyond your control, even your knowledge sometimes. Your limitations as a human being become utterly exposed no matter how hard you fight it and pin down the problem.

In all angles and views, you are weak. And nothing that you have can make you any stronger or wiser. The issues become incremental and remorseless; the issues just keep on piling up without the previous ones being resolved. And you’re caught in the middle somewhere, confused and distressed.

But if there’s one thing I have learned, experienced and practiced in the last few days, it is to seek God and His peace continually–to just sit down with Him and rest in His presence; to lay down everything: your pride, your fears, anxieties, inhibitions, your bare self before Him, and just take a break in His comforting presence.

I know to some that might not make a lot of sense. But it simply means that you call upon the Lord, and cast everything up on Him, good or bad. Bible says to cast our cares upon the Lord because He cares for us (1 Peter 5:7), and He’s always ready to sustain us (Psalm 55:22),

Be honest and bold before Him, keeping in mind that you are loved and forgiven and that He knows you from the inside out.

And the most important part of it all is to trust Him and hope in Him, give your complete dependence to Him, and His will and plan for you. Give to God what only God can handle. I always remind myself of Proverbs 4:5-6 that says, “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.

When our thinking minds fail, when our weak hearts collapse, when our plans just don’t work out in these tough situations, there’s nothing we can do but rely on God and wait for Him to move, wait for Him to look after everything with us. Psalm 27:14 says to “wait patiently for the LORD; be brave and courageous.”

Our problems are designed to put us in our mettle immensely. But I believe that God allows this sometimes so we would know our selves a lot more, our strengths and frailties. And more importantly, so we would know Him a lot deeper, too–that He is God, He is almighty and powerful, and He knows us, loves us and cares for us, and is able to rescue us from the quicksands of life.

Psalm 46:10 says, “Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.” And that exactly what I have strived for–to sit quiet, trust God and wait on Him.

Isaiah 40: 31 is also well embedded in my heart: “But they that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint.”

And so, the Lord has become my lifeline, my nourishment, my counsellor, my psychologist and physician in all of these. Nothing and no one else but Him.

Resting in God

I have come across this article by Joyce Meyer that spoke to me in the middle of the chaos and confusion I’m going through. I’m sure Joyce wouldn’t mind me reposting this for the people who happen to be reading this post. If it is your preference to go directly to her site, find the article here.

But here it is. The article is called “Living in God’s Rest” :

God wants us to enjoy our everyday lives. John 10:10 (AMP) says that Jesus died for us so we “may have and enjoy life, and have it in abundance (to the full, till it overflows)”. But it seems so many people who say they believe in Jesus are not really enjoying their lives. It’s tragic to think that Jesus paid the price for our sins, that He suffered to make that sacrifice, and yet there are Christians who are struggling just to get by and make it through each day.

The key to having abundant life in Christ is living by God’s grace through faith. Because grace is His power working in us that enables us to do whatever we need to do in life.

When we try to do everything in our own strength and leave God out of the equation, we just get worn-out and frustrated by our mistakes and failures. But when we lean on God, we actually enter into His rest and can enjoy our lives, no matter what our circumstances may be.

Hebrews 4:9-11 (AMP) says, So then, there is still awaiting a full and complete Sabbath-rest reserved for the [true] people of God; for he who has once entered [God’s] rest also has ceased from [the weariness and pain] of human labors…. Let us therefore be zealous and exert ourselves and strive diligently to enter that rest [of God, to know and experience it for ourselves]….

Now the rest of God is not a rest from work—it’s a rest in work. It’s partnering with God to do what He is calling you to do by His grace, and leaving the part you can’t do in His hands, trusting Him to do it. Hebrews 4:3 says it this way: We who have believed (adhered to and trusted in and relied on God) do enter that rest…. So we start by believing.

When I’m trying to believe, I haven’t entered God’s rest. But when I do believe, I have complete rest in Him. Living by faith is not a struggle—it’s rest. And you can enter into God’s rest in every area of your life.

I’ve discovered that the stress in my life is caused by the way I approach my circumstances and the attitude I have toward them. It was a turning point for me when I realized that the world will probably never change, but I could learn how to change the way I go about handling situations that are challenging.

One key to this is knowing that as believers in Christ, we are partners with God—we have a part and He has a part in everything He calls us to do. When we don’t do the part we can do and we try to do His part, that’s when we live stressed-out with worry, fear, anxiety, frustration, no peace and no joy.

The reason this happens sometimes is because we think God needs our help. We meditate on the problem—rolling it over and over in our mind, worrying, trying to figure out how things should work out. It’s like we’re telling God, “I kind of think You need my help, and I’m not sure You can take care of this situation, Lord.”

We need to realize that worrying is useless! It’s like sitting in a rocking chair, rocking all day, wearing yourself out and getting nowhere. Trusting God means we give up worrying, reasoning, and anxiety and we enter into His rest with simple childlike faith—we live by grace through faith!

Ephesians 2:8-9 is a great scripture that says we’re saved by grace through faith. And we walk out our relationship with God and His plans for our lives the same way we receive salvation: by grace through faith. This is possible because Jesus made the perfect sacrifice for us when He gave His life, taking our guilt and condemnation and paying for our sins. Through a personal relationship with Jesus, we access God’s grace so we can do what He’s calling us to do.

It’s so amazing to know that God is always with us, giving us His grace for everything we need to do in life. Trust God’s unconditional love for you today. Do what you can do and give Him everything else. And when you find yourself getting frustrated or feeling overwhelmed, like you just can’t do it anymore, remember to stop, get your focus back on Him and enter into His rest once again.

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Original photo can be found on WallpapersCraft.com.

R.

Fantastic news!

I am in seventh heaven right now. And it’s all fun and amazing up here! LOL. Just kidding.

Today, I’ve received one of the best news of the year. And that is the release date of the long-awaited and highly anticipated Hillsong Worship album, which we’ve learned today has the title, “OPEN HEAVEN / River Wild.”

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On their Facebook page, Hillsong Worship dropped the news that reads:

We’re excited to announce the upcoming release of our new album ‘Open Heaven / River Wild’ recorded live at #‎HillsongConf in Sydney! Available worldwide on 16th October! We pray this album will reach and impact the lives of many as they worship under an #‎OpenHeaven!

I mean, I know there’s still less than 2 months to wait. But it excites me so much to have Hillsong’s new music finally accessible any time of the day. We’ve had a good taste of it during conference. Also, the worship team has slowly introduced some of the new tunes during church services.

Can I just say that this new pool of songs is just simply irresistible (?). It makes you crave worship so much more. It makes your access to heaven and to God’s throne so much more dynamic and inexorable. The heartfelt and rhapsodic songs seem to make God’s Spirit and presence so much more palpable. In other words, it makes people worship and frolic in God’s love and presence in a powerful and extraordinary way.

The album is actually available for pre-order on their website. The track listing is already released as well.

One of the songs I’m very excited about is the one that goes “Holy is the Lord revealed before my eyes and my burning heart can scarcely take it in…“, which I believe is entitled “Transfiguration” (I’m still not so sure. I could be wrong).

Then there’s “Oh, what grace I’ve found in You, my Jesus, that my soul should entertain Your greatness…“, which I believe is called “What A Saviour.”

I am just incredibly happy because Hillsong Worship has done it again. Props to the brilliant team of God-inspired, Spirit-filled creatives! I mean, I thought it would be very hard top their previous album, “No Other Name.” But then I’ve realised, it’s not about which has better songs, and/or production and marketing components. It’s about the experience–both the musical and the spiritual aspects of it. If it’s music that speaks to the soul, and opens up the heart, mind, and soul to God’s voice and to His Word, then that’s IT. This album’s got IT.

So I’m looking forward to the release of this album, and to the fresh experience that it has to offer. And perhaps, the new revelations God has in store for His people, that I pray will be delivered strongly thru music. To God be the glory!

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R.

I attended Hillsong Conference 2015!

I am not quite sure if I have written enough or posted enough online about the Hillsong Conference that took place just a week ago. I can’t even begin to describe the kind of experience I’ve just had, registering for the very first time and completing the 5 nights and 3 (out of 4) days of encountering God in a very extraordinary way. It was unbelievable. It was life-changing, life-turning, soul-breaking, heart-changing. It was “spiritually bloating” as one of my friends said.

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I mean, just having the opportunity to worship with a high-octane crowd amplifying incredible, God-breathed music from the Hillsong team, and just hearing so richly and strongly from the Lord through the messages and teachings of amazing pastors and leaders. Seriously, what more could you have I asked for?

The theme for this year is “Speak: We’re Listening”, which I believe is about listening to the voice of God in this life and time. To be honest, at first I was worried that this “concept” would sort of struggle to top last year’s i.e., “No Other Name”, which was blatantly and furiously Jesus-centred, and was all about magnifying God and His true power and identity. But in the end, it didn’t matter which was “greater” or “more spectacular.” God showed up and showed out mightily in this year’s conference, and won many souls back into Him. It was incredible.

I feel very blessed and spoilt by God the entire week. Although, honestly, it was not easy confronting the many issues I’m faced with at present. It was awfully hard staring at them in the face. But in the midst of it, I was able to step out boldly, and witness how God has mightily transformed not the difficult circumstances—but my very own heart, my very own perspective by expanding my understanding of His Word, His love and greatness, His fatherhood, His divine plan, and what He wants in my life.

It was a week of absolute enlightenment, encouragement, love, reviving, restoration and healing for me. I have learned and re-learned a lot of things—things that I am usually afraid to think or talk about, and delve deeply into. I don’t understand how I’ve managed to face it, but it’s true, with God, nothing’s impossible.

None of it would’ve taken place without the power of God, the love of Jesus and the strong move of the Holy Spirit. And what an awesome time to reflect on His immeasurable grace and love. How amazing it is to realise how favoured, loved and valued we are by our Lord. His grace prevails. His mercy endures. His love overcomes.

To tell you honestly, it will be hard to summarise the very gist of the conference, or the main lesson that every individual must have taken home. I guess, it’s very personal and subjective for everyone. We all have different and distinct issues and challenges in life. I’m sure that God’s been able to speak to each person who attended in a powerful and personal way.

What I personally took home with me could be summed up into these points:

  • Learn to consistently prioritise listening to the voice of God.
  • Be honest with God. Present yourself as you are. He knows you from the inside out. He’d appreciate it if you come to Him with complete humility and honesty. He knows how to deal with you.
  • Grace is truly an unbelievable, mind-blowing scandal. (Open up your Bible and ask Jesus how and why for clarification)
  • Jesus is the only way, the truth and the life. He wants to be in the midst of our lives. We need to constantly seek Him and His will.

They don’t sound new at all, which validates that they are true. Simply divine truths that always have been, are and will forever be. And these are the messages that really hit home.

I think I sound so all over the place in all that. But anyway, I hope you get my point. My love and hunger for God are just stronger than ever. I hope it stays this way today and always.

Well, what I also like to share is basically a mosaic of photos taken during the seven days of the conference. I guess it serves as a visual attempt to share such a remarkable experience. And all thanks and praise belong to the Lord really.

Rie Manaloto

R.

vis-à-vis

Original Photo from Versify:Life

Original Photo from Versify:Life

Proverbs 4:23. Oftentimes the hardest thing to ever do and be consistent with. But that’s what the Spirit is there for, to be our Guide, Advocate and Counsellor (Luke 12:12, John 14:26). We still have the choice though, whether or not we want to follow His guidance. But one thing’s for sure: He’ll never lead us to sin or wreckage.

R.

Anástasis

Easter season. It’s that time of the year again that we remember the death and sacrifice of our Lord Jesus Christ on the cross for the salvation of humankind from sin. However, oftentimes, many of us forget how the story’s ended. Luke 24:1-8 recounts,

On the first day of the week, very early in the morning, the women took the spices they had prepared and went to the tomb. They found the stone rolled away from the tomb, but when they entered, they did not find the body of the Lord Jesus. While they were wondering about this, suddenly two men in clothes that gleamed like lightning stood beside them. In their fright the women bowed down with their faces to the ground, but the men said to them, “Why do you look for the living among the dead? He is not here; He has risen! Remember how He told you, while He was still with you in Galilee: ‘The Son of Man must be delivered over to the hands of sinners, be crucified and on the third day be raised again.’ ” Then they remembered His words.

The rest of the chapter talks about how Jesus, after abandoning the tomb, has appeared to some people including His own disciples. I can imagine Him entering his homies’ hub with a huge smile and His trademark hailing, “Peace be with you” (verse 36).

So the story ended with Christ ALIVE. Off the cross and away from the tomb. My God is back to life and has ascended to heaven, seated at the right hand of the Father (Mark 16:19). My Redeemer lives and reigns forevermore, and because of Him we are set free (Galatians 5:1)–we live under God’s grace (Romans 6:14); we’re ransomed from sin and reconciled with the Father (Romans 3:23-24, 2 Corinthians 5:18). We are able to obtain and experience salvation because of what Jesus has done, and by believing in the power of the cross and that Jesus is truly Lord (Romans 10:9).

He is the reason why we can celebrate and be thankful for being justified, free, saved and loved.

We may not fully understand why or how this all took place, or what it really means for us. But I choose to believe in what the Scriptures say. I choose to feel gratitude by reflecting on God’s goodness and grace–by recognising that I’m a sinner and I need a Saviour; that I am nothing without God; that everything is in vain if I don’t make God a part of it.

I choose to believe in God’s promises and what’s written in His Word as we wait for His return. I choose to celebrate His love and share that with others to the best of my ability, however challenging it may be. I choose to continue to seek Him and get to know Him better and deeper.

Let us not forget that Jesus did not only die for us; He also rose again to live and reign, to justify and to save us, to find us and direct our ways. He LIVES. His love saves.

It’s all about Jesus, it’s all about His love.

Happy Resurrection Sunday!

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Rie Manaloto

R.

List of Books to Read Diligently in 2014

I have always been a person devoted to reading. But my personal taste is so prejudiced and constricted only to a specific genre, writing style or categorisation. I like self-reflection and self-development books; books that actually make sense in reality and in my everyday life. I’m not into fiction books, love stories, mystery and killing, textual porn, epic reads; and especially the ones in the mainstream domain today.

Another issue I face with my reading time is what they call a ‘reading slump.’ It is when you know you’re dying to read as many interesting or relevant books as possible but can’t find the time or energy or the motivation to do so. It’s like whatever you read, you just zone out so easily as you can’t seem to understand a word you’re reading even if you’ve been going through the same sentence over and over again, however interesting the material is.

Sometimes I love to buy as many books as I can and I become too overwhelmed by the compulsion that I can’t even determine how I’m gonna start out or which book to pick up first. At times, after purchasing books I just do not read them and let dust and dirt creep in between the pages of the untouched books as they sit on the shelves. Horrific.

But for this New Year, it is time to get rid of the reading slump and start loading up new knowledge, learnings, insights and what not.

Here’s the list of books I plan to read “diligently” for the entire year:

1) Jesus Is ____. by Judah Smith (Christian, Devotional)

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– “A new and better way to be human.” I could really tell that this book is a substantial, nutritional and life-changing material to be devoured. I am sure that it is something that will bring enlightenment and inspiration to all hungry readers, especially those who are famished for Jesus, His truth and love. This book answers what the world hankers to know: “Who is Jesus?” or “Hey, what about Jesus?” I like how Smith describes his book to be a book created for new believers, for lifelong followers, and for the merely curious.

Judah Smith is one of the people in the Christian realm that I admire the most—such a cool, clever, down-to-earth guy. You couldn’t even tell that he’s pastoring a huge church. He looks pretty cash’, friendly and easygoing. We were inside the same stadium a number of times but I never got a chance to meet him face to face. But what I know is this guy is breathing out God’s Word in such a formidable way. You just learn so much from him. And for sure that is well reflected in this book.

In fact, I have already read the first ten pages of the Jesus Is. But because of the busyness and haste of uni, I failed to browse it regularly. Although I am well aware that it requires a steady munch, my schedule last semester was just so crazy that it did not become possible for me to read it on a regular basis. But hopefully this time around, I will be able to manage to give it some time.

2) Switch On Your Brain by Dr Caroline Leaf (Inspirational, Devotional, Christian)

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– Dr Leaf is such an amazing woman. She is a neuroscientist who pretty much knows and has mastered stuff about the human brain. Through her mastery of brain science, thorough research and technology, she is able to preach and proclaim God’s beauty and goodness and elucidate these matters in a way that’s more simple and understandable by the common human comprehension.

I can still remember clearly that particular time in church where she preached on the Sunday after the Conference. I was sitting there awestruck, almost gawking and just so in tune with her preaching about the brain, God as the artist of the universe, and all that. I was so fascinated by the new knowledge I have absorbed from that preaching and it will just make you realise how blessed you are by God with what you are, who you have, what you can do and so forth.

And so, I am quite sure this book is an embodiment of that new body of knowledge I am certain I would need in this life and time. Indeed, it is time to get to know the very workings and mechanisms of my own brain, my way of thinking, and everything else I gotta learn about it.

3) The Purpose Driven Life: What On Earth Am I Here For? by Rick Warren (Inspirational, Devotional, Christian)

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– This is one of the most popular, best-selling books in the Christian world I must say, and written by a heavily influential spiritual leader, Christian pastor Rick Warren.

I have had this book for a long time now but because of my reading sickness (AKA reading slump) I just can’t complete almost every book I put out. Nevertheless, this book is so powerful. I am pretty sure I have finished at least 7 days (mini-chapters).

It speaks with so much authority as it is grounded firmly on God’s Word and has a very fundamentalist point of view. I like how it clearly illustrates matters about life, your purpose, and your destiny. It helps you define your identity, what you are and must become in this life according to what you are meant to be by the Maker. It is really an essential tool for one’s own personal spiritual growth.

This book is best accompanied by no other than the Bible as it can serve as a study guide that presents the Word in an easy, comprehensible but striking language. However, this time around I must probably start all over again.

4) The Word (Bibles)

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– This must be one of the most interesting things I’ve ever encountered in the contemporary domain. It’s the Bible published in a magazine format. I was so happy I was able to get it for free from church.

It brings the Word in such an engaging, innovative and exciting way because of striking visuals that effectively exemplify the Word of God, and keep things alive and interesting. It is my aim to delve deeper into God’s very mind and heart and I know that this book will help me understand and connect with God’s thoughts even more and gain a fresh perspective.

5) The Message: Bible In Contemporary Language (Bibles)

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– This is the Bible in a very contemporary language. So modern, so lyric and so stimulating. It just naturally resonates with readers, especially the younger ones and thus, helps them to relate the passages to their own lives. I guess it’s another way to connect with God in this overly contemporary sphere.

 I do have a Bible app on my iPad in which I can have the Bible in all kinds of translations or versions. But as a book freak, I still do want a physical copy that I can make marks, writings and doodles on. I keep all my bibles really personalised.

6) The Secret Power of Speaking God’s Word by Joyce Meyer (Bible Study and Reference)

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– I am so looking forward to purchasing this book. Again it’s another medium in which the Word of God is personalised (or made personal?). We know Joyce Meyer to be one of the leading practical Bible teachers in the globe.

 I had a look inside this book as it sits at the church’s shop. It’s a little purple book that you could even put in your pocket. Many people say that this book serves as a powerful medicine for the queasy spirit. It sort of lays out a range of ‘Bible hotlines’ that you can easily reach as they’re broken down into easy referential categories (e.g., faith, hope, anger, encouragement, etc). The verses are written in a very painless style whereby you can easily say the Word in the most casual, day-to-day way without realising that they carry so much divinity and spiritual weight that can impact your life.

 We all know that we live in the era where many people are still deficient in God’s Word; some are just illiterate by choice; others do have access to it, read it and pray with it but never apply it in practice. And so, this book is one of those that will help alleviate that insufficiency because it exposes you directly to God’s powerful Word. I also believe that in any circumstance or season, you can’t turn to anything else but your Scriptures. Therefore, I know it’s gonna be an exhilarating spin!

7) The Secret by Rhonda Byrne (Motivation, Self Help, New Age)

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– This has to be labeled as one of the most controversial works ever released. Even the title itself evinces a lot of things to be very curious about. It claims to have changed lives, turned situations around and brought so much positivity in many different facets of human existence. Must be really appealing, aye?

I have had this book for a short while. I have been able to discover this ‘Secret’ Byrne is trying to put forth—it’s the Law of Attraction. It might sound somewhat silly at first but the renowned and (hopefully) credible men and women belonging to the professional domain who gathered together to generate this piece of ‘groundbreaking’ New Age work couldn’t just be talking nonsense, could they? I mean, all that money and brain cells. I guess they, to some degree, have something, valuable?

From what I have been able to hammer out so far, the authors’ principles teach you to dwell into positiveness—that everything in your life must spring from, is influenced by, and all revolve around an undeviatingly sanguine system of thinking. “Thoughts become things.” “Being positive about everything is the key.”

Anyway, since I’m a lover of the Bible and its Author, I’ve had to activate my own sense of discernment and wisdom while keeping myself grounded in the paths of righteousness and morality. What my inner self is telling me is to be wise about reading and absorbing the new kind of knowledge this book is trying to impart. Evaluate if such things are gonna bring harm, or put you in a better place; if they’re aligned with God’s will and admonitions; if they’re not just false teachings that have been existent nowadays.

I am still in the process of carefully analysing these issues because this book is mainly for the secular market and well, that’s self-explanatory, right? I am giving it a chance by actually scrabbling around a little bit closer into the mind of the book. But thus far, I like the way it’s reshaping the individual’s outlook in life into one that clings to being positive and always of good cheer. That’s a good start I suppose.

8) The Magic by Rhonda Byrne (New Age)

Image– If in Byrne’s first book she has introduced the Law of Attraction to readers, in the second installment of her work she now focuses on the concept of gratitude, another way of changing one’s life and focusing on everything positive about it. I guess what it’s trying to implicate is that being grateful amid your troubles and hardships turn them into blessings, sort of saying. It brings me back to a popular quote by Meister Eckhart that goes, “If the only prayer you said in your whole life was, ‘Thank you,’ that would suffice.”

I am quite certain that this particular concept per se can be paralleled to what the Bible teaches about thankfulness. ‘Giving thanks’ to the Lord is pretty much everywhere in the Bible. And I’m absolutely cool with that. However, I intend to approach it the same way I would approach the first book—scrupulous and still reliant on the Scriptures.

9) The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen R. Covey (Personal Development, Self Help)

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– I’m pretty sure that this book has been around for ages now. Some of my friends already had a go with it. What the book claims to present is “a step-by-step pathway for living with fairness, integrity, service, and human dignity i.e., the principles that give us the security to adapt to change and the wisdom and power to take advantage of the opportunities that change creates.”

Woah, sounding like some super high-level wisdom is about to erupt in its pages. Promising. Well, if it can be useful in giving guidelines and tips in improving both my personal and professional conditions, then it must be worth a try.

10) The Power of the Actor: The Chubbuck Technique by Ivanna Chubbuck (Techniques, Performing Arts)

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– All right, since I am a trying hard (literally) actor who does lots of research on techniques, craftmanship and some good amount of theatre wisdom, by good fortune I have come across this very popular acting method called the Chubbuck technique. Designed by premier acting teacher and coach Ivana Chubbuck, it is used by some esteemed Hollywood celebrities like my all time favourites, Halle Berry and Brad Pitt. I mean, gosh aren’t they astounding?

The technique utilises a twelve-part acting method that has made its actors win prestigious acting awards. It seems easy to trust what this book teaches as I have some friends in the theatre who actually practice this. One important tip, though, is this technique really feeds off of your own personal life, and it’s what makes it so effective.

Despite my lack of experience and expertise in the field of acting, I know that this book contains something that the actors in both the stage and the screen so awfully need. So far, I have only finished the introduction and the first chapter. And with a bird’s eye view I find the twelve pointers I really savvy and innovative. I need to make sure that I consult the Chubbuck every time the need comes to tread the boards.

11) Master Class – Men: The Actor’s Audition Manual Volume 2 by Dean Carey (Leisure, Performing Arts)

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– This is the Australian acting bible and is in the arsenal of Aussie must-have’s. It was also recommended by a friend who’s been seasoned oh-so-well in the field. This has been an important book in my own research and practice because it serves as a manual that illustrates the essential lowdown of acting applicable in various mediums. That entails the creative process, the audition process, the in-and-out’s of acting, theories, etc. It even includes a huge bunch of audition pieces for men handpicked by Carey himself. It’s pretty much the mini tome you’d need to pass any audition or screening. (I don’t know but these books just make me feel clever. Ha ha!) Anyway, this book needs a regular visit.

12) The Little Book of Talent: 52 Tips for Improving Your Skills by Daniel Coyle (Education and Reference, Psychology)

Image– I know that I was born with some special, hardwired talent, which I am forever thankful for (cockiness not intended). As a result, I know that I must continue to learn as much as possible about what I possess to be able to cultivate the skills and capabilities gifted to me by our Maker. And this book might be one of those self-help hotlines that I really gotta make use of.

Coyle designed this book as “an easy-to-use handbook manual for building a faster brain and a better you, containing scientifically proven, field-tested methods to improve skills—your skills, your kids’ skills, your organization’s skills—in sports, music, art, math, and business.” (LOL I just love paraphrasing). Any who’s, I hope it serves me well.

13) The Hunger Games Trilogy by Suzanne Collins (Young Adult Literature, Science Fiction)

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– Well, the wildly popular story of the Hunger Games has finally reached me and convinced me to tuck into not only the films but the actual firsthand sources, the books. I’m not a huge fan of romantic fiction (or any kind of novelly fiction actually), young adult love and things but I must say I really liked its storyline. At this stage I can state that the storyline is well represented in the movie although a throng of jaundiced people would say that true essence of the material was decapitated (ouch!) in the film version, which really got me incredibly curious to know how and why.

My sister has read all three books and finished reading them in roughly three days (I know, right.) Gosh, she’s fallen in love with the entire thing and we would talk about the story, the characters and events almost all the time.

One thing that I like about this story is it’s young-reader friendly and is suitable for almost all kinds of audiences. Although it has its fair share of violence, bloodshed, tragedy, bondage and rebellion, all these factors are redeemed by and juxtaposed with the opposing dynamics such as hope, faith, love, courage, patriotism, liberty importance of family and many more.

Most importantly, the love story part did not try to conform to today’s description of a ‘great love story’, which is usually entrenched on an overt sense of sexuality. Rather, it was built upon the concepts of care, protection and indeed, love for one another, which just demonstrates the true meaning of love. Cheeseballs.

What else can I say? This one got me. Reading the books will perhaps inform me so much more of what the story is about and will probably complement the bits that the flick failed to present. Because I am very much caught in the niche of another genre, this must be something really interesting.

14) The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho (Popular Fiction, Folklore, Mythology)

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– I’m still wondering why a lot of my friends really do insist on reading this book. Everybody seems to be so in love with the author (well, especially the ladies), and so I gave in to my curiosity.

Reviews say that this fable is about embarking on “a spiritual journey, following one’s dreams, listening to one’s heart, and reading life’s omens.” I guess it’s another piece of writing intended to motivate and inspire the searching soul and the confused state of mind. I am very much after the life’s lessons and realisations enclosed in this book. Based on the reviews I’ve heard and read so far, this piece has so much depth and meaning to decipher that can be richly applied in reality. And so, I say, bring it on!

R.

Seeing Australia Day in a Different Light

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Land of the Favoured and Free

Happy Australia Day! Today we celebrate our greatness and recognise our common bond and unique diversity down under.

I feel so privileged and blessed to be living in this country, the land of the favoured and free. I am thankful to be living in a country where I can freely express myself, speak out my faith and beliefs.

For the past how many years, Straya has been truly home. It has given me so many opportunities in so many aspects of life. I can’t imagine what I could’ve become if I wasn’t brought here in this land. And it just gratifies me every time I look back and see how far I have come along, how much I have learned, and how fortunate I have really been.

It’s that time of the year when we get to pause for a moment and just reflect on what it means to be living in a land truly abounding in nature’s gifts and beauty rich and rare.

However, today isn’t only about celebrating everything that’s great in Australia and being thankful for the new lease on life. I really believe that it is also the time to emphasise the need for a strong and consistent intercession for Australia and its people for the good of the entire country. We must continue to pray for our government, the Prime Minister, the country’s leaders, lawmakers, peacemakers and all the individuals that run the nation. Let us all pray for wisdom and discernment, for good will, peace, unity and direction amongst all the people in authority.

Let us pray that this country continues to seek God and His will, to love and to serve Him, and to be heading always towards the right direction where He can be found and where His name is glorified.

Let us not stop praying for the military, for the soldiers, the people who guard our borders. Let’s pray for safety and protection in fervent hope that there will no longer be fighting and warfare.

In a place of thankfulness, let us continue to pray for the people, that we will all just live in peace and learn how to love one another and embrace our diversity. May we get to know ourselves more by knowing and focusing on God and His love and always putting Him first in everything.

And for the things that are beyond our control, let us always remember to cast our troubles on God’s shoulders and give Him our earnest faith and trust because He holds everything in His hands and has a plan for everybody. His will and His goodness shall always prevail.

Above all, I wish everyone a God-infused year and a peaceful and prosperous life this 2014! Happy Australia Day, my mates!

 

 

R.

You are Beyond Compare

Comparing yourself to others distracts you from your own purpose and destiny. Comparison is the cancer to contentment. Comparison is opposite to wisdom. —Robert Madu (Paraphrased)

Robert Madu brought the house down at Hillsong church this morning carrying the Good News of paramount significance in this day and age. And that’s a small glimpse of what I drew up today. I was definitely dumbfounded by God’s message and it felt like it indubitably did stir something in my innermost being. This kind of message just propels you to rethink about yourself, about how you think, your current situation; what is and must be the way you see and receive the things around; and how to appreciate what God has wholesomely endowed you with. You are unique, a masterpiece  (Ephesians 2:10), created by God for a great purpose: and that’s to serve Him and love Him. Part of our job is to pursue God, dream big, aim high, work diligently and to the best of our ability while eschewing the bad habit of comparing ourselves with one another. Focus on your own stuff and be the best “you” you can ever be. Call it cheeseballs or cliché, but for me it makes a lot of sense.