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Fellow Servants of Christ:
Pastoral Letter February 2010
Forbid it, drugs Lord, that I should boast Save in the death of Christ, my God;
All the vain things that charm me most, I sacrifice them to His blood.
Next Wednesday, we begin another Lenten journey that ends at the foot of the cross. The cross is where the saving glory of the Lord is revealed to sinful men. The foolishness of the cross is indeed the power of God. Our lives and our ministries are lived under the cross. The cross is the proclamation of the Gospel of God’s saving love. Second Corinthians reveals the paradox of the Gospel and the Gospel ministry of reconciliation which has been entrusted to us. The preaching of the cross is foolishness and weakness to the world. The glory of the Gospel and the glory of our ministry is hidden to the world because it is the opposite of what the world considers important and world-changing.
So at first, it is strange to hear the Apostle Paul boast of his ministry in chapters 10 and 11 of Second Corinthians. He begs your indulgence as he is forced to defend his Gospel ministry. “Oh, that you would bear with me in a little folly; and indeed you do bear with me” (2 Cor 11:1). Paul boasts not in what he has done but in what God has done through his clay pot ministry. “We, however, will not boast beyond measure, but within the limits of the sphere which God appointed us; a sphere which especially includes you” (2 Cor 10:13). God had used Paul to bring the Gospel to this area of the earth, and it was Paul’s prayer that this base of operations would enable him to preach the Gospel in lands beyond Corinth and Acacia. The principle of grace is clear, “But he who glories, let him glory in the LORD” (2 Cor 10:17). This reflects the theme already set forth in Paul’s First Letter to the Corinthians, “But of Him you are in Christ Jesus, who became for us wisdom from God; and righteousness and sanctification and redemption; that, as it is written, ‘He who glories, let him glory in the LORD’” (1 Cor 1:30-31). This anniversary year we need to be careful that our boasting and celebration is centered in the Lord and the cross and not in ourselves.
Secondly, it is strange to hear what the Apostle Paul boasts about in his ministry. He does not boast in apparent triumphs as the world numbers them but in what he suffered for the sake of the Gospel. Sometimes we complain and become discouraged by things which, when compared to Paul’s problems, are petty and insignificant. In chapter eleven, Paul foolishly dares to boast of his background. And then like a madman, he boasts of his imprisonments, his beatings, and his encounters with death for the Gospel’s sake. We have experienced none of these things in our Gospel ministry. But we have shared Paul’s concern and empathy for the people we serve as pastors. “Besides the other things, what comes upon me daily: my deep concern for all the churches. Who is weak, and I am not weak? Who is made to stumble, and I do not burn with indignation” (2 Cor 11:28-29)? Like Paul, we need to glorify in (boast of) our weaknesses which highlight the glory of the cross.
This anniversary year the weakness of our collective ministry is made evident by the fact that we can not do the things we would like to do. Like many church organizations, our congregations our church body faces financial challenges which humanly seem to limit our ministry. The CLC adopted a budget of $1,634,264 knowing this was $40,000 more than the congregation’s CBP estimates. We did this with the knowledge that we had a Reserve Fund of about $100,000, hoping that we would not have to make drastic cuts in our operating Mission and ILC budgets. At this point (after seven months) it appears that we will be $30,000 additionally short in CBP offerings. It is also likely that there will be a large deficit at ILC because of increased commodity (food) and utility costs ($20,000+). It is possible that this year’s deficit will consume the entire Reserve Fund. This would mean that we will have to make real cuts in the Mission budget and ILC for next year. The Lord is teaching us to boast only in Him and in the cross of Christ. We realize through this that we are fully dependent upon God for our daily bread and the resources to do His work in these last days. If we are going to boast about anything, it is only in what the Lord has done for us.
I would also remind you of Pastor’s Karp’s surgery for bladder cancer. He does not have medical insurance and will need help with ongoing expenditures. I have authorized the appeal for funds for Pastor Karp through you. Gifts may be sent to Pastor Karp or to his congregation.
With awe and humility we once again enter into the holy season of Lent. Preach nothing but Christ crucified.
Please be sure your congregation’s CBP figures are in the hands of Pastor Mike Roehl by Ash Wednesday.