Saturday, December 31, 2016

New Year’s 2017: the Prince of Peace is Our Peace (Eph. 2: 14
Do you ever have a deep restlessness or yearning for ‘something more’? I do, and that searching process has been part of my Holistic Quest (launched in March 2015). I didn’t know what to expect nor how to begin, but I set aside a day for a Personal Retreat to reflect, meditate, and pray. The initial phrase, "my body is the temple of the Holy Spirit" and the word, “water” were impressed on my mind and heart; I later recalled that 'water' is symbolically used in Scripture to represent the Holy Spirit. About six months later, “Holistic Quest” came to me during a prayer session. As the quest continued, I became convicted of the imbalances in the essential areas in my life (i.e., heart, soul, mind, and strength). The result of this lack of balance was lack of peace.

Because many of us have learned to compartmen- talize our lives (e.g., into areas, such as home, work, church, and community), it may not always be easy to step back to view them as a ‘whole’ and to determine if our lives are balanced. As a result, we may not take the time to assess how we feel about our lives overall. Sometimes it’s easy to pinpoint an area that needs attention, but this usually happens when it feels like that particular area is out-of-our-control or highly unsatisfying. Thus, on a scale of 1-5, with 1 being highly dissatisfied, and 5 being highly satisfied, how do we rate our lives? Are we living meaningful lives or are we merely existing? Do we operate from a place of peace or are we overwhelmed with anxiety, fear, and mistrust? Peace is the ‘glue’ that enables us to keep going, even when it seems like our personal life—or the world around us—is falling apart. 

But, what is peace, and how do we acquire and hold onto it? Martin Luther declared, “Peace does not mean to be in a place where there is no noise, trouble, or hard work. It means to be in the midst of those things and still be calm in your heart.” And the Collins Dictionary notes, “If something gives you peace of mind, it stops you from worrying about a particular problem or difficulty,”
(https://www.collinsdictionary.com/dictionary/english/peace-of-mind). Worrying seems to be a given in our frenetically-paced, technologically-driven lives, and peace frequently seems elusive. This leaves many of us anxious, unsettled, and rarely satisfied; as a result, we have a difficult time enjoying our lives. Yet most of us desire more serenity, a more simplified and peaceful lifestyle—a goal that seems hard to pin down as we are challenged by internal and external turmoil. Is it possible, then, to move towards the experience of sustaining calmness in our hearts, to inner peace in of mind?

Inner peace centers on our ‘being’ versus our ‘doing’, and it has numerous physiological, psychological, and spiritual health benefits, but what helps us to refrain from worrying so that we can hold onto that inner calm? Or if that inner serenity is lacking, what do we rely on to obtain the desired peace of mind? There are no ‘pat answers’, but there are some viable choices. For some, professional counseling may be needed to deal with the issues that underlie living in a constant state of worry and fear and to retrain their automatic thinking patterns. Additionally, some folks find peace and assurance in their faith, while others turn to less healthy and less satisfying choices (that may create more problems).

We all need peace in our lives. I believe that gaining and keeping inner peace is a process of healing, experience and growth. We will find ourselves dealing better with some circumstances than with others, but we will learn what we need to do as we practice recovering our peace when we discover that it has slipped away. Christians have many promises from the Prince of Peace—from Jesus—that we can have the peace that we desire in our lives. The apostle Paul emphasizes this, too: “Don’t fret or worry. Instead of worrying, pray. Let petitions and praises shape your worries into prayers, letting God know your concerns. Before you know it, a sense of God’s wholeness [peace], everything coming together for good, will come and settle you down. It’s wonderful what happens when Christ displaces worry at the center of your life,” (Phil. 4:6-7, Msg.).


Happy New Year!
Blessings & Peace

Elizabeth Hayduk
Former Salvation Army Officer
Canada

Below are some suggested daily Scriptures that provide assurances of peace.

Sunday, Jan. 1st: Isaiah 9:6 Prince of Peace
Monday, Jan. 2nd: Luke 2: 14 Peace on Earth
Tuesday, Jan. 3rd: John 16: 33 You May Have Peace
Wednesday, Jan. 4th: Ephesians 2: 14-16 Christ is our Peace
Thursday, Jan. 5th: John 14: 27 Christ Gives Us His Peace
Friday, Jan. 6th: Isaiah 26:3 We Keep our Peace When We Keep Our Focus

Saturday, Jan. 7th: Romans 15: 13 May God Fill You With Joy and Peace

Friday, December 30, 2016

First Christmas as a New Christian

First Christmas as a New Christian Serving in the Canadian Military

As a member of the Canadian military in the early 1980s, I was posted to a small base in northern Canada (CFS Alert, on the northerneastern tip of Ellesmere Island, about 800 km from the North Pole - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alert,_Nunavut) toward the end of the year. The timing of the posting meant that I would be spending my first Christmas as a Christian in Alert; it had only been a few months since I had accepted Christ. As a relatively new Christian I was unfamiliar with the cultural trappings of Christianity, especially with regard to Christmas and Advent, aside from a familiarity with the generally secular conventions of Christmas (e.g., Santa, trees, and the first verse of a few carols).

I had no clear strong idea of what “Christmas” meant from a Christian perspective. In that small military establishment (about 200 people), there were few resources to consider the nature and meaning of the Christmas season from an overtly Christian perspective. However, exploring the small local radio and TV station, which operated on vinyl LP (long playing) records and videotapes, I came across 2 record albums that served as my introduction to the theology and celebration of the Christmas season. The 2 albums were Gentle Night: Music for Advent and Christmas, by the St. Louis Jesuits and Winter’s coming Home, by the Benedictine Monks of Weston Priory. Not being of aware of Christmas albums by contemporary Christian artists, the music of these 2 albums became the foundation for my understanding and celebration of the advent and Christmas season. The music on both albums consists almost entirely of plain voice with guitar accompaniment (with some harmony/choral elements and scripture readings). Their sparse aesthetics and elegant message were quite influential on me; these 2 albums still constitute the music and message that I associate with Christmas and the Advent season.

From Winter’s coming Home, by the Monks of Weston Priory, I learned the power of (a small) Christian community, brought together in love, in simply telling and celebrating the message of Christmas. From Gentle Night: Music for Advent and Christmas, by the St. Louis Jesuits (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uFso98Kd2LI&index=1&list=PLSVAOIe-ZuDIn-EalQI1QTmSaqh-ro2BN), I gained an understanding of and appreciation for the appearance of a joyous redemptive event in the midst of a dark time. Consider the situation in Palestine at the time of the birth of Christ – the intermittently independent Jewish kingdom(s) were occupied by invaders (i.e., the Romans) directly or as client states, and were under increasing pressure by Hellenistic influences. Into this situation, God acted. Quoting from the song, Exult, You Just Ones, the last song on the Jesuit’s album.

For the Lord reveals his power, 
the Lord comes as a lamb, 
the Lord is born as a man. Yahweh, the Mighty One says this: 

Behold, I make all things new.
A new day has dawned for the nations of the earth. Let all creation rejoice.
Exult you just ones in the Lord,
Let hills and mountains be shaken by your song,
For the Lord walks among us in our land.

This message presents what appears to be a common approach by God, bringing light into the darkness (e.g., John 1). Whether we talk about the birth of Jesus in a dark time, or Jesus’ Resurrection in the midst of the darkness and despair occasioned by his death, the light of God’s work is sometimes starkest and most clearly seen in the midst of darkness. Of course, the breaking in of God’s redemptive action in the midst of our world, especially a world in darkness, leads to joy – the rejoicing or exultation of people as they respond to God’s redemption. May this season be a time for rejoicing for you.

Steven Hajduk
Former Salvation Army Officer
Canada


Saturday, December 24, 2016



Advent 2016: Prince of Peace, Week 4 (Sun., Dec. 18/16)

We have completed four weeks of our Prince of P.E.A.C.E. themed Advent journey via studying one of the letters in the acronym each week of Advent : “P” for “Prophecy”, and the hope that was restored by the Light (Is. 9:2); “E” for “Expectations” regarding Messiah, and how many could not fathom a King being born in circumstances only fit for peasants; “A” for the “Announcement” of Christ’s birth by the Angels to the shepherds; and, “C” for “Celebration” by the angels (and most of the participants in the Nativity narrative). Today we focus on “E” for “Emmanuel”, and the last candle in the Advent wreath, the white Christ candle, which is lit on Christmas Eve or on Christmas day.

Emmanuel: The Birth of the Prince of Peace

Have you ever heard young couples declaring that they are expecting their first baby and how quickly they rush to assure you that it won’t change anything? However, most parents know that a baby changes everything: spontaneity is replaced with advanced planning and preparation. So we smile knowingly; because they will quickly learn that many aspects of their lifestyles will change (e.g., less free time and learning to adapt to parenthood). On the other hand, there will also be great joy and wonder as they see the world through their child’s eyes.

Mary and Joseph didn’t have much time to get to know one another as newlyweds. Yes, they had visitations from angels and recognized that this baby was God’s son, conceived by the Holy Spirit, and entrusted to into their care. Yet, an interesting difference between them and most couples is that in addition to seeing the world through their child’s eyes, Jesus was coming to experience life through their (our) eyes. Additionally, Mary and Joseph would have been familiar with Isaiah’s prophecy that Messiah would be born to a virgin, the many names by which He would be known, and the nature of His mission (9: 6-7). Yet they were surprised to be chosen to be Emmanuel’s (God with us) earthly parents, with responsibility for rearing Jesus (Whom would save His people from their sins). For them, the transition to parenthood included dealing with an unplanned pregnancy, a 90-mile (120 km) road trip near the end of Mary’s pregnancy, arriving in Bethlehem, travel-worn with no accommodations available, giving birth in a stable, and the enormous accountability of raising God’s Son. And on that night long ago, Emmanuel, the Prince of Peace was born. He “…became flesh and blood, and moved into the neighborhood,” (John 1:14, MSG)

The Prince of Peace ‘became flesh and blood’. Why? So that He could experience life the way that we do and offer His transformational power, which enables us to live meaningful lives now (Heb. 4:15-16) and the promise of eternal life later. Jesus’ taught us that we can have His peace to rise above the difficulties in life. He said, “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid (Jn. 14:27, NIV).

Life is challenging at the best of times. However, I hope that as we have taken this journey of P.E.A.C.E. together, that we have drawn closer to our Saviour and have begun to glean His peace for our lives.

Merry Christmas!

Blessings & Peace
Elizabeth Hayduk
Former Salvation Army Officer
Canada


Please Note: there will be 2 more articles in this Prince of Peace series: New Year’s, which will focus on how we can get and hold onto His peace in our lives; and Epiphany--Jan. 6th, which celebrates the arrival of the Magi in Bethlehem.




Saturday, December 17, 2016

Advent 2016: Prince of Peace, Week 4 (Sun., Dec. 18/16)

Advent celebrates Christ’s first coming, but it also is a reminder to be ready for His second coming. We have completed three weeks of our Prince of P.E.A.C.E. themed Advent journey thus far. The first week we looked at the letter “P” for “Prophecy.” The prophet, Isaiah, noted that the Israelites were devoid of optimism, but the Light of the world broke through their despair and renewed their hope (Isa. 9:2). The second week we reflected upon the “E”, which symbolizes “Expectation,” noting that the Israelites’ political expectations of Messiah caused most of them to snub the holy child born in humble circumstances. The third week we examined the letter “A”, which stands for the angel’s “Announcement” to the shepherds. With such a spectacular Light-show, how could the shepherds not be excited and convinced?! Now we move forward to look at the “C”, for “Celebration” (the final purple candle in the Advent Wreath, which is the Angel Candle or Candle of Love).

Angels have long been associated with love and encouragement, and accounts about them are woven throughout the Scriptures. Furthermore, many individuals have had encounters with angels throughout history. But what does the Bible teach about angels? Most importantly, we do not worship angels; because they are not equal with God, but they are under His authority and follow His directions (Mt. 28:18). They are God’s messengers and act on His behalf (e.g., Gen. 3:23-24; Judges, chpts. 6-8). Some are ministering angels (e.g., 1 Kings 19: 5-7; Mk 1:13; Ac. 12:5-10). They also praise God (e.g., Ps. 148:2; Isa. 6:3; Rev. 4:8) and guard against evil (e.g., Dan. 10: 11-14; Rev. 12:7-12). [If you are interested in learning more about what angels do, there are many online resources available.]
Angels also played a major role in conveying God’s messages during the time and events surrounding Jesus’ birth. So of course it comes as no surprise that the magnitude and significance of God Incarnate—God embodied in the flesh, come down to earth—was a time of great rejoicing and of “Celebration.” The Christmas narrative is replete with angels and people celebrating the Good News, and with angel interventions. For example, an angel informed Elizabeth and Zachariah that they would have a son, John, who was both cousin to, and forerunner of, Jesus (Lk 1:5-25). The angel Gabriel appeared to Mary and advised her that she had been chosen as the Saviour’s mother (Lk. 1:26-38). And when Joseph was upset that Mary was pregnant and was planning to quietly divorce her, another angel appeared in his dream to confirm that Mary had been faithful to him (Mt.1:18-25). After Jesus was born, an angel heralded the news to shepherds (Lk. 2:8-11). An angel also intervened to prevent the Wise Men from stopping at Herod’s castle on their return trip. Finally, an angel appeared in Joseph’s dream to warn him that his toddler was in danger from jealous Herod and that he needed to flee with his family to Egypt (Mt. 2:13). When Herod died, and the danger had passed, an angel advised Joseph it was safe to return to Israel (Mt. 2:19-20).
Additionally, angels celebrate certain events, such as when someone becomes a Christian, “Count on it—that’s the kind of party God’s angels throw every time one lost soul turns to God,” (Lk. 15, 10 MSG). One of the messages/sermons that I prepared when I was a Salvation Army Officer was called, “From the Cradle to the Cross,” because we can’t have one without the other. Advent is definitely a time of celebration of Christ’s birth, but it’s also a time of preparation for His 2nd coming. While we celebrate this holy season, and are thankful for our own salvation, we are challenged to expand the celebration. How do we do that? We share the Good News with others—and while we celebrate individuals joining God’s family, the angels are also partying and rejoicing in heaven.


Elizabeth Hayduk,
Former Salvation Army Officer
Canada

Suggested Daily Readings:
Sun., Dec. 18  A Childless Couple Conceives Luke 1: 5-20
Mon., Dec. 19  A Virgin Conceives Luke 1: 26-38
Tues., Dec. 20 Joseph’s Dream Mt. 1: 18-25
Wed., Dec. 21  An Event for Everyone Lk.2: 8-18
Thurs., Dec. 22  Magi Visit Messiah Mt.2:1-12
Fri., Dec. 23  Escape to Egypt Mt. 2: 13-18
Sat., Dec. 24  Return to Nazareth Mt. 2: 19-23