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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

Spiritual 911 Entry #1

The Pastor – Spiritual First-responder.

1. The relationship between pastor and people is something God has created. (The Pastor and his flock.)

Scripture tells us that there are many relationships in our lives that God has defined. Parents, for example, are charged with the physical well-being of their families (1 Timothy 5:8). This is so widely understood that parent who don’t will face serious criminal charges. It is also true that parents are charged with the spiritual care of their children (Deuteronomy 6:4-9).

These are not contractual relationships, they exist by the nature of things, by God’s order.

In the great spiritual battle that continues in this world, many deny this. Some will say, for example, that the raising of children is fundamentally the responsibility of the state, and not the parents. This part of the “progressive” agenda has become law in communist countries and in much of Europe.

The erosion of the pastor’s responsibilities has gone much farther, so that many churches look at the pastor as some sort of celebrity leader or C.E.O.

But God’s word says that when He calls us to faith and leads us into a Christian congregation, that we have certain obligations to Him, and this includes the obligation to listen to our pastors. He makes this abundantly clear in Hebrews 13:17(NKJV), “Obey those who rule over you, and be submissive, for they watch out for your souls, as those who must give account. Let them do so with joy and not with grief, for that would be unprofitable for you.”

This is mirrored in the direction that He gives to the pastors through His apostle, Paul, in Acts 20:28 (CSB), “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.”

This makes the faithfulness of the pastor a most important consideration, and is why I say that the pastor is “The guy that stays awake nights, concerned for the souls of his people.

So as we learn from the Bible how God cares for us through our pastors, it will be with the understanding that it is not just a useful option, but our Lord’s order and His blessing.

By |2019-02-06T09:04:36-07:00January 4th, 2019|Good News, Uncategorized|0 Comments

Spiritual 911 – Entry #0

The Pastor – Spiritual First-responder.

Most people will answer that question based on their experiences: TV or Radio preachers, appearances in movies or on TV, what we see of a pastor on a Sunday morning, or a general impression based on a smattering of associations.

Here is my informal definition: Your pastor is the guy that stays up late at night concerned for your soul. The more formal definition comes from Scripture, when Paul tells the elders (pastors) at Ephesus what is expected of them, Acts 20:28 (CSB) “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.”

Another description of the pastor comes from the German, seelsorger, which means soul-healer. This reflects the fact that we sustain spiritual and moral injuries in our lives and our pastor is the one who is to provide treatment according the direction of the Great Physician and Shepherd, our Lord Jesus Christ.

Many Christians express surprise when they discover that our Lord has sent their pastor to visit them when they are in the hospital, to counsel them when they are dealing with family difficulties, to comfort them when they lose someone they love, to seek them when they go astray, to warn them about false teachers, and more.

In this series I will be discussing some of the various characteristics of the pastoral office as Jesus created it so that His people can benefit from the good that He has provided for us.

Here are some of the topics coming up:

  1. The relationship between pastor and people is something God has created. (The Pastor and his flock.)
  2. The pastor is accountable to God, first of all.
  3. The pastor is an elder.
  4. The pastor is an overseer
  5. The pastor is a shepherd
  6. Treating spiritual injuries
  7. Moral injuries
  8. When to call the pastor
  9. The pastor in the church
  10. The pastor among his people
  11. The pastor in the community.

(Illustration from https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/pastor)

By |2019-02-06T09:06:23-07:00January 4th, 2019|Good News, Uncategorized|0 Comments

The “O” Hymns of Christmas

O Come, O Come, Emmanuel

The “O” Antiphons

O Come, O Come, Emmanuel is one of the better-known hymns sung during the Advent season. This hymn originated in the Middle Ages, around A.D. 800, as an antiphon, or anthem. It is a synthesis of the great “O Antiphons” that are used for Vespers during the eight days before Christmas (Dec. 17-23). The antiphon was sung before and after the Magnificat at Vespers each day. The antiphons are, in fact, a collection of Old Testament types of Christ. Jesus is invoked by various titles, mainly taken from the prophet Isaiah.

These antiphons were restructured into verse form in the 1100s and was eventually published in Latin in 1710. The hymn was later discovered, translated, and published in 1851 by John Mason Neale, an Anglican minister.

What do these antiphons tell us about Jesus?

On December 17th, Jesus is addressed as “O Wisdom” who comes from the mouth of the Most High. The hymn prays “to us the path of knowledge show And teach us in her ways to go” (ELH #110:2). St. John declared that “the Word was God” who made all things and who became flesh. Jesus taught the wisdom of God, that the way to the Father is through Him alone.

Jesus is addressed on December 18th as “O Lord.” The antiphon and hymn mention Jesus as the giver of the law on Mt. Sinai, “In cloud and majesty and awe” (ELH 110:3). But the antiphon ends with the prayer, “Come and redeem us with an outstretched arm.” As Lord, Jesus came with divine might to conquer our enemies and give us salvation.

“O Root of Jesse” was the name given for December 19th. Isaiah prophesied: “There shall come forth a Rod [Root] from the stem of Jesse, and a Branch shall grow out of his roots” (Isaiah 11:1). The kingdom of David, Jesse’s son, had been cut down. But the stump was not dead, because Jesus came as a Branch of David, a King who delivered us from Satan, sin, and death.

The antiphon for December 20th addressed Jesus as “O Key of David.” Again Isaiah said: “The key of the house of David I will lay on his shoulder; so he will open, and no one shall shut; and he will shut, and no one can open” (Isaiah 22:22). These keys are Law—which closes heaven to unbelievers, and Gospel—which opens heavens to those who believe on Jesus as their Savior. In our hymn we pray: “And open wide our heav’nly home; Make safe the way that leads on high, And close the path to misery” (ELH 110:5)

“O Dayspring” is said on December 21, reflects the prophecy of Malachi: “The Sun of Righteousness shall arise with healing in His wings” (Malachi 4:2) and of Isaiah: “The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light” (Isaiah 9:2). The rays [wings] of the Son of God bring healing to our soul through faith in the Gospel. Therefore we sing, “Disperse the gloomy clouds of night; and death’s dark shadows put to flight” (ELH 110:6).

On December 22nd, the liturgy praises Jesus with the title “O King of the Nations.” Isaiah declares that the Son that God gave is also “the Prince of Peace.” Haggai prophesied: “I will shake all nations, and they shall come to the Desire of All Nations” (Haggai 2:7). The emphasis is that this King is given for all people, for He will become the atoning sacrifice for the sins of the whole world (1 John 2:2).

On the day before Christmas, Jesus is called “O Emmanuel,” a Hebrew word that means “God is with us.” This word is used by Isaiah: “Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a Son, and shall call His name Immanuel” (Isaiah 7:14).

The antiphon prays: “O Emmanuel, our king and our lawgiver, the hope of the nations and their Savior: Come and save us, O Lord our God.” Our hymn asks “O come, O come, Emmanuel, And ransom captive Israel” (ELH 110:1).

As we sing the hymn “O come, O come, Emmanuel,” we are asking the Christ-child to come to us as our Lord, King and Savior. These “O antiphons” move us from the shadows of the Old Testament waiting for the Messiah to come, into the light of the New Testament revelation about Jesus and His birth. May the Lord bless us as we draw near to celebrating Christmas and God’s salvation.

(Credit to St. Timothy Lutheran Church-ELS)

By |2019-01-14T14:08:54-07:00December 19th, 2018|Good News, Uncategorized|0 Comments