Letter 3 to Michael

Dear Michael:

I think your ideas for establishing a prayer ministry for your pastor are terrific.  His reaction to your proposal, as you describe it, was just the kind of thing I expected.  Now I will pray for blessing on this endeavour of grace.

Yes, I too have heard the saying, “If you want a new pastor, pray for the one you have,” but I think it is more likely that people who take that advice may be surprised to find themselves confronted with their own need to change.  The Lord’s position on the matter may be, “Let’s deal with the beam in your own eye first.”

It seems that we sometimes take ourselves too seriously, and at others not seriously enough.  We take ourselves too seriously when we take on thoughts of how important our ideas and opinions are for the Church.  It is as if the Church has not, for 2,000 years, been able to get along without following our advice.  By the way, a catholic view of the Church, and a belief that our own local church is part of that great army, helps keep some things in perspective.

On the other hand, we do not take ourselves seriously enough when we fail to recognize how cantankerous we can be.  All of us can really be quite ridiculous at times.  We all have our faults.  We all make mistakes.  We all have unfulfilled good intentions.  We all occasionally do not say what we mean to say.  We all have outbursts of sin in our lives which erupt, even though we are praying they will not.  We all have limited viewpoints and bad ideas at times.  We all fail those we love.  Shall I go on?  Yet we do not recognize our universal tendency to failure and nit-pick the lives of other people, record their faults, and declare them unfit for God’s use.  We forget about God’s grace – to all.

We need to be more realistic about everybody’s condition, believe in the grace of God, and lighten up on each other.  We need to even rejoice in each other as we are, accepting the poor degree to which we have all grown spiritually.  Paul certainly does this with the Corinthians.  His love for them compells him to do so.  He rejoices in them, even though they’ve blown it in a number of ways, and have hurt his feelings – and their own testimony – in the process.  For example, as we read “between the lines” in the first chapter of I Corinthians, it is evident that Paul had said he’d visit them another time.  However, he was not able to get there just when he had hoped, and someone has complained about it, insinuating that Paul’s word was not to be trusted.  And, of course, we can imagine how such a thing could be extrapolated to such an extent that cantankerous people could begin to totally demollish Paul’s whole character and ministry: “I mean, after all, if the man cannot be trusted with such a little thing as keeping his calendar straight and being on time for appointments, how can he be trusted with the weightier matters of our church?”

Of course, people who do this kind of thing have a closed heart, because they do not love the person involved.  Love covers a multitude of sins and people who do love have the presence of mind to recognize the beam in the their own eyes and give credit for the grace of God in others, in spite of their faults.

Thankfully, there were people who loved Paul and could just be thankful for the good things he had done.  They could rejoice in what Paul had been for them, and be glad for him to visit them again, at all, any time.  They were glad for the grace of God in Paul and to them through Paul.  The result was joy for both pastor and flock.  And the joy was based on God’s grace in their lives and the assurance of the glory they would one day share.

God is faithful and He will fulfill all His promises to us in His Son, including the promise that someday we will all, together, stand before Him and share His glory.  None of us would have any hope at all if it were not for Jesus.  By virtue of His work for us, He has established us in His grace and sealed us by His Spirit, and being the true God that He is, has given us steadfast promises to bolster our faith until the New Age has come.  A humble and gracious mind remembers that this is the boat in which we all find ourselves, and rejoices in every crew member – as much as the depth of his love will enable for the present.  We rejoice as much as we can now.  Our joy will be perfect on that day.

In the meantime, God help us to keep our mouths shut and try to give each other as much credit as we can – even if we cannot understand why they don’t want to participate in your new pray-for-the-pastor program!

Ever yours,





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