I have discovered that one of the greatest “reliefs” in life is repentance. The freeing effect of being able to say, “I have sinned.” “I am the one that did it …” or “Yes, I’ve had these bad thoughts …” to the Lord in my heart, brings an immense healing. The Holy Spirit often reminds me that, “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9 NASB).
I’m writing this article on Christmas Eve, trying not to listen to Charles Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol” in the background. Nevertheless, Ebenezer Scrooge has just made my point. Having repented of his past, clearly seen his present, and with the “Spirit’s” invitation to a different future, Scrooge cries out, “I don’t know what to do!” Laughing and crying in the same breath and becoming almost childlike, he further chortles, “I am as light as a feather, I am as happy as an angel, I am as merry as a schoolboy. I am as giddy as a drunken man.” The repentant life is a joyful, unburdened, healthy life indeed. Perhaps that is also why Martin Luther in the first of his 95 Theses (nailed on the church door at Wittenburg, October 31, 1517) stated as absolute fact, if not necessity:
“1. When our Lord and Master Jesus Christ said, ‘Repent’ (Matthew 4:17), he willed the entire life of believers to be one of repentance.”
Over the years, I’ve also learned the cathartic release of James’ counsel in James 5:16: “Therefore, confess your sins to one another, and pray for one another, so that you may be healed” (NASB). A sincere reflection on my personal history has shown me the alacrity I’ve gained to overlook my sin and the energy I have spent – mostly unknowingly – keeping the honest acknowledgement of my sin at bay. Then there’s the truism that casual repentance doesn’t do much good … if at all. As I heard at the seminary years ago, “Ambiguous repentance yields ambiguous absolution.”
An indispensable intermediary in the person of the prophet Nathan awakened King David to his desperate need for repentance. Brought to the acknowledgement of his sin and later writing his Psalm of repentance, I picture him turning to God and finally saying:
“Against Thee, Thee only, I have sinned,
And done what is evil in Thy sight,
So that Thou art justified when Thou dost speak,
And blameless when Thou dost judge” (Psalm 51:4 NASB).
It was after the “confrontation” and his confession that David found his first real healing, his first tangible peace since “the spring, at the time when kings go off to war” (1 Samuel 11:1 NIV) (cf. Psalm 32:3-5).
The necessary Nathans in my life have come in the persons of my wife, children, an accountability partner, and brothers in an accountability group. I’ve learned to listen to, and even invite, their watchful eye on my life rather than wait for their required rebuke over a “growing,” more major, malevolence. This invitation and concomitant constructive conversation is based on trust, love, and a mutually agreed upon means and end of running the race well (cf. 1 Corinthians 9:24) and ultimately hearing the Lord say, “Well done, good and faithful slave …” (Matthew 25: 21, 23 NASB).
I am well aware that I’ve been greatly blessed to have these relationships, that they should not be taken for granted … and that not everyone has been similarly blessed. Nonetheless, my counsel to you for your continued health and well-being is that you work at these relationships; in particular, that you get the help you need to be spiritually healthy. There is nothing quite like hearing and receiving absolution from a trusted father confessor; even more, to receive the body and blood of our Lord – the very price of our salvation – in the Sacrament in the full assurance of faith.
How grateful I am that the Michigan District (and in no small way, the Church Extension Fund of the Michigan District through the Sower’s Fund) in pursuit of fulfilling one of the Michigan District’s four critical targets – Healthy Church Workers – has secured the services of the Rev. Dr. Bryan Salminen, Ph.D., L.P.C., L.M.F.T. He has been contracted to serve as the District’s Director of Worker Care. A pastor, counselor, and licensed psychologist, he is a true gift to the church, loves Jesus, and is trustworthy. District workers are encouraged to take advantage of this tremendous resource to become fully healthy in the Lord. Dr. Salminen can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling his office at 989.224.6796. He is a brother in the ministry who understands and will not share confidentialities with ecclesiastical supervisors without your permission.
May our good and gracious Lord “Who is at work in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure” (Philippians 2:13 NASB) give you the faith to “know and rely on the love God has for us” (1 John 4:16 NIV). Together, may we heed and believe the prophet’s inspired invitation to healing: “In repentance and rest is your salvation, in quietness and trust is your strength” (Isaiah 30:15 NIV).
Continually Restored at the Foot of the Cross … with You,
Pastor David Maier
Caring for Church Workers
The Michigan District values assisting congregations and professional church workers and to this end provides quality support services through the President’s office, Congregation Mission and Ministry Facilitators, Rev. Dr. Bryan Salminen, and other staff.
Commission on Ministerial Growth & Support
The Commission on Ministerial Growth & Support of the Michigan District, LCMS provides resources in the area of mental health, counseling, and other services. Its mission is to enrich the whole person – emotional, spiritual, physical, financial, and relational health – of professional church workers through promotion, education, referral assistance, and advocacy.
The District website lists resources including mental healthcare professionals, agencies, and counselors. Health and wellness, financial matters, and ministerial care resources are listed as well as retreats offering lifestyle programs integrating healthy attitudes and skills for church workers and their spouses.
Proven Character Task Force
The District’s Proven Character (PC) Task Force equips pastors and congregations in dealing with online sexual behavior and other forms of addiction. Educational books and studies in this area are listed on the website for further research.
Each year, District conferences and webinars are strategically planned to enrich church workers and their spouses in vital spiritual areas for ministry. Past events include such subjects as temptation, spiritual disciplines, prayer life, trust, apologetics, and holding fast to God’s Word.
“Partners in Ministry: Ethical Conduct for Professional Church Workers” is designed for use by ordained and commissioned ministers of religion as they recognize the importance of their role and the privilege they have to serve God’s people in so many ways. These documents have been prepared to assist professional church workers in examining their ministries to remain focused on the important work before them. It is designed to remind them of obligations and responsibilities to the Lord, oneself, family, and community. The documents underscore good practice and to help guard against actions which might interfere with ministry.
“Partners in Ministry: Ethical Conduct for Congregations” highlights good practice when securing workers, living with workers, and dealing with workers, and also assists congregations in developing policies that will assure that all are provided for in a caring and professional way.
Care of the church worker and confidentiality is paramount to the District. For more information and resources, visit www.michigandistrict.org.