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.

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.

A Christmas reflection

A Christmas reflection

Beyond all the yuletide fun, christmas shopping, massive clearance sales, Santa and the reindeers; foods, decors, toys and all that, there’s the story of JESUS—the Christmas kid who happens to be the Messiah, the Saviour. They say that the 25th … Continue reading