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.
JOHN SHIRK – In the Year of Connection, today’s Encounter with Jesus examines the life-changing impact of His grace.
This is evident in the life of the Apostle Paul, whose conversion to Christ stirred the early church to praise God.
Reflecting on those early days as a follower of Christ, Paul said in Galatians 1:22, “I was personally unknown to the churches of Judea that are in Christ. They only heard the report: ‘The man who formerly persecuted us is now preaching the faith he once tried to destroy. And they praised God because of me.”
At one time, Paul brought harm to the church. After conversion, he would be an instrument to help the church.
At one time, Paul sought to destroy the church. After conversion, he would be an instrument to build the church.
At one time, Paul held hatred in his heart for Christians. After conversion, he would be filled with love for the followers of Jesus.
A daily connection with Christ motivates us to bless God’s people and build up His church.
JOHN SHIRK – In the Year of Connection, today’s Encounter with Jesus examines His identity and love.
The Apostle John was one of the key witnesses to the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus.
He wrote in First John 4:14, “We have seen and testify that the Father has sent his Son to be the Savior of the world. If anyone acknowledges that Jesus is the Son of God, God lives in them and they in God. And so we know and rely on the love God has for us.”
Jesus came to the world to be our Savior. He specifically came to save His people from their sins. We belong to His family through faith in His name.
Jesus also came as God’s One and Only Son. The voice of the Father came from heaven at the baptism of Jesus to say, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him, I am well pleased.”
Jesus also came as God’s gift and the fullest expression of His love that this world has ever known. John 3:16 says that 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.
A daily connection with Christ reinforces our trust in His love and identity.
JOHN SHIRK – Today’s Relationship-Building Principle comes from Isaiah 55:6 and 7.
Seek the LORD while he may be found; call on him while he is near. Let the wicked forsake his way and the evil man his thoughts. Let him turn to the LORD and he will have mercy on him, and to our God, for he will freely pardon.
Billy Graham says that no sin is too big or too small for God to forgive. He says all people have to do is repent with open hearts and accept His forgiveness. At Christian today dot com, this is the passage that he quotes to shed light on God’s approach to forgiveness.
Recognizing our need for forgiveness is the starting place to get right with God. We are sinners in need of a God who can rescue us from our sin. As we recognize the purpose of the cross, we come to understand that there is power in the blood of Jesus to cleanse us from our sin. God’s pardon frees us from our guilt and clears the way for us to have a relationship with God. Faith in Jesus Christ opens the door for this relationship to thrive. He is our turning point to experiencing the forgiveness of God.
Forsaking wicked ways and turning to the Lord are vital relationship-building principles to take to heart in the Year of Connection.
JOHN SHIRK – Today’s Relationship-Building Principle comes from James 5:19 and 20.
“My brothers and sisters, if one of you should wander from the truth and someone should bring that person back, remember this: Whoever turns a sinner from the error of their way will save them from death and cover over a multitude of sins.”
The Gospel is a message of restoration. We have kept God at an arm’s length by our sinfulness, but God pursues us to save us from our sins and restore us to Him. God’s grace is the remedy for this separation.
Whenever we see someone wander from God, that is our opportunity to reach out to them with God’s love. Sometimes, a person who wanders away feels judged by the church. They might feel the sting of gossip or the weight of condemnation. What they need is grace that extends patience and kindness. Henry Ward Beecher said that “compassion will cure more sins than condemnation.”
Is there a person you can identify who needs the pursuit of grace?
Pursuing the spiritual drifter with God’s grace 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 appointing of His disciples.
In Mark 3:13 and 14, we gain insight into Jesus’ purpose for appointing certain men to be His disciples.
Jesus went up on a mountainside and called to him those he wanted, and they came to him. He appointed twelve-designating them apostles-that they might be with him and that he might send them out to preach and to have authority to drive out demons.
There is a process involved in the making of a disciple to become a disciple-maker. An effective leader in the church learns to follow Jesus. This is more than just the initial experience of accepting Jesus as Savior and Lord. This is a moment-by-moment walk with Him, where He leads us with His wisdom, and we say yes to His plan for our lives. The disciples underwent a few years of spiritual training, learning the ways of God’s Kingdom as they got to know Jesus personally. After spending considerable time with Him, and witnessing His resurrection from the dead, they would embark upon the next chapter of their calling, which was to be witnesses of the Gospel and leaders in the early church. They were faithful to the task and were used of God in extraordinary ways to persuade people to follow Jesus.
A daily connection with Christ is the key to being an influence for the Gospel.
JOHN SHIRK – Today’s Relationship-Building Principle comes from Second Timothy 1:16:
“May the Lord show mercy to the household of Onesiphorus because he often refreshed me and was not ashamed of my chains.”
These were the words of the Apostle Paul concerning someone who was a consistent friend. In life, there are fair weather friends and true blue friends. Fair weather friends stay for a season, but tend to bail out when life gets hard. Their friendship might be conditional on what we can offer them. When we can no longer offer what they seek from us, the relationship drifts apart.
That is not the way of the true blue friend. Onesiphorus was that kind of friend for Paul. Not only did he stand by Paul in the midst of his imprisonment, he actively searched for Paul when he was in Rome. A true blue friend will move closer when we face times of adversity such as sickness, weakness, depression, temptation, or persecution.
A true blue friend is a reliable friend who refreshes the spirit.
Being a true blue friend is a vital relationship-building principle to take to heart in the Year of Connection.
JOHN SHIRK – Today’s Relationship-Building Principle comes from Isaiah 1:17.
The LORD says, “Learn to do right! Seek justice, encourage the oppressed. Defend the cause of the fatherless, plead the case of the widow.
In applying this principle to situations today, it means taking a stand against bullying and being an advocate for those who are bullied. It means taking a stand against human trafficking, and being an advocate for those who are victims. It means being an advocate for the homeless, the orphan, and the widow, which may take us down the road to volunteerism, adoption, or some kind of sponsorship.
With such great need, there is much to do with the time that we have on this earth to be the hands and feet of Jesus. By ourselves, we cannot change the world. But through the grace of Christ, we can make a difference for someone in a place of need. As we commit our ways to God, listen to the burdens of our heart, and look for opportunities to make a difference, we can be encouraged by this truth in Psalm 37:6-“He will make your righteousness shine like the dawn, the justice of your cause like the noonday sun.”
Encouraging the oppressed 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 14:21.
“He who despises his neighbor sins, but blessed is he who is kind to the needy.”
To despise our neighbor would violate the second greatest commandment in all of Scripture, which is to love our neighbor as ourselves. God calls His people to live with neighborly love-the kind that seeks God’s blessing on their lives and treats them with respect and consideration. Building relationships with our neighbors is a significant step to demonstrating the love of Jesus to them. Our neighbor might be considered the family that lives next to us, but they also might be whoever happens to be next to us at a given time.
A blessing is granted from the Lord for the person who is kind to the needy. We have opportunity to do this in various ways. Proverbs 22:9 talks about the generous man sharing his food with the poor. Proverbs 31:9 promotes defending the rights of the poor. Psalm 15:5 promotes lending to the poor without charging excessive interest. The general idea is to be openhanded and not tightfisted toward the poor.
Loving our neighbors and being kind to the needy are vital relationship-building principles to take to heart in the Year of Connection.