In the Year of Connection, today’s Encounter with Jesus examines His letter to the church at Pergamum.
In Revelation 2:14, The main message to this church is to beware of falling into an immoral lifestyle. There was evidence of compromise in the church at Pergamum. The whole church was not infected, but some within the church were being corrupted. In His love for the church, Jesus calls the compromisers to repentance. To those who did not fall into false teachings or an immoral lifestyle, Jesus commends them for remaining true to His name.
Pergamum was identified as a place where Satan has his throne. Believers were in a tough place. There can be many temptations and different forms of persecution in communities where Satan has a stronghold. There was a hostile climate toward Christians in Pergamum as seen by the reference to the death of Antipas, who was a faithful witness for Jesus.
A daily connection with Christ calls to an uncompromising faith.
JOHN SHIRK – In the Year of Connection, today’s Encounter with Jesus examines His letter to the church at Smyrna.
In Revelation 2:9, His main message to this church is to commend them for their faithful witness. He says, “I know your afflictions and your poverty-yet you are rich.” “Do not be afraid of what you are about to suffer.” “Be faithful, even to the point of death, and I will give you the crown of life.”
The witness of this church reveals that followers of Christ will, at times, face persecution for our faith.
Polycarp was the bishop at Smyrna, and when he was 86 years of age, he was pressured to acknowledge Caesar as Lord. But Polycarp would not bow to the pressure. He said, “Eighty-six years I have served Christ, and He never did me any wrong. How can I blaspheme my King who saved me?” As a result of his stand for Jesus, Polycarp became a martyr for the faith.
A daily connection with Christ inspires faith and courage for times of testing.
JOHN SHIRK – In the Year of Connection, today’s Encounter with Jesus examines His letter to the church at Ephesus.
It appears in Revelation 2. This is the first of seven churches to receive a message from the Lord. Each message is different, but they reflect the character of the same God who is loving and holy.
The main message to the church at Ephesus is this: “You have persevered and have endured hardships for my name, and have not grown weary. Yet I hold this against you: You have forsaken your first love. Remember the height from which you have fallen! Repent and do the things you did at first. If you do not repent, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place.”
Here was a church that was still working for the Lord and enduring hardships. They were discerning truth from error among their teachers. However, over time, they lost their first love. They may have been going through the motions of the Christian life, but lost the delight of their service and their radiance.
Jesus loves this church, and because He cares, He calls them to return to the love they once had for Him-to recapture that sense of wonder of God’s amazing grace that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.
A daily connection with Christ calls us back to our first love.
JOHN SHIRK – Today’s Relationship-Building Principle comes from Galatians 6:6.
“Anyone who receives instruction in the word must share all good things with his instructor.”
There are at least three ways in which students of God’s Word can share all good things with our instructors.
The first way is to support them financially. According to the Bible, the worker is worth their wages, and this is true of those who work hard among us to teach us God’s Word. This will encourage our instructors to continue their good work as God provides their needs through our giving.
Another way to share good things with our instructor is to tell them how we are applying their lessons of faith into our lives. It shows we are attentive and receptive to their words. This reflects spiritual growth through their ministry.
Another way we can share good things with our instructor is to tell them how their teaching is shaping our character into the likeness of Jesus Christ. This reflects the good fruit of their ministry.
Sharing good things with our instructor is a vital relationship-building principle to take to heart in the Year of Connection.
JOHN SHIRK – Today’s Relationship-Building Principle comes from Philippians 4:2 and 3.
The writer was the Apostle Paul, and here he addresses a serious conflict between two women who love the Lord. He urges them to agree with each other.
Then he says, “I ask you, loyal yokefellow, help these women who have contended at my side in the cause of the gospel, along with Clement and the rest of my fellow workers, whose names are in the book of life.”
The identity of the loyal yokefellow is not immediately clear. However, it appears that this conflict is serious enough to require mediation. Paul is not taking sides on this conflict, but he is intensely interested in seeing them come to agreement. There are several things we can learn from this passage of Scripture.
1) It is entirely possible for sincere Christians to have disagreements.
2) Mediation may be necessary when the unity of believers is threatened.
3) It is important to make efforts to work through conflicts in a spirit of grace and truth.
4) Reconciliation is possible through the influence of Christ on conflicting parties.
Working through conflicts is a vital relationship-building principle to take to heart in the Year of Connection.
JOHN SHIRK – Today’s Relationship-Building Principle comes from Daniel 12:2 and 3.
“Multitudes who sleep in the dust of the earth will awake, some to everlasting life, others to shame and everlasting contempt. Those who are wise will shine like the brightness of the heavens, and those who lead many to righteousness, like the stars for ever and ever.”
As the light of the stars breaks the darkness of the night, so our witness for Jesus can break the darkness of doubt, despair, or deceit as we present Him as the way, the truth, and the life.
Each day is an opportunity to look for connections with people who need God’s saving grace, and then to share the reason for our hope in Christ.
Shining the light of God’s love in our sphere of influence is a vital relationship-building principle to take to heart in the Year of Connection.
JOHN SHIRK – In the Year of Connection, today’s Encounter with Jesus examines hope and purpose.
In Philippians 1:21, a follower of Jesus made this remarkable statement, “For to me, to live is Christ, and to die is gain.”
What did that statement mean for the Apostle Paul? He went on to elaborate that if he went on living in the body, that would mean fruitful labor for him. After he departed through death, he would be in the presence of Christ, which he described as “better by far.” He saw death as a promotion into heaven.
Yet, in the body, he recognized his purpose to spread the good news of Jesus to unbelievers and to build the body of Christ. His relationship with Jesus is what enabled Paul to live with this perspective.
A daily relationship with Christ inspires higher purpose and heavenly hope.
JOHN SHIRK – In the Year of Connection, today’s Encounter with Jesus examines His abundant grace.
Romans 8:31 asks the question, “If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all-how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things?”
Sometimes, people wonder where God is, or why He seems so distant. The truth is that God has spoken of His love to us when He sent Jesus to us. The death of Jesus on the cross was the offer of God’s grace to humanity, saying that our sins can be forgiven, and our relationship can be restored to God through faith in Jesus’ name.
In reality, we have run away from God with every sin that we ever committed. Woven throughout the Scriptures is the picture of God pursuing His people. He sought us out for relationship. He seeks to bless us, not to harm us. He is for us, not against us. How will we respond to His abundant grace? Jesus invites us to follow Him.
In saying yes to that invitation, we have the opportunity to enjoy His friendship and Heavenly treasures forever.
A daily connection with Christ gives us security in the arms of God’s grace.
JOHN SHIRK – Today’s Relationship-Building Principle comes from Jeremiah 22:15.
Josiah was the last righteous king in the land of Judah before their captivity in Babylon. The LORD said this about King Josiah:
“He did what was right and just, so all went well with him. He defended the cause of the poor and needy, and so all went well. Is that not what it means to know me?” declares the LORD.
His example was very different from his successor whose heart was set on dishonest gain, the shedding of innocent blood, oppression, and extortion.
Whatever platform God gives us, that is an opportunity to use our influence for good or evil. Having a relationship with God will move us to use that influence for good. In Josiah’s case, he defended the cause of the poor and needy, whereas his successor exploited them.
Helping those in poverty was a cause that united the early church, and it can be an effort that unites the church today.
Upholding the cause of the poor is a vital relationship-building principle to take to heart in the Year of Connection.
JOHN SHIRK – Today’s Relationship-Building Principle comes from Jonah 3:8 through 10.
After Jonah preached to the huge city of Nineveh, the people responded with prayer and repentance.
The king and his nobles said, “Let people and animals be covered with sackcloth. Let everyone call urgently on God. Let them give up their evil ways and their violence. Who knows? God may yet relent and with compassion turn from his fierce anger so that we will not perish.” When God saw what they did and how they turned from their evil ways, he relented and did not bring on them the destruction he had threatened.”
Whenever we give up sinful practices and turn toward God, we make a decision for life. In the case of Nineveh, one of the specific sins that they committed to give up was violence. Along with violence in a society, there is the presence of hatred for others, selfish ambition, envy, inconsideration for people and general disrespect for human life. Turning to God closes the door on these destructive attitudes and opens the door for His love to take root in our heart. This leads to a change of attitude that seeks to do good for our neighbors. Nineveh was a civilization that made a choice for life in the nick of time.
Prayer and Repentance are vital relationship-building principles to take to heart in the Year of Connection.
JOHN SHIRK – In the Year of Connection, today’s Encounter with Jesus examines His compassion.
The evidence of His compassion can be seen in the way He ministered to a crowd that followed Him.
In Luke 9, Jesus was taking His disciples to a place of retreat after a time of ministry. But, according to verse 11, the crowds learned about it and followed him. He welcomed them and spoke to them about the kingdom of God, and healed those who needed healing.
The Gospel of Mark describes the same event this way: “When Jesus landed and saw a large crowd, he had compassion on them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd. So he began teaching them many things.”
Compassion is the quality that welcomes people with God’s love. Compassion allows for flexibility to change plans in order to meet people at their point of need. Compassion also moves us to be a voice of hope and healing for those who need the grace of God.
A daily connection with Christ fills us with compassion for people who need hope and direction.