#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 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

 

 

I got surprised!

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

Yesterday was quite eventful.

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

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

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

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

And so here are some photos from yesterday.

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.

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.