Counselor's Corner

Counselor's Corner is a monthly article written by the LWML District Pastoral Counselors for the Lutheran Witness supplement page.

November 2019 Article

The Rev. Matthew Vrudny

Park Region Pastoral Counselor

Spiritual hunger

"Behold, the days are coming," declares the Lord God, 'when I will send a famine on the land – not a famine of bread, nor a thirst for water, but of hearing the words of the Lord.'" Amos 8:11

How thankful we are for our Thanksgiving Day gathering and meal! It's a good tradition of praise to the God who provides a harvest of plant and animal. What a sad year it would be if we were to experience a drought or flood leading to a famine and no meal of turkey and stuffing.

Even worse would be a famine of the soul. Through Amos, God once threatened a frightening event: A famine of hearing the Word of God the Word of Life. He said it would cause people to run around frantically seeking it, but not finding it. Is there a famine today of God's Word? Not among us. How blessed we are!

"But the Word is very near you... in your mouth and in your heart." Deut. 30:14

Yet there is plenty of spiritual starvation because too many distracted by self and the world are not seeking His Word; they are in a famine. We have Good News to share: To alleviate spiritual hunger that leads to death, the Father gave us His Word through the Spirit (written) and in the flesh of His Son. Jesus is the Life-giving Word and the Bread from heaven. His flesh was given on the cross so that we might not die in sin. His Spirit was sent to remind us of His Words of this new and eternal life of faith we have been given.

Give thanks to the Lord God for His many blessings especially for the continuing rich harvest of spiritual bread which is far more important than our traditional turkey and stuffing.

October 2019 Article

The Rev. Bruce Timm

Arrowhead Region Pastoral Counselor

Repentance every day

On a summer trip to Arkansas, my wife and I listened to the book Martin Luther by Eric Metaxas. Metaxas pointed out that there are a lot of myths surrounding Luther. Did he really throw an inkwell at the wall when the devil was tempting him? Did he finally understand the Gospel one day while sitting on the toilet? Did he actually nail the 95 Theses to the door of the Castle Church in Wittenberg? We're not absolutely sure.

We do know that Luther wrote the 95 Theses. Luther's first thesis states:

"When our Lord and Master Jesus Christ said, 'Repent' (Matt. 4:17), he willed the entire life of believers to be one of repentance."

The danger of Luther's day was the people thought a few certain actions (buying indulgences, worshiping relics, observing the Mass) would help their salvation. It was largely an outward action without any inward effect. The other danger was that Rome taught that you could never be certain of your salvation; hence you always had to keep on buying indulgences, worshiping relics and observing the Mass.

Repentance is not just a Sunday thing, or an occasional activity. It is an everyday, all-day way of life. Luther taught this in his Morning and Evening prayers. In the morning, we pray that God would "keep me this day from all evil." In the evening we pray that God would "forgive me all my sins where I have done wrong."

Until we die or the Lord returns, our sin will cling to us, but that doesn't mean we cannot be certain of our salvation. Immediately before Jesus died on the cross, He declared, "It is finished" (John 19:30). He carried your sin to the cross. He suffered your hell. He paid the price of your redemption. It is finished. Your sin is forgiven. You will not suffer hell. You have been redeemed. All of that is as certain as Christ's resurrection on the third day.

As we celebrate the Reformation this month, we do well to live our entire lives in repentance, confessing our sins and receiving forgiveness from Jesus through His Word preached and His sacraments given.

September 2019 Article

The Rev. Donald Klatt

Lakeland Region Pastoral Counselor

Rejoice in the Cross

"Sir, we wish to see Jesus" (John 12:21). Then look to His Holy Cross. For just as Moses lifted up the bronze serpent in the wilderness, so Jesus, when He is lifted up from the earth, "will draw all people to Himself." (John 12:32)

During the Pentecost season, and more specifically in September, the Church celebrates a festival commemorating the Holy Cross. It's likely not very familiar to you. That's OK. Just so you know, it's one of the oldest observances in the ancient Church.

The Feast of the Holy Cross has many parallels to Good Friday in its concentration on the Passion of Christ and His death on the Cross. It does contrast the sorrowful somberness of Holy Week with a day that is more enthusiastic in its raising up of the Cross as the means that our Lord has accomplished His triumph over all the enemies of God and His people: Sin, death, the power of the devil and the world.

The body of Jesus Christ upon the Cross is a reminder of the price He paid for your sins. May your daily life follow St. Paul's words: "But we preach Christ crucified" (1 Cor. 1:23) and "I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified." (1 Cor. 2:2)

Many of our churches used to have a cross with a body (corpus) on it, and some still do. What a beautiful reminder of the love that God has for you, to send His only begotten Son to die this cruel and humiliating death for you. On the Cross you find redemption poured out from His side, the water and the blood, Holy Baptism and the Lord's Supper.

So dear saints in Christ, rejoice in the Cross, for on the Cross your sins are forgiven.

August 2019 Article

The Rev. Matthew Vrudny

Park Region Pastoral Counselor

Better rewards

"Godliness is of value in every way, as it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come." 1 Tim. 4:8

With those in her yoga class, an LWML member liked to speak of her faith and church. One woman scoffed: "The trouble with you is that you think you're better than the rest of us." "Not better," she replied, "just better off."

How true! The person who has come to God through faith in Christ is far better off than the one who has no Lord and Savior. With a thankful heart, when you lead a Christian life, deal honestly with your neighbors, live at peace with others and, by the help of the Holy Spirit, obey the laws of God and man, you are much better off than the person who cannot let go of past hurts, does not have a reliable guide for today and doesn't have God's promise for the future.

The rewards of the Christian faith are not just on the other side of the grave. We have many rewards in the present life, although they are sometimes hard to measure. Those rewards include peace, contentment, love, joy, a daily relationship with the very Son of God and the full assurance of ultimate victory. All of these will certainly result in less stress, anger, grudges and even sorrow.

We pray that our witness to others will show the great value of biblical godliness, not for our own credit but to the praise of Christ Jesus and His invitation to others for the same blessings in their life! Indeed, the believer in Christ is "better off " both in this world and the next!

June-July 2019 Article

The Rev. Bruce Timm

Arrowhead Region Pastoral Counselor

Learning from tradition

One of my members recently commented that she thought my preaching had been really good lately. The comment was appreciated, unexpected and, yet, it didn't surprise me.

The comment was appreciated and unexpected because I have been serving my congregation Redeemer in St. Cloud for 18 years. They know what to expect. They've heard the same old preacher for nearly two decades. Rarely does anyone comment on my preaching and that's fine.

The greatest joy I have in preaching is when people show up to hear God's Word. If you want your pastor to be a good preacher, be in church every Lord's day and pay attention. My greatest Sundays are when one member who has been long absent from God's house is present to hear His Word. That one member helps me to be a better preacher.

Yet the comment did not surprise me because I had recently changed my preaching. For the second time in my 30 years of being a pastor, I chose to use the historic one-year lectionary. Most LCMS congregations use a three-year series of readings developed in the 1970s. Your bulletins, reading inserts and pastor's sermons are based on those appointed readings.

The historic lectionary goes back to the early church. This is what I believe has changed my preaching for the better. I am reading old sermons. I am reading the sermons of Martin Luther and Johann Gerhardt, and also sermons by the church fathers. They are great; they rarely use cute stories or illustrations to make a point; they use Scripture. I also believe that using the same readings every year will help teach us a solid set of biblical stories and accounts.

G.K. Chesterton wrote: "Tradition means giving votes to the most obscure of all classes, our ancestors. It is the democracy of the dead. Tradition refuses to submit to the small and arrogant oligarchy of those who merely happen to be walking about." (Orthodoxy, p. 85)

This historic lectionary is the traditional lectionary of the Church. It predates the Roman Catholic, Lutheran and Orthodox churches. I'm not sure if my preaching is better, but I have enjoyed being schooled by the dead and letting their sermons teach and guide me.

Encourage your pastor to look at the one-year lectionary. Advent is a great time to switch lectionaries because it begins a new church year. Whatever you do, don't say to your pastor: "Here's a suggestion to improve your preaching!" Instead, thank him for faithfully preaching Jesus to you.

May 2019 Article

The Rev. Donald Klatt

Lakeland Region Pastoral Counselor

Alleluia! Christ is Risen!

The first part of the Alleluia verse that remains constant during Easter is Rom. 6:9: "We know that Christ, being raised from the dead, will never die again; death no longer has dominion over him."

Alleluia! Christ is Risen! He is Risen Indeed. Alleluia!

What wonderful news for Christians! First, Christ is raised from the dead. If He wasn't raised from the dead, your faith would be for nothing. Second, He will never die again because death no longer has power or authority over Him. This means that Christ lives eternally, that He will never, ever die again.

Selections for part of the Gradual for Easter are from Psalm 8: "Christ has risen from the dead. God the Father has crowned him with glory and honor, He has given him dominion over the works of his hands; he has put all things under his feet." Psalm 8 brings us hope. It is referenced in Hebrews also. The point here is that everything is put into subjection to man. Human beings have authority over the earth and living things. Jesus, being 100 percent man, also has this power and authority over creation. But Jesus, as 100 percent God, has greater control over the earth and all living things. In this psalm, David is reminding you that all of creation is the work of God's hands.

As Lutheran Christians, you confess that Jesus has authority over your lives and He also has authority over all things. Jesus "will transform your lowly body to be like His glorious body, by the power that enables him even to subject all things to himself" (Phil. 3:21).

Thanks be to God that He is the One who is in control. Being in Christ, you have died with Him in your baptism and been raised from death to new life as a child of God. We rejoice in the crucified Christ's victory over sin, death and the devil to give everlasting life to all who trust in Him.

Alleluia! Christ is Risen! He is Risen Indeed. Alleluia!

April 2019 Article

The Rev. Matthew Vrudny

Park Region Pastoral Counselor

Guiding us daily

As Jesus passed on from there, He saw a man ... and He said to him, 'Follow Me.'" Matt. 9:9

I once read that the famous frontiersman Daniel Boone has been called "the Columbus of the woods," who helped people from getting lost. Adam and Eve were lost in the woods even though we only hear of two trees! Spiritually, all of Adam's descendants are lost in the forest of sin. But Yahweh had mercy. He promised to send His own Son to lead the way out of "the land of the shadow of death," says Isaiah, and into the open, green pastures of light and life eternal.

As Jesus' life unfolds in that Gospel light, with divine Word and works, He is shown and proclaimed as the fulfillment of the promised Messiah. And the mercy of the Lord overflowed in Him! Jesus has done more than just show us the way to life; He Himself is the Way and the only way to the Father. When He endured the cross to atone for our sin, and when He rose from the dead to bring life and immortality to light, He became the pioneer and perfecter of our faith. Baptized in Christ Jesus, we will rise with our bodies to life eternal.

Daniel Boone was quite talented as a guide and explorer, opening new areas of our country for people to dwell in, but he's long gone. But Jesus is not a mere guide whose time is past. He is the Savior, who according to the writer of Hebrews alone is leading us through this world and straight on into the "better country, a heavenly one." He continues to say to us, and to all who are around us: "Follow Me!"

March 2019 Article

The Rev. Bruce Timm

Arrowhead Region Pastoral Counselor

Who receives this Sacrament worthily?

"Fasting and bodily preparation are certainly fine outward training. But that person is truly worthy and well prepared who has faith in these words: 'Given and shed for you for the forgiveness of sins.' But anyone who does not believe these words or doubts them is unworthy and unprepared, for the words 'for you' require all hearts to believe." (The Sacrament of the Altar, Luther's Small Catechism, 1986 CPH)

Fasting is "certainly fine outward training." Lutherans can fast, but it does not earn you any favors with God or make you more pleasing in His eyes. Christ did all the work of salvation and He declared all foods clean. We do not need to abstain from certain foods or at certain times to please God. Christ alone pleases God.

Why should you fast? You fast for your faith. Fasting is saying "no" to food and "no" to yourself and that is good practice for your faith. As Paul says to Titus:

"For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men. It teaches us to say 'No' to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age." Titus 2:11-12 NIV

Believing in Christ entails saying "no" to yourself, your sinful desires, your ungodly passions. Fasting says "no" in a small and simple way.

Fasting will make you hungry. One historic practice of Christians is not to eat on Sunday morning before receiving the Lord's Supper. You will be hungry in church and think about food. The first food you eat on the Lord's Day will be the Lord's Supper. In it you will receive the only food on earth that will keep you alive forever the living and risen body and blood of Jesus Christ under the bread and wine. Your hunger and denial will prepare you to receive the Lord's Supper in faith. Remember though what Luther says. It is not the fasting that makes you worthy. Faith alone in Christ's Words (that this is His body and blood "given and shed for you for the forgiveness of sins") enables you to receive the Lord's Supper for your benefit.

Fasting is training, practice and discipline. It is saying "no" to yourself and disciplining your body and mind to receive Christ's gifts. Why not try a little fasting this Lent before the Feast of the Resurrection?

February 2019 Article

The Rev. Donald Klatt

Lakeland Region Pastoral Counselor

Boundless Love

"But God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us." Rom. 5:8

Love really is a popular secular theme in February. You send flowers, chocolates and gifts to your loved ones. You take them out for a special meal. People think or feel that their love for their spouse, children, grandchildren or parents is so unfathomable.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, as profound as is the love that you have for your loved ones, it is nothing in comparison to the love that God has for you. In the Garden of Eden, our ancestors Adam and Eve sinned and that perfect relationship with God was severed. There would be nothing that you (or anyone) would ever be able to do to repair that relationship because of your sinfulness. So God shows His love for you in that while you were still a sinner, He set in motion a plan to restore, to heal this broken relationship that you and I never could.

In God the Father's plan, He sent His Son from His heavenly throne to become a man. Fully God and fully man. To live a perfect life under the Law and so fulfill all of the Law. The Son willingly takes the sins of the world to that cruel tree that you call the cross. There Jesus, the Christ, was crucified, died and was buried. The wrath that you deserve for your sins is poured out upon Jesus in order that you might be declared righteous, justified from the penalty of your sins. While you were a sinner, Christ died for you.

Saints in Christ, Jesus did not stay in the tomb. No, sin and death could not hold Him. He rose from the dead, and 40 days later ascended back to His heavenly throne. This is the love God has for you. He desires that you trust in Him and His promises so you can celebrate the eternal wedding feast of the Lamb (Christ) and His bride (the Church). The peace of Christ be with you all.

January 2019 Article

The Rev. Matthew Vrudny

Park Region Pastoral Counselor
"Arise, shine, for your light has come, and the glory of the Lord rises upon you." Is. 60:1

Arise, shine!

These words declare to us the Epiphany season. While our hearts are still remembering and our homes are still smelling of the Christmas season, this text presents a kind of challenge to us. Our light has indeed come!

The crude and overwhelming darkness which covered Isaiah's world, and the 12 disciples' world, still covers our groping, stumbling world. But the light from heaven, God's own dear Son, came down to earth to shine so that we could confess with Simeon:

"For my eyes have seen your salvation ... a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and the glory of your people Israel." Luke 2:30, 32

With this faith, with our "seeing" comes the challenge: "Arise, shine!" Spread the light, tell everyone what He has done! He has called us out of darkness and into His marvelous light.

LWML members know that this is a dual task. We rejoice in the work being done for us, in our name, by the larger missionary league. What wonderful Gospel work is being done on our behalf. But this is not enough; that work may not reach our neighbor!

For them we, each of us, are to arise and shine. For the Lord is risen upon each of our lives for His Epiphany mission: That all eyes may see and rejoice in His salvation. Jesus thy light has come. Arise and shine in Him!

Church Workers in Mission

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