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 March 25

“Thank You!”

“No matter what happens, always be thankful, for this is God’s will for you who belong to Christ Jesus.” 1 Thessalonians 5:18

Can we realistically be thankful today as the coronavirus is spreading exponentially? Can we be thankful when 30% of the value of our retirement funds have disappeared. Can we be thankful knowing that schools will be out for 6 months and families are searching for a way to survive. It truly depends upon our focus. We know we are to be thankful, for it is God’s will, but it’s still very hard to do. Maintaining a thankful heart through the ups and downs of these unprecedented times is extremely challenging. Does it help to understand that being thankful is a spiritual exercise. The Greek word for thanksgiving, “eucharist”, is related to the words, grace, joy, and character to name a few. To receive and retain these qualities is only by the power of God and the exercise of the Holy Spirit. It is the Holy Spirit that wakes us up to the gift of grace in Christ Jesus. It is the work of the Holy Spirit that brings forth greater joy in life dipped from a spiritual well. It is the Holy Spirit that hones, shapes, and prunes in order that we grow greater character and bear much fruit. And it is the Holy spirit that exercises in us a thankful heart in difficult times. Finally, it is God’s will for this to take place. Thank God!

I am thankful for the wonderful perogie and goulash Isaiah and I ate together at a Polish restaurant two weeks ago in La Conner. But the following story about the Polish railway worker, Jan Grzebski has much more food for the soul.  

Back in 1988, a Polish railway worker named Jan Grzebski was hit by a train. He lived … but only barely. For the next 19 years (until the year 2007), Grzebski was in a coma.

He awoke in 2007 to a whole new world. Nineteen years earlier, Poland was a communist state. Grzebski noted that back then meat was rationed and there were huge lines at nearly every gas station. And, “there was only tea and vinegar in the shops.”

But 19 years later, he awoke to a free nation where he said there were “people on the streets with cell phones and there are so many goods in the shops it makes my head spin.”

But something puzzled him. “What amazes me is all these people who walk around with their mobile phones and yet they never stop moaning.”

These people had freedom, and food and wealth greater than Poland had had for decades … and yet Grzebski woke from his coma to find that ALL they seemed to want to do was grumble!

If the habit of thanking God is not firmly exercised by the Spirit for what we DO have, we soon we become soft and flabby and ungrateful for what we don’t have.

Holy Spirit, exercise in us your power to see all for which to be thankful!

I Thank God for ALL of You!

In Christ, Pastor Mark



Pastor’s Devotions March 21

“Tethered”

“But when Simon saw the wind, he was afraid and, beginning to sink, cried out, ‘Lord, save me!” Immediately, Jesus reached out his hand and caught him.” Matthew 14:30

 

Simon Peter and the rest of Jesus’ disciples were caught up in the storm of their lives. A squall rose up and waves were crashing over their boat. Jesus came to them in the fourth watch of the night (3 a.m.) while they continued to battle the storm. Simon thinks he sees a ghost and suddenly thinks it’s his master, Jesus. He calls to him asking to step out toward him on the water. Jesus motions to Peter, “Come”. Simon experiences his own personal miracle in the midst of the mightiest of storms. Yet as quick as he turned his eyes away from Jesus, his body begins to fall through the waves. Simon cries for help. Matthew records Jesus “immediately” reaching out his hand and holds Simon safe.

Have you ever felt yourself falling? I mean really falling, like out of an airplane or jumping into a lake from a 30-foot perch? It’s scary. I was in my late twenties when a good friend of mine turned 40. He wanted to do something to mark the occasion. So he chose bungee jumping. I decided, since I was a good friend, to support him in this bucket list affair. The place was in San Bernardino, CA and the boom was 75 feet high. It didn’t really seem that high to me until I climbed to the top. I put my toes on the line, on the tiny platform, and looked out over the city. It was stinkin’ high!! I was seriously scared and felt like I could fall at any moment. At the same time, I could not get myself to just jump. I asked the attendant if he could just give me a little push. He looked at me, as if he’d heard the request a hundred times, “Sorry mate, it’s against the rules.”

I was evaluating my options. My friend had already jumped. I didn’t want to look like a wimp. Other people were already in line, climbing up the boom. I felt like I had no options. I had to do this. Suddenly, I closed my eyes and just went for it. I stepped off that tiny platform into nothingness. Those first few seconds were harrowing! But then in a flash, I fell as far at the bungee cord would stretch and just as suddenly, it yanked me back up into the air almost as high as the platform. But as I descended toward the ground, air came back into my lungs and I knew that I had made it. Bucket list #32 was over. Whew!

The key to this experience, that provided no comfort in the moment, but later would bring peace of mind; I was tethered. The whole time, I was attached to a thick cord that 30 elephants couldn’t break.

You might feel like you are on a tiny platform, looking out over our country and it’s pretty scary. But know that you are tethered. You have been tethered to Christ and you will always be tethered to him. Simon found that out in one of the scariest moments of his life. He was tethered to Jesus. As he was on the water battling the storm, Jesus came to him. When Simon called out to Jesus, He called him out of the boat. And when Simon sank, Jesus tethered himself to his fearful friend and brought him back into the boat. Jesus is the same yesterday, today and forever. Whatever fear or scary storm we face, Jesus has tethered himself to us.

Jesus speaks of this tethering again in John chapter 15. Jesus says that he is the vine and we are the branches. We are tethered together. He is our source of comfort and strength. And Jesus encourages us to “abide” in him as he “abides” in us.

Let us take comfort in Jesus’ words and in the reality that as God has so loved that world, he has “tethered” us to his Son and has given us eternal life.

Thankful to be tethered in Christ with all of you!

Pastor Mark