Saturday, January 12, 2019

CONCLUSION 2018-2019 Christmas Season series, “O Come Let Us Adore Him’.

Our journey together through the 2018-2019 Christmas season has concentrated on the challenge,  “O Come Let Us Adore Him.”We have stepped back in time to explore the various components of the of the first Christmas story, such as the prophecies regarding the Promised Messiah; the unexpected and laborious trip to Bethlehem for a mandated census and where Mary gave birth to the long-awaited Messiah; the angels’ birth announcement to shepherds tending their flocks in the outskirts of Bethlehem, the love that God demonstrated via the messages that He sent the angels to proclaim. Our use of the symbolic candles in the Advent wreath (hope, preparation, joy, and love) concluded with the final white Christ-candle. In this devotional we concentrated on the reason we celebrate the Christmas season, which is the birth of our Messiah-Saviour, Jesus Christ. It doesn’t mean that we avoid the hustle and bustle, our Christmas traditions, or celebrating with family and friends or colleagues. It does mean that we elevate our celebration in our hearts and homes as we bend our knees and will to Him and His purpose for our lives. In doing so, we lift Jesus up so that others may be drawn to Him, too.  Hallelujah!

Moreover, throughout the season we have considered the enduring truths gleaned from the narrative of the first Christmas and that still apply to our lives today—for example, worship, love, and adoration of our Creator and Saviour—because Jesus is the Living Word; and, in a nutshell, “We believe that the Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments were given by inspiration of God; and that they only constitute the Divine rule of Christian faith and practice” (The Salvation Army, Doctrine #: 1-- This doctrine comes directly from 2 Timothy 3: 1§rt, and help at such times. As we experience this truth in our lives, it becomes more natural for us to turn to Him. Hallelujah!

The  Scriptures are filled with verses and passages about developing our relationship with Christ. We often ask or hear the question, “Where do I start?” One site provides 100 Bible verses about strengthening our relationship with Jesus, and I’m providing the website to give you a beginning point. I pray that we all will fall in love over and over again: O Come Let Us Adore Him! Hallelujah!! 

https://www.openbible.info/topics/strengthening_our_relationship_with_jesus
 Blessings & Peace


Elizabeth Hogan Hayduk
Former Salvation Army Officer (pastor)
Canada

Saturday, January 5, 2019

EPIPHANY 2019



1) Set aside time without distractions, to make our plan for deepening our relationship with Christ.
2) Spend time praying and reflecting as we honestly assess where we are in the following areas of our lives, including spirituality, relationships, intellectual pursuits, emotional well-being, and physical fitness. As we consider the balance needed in our lives, ask God what changes we need to make to renew our love and passion for Him and for others. 
We also need to determine the areas in our lives where we need to grow to be more like Jesus, using the fruit of the Spirit as our guidelines (Galatians 5:22-23).

3) Write our plan down. Why? Because our multiple responsibilities and life’s distractions may cause us to forget our goals or our resolutions.

4) Keep our plan visible, because we don’t want to fall into the ‘out of sight, out of mind’ trap.

Wise people still seek Him; they still worship and adore Him. And that’s my plan, my resolution for 2019. I pray that it’s your plan, too!

O Come Let Us Adore Him! Hallelujah!

Blessings & Peace

Elizabeth Hogan Hayduk
Former Salvation Army Officer (pastor)
CanadaFormer Salvation Army Officer
Canada

Sunday, December 30, 2018

New Year’s 2019 Message

2018 Christmas Season Series: O Come Let Us Adore Him!
The 2018-2019 holiday season we have explored the various aspects of the narrative of the first Christmas via the theme, “O Come Let Us Adore Him!” To do so we used the symbolic candles in the Advent wreath for the four weeks of Advent (Hope, Preparation, Joy, and Love), and concluded with the central white Christ candle for Christmas. There are three more posts in this series—New Year’s 2019, Epiphany on January 6th, and the Conclusion, beginning with today’s post for New Year’s. 

Each year the promise of a New Year is something many of us look forward to as we hope for some excitement, some new challenges, or a change from our daily lives. We cling to and cherish the promise of hope that accompanies the idea of a new beginning or a fresh start, along with the belief and yearning for a better present and a brighter future, a second chance to have a ‘new and improved’ life. These hopes and dreams are the catalyst for many of our annual New Year’s resolutions, such as eating better, exercising, or saving money. So it can be discouraging to hear the statistics about failed resolutions and the inevitable resignation we feel when we conclude we are never going to reach our goals.
However, there is an area where we can make a significant change to improve our well-being and that is in the decision to establish and maintain healthy relationships, which can provide substantial physiological, social, and emotional health benefits. Furthermore, healthy relationships can reduce the harmful effects of stress, enhance the immune system, lessen the rates of depression, as well as lower blood pressure, the risk of cardiovascular disease, and dementia. In addition, strong relationships also provide essential social support. These beneficial relationships develop as we spend time with people, getting to know them and enjoying their company. Opportunities to develop such interpersonal connections may be found in having lunch with a friend, joining a group with members who have similar interests to yours (e.g., a walking group, a computer group, or a book club), or attending community functions.
Moreover, studies have also shown that there are physical, mental, social, and spiritual health benefits for those engaging in faith-based practices, such as prayer, meditation, developing personal spirituality and from acceptance and interactions with others during religious meetings, social gatherings, and volunteer work. 
To take the subject of the numerous benefits associated with healthy relationships, a step further, let’s consider the most important relationship we will ever have—our relationship with Christ. Just as we develop friendships with individuals by spending time with them, our relationship with Jesus grows and deepens as we spend time with Him. Unfortunately, this idea has been taught as if there’s a magical formula: 1) Have a quiet time; 2) Pray the right way; 2) Engage in volunteering in the church and the community. There is nothing wrong with any of these things. However, we need to be cautious that while we’re busy memorizing and following the formula, we may miss the still, small voice of our Saviour, “If you go the wrong way—to the right or to the left—you will hear a voice behind you saying, “This is the right way. You should go this way,” (Isaiah 30:21, New Century Version). 
The 2018 Christmas Season may be drawing to a close, but I pray that our focus on returning to our first love for Christ and adoring Him is a decision that we will continue to make daily. The more time we spend with someone, the more we become like them; and, as Christians, isn’t this our ultimate goal?! O Come Let Us Adore Him! Hallelujah!
Happy New Year’s!
Blessings & Peace
Elizabeth Hogan Hayduk
Former Salvation Army Officer
Canada







Saturday, December 29, 2018

The Light Of Hope





The spirit of God hovered where darkness swirled
At His word brilliance flooded the void
And Light was born
Earth's wonders and colours revealed

The purpose of God lingered where faith was found
In His time Jesus entered the world
Christ Light was born
The Shepherds by Angel’s amazed.

The presence of God tarried where evil harmed
By His life Jesus portrayed God's love
Love's Light was born
When Jesus the crossbar received

The glory of God shimmers where darkness reigns
Through the lives of His children right now
Hope’s Light is born
Where people the Saviour believe.



Jean McCrossan (retired)
Salvation Army Officer
UK

Friday, December 28, 2018

AS CHRISTMAS DREW NEAR. 4


4. More than a carpenter



As the first Christmas drew near, the world was oblivious of the fact. Four hundred silent years had passed since God had spoken through the prophets Haggai, Zechariah and Malachi; years in which God seemed to have revealed nothing new. The Romans now ruled the land with a paranoid puppet Jewish king, Herod the Great, who was not averse to murdering family members he saw as a threats to his throne, and much in the religious life of the nation was corrupt. 

Yet, at such a time as this God chose to come. Bypassing the religious establishment, the angel Gabriel visited a young teenage girl in Nazareth, who was pledged to be married to a carpenter named Joseph, with news that she was highly favoured by God and would give birth to a very special child. Mary was shocked. Having not had sexual relations with her betrothed, what she was hearing sounded ridiculous. “How will this be, since I am a virgin?” she asked, to which Gabriel explained how the Holy Spirit alone would be responsible for her conception. 

We don't know when Mary then broke the news to Joseph, but we do know something of his reaction; it was shock and disbelief. She appeared such a pure and lovely girl and Joseph obviously loved her deeply. But virgin births just do not happen!  Although difficult to come to terms with, it was obvious to Joseph that she had been unfaithful. There was no other explanation. Why couldn't she be honest and tell him truth of what she had done?

There is surely nothing more devastating than to be betrayed by your nearest and dearest; to discover what you never dreamed would ever happen to you, together with the deception and the lies? Joseph was obviously distraught, yet still it appears that he loved Mary. Most people want to hurt those who cause them pain, let them know what it feels like. But not Joseph.

Betrothal then was as binding as marriage with the couple being referred to as husband and wife and a divorce being the only way it could be ended. Joseph could have taken Mary to law and had her stoned to death as an adulteress, Deuteronomy 22:23,24, or given her a bill of divorce stating what she was guilty of. But he wanted Mary to suffer the least harm for what she appeared to have done, deciding to divorce her quietly to save her from public disgrace and humiliation.

Isn't there something of the mercy rather than condemnation spirit of the child that Mary will bear and Joseph will nurture as his own here? Joseph would also have known that by not blaming Mary for the break-up, some observers would probably have pointed fingers accusing him of making her pregnant and then abandoning her. Likewise, Joseph's 'son' would one day be prepared to be falsely accused for the sake of those he loved, willing to bear the blame for the sin of others. What an amazing man Joseph was.

No doubt Joseph's initial disbelief was a cause of great sorrow to Mary. However, an angel appeared to Joseph in a dream, telling him not to be afraid and to marry Mary, confirming the supernatural cause of her pregnancy. This he did, refraining from sexual relations until the child was born.

We know that Joseph taught Jesus carpentry, but what more of Christ's incomparable wisdom and character were learned from observing his lovely father and his attitude? And, in his closeness to Joseph at work in his carpenter's workshop, did the Holy Spirit reveal something more of the tenderness and intimacy of the fatherhood of God than the Old Testament had done? (Psalm 68:5, 103:13). Mary was highly favoured and chosen by God, but surely Joseph was no less so? 

‘Pregnant? How can that be?
When did you ever sleep with me?
I trusted you. We’ll have to part.
You broke your vow and broke my heart.

I thought you pure. I loved you so.
What shall I do? I just don’t know.
Why lie and say, “An angel came,”
To make believe you’re not to blame?

O Mary, still I love you so,
And I don’t want the world to know
How you have caused me so much pain,
Nor do I wish to ruin your name.’

‘Joseph, what she says is true;
And what she heard, I now tell you.
For Mary is God’s chosen one,
The child she carries? God’s own Son.’ 



Major Howard Webber (retired) 
Salvation Army Officer
UK

Thursday, December 27, 2018

AS CHRISTMAS DREW NEAR 3


3. The Tramp

As Christmas drew near in 1983, following a Sunday morning meeting (worship service), I went and sat with Maldwyn, a short, shy, dark haired man of the road who, for some time, had been attending our meetings with his little dog. 

He was very clean and tidy despite sleeping in a farmer's barn in a village some four miles away. Although several people had offered to take him home in their cars, he insisted on walking all the way to our hall and back each Sunday whatever the weather. I also learned that the kindly farmer would provide him with hot meals and other food from time to time.

Have you ever asked someone a question only to discover that their reply has put an unexpected onus on you? So it was when, as he got up to leave, I asked Maldwyn what he was going to do for Christmas.
‘Nothing.’
‘Are you spending it on your own then?’ I enquired.
‘Yes,’ he answered.
‘Don’t you have a friend who you could spend it with?’ I then asked.
‘No,’ he replied, ‘don’t have any friends.’ 

His reply saddened me, but also challenged me. ‘But what could I do about it?’ I thought as our conversation ended and we went our separate ways. Our council house wasn’t very big and there was already insufficient room around our dining table or in the lounge for the seven of us, what with all the babies’ paraphernalia.  Add to that any Christmas toys the children may want to play with and there definitely wouldn't be room for a guest.

One moment I was happy, unaware that Maldwyn would be alone. Then, one simple question later, everything changed. I had assumed he had some friend, some buddy, or  that the farmer would take him in for a few hours, but now I knew differently and I could not ‘unknow’ what I now knew. I prayed, but try as I may to reason myself off the hook as I walked home I got no peace. Over the lunch table I shared what had transpired with my wife, Judy. Her response was immediate. There was no question: Maldwyn was to come to our house for the day.

‘It will be a squash, but if he would like to come we would be pleased to have him,’ she said.

So it was that after Christmas morning worship, Maldwyn and his dog accompanied us down the long footpath to our home. Though we were cramped for space and our noisy brood needed all our attention, we could see that he was thoroughly enjoying himself as he pulled crackers with us and put on his paper hat before tucking into his roast turkey with all its trimmings, and then his Christmas pudding. His eyes followed all that was going on at our entertaining table.

With the lunch things washed we joined Maldwyn in the lounge where he sat in a corner, close to the fire. The two month old twins were asleep in their cots upstairs whilst the other three children were playing with their new toys and asking first mum and then dad to help them with some newfangled plaything or to join them in their play. Maldwyn just sat there, silently watching, mesmerised by it all. 

We were still quite full from our Christmas lunch so we did not want too much to eat when tea-time came following the twins’ afternoon nap. But no sooner had we finished our cups of tea than Maldwyn said, ‘I’ll be off now.’
‘Let me take you home,’ I insisted.
‘No, I’ll walk,’ he replied.
‘But it’s very dark and cold, and the road isn’t well lit. Let me.'
‘No, I want to walk. I prefer to walk.’ 

As we helped him on with his heavy coat, he thanked us both and said how much he had enjoyed it. We opened the door and watched him and his little dog go up the garden path and out of sight.

It was as we lay in bed, both feeling emotional, that we agreed that although he just sat there, did nothing, said hardly a word, Maldwyn had somehow, mysteriously, done more to make our day than we his. It was then that God brought a scripture to mind, ‘Do not forget to entertain strangers, for by doing so some people have entertained angels without knowing it’ (Hebrews 13:2). 


Major Howard Webber (retired) 
Salvation Army Officer
UK



Wednesday, December 26, 2018

AS CHRISTMAS DREW NEAR 2


2. The Deprived Child


As Christmas drew near in 1946, little Robert Hicks was getting very excited at hearing all that would take place in the children's home. The other children told him about the food and presents and the wonderful time that lay ahead. Growing up in the slums of Birmingham, hot food and plenty of it was already a new experience for him.

Robert's home was a house of horrors. His mother and father were both unfaithful to each other and his father, a heavy drinker, regularly beat the children, often dragging them from their beds in the dead of night to do so. Even when the council rehoused the family in newly built council homes on the edge of the city, things didn't change. The only positive thing about the move was that Robert and his siblings could escape to the surrounding fields and woodlands to play, avoiding entering the house they dreaded until they really had to.

Robert never knew what it was to be kissed or cuddled by his mother, which is what made the warmth of the embrace of the kind and gentle motherly worker in the home such a treasured memory. This would have been the first Christmas where he would have felt safe and happy, but it was not to be. With just a few days to go, his mother arrived and took him 'home.' 

He later found out that the only reason that she came and deprived him of that lovely Christmas was so that she and dad could have the benefits that had been redirected to the home to spend on themselves. The children were regularly locked in the house while their parents went to the pub or cinema. Whilst the parents were well dressed, the children depended on second-hand clothing from the NSPCC, which Robert remembers were always too big for him. “You'll grow into them,” was the response if he remarked on the fact. By the time his shoes fitted the soles were worn through and he needed cardboard in them.

School was difficult too. Robert and his siblings stood out from the rest of the children because of their ragged clothes and unkempt, neglected appearance, as well as the stigma of having to have free school lunches. Often these were the only meals they had, which added to their dread of weekends. In addition, Robert was born with his tongue tied to the bottom of his mouth. He found it hard to make himself understood. With that and his undiagnosed dyslexia he left school unable to read or write. He remembers frequently being humiliated and treated as an idiot and how, on leaving school, his headmaster presented him with his leaving certificate and the words, “Waste!” It was something he never forgot. 

He got himself a job as an errand boy for a grocer and a former nurse working at the shop one day asked Robert if she could look inside his mouth. Following a simple procedure, which he could have had years earlier, had his parents been bothered, he learned to speak normally. Following his operation the surgeon asked him to read a passage from a book. Discovering that he couldn't, but that he longed to read and write like other people, the surgeon suggested that he find a book and copy it out. The only book he could find in the house was an unread King James Bible which he copied out and read aloud to his speech therapist over the next three years. It transformed his life, for he not only learnt to read but discovered a God who loved him and a Saviour who died for him. 

Robert went on to be a successful business man in the retail trade introducing many innovations that are taken for granted in supermarkets today. Moving into Christian bookselling and publishing with his radical marketing ideas, he eventually formed his own publishing company, Creative Publishing. He instigated the mass distribution of gospels at the time of the Millennium; was a leading figure in organising Back to Church Sunday and, in 2011, the 400th anniversary year of the King James translation, he went to Buckingham Palace and presented the Queen with a new edition of what he had written out word for word 45 years earlier.

No one could have imagined how Robert's life could ever be redeemed, but as the angel told the virgin Mary, “Nothing is impossible with God,” Luke 1:37.



Major Howard Webber (retired) 
Salvation Army Officer
UK

Tuesday, December 25, 2018

AS CHRISTMAS DREW NEAR. 1.


1.    The Cynic


As Christmas drew near in 1879, a reporter in Baltimore USA was trying to think of an original Christmas themed story to write for his newspaper. 

As he made his way home through streets with shop windows full of Christmas gifts and toys, he passed three little girls standing in front of a toy shop window and overheard two of the girls trying to describe the things in the window to the third. Intrigued to know what was going on the reporter turned back and stood beside them for some time, watching and listening. 

What he discovered was that they were sisters and that the one in the middle was blind: she had never been able to see. The other two were doing all they could to describe what the things in the window looked like. They wanted their sister to share in their experience; to share in their joy, desperately hoping that she might capture something of what was in the window in her mind's eye. Moved by their enthusiasm and their longing for their blind sister, the man knew that he had found the story he was looking for. The focus of the article he then wrote was how he had never realised how difficult it was to describe what something looked like to someone totally blind.

Two weeks later the great evangelist Dwight L Moody came to Baltimore. The reporter, an agnostic man, thought Moody to be a fraud and his message to be humbug. So when he heard of Moody's visit he went to one of his meetings intent on discrediting him and exposing him as a charlatan in his newspaper. But, as he sat there listening to him speak he was surprised to hear Moody relate the story, written two weeks earlier, of his encounter with the three little girls. 

At the end of the story Moody confessed that he was in exactly the same position as those two sisters when it came to trying to tell others about Jesus. “I may talk about him, “he said,” and yet they see no beauty in him that they would desire him. But if they will only come to him he will open their eyes and reveal himself to them in all his loveliness and grace.” 

After the meeting the reporter approached Moody and enquired as to where he had got the story. Moody told him that he had read it in a newspaper when he was in Boston, to which the man replied, “Well I'm the man in the story. It happened here in Baltimore.” The result was that the reporter accepted Christ as his Saviour that very night and was one of Moody's first converts in that city.

Many of us will identify with this story. We have a desperate desire that others might know and experience Jesus but, although we may try and give a clear picture of what it is like, we are unable to convey the reality to a listener. The reason is that only God can  illuminate a soul's darkness, and he can only bring sight to the spiritually blind who come to him.

I've often been challenged with the words 'prove it and then I'll believe.” My response to that is that I can't, but it can be proved. As God himself says through the prophet Jeremiah 29:13, “You will seek me and will find me when you seek me with all your heart.” Or, as Moody put it, “If they will only come to him he will open their eyes and reveal himself to them...”

When preaching in a prison chapel, I've frequently told the guys, “What I've said could all be a load of baloney. There is only one way that you can find out whether it's true or not. Go back to your cell and seek God with all your heart. Don't play at it. Don't muck about. You're dealing with God. Do that and I promise you that you won't be able to wait to tell me what then happened.” Though that challenge is rarely taken up, it is always such a thrill when it is and you meet someone who has done exactly that,

God was putting his plans in place weeks before that meeting in Baltimore, but Moody and the reporter knew nothing of it. He may well be doing the same already for someone who will enter your hall (chapel) this Christmas, whatever their motive for doing so.


Major Howard Webber (retired) 
Salvation Army Officer

UK

Thursday, December 20, 2018

2018 Christmas Series: O, Come Let Us Adore Him


Advent: The Christ Candle (white)
(traditionally lit on Christmas Eve or on Christmas Day)

We have once again referred to the symbolic Advent wreath candles as we have examined the various components of the miraculous first Christmas. And we have done so via the theme, “O Come Let Us Adore Him,” to focus our hearts and minds in preparation for celebrating Messiah’s birth. The candles for the four weeks of Advent include: 1) The Candle of Hope or Prophecy Candle; 2) The Candle of Preparation or Bethlehem Candle; 3) The Candle of Joy or Shepherds Candle; and, 4) Candle of Love or Angels Candle. And now we turn our focus to the white candle in the center of the Advent wreath, which is known as “The Christ Candle” and represents His coming into the world. In addition, the colour white is associated with Jesus’ purity and sinlessness, qualifications needed for a Saviour.
 And so, as we pause to contemplate the significance of Christmas, let’s consider the frequent complaint that there is too much commercialism. In connection with this we often hear the frequently quoted slogan, “Jesus is the Reason for the Season,” and Christians have sought ways to keep the focus on celebrating His birth. In fact, many Christian parents and religious programs for children practice the tradition of making a birthday cake for Jesus as part of their annual Christmas celebration. 


Birthday parties are a traditional way to celebrate someone’s birth. For those of us with children, we understand the hope and promise of waiting for and welcoming a new life into our hearts and homes, along with the dreams we have for their future. We know that Mary had hopes and dreams for her beautiful baby boy, too, but they may have been tempered by the prophecies about His future and the message she received from the angel, Gabriel. Yet in spite of everything, Mary retained the awe and wonderment of being chosen to be the mother of God’s Son. We also know that she soaked in all that was happening and treasured and stored her experiences in her heart.

Furthermore, like most parents of newborns know, there is a bonding experience that takes place shortly after the baby’s birth—and a deepening of the awe, love, and affection that begins at conception and continues throughout the pregnancy. That love connection means that by the time our babies are born, we absolutely adore them. This was Jesus’ experience, too, because He was born to loving parents. Moreover, this newborn King was adored by those who witnessed His arrival, up close and personal.

However, our love for our children isn’t limited to the stage of their infancy. As we spend time with our children, we get to know them and learn to treasure their individual personalities through the various developmental stages. We also continue to develop our relationship with them as we enjoy their company and learn to see the world through their eyes. This experience with our children also helps us to understand how our bond with the Christ of Christmas develops. We take in the beauty of His birth and are in awe that He would choose to come as a helpless baby, totally dependent on His parents for His care, so that we can have eternal life with Him. And as we spend time with Jesus, we learn to treasure the lessons we learn from Him and how to apply them in our lives so that we can develop spiritually—we learn to love and adore Him! 

Plus, as our relationship with Christ evolves and is strengthened, we learn to see the world through His eyes—a hurting world with much darkness that only His love can dispel. At this Christmas season, there are many hurting people all around us. May Christ open our eyes and our hearts to hold out His love and hope to them in meaningful ways, and may they learn to follow, love and adore Him.

Suggested Daily Scripture Readings

Sunday Isaiah 7: 14; Matthew 1: 20-23
Monday Isaiah 9: 6-7 
Tuesday Luke 2: 19
Wednesday Luke 2: 1-20 

Blessings & Peace

Merry Christmas!


Elizabeth Hogan Hayduk
Former Salvation Army Officer (pastor)
Canada