Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Lent, Day 30 March 30th , 2017


Prince of Peace: From the Cradle to the Crown and Beyond
Jesus' Teachings
The Kingdom, Part 11

In The Kingdom, Part 10, we reviewed the Parable of the Treasure Hunter (Mt. 13: 44) and discovered another short one that followed it, the Parable of the Pearl (Mt. 13: 45-46). Both these parables liken the value that we place on things that we regard as treasures to the inestimable value of finding the Kingdom. We also looked at our part in expanding the Kingdom and reviewed two elements regarding how others become part of the realm: 1) those who earnestly seek Christ’s Kingdom, will find their way into it (Mt. 7: 7-8), and, 2) we need to do our part (1 Cor. 3: 5).
Paul's word-picture of planting, watering, and harvesting brings to mind the experience of buying our first house. We avidly read books and magazines on gardening. One article focused on a gardener who gathered the dried flower heads in his gardens and wandered around his property looking for empty spaces. When he discovered such areas, he would shake the stems, allowing the seeds to fall. He never knew precisely where the seeds had landed or which ones would survive, yet he kept repeating this process. The results were spectacular!   So as I read the Parable of the Farmer (Mt. 13:1-23), I had a new insight. I always wondered why the farmer scattered seed in a willy-nilly fashion, why he hadn’t been a little more focused in where he dropped the seeds (i.e. on ground that was known to be fertile).  Instead, the seeds dropped on several different types of soil: 1) on a pathway, but were quickly consumed by birds (i.e., the message about the Kingdom was heard, but satan snatched away the seeds that were planted in the hearts of those individuals; 2) rocky areas, with very little soil (i.e., those who hear and joyfully respond to God’s word, but they don’t get rooted and grounded in love (Eph. 3: 14-19) ). As a result, they don’t get established in their faith and are not able to hold on when faced with life’s difficulties; 3) among thorns and get choked out (refers to someone who is distracted with life’s demands and troubles, which chokes out whatever has been shared from the word of God); and, finally, 3) rich, fertile soil (represents those who hear and understand the word and share it with others). 


How do we help others join the Kingdom? We, like the farmer, plant seeds everywhere we go serving as channels Jesus’ love and grace and sharing Scriptures and our testimony (plant seeds). We may also serve as teachers and mentors (water seeds). Sometimes we have the privilege of leading someone to Christ (harvesting). (1 Cor. 3: 5b-7)
Tomorrow we will focus on the Parable of the Wedding Banquet.
Blessings & Peace
Elizabeth Hogan Hayduk
Former Salvation Army Officer (pastor)
Canada

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Lent, Day 29 March 29th , 2017



Prince of Peace: From the Cradle to the Crown and Beyond
Jesus' Teachings
The Kingdom, Part 10
In yesterday’s Lenten post (Day 28, The Kingdom, Part 9), we reviewed the fact that when God looks at us He only sees us through the mark of Jesus’ Blood, which covers us and reconciles us to God. Moreover, when we have assurance of our own salvation, we are then able to reach out and encourage others to join us in the Kingdom. To engage in this process, we must be able to convey the Truth in a meaningful way, which enables others to understand and respond to the invitation. We noted that there are several parables that provide information regarding how to enter the Kingdom; and we focused on the Parable of the Treasure Hunter (Mt. 13:44) as one that many can relate to, because of the fascination (through the ages) that we have with pirates’ buried treasures and sunken treasures and the high value placed on discovering them. The parable likens the treasure hunter who is avidly seeking treasure to the individual enthusiastically seeking God’s Kingdom and its measureless value.
 The Parable of the Treasure Hunter is a short but poignant one. Following directly after this parable is yet another short but moving one, the Parable of the Pearl, “Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant looking for fine pearls. When he found one of great value, he went away and sold everything he had and bought it,” (Mt. 13: 45-46, NIV). “The Kingdom of Heaven is like…” treasure of inestimable value, priceless, and those who earnestly seek it will find their way in. 
What is our part in increasing the Kingdom—for God’s glory? The Apostle Paul addressed this issue in his first letter to the Corinthians, when he had to confront them with tough love. The church members were displaying immaturity and jealousy, as they heatedly argued about whom among them was following the teachings of Paul and those following Apollos’ instructions. Paul was firm when he told them they needed to grow up and get real understanding. He then declared that each believer has a part in the process of others’ salvation and outlined that process, “the Lord has assigned to each his task. I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God has been making it grow. So neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but only God, who makes things grow,” (1 Cor.  3: 5b-7, NIV).

How do others enter the Kingdom? So far we have uncovered two related facts: 1) those who earnestly seek Christ’s Kingdom, will find their way into it: 
“Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened,” (Mt. 7: 7-8, NIV), and, 2) we need to do our part, whether we are planting or watering the seeds or harvesting them. God assigns the tasks, and we need to be sensitive to what role He asks us to play at any given moment, (1 Cor. 3: 5).
To be continued…
Blessings & Peace

Elizabeth Hogan Hayduk
Former Salvation Army Officer (pastor)
Canada

Monday, March 27, 2017

Lent, Day 28 March 28th , 2017


Prince of Peace: From the Cradle 
to the Crown and Beyond

Jesus' Teachings


The Kingdom, Part 9
The past two days we have been exploring the subject of being certain of our personal standing in the Kingdom and the ‘marks’ that identify us as belonging to Christ. We reviewed the initiation of the observance of Passover with an annual sacrificial lamb; this observance was obligatory under the Law (i.e., the Old Covenant or Old Testament). We also noted that Christ, the Paschal Lamb, made the ultimate sacrifice once, for all people, and for all time (Heb. 10: 1-18). Furthermore, we traced the symbolism of the protective lamb’s blood that the Israelites smeared on the sides and tops of the door frames of their homes the night before they made their grand exit from Egypt. The first Passover’s sacrificial lamb foreshadowed Christ, the Paschal Lamb: John the Baptist made it clear, “[he] saw Jesus coming toward him and yelled out, “Here he is, God’s Passover Lamb! He forgives the sins of the world!” (Jn. 1:29, MSG). Finally, we noted that we are marked or covered by the Blood of Jesus’ sacrifice (Col. 1: 19-20), and it's reassuring that when God looks at us, He doesn’t see the mess we’ve made of our lives and our relationships. God only sees the mark of the Blood on us!
 When we have this assurance of our own salvation and our standing in the Kingdom, then we can reach out to others and invite them to join us. How do we convey Jesus’ teachings in a manner that our listeners can relate to and identify with in today’s society? Surprisingly, some of the parables hold our interest for the same reason they were able to fascinate their first listeners. For example, the Parable of the Treasure Hunter is still very relevant. Pirate stories, both real and fictional, have captivated our hearts and minds for many generations. There is the thrill of the adventure of seeing or reading about pirates taking treasures from the rich (maybe elicits the ‘Robin Hood’ effect), burying it somewhere safe, and then returning for it later. There are still treasure hunters seeking the gold, silver, gems, and other items of worth in sunken ships or on islands (where it is believed pirates’ treasures lie hidden). Sometimes there are documentaries made about such treasure hunters and their successes or failures (e.g., the documentary about seeking and finding the remains of the Titanic). In the Parable of Hidden Treasure, a treasure hunter uncovers hidden riches in a field. He was so excited that he hid his finding, and then he gathered everything he owned and sold it to purchase the field, (Mt. 13:44). Doesn’t this sound like something we might hear on the news?  This parable captures our attention, and we can identify with the excitement of finding a great treasure. And this is the message of the parable: we need to seek after the Kingdom with commitment and persistence, because when we do, we will be thrilled by the great value of our find.
To be continued…
Blessings & Peace

Elizabeth Hogan Hayduk
Former Salvation Army Officer (pastor)
Canada

Sunday, March 26, 2017

Lent, Day 27 March 27th , 2017



Prince of Peace: From the Cradle to the Crown and Beyond

Jesus' Teachings

The Kingdom, Part 8


In part 7 of The Kingdom, we looked a little more at Jesus’ teachings that focus on the Kingdom inhabitants. We also noted the use of ‘selfies’ as a means of identifying ourselves with others. From there we moved onto the question, “If we had a selfie with Jesus, would others identify us as belonging to Him? We began to explore the concept of “marking” as a way to identify things that belong to us (e.g., branding livestock, or items we own with serial numbers on them, such as TVs or Computers). Other means of marking may include employee ID badges, which allow access to their place of business. Finally, we reviewed the inception of the observance of Passover in Exodus, when the blood of the Paschal lamb was smeared on the sides and top of the Israelites’ door frames. These markings of blood served as a sign of protection to God’s people when the angel of death carried out the 10th (& final) plague on Egypt: killing the firstborns of all the humans and animals, (Ex. 12: 7, 11-13, NIV).

The annual practice of sacrificing a lamb at Passover was initiated to thank God for protecting the Israelites from destruction. However, the observance of sacrificing an unwilling lamb at Passover was a fore-shadowing of the once and for all time sacrifice that was made by the willing Lamb, who knew the heavy reality of that title before He ever left heaven. “Christ’s Sacrifice Once for All” is the heading that the New International Version uses for the 10th chapter of Hebrews. This chapter explains the Law could not provide the reality of removing sin and its effects; if it could have done so, there would have been no need for annual sacrifices (Heb. 10: 1-18). But John the Baptist made it clear, “[he] saw Jesus coming toward him and yelled out, “Here he is, God’s Passover Lamb! He forgives the sins of the world!” (Jn. 1:29, MSG). 

The Lamb suffered much more than all the previously sacrificed lambs. But what is the significance of Christ being sacrificed on the cross and His blood that was spilt? Through His blood we have forgiveness of sins (Jn. 3:16; Eph. 1:7); we can enter into a holy and healed relationship with God (Heb. 10:19; Eph. 2:13); He removes our guilt (1 Jn. 1:9); we can stand against satan’s accusations.  When Jesus was on the cross, He took the sin of every human on Himself. But God is a holy God, and He can’t look at sin. Yet, because of the Blood that Jesus shed, whoever asks for forgiveness is covered by His blood: “For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross,” (Col. 1: 19-20).Just as the Israelites were marked (via the blood on the sides and tops of their door-frames) as set aside for God and for His protection, Christ’s blood marks us or covers us. So, when God looks at us, He doesn’t see the mess we’ve made of our lives and our relationships. God only sees the mark of the Blood on us. Hallelujah! 

 Tomorrow we will look at some of Jesus’ teachings that focus on how individuals may enter the Kingdom.


Blessings & Peace

Elizabeth Hogan Hayduk
Former Salvation Army Officer (pastor)

Canada

Lent, Day 26 March 26th , 2017


Prince of Peace: From the Cradle to the Crown and Beyond
 
Jesus' Teachings
 
The Kingdom, Part 7
 
Yesterday we began our study of the inhabitants of the Kingdom. We noted the popular trend of people taking 'selfies', including group selfies as a means of identifying with their friends. The questions were posed, "I wonder what our selfies with Jesus would look like??! Would we be recognizable as belonging to Him; are we seen identifying with Christ? " It was noted that Jesus used parables (e.g., the Sheep and the Goats; the Wheat and the Weeds; and the Fish Net) to explain the difference between those who belong in the Kingdom and those who do not: some may appear (or even proclaim) to be part of the Kingdom realm, but looks can be deceiving. The concluding thought was that we need to be sure of our own standing in the Kingdom before we can invite others to join us.


Throughout history markings have been used to signify different things, such as lepers in Europe were required to wear bells to announce their presence; popular clubs use hand stamps to show who is able to enter or re-enter if they leave the premises; personal property may be identified via a mark or a serial number (e.g., on computers or TVs); companies issue I.D. badges, which indicate the employee is authorized to enter; and As we continue exploring our own status in the Kingdom, I am reminded of a phrase that Heidi Klum, model, fashion designer, & TV host uses, "...one day you're in and the next you're out." Our salvation is not so tenuous; but, like the Israelites, if we rebel and pull  away from following Christ that would leave us in a backslidden state. If we remain backslidden, would that mark us for hell--described as 'absence from God' by many? 

But what would mark us for heaven? As we get closer to Easter, it's natural to think about Passover, which was observed to mark the Passover meal that occurred the night before the Israelites triumphantly left Egypt. In the 12th chapter of Exodus the first Passover was initiated and was tied-into the final plague that God visited on Pharaoh and his people. Thfirst-borns of people and animals would lose their lives on that dreadful evening. But God gave the Jews specific directions about preparing a lamb for their supper that evening, and they were instructed to take some blood from the lamb and, "put it on the sides and tops of the doorframes of the houses where they eat the lambs....This is how you are to eat it: with your cloak tucked into your belt, your sandals on your feet and your staff in your hand. Eat it in haste; it is the Lord’s Passover. On that same night I will pass through Egypt and strike down every firstborn of both people and animals, and I will bring judgment on all the gods of Egypt. I am the Lord. The blood will be a sign for you on the houses where you are, and when I see the blood, I will pass over you. No destructive plague will touch you when I strike Egypt. (Ex. 12: 7, 11-13, NIV). Thus, the Israelites were marked (via the blood on the sides and tops of their doorframes) as set aside for God and for His protection.

To be continued...

Blessings & Peace


Elizabeth Hogan Hayduk
Former Salvation Army Officer (pastor)
Canada

Saturday, March 25, 2017

Lent, Day 25 March 25th , 2017


Prince of Peace: From the Cradle to the Crown and Beyond

Jesus' Teachings


The Kingdom, Part 6

Yesterday we concluded our brief look at Jesus' teachings on the nature of the Kingdom as outlined in the parables of the Mustard Seed and the Yeast. We discovered that once they withdrew from the crowds, Jesus explained the meanings of the parables to His disciples (Mk. 4:34). However, Christ's actual explanation was not recorded. Therefore, the two popular explanations (i.e., the mustard seed and yeast are symbolic of the Church growing from small beginnings or  that they represent God's 'hidden' workings) are both plausible.

Photography has been around for many years, but camera cell phones created a new trend--taking pictures of oneself or even group photos, known as "selfies." At The Salvation Army's Boundless International Congress in London, June 2015, many gathered to express their identification with The Salvation Army's world-wide ministry, and selfies were rapidly being snapped and posted on social media. Even General Andre Cox, and Mrs.
Commissioner Sylvia Cox, could be seen posing for selfies with delegates. 

I wonder what our selfies with Jesus would look like??! Would we be recognizable as belonging to Him; are we seen identifying with Christ? Today we will consider some parables that focus on describing Kingdom members-- the difference between those who are Kingdom members and those who may think that they are, but in reality they are not.

Jesus used parables that center on the sifting process, separating those whom have met the requirement of being Kingdom members from those who have not. These include the parables of: the Sheep and the Goats (Mt. 25:31-46); the Wheat and the Weeds (Mt. 13: 24-30;36-43); and the Fish Net (Mt. 12: 47-51). Not only is there a culling process, but the sorting is done on the basis of good and evil--or as Keith Green put it, "The only difference between these people [the sheep and the goats] is what they did and didn't do.

So, if we could take a selfie with Jesus, where would we stand in the sifting process? Would others be able to identify us as sheep, as wheat, as good fish? Or maybe we think those are the categories that we are in--belonging to Jesus. If we are not, then we may fool others by saying the right words and doing the right things; because, “Looks aren’t everything...God judges persons differently than humans do. Men and women look at the face; God looks into the heart, ” (1 Sam. 16:7, MSG). Before we can invite others to become part of the Kingdom, we need to make sure that we are members. Otherwise, how can we offer/give to others what we ourselves do not possess?

To be continued tomorrow.

Blessings & Peace

Elizabeth Hogan Hayduk
Former Salvation Army Officer (pastor)

Canada

Friday, March 24, 2017

Lent, Day 24 March 24rd , 2017


Prince of Peace: From the Cradle to the Crown and Beyond

Jesus' Teachings


The Kingdom, Part 5

Yesterday we began with a brief review of the main points that have been covered in Jesus' Teachings, The Kingdom--Parts 1-4. We also recapped the Jews' rejection of Messiah, and noted that part of that difficulty stemmed from their expectations of a conquering Hero-King, who would over-throw the Roman rule and restore the kingdom of Israel. Plus, John the Baptist's declaration likely reinforced those expectations (Mt. 3:2), as well as Jesus' teachings and focus on the Kingdom. Even the disciples' questioned Jesus on this matter (Ac. 1:6); I'm sure that Jesus expected them to understand, after three years of personal instruction, that His was not an earthly kingdom (Jn. 18: 36).We also began our examination of the parables of the Mustard Seed and the Yeast (Mt. 13:31-33), which have similar meanings--or do they?!

Interestingly, the parables of the Mustard Seed and the Yeast are also recorded by Mark (4: 30-32) and Luke (13:18-20). Their accounts are virtually identical; but only Mark adds, " He did not say anything to them without using a parable. But when he was alone with his own disciples, he explained everything," (vs. 34).  Because Mark didn't actually write down Jesus' explanation, we are left to draw our own conclusions. Therefore, returning to these two parables, we discovered that those who equate the Kingdom with the Church, have the perspective that the mustard seed and yeast have small beginnings but quickly flourish. The parallel is then made that the Church started small but quickly grew. Then there are those who believe that these parables are symbolic of God constantly working to achieve His purposes, even if we don't always perceive that He is doing so.

In 2007 (or 2008) I was stalked by a neighbor, who suffered from paranoid schizophrenia and had stopped taking her medications. At church our pastor, Mike, opened his sermon with the fact that many members were coping with difficult circumstances, and heads were nodding as he zeroed in on the 'things that steal our joy'. Wow! A tailor-made message, just for me! The next time that I listened to my copy of that message, I thought I had a copy of the wrong one! Here's the interesting thing: I realized after hearing about the things that steal our joy that my mind had apparently wandered. In other words, I didn't really hear the entire teaching!

This selective listening/hearing regularly and consistently comes into play when we pray, read our Bibles, or listen to sermons/teaching. God gets our attention and focuses it on what He wants us to know and do--He makes it personal. And this is why both perspectives on these parables are valid--the mustard seed and the bit of yeast can definitely fit into both views (i.e., that they represent the growth of the Church and that they can also represent God's 'hidden' working in the world).

As we noted in The Kingdom, Part 3, some parables describe the Kingdom, others point out the nature or characteristics of its members, while a number of them explain how individuals may become part of the Kingdom. We have looked at two parables that describe the Kingdom. Tomorrow we will consider some that describe Kingdom members.

Blessings & Peace

Elizabeth Hogan Hayduk
Former Salvation Army Officer (pastor)

Canada