JOHN SHIRK – In the Year of Connection, today’s Encounter with Jesus examines one of the parables He taught from Luke 14.
“A certain man was preparing a great banquet and invited many guests. At the time of the banquet he sent his servant to tell those who had been invited, ‘Come, for everything is now ready.’ But they all alike began to make excuses. One said, “I just bought a field, another I just bought oxen, another, I just got married.”
The invitations went out, but the invited guests had other priorities. Parables are stories about the kingdom of God. Jesus is talking about the great banquet that God is preparing for His people in heaven. Yet, when the value of this invitation is not fully appreciated, we tend to make excuses for not accepting this invitation. We have business to run. We have plans to make. We have places to go, and people to see.
But if we stop and consider the treasure of His grace, and how His love brings refreshment to our soul, and restoration with God, the incentive for saying “Yes” outweighs our excuses for saying “no.”
God’s grace continues to reach out with the simple invitation to come to Jesus, and to trust Him as Savior and Lord. He desires for His house to be full. There is room for you.
A daily connection with Christ leads to a celebration of His love and the eternal life that He gives.
JOHN SHIRK – In the Year of Connection, today’s Encounter with Jesus examines His encouragement to a disciple overwhelmed by His holiness.
It happened in Luke 5. Simon was fishing all night long, but did not catch anything. At Jesus’ instruction, he let down the nets in deeper water, and caught a boatload of fish. It’s a remarkable event that shows the futility of our efforts without Christ, and the effectiveness of our efforts with the help of Christ.
When Simon saw what happened, he fell at Jesus’ knees and said, “Go away from me, Lord; I am a sinful man.” But Jesus said, “Don’t be afraid; from now on you will catch men.” So Simon and his friends pulled their boats up on shore, left everything and followed Jesus.
We may relate to Simon’s internal struggle. In the presence of Jesus and His holiness, we may feel unworthy to be called one of His followers. However, that is the kind of person that Jesus is ready to bless with a productive purpose in the Kingdom of God. He will not shame us when we recognize our sinfulness. Instead, He will lift us out of our shame by inviting us to follow Him. He will replace our fears of punishment with faith in His unfailing love.
A daily connection with Christ gives our life meaningful purpose as we follow Jesus.
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 – In the Year of Connection, today’s Encounter with Jesus examines His resurrection appearance to Thomas.
One of Jesus’ disciples was skeptical that Jesus actually rose from the dead. Jesus had appeared to the other disciples, but not Thomas. When the disciples told Thomas that they had seen the Lord, he responded by saying, “Unless I see the nail marks in his hands and put my finger where the nails were, and put my hand into his side, I will not believe it.” For Thomas, seeing was believing.
A week later, Jesus appeared to His disciples. This time, Thomas was with them. Jesus said to Thomas, “Put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Stop doubting and believe.”
Thomas said to him, “My Lord and my God!” In that moment, Thomas would have seen the evidence that Jesus is alive. He would have also seen the evidence of His love for Thomas. The nail marks revealed the price that Jesus paid for our sins. There is no expression of love more powerful and life-changing.
Jesus said to Thomas, “Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.” That blessing extends to you if you believe the good news of His resurrection.
A daily connection with Christ causes our doubt and skepticism to be overcome by faith and worship.
JOHN SHIRK – In our Relationship-Building Principles, we are examining some of the ways Jesus’ followers can be effective witnesses for the Gospel.
One way is the Testimonial approach.
This is when we tell other people how God has specifically changed our lives with the touch of His grace. This might happen in a setting where we are sharing one-on-one with a friend. Or we might share our testimony in a church meeting.
In John 9, a man who was blind from birth was given sight. When the Pharisees asked him about this, he said about Jesus, “He put mud on my eyes and I washed, and now I see.”
Our testimony is where our story and God’s grace meet. When people hear and see the difference that Jesus makes in our lives, they have opportunity to see how Jesus can also change their lives in a profound way.
Psalm 66:16 says, “Come and hear, all you who fear God; let me tell you what he has done for me.”
Taking the testimonial approach of sharing the Gospel is a vital relationship-building principle to take to heart in the Year of Connection.
JOHN SHIRK – Today’s Moment Of Celebration reflects on the gift of God’s love.
John 3:16 is one of the most quoted verses of the Bible. It’s a fitting verse for the Christmas season and the Easter season. It’s a fitting verse to describe how someone can be born again into the family of God.
“For 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.”
Here we see God’s love freely given to us as a gift through Jesus Christ. For a gift to be a gift, there needs to be a giver and a receiver. God clearly gave. That gift is ours to receive. This is why the Christmas season is so special among those who receive Jesus as Savior and Lord. We recognize that without the treasure of God’s grace, we would be lost in our sin and without God because sin separates us from God. But when Jesus enters our world, His light invades the darkness of our soul. Despair is replaced with hope. Doubt and fear are replaced with faith. Selfishness is replaced by love. In Jesus, we find the freedom to experience abundant and eternal life with Him. God invites us to say “Yes” to His invitation to live with Him forever.
The gift of God’s love through Jesus Christ is a reason to be glad in the Year of Celebration.
JOHN SHIRK – Today’s Moment Of Celebration reflects on Gabriel’s prophecy of Jesus.
Gabriel was an angel who was given the task of telling Mary that she would give birth to Jesus.
He says in Luke 1:32, “He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever; his kingdom will never end.”
This is a reference to Jesus as the king of Israel. Many kings had reigned over Israel in the past, but each of them had their blemishes. Even David, who was well-respected and regarded as a man after God’s own heart, had his faults. Nations today continue to have leaders with their faults and limitations. They make mistakes, and they do not stick around forever.
Jesus is different. His character is unblemished, and His kingdom will be without end. He is a capable king, not just for Israel, but also for our souls. His fame will never fade. It will only grow in the course of time. We can trust Him to save us from our sins, and lead us with grace and wisdom.
Gabriel’s prophecy of Jesus to be a great king is a reason to be glad in the Year of Celebration.
JOHN SHIRK -Today’s Moment Of Celebration reflects on good and perfect gifts.
James 1:17 tells us that “every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.”
Here we see that God is the giver of all good gifts. Some of those gifts might be tangible things. First Timothy 6 tells us that God is the One who provides us with everything for our enjoyment. But this blessing comes with a caution for us not to put our hope in wealth, but rather to put our hope in God. Love the Giver more than the gift.
Some of the good gifts provided by God might be resources that we need to survive. Acts 14:17 says, “He has shown kindness by giving you rain from heaven and crops in their seasons; he provides you with plenty of food and fills your hearts with joy.” This, too is a blessing from God and a reason to give thanks.
Some of His gifts are perfect. Jesus is the perfect remedy for our sin. God so loved the world that He gave His One and Only Son. The Holy Spirit is the perfect power source for living the Christian life. Jesus said in Luke 11, “how much more will your Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him?”
Every good and perfect gift from God is a reason to be glad in the Year of Celebration.
JOHN SHIRK – Today’s Moment Of Celebration reflects on the holiness of God.
The angels make this declaration in Isaiah 6, “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord Almighty. The whole earth is full of his glory.” It was the kind of statement that caused Isaiah to feel doomed as a sinner. Yet, God’s holiness was accompanied by His compassion, and that makes all the difference for anyone who has sinned against God. Instead of being condemned as a sinner, he would be called into service as a saint. The holiness of God had a purifying impact on Isaiah, and it has a purifying impact on those who belong to Jesus.
The holiness of God refers to His absolute moral purity. There is no sin in Him. His glory shines with brilliance. God’s holiness also refers to His greatness. He is a cut above the rest. No persons or idols match the worth of God to the human soul.
One of God’s purposes for our lives is to make us holy, not in the sense that we are able to attain to His level of greatness, but in the sense of purifying our faith by the Word of God. His holiness becomes an incentive for us to grow in holiness. First Peter 1:15 and 16 says, “Just as he who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do, for it is written, “be holy, because I am holy.” Heaven celebrates the supreme holiness of God constantly.
The holiness of God is a reason to be glad in the Year of Celebration.
JOHN SHIRK – Today’s Moment Of Celebration reflects on the peace of a faith-focused thought life.
In Philippians 4, the Apostle Paul listed a number of healthy habits that lead to peace with God.
One healthy habit was to rejoice in the Lord always.
Another healthy habit was to present our prayer requests to God with thanksgiving.
Another thing we can do is learn from those in places of spiritual authority-to listen to their teachings, to watch how they live, and follow their example as they follow Christ.
Verse 8 talks about yet another healthy habit that brings peace to our soul. “Whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable-if anything is excellent or praiseworthy-think about such things.”
When we think about Jesus, we are thinking of these qualities, because He defines them. When our minds are focused on Christ, we remember that our lives are in the hands of Someone who loves us very much and has proved it at the cross and empty grave.
The peace of a faith-focused thought life is a reason to be glad in the Year of Celebration.