Pearls and Pigs

Read
Proverbs 9:7-9
Whoever corrects a mocker invites insults; whoever rebukes the wicked incurs abuse. Do not rebuke mockers or they will hate you; rebuke the wise and they will love you. Instruct the wise and they will be wiser still; teach the righteous and they will add to their learning. (NIV)

Matthew 7:6
Do not give dogs what is sacred; do not throw your pearls to pigs. If you do, they may trample them under their feet, and turn and tear you to pieces.                      (NIV)

Reflect
For the last few years we have owned a dog. He is a Standard Poodle, and he has a great disposition, however he is a scavenger when it comes to food. He tends to linger around the table at supper time, especially when there is a good, tasty cut of meat being served. Even when I tell him to go away sternly, he looks at me and then sits – right there by the table. At thanksgiving he received a beautiful ham bone with a good bit of meat left on the bone. He didn’t care about the nice meat or the fact that it was Hickory Smoked Ham – he just devoured it like it was his last meal.

That is what it’s like when we offer godly counsel to people who are not ready or willing to hear it. Wisdom, correction, counsel, and rebuke are as precious as pearls. Proverbs 9 tells us that godly people welcome such input. But foolish people want nothing to do with wise correction. Instead, they will tear you to pieces with arguments, resistance, or mockery.

Even though we have a responsibility to humbly correct people who are struggling with sin, Jesus urges us to discern whether a person is open to correction or counsel. If the person who needs correction is resistant to you, it is often better to step back, prayerfully ask God to soften their hearts, and wait until they are open to listening to godly wisdom. We must handle the precious gospel of Jesus with care, both giving and receiving counsel with careful discernment.

The Holy Spirit dwells within each and every one of us as believers. When in doubt about how to handle a difficult situation of correction, whisper a prayer and ask the Holy Spirit to give you discernment.

Pray
Father, you have entrusted us with the precious truth of your Word. May we receive its guidance as precious treasure, and may we share your wisdom wisely. Amen.

Last

Read
Mark 10:23-31
But many who are first will be last, and the last first.                             Verse 31 (NIV)

Reflect
My kids seem to have all kinds of trophies from sports events. The only trophy I ever won was when I played in the Ontario Junior Football League. It was called the coaches award for leadership on my own team. The senior high school team I coached in London, ON won the city championship but there were no trophies attached to that victory. I think kids just get trophies easier these days. My kids disagree!

In any case winning, all by itself, can be a thrill. It’s a pretty big thing for most people – and many of us are so competitive that we feel we just have to win. That’s why today’s verse is so counter-cultural. The first will be last, and the last first? That doesn’t make sense. No one competes for the goal of being last. No one remembers the ones who come in last. But maybe that’s the point.

The economy of the gospel isn’t like everything else. Good looks and super talent don’t earn anything. In fact, very little that we value in this world – from wealth and prestige to power and position – means anything when it comes to following Jesus. At times, our stuff and our accomplishments can even get in the way of following Jesus.

I believe it kind of works this way: when we realize that the things we often rely on don’t actually gain us anything, we find ourselves in a place where we are ready to rely on Jesus. We realize that everything good we have and all we have accomplished is a gift from God. And we are ready to share it with others, rather than holding on to it for ourselves. With love and generosity and making room for people, putting others ahead of ourselves, we begin to follow and act like Jesus.

It is sort of sad that for many of us it takes so long to get to this point in our lives. A humorous saying that captures this reality is this: Too soon OLD; too late SMART. Let’s learn a bit earlier and get smart much quicker. Love others like this is your last opportunity and stop worrying about our own wants and needs.

Pray
Lord, help us to realize we rely on you for every­thing. May we follow your example and live for you. Amen

The Gift

Read
John 3:16-21
For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.                                                     Verse 16 (NIV)

Reflect
Buying the right gift for someone is almost always a challenge for me. Receiving a gift can also have its challenges. If we don’t really like a gift, we try to be polite and say thank-you to the giver, but later we’ll find a way to get rid of it, re-gift it or just put it in a closet. We might appreciate the thoughtfulness of the giver, but if we don’t really love the gift, we’re not likely to use it or value it much.

In today’s Bible we have one of the most well-known verses in today’s world. This verse has even made it into most of the end zones of professional football.  John 3:16 tells us of the most precious gift God gave to the world: Jesus Christ, his one and only Son. Sadly, many people want nothing to do with this gift. They might just ignore it and think it’s a fairy tale or that it doesn’t apply to them. They might argue that if God really wanted to help us, he should have ended poverty, war, and suffering; or should have cured cancer or cleaned up the environment. Others might be polite and say they appreciate the gift, but they don’t really do anything with it. Still others get angry and tell people not to push their religion on them.

On the other side of the spectrum there are others who absolutely love the gift of Jesus. To enjoy this gift fully, we need to know and understand how Jesus is to be received. John says we must believe in him – and this means more than just agreeing with what the Bible teaches; we need to live by faith that Jesus’ coming into the world frees us from sin and changes us to live a new full life that we can enjoy forever with him. It must be clear in the way we think, play, work, and love that Jesus is our most precious, appreciated gift!

Pray
Thank you for giving me all I need in Jesus, your one and only Son. Help me always to live and realise the beauty of your gift to me. Amen.

Living By Faith

Read
Hebrews 11
Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see.
Verse 1 (NIV)

Reflect
In this chapter of Hebrews we find a long list of people who we could call “heroes of faith.” These are descriptions of people whose faith in God showed in their actions as they lived out their everyday lives. Faith is intended to be lived out.

Abraham and Sarah trusted God’s promises to take them to a new land and to give them descendants. It took a long time for these promises to be fulfilled, but they trusted God, and he fulfilled those promises.

Moses trusted God to guide him in leading his people out of slavery in Egypt. It took a long time and a lot of hard work, and through a series of miracles, God delivered the people. Then Moses served God for many more years, bringing God’s law to the people, setting up the worship of God, and teaching the people how to live God’s way (Exodus 12-40).

Rahab, an outsider, declared her faith in God and became one of God’s people when the Lord took them back into the land promised to Abraham. She became one of the great, great . . . grandmothers of Jesus. (See Joshua 2:1-216:25Matthew 1:1-6).

As we live our lives, let us do so in faith. Often, we need the confidence and assurance of what we cannot see. Our faith will be made sight when Christ comes again. He is the one who has saved us from our sin. He is the one who is faithful, so we are called to live out our lives in response to him.

Pray
Lord, help us to live our lives in faith. Like the great heroes of the faith, help us to follow you wherever you lead. Amen.

God Is Not Unjust

Read
Hebrews 6:9-12
God is not unjust; he will not forget your work and the love you have shown him as you have helped his people and continue to help them.                                         Verse 10 (NIV)

Reflect
In my first church I worked with the youth group as well as being lead pastor. It was not uncommon for a number of the youth to ask for reassurance of their salvation. They would tell me they felt like they had lost their salvation. I would tell them if they had that feeling they need not worry. I did say, “Once you stop worrying about your spiritual condition, that is when you are in danger.”

Many people worry about whether or not they are saved. They wonder how they can know if they will actually have eternal life with Jesus.

The author of Hebrews reminds us here of God’s justice. This passage is not saying that on the basis of our works we know we are saved. Rather, our work and the love that we have shown to God are the result of being saved already through the outpouring of his Spirit living in us – all because of the finished work of Jesus Christ.

Jesus assures us in Matthew 7 that a good tree can only bear good fruit. He’s saying that the work that we do is not earning our salvation; it is evidence that we are already saved, and that Jesus is living in us. Likewise, James 2:17 tells us, “Faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.

Do you ever wonder if your salvation is secure? Remember, as the author of Hebrews says, “God is not unjust.” God sees and will remember the work that you do and the love you have shown him. If you have trusted in the source of eternal salvation – that is, Jesus Christ – your good work and the love that you show are the works of God himself through you.

If you wonder whether your work is enough, remember that salvation is not based on your work. It is based on the finished work of Jesus, our great High Priest. If you are “in Christ” you are secure for eternity.

Pray
God, we thank you that you are not unjust. Help us to continue to bear good fruit and show your love. Amen.

Once For All

Read
Hebrews 7:23-28
Unlike the other high priests, he does not need to offer sacrifices day after day, first for his own sins, and then for the sins of the people. He sacrificed for their sins once for all when he offered himself.                                                                                                          Verse 27 (NIV)

Reflect
I think that all of us have struggled with issue of doubt when it comes to our sin being forgiven. Somehow our conscious does not understand the depth of God’s forgiveness. His forgiveness is complete and forever.

In the Old Testament God made a covenant with his people. That covenant included a system of sacrifices that pointed to the forgiveness of sins. But those sacrifices could not fully take away sin because, as Hebrews states later, “it is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins” (Hebrews 10:4). Those sacrifices only pointed ahead to the one true sacrifice that was really needed: the shed blood of a perfect human being who could offer his own life in place of ours, and that person is Jesus Christ.

We could not pay for our own sins. The only way for us to be saved was for a sinless person to die willingly in our place, for our sake. And only Jesus Christ, who is fully God and fully human, could do that.

For a time, God established the role of priests to offer sacrifices for his people. The priests offered sacrifices for the peo­ple to God day after day as payment for sins. And once a year, the high priest would make atonement for everyone on the Day of Atonement.

But all of that ceremony pointed to the once-for-all sacrifice of Jesus, the great High Priest. As our text says, “He sacrificed for their sins once for all when he offered himself.” Once for all. Sacrifices for sin are no longer needed. His sacrifice is enough for all. In Jesus, all our sins are atoned for.

What can we do to pay for our sins? Nothing. Jesus gave the ultimate sacrifice, once for all.

Pray
Thank you, Jesus, for sacrificing yourself to pay for our sin. Help us to accept this gift of grace. Amen.

The Power Of God’s Word

Read
Hebrews 4:11-13 (NIV)
Let us, therefore, make every effort to enter that rest, so that no one will perish by following their example of disobedience. 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. Nothing in all creation is hidden from God’s sight. Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of him to whom we must give account.

Reflect
Hebrews describes God’s Word as “sharper than any double-edged sword.” In our world today, this picture of a sword may be difficult to grasp. The idea of a scalpel may be a little easier to understand. A scalpel can open us up and reveal what’s going on inside us. A surgeon uses a scalpel to begin a process of opening a patient up. The surgeon does this in order to see or understand more about a problem inside the patient.

As Hebrews urges us to “make every effort to enter (God’s) rest,” we soon learn why we should pay attention to that warning – “for the word of God is alive and active.” The
all-powerful, all-knowing God knows us through and through; nothing “is hidden from God’s sight.”

Sometimes we try to hide and cover up the sin in our life. But nothing is hidden from God. And God’s Word reveals things in us and to us that we might think could be hidden. It shows us the truth about who we are.

We are called to strive to ­enter into God’s rest; we need to continue following the Lord and not harden our hearts to him. God guides us through his Word. By the power of his Spirit, God convicts us of the truth through his Word and leads us to live by the way of love, sharing his goodness and his good news with others.

Pray
Lord, help us to continue seeking to live for you, that we may enter your rest. Use your Word to guide as we seek your grace and share it with others. Amen

Sabbath Rest

Read
Hebrews 4:1-11
There remains, then, a Sabbath-rest for the people of God; for anyone who enters God’s rest also rests from their works, just as God did from his.                                                Verses 9-10 (NIV)

Reflect
Our present situation with our youngest foster son has not allowed us to have a family vacation for more than two years. We have had time away from work but to have a full relaxing time with no childcare, feeding, diaper changes, etc. has eluded us for a long time. The importance of rest time or down time becomes very clear when it seems to be out of reach.

In the creation narrative we read that God rested on the seventh day. That set a pattern for us that is worth keeping. In the midst of our busy lives each week, it is good to take a day to rest from our work, to take time to worship and honor God, and to give to and share with others, especially our family and for people who are in need.

The author of Hebrews points out that the promise to enter God’s rest still stands. So, for all of us, this remains something to strive and long for.

In Hebrews 3 the author recounts the warnings that God spoke to his people. The author notes that some of God’s people hardened their hearts and refused to trust in God, so they did not enter his rest. Nevertheless, the promise of entering God’s rest is still there.

The promise is for everyone who believes in the good news of Jesus Christ. Entering God’s rest is something we may long for and desire. It is even something we can begin to enjoy in Christ now, and we are promised that it will be complete when Jesus comes again.

This is not a call to stop all of our activity and our work. Instead, it is a call to continue believing in Christ, knowing that through him we will enter God’s promised rest and live with him forever.

Pray
Lord God, help us to find true rest in you. Amen.

Fully Human

Read
Hebrews 2:10-18
Because he himself suffered when he was tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted.                                                                                                                    Verse 18 (NIV)

Reflect
The concept of respect, especially for God, was drilled into our hearts and minds from an early age at the Geense household. My dad looked at me with much dismay the first time I used the phrase, “Jesus is my brother.” Even after explaining this Biblical Truth with my dad I never used it again in his presence because I was aware it did not sit well with him.

Hebrews 2 emphasizes the reality that Jesus was made “fully human in every way.” We cannot stress this enough. Jesus did not simply appear to be human; he was and is fully human. As the writer explains, we needed one who is exactly like us to be able to break the power of the devil for our sake.

Referring to Jesus as our ­brother does not reduce his power or authority. It highlights the very real fact that he became fully human in order to “make atonement for the sins of the people.” As a human being, he experienced temptation just as we do. He is no stranger to our experiences. He knows what we go through because he himself went through it; “… was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin.” (Heb. 4:15 NKJV)

Jesus doesn’t just sympathize with us as one who does not really know what our life is like. As a human he has suffered and was tempted just as we are. He knows what we go through, and as a result, that can help us in our weakness. Jesus suffered and was proved perfect through his suffering in order to make us holy. Not only do we have one who understands, but because of his suffering, we are being made holy through him. Is there any other faith system that goes to such length to redeem us? Is there any greater love expressed to us? This is amazing grace, amazing love. This is redemption, pure and simple.

Pray
Jesus, my brother, thank you for becoming like one of us. Thank you for your suffering, suffering that is making us holy and fit to live with you.  Amen.

The Radiance of God’s Glory

Read
Hebrews 1:1-4 (NIV)
In the past God spoke to our ancestors through the prophets at many times and in various ways, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, and through whom also he made the universe. The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being, sustaining all things by his powerful word. After he had provided purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty in heaven. So, he became as much superior to the angels as the name he has inherited is superior to theirs.

Reflect
On numerous occasions I have had to drive due east early in the morning. It is uncomfortable enough that I try to avoid those early morning drives. Sometimes the sun seems so bright that even sunglasses are of little help to deflect the brilliant sunlight.

When we look straight into the sun, its brilliance can be blinding, but the beautiful, clear light radiating from the sun also helps us see the things around us. Sunlight also radiates heat, warming the earth each day as it gives light for plants and for growing food. We cannot separate the radiating light and heat from the sun; these properties always go together with sunlight for our life here on earth.

In the same way, we cannot separate Jesus, the Son of God, from God himself. Hebrews says, “The Son is the radiance of God’s glory. . ..” Think about what that means: in Jesus, the glory of God came to dwell among us, taking on our flesh and becoming one of us. The glory of God in Christ was humbled on the cross when he died to pay the price of our sin for us. Then the glory of God shone in its brilliance when Jesus rose again from the dead.

“The radiance of God’s glory” came for everyone to see. As the gospel of John explains, Jesus came to give light to everyone in the world (John 1:9). Jesus came to draw us to himself, the light of the world, so that we could come out of darkness into the GLORIOUS LIGHT!!

Pray
Lord, draw us to yourself as the light of the world. Give us light so that, like you, we can be a light in the darkness. Amen.