There I was in my first year in my first pastorate, in the beautiful but small town of Sioux Center, Iowa. As the Associate Pastor of Youth & Education I was responsible for ministry to 150 9th – 12th graders. The Youth Leaders and I wanted to do something special for the youth and decided on a formal banquet to honor them. One advantage of a farming community is that good food is abundant – like roast pig. (1)
So the menu was not an issue. Adult volunteers were not an issue. Entertainment and some type of encouraging message – that was an issue. I had no files, no contacts, and no backlog of resources to draw from. And how could I even begin to think about pulling in some big name person or group without it being a huge cost? After all, there is no easy way to get to Sioux Center (halfway between Sioux City, Iowa and Sioux Falls, South Dakota). Then I remembered – one of the youth had given me a business card of some singers she had heard at a conference shortly before this – she said they were really good. With nothing to lose I called Steve & Maria Gardner – and they came!
Wow! What a night. They were the perfect fit with wonderful, youth-appealing music and an inspiring, challenging message for the youth. And they radiated Jesus – boy did they radiate Him. My wife and I hosted them – and their infant daughter – and fell in love with them and were deeply blessed by them. Jesus was just so evident in their lives! We had a retired pastor who was at the banquet and afterward he told me, “You know, when they started to sing I wasn’t too sure about them and their music. But once that young man started to speak and I felt the Spirit and saw the attention of the youth, I knew they were right and that Jesus would be honored!” They radiated Jesus. (2)
As I think about that great time my mind goes to the Apostle Paul who, in 2 Corinthians 3:1-3 (The Message), wrote “Are we beginning to praise ourselves again? Are we like others, who need to bring you letters of recommendation, or who ask you to write such letters on their behalf? Surely not! The only letter of recommendation we need is you yourselves. Your lives are a letter written in our hearts; everyone can read it and recognize our good work among you. Clearly, you are a letter from Christ showing the result of our ministry among you. This “letter” is written not with pen and ink, but with the Spirit of the living God. It is carved not on tablets of stone, but on human hearts.” Steve & Maria were Jesus’ letters of recommendation. I learned that when we are recommending Jesus, we need to write a good letter. When I ask for a letter of recommendation I expect the person to write a good reference letter, to present me well. So it is with Jesus – He relies on us to write Him good letters of recommendation. (3)
The reality is that because we are Christians we represent Jesus everywhere we are, in everything we say, and in everything we do – and even in what we do not say and do not do. At all times and in all places, we represent Jesus. So we need to be sure we are writing a good letter. I think of all the times I’ve let my guard down, or let my temper flare up, or let the devil get hold of my tongue or mind and therefore wrote a poor letter for Jesus. “Lord, forgive me – and give me grace and strength to be that vibrant, Spirit-filled living letter of recommendation for You.”
You are always representing Jesus – you are always a letter pointing to Him. What kind of letter will you be today – and tomorrow – and every day? I pray you will write a good letter.
(2) Photo from Curry & Barb Pikkaart