JOHN SHIRK – Today’s Moment of Celebration reflects on the steadfast, bold witness of the apostles.
When Jesus rose from the dead, He did not keep it a secret from His friends. According to First Corinthians 15:3, “Christ died for our sins, according to the Scriptures,…he was buried,….he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures….and he appeared to Peter, and then to the Twelve.” Here was a group of men who followed Jesus to Jerusalem, where they saw His suffering at the cross and the triumph of His resurrection. Brave souls will stand for the truth even in the face of persecution, but very few would die for a lie. Each of Jesus’ followers who saw Him alive again faced some type of persecution for their witness. Most of them died for their faith in Jesus.
In the life of the early church, the disciples went their separate ways, but they remained faithful to the mission of spreading the good news wherever they went. In their courageous witness for Jesus, they said to the governing authorities, who tried to silence them, “We must obey God rather than men.”
The steadfast, bold witness of Jesus’ followers is a reason to be glad in the Year of Celebration.
JOHN SHIRK – Today’s Moment of Celebration reflects on the empty tomb.
On the day of Pentecost, Peter preached a sermon that persuaded 3,000 people to come to faith in Christ. It was a moment when he preached the Gospel. In that sermon, Peter said in Acts 2:32, “God raised this Jesus to life, and we are all witnesses of the fact.”
This happened fifty days after the crucifixion of Jesus. If opponents wanted to prove Peter wrong, they could have pointed people to a tomb where they placed the body of Jesus. But the stone had been rolled away, and the tomb was empty. The empty tomb tells us that Jesus has defeated death and conquered the grave. He leads His followers to eternal life, not a mortal end. Jesus told His disciples in John 14:19, “Because I live, you also will live.”
The empty tomb of Jesus is a reason to be glad in the Year of Celebration.
JOHN SHIRK – Today’s Moment Of Celebration reflects on the signs of God’s creation.
Psalm 19:1 says that the heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands. Day after day they pour forth speech; night after night they display knowledge.
The stars in the universe are visible to us on a clear night. Isaiah 40:26 tells us that He not only created all these, but He also calls them each by name. Just as there are many stars in the universe, there are many people on this planet. God is big enough to keep order in the universe, while at the same time, remaining personal to know us by name. Just as the heavens declare the glory of God, so we also are called to reflect His glory.
When our faith is expressed in love and with gratitude, our witness for Jesus is compared to the stars of the universe, which reflect the glory of God.
The signs of God’s creation are reasons to be glad in the Year of Celebration.
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 the uplifting impact of wholesome words.
The Apostle Paul gave the church this instruction in Ephesians 4:29-“Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.”
This is relevant for the way we speak to other people, what we write in emails, and how we use social media. The use of blogs, Twitter, and Facebook can be used to edify other people, but these forms of communication are also used sometimes to air out complaints and grievances that hurt other people.
When communicating with others, Ephesians 4:29 gives us some good parameters to use when considering what to say and how to say it. Is what I am saying wholesome? Does it represent a holy God? Is what I am saying helpful? Will my words be timely and encouraging for building up their faith in the Lord? In the Kingdom of God, words matter, and when we use them wisely, God’s name is honored, God’s people are built up, and God’s foes are confronted with a new way of thinking that challenges them to embrace God’s love and stop resisting it.
The uplifting impact of wholesome words is a reason to be glad in the Year of Celebration.
JOHN SHIRK – Today’s Moment Of Celebration reflects on the righteous causes that spring from godly desires.
These are words from Psalm 37:4 to 6. “Delight yourself in the LORD and he will give you the desires of your heart. Commit your way to the LORD; trust in him, and he will do this: He will make your righteousness shine like the dawn, the justice of your cause like the noonday sun.”
When we are fully committed to God, there is a purpose that is stirred in our heart that moves us to action. That purpose is the Gospel. God gives His followers different forms of ministry to represent Jesus to the community. One person might have the calling to confront racism, while another person might have the desire to serve at a homeless shelter. Another person might be moved to speak up and defend those who have no voice to speak up for themselves. Where the Lord plants desires in our heart, He provides a platform to shed light on the justice of our cause. God-given desires become God’s opportunities to fulfill God’s purposes through us.
The righteous causes that spring from godly desires is a reason to be glad in the Year of Celebration.
JOHN SHIRK – Today’s Moment Of Celebration reflects on the significance of Pentecost.
In Acts 2, the Holy Spirit came in power at the time of a Jewish Feast, which commemorated when God spoke to Moses and gave the Ten Commandments to the Hebrews.
The Feast of Weeks also happened at the beginning of an agricultural season. One of the practices of this feast is to bring the firstfruits to God, as an acknowledgment of God’s gracious hand.
Just as the Feast of Weeks was a turning point for the Jews to receive the law, Pentecost became a turning point for the church to receive the Holy Spirit. The result was new life and the power that believers would need to be witnesses for Jesus. 3,000 people responded to Peter’s sermon on the day of Pentecost and experienced new life in Christ.
The significance of Pentecost is a reason to be glad in the Year of Celebration.
JOHN SHIRK – Today’s Moment Of Celebration reflects on a life directed by God.
One of the questions that graduates face is “what will I do with the rest of my life?” This is a significant question. The answer may depend on another question. “Who will lead us?”
Proverbs 3:5 and 6 are key passages that reveal how our lives can be directed by the wisdom of God’s plan.
“Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will direct your paths.” The next verse is also important for having a mindset that is ready to respond to the counsel of God.
“Do not be wise in your own eyes; fear the LORD and shun evil.”
For moral decisions, there is clarity available in the commandments of God.
For career decisions, there is guidance available in the hand of God.
For decisions that build relationships, there is help available in the love of God.
Having our paths directed by God is a reason to be glad in the Year of Celebration.
JOHN SHIRK – One of the benefits of living in this moment of human history is that we can look back at the Bible characters of the past who were faithful to the Lord and be motivated by their witness. This week, we examine some of faith’s heroes in Hebrews 11.
Today’s Moment Of Celebration reflects on the faith of Abraham.
Hebrews 11:8 says, “By faith, Abraham, when called to go to a place he would later receive as his inheritance, obeyed and went, even though he did not know where he was going.”
It was the voice of the LORD that was calling Abraham out of his comfort zone to unknown territory. One of the reassuring promises that God gave Abraham was, “I will bless you. I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing.” God delivered on His promises to Abraham.
Faith does not normally see the big picture of God’s plans, but is willing to trust God step by step, because we believe that moving forward into the unknown with God is better than staying in our comfort zone without Him.
When someone obeys God’s calling, that is a reason to be glad in the Year of Celebration.
JOHN SHIRK – Today’s Moment Of Celebration reflects on what happens in the Year of the Lord’s favor
Isaiah 61 contains words that would eventually be fulfilled by Jesus. The Spirit of the LORD is on me, because the LORD has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners, to proclaim the year of the LORD’s favor.
When Jesus came to earth, He fulfilled these words. This is where Jesus stopped when He read the scroll from Isaiah. During His earthly ministry, we learn that Jesus healed the sick, encouraged the brokenhearted, and preached the Gospel. He drew crowds with His miracles, and gained enemies by claiming to be God’s Anointed One. In the favor of the LORD, we find the light of hope, the source of healing, and the freedom of forgiveness.
The favor of the LORD is a reason to be glad in the Year of Celebration.