Filipino Artists You Need to Listen to More in 2019

Man, OPM has truly taken a new turn in the past few years, especially in 2018. It feels like a whole new breed of creators, singers, bands, and musicians, have emerged in recent times, not to resurrect a hopelessly moribund genre, but to establish a brand new premise, even identity. I believe this is galvanised by a strong need to express the current dialogue of the culture, its recent triumphs and frustrations, as well as new influences, new social and creative standards, and new aspirations.

And so, I listed down some of these brilliant Filipino artists that I want to make sure are in my Spotify playlist for the coming year, not only because their works are affective and sublime, but because these are artists who champion our musical treasury and live out the legacy of OPM with fresh sounds, unstoppably ingenious spirits, and new stories to tell.

Disclaimer: This is MY list. I am not imposing it to anyone at nor stating that they’re the only decent OPM artists of the time. I’m sure I will definitely miss one or two names. So, I encourage you to make your own.

 

MOIRA DELA TORRE

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I was right when I said that Moira was going to be a “trendsetter” in my blogpost two years ago (that people have not stopped visiting, surprisingly). She’s gone above and beyond that—she has become a game changer. She is the most streamed local artist in the Philippines this year; and her outstanding hits such as Malaya and Tagpuan will perhaps explain why.

Her luminous, fragile soul, and her mellifluous voice can both mend and destroy your vulnerable heart. Whatever story she tells through her original ballads and revivals are always believable and deeply felt. She can change your mental and physical atmospheres in a heartbeat.

My top picks: We & Us, Tagu-Taguan

 

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A profound blend of pop and folk elements, their splendid use of words, and gripping melodies—Ben&Ben’s music will surely tear at your heartstrings. Big time. They will leave any listener on the verge of sentimentality, and oftentimes in full-blown nostalgia, but still with a subtle ring of hope. No wonder this exceptional band is also in the list of most streamed artists in 2018.

My top picks: Maybe the Night, Bibingka

 

CLARA BENINfs_clara_rs.jpgSmooth, soothing, sensational. Her music has been tagged “coffee shop music” for its calming nature and subdued tonal design. I first head her song, Closure in the closing credits of the TEN17P film, First Love. From then on, I would go to this song as though running to a peaceful sanctuary. Her voice is sure to take the edge off life’s hurts and haste. And her lyrical poesy, simply moving.

My top picks: Closure, Parallel Universe

 

IV OF SPADESIV-of-Spades-e1539025512711.jpgAbsolute hitmakers. Mundo exploded on the Internet early this year, and is in fact the most streamed song on Spotify in the country for 2018. This song gave romance an eccentric spin; the band’s unique vocal stylings communicate its captivating poetic language in a way no one else has. Now that their main vocalist has left and moved on, I wonder how the group will sustain their musical design and distinctive identity.

My top picks: Mundo, In My Prison

 

REESE LANSANGAN2a7dec23eedfbbc45968ed74ebe96a26.jpgA lustrous gem of the Filipino indie scene. Her vocal style carries a strong resemblance to that of Regina Spektor, but obviously using a different idiom and artistic essence. I particularly enjoy her quirky, feel-good acoustic tunes that showcase her charming vocal flips and inflections. Her sweet sound and youthful vibe have surely made her one of the most significant and sought-after acts in the country’s indie gig circuit.

My top picks: Exploration No. 5, Grammar Nazi

 

DECEMBER AVENUE10300439_10152518703712765_5922152470041209929_n.jpgPop rock music is most effective and appreciated when its main melody is altogether elating and instantly memorable. December Avenue offers exactly that with their songs, bringing forth lyrics that are heavily sentimental and straightforward. The stories they tell are real and relatable. This band makes hugot sound irresistibly cool and sufferable.

My top picks: Bulong, Sa Ngalan ng Pag-ibig

 

TOM’S STORYtumblr_ntpwktzXGG1uq6eb8o2_r1_1280.jpgSometimes, words are not needed to convey a message—the music alone can speak for itself, and take the audience to a colourful realm they can explore imaginitively and playfully. Tom’s Story is skilful and eloquent enough to do this, particularly evoking personal feelings and emotions from their listeners through a wide range of conventional and unconventional expressive techniques. Their musical rhetoric is plainly exceptional.

My top picks: Mugatu, Anchors

 

KYLA17ca77300350807b8eb5e554b8d45b8d0d9522d5.jpegI think everybody knows I can talk about Kyla for hours. In light of the recent release of her latest album, Queen of R&B, her music really sparkled this year with gorgeous melodies, enthralling riffs-and-runs, and of course, her compelling, crystalline voice. The new songs certainly sought to prove her music is still relevant, and her musicianship is still unparalleled.

My favourite hobby, though, is to listen to her earlier hits, and find gems in her unreleased, almost unheard-of tracks. And man, they’re golden. For example, (for some reason) I have never heard of Maghihintay Lamang and Tahan Na until recently; and both songs are more than 10 years old already. Nevertheless, I look forward to hearing new stuff from the “Queen of R&B”, and digging some more from her classics vault.

My top picks: What If I, Pangarap Na Dumating

 

YENG CONSTANTINO

29737781_335967880260625_1925812461638778880_n.jpgNobody weaves a narrative like Yeng Constantino. Her recent album Synesthesia is a beautifully woven tapestry of real and personal narratives that intimately knit together to create one chromatic storyline. And her music is the powerful force, the omniscient narrator that carries this masterpiece to the listeners. Her artistry continues to stretch out; and she always has something marvellous to offer.

My top picks: Ako Muna, Bakasyonista

 

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KZ’s soul prowess has definitely set the entire Asia ablaze this year after her electrifying performances on “Singer 2018”. Her award-winning album, Soul Supremacy has featured her artistic proficiency and versatility with a chromatic range of soul-filled music including ballads, catchy pop melodies, rap and funky tunes. It is a highly creative and well-rounded record that brings KZ’s musical core to the fore—sophisticated, yet clearly expressed. She is also to be admired for the “micro-nuances” in her singing voice that colours her words quite poignantly. Her music is brimming with intelligence and passion.

My top picks: Labo, Imposible

 

No doubt, Pinoy music has not stopped to evolve, explore and embody the colourful and intricate facets of our life and culture. OPM is on the rise, and like what I’ve always said: It is here to stay. Make that playlist!

Well Marked Bibles

Our page has a brand new name!

“Well Marked Bibles” (formerly known as “Dirty Bibles”) continues to encourage people to keep their Bibles open and in frequent use so we can obtain knowledge of the Truth, which is embodied and epitomised in Jesus Christ, our Lord and Saviour—to build our faith, to live our temporary lives according to the will of God; to know about His love and forgiveness and share it to all the world; to honour and revere Him the way a holy, all-powerful God deserves.

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We’re persistent in our belief that a dirtied, well marked Bible, filled with notes and annotations, produces a clean heart; an open Bible keeps us close to God.

“For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.” (Hebrews 4:12)

His Word is our lamp and light. His Word is our sole authority and our anchor. His Word is our Truth.

“If you abide in My word, you are My disciples indeed. And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.” (Jesus in John‬ ‭8:31-32‬)

Make God’s Word alive in your life. Make His presence important and a constant in your daily walk. Seek the guidance of His Holy Spirit as you read and meditate on His Word, and watch the Lord renew your mind and transform your life!

Kyla tells ‘em who’s Queen

The Queen is seated on her throne. And she ain’t going anywhere.

Celebrating her 18th year in the music industry, Philippines’ “Queen of R&B”, and the only one eligible for the title, Kyla makes her unflinching comeback in the recording sphere with a brand new album entitled  “The Queen of R&B”, proclaiming point-black, straight out that she is nothing short of the acclaimed title, Queen.

The new record has been launched on Sunday, 15th of April at the Eastwood Mall Open Park.  Prior to this, two back-to-back singles have already been released between January and February: “Only Gonna Love You”, which features international rapper, REQ,  and “Fix You and Me”, both written and produced by Jonathan Manalo of Star Music.

Kyla is better than ever, more feisty than ever. Her artistry, more exquisite than ever. Her voice has reached an exceptional degree of maturity and even freedom.

I believe this is her most eclectic album by far—offering a variety of styles, sounds and feels; new and classic sounding R&B cuts, upbeat pop tunes; funky, reggae, and soft rock vibes; sad contemporary ballads, heartrending duets, and her exceptional revivals.  All of these are harnessed by her distinctively soulful vocals. It feels like her creative muscles have been stretched out flexibly and extensively in the design of this new work.Da3U4ksVQAE4qXg

I was just over the moon when I woke up that Sunday morning, seeing that the album was already available to stream and download online. I have to confess that I had to skip my pre-church morning devotions just to listen to the new tracks! Since then I have not stopped playing and savouring the tasteful mix of songs.

The themes are very universal and highly relatable: the pleasures and misadventures in love and romance. It’s for the happily in love, the kilig-deprived, the hopeful, the shattered, the thankful, the bitter, the friend-zoned, and of course, the I’m-right-here-waiting types. Just your classic, run-of-the-mill Filipino love language wrapped in beautiful music.

Here are my thoughts. The track order is according to my most favourite:

1) “Only Gonna Love You” is a terrific take on pop-reggaeton music, with very strong flares of hip-hop and rap. I happen to enjoy Latin rhythms lately, and this track was successful in combining the Latin dance sound with Kyla’s solid R&B vocals, and grabbing harmonies, that she delivers in a very tantalising and sultry fashion. Her vocal acrobatics particularly towards the end were simply breathtaking. Gah, that descending F5 run, and the high, melodic finish. Are you kidding me? Although I can’t say the last bit was in full whistle register, but the C6 definitely is (or has to be). We don’t get to hear her sing in this register all the time! Moreover, the Remix version was sparkling; the Motown mix was quite delightful; the F5 belts are daring, and the melismas are strictly on point in this one!

2) “What If I”, for some reason, takes me back to the classic, late90s-early00s R&B sound in terms of rhythm, instrumentation, chord progressions, dynamics and harmonies. It felt like listening to Way To Your Heart (2000) tracks all over again. It brought me the classic Kyla, which was heart-warming and thrilling at the same time. The song has a smooth, head-bobbing flow; it’s the kind of song you will play, finish listening to, then put on repeat, and not get sick of. Catchy melody and an addictive What-if-I hook; splendid texturised and counterpointing harmonies, and almost old school R&B riffs and runs. This piece is so easy to enjoy!

3) “Tayo Parin” has a strong Pinoy pop quality to it, that resembles the sound of Star Records divas during late 90s and early 2000s. It’s fun, catchy, sweet-sounding and dancey. The most notable aspect of this song is the numerous chord changes. Yes, numerous. Because who pitch-modulates up to 5 times in ONE freaking song? You’re out of your mind! This topples Beyonce’s 4 semitones in “Love On Top”. As if four was not enough! But Kyla made it a possibility. This would be a very challenging song to sing, that’s for sure.

4) “Pangarap Na Dumating” is the luscious pop-rock cherry of this album. This beautiful and bittersweet song highlights Kyla’s ability to stylise a simple pop tune, sprinkle her soulful zest all over it and make it extra-special, and most importantly, hers. It is that simple yet musically intricate principle that makes her sound so unique and riveting. This pop-rock and soul fusion is definitely a treat!

5) “Fix You and Me” leads us back to Kyla’s classic soulful R&B ballads. This song stretches out Kyla’s full vocal capacity, and it probably has the most daring runs amongst her originals. Also, it feels like this is Kyla’s best “entry” in the hugot song bank of the Philippines. And it’s a formidable one!

6) “Proper Heartbreak” is without a doubt an outstanding feature of this album. It highlights her vocal expression; all the music is subdued, and the spotlight is turned on her voice, which becomes the main instrument or driving force of the song. You can hear every single breath; every single vibrato is an unheard cry. Her voice colours every nuance of the character trying to cope with conflicting feelings of resentment and acceptance, and the pain of letting go. Kyla captured her vulnerability and fragmented heart. This is the same approach, and the same area she taps into in the acoustic version of “Fix You and Me”, but just with a more hopeful ring to it (I also need to mention that her intro runs for this acoustic mix is my most favourite).

7) “Talk About Us” is raw and bare R&B. Charming melody, feel-good rhythm; and the harmonic layers, especially on Kyla’s bits are irresistibly stunning. However, a part of me was hoping that the duet was done with Jay-R (Man, that would’ve been like “Back in Time”, part 2!). Nevertheless, I must say that Iñigo Pascual did a superb job in this track, and actually took me by surprise. Another track you can put on repeat.

8) “Sa Iyo”. Two words when I heard this song: artistic explosion. I was really looking forward to this. When I heard the first few bars of the song, I said to myself, “This got to be Jay Durias stuff!” It just had that distinctive Jay Durias/Southborder vibe because of the glassy, drone-y synth and the sophisticated, unpredictable chord progressions.  The design of the melody really fits the lyrics and the aimed musical flow of the song. What surprised me is that I didn’t get any complex harmonies and movements, which was expected from these two brilliant artists. Instead, they gave me placid. They gave me subdued. They gave me chaste. They touched my soul. So much respect.

9) “Pagdating ng Kailanman” will have to be my favourite Tagalog ballad. It is a very basic case of the melody and the lyrics joining together in paradisical marriage, and having a truthfully happy ending. The instrumentation and arrangement are rapturous. Most importantly, I believe this song also highlights the very best of Kyla’s vocal inflections, runs, dynamics and stylistic outpouring.

10) “Mahal Kita Pero Konti Na Lang” and “Huling Muli” will have to be the next Teleserye theme songs on TFC, I swear! They have a strong Filipino flavour and will surely cater to the Pinoy senti- taste. However, these ballads are done with absolute finesse, both in terms of musicality and expression. The quality’s a bit higher. The piano-string accompaniment plus the rolling cymbals are all just perfect. Her hums and vocal flips can pacify me even in my most disturbed state. Her belt bits are brave and full-hearted.

11) “My Melody” was fun and melodious. This brought in a substantial dose of soul, reggae and funk, which was in full glory in Kyla’s Journey (2014) album. The husky resonance in her head-mix-falsetto areas is plain intoxicating. Moreoever, her low notes are too alluring to be ignored. This is also well displayed in “What If I”, “Fix You and Me”, and “Pangarap na Dumating”. Test of a true soul diva!

12) Her remarkable revivals, “On the Wings of Love” and “Till I Met You” have put her back on the charts, and helped reiterate that Kyla is truly not your ordinary Filipino singer. She has taken these Filipino favourites on a different level with artistic intricacy and authority that have exceeded many of our expectations.

13) I have been a constant fan and lover of Kyla’s Himig Handog entry duets, “Monumento” (with Kris Lawrence), and “Tayo Na Lang Kasi” (with Jason Dy). These songs have elevated the artistic weight and standards of Filipino-composed music. I am hoping that Kyla will be given another chance to sing a solo entry in the coming song festivals, like her winning piece “Salbabida” for Philpop back in 2014.

This album is a 10 for me, and has absolutely exceeded my personal expectations. I have waited a long time for this comeback album, and I am very grateful that Kyla continues to make beautiful and authentic Filipino music that speaks to generations, and inspires creativity and artistic ingenuity, especially in new and aspiring Filipino artists.

She is a true gift, a cultural gem that will continue to shine brighter and brighter in the years to come; and her music, insurmountable.

All hail the Queen!

Mary’s song: “Let It Be Done”

Composer’s notes on Mary’s song, “Let It Be Done”

I am not ashamed or hesitant to say that I am a Bible-believing Christ follower who treats God’s Word as the sole authority when it comes to my faith. And so, for the musical, I wanted to present a “Biblical” Mary: the highly favoured and uniquely blessed woman; the young woman the Lord chose to birth the Messiah into this fallen, chaotic world. Mary embodied a mother who loved and cared for her child(ren); a servant who exemplified humility, obedience, even sacrifice and suffering (See Luke 2:34-35).

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In the traditional, Catholic Stations of the Cross, it presents Jesus meeting His mother on the way to Golgotha where He would be crucified. This is NOT recorded or present in any of the Gospels at all. The only time they met according to the Scriptures was when Jesus was already crucified, and Mary stood by the cross (See John 19:25-29). But because this mother-son encounter was part of the traditional “script” or “ceremony”, I had no choice but to write a song for her because, I mean, she still is a significant character, and this scenario has been present in several movies and other story depictions.

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I had to make it work—without forsaking what the Bible says about Mary, or add something fictional to the story. So I decided to reintroduce the known Biblical personality of Mary which can be found in Luke 1:26-38, where Mary was visited by the angel Gabriel, announcing that, “Hey, you’re going to be a Mum to the Son of the Most High!” (paraphrased, obviously). And all Mary had to say to close the deal was, “I am the Lord’s servant. May it be done to me according to your word.” Hence, the title.

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Mary obeyed. Mary surrendered to the Lord’s will. Mary trusted that God knew what He was doing, and He had a plan and purpose for her and for the Son she would bear. So whatever her song was had to come from a place of humility and surrender, which was proven in the Scriptures; secondly, from a place of pain and suffering being a mother to a son whom she valued all her life, but now was beaten and shamed, and was marching towards his death. I was in tears writing this piece as I seemed to have felt her pain, and generally, the pain of giving up and letting go of the things you have no control over, even sacrificing the things or people that you love in order to obey or carry out the Lord’s plan. It is painful, but there’s definitely an answer to it in the end where it will all makes sense.

If there’s one thing we can learn from Mary, it is to trust and surrender to the Lord however ugly and painful that process may be. This is exactly what Jesus did, to live in accordance to His Father’s will. What’s the result? Salvation for mankind, reconciliation with our Creator.

God knows what He’s doing. You just have to learn to trust and to yield to Him more.

 

Role of Mary played by: Maxine Lopez

Photos by: Jade Cadelina

Rie Manaloto

“It is finished.”

In the words of Jesus, “It is finished.” We must’ve been so blessed and favoured to stage this presentation we all worked hard for—this project I have personally fully surrendered and committed to the Lord.

He’s remained faithful, and walked this road with us, all so we can proclaim His relentless love. He’s become our strength and cornerstone in telling the greatest story of all time—His story of grace, His story of salvation, His story of redemption. Jesus is alive, and He lives and reigns forevermore.

Here are some photos from my personal camera:

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Here are some professional photos, from our very own Tito Jade Cadelina:

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Road to Calvary: Music excerpts

Here are some excerpts from the songs I have written and composed for our Good Friday mini-musical, “Road to Calvary.” THIS IS A FREE EVENT! Come as you are! Please join us in remembering Christ’s death and resurrection next Friday, 30th March, at The Stations of the Cross in Pinegrove Memorial Park. Soli Deo Gloria!

(Watch it in HD)

© 2018 All Rights Reserved

Music and Lyrics by Rie Manaloto

Will you walk the road?

So stoked to announce that I have written some music for this year’s Senakulo + Stations of the Cross.

Join me and the “street kids of Jerusalem” to remember and reflect on Jesus’ death, suffering, and most importantly, His resurrection (because, hello, He is alive!) in this mini-musical.

See poster for details.

Road to Calvary square photo

17 Thoughts on The Greatest Showman

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

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

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

 

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Image grabbed from Just Jared.

#9Mornings 9: Peace of the Prince

(Read John 14:27)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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For further reading/reference:

#9Mornings 8: Peace with God

(Read Isaiah 9:6)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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Further readings/references:

Knowing the Peace of the Prince

Jesus is the Prince of Peace

#9Mornings 7: The Grateful Gives

(Read 2 Corinthians 9:11)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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#9Mornings 1: God so loved

(Read John 3:16-17)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

#JESUS
#Godsolovedtheworld

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Sleeping through the storm

Could you sleep tightly during a storm? One episode in the Bible shows how Jesus Himself absolutely could. He was so chill, so unalarmed He didn’t mind that the boat He’s sleeping right on was close to sinking, while everyone else could have had some sort of cardiac arrest while the chaos unfolded. Let’s read this passage and reflect on how and why  this anecdote from Jesus’ life is and should be of great significance to us.

(Read Matthew 8:23-27)

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Thoughts to ponder:

  • This passage paints a picture of Jesus’ humanity–He did get tired and need some sleep. He was absolutely human like us who felt the same feelings, who had the same physical needs. This fact validates His qualification as our intercessor between us and God the Father (Hebrews 2:17).
  • The disciples who were with Jesus in the scenario were scared to death as the waves broke into the boat. Even if they knew Jesus was with them, they were consumed by fear, and overwhelmed by anxiety that they seem to forget who they were with. Even after seeing Jesus perform miracles and supernatural things, they lacked faith and entertained fear before anything else.
  • This is a reflection of us, our humanity–it’s so easy to worry and doubt, to be frightened of the troubles and challenges that confront us day by day, even the ones that have not come our way yet.
  • Jesus had to wake up to rebuke His disciples, “You have so little faith!” Notice that He rebuked the disciples first before the actual storm. Many times in life, we must first be reminded that God IS ACTUALLY with us–He is our Lord who is always able, He is faithful and mighty to save, His kindness and mercy lasts for eternity; and we can trust Him.
  • We fail to remember how God has already shown His faithfulness and kindness to us in the past, how much He’s blessed us, protected us, delivered us and cared for us. We tend to not believe that He can do it again; that He can rescue us from our daily storms again. And again. And again.
  • Jesus knew a storm was coming; He wasn’t even shocked or panicked about it. In this life, God did not promise that we will not go through stormy weathers; in fact, Jesus told us to expect trials and sorrows in this life (John 16:33). All He ever promised is that He is and will always be with us amidst the difficulties, and He will neither fail us nor forsake us (Deuteronomy 31:6).
  • This passage also captures a vivid picture of Jesus’ deity, His divine and supreme nature that “even the wind and waves obey Him”. Sometimes, God uses man’s extremities as an opportunity to perform His supernatural, to work His miracle, by just one word, in a heartbeat. We just got to believe that He is the Lord, and He is able. Wait and watch in awe.
  • Because of this we can lie down in peace and, like Jesus, sleep through the storm.

#HeCalmsMyStorms
#dirtybibles

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To my teachers

To these world changers—life would be unimaginable without you. The young people whose lives you have touched and inspired will be your legacy who will speak for you, and of the wisdom you have imparted, to all generations to come. I honour you and thank you for all you are, and all you do. Happy Teacher’s Day!

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New Clothes

Want something new to wear? Check this out.

(Read Colossians 3:12-14)

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Thoughts to ponder:

  • Holiness is a sign of belongingness to God. If you are in Christ and has accepted Him and His love, you are changed from the inside out, and you become set apart to live an honourable life before God.
  • It is the Holy Spirit’s job to sanctify us and help us be conformed to the image of Christ. Our job is to surrender to Him, and actually obey God by heeding His Word, and following the examples of Christ.
  • We must wear the Holy Spirit daily, which means being clothed with His virtues and fruits (See Gal 5:22-23). As God’s children, we must radiate the beauty and goodness of our Father and Creator so we can bring Him honour and glory.
  • Learn to forgive. Sometimes it is hard work, sometimes it seems impossible. But just think of how you have personally experienced God’s forgiveness and deliverance, of how God must have saved you and pardoned you from a myriad of things, which you know you don’t and won’t ever deserve. He must have been so patient and long-enduring with you. Learn how to seek His help when you know you are struggling to forgive past faults and troubles some people caused you.

#newclothes
#dirtybibles

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