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Relevance and Christianity

Christianity Relates to Life

Relevance: The degree to which something is related or useful to what is happening.

The Christian faith is the most relevant truth in the world. After all, every single one of us has a conscience that convicts us. Every one of lives in the midst of conflict, from petty squabbles to deadly wars. Every one of us will leave this life and give an accounting for how we have lived. Every one of us needs the Savior.

During The Season of the Church we come to appreciate the relevance of the Christian faith for all of us in every situation of life. After all, God pays attention to all the details of our lives! Jesus underscored this when He taught, “Aren’t five sparrows sold for two pennies? Yet not one of them is forgotten in God’s sight. Indeed, the hairs of your head are all counted. Don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.” (Luke 12:6–7, CSB)

In this season of the year we especially apply the truth of Gods word to our daily lives, from the things that touch us personally each day to the biggest headlines.

In this Sunday’s lesson, for example, we learn the true nature of faith. It is not just belief that there is a god, but confidence in Christ as the incarnate God, and our Savior, who cares for us intimately.

We also see how God shapes and uses the course of history to accomplish his good and gracious will, for we see that in Christ God has invaded this world, and it will never be the same.

Do you think, for example, that God depends upon the actions of nations to “go the right way” for His will to be done? It’s the other way ‘round. The course of nations depends upon God’s will for His church!

This is RELEVANT for us, because we live according to our view of the world, and through God’s word, that view of the world is rooted in truth.

By |2019-06-19T14:41:43-07:00June 19th, 2019|Good News|0 Comments

Yes, Christianity is VERY Different (6/14/19)

“It’s VERY Different”

At this time of the year we celebrate the Festival of the Holy Trinity and read together the Athanasian Creed, a confession of Biblical truth about Who is the true God. This underscores the chief difference between Christianity and all other religions: We don’t worship their gods. The God who truly exists has spoken to us through His word. All other gods are imagined, “made up” by human beings.

This makes Christianity fundamentally different from all other religions. But the differences are missed because our secular world pushes the assumption that Christianity is just one of many. The materialist / secularist / humanist believes only in a material world, and therefore rejects the soul, or the realities of right or wrong, or of the Creator.

So does this mean Christianity is different? Yes! It’s very, very different. Here are some of the ways:

The Trinity. God reveals Himself in the Bible unlike anything we find in humanity. Instead of a god imagined in the image of man, He is a God beyond our understanding.

Holiness. God is holy and so what is right and good is determined by Him and His word. The critique of God by man is a non-starter.

Human Sin. The problem of humanity is that, though created perfect in the beginning, we are broken and in continual opposition to what is right and good. Because of the rebellion of our forbears (the fall) everyone born of a human mother and father is born sinful, not knowing God, and hostile to the perfect good. We see this in every page of our history, nationally or individually. Though people do many good and noble things, we never escape the selfishness in our lives, the crime in our societies, or the oppression of the powers in the world.

Grace. This is the unmerited, undeserved love of God for humanity. While all man-made religions plot a path to achieving God’s approval and acceptance, only Christianity reveals God’s plan to reconcile rebellious humanity to Himself through the …

Substitutionary Atonement. This is the pivotal event in human history, when God Himself, in the person of Jesus Christ, satisfied the judgment of God so that there is forgiveness for the world.

The Universal Church. It isn’t a human, social, or even visible organization. Though there are church bodies and denominations, the essential unity of the church consists in the proclamation of the Gospel, the Good News of what God has done to reconcile us to Himself. The resurrection of Jesus has empowered the resurrection unto eternal life of all who put their faith in Him.

The Christian church is therefore different from all other religions— very, very different.

By |2019-06-11T16:04:05-07:00June 11th, 2019|Good News|0 Comments

A Popular Fallacy: “I’m Not Religious, but I’m Spiritual” (6/7/19)

“I Don’t Need Religion; I’m Plenty Spiritual”

Of course you are spiritual. After all you are a spiritual creature– body and soul (or spirit).  As spiritual beings, we are at least vaguely aware of spiritual realities, like right and wrong, immortality of the soul, and the existence of other spirits. The problem is that we are spiritually blind. Even though we know there are spiritual realities, we do not know what they are.

Religion supposedly reveals the truth about these spiritual realities. —There are religions that claim to find the spirit in things and places, like the spiritus of rivers animals and plants. —There are religions that imagine that all things are part of a great spiritual reality. —There are mystical religions which believe that introspection and meditation are ways to find the truth about the spiritual. —There are those who use mind-altering substances and techniques as pathways to the spiritual, like shamans or medicine men.

Results have been disappointing.

I can see why people are disenchanted with such religions. None of these religious efforts seem to offer anything more than we can imagine on our own. They all seem to say the same things: Be good. Resist wrong. There is something greater than we are. This life isn’t all there is. Somehow what comes after depends upon whether we have been good or bad.

If you haven’t been exposed to a clear expression of the Christian faith, you might think that it is just one more religion like the rest. But there is a huge difference. Christianity isn’t our discovery of spiritual truth, but God’s revelation of spiritual truth to us. That’s why we call Christianity revealed truth; it’s the revelation of spiritual truth from God through the Bible.

The truth of this revelation, the Bible, is supported in several ways, both internal and external: The historical accuracy of the Bible. The accurate description of human nature. The verifiable prophesies. Especially through the person and work of Jesus Christ.

At the Festival of Pentecost, we celebrate the special gift of the Holy Spirit to the church. The Holy Spirit inspired the prophets, apostles, and evangelists to write a true revelation of God and His relationship to us.

So you see, the Christian faith is like no other religion in that it is divine revelation instead of human development.

By |2019-06-11T16:05:01-07:00June 11th, 2019|Good News|0 Comments

Spiritual 911 #8 Where the Pastor Works

Where the Pastor Works

Spiritual 911

The Pastor as our spiritual first-responder.

#8 Where the Pastor Serves

One way of understanding the way our Lord uses pastors to heal and strengthen His people is to remember where they serve. On the one hand, pastors serve at church to those who come to hear the word , and on the other hand they serve in the  community for those who do not or cannot come.

Serving Those Who Come
It is most efficient for pastors to serve many people at once. In the Divine Service the pastor gives the forgiveness of Christ through the word and sacraments. This is like the regular use of good food and exercise to keep the body healthy; only here it is the soul. Through His word, our Lord warns us of our sins and the deceitfulness that is in the world, He comforts us with the assurance of His forgiveness, and He teaches us the way to live in this world with a view to eternity. It includes practical applications as well.
In Bible classes we look at God’s word in more detail. Our own questions and the questions of others help the pastor make applications to our own lives.
In this way we find healing from our spiritual injuries and renew our faith.

Serving Those Who Do Not  or Cannot Come
But sometimes people cannot come. Perhaps because of infirmity, age, illness, military deployment, etc., a person cannot attend church or Bible class.
At other times someone doesn’t come because of shame or guilt. I have seen this often when people have been though a divorce, have struggled with substance abuse or have otherwise been embarrassed. Often the devil deprives a person of just what they need by tempting them to cut themselves off from God’s healing word.
In Luke 8, Jesus tells us that the “worries, riches, and pleasures of life” so ensnare us that we neglect the word.
So, much of the pastor’s time is spent visiting the sick, sending sermons and devotions to the deployed, seeking appointments, counselling in private, coming by with private communion and just listening, and he loves doing it!
At other times, the pastor is like a shepherd pursuing someone who wanders.

But always, the pastor’s calling is the strengthening and healing of souls.

By |2019-03-04T17:05:12-07:00March 4th, 2019|Good News|0 Comments

Spiritual 911 #7 When to Call the Pastor

When To Call the Pastor

The Pastor as our spiritual first-responder.

  1. When To Call the Pastor

What does the pastor provide that you might need?

Council / Direction
Pastor, my spouse and I can’t seem to stop arguing. How can we live in peace again?
I am filling out a Power of Attorney for healthcare, how should I approach this as a Christian.
I am thinking about getting married / going off to school / joining the military / changing careers.
Anything like this? Call the pastor.

Life Event
Thinking of getting married? Have a new child or grandchild? Have you had a death in the family? Have an unbaptized member of the family?
Call the pastor.

Support
In the hospital? Dealing with illness, including mental illness? Struggling with loneliness or alienation? Trying to cope with age (or youth!)?
Call the pastor! He doesn’t treat the physical or mental illness, but the spiritual injuries that result.

Guilt / Remorse / Doubt
The word “Devil” means “accuser.” The devil attacks our faith in Christ as our redeemer by making it seem that our sins are beyond forgiveness.
In our skeptical age we can easily be led to doubt our forgiveness, the truth of Scripture, or the reality of our faith.
Call the pastor!

Healing
It’s possible to regain our faith, to become reconciled with others, and to deal with remorse. It is possible to make sense of the troubles of life from God’s perspective. God can heal the remorse we feel from the sins of the past, from errors in judgment, and other things we cannot change.

What stands in our way?
Don’t want to bother the pastor? That’s like not wanting to bother the dentist when you have a toothache.
Afraid he will judge you? How can he when God counts you righteous?
Afraid he will tell somebody? The confessional is inviolate, even by the courts.
Embarrassed? The pastor has learned to ease embarrassment as well as any doctor, and never thinks less of you.

Be kind to yourself and call the pastor.

By |2019-03-04T15:05:06-07:00March 4th, 2019|Good News|0 Comments

Spiritual 911 #6 The Pastor Is a Healer of Souls

Spiritual 911

The Pastor as our spiritual first-responder.

6. The Pastor Is a Physician of Souls

(Part 2—Spiritual Healing)

(Fictitious names but true stories of people you don’t know.)

Frank has just been told he is worthless as a husband as his wife tells him she has found another man. He thought she was God’s blessing when they met, but now he wonders if God ever cared for him.

Laura has been embarrassed by her teacher because she believes in creation. The other kids snicker, and she wonders if she is the only one that believes the Bible.

Tom goes over the bodies of the dead Taliban looking for intelligence and finds a picture of three children of his dead enemy, and wonders if he can ever be forgiven for killing a father.

Mel shuts off the computer, sick at the porn he has just gawked at, and that he promised the Lord in prayer —for the 10th time or so— that he would never indulge in again. He doubts the he could even be a Christian.

Karrie turns over in bed, unable to sleep, with the image of her dying child in front of her. Did she deserve this? Was she being punished?

Les and Tina had talked about going back to church after a month or two or three, but here they were cozy at home again. They didn’t care any more,  Les said, “ we don’t have to go to church to be a Christian.”

All of these people are suffering spiritual injuries, despair, doubt, remorse, guilt, loss, and indifference.

What is the cure?

The first thing is to understand is that these aren’t just emotions or feelings, but spiritual injuries that sap our spiritual life, that undermine our faith. If not healed, they can lead to a loss of faith, which is spiritual death.

But there is healing for such injuries.

We see Christ heal, saying, “Rejoice, your sins are forgiven,” or “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” He treats Peter’s remorse and guilt, saying, “Feed my Lambs.”

Jesus assures Martha of her brother’s resurrection. Nathan tells the adulterous David, “The Lord has forgiven your sins.” John the Baptist affirms the vocation of the soldiers who come to him.

This is only a glimpse of Seelsorge, the  healing of souls. Not only did our Savior come to seek and save the lost, He himself continues to heal with His powerful word. Are you hurting, doubting, or afflicted? Talk with Pastor Bryant.

By |2019-02-15T20:38:09-07:00February 15th, 2019|Good News|0 Comments

Spiritual 911 #5 The Pastor Is a Physician of Souls

The Pastor Is a Physician of Souls

(Part 1—Spiritual Injuries)

In everyday life, people face tragedy because they don’t know about their illness or injury. The undiagnosed diabetic, the undetected heart disease, or the hidden cancer can take a life suddenly and without warning. The head injury with a hidden bleed or the seemingly simple injury that causes internal bleeding can lead to serious consequences.

Among the most serious illnesses and injuries are spiritual ones. In our day it seems that we don’t even think of them. It wasn’t always that way, as we see from an old term for the pastor—seelsorger, soul-healer.

Our Good Shepherd is the true healer of our injuries, as the Psalmist says, “The Lord is near the broken-hearted; he saves those crushed in spirit.” (Psalm 34:18, CSB)

And we know that our spiritual warfare is liable to result in injuries, as Paul tells us in his letter to the Ephesians. “For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers of this darkness, against evil, spiritual forces in the heavens. For this reason take up the full armor of God, … In every situation take up the shield of faith with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit—which is the word of God.” (Ephesians 6:10–17, CSB)

What do these illnesses and injuries look like? You are probably familiar with them: Doubts, resentment against God, despair over our sins, alienation from God and from other people, an unforgiving spirit, spiritual confusion, and the like. All of these undermine our Christian faith.

What causes them? The lies of the devil are at the bottom of them all, but specifically I think of the propaganda in schools and the media that the material world is all that there is, the constant disapproval by others that undermines the gospel and our own self-indulgent sins and the constant temptations of the world that lure us into impenitence.

The devil’s aim in all these things is the destruction of our faith, which is spiritual death.

Next week: Part 2 Spiritual Healing.

By |2019-02-08T18:14:08-07:00February 8th, 2019|Good News|0 Comments

Spiritual 911 #4 – The Pastor Is a Shepherd

  1. The Pastor Is a Shepherd

The root meaning of “pastor” is “shepherd.” The Lord Jesus is our good and perfect Shepherd, as we have probably heard often:

1The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.
2He makes me to lie do

wn in green pastures;
He leads me beside the still waters.
3He restores my soul;
He leads me in the paths of righteousness
For His name’s sake.
4
Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
I will fear no evil;
For You are with me;
Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me.
5You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies;
You anoint my head with oil;
My cup runs over.
6Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me
All the days of my life;
And I will dwell in the house of the Lord
Forever. (Psalm 23 (NKJV))

So, what is it that pastors, as spiritual under-shepherds, are supposed to do for us? Our pastors shepherd us with the words of the Good Shepherd.

  • Provide spiritual nourishment (vv. 1-2) Our pastors should feed us with a regular diet of God’s word to strengthen us and build up our faith.
  • Refresh us spiritually (v. 3) Our pastors restore our soul to innocence and hope when we are guilty or depressed, through the promises of our Savior. With God’s word, pastor’s heal our souls from our spiritual injuries.
  • Lead us to a righteousness that honors Christ. (v. 3) The righteousness of Christ is given to us through Jesus words, “I forgive you.” His righteousness is given from God through His word and received by faith.
  • Give us comfort in the face of death. (v. 4) Jesus is the death of death, and our pastors comfort us with the promises of the Risen One.
  • Protect from our spiritual enemies. (v. 5) Listen to your pastor’s warnings and guidance so that you can go through life without spiritual injury.
  • Give the hope of eternal life. (v. 6) Faithful pastors give the mercy of God to their flocks all during this life, and point to the eternal mercies of our Savior that open heaven for us.
By |2019-02-01T20:17:58-07:00February 1st, 2019|Good News|0 Comments

Spiritual 911 Entry #3

The Pastor Is an Overseer

The Bible uses three main words for the pastor: Elder, Shepherd (Pastor) and Overseer. These all appear as synonyms, especially in Acts 20.  There  Paul said to the elders,Be on guard for yourselves and for all the flock of which the Holy Spirit has appointed you as overseers, to shepherd the church of God, which he purchased with his own blood.” (Acts 20:28, CSB)

The word for overseer is also translated bishop, so if you look for a picture on the internet, you either get somebody in the Catholic hierarchy, or you get a picture of a pushy boss. I finally settled on a picture of a shepherd, because the Bible uses shepherd as a synonym.

The reason for the overseer is that the price paid for them is so high that our Lord wants none of them to be lost. The have been purchased at the price of the life, death, and blood of the Son of God, after all!

The flock is in danger of spiritual injury, from spiritual predators, and in danger of being lost to the flock. Therefore the overseer must be ready to treat injuries, to do battle with false prophets, and to chase after some who don’t want to be found.

And while our overseer isn’t a boss, there are times that our Good Shepherd, Jesus, wants us to do what he says! Hebrews tells us, “Obey your leaders and submit to them, since they keep watch over your souls as those who will give an account, so that they can do this with joy and not with grief, for that would be unprofitable for you.” (Hebrews 13:17, CSB) If you have a faithful pastor who is burdened with grief because of you, particularly because you will not take his counsel, that isn’t good for you.

A faithful pastor takes great care to speak only God’s word, and so is grief-stricken if we do not listen. So Jesus told His disciples, “Whoever listens to you listens to me. Whoever rejects you rejects me. And whoever rejects me rejects the one who sent me.”” (Luke 10:16, CSB)

So listen to the one who cares for you—your shepherd-overseer.

By |2019-01-25T15:14:24-07:00January 25th, 2019|Good News|0 Comments

Spiritual 911 Entry #2

Spiritual 911

The Pastor as our spiritual first-responder.

  1. The Pastor Is an Elder

The Bible uses three main words for the pastor: Elder, Shepherd (Pastor) and Overseer. These all appear as synonyms, especially in Acts 20. There Paul gathered the elders of Ephesus and addressed them as pastors and overseers.

In the Lutheran church, our pastors have at least eight years of post-secondary training, so even the younger ones are not so young. Even so, they are backed up by other pastors who are, shall we say, “well seasoned.” When I was young, the expression was that they had “been up the creek and over the hill a few times.”

The point is that by calling His pastors “elders” our Lord tells us that they are people who have compassion born of experience with the troubles, sorrows, and difficulties of life. They are people who have had experience in counseling and leading troubled souls, and they have shown that they hold what their people say in absolute confidence.

So what does this mean for us as church members?

—-First, it means that we feel free to call upon our pastor when we are dealing with those spiritual injuries that afflict us all: Illness,  injury, family uproar, emotional turmoil, and the like. Things like this try our faith. They can lead us to question God and to carry guilt or moral uncertainty.

—-Next, it means that we reach out to our pastor when we are lonely. He isn’t going to be everybody’s daily companion, but he is there in the pinch, and can point us to the One who never leaves us or forsakes us.

—-And he can be a sounding board and the voice of experience when we are trying to find our way in the world. Thinking of moving? School? Marriage? Career? The pastors experience on how these things impact our lives can help us find the best path.

Call your elder brother, your pastor. He will answer.

By |2019-01-18T20:37:57-07:00January 18th, 2019|Good News|0 Comments