Saturday, November 29, 2014

ADVENT FOUR PART SERIES: 1. Wonderful Counsellor Howard Webber (1/4)


'AND HE SHALL BE CALLED...'

1. Wonderful Counsellor

Within the bible well over one hundred names and titles are accorded to Jesus. As we enter advent we will look at the four that Isaiah gives when he announces, 'For to us a child is born, to us a son is given,' (9:6).

Each of these four names are made up of two elements, one human and the other divine. Consciously or unconsciously the prophet revealed the unified human and divine natures in the person of Jesus, who entered this world, 'truly and properly God and truly and properly man,' (SA Doctrine 4).

Wonderful

The Hebrew word here translated as 'wonderful' is only found in one other place in the bible. In Judges 13 God appeared to Manoah's wife in the form of an angel. She was childless and sterile, but he promised her that she would conceive and have a son, (v3). When later her husband met the angel he asked him what his name was, to which the angel replied, 'Why do you ask my name? It is beyond understanding,'(v18). The word translated as 'beyond understanding' is the same word that is translated as 'wonderful' in Isaiah 9:6. John Wesley translated it as, 'Secret - hidden from mortal man,' or  'wonderful, such as thou canst not comprehend.' To many scholars this would indicate the man of God or angel portrayed in the chapter, to be more than a man, more than an angel, but God the Son in human form, a theophany, (see also Genesis 18 and Judges 6:11-21)

Names today tend to be labels that parents like the sound of or that have associations with other people. Names back in bible times were descriptive of the person. Thus to reveal one's name to someone was to reveal something of one's character, one's identity. The reason that God could not respond to Manoah's request was that the essence and nature of God is far too incomprehensible to be expressed in words. We remember how Moses asked God his name, and he replied, 'I am who I am.' In 2 Corinthians 9:15 St Paul describes Jesus as God's indescribable gift. Consequently, that rare bible word, here translated 'wonderful,' is a description of the divine; he who is beyond human understanding, human comprehension.

Counsellor

Have you ever needed counselling of any kind? Counselling is far more common today, providing a safe, supportive and confidential space to help an individual look at their problems in a non-judgemental way. The client is the sole focus of the counsellor who seeks to come alongside and empathise with their client, building trust, revealing compassion, and encouraging them to be honest as they seek to discover the underlying cause of their problem or difficulty. Initially, the client can have two opposing responses to the experience. The blissful relief at receiving such much needed, undivided attention, is often accompanied by anxiety and fear that what might come out might be too shameful to warrant the counsellor's continued attention.


Counsellor Par Excellence

Counsellor is a human word. Counselling describes a human activity. Jesus was referring to himself as a counsellor, (Greek = paraclete, literally one who comes alongside), when he spoke of his Father sending another, (John 14:15). As Jesus walked the earth, the disciples had that counsellor physically with them, but he promised that when he departed into heaven, they would have another within them, (v17).

Jesus humbly descended from his glory in heaven to come alongside us. Like the good counsellor he is, he didn't come to judge us, 'I did not come to judge the world, but to save it,' (John 12:17). We needn't fear that what we might share might be so shameful as to have him turn from us. He knew everything about us before he reached out to us. He is filled with compassion at sight of our plight, (Matthew 9:36). He empathises with us in a way that no  human counsellor can. He entered our world and shared our lot and knows our experience from the inside, 'For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathise with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are....'(Hebrews 4:15). Whilst many who come to him might feel worthless and useless, in Jesus they find One who made himself nothing, (Philippians 2:7), and who is able to empathise.


Listening to the troubles, trials and tribulations of another can leave a counsellor exhausted, emotionally burdened, but the client's problems are still not the counsellor's problems. By contrast, Jesus is a Counsellor par excellence. No detached professionalism with him. This Wonderful Counsellor does not merely help us find the answer for ourselves, but offers to take our burdens upon himself and be our answer!

Howard Webber
Major, The Salvation Army(retired) Bournemouth, UK








Tomorrow, Sunday, November 30 begins the season of Advent.

Advent is a time of celebrating the birth of Jesus, God's only Son, which was His First Coming to earth. Advent is a time of reflection, of contemplation, and of focusing on the Light of the World. This season we are reminded that, "the people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of deep darkness a light has dawned," (Isaiah 9:2). Our hope and faith are also stirred up when we remember that the cross was not the finale but the catalyst for new beginnings and the promise of eternal life. Given this truth, we eagerly wait for Christ's Second Coming. Thus, the elements of His First and Second Comings are embraced and celebrated during this season of Advent.
On the first week of Advent, the Candle of Prophecy, also known as the Candle of Hope (a purple candle) is lit in the Advent wreath. Churches are not the only place where these wreathes are utilized. Many families also engage in the tradition in their homes.

As we reflect upon Christ's First Coming, we consider how long the Israelites yearned for the Messiah's coming. God's plan of redemption was in place from the beginning. Nothing that the Israelites did could separate them from God's love and plan for them. However, that did not mean that their lives would be easy. In fact, they were exiled into other strange lands, and when they finally got back to their homeland, nothing was the same. They had experienced such oppression during their time as slaves in Egypt, and they had been led out of those chains of slavery into the Promised Land. Yet, they became oppressed and tyrannized by the Romans in their Promised Land and were subjected to Roman rule. 

So, the longing for the Messiah's arrival intensified. The Israelites believed that the Messiah would overthrow the Roman Government, restore their homeland to them, and unite their divided kingdom. And so, they waited for this promised Messiah to arrive and change their predicament and their circumstances. They weren't sure how or when it would happen, but they believed that God would keep His promise of sending the Messiah to them.

In the midst of the confusion regarding the Messiah's agenda, a little baby boy was born in Bethlehem. Some believed that He was the promised Messiah, and a spark of hope was once again stirred in the minds and hearts of those who believed. It was a long road from Bethlehem to Calvary. Along the way Jesus made both friends and foes. Yet the manner in which He taught His people, the compassion that He demonstrated toward them, and the miracles employed for their benefit convicted many of the people of the truth that He was the Messiah and increased their hope for a conquering King. Still others, more concerned with the appearance of piety and religious power, condemned Him as a fraud. 

We who acknowledge Jesus as our Lord and Saviour know this: Jesus is not a fraud. He is the Son of the Most High God. We join the people who walked in darkness; because we, too, were living our lives in darkness until the Light of the World illuminated our hearts and minds. We, too, share the hope of knowing the Messiah, the Saviour of the world, has brought life and light and love into our lives. 

However, there are still many people walking in darkness--they are being blinded by the demands and disappointments of life. For many, the holidays are a time of loneliness and depression, and suicide rates increase due to lack of hope. This season, I pray that we will share that light with others. It's often easy to connect with others--while standing in line at the store, when the postal worker delivers the mail, the trash folks pick up our waste, even those cleaning the floors and tables in the restaurants (especially the fast food places), or seniors who cross our paths-- with a smile and a sincere compliment and an expression of gratitude for their service. It helps them know that they are not invisible, but that they are appreciated. In many cases, I've had people open up and share their challenges and their grief with me. That's the perfect time to offer to include them in your prayers, too. 

These are 'doable' ways of being light in the world, "You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven," (Matthew 5:14-16, NIV). 

Suggested Daily Scripture Readings: 

In keeping with the focus on the Prophecy Candle, or the Candle of Hope these are some of the hope-filled Scriptures that predicted Jesus’ birth, and which were recorded hundreds of years before He was born in Bethlehem.

Sunday, Nov. 30/14: The People Walking in Darkness See a Great Light--Isaiah 9: 1-2
Monday, Dec. 1/14:  The Sign of Immanuel (Immanuel means “God with Us”)—Isaiah 7:10-15
Tuesday, Dec. 2/14 :  Comfort for God’s People—Isaiah 40:1-5
Wednesday, Dec. 3/14:  The Messiah’s Birthplace—Micah 5:2
Thursday, Dec. 4/14: Jesus the Messiah’s Genealogy: Matthew 1: 1-17 
(some related prophesies: Genesis 12:3, from Abraham’s line; Genesis 17:19; Numbers 24:17, descendent of Isaac and Jacob; Genesis 49:10, from the tribe of Judah; and, Jeremiah 31:15, from the lineage of King David).
Friday, Dec. 5/14 : Joseph is Visited by an Angel-- Matthew 1:18-25 


 Elizabeth Hayduk
Former Officer
Canada


Saturday, Dec. 6/14: God’s Promise of Hope—Jeremiah 29:11

Friday, November 28, 2014

Advent 2014, A PREVIEW 1st Advent


Advent 2014: A Preview

The First Sunday in Advent 2014, November 30.


The past few years I have been highly disappointed that Advent is not celebrated in the community churches we have visited in our area. We were looking for a new church home after our move to a new city, I thought that one way to do so would be to visit a different church each of the Sundays of Advent. I actually asked different neighbours if their church celebrated Advent. Sadly, most had no idea what I was talking about, and they referred to special Christmas programs (I went to a couple of those, too), music, and even how their churches were decorated.

This year I believe that God has been impressing on my mind and heart to share some of the things I have been contemplating and learning about Advent and how celebrating it can develop a spiritual richness in us. This will not take the form of the daily meditations, but I will include some Scripture verses and reflections. I pray that as we take this journey together, we will draw closer to Him. May His light shine through us to illuminate the darkness (struggles, pain, errant ways) we encounter in ourselves and in others.

What is Advent?
The word Advent comes from the Latin word “adventus”, which means "coming". Advent refers to the coming of Christ, which includes a celebration of Jesus’ birth, His First Coming, and to His Second Coming, for which we still wait. It is unclear when the season of Advent was first celebrated. However, it seems that the practice of observing Advent began in the latter part of the 6th century into the beginning of the 7th century. These conclusions are based on the fact that Pope St. Gregory the Great's sermons included a homily (or sermon) for the second Sunday of Advent (his papacy was from 590-604), and that by the year 650 Spain was also celebrating the season of Advent. (1) Over the years, the focus evolved from one of penitence (similar to the season of Lent) and spiritual preparation to one of spiritual preparation and a celebration of joy. The season of Advent encompasses the four weeks before Christmas, during which time the focus is on preparing for the celebration of His birth and on spiritual renewal.


The Meaning of the Advent Wreath (Five candles)

During Advent one candle on the Advent wreath is lit each Sunday, with the final candle being lit on Christmas Day. Each of these candles symbolizes a characteristic of spiritual preparation for Christ’s birth:
1st Week of Advent: The Prophecy Candle or Candle of Hope (purple) is lit.
2nd Week of Advent: The Bethlehem Candle or The Candle of Preparation (purple) is lit.
3rd Week of Advent: The Shepherd Candle or The Candle of Joy (pink) is lit.
4th Week of Advent: The Angel Candle or The Candle of Love (purple) is lit.
Christmas Day: The Christ Candle (white) is lit.

We need to go beyond complaining that Christmas is ‘too commercial’ to modeling what makes it meaningful. We need to challenge ourselves to go beyond slogans such as, “Jesus is the Reason for the Season”, to demonstrating by our lives and attitudes that we are celebrating the birth of our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ. Many blessings upon each of us as we engage in this time of spiritual preparation.

Elizabeth Hayduk
Former Officer
Canada


Thursday, November 27, 2014

THANKSGIVING DAY USA - I Worship The King

(RELIGION IN CHINA PART TWO WILL BE POSTED ON NOV. 29th)

Thursday 26th November 2014


 The abundance in the land will not be remembered, because the famine that follows it will be so severe.' Genesis 41:31

In one dream we have seven really healthy cows and in the other seven really healthy ears of corn. One would expect the healthy cows to consume the sickly ones and the healthy grain to consume the weak, thin ones. But the fact is, as Joseph mentions in verses 30, 31, as abundant, (maybe unbelievably abundant), as those first seven years' harvests would be, the seven years that follow would be so terrible as to wipe away all memory of the amazing harvests that went before.

God can bless us more abundantly than we ever dreamed. We may have extraordinary experiences of his goodness, mercy, provision, and protection, and wonder why he has blessed us so? But when famine comes; when there is little sign of his blessing and everything is going wrong and it seems unending, and we wonder what awaits us in the future and where God is in it all, it is so easy to forget the extraordinary things God did in the past. That is why, frequently in the bible, God calls us to remember what he has done, what we have seen and heard and experienced. He would not do that if it wasn't that he knows our natural inclination to so quickly forget.

'Only be careful, and watch yourselves closely so that you do not forget the things your eyes have seen or let them slip from your heart as long as you live. Teach them to your children and to their children after them,' Deuteronomy 4:9
'Remember that you were slaves in Egypt and that the Lord your God brought you out of there with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm,' Deuteronomy 5:15.
'You may say to yourselves, “These nations are stronger than we are. How can we drive them out?” But do not be afraid of them; remember well what the Lord your God did to Pharaoh and all Egypt,' Deuteronomy 7:17,18



' Dear Lord, when winter comes and darkness abounds and we have no sense of you, help us to remember the wonders of your grace in the past, and not to forget what we experienced of your love. Help us to put our trust in you, knowing that however long we may have to wait, be it seven years or seventy, you will bring us through the darkness into the light again. Amen.'


God bless you all

Howard Webber
SA Officer, retired
Bournemouth, England