JOHN SHIRK – From Acts 8, verses 1 and 4.
Following the stoning of Stephen, the first recorded Christian martyr of the early church, “On that day a great persecution broke out against the church at Jerusalem and all except the apostles were scattered throughout Judea and Samaria……
Those who had been scattered preached the word wherever they went.”
Jesus said that the Gospel would start in Jerusalem, and then spread to Judea and Samaria. Here in Acts 8, we learn that He actually worked through persecution to spread the word beyond Jerusalem.
There was freedom of movement for the early disciples to go from place and place and an unwavering commitment to Christ that would not be moved. Those were the ingredients that led to the spread of the Gospel.
While persecution is painful, it also a powerful witness of someone who is so convinced of the testimony of Christ, and so dedicated to Him, that the purity of their witness shines through the sacrifices they make for Him.
Perseverance through persecution is a vital sign of a changed life in the Year of Transformation.
JOHN SHIRK – From Psalm 33, verse 12.
“Blessed is the nation whose God is the LORD.”
That is the focus Scripture of the National Day of Prayer, designed to mobilize us to pray for our nation, and to encourage personal repentance and righteousness in our culture.
First Peter 3 urges us to set apart Christ as Lord. When this becomes a reality in our lives, He becomes our living hope.
Included in the focus for today is this prayer, which God is hearing from the hearts of many Christians today: “We come before you once more, seeking your forgiveness and mercy. You, our God, are our only hope. Hear our prayer, and for Your honor’s sake, shine your face upon this nation. Give our leaders the desire to seek Your wisdom and the courage to follow Your guidance….and watch over the men and women of our armed forces as they sacrifice for the cause of freedom. We give You thanks for all You have done for us, and we pray earnestly that you will help us become, once again, a nation whose God is the Lord. In the name of Your Son and our Savior, we pray this prayer. Amen.” On this National Day of Prayer, we are reminded that prayer with faith and a thankful heart is a vital sign of a changed life in the Year of Transformation.
JOHN SHIRK – From Deuteronomy 10:17.
“For the LORD your God is God of gods and Lord of lords, the great God, mighty and awesome, who shows no partiality and accepts no bribes.”
Here we learn that God is on the throne. He reigns with power. He is just. He is true.
Moses was telling the Israelites about God’s character to motivate them to repentance. He was urging them to cut away their resistance to God’s ways and stop being so stubborn. He was teaching them to know God and to revere His name. If we want to follow His ways, we need to take time to get to know the LORD for who He really is. Clear thinking of God’s character serves to shape our character to be more like Jesus. What we learn about God in this case teaches us not to accept bribes or show partiality.
As we spend time in God’s Word this week, let’s allow His influence and example to be the guiding force for our actions.
Knowledge of God with a reverent heart is a vital sign of a changed life in the Year of Transformation.
JOHN SHIRK – From Matthew 22:38.
After Jesus was questioned about the greatest commandment in the Bible, Jesus responded by saying, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.” Then, He gave a bonus for us to obey. The second greatest commandment in the law is found in verse 38.
“Love your neighbor as yourself.” This is consistent with the Golden Rule, which was also taught by Jesus. He said, “Do to others what you would have them do to you.” These simple commands prompt us to treat others with respect, dignity, and consideration.
As we have been blessed by God’s love, He motivates us to be mindful of others, and to translate genuine concern into action. It would be an oxymoron to love God and NOT care about people. There are many practical ways to help people. But the important thing about loving people in the name of Jesus is that people who benefit from our expressions notice the power of God’s love working through us, and recognize His care for them.
Love for our neighbor as ourselves is a vital sign of a changed life in the Year of Transformation.
JOHN SHIRK – From Matthew 22:37.
Jesus responded to the question, “Which is the greatest commandment in the Law?” He quoted Deuteronomy 6:5: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.”
The Good News of Jesus Christ emphasizes God’s love for the world to send Jesus into the world to save sinners. What is the proper response to this amazing grace? Jesus tells us that the most important thing we can do is to respond to God’s love with a fully devoted heart.
Jesus wants us to make our relationship with God the most important priority of our lives. This relationship, built on love, is a sustainable foundation for having the incentive to carry out His other commands. His grace is worth more than gold, or any of the treasures of this world. His words deserve our full attention. His glory merits our full worship.
Love for God is a vital sign of a changed life in the Year of Transformation.
JOHN SHIRK – Chuck Colson died on Saturday, April 21 from complications resulting from a brain hemorrhage. He was 80 years old.
He was the first member of the Nixon Administration to be sent to prison for Watergate-related charges in the 70’s. He was known at the White House as the “hatchet man.” However, in 1973, a miracle happened. He became a follower of Jesus Christ.
His friend Tom Phillips gave him a copy of Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis. Tom said, “Once you read this, you might want to read the Book of John in the Bible.” It turned out to be a soul-winning combination in Chuck Colson’s life. The words from C.S. Lewis and from John’s Gospel appealed to his mind and heart, leading him to trust in Jesus Christ as Savior.
After his conversion to Christ, Chuck Colson started Prison Fellowship Ministries, which was designed to reach out to prisoners and their families with the Gospel. In addition, he gave oversight to the Colson Center, which is a teaching and training center focused on the Christian worldview. Chuck Colson was reconciled to God and thoughtfully challenged others to be reconciled with God. His dramatic turn from the Watergate years is an example of the dynamic change that God provides for the person who places their trust in Jesus.
The journey of his life is a vivid of example to me of how Jesus can profoundly change lives. If you have started life on the wrong foot, taken wrong turns, or made wrong choices, it’s not too late to turn the ship around. Forgiveness from the past, transformation in the present, and hope for the future. This was Chuck Colson’s experience. This can be our journey too as we follow Jesus with a trusting heart.
JOHN SHIRK – From Philippians 4, verses 6 and 7.
“Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God with transcends all understanding will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.”
Here we see that the peace of God serves as a form of protection for our hearts and minds.
The peace of God gives us a true sense of security, having the assurance that our soul is in the Lord’s hands, no matter what may happen around us today.
The peace of God gives us a true sense of stability, formed out of a faith that is rooted in the foundation of His Word.
The peace of God gives us a true sense of serenity, a calm spirit in the midst of stormy conditions.
Whatever challenges we face in a given day, God invites us to talk to Him about them. He cares for us, and He is near enough to hear our every word and understand the emotion behind those words.
Prayer from a thankful heart is a vital sign of a changed life in the Year of Transformation.
JOHN SHIRK – April 15 was the 100th anniversary of the Titanic disaster. John Harper was on that ship. He was a Baptist pastor who was on the way to preach at Moody Church in Chicago. He never made it. But before he died, John Harper did a number of heroic things.
First, he took his 6 year-old daughter who was with him on the ship to a lifeboat. He stayed on the ship, preaching the Gospel to the end. Even after he jumped into the sinking water, survivors said that he attempted to convert those who were in the freezing water, before dying himself. He referred to Acts 16:31, which says, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved.” One particular man was clinging to the ship’s debris when Harper swam to him and challenged him twice to believe in the Lord Jesus Christ. He rejected the first offer, but gave his life to Christ at the second invitation. At a Titanic Survivor’s meeting in Canada 4 years later, the survivor told his story and said, “I am the last convert of John Harper.”
John Harper looked out for both his daughter’s physical protection and the need for spiritual salvation of the lost around him. In a time of crisis, the measure of John Harper’s character was tested, and he rose to the occasion. His story is told in the book, “The Titanic’s Last Hero”.
JOHN SHIRK -From Psalm 96, verse 3 and 4.
“Declare his glory among the nations, his marvelous deeds among all peoples. For great is the LORD and most worthy of praise. He is to be feared above all gods.”
The Bible is urging those who love God to make Him famous among the nations. One of the ways we do that is by talking about the LORD’s accomplishments. He has impressive credentials that draw attention to His glory. The power of His word is able to speak things into existence and transform hearts. By His powerful word, He created the heavens and earth. By His words of grace and truth, He stirs hearts to become new creations.
By His mighty hand, He divided the Red Sea to deliver the Israelites from the Egyptians efforts to capture them. By His merciful hand, Jesus was pierced at the cross, so that the children of God may be delivered from Satan’s efforts to capture them. God is using His church to spread the Word about His saving grace. We can tell someone today of the Lord’s marvelous deeds.
Declaring God’s glory is a vital sign of a changed life in the Year of Transformation.
JOHN SHIRK – From Romans 5:1.
Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.
Through faith in Jesus, hostility with God is replaced with peace. That is a process known as reconciliation. Two parties are required for this process to take place.
The problem began when we declared war on God by our sin-a war that we cannot win. God responded by sending His one and only Son to the world. He did not come to wage war against us or zap us, but to offer peace. Jesus absorbed God’s wrath against our sin. While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. This guilt offering paid by Christ was a peace offering to the world. When we receive this offer with a believing heart, we experience His peace. We renounce sinful ways.
We stop fighting God and start learning to follow Him. Sin no longer separates us because the grace of the Lord Jesus has restored us.
The implication of having peace with God means that we enjoy His friendship and favor.
Peace with God is a vital sign of a changed life in the Year of Transformation.