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 Moment of Celebration reflects on freedom in Christ.
Jesus said in John 8:36, “So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.”
There are reasons to cherish our political freedoms to vote, to speak out, and to publicly express our worship for God.
However, the greatest form of freedom is the kind that comes from knowing Jesus Christ. Here are some of the ways that Jesus sets us free.
In Christ we are set free to love people as He loves us. Galatians 5:13 talks about using our freedom to serve one another in love.
In Christ, we are set free from the penalty of our sin through God’s forgiveness. Romans 8:1 says “there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.”
In Christ, we are set free to know the truth of God’s will and do it. Jesus said, “If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”
Following God is our pathway to real and lasting freedom.
Freedom in Christ is a reason to be glad in the Year of Celebration.
JOHN SHIRK – Today’s Moment Of Celebration reflects on a family reunion in the Old Testament.
Joseph was estranged from his brothers. When Joseph was a teenager, his brothers hated him to the point that they were willing to sell him to foreign merchants. They received money in the process of getting rid of him.
Little did they know that many years later, Joseph would be the one man who had the power of whether they would live or die. A famine had covered the land. Joseph was in a place of leadership in Egypt to manage the food supplies that were stored away for such a time as the drought. Joseph’s brothers were dependent on Joseph to feed them.
Through our sin and mistreatment of Jesus, we were the reason that Jesus went to the cross. He did this willingly to demonstrate His mercy for unworthy sinners. He returned our contempt with His forgiveness. In this way, Joseph’s story is an example of how God can turn what is meant for evil with good.
Joseph said to his brothers in Genesis 50:20: “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.”
When God’s love heals fractured relationships, that is a reason to be glad in the Year of Celebration.
JOHN SHIRK – Today’s Moment of Celebration reflects on the blessing of forgiveness.
Psalm 32, verse 1 says, “Blessed is the one whose transgressions are forgiven, whose sins are covered. Blessed is the one whose sin the LORD does not count against them and in whose spirit is no deceit.”
This describes the person who has confessed their sins to God and confessed their need for His mercy. They are focused on walking with God with a humble heart. They do not make intentional plans that disregard God’s laws. Rather, they seek first His Kingdom and His righteousness. Their first love is for God, and that allegiance compels them to live for His glory.
The forgiveness of God offers us freedom from guilt. In the New Testament of the Bible, we learn that this forgiveness is available through faith in Jesus Christ. Romans 3:23 and 24 says, “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus.
The blessing of forgiveness is a reason to be glad in the Year of Celebration.
JOHN SHIRK – The redemption of Jesus as a Presidential Pardon.
Most presidents in our nation’s history have granted pardons. When this happens, a person who committed a crime is forgiven and restored to the innocence they had before they committed the crime. Their crime is not held against them.
That is the way it works with God’s forgiveness. For the person who looks to Jesus as Savior and Lord, He grants the pardon that releases them from the guilt of their sins.
Isaiah 55 explains how we can experience this life-saving pardon:
Verse 6 says, “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.”
The redemption of Jesus as a Presidential Pardon is a lesson of faith worth remembering.
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Matthew West is releasing a deluxe CD+DVD combo this week called “Into The Light”. It features stories behind the songs and LIVE performances from Matthew!
Listen to WJTL this week for chances to win Matthew West’s new “Into The Light” Deluxe combo…plus, we have a few other giveaways up our sleeve: “Hello My Name Is” tumblers, Matthew West’s new book “Forgiveness” and some of his other CD (“History”, “Something To Say” and “The Story Of Your Life”.)
DJs will let you know when it’s time to call in and win. Giveaways will happen Monday – Friday, August 12-16 from 6AM-10PM. You may want to put us on speed dial: 717-392-3690 (392-FM90).
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JOHN SHIRK – Forgiveness can be one of the hardest things to do and one of the most powerful things we can do.
God sent His Son to die a cruel death on the cross, and as He was dying, Jesus prayed for those who were putting Him to death. He said, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.” Someone nearby was noticing that Jesus was different, not like the others who were crucified. The centurion, who was a commander of 100 men in the Roman army, was near Jesus. When he heard Jesus cry and saw how he died, he said, “Surely, this man was the Son of God.” He probably would have heard that prayer for forgiveness that Jesus uttered on his behalf.
Forgiveness does not excuse sin as okay. Forgiveness does not give someone license to hurt us with the same actions again. Forgiveness does give someone a second chance, and forgiveness does release us from the attempt to seek revenge. Because we are sinners, we have a great need to be forgiven, and we have a need to forgive others.
In Luke 17:3 and 4, Jesus taught, “If your brother sins, rebuke him, and if he repents, forgive him. If he sins against you seven times in a day, and seven times comes back to you and says, ‘I repent’, forgive him.”
Forgiveness is a quality of love and is a lesson of faith worth remembering.
JOHN SHIRK – From First Timothy 1:15.
Words from the Apostle Paul, “Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance. Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners-of whom I am the worst.”
There are times in the New Testament when Paul gives us a window into his tainted past. His conversion to Christ was a dramatic transformation of character in a short time. In reflecting on his life, Paul realized that there were many sins of his that Jesus had forgiven.
In this verse, we can put our personal name in place of the word “sinners”. Christ Jesus came into the world to save….me. His grace is a gift for me to receive. There is nothing I can do to earn it, but I can receive His forgiveness by trusting in the name of Jesus and what He did for me at the cross.
When we experience His forgiveness, our burden of guilt is removed and we can truly appreciate and celebrate what Jesus has done for us.
Recognizing Jesus as our Savior from sin is a vital sign of a changed life in the Year of Transformation.
JOHN SHIRK – From Hebrews 9:22b.
“Without the shedding of blood, there is no forgiveness.”
This foundational truth points us to the reason why Jesus came to shed his blood for us. We have sinned against a holy God, and cannot save ourselves from the wages of sin, which is death. Only a hand beyond us could rescue us-a hand that is holy and nail-scarred. Up until the time of Christ, the blood of bulls and goats were sacrificed, but that was not really effective to forgive people’s sins. The Bible tells us that it is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins. That sacrificial system was only a shadow of things to come, not the real deal.
Verse 26 says that Christ has now appeared at the end of the ages to do away with sin by the sacrifice of himself. His blood, shed on the cross, was a sufficient payment for our sins. Because of what Jesus did at the cross, we have forgiveness of sins through faith in His name. With the guilt of our sins cleared away, the barrier has been removed, and we have freedom to walk with God as His follower and friend.
Trusting the blood of Christ for forgiveness is a vital sign of a changed life in the Year of Transformation.