JOHNSHIRK-In the Year of Connection, today’s encounter with Jesus examines a very important question.
One time when Jesus was with His disciples, He asked them, “Who do people say the Son of Man is?”
Their reply, “Some say John the Baptist, others say Elijah, and still others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.”
Then Jesus took that question and made it more personal. “What about you? Who do you say I am?”
That is when Simon Peter spoke up, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.”
The response of Jesus is significant, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah, for this was not revealed to you by man, but by my Father in heaven.”
Who do we think Jesus is? This is the question that confronts us today. If we agree with Peter’s response, that will shape our identity, our purpose, and our destiny.
A daily connection with Christ will open our eyes to see the true identity of Jesus.
JOHN SHIRK – In the Year of Connection, today’s Encounter with Jesus examines His power to forgive.
First John 1:8 and 9 says, “If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.”
Confession is simply agreeing with God that we are sinners in need of His grace. There are no secrets that we can keep from God. He knows everything about us already, so nothing we tell Him about ourselves will surprise Him. Jesus is ready to offer us mercy when we approach Him with humility and honesty. Confession is how we bring the darkness into the light, and remove the barriers that keep us from experiencing the joy of God’s spiritual blessings.
First John 2:1 says, “If anybody does sin, we have one who speaks to the Father in our defense-Jesus Christ, the Righteous One.”
A daily connection with Christ gives us a place to turn for complete forgiveness and purification.
JOHN SHIRK – In the Year of Connection, today’s Encounter with Jesus examines His role as our high priest.
One of the functions of the high priest in the Old Testament was to enter the Most Holy Place once a year to make atonement for himself and the people. The high priest would offer animal blood as sacrifices year after year, which did not have the power to take away sin. Then came Jesus who offered Himself for our sins once for all. His blood was payment enough to take our sin away. His grace is sufficient for our need.
Hebrews 4:14 says, “Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has gone through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold firmly to the faith we profess. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are-yet was without sin. Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.”
In our times of weakness and temptations, Jesus will be our source of strength if we turn to Him. He is able to turn our weaknesses into strengths, so that when people see the change in our lives, they see the power of Christ making the difference.
A daily connection with Christ gives us constant access to the throne of grace.
JOHN SHIRK – Today’s Relationship-Building Principle comes from Psalm 46:10.
Be still and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations. I will be exalted in the earth.
Psalm 46 is about looking to God in faith through circumstances that would normally melt hearts with fear.
There are references to earthquakes and tsunamis found here. Nations are in uproar. Kingdoms fall. Desolations are found on the earth.
The world suffers the consequences from humanity’s sin problem, and those consequences include disasters and armed conflict between nations. In the midst of such upheaval, God invites us to find hope and strength in the everlasting arms of God’s grace. That is where we find security for our soul. That is where we find peace in the eye of the storm. The world is not spinning out of His control. God is on the throne, and this will be clearly evident to everyone in the course of time.
Isaiah 30:15 says, “In repentance and rest is your salvation, in quietness and trust is your strength.”
Depending on God in times of trouble is a vital relationship-building principle to take to heart in the Year of Connection.
JOHN SHIRK – Today’s Relationship-Building Principle comes from Acts 10:34 and 35.
Peter said, “I now realize how true it is that God does not show favoritism, but accepts men from every nation who fear him and do what is right.”
Peter made this statement at the house of Cornelius, who was a military commander in the Roman army. Cornelius was a Gentile, and Peter was a Jew. Peter had the opportunity to share the Gospel with Cornelius and his household. At the same time, Peter was learning that this Gospel was not confined to national boundaries, but would be good news to all who embraced the testimony of Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord.
This truth could be instrumental in stopping racism today. The starting place for mending strained relations of any kind is opening our heart to the love of God.
Embracing God’s love for people of every race and nationality is a vital-relationship building principle to take to heart in the Year of Connection.
JOHN SHIRK – Today’s Relationship-Building Principle comes from Malachi 4:5 and 6.
“See I will send you the prophet Elijah before that great and dreadful day of the LORD comes. He will turn the hearts of the fathers to their children, and the hearts of the children to their fathers; or else I will come and strike the land with a curse.”
Elijah was used of God in a mighty way to stir revival among the Israelites. At Mount Carmel, he challenged the people, “How long will you waver between two opinions? If the Lord is God, follow him; but if Baal is God, follow him.”
There is often a connection between moral decay in society and the breakdown of the family. Similarly, where revival happens in society, the family unit is strengthened. Whenever we take a stand for the Lord or bring family members to a point of reconciliation, our actions resemble the ministry of Elijah.
Standing for God and family 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 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.