JOHN SHIRK – In the Year of Exploration, today’s Reason to Believe is the contribution of Christian influence in the world.
Tim Keller has said that “the Christian worldview has made foundational contributions to our own culture that may not be readily apparent.”
As we look at history, we see how compassion prompted followers of Jesus to start orphanages, hospitals, and rescue missions.
Many colleges in our nation (including Ivy League schools) began with a Christian foundation.
Through the influence of Christ’s followers, slavery was abolished in some nations.
And missionaries have traveled to other nations to spread the message of salvation through Jesus Christ.
Many of these influences in society are still vibrant today, focusing on healing, serving, educating, and building communities for the glory of God. These are some of the ways that Christians have followed the words of Jesus to serve as salt in the earth and light in the world.
The contribution of Christian influence to our communities is a reason to believe in God’s good news.
JOHN SHIRK – Today’s Q and A Segment explores the question “How can I draw near to God?”
The writer of Psalm 73:28 said, “As for me, it is good to be near God. I have made the Sovereign LORD my refuge.”
You can sense peace and security in that statement, and when we experience that kind of intimacy with God, we recognize that there is no better place to be.
But sometimes we might feel far away from God. This might happen because trouble surrounds us. We need help, yet we feel alone. Those are times to speak truth to ourselves. This is what the writer of Psalm 42 said in a similar situation. He said, “Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God.”
At other times, we might feel far away from God because we have moved. In those cases, James 4:7 gives us this insight for moving closer to God. “Submit yourselves then to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you. Come near to God, and he will come near to you.”
Submission to God moves us closer to God where we can experience His peace once again in the Year of Exploration.
JOHN SHIRK – Today’s Q and A Segment explores the question, “What is the connection between the judgment seat of Christ and the Olympics?”
Second Corinthians 5:10 says that we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive what is due him, for the things done while in the body, whether good or bad.” Romans 14:12 says that each of us will give an account of ourselves to God.
This judgment seat of Christ is sometimes described as the Bema Seat. In Greek culture, the Bema seat was the place where the judges gave out awards after athletic competitions. This might be compared to the Olympic ceremonies where various medals are awarded to athletes.
A day is coming when believers in Christ will appear at the judgment seat of Christ to have our lives evaluated for the deeds we have done in the body. This is not a judgment to evaluate salvation. That is settled through faith in Jesus. The judgment seat of Christ will determine rewards, based on various types of faithful service.
The judgment seat of Christ is a future reality that motivates us to run for the prize of God’s lasting crown in the Year of Exploration.
JOHN SHIRK – In the Year of Exploration, today’s Reason to Believe is the dove.
This bird is a powerful symbol of the Christian faith in various ways.
The dove is a symbol of peace. After the storm in Noah’s day, it was a dove that brought back an olive branch signifying peace and the new start that God was offering the world.
The dove is a symbol of purity. Perhaps that is why Jesus instructed us to be innocent as doves as we share His gospel.
The dove is also a symbol of faithfulness. Turtle doves have a tendency to have one mate for life.
The dove is also a symbol for the Holy Spirit. At Jesus’ baptism, the Holy Spirit descended on Jesus in bodily form like a dove. Since doves tend to hover, that is probably how the Holy Spirit descended on Jesus, hovering over Him.
The characteristics of the dove highlight various dimensions of the Christian faith and are reasons to believe in God’s good news.
JOHN SHIRK – In the Year of Exploration, today’s Reason to Believe is the making of a disciple.
This process begins at the point of conversion to Christ, where faith begins to take root in the believer’s life. From that foundation, the new believer walks with Christ and learns to follow Him as Lord and Savior. As this happens, the believer in Christ grows in godly character and becomes a witness for Christ, testifying of His saving grace.
One of the compelling characteristics of the disciple’s progress is their spiritual growth, whereby they become more and more like Jesus in character. There is a reason for that.
In Luke 6:40, Jesus said, “The student is not above the teacher, but everyone who is fully trained will be like their teacher.”
The making of a disciple into the likeness of Christ is the result of adequate training from a qualified Teacher and is a reason to believe in God’s good news.
JOHN SHIRK – In the Year of Exploration, today’s Reasons to Believe are life, purpose and identity.
These three experiences of the Christian life are described in a single statement made by the Apostle Paul. When he was in Athens, he linked these experiences to a relationship with God. He said in
Acts 17:28, “In him, we live and move and have our being.”
In a relationship with God, we have life, eternally and abundantly through faith in Jesus Christ. Our spirit comes alive to God’s grace.
In a relationship with God, we move. He puts the purpose into the steps we take. That purpose is to glorify God. This focus will affect the choices we make day-to-day.
In a relationship with God, we have our being. As we know God as He is, we come to understand how He sees us. First John 3:1 says, “How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are!”
Life, Purpose, and Identity in Christ are reasons to believe in God’s good news.
JOHN SHIRK – In the Year of Exploration, today’s Reason to Believe is the influence of Christ on the calendar.
Today, in some circles, time is marked by “Common Era” and “Before Common Era”, otherwise known as C.E. and B.C.E.
But before this system was used, time was marked by B.C. and A.D. B.C. stands for “Before Christ” and A.D. stands for “Anno Domini” which means in the Year of our Lord. That system was designed hundreds of years after Christ was born, acknowledging Jesus Christ as the turning point of human history.
For the person who puts their faith in Christ, there is a turning point that leads to a new era. According to Second Corinthians 5:17, “If anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come. The old has gone, the new is here.” Christ has come. The days “Before Christ” are of the past. Each year beyond conversion becomes the year of the Lord’s favor.
The impact of Jesus on the calendar of our lives is a reason to believe in God’s good news.
JOHN SHIRK – Today’s Q and A Segment explores the question, “What is tithing, and what does the Bible say about it?”
Tithing is introduced in the Old Testament where the Israelites were instructed to bring ten percent of their income to the Lord in offerings.
In Malachi 3, the LORD compared failure to bring the whole tithe into the storehouse as an act of robbing Him. Jesus confirmed the value of tithing in Matthew 23, verse 23, but noted that there were more important matters of the law such as justice, mercy, and faithfulness. Jesus rebuked the teachers of the law for neglecting these more important matters of the law.
This is a good focus for us today, not to neglect the practice of tithing, but also to remember that there is more to following Christ than giving our ten percent.
The emphasis in the New Testament goes beyond numbers to the condition of the heart. Second Corinthians 9:7 says, “Each of you should give what you have decided in your heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.”
In this way, our tithes and generous gifts for the sake of God’s kingdom become fragrant offerings to God in the Year of Exploration.
JOHN SHIRK – In the Year of Exploration, today’s Reason to Believe is the Garden of Gethsemane.
This garden is located on the lower slope of the Mount of Olives and is the place where Jesus took His disciples just before he was arrested. This is a place that tourists can visit today.
The Garden of Gethsemane was a place where Jesus prayed earnestly in great anguish and entrusted Himself to the Father’s plan.
To get a sense of the deep burden that Jesus was carrying, Jesus said to three of His disciples, “My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death. Stay here and keep watch with me.” Jesus prayed, “My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will.”
The Garden of Gethsemane reminds us that our greatest spiritual battles are won when we are on our knees, in fellowship with God, entrusting ourselves to His redemptive purposes in our lives.
The Garden of Gethsemane is a reason to believe in God’s good news.
JOHN SHIRK – Today’s Q and A Segment explores the question, “How does God comfort the downcast?”
One way God comforts us in our sadness is that He gives us the hope of heaven, which reminds us that God has more joy to offer us than the world. Heaven is a future reality for anyone who follows Jesus.
God also provides comfort for the downcast in the present through the encouragement of His believers. An example of this is found in Second Corinthians 7:6, where the Apostle Paul says, “But God, who comforts the downcast, comforted us by the coming of Titus.” Through the arrival of Titus, Paul learned of the church’s ardent concern for him and their genuine sorrow about a situation in Corinth. Having a good relationship with the Corinthian church mattered to Paul. The report from Titus greatly encouraged him.
Look for ways that God can work through you to encourage someone who is downcast in the Year of Exploration.