Pastor Mark’s Devotions, June 11

“Attractive Conversations”

“Let your conversation be gracious and attractive so that you will have the right response for everyone.” Colossians 4:6

 

People are asking big questions these days. With talk of paradigm shifts and pivot points, people are wondering what pandemics and protests might mean on the larger scale. Conversations continue to stir about second waves and security breaches which add to the rising levels of anxiety.

Paul says in Colossians 4:5-6, “Live wisely among those who are not believers, and make the most of every opportunity. Let your conversations be gracious and attractive so that you will have the right response for everyone.”

Paul says, “Live wisely.” Another translation states, “Be wise in the way you act toward outsiders.” The word, “wise,” can also be translated, “to have skill.” Paul states this in the context of asking for prayer that a door may be opened to those who do not know the message of Christ. So, Paul is exhorting the church to have skills as it deals with outsiders in sharing the Gospel. How are we to be wise (skilled)? Perhaps picking up on the words from James (in an earlier devotion), that we are to be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry. (James 1:19) If emotions run high, and we, as Christians, are able to demonstrate a strong “EQ” (emotional quotient) – we will show ourselves to have skills. A high “EQ” gives a person the skills to not overact but remain in control and calmly discuss potentially highly charged topics. When we can display emotional control, it gives greater opportunity for the message of Christ to be heard and received.

Paul also says that our conversation should be gracious and attractive to others. So, what does attractive conversation look like? Perhaps it is easier to point to what it is not. Attractive conversation is not blaming, defensive, demeaning or intimidating. Rather, attractive conversation will take on qualities such as; respect, honoring, valuing, honesty and transparency. Perhaps the greatest model for attractive conversation was Jesus. People of all make and models were drawn to listen to him. They were drawn into conversation with him. They asked questions, some had honest challenges and wanted further clarity to his teaching. Jesus honored each question, he listened, and then he also gave honest, respectful, and at times, direct answers.

How is it possible to give a right response to everyone? Paul begins the previous paragraph with the words, “Devote yourselves to prayer with an alert mind and a thankful heart.” (Colossians 4:2) As always, Paul points back to the Lord. Strength, wisdom, compassion, understanding, and revelation are all qualities that depend upon God. As we humbly seek, pray and turn to God, He is able to use every opportunity TO TEACH US. Then as we grow in understanding, we can calmly and respectfully with humble confidence share the message of Christ.

Here are two of the biggest questions people tend to ask;

  1. Why am I here?
  2. What is the purpose of my life?

The direct answer to that question is;

  1. You have been created to be in relationship with God.
  2. The purpose of your life is to live for His glory.

These two brief answers can perhaps be the beginning of a deeply gracious and attractive conversation involving Jesus Christ and the Gospel.

May the Holy Spirit continue to guide us into greater skill as He gives us opportunity to share the Gospel.

In Christ,

Pastor Mark

 

 
   
   
   
   

 



Pastor Mark’s Devotions, April 2

“The Point of Pain”

“But this happened that we might not rely on ourselves but on God who raises the dead.” 1 Cor. 1:9

In previous devotions, I touched on “The Power of Praise” and “The Purpose of Pause”. Today, I’d like to try to tackle, “The Point of Pain”.

People are experiencing an enormous amount of pain these days. They are feeling the physical pain of fevers, cough and in too many cases, the helplessness of respiratory failure. People are also feeling the emotional pain of isolation and separation, not to mention losing loved ones due to this virus. Doctors and health professionals are feeling the pain of patients passing away and the frustration of inadequate equipment. They are also feeling the painful fear of not being able to protect themselves. Non-essential workers are feeling the pain of unemployment. Parents are feeling the pain of trying to teach their children at home. The country is feeling the general pain of this new normal. And we have no idea how many people are feeling the spiritual pain of feeling forsaken by God. Extracting fact from feeling – while people might feel forsake of God – none of us are truly forsaken – Jesus solved that issue on the cross at Calvary. But in truth; pain remains.

This morning I watched Dr. Fauci respond to another litany of questions during another never-ending interview about this coronavirus. It was painful to watch! It is becoming more obvious the pain this pandemic is playing on him. Now there are even reports regarding threats to his personal welfare. More pain!

St. Paul experienced his own share of painful moments. He opens his second letter to the Corinthian church with these words, “We do not want you to be uninformed, brothers (and sisters), about the painful hardships we suffered in the province of Asia. We were under great pressure, far beyond our ability to endure, so that we despaired even of life. Indeed, in our hearts we felt the sentence of death.” (1:8)

Guaranteed, there are hundreds of thousands of people all across our country who can relate to the pain Paul describes. We hear every night how health workers are beside themselves, not knowing how long they will be able to keep going or if help will come.

In chapter 11, Paul details many of his painful trials:

               “Five times I was beaten with rods, once I was stoned, three times I was shipwrecked, I spent a night and a day in the open sea. I have been constantly on the move. I have been in danger from rivers, in danger from bandits, in danger from my own countrymen, in danger at sea; and in danger from false brothers. I have labored today and toiled and have often gone without sleep; I have known hunger and thirst; I have often gone without food; I have been cold and naked. Besides everything else, I face daily the pressure of my concern for all the churches. Who is weak, and I do not feel weak?”

It feels as if Paul has felt the pain of all our essential workers wrapped up into one person. Hunger, thirst, fatigue, no sleep, DAILY PRESSURE, constantly on the move, danger coming from every direction, and in general – beaten down. Summarized Into one word, OVERWHELMING!!  

Yet Paul, in the midst of all his suffering, he interprets the point of pain. He writes, “But this (all) happened that we might not rely on ourselves but on God, who raises the dead.” His words might sound trite to many today. What can these words mean to people who are flailing about, trying to tread water and simply keep their heads above the waves? But Paul’s declaration must mean more than simple cliché.  Paul, himself, suffered storms that broke him (he despaired of his very life!), yet he remained afloat.

Paul’s mantra remained the same through all the continued mayhem in his life. He captures his conclusions to pain in Philippians 4:19. He confesses, “And MY GOD will meet ALL YOUR NEEDS according to HIS GLORIOUS RICHES in CHRIST JESUS.” Paul found God to be faithful throughout all his painful crisis. In fact, in his book to the Roman Christians, Paul also points out the potential that pain can allow for perseverance, character building, and even in some paradoxical way, joy can be found.

Paul wants his people to understand that pain is not the end of the story. Rather, pain can open another chapter, pointing people to recognize and rely upon the power of God. In his own life, Paul concludes, God is faithful and He will do it!

We must also realize, that Paul was not alone. There are countless others in Scripture who experience pain and point us to the faithfulness of God!

King David, feeling deep emotional pain asks himself rhetorically, “Why are you downcast, O my soul? Why so disturbed within me?” This man, who loves God with all of his heart, is struggling with the pain of depression. But in this moment, he answers his own question; “Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God. (And let’s be clear: God has provided medication to help treat the nine known types of depression today. Praise God!) 

Another case in point, Hannah, the woman chosen to give birth to the prophet Samuel. She too felt deep emotional pain. Unable to conceive, the Scripture reports, “And because the LORD had closed her womb, her rival kept provoking her in order to irritate her. This went on year after year. Whenever Hannah went up to the house of the LORD, her rival provoked her till she wept and would not eat.”        (1 Samuel 1:6-7)

Hannah felt the personal, emotional pain of feeling inadequate and belittled. Yet when God finally blessed her with a child, Hannah lifts a powerful prayer that points us in the same direction as the others. She prays, “My heart rejoices in the LORD; in the LORD my horn is lifted high. My mouth boasts over my enemies, for I delight in your deliverance. It is not by human strength that one prevails; There is no one holy like the LORD; there is no one besides you; there is no Rock like our God.”                               (1 Samuel 2:1-2,9)

Is pain trying to point you in some direction today? Like Paul, David and Hannah, who have suffered before us, may it point us to God. He remains our Rock and our Redeemer, our fortress and refuge in our time of trial.

In Christ,

Pastor Mark



Pastor Mark’s February Blog

Pastor Mark’s February 2020 Blog . . . 

“So. . . Who’s Telling the Truth?”

 “To the Jews who had believed him, 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.”   John 8:31

 

Did you watch the Democratic debate on January 14? If so, you might have noticed something interesting on the hand of candidate Tom Steyer. There was a symbol crudely drawn in pen on his left hand. A closer look revealed a large cross with four smaller crosses drawn in each quadrant. So, what did this mean? Was the symbol a secret code or some subliminal message sent to our subconscious?

Come to find out, since 2017, Steyer has drawn, what is known as a “Jerusalem Cross” on his left hand each morning. (Yes, he is a Christian, but no, he did not know it was a “Jerusalem” cross when he drew it). When the media asked him what it meant he said, “It means to tell the truth no matter what the cost. For a while now, I have drawn it on my hand every day to remind myself to always tell the truth.”

Does Tom Steyer tell the truth? I don’t know. But the idea of telling the truth, what a novel idea.

Who do you trust to tell you the truth?

Do you trust the President, Congress, foreign governments, financial institutions, media outlets, Facebook or twitter? Perhaps you look to lawyers, doctors, educators, religious leaders, counselors. Will your plumber, electrician, auto mechanic, or financial advisor tell the truth?  It’s easy to become cynical when lies seem to roll off tongues as water rolls over the falls.

Do you think this growing distrust in humanity carries over into our trust in the one who declares,

I AM Truth”? Jesus declared, “I AM the way, the TRUTH and the life.”

Jesus declared that he embodied truth

and that if one would hold to his teachings,

they would come to know the truth and that truth would set them free.

Can this be true?     I absolutely believe this to be true!

But like any truth claims, they need to be vetted. As Christians, we need to test, try and press into these claims of Christ to see for ourselves whether they prove to be true. It should be crystal clear that we cannot simply trust our culture and the morals of the common man to lead us to truth. We must ask, seek and knock for deeper truth and come to know this truth for ourselves with a confidence that comes from personal investigation, experience, study and revelation.

Over the past few days, snow and icy roads have made travel difficult. But during this time, I have felt the truth of God’s Word spill over me in a refreshing way. I’ve been reading from my One Year Bible, in the midst of Matthew’s Gospel.

I want to share some of the truth that renewed my soul…

“Matthew invited Jesus and his disciples to his home as dinner guests, along with many tax collectors and other disreputable sinners. But when the Pharisees saw this, they asked his disciples, “Why does your teacher eat with such scum?” When Jesus heard this, he said, ‘Healthy people don’t need a doctor -sick people do.

Then he added,

“Now go and learn the meaning of this Scripture,

I want you to show mercy, not offer sacrifices.

For I have come to call not those who think they are righteous,

but those who know they are sinners.”    Mathew 9:10-13

“Jesus traveled through all the towns and villages of that area, teaching in the synagogues and announcing the Good News about the Kingdom. And he healed every kind of disease and illness. When he saw the crowds, they were confused and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd….

He said to his disciples,

‘The harvest is great, but the workers are few.

So, pray to the Lord who is in charge of the harvest;

ask him to send more workers into his fields.”   Matthew 9:35-38

“What do I compare this generation? It is like children playing a game in the public square. They complain to their friends, ‘We play wedding songs, and you didn’t dance, so we played funeral songs, and you didn’t mourn.’ For John (the Baptist) didn’t spend his time eating and drinking and you say, ‘He’s possessed by a demon.’ The Son of Man, on the other hand, feasts and drinks, and you say, ‘He’s a glutton and a drunkard, and a friend of tax collectors and other sinners?’ But wisdom is shown to be right by its results.”

Then Jesus began to denounce the towns where he had done so many of his miracles,

because they had not repented of their sins and turned to God.    Matthew 11:16-20

At that time Jesus prayed this prayer:

“O Father, Lord of heaven and earth,

thank you for hiding these things from those who think themselves wise and clever,

and for revealing them to the childlike. Yes, Father, it pleased you to do it this way!”   Matthew 11:25-26

Then Jesus said,

Come to me all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens,

and I will give you rest.

Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you,

because I am humble and gentle at heart,

and you will find rest for your souls.

For my yoke is easy to bear and the burden I give you is light.”    Matthew 11:28-30

So what truth can be found in these words of Christ? I will let King David clarify the truth from Psalm 14…

“Only fools say in their hearts, ‘There is no God.’

They are corrupt, and their actions are evil; not one of them does good!

The Lord looks down from heaven on the entire human race;

he looks to see if anyone is truly wise, if anyone seeks God.

But no, all have turned away; all have become corrupt.

No one does good, not a single one.”    Psalm 14:1-3

The truth is, we are all sinners! We are all sick and who by nature do not seek after God. We need a Savior!

We are called to repent of our sin before God and turn to Him and live! We are to be “childlike” and out of our physical weariness and emotional fatigue, come to Jesus and He will give us spiritual rest. We are to walk in His ways. We are to know that Jesus is humble and gentle and will lift us up and will carry us when we are weak.

As we grow in His grace, God who is in charge of the harvest,

will send us into his harvest field to share this grace with others.

The world embraces a lie. The world believes that we are by nature good and out of our own goodness, we will seek to help others and improve the world around us. Because we are good, we need not God and/or to turn to one that does not exist. We are to be wise and clever in our own minds, and have the capacity to find all the answers to our problems on our own. We are to find rest within ourselves and discover our path for self. If there is a God, he is controlling, manipulative and angry. We need to be strong in and of ourselves and relying upon someone else shows weakness.

But, let not your hearts be troubled. Truth remains! And we are called to know Truth! Where is it found?

Not in a man with a cross drawn on his hand, seeking the power of the presidency. Rather, from the man whose hands were placed on a cross, seeking to give his life for all the broken sinners of the world, and in his human weakness and sacrifice, he empowers us to live an abundant life.  

If the faith you cling to seems heavy and burdensome or irrelevant and insignificant, perhaps you need a dose of deeper Truth….

Repent in prayer.

Turn to Jesus, come to Him and ask him to teach and reveal to you more of his Truth. Expose yourself to the teachings in his Word, and have him expose where you are holding on to legalistic religious tradition.

He is humble and gentle, a compassionate shepherd,

who in great power has a yoke that is easy and a burden that is light.

 

 
 
 
 
 


Pastor Mark’s January Newsletter Blog

 
 
 

“3 Days of Prayer” – January 1, 2, 3, 2019 LCMC 7th Annual Three Days of Prayer “And this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, so that you may be able to discern what is best…”     Philippians 1:9-10

Mark Batterson writes in his book, “Draw the Circle” (page 224) “One day as I was on my knees praying about praying, I felt the Holy Spirit lovingly and playfully asking, “Did you think this was going to be easy?”  
 
Learning a spiritual language is like learning Spanish, French or German. We don’t become fluent in a few minutes. Acquiring a prayer language is like learning a foreign language. Expanding our vocabulary of praise is as difficult as conjugating verbs in another language. I love the story about the grandfather who walked by his granddaughter’s bedroom one night and overheard her praying the alphabet, literally. “Dear God, a,b,c,d,e,f,g,” She prayed all the way to “z” and said, “Amen”. The grandfather said, “Sweetie, why were you praying that way?” The granddaughter replied, “I didn’t know what to say so I figured I’d let God put the letters together however He saw fit.”
 
Batterson continues, “Sometimes I feel that way too. I have no idea what to say when I pray. And that’s ok.
 
The first objective of prayer is praying about what to pray about. Prayer isn’t about outlining our agenda to God; it’s about getting into God’s presence and getting God’s agenda for us. Billy Graham once noted: “Prayer is not about using God, it is more often about getting us in a position where God can use us. I watched the deck hands on the great liner United States as they docked that ship in NY Harbor. First, they threw out a rope to the men on the dock. Then, inside the boat the great motors went to work and pulled on the great cable. But, oddly enough, the pier wasn’t pulled out to the ship; the ship was pulled snugly up to the pier.
 
Prayer is the rope that pulls God and us together.
 
But it doesn’t pull God down to us… it pulls us to God. We must learn to say with Christ, the master of the art of praying: ‘Not my will; but Thine be done.’” I hope you will join me in beginning the New Year with 3 days of focused prayer. Our LCMC Association has been encouraging congregations to join together in prayer over the past seven years. This year, I hope we at Our Saviour’s will join the concert of prayer. Enclosed in the newsletter is a general outline that you can follow – or join in prayer however you like. On Wednesday, January 9th – our first Connexion of 2019 – we will share dinner together and then celebrate with a “Night of Prayer and Worship”. May we enter into God’s presence and see what He has for us. God Bless you all in this new year! In Christ, Pastor Mark