JOHN SHIRK – In the Year of Exploration, today’s Reason To Believe is the city of Jerusalem.
In the headlines, it is the subject of controversy today. In the Bible, it is described as the holy city. Jerusalem means “City of Peace.”
According to Ezekiel 5:5, the LORD says, “This is Jerusalem, which I have set in the center of the nations, with countries all around her.”
Jerusalem is the city where the temple stood as a place of worship.
Jerusalem is the city where Jesus entered to present Himself as a gentle king, riding on a donkey.
Jerusalem is the city where Jesus was tried and condemned to death. He would die just outside the holy city as a sacrifice for our sins.
Jerusalem is the place where the Holy Spirit came in power on the early church.
Jerusalem was the launching point for the Gospel to spread around the world.
And according to Jeremiah 3:17, Jerusalem will be called “The Throne of the LORD.”
The significant events surrounding the city of Jerusalem reveals that God’s redemptive plan is central to our hope for lasting peace 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 existence of the heavens and the earth.
Jeremiah 32:17 records this prayer from the prophet: “Ah, Sovereign LORD, you have made the heavens and the earth by your great power and outstretched arm. Nothing is too hard for you.”
The evidence of nature and the universe says something to us about the nature of a universal God. His great power brought the things we see around us into existence.
The book of Hebrews describes the universe being formed at God’s command. By faith, we understand that this is how the heavens and the earth were created. And as we examine the prayer of Jeremiah, we see that if God is able to make this world in alignment to the sun in such a way that human life is sustainable, nothing is too hard for Him.
And if He is able to create more than 100 billion stars in our galaxy alone, the Milky Way, then nothing is too hard for Him.
And if He is able to create human beings to reflect His glory, then nothing is too hard for Him. He can move us to stand in awe of the might and majesty of His outstretched arm to create what He has commanded.
The existence of the heavens and the earth are reasons to believe in God’s good news.
JOHN SHIRK – In the Year of Exploration, today’s Reason To Believe is the lasting legacy of those who were faithful to God.
We have the record of the heroes of faith in the Old Testament in Hebrews, chapter 11 in the form of Abel, Enoch, Noah, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, Moses, and many more. Their examples all have something to say to us about living out a faith that gets God’s attention. Their witness for God continues to speak today.
Then there are other believers, not mentioned in the Bible, but who have made their mark on history-St. Patrick, St. Augustine, Dwight Moody, C.S. Lewis, Mother Teresa, Jim Elliot, and Billy Graham, just to name a few. God raised them to be powerful influences for the Gospel in various ways.
If you follow Jesus, you have a legacy too that could influence many souls, even after you die. Philippians 1:6 says, “Being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.”
The lasting legacy of faith among God’s followers is a reason to believe in God’s Good News.
JOHN SHIRK – In the Year of Exploration, today’s Reason to Believe is Great Comebacks.
One of the most astonishing comebacks in football happened in the 1993 AFC Wild Card Game. The Buffalo Bills fell behind the Houston Oilers 35 to 3 in the second half. But backup quarterback Frank Reich rallied his team to an unforgettable comeback that left his team victorious at the final whistle-41 to 38.
That was an example of a team that recovered after they were down.
The Gospel is the story of a Savior who revived after He was dead. It is the greatest comeback of all time. This comeback reminds us that we are never in a hopeless place as long as we live with the resurrection power of Jesus. In Revelation 1:18, Jesus says, “I am the Living One; I was dead, and behold I am alive for ever and ever!”
And First Corinthians 15:57 is a message to followers of Jesus: “Thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.”
The greatest comeback of all time is a reason to believe in God’s good news.
JOHN SHIRK – In the Year of Exploration, today’s Reason to Believe is the Feast of Purim.
This Jewish festival remembers their deliverance from a threat to annihilate them under the Persian empire.
As the book of Esther recalls, a man named Haman devised a plot to wipe out the Jews, but Queen Esther was in a royal position for such a time to call her people to fasting and prayer. As it turned out, the plot had a boomerang effect on **Haman. The plot of destruction that he had planned for the Jews ended in his own death.
Purim was recently celebrated on the Jewish calendar, remembering this event.
The reason why this is observed is recorded for us in Esther 9:28: “These days should be remembered and observed in every generation by every family, and in every province and in every city. And these days of Purim should never cease to be celebrated by the Jews, nor should the memory of them die out among their descendants.”
Purim celebrates deliverance from the hands of the enemy. This is ultimately what Jesus Christ does for us when we call on His name.
The Feast of Purim is a reason to believe in God’s good news.
JOHN SHIRK – In the Year of Exploration, today’s Reason to Believe is the accusation against Jesus and the empty tomb.
In John chapter 10, some of the Jews were picking up stones, getting ready to throw at Jesus. He said to them, “I have shown you many great miracles from the Father. For which of these do you stone me?”
They replied, “We are not stoning you for any of these, but for blasphemy, because you, a mere man, claim to be God.”
Some people today claim that Jesus never claimed to be God, but in John 10, His critics made that very accusation.
No other living person could have made the claim to be God and be right, but Jesus was different. According to First Timothy 3:16, Jesus appeared in a body and was vindicated by the Spirit. The voice of the Father at Jesus’ baptism, the miracles that Jesus performed, and ultimately, the empty tomb are significant indications that Jesus’ claims were true. Romans 1:4 says that through the Spirit of holiness, Jesus was declared with power to be the Son of God by his resurrection from the dead.
So, the accusation of blasphemy explains the reason why His enemies wanted to kill him, but the resurrection reveals why we have a reason to believe in God’s Good News.
JOHN SHIRK – Today’s Q and A Segment explores the question, “what is the significance of the number 3 in Scripture?”
The number 3 refers to completeness. We are made in three parts, “Body, Soul, and Spirit.” The Trinity consists of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.” Human capability has three dimensions “Thought, Word, and Deed.” According to First Corinthians 13, there are three enduring virtues: Faith, Hope, and Love. Eternity can be put into one of three categories-past, present and future.
These are some examples of how three represents completeness. It is not a coincidence then that Jesus would rise from the dead on the third day.
In Acts 10:39 and 40, Peter was referring to Jesus when he said, “They killed him by hanging him on a tree, but God raised him from the dead on the third day and caused him to be seen.”
The death and resurrection of Jesus marked the complete fulfillment of God’s plan to redeem us. Because of what Jesus accomplished, we can experience new life and be made complete in Christ in the Year of Exploration.
JOHN SHIRK – In the Year of Exploration, today’s Reason to Believe is the practice of communion among followers of Jesus.
It was Jesus who established this practice on the night before He died on the cross. In Luke 22:19, He took bread, gave thanks and broke it. He gave to His disciples, saying, “This is my body given for you; do this in remembrance of me.” Then, after supper, He took the cup and said, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood, which is poured out for you.”
First Corinthians 11:26 says, “For whenever you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.” And so, the practice of communion among Jesus’ followers continues until His return.
The practice of communion is a reason to believe in God’s good news.
JOHN SHIRK – Today’s Q and A Segment explores the question, “What can we learn from Peter’s denial of Jesus?”
Just before Jesus went to the cross, He gave Peter an insight into what was happening in the spiritual realm. He said in Luke 22:31, “Simon, Simon, Satan has asked to sift you as wheat. But I have prayed for you, Simon, that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned back, strengthen your brothers.”
Peter insisted that he would be loyal to Jesus, even if it meant going to prison or death. But Jesus knew Peter better than Peter knew Peter. He said, “I tell you, Peter, before the rooster crows today, you will deny three times that you know me.” And that is exactly what happened.
There are several bullet point lessons of faith we can learn from this exchange.
Be careful of overestimating the strength of our courage. We are capable of doing grievous things the next day we never anticipated.
We are in a spiritual battle, and Satan is our real enemy.
At the same time, Jesus is our best friend, interceding on our behalf. Our failures are not the end of our story when God’s grace turns us back to Him in the Year of Exploration.
JOHN SHIRK – Today’s Q and A Segment explores the question, “What was Pilate’s dilemma?”
Pilate was the governor who questioned Jesus just before He died. After interrogating Jesus, he came to the conclusion that Jesus was not guilty of any crime, and therefore, not worthy of death.
But the religious leaders were determined to put Jesus to death, and applied pressure on Pilate to crucify Jesus.
The turmoil was between what was right and what would please the crowd. Refusing the demands of the religious leaders would threaten peace and order, and perhaps his own reputation with Caesar. So, the decisive moment came in John 19:12 when the crowd said to Pilate, “If you let this man go, you are no friend of Caesar.” When Pilate heard this, he made the decision to hand Jesus over to be crucified.
Peer pressure puts us in that place of Pilate’s dilemma, whether to do what is right or to do what pleases the crowd. Pilate wanted to satisfy the crowd. Jesus wanted to please His Heavenly Father.
We can find the courage to resist peer pressure and do what is right in God’s eyes by following in the footsteps of Jesus in the Year of Exploration.