JOHN SHIRK – In the Year of Exploration, today’s Reason to Believe is the providence of God.
Providence refers to the guiding hand of God moving in the events of our lives with His wisdom and love.
An example of God’s providence in the Bible was the encounter of Cornelius and Peter for a redemptive purpose. Both Cornelius and Peter were experiencing a vision from God close together for the purpose of bringing them together. Each person had something to learn from the other.
From Peter, Cornelius and his relatives heard the good news of Jesus and received the Holy Spirit.
From Cornelius, Peter learned that God’s grace was available not just for the Jews, but also the Gentiles. He said in Acts 10:34, “I now realize how true it is that God does not show favoritism, but accepts from every nation the one who fears him and does what is right.”
The Providence of God orchestrates the circumstances of our lives with Divine appointments, and is a reason to believe in God’s good news.
JOHN SHIRK – In the Year of Exploration, today’s Reason to Believe is the peace that flows out of thoughts focused on Jesus.
In Philippians 4:8, the Apostle Paul gave this word of instruction:
“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.”
Jesus fits the description of all these qualities-He is true, noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable, excellent, and praiseworthy. This verse is a call to setting our minds on things above, not on earthly things.
What we think about can have a huge impact on our personal ambitions and affections. Jesus tells us in the Greatest Commandment of all to love the LORD God with all of our being, which includes our mind. According to Philippians 4:9, as we focus our thoughts on the virtuous qualities of God’s kingdom and put them into practice, the peace of God will be with us. We can rest in the grace of God, knowing that our lives are built on a firm foundation.
The peace that flows out of thoughts focused on Jesus is a reason to believe in God’s good news.
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.