JOHN SHIRK – In the Year of Connection, today’s Encounter with Jesus examines His great commission.
It happens in Matthew 28, just before He ascended to heaven. He told the disciples: “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore, go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely, I am with you always to the very end of the age.”
Jesus was commissioning His followers into a mission of disciple-making that would leave an impact on the world for many generations to follow. These men were not the religious scholars of their day, but they did spend time with Jesus, and that made all the difference in their bold proclamation of the Gospel. Acts 4:13 says that when the religious leaders saw the courage of two of Jesus’ disciples, (Peter and John), and realized that they were unschooled, ordinary men, they were astonished and they took note that these men had been with Jesus.
We do not have to be scholars to be effective witnesses of the Gospel, but we do need a relationship with Jesus. We need His help and we need His love, because being a disciple-maker is a God-sized mission.
A daily connection with Christ gives us the courage to speak for Him.
JOHN SHIRK – Today’s Relationship-Building Principle comes from Second Timothy 4:7.
At the end of his life, Paul the Apostle said, “I have fought the good fight. I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.”
Here was a man who finished his life well. Paul could reflect on his journey as a Christian, and say that he fulfilled what God had called him to do on the earth.
It is believed that Abraham Lincoln once made this statement: “In the end, it’s not the years in your life that count. It’s the life in your years.”
The Apostle Paul was full of life during his ministry years, following Jesus and preaching His good news. In Philippians 1:21, he said, “For to me, to live is Christ.” Elsewhere, he said in Philippians 3:13 and 14, “One thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead. I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.” Paul lived with a singular purpose of living for Christ, and pursuing God’s plan for his life. At the end, he could reflect on a life of productive faithfulness to the Gospel while he lived on the earth and depart without regrets.
Keeping the faith 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 the parable of a Pharisee and tax collector.
In Luke 18, Jesus told this story to some people who were confident of their own righteousness and looked down on everybody else.
“Two men went up to the temple to pray. One was a Pharisee, and the other was a tax collector. The Pharisee stood up and prayed about himself: “God, I thank you that I am not like the other men-robbers, evildoers, adulterers-or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get.”
But the tax collector stood at a distance. He would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast, and said, ‘God, have mercy on me, a sinner.” Jesus said that this man rather than the Pharisee, went home justified before God.
A daily connection with Christ takes us to a humble place of recognizing our need for God’s mercy every single day.
JOHN SHIRK – Today’s Relationship-Building Principle comes from Genesis 50:20.
Joseph was a godly man with great influence in the land of Egypt. His brothers had rejected him when he was a teenage boy. They were jealous of him and would not speak kindly to him. Many years later, they needed his help. When his brothers came to Egypt seeking relief from the famine, they made their appeal to Joseph, who had a choice to make. He could let the past embitter him against his brothers, or he could forgive them and offer them aid.
Joseph returned their hostility with kindness. This is a pattern similar to how God treats a world that has treated Him with hostility because of our sin. He has responded by offering us grace. He sent Jesus to the world, whose sacrifice on the cross overcame evil with good.
Near the end of his life, Joseph could look back and see the wisdom of God’s plan through the good, bad, and the ugly. He said to his brothers, “You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives. So then, don’t be afraid. I will provide for you and your children. And he reassured them and spoke kindly to them.” That is an expression of undeserved grace, the kind of grace that can restore broken relationships.
Overcoming evil with good is a relationship-building principle to take to heart in the Year of Connection.
JOHN SHIRK – Today’s Relationship-Building Principle comes from Acts 14:26.
This chapter of the Bible traces the missionary adventures of Paul and Barnabas as they went to different places to share the Gospel. Eventually, they went back to Antioch, which was their launching point.
As they arrived, they gathered the church together to report all that God had done through them and how He had opened the door of faith to the Gentiles. And they stayed there a long time with the disciples.
When missionaries return to their launching point, the church that supports their work, they have the opportunity to share what God is doing through their work, and the church has the opportunity to celebrate with the missionary. Praise reports from the mission field have a way of showing the church how their support is making a difference for the Gospel, and energizes the church to continue supporting the work of missions.
This can happen on a personal level between friends too, where we share how we have seen God at work, and encourage one another to keep shining the light of the Gospel by being a faithful witness for Jesus.
Sharing praise reports of how God is at work 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 our restoration to God through His blood.
When Jesus died on the cross, the curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom. God was providing a way for us to enter into relationship with Him through the blood of Jesus.
Hebrews 10:19 says, “Therefore, brothers and sisters, since we have confidence to enter the Most Holy Place by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way opened for us through the curtain, that is, his body, and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near to God with a sincere heart and with the full assurance that faith brings….”
The sacrifice of Jesus for us means that we have access to His throne of grace. We can pray to Him with a believing heart and have confidence that He loves us and hears the cries from our heart.
A daily connection with Christ enables us to draw near to God the Father and to live with confidence in Him.
JOHN SHIRK – In the Year of Connection, today’s Encounter with Jesus examines His presence as the central focus of our lives.
In Mark 3:32, Jesus was the center of attention, when his family members came to take charge of him. At that time, they thought that Jesus was out of his mind.
There was a crowd sitting around him, and they told Jesus, “Your mother and brothers are outside looking for you.”
Jesus used this opportunity to identify the members of His spiritual family. He looked at those seated in a circle around him and said, “Here are my mother and my brothers! Whoever does God’s will is my brother and sister and mother.”
What was happening there in the physical sense is where His church is blessed in the spiritual sense-We gather together with Jesus as the central focus of our faith, revolving around His agenda for our lives rather than the other way around.
A daily connection with Christ will lead us to a Christ-centered life.
JOHN SHIRK – Today’s Relationship-Building Principle comes from First Kings 8:28.
Solomon prayed, “Give attention to your servant’s prayer and his plea for mercy, O LORD my God. Hear the cry and the prayer that your servant is praying in your presence this day.”
This is the verse connecting with the theme for the National Day of Prayer today-“Lord, Hear Our Cry.”
This theme emphasizes our need to trust in the unfailing character of God, who is sovereign over all governments, authorities, and people. The National Honorary Chairman, Dr. Jack Graham, has written a prayer for this special occasion. This is part of that prayer:
“We come to You in the Name that is above every name-Jesus Christ our Lord and Savior. Our hearts cry out to You. Knowing that You are a prayer-answering, faithful God-the One we trust in times like these-we ask that You renew our spirits, revive our churches, and heal our land. We repent of our sins and ask for Your grace and power to save us. Hear our cry, oh God, and pour out Your Spirit upon us that we may walk in obedience to Your Word. In Jesus’ name, our Savior, Amen.”
Humbling ourselves to Pray for our nation is a vital relationship-building principle to take to heart in the Year of Connection.
JOHN SHIRK-Today’s Relationship-Building Principle comes from Proverbs 14:34.
“Righteousness exalts a nation, but sin is a disgrace to any people.”
Peace flows out of a climate where worship for God is sincere and His Gospel is lived out with love and integrity. But when sin takes root in a civilization, the door is open for division and disorder.
On a recent Probe program, Kirby Anderson pointed out the stages that civilizations pass through on their way to greatness and eventual decline. As nations ascend to greatness, they pass through the stages of spiritual faith, great courage, liberty, and abundance.
On their way toward decline, civilizations typically pass through the stages of selfishness, complacency, apathy, and moral decay.
What is your prayer request for the nation that you live in? History and Biblical wisdom highlight the value of righteousness to strengthen a nation and reflect God’s glory. Psalm 33:12 says, “Blessed is the nation whose God is the LORD.”
Righteousness is a relationship-building principle to take to heart in the Year of Connection.
JOHN SHIRK – Today’s Relationship-Building Principle comes from First Timothy 2:1-4.
“I urge, then, first of all, that requests, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for everyone-for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness. This is good and pleases God our Savior, who wants all men to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth.”
In a world where many opinions are expressed in the public square, it is important to remember the power of prayer expressed in the privacy of a closet. This Scripture is an invitation to pray on behalf of others, including people in positions of authority such as church leaders, government leaders, business leaders, teachers, and parents. Our prayers to God have a way of changing our own attitude toward people. William Law once said, “There is nothing that makes us love a man so much as praying for him.” That is because in intercession, our heart becomes more aligned with God’s heart for that person. However God responds to our prayers for someone, we know this: God is pleased by our petitions, and works in response to our prayers to bring souls into God’s Kingdom.
Prayer is a vital relationship-building principle to take to heart in the Year of Connection.
JOHN SHIRK – Today’s Relationship-Building Principle comes from Third John, verse 14b.
Peace to you. The friends here send their greetings. Greet the friends there by name.
It may be challenging to remember the names of the people we meet, but calling people by name is often a bridge-builder. In a climate where businesses often identify us by number, it is refreshing to be known by our name. This is the way of God toward His creation.
The Bible says He knows the stars by name. Do you know how many stars are in the universe? According to Nick Vujicic of Life Without Limbs, astronomers estimate there are 3 hundred sextillion stars in the universe, which amounts to 3 with 23 zeroes after it. Psalm 147, verse 4 says about the LORD, “He determines the number of stars and calls them each by name.”
He is not just personally familiar with the stars. He is also personally familiar with His people. David wrote in Psalm 139, “You have searched me and you know me….” And verse 3 says, “You are familiar with all my ways.” So, when we greet each other by name, we are reflecting the personal friendship that the Lord offers us.
Greeting friends by name is a relationship-building principle to take to heart in the Year of Connection.