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Inside this issue:
• Swimming in Faith • Why Jesus? • ABCs of Christian Living W W W. H I G H E RT H I N G S . O R G
/ FA L L / 2008
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Contents T A B L E
The Language of the Parables: Why Jesus?
By Rev. Bryan Wolfmueller It’s hard to understand parables. Are they about you, or your neighbor, or Jesus, or Christians, or non-believers? How can you tell? Pastor Wolfmueller helps to sort out the confusion by pointing you back to your Savior.
Swimming in Faith
By Mr. Kyle Verage Swimming is hard work. Sometimes it’s fun. Sometimes not. Sometimes it’s easy. Sometimes it’s hard. Daily prayer, personal devotion, and church attendance are hard work too. Sometimes they’re not fun or easy either. So, why bother? Swimmer Kyle Verage talks discipline, grace, and faith.
By Rev. Christopher Esget You heard Pastor Esget preach at the Amen conference and wished you had a copy of his sermon to read again. Well, now you do! For a little light reading on your salvation and God’s mercy, read on.
10 The ABCs of Christian Living
By Rev. Jim Roemke Have you stopped to wonder why we sing the Alleluia when we do in church? Or what the point of the Offertory is? Pastor Roemke lays out the Divine Service in a few easy steps so that you can understand exactly what’s going on on Sunday morning.
12 Is This Mission Work?
COLUMNS 20 Christ on Campus: Of Testimonies,
Volume 8/Number 3 • Fall 2008
Healings, and a Holy Spirit Carwash By Rev. Richard Woelmer All Lutherans have been there. One minute we’re talking about salvation, and the next minute someone’s wondering when we asked Jesus into our hearts. We fumble around and finally mutter, “Um, when I was baptized?” If you’ve been in that spot and don’t want to be again, Pastor Woelmer sheds some light on the situation.
22 A Boring Sermon and a Boring Listener
By Kathy Luder Most of us like our pastor. We know his preaching style and understand his sense of humor. But Kathy’s pastor is gone for the week, and a different pastor is filling in, a pastor she knows is old and dull. Just as she starts to wonder why she’s even bothering to go, Mom Luder sets her straight . . . and gets your priorities back in line too.
28 Learning by Heart
By Rev. David Petersen We’ve all complained about having to memorize the catechism or hymns or Bible passages. It seems pretty pointless. After all, if we need to know something, we can grab the book and look it up. But Pastor Petersen wants you to know that when the Word of God is in your heart—memorized and close at hand—it transforms you. And let’s be honest, who doesn’t want to be changed from a whiny teenager to a comforted believer?
By Rev. Tim Pauls Many fellow Christians don’t understand why we believe that in the Lord’s Supper Jesus gives us His Body and Blood in, with, and under the bread and wine. We can almost guarantee that you’ll be challenged on this doctrine, so read Pastor Pauls’ article for a few of the common criticisms as well as suggestions on how to respond.
Editor REV. TIM
Managing Editor ADRIANE DORR Assistant Editor
JULIE BECKWITH Art Director STEVE BLAKEY Editorial Associates
REV. GREG ALMS REV. PAUL BEISEL REV. BART DAY REV. DAVID PETERSEN Thanks to retiring Bible Studies Editor REV. DAN MACKEY Business Manager
LYNNETTE FREDERICKSEN Subscriptions Manager
ELIZABETH CARLSON Webmaster STAN LEMON Great Quote
“LET THE UTTERANCES OF THE ANGELS AND PROPHETS AROUSE US AND MOVE US TO HASTEN TO HIGHER THINGS.” —ST. AMBROSE* Christ on Campus Executive REV. MARCUS ZILL Conferences Executive REV. GEORGE F. BORGHARDT
Internet Services Executive MARK BUETOW Publications Executive CAROLYN COCKEY Retreat Executive LANDON REED Not-As-Great Quote
“DUDE, WHAT’S WITH THE SHIRT?” —THE GUY AT THE SUB SHOP, LOOKING AT REV. PAULS’ CLERICAL. THE BOARD OF DIRECTORS President
REV. WILLIAM CWIRLA Secretary Treasurer
LYNNETTE FREDERICKSEN Subscriptions Manager
REV. JOEL FRITSCHE REV. DAVID KIND REV. BRENT KUHLMANN REV. LARRY NICHOLS MARK PFUNDSTEIN ___________
24 A Tale of Two Fish
26 How to Defend the Real Presence and Have Fun Doing It
Volume 8/Number 3/Fall 2008
By Rev. James May Every summer your friends go on mission trips, and they always sound so exciting. They’re building houses and doing puppet shows, and you’re sitting at home doing nothing. Or are you? Pastor May fills you in on the true meaning of mission work and why it may be something different than what you think. By Rev. Dr. Nathan Jastram You see them all the time on the back of cars: a fish with a pair of legs or a fish that says “Darwin” swallowing the Christian fish. But do you know where those symbols come from and what they mean? If you don’t, Pastor Jastram has the explanation, and it just might come in handy next time you see one of those cars in the mall parking lot.
Top five reasons to Read Higher Things… 5. Did you read the latest about Britney, Lindsay, and Angelina? If you did, it wasn’t here. 4. It takes everything you learned in confirmation and shows why “What does this mean?” matters. 3. We’d boast that it’s the best Lutheran youth magazine in the world today, but that sounds a little too proud. 2. We “humbly suggest” that this is the best Lutheran youth magazine in the world today. 1. Christ and His gifts. Law and Gospel. Always.
*On the Death of His Brother Satyrus, 2:112.“Selected excerpts from ‘The Fathers of the Church,’ 86 volumes. Copyright © 1947-. Used by permission of Catholic University of America Press.”
Higher Things Magazine ISSN 1539-8455 is published quarterly by Higher Things, Inc., 5009 Cassia, Boise, ID 83705. No portion of this publication may be reproduced without the written consent of the executive editor of Higher Things Magazine. Copyright 2008. Printed in the United States. Postage paid at St. Louis, Missouri. For subscription information and questions, call 1-888-448-2359 or e-mail email@example.com. (This phone F number is only used for subscription queries.) For letters to the editor, write letters@ A higherthings.org. Writers may submit L manuscripts to: firstname.lastname@example.org. L Please check http://higherthings.org/ magazine/writers.html for writers’ guidelines and theme lists.
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The Language of the Kingdom:
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hen I was in college, I spent one of my summers in a remote village in the highlands of Fiji. There was no running water, no electricity.The people of the village spoke English, but whenever there was anything important to discuss the conversation would change to Fijian.
There was a man who would walk around the village each morning chanting the news. I had no idea what was being said. He could have been reviewing the points of the ongoing debate about the benefits of electricity in the village, or he could have said, “Keep the goats out of the toilets.”The business of the village happens in the language of the village; strangers are left out. The parables of Jesus work the same way.They are spoken in the language of the kingdom of God, spoken for the children of the kingdom.To His followers, Jesus is revealing the truths of His kingdom. To those who do not believe in Jesus, the parables hide these truths of the Lord’s kingdom. As Jesus gets farther from His Baptism and closer to the cross, opposition to Him grows.The crowds become polarized, pulled off the fence in one direction or the other. In this charged atmosphere, Jesus teaches in parables. The Lord’s disciples notice this change and ask Him about it.“Why do You speak to them in parables?” (Matthew 13:10). Jesus answers, “Because it has been given to you to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it has not been given. For whoever has, to him more will be given, and he will have in abundance; but whoever does not have, even what he has will be taken away from him.Therefore I speak to them in parables, because seeing they do not see, and hearing they do not hear, nor do they understand.” (Matthew 13:11–13) When Jesus uses parables, He is speaking in the language of the kingdom, and this speaking is for the citizens of the kingdom. Like the announcements chanted in Fijian, the citizens hear and understand what’s being said; outsiders don’t.
Teaches in Parables By Rev. Bryan Wolfmueller
Parables are for Christians.They are for us, the Lord’s baptized. We have learned the language of His kingdom. The parables deliver for us the treasures of our salvation and all the gifts of the Lord and His cross. We are the Lord’s forgiven sinners. Over and over we hear these joyful themes in the Lord’s parables. We are those who are forgiven much and, therefore, love much (The Two Debtors, Luke 7:36–50). Like the publican, we stand far off and beg the Lord’s mercy. He answers our prayer, and we are justified (The Pharisee and the Publican, Luke 18). As the Lord’s Church, we are His treasure, His pearl of great price, purchased not with gold and silver, but with His holy precious blood and His innocent suffering and death (Hidden Treasure and the Pearl of Great Price, Matthew 13). He has planned planted His Word in our hearts, and this Word bears the fruit of eternal life (The Sower, Matthew 13). We share in the angelic joy, knowing that we, like lost sheep or a lost coin, are sought after by our Lord Jesus, the Seeker and the Savior of the lost (The Lost Sheep and the Lost Coin, Luke 15).The open arms that receive the prodigal son, and the ring, and the robe, and the slaughtered fatted calf are pictures of our heavenly Father’s unbounded love and mercy for us sinners (The Prodigal Son, Luke 15). In the midst of trouble and tribulation, we take comfort that we are in the Church, the house built on the solid rock of the Lord’s Word (The House Built on a Rock, Matthew 7). We are the unworthy inheritors of the
Lord’s kingdom (The Wicked Tenants, Luke 20), and His kingdom is for us a great banquet (The Great Supper, Luke 14) and a joyful wedding feast (The Marriage of the King’s Son, Matthew 22). Not foolish or faithless, the Lord’s Christians are the wise virgins who, by faith, see the joy of their salvation in the eternal wedding feast of the Lamb (The Ten Virgins, Matthew 25). We trust not in our riches, our goodness, or ourselves, but rather in the Lord Jesus and His blood and cross (The Rich Fool, Luke 12). All these benefits come to us not from our labors, but from the Lord’s promises (The Laborer in the Vineyard, Matthew 20). We, like a faithful servant waiting for the master’s return, look for the second coming of the Lord Jesus (The Watching Servants, Mark 13), and when the Lord Jesus returns, like the wheat, we will be gathered by the angels into the eternal barn of the Lord’s mercy (The Wheat and the Tares, Matthew 13). Praise the Lord that we are the sheep on the Lord’s right hand of blessing (The Sheep and the Goats, Matthew 25). Praise the Lord that we are baptized into His kingdom. We hear in the Lord’s parables that echo of the Lord’s great and blessed judgment for us,“Come, you blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world” (Matthew 25:34). Rev. Bryan Wolfmueller is husband to Keri, father to Hannah, Andrew, Daniel, and another child due in November, and pastor of Hope Lutheran Church in Aurora, Colorado. After ten years, his tan from the Fijian sun has completely faded. He may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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Swimming in H
ead in line, good shoulder rotation, butt tight, toes pointed, stiff kick—all parts of a good backstroke swim. It takes a lot of discipline, commitment, and straight up hard work to develop the technique necessary for a good backstroke, a good swimming stroke. It’s really hard to wake up, trudge half-asleep to an early morning workout still sore from the practice only ten hours earlier, and get motivated to swim hard. But that’s what it takes.That’s just what needs to be done. In the same way, it takes discipline and, indeed, training to go to church, pray, and live faithfully.
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So if I wake up at 5:30 on an average morning to swim, getting up for church on Sunday should be cake, right? Unfortunately, my sinful flesh wants nothing more than to stay away from church.The devil wants to kill my faith. And the world wants nothing more than to offer every sinful excuse and temptation not to go. On Sunday morning, my bed feels unusually warm and comfortable. I sometimes find myself justifying why skipping church would be okay. And of course, it always seems that everything fun happens on Saturday night, making the already-difficult-to-wake-up-Sunday morning even more tricky. So, no, getting up for church on Sunday is not cake. It’s more like brussels sprouts or runny eggs. But I need to constantly remind myself or, rather, God’s Holy Spirit constantly reminds me, that I need to go to church. That’s just what needs to be done. But why do we need to go to church? Because Jesus is there! We as Lutherans believe that at church, through God’s Divine Service, we see, hear, eat, and drink Jesus. We truly become one body with Christ and enjoy all the benefits of His divine Sonship, namely the forgiveness of sins, eternal life, salvation, and divine glory.Through Christ and His precious Sacraments, God no longer finds
us guilty of judgment and hell. So no matter how cushy my pillow is or how joyful I am with friends on Saturday night, these things pale in comparison to the comfort and joy found in Christ through His Divine Service. Just as daily swim practice prepares me for the next swim meet, so daily prayer and devotion prepare us for church on Sunday.Through the meditation and recitation of God’s Word, we come to know and appreciate Christ’s sacrifice more fully, making us long for His holy, sacrificial Body and Blood. By reading the Bible, reciting Luther’s Small Catechism, praying the psalms, and singing faithful hymns, we train our hearts and minds ever toward Christ, where they’re always supposed to be but aren’t because of our sinful nature. Swimming has become particularly advantageous to my faith life as a means to discipline my sinful flesh. Like Paul in Romans 7:18,“I know that in me (that is in my flesh) nothing good dwells.” And Luther tells us in the Small Catechism: The Sacrament of Holy Baptism that “the Old Adam [who claims our sinful flesh] in us should by daily contrition and repentance be drowned and die with all sins and evil desires.” Swimming daily (not in the baptismal sense of course), therefore, helps me to this
By Kyle Verage
end. Sometimes I would much rather eat a whole package of Oreos and play Guitar Hero for hours than go to swim practice. Oreos taste a lot better than chlorine and playing Guitar Hero feels a lot better than my burning lungs do after a difficult swim set. But it’s good to go to swim practice because it disciplines my flesh. In the same way, daily prayer and devotion denies our sinful flesh and trains us to be ever mindful of God and our neighbor.Thus, church and prayer not only help us as sinful individuals before God, but they help us to live the holy life that God intended for us before our neighbor. Christ fulfilled God’s Law—His Ten Commandments—but His Ten Commandments still stand to guide our thoughts and actions and to teach us how to best serve our neighbor in love. If my swim mate strays from his side of the shared lane and we hit hands mid-stroke, which can really hurt, my first inclination is to smack him. But as a Christian, I am called to deny myself and bear suffering with love for the sake of my neighbor. Discipline in holy living, therefore, is a good thing. While swimming is very different from my faith as a Christian, it has taught me discipline, which is good for my faith. No matter what teams, organizations, clubs, or groups we Christians find ourselves in, discipline in going to church, praying, learning, and living faithfully will always be good. Kyle Verage is a senior Classics major at Valparaiso University in Indiana where he is also captain of the swim team. His hometown is Hubertus,Wisconsin, and he intends to go to seminary upon graduation. He can be reached at Kyle.Verage@valpo.edu.
From this evidence the following is certain: as soon as the Holy Spirit has begun His work of regeneration and renewal in us through the Word and holy Sacraments, we can and should cooperate through His power, although still in great weakness.This cooperation does not come from our fleshly natural powers, but from the new powers and gifts that the Holy Spirit has begun in us in conversion. St. Paul clearly and eagerly encourages that “working together with Him, then, we appeal to you not to receive the grace of God in vain” [2 Corinthians 6:1]. But this is to be understood in no other way than the following: the converted person does good to such an extent and as long as God by His Holy Spirit rules, guides, and leads him. As soon as God would withdraw His gracious hand from that person, he could not for a moment keep obeying God. But if anyone would take St. Paul’s words in this sense—the converted person cooperates with the Holy Spirit the way two horses draw a wagon together—this could not be allowed in any way without damaging the divine truth. Working together with him, then, we appeal to you not to receive the grace of God in vain (2 Corinthians 6:1). For we are God’s fellow workers.You are God’s field, God’s building (1 Corinthians 3:9). But by the grace of God I am what I am, and His grace toward me was not in vain. On the contrary, I worked harder than any of them, though it was not I, but the grace of God that is with me (1 Corinthians 15:10). What agreement has the temple of God with idols? For we are the temple of the living God; as God said, “I will make My dwelling among them and walk among them, and I will be their God, and they shall be My people” (2 Corinthians 6:16). Formula of Concord, SD II: 65-66. McCain, Paul, ed.,Concordia:The Lutheran Confessions (St. Louis,MO:Concordia Publishing House, 2005), 562.
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By Rev. Christopher Esget
Rembrandt Van Rijn, Denial of Saint Peter. 1600. Oil on Canvas, 61.125â€? x 67.3125â€?
The voice of terror and doom pierces our every hiding place; it is the voice of the LORD, which demanded of Adam, demanded of Cain, and demands of you: What have you done? H I G H E R
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What have you done in the dark? Did you think I would not know? What have you done with the door closed? Did you think I would not see? What have you done against My commands? Did you think I would overlook it? What have you done by ignoring My Word? Did you think I would not care? What have you done with the talents and gifts I gave you? Did you think they were something to be squandered on useless and foolish pursuits? What have you done against the parents I appointed over you? Did you forget I gave them My authority? What have you done with the body I gave you? Did you think the institution of holy marriage was a joke and My gift of sexuality was something you could tarnish by your lack of self control?
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What have you done with My Son? Why have you pierced His hands and His feet? Is this how you thank your God? What can you answer to such questions? There is no bargaining with God. He holds all the cards. What shall we do? We are not alone with such thoughts. Those who listened to Peter’s sermon on the day of Pentecost had the same question; we heard it in the first reading: “Men and brethren, what shall we do?” Their situation is hopeless; Peter has just accused them of murdering the Son of God, and guilt turns to dread when He says that the One they murdered has come back from the dead, has ascended so that He fills the heavens, and has been given all authority in heaven and earth.You murdered Him, but He is back from the dead. How do you expect Him to respond? That is what lies behind the panicked question, “Men and brethren, what shall we do?” And then, the astonishing answer: There is nothing for you to do; this Jesus who is risen from the dead has not come for vengeance but for pardon. Repent and be baptized, and you will receive His gifts: the Holy Spirit, forgiveness, life. A different kind of dread hung over those two men walking on the road from Jerusalem to Emmaus; we heard about them in the Gospel. It was Easter, but they were singing no alleluias.“What shall we do? Jesus is dead; we thought He was going to redeem Israel! Now everything is lost.”The shadow of death hangs over them, and they cannot even recognize Jesus when He walks with them on the road. But their ears hear Him open the Old Testament Scriptures.“All of it,” He says,“shows that the Christ had to suffer before entering His glory.” And then the story continues beyond what we read: Jesus sits down to supper with these men who still don’t recognize Him. And He takes bread, gives thanks, breaks it, and gives it to them. Sound familiar? And that is when they recognize Him.The risen Jesus is there with them in His Supper. He vanishes from the sight of their eyes but not from their midst. Jesus continues with them and continues with us, in His Supper, in the breaking of the bread. In both cases, hopelessness was turned to joy only by Jesus. Now our lives deal us plenty of circumstances where everything feels hopeless. What shall I do when everything is going wrong with my family? What shall I do when everything is going wrong with my friends? What shall I do when everything is going wrong in my body? And then the worst, when we have messed up and done horrible things that offend God, things that we wish we could take back, things we would like to keep covered up, and yet we know and cannot avoid the fact that God sees, and He will judge, and we ask, “What shall I do?” And the answer for you is the same as it was in Jerusalem; it is the voice of God pointing you to repentance and Baptism, saying everything is pardoned, everything is atoned for, everything is made new in the death and resurrection of Jesus. “What shall we do?” Wrong question! What has Jesus done? He has done what you cannot; He has redeemed what you have lost; He will restore what in you leads only to ruin. Why are you gloomy and sad? Christ is risen, and death is undone! Why are you anxious and worried? You are baptized, and your sins are drowned! Why are you hungering for the food that cannot satisfy? Christ is in our midst and gives you the bread of life! He says to you:“You are foolish,” and we can only reply,“Yes, yes, it is so.” He says to you: “You are slow of heart to believe,” and we can only reply,“Yes, yes, it is so.” But then He says to you: “You are still Mine; I claimed you in the font,” and all there is for us to say is,“Amen!” And again He says,“Behold, I give you My Body and Blood and join you to Myself,” and all there is for us to say is,“Amen!” And when you are dying, you will remember these things, and look at the crucifix, and go to your short slumber saying,“Amen!” And then on the last day, our Lord will call you from your grave and to a world made new you will rise in a body made new, and you will say,“Alleluia! Amen!” Rev. Christopher Esget is pastor at Immanuel Lutheran Church in Alexandra, Virginia, and preached this sermon during the Amen conference. E-mail him at email@example.com.
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ABCs of Ch
Rev. Jim Roemke nails some theses on worship to the church door—a quick reminder and tutorial on what is happening in worship—and how our orders of worship come right out of Scripture. Is God at work there to give you good stuff or what?
Service of Confession A. The Invocation There is one God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, and He has marked me as His own by the cross of Christ in Holy Baptism (Matthew 28:19). What He first gave me at the font, He continues to give me in this Divine Service.
B. Confession I am sinful and deserve nothing from God except His wrath and punishment (Ephesians 2:1–3). If I don’t believe and confess this, I am a liar (I John 1:8–10).
C. Absolution Almighty God in His mercy has given His Son to die for me and for Christ’s sake, He forgives me all of my sins (1 John 1:7). So that I would believe that more completely, God has called and ordained certain men to assure me of my temporal and eternal forgiveness (John 20:21–23).
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D. Psalm/Introit, Kyrie, Hymn of Praise, Salutation, and Collect of the Day As a forgiven child of God, I am invited and commanded to offer Him my prayer and praise. I may come into His divine and glorious presence for He has had mercy on me (Psalm 100; Luke 2:14).
E. Readings and Responses Holy Scripture is the Word of the Lord. It does not contain some of the Word of the Lord, but is wholly, without doubt the complete Word of God (2 Timothy 3:16). For this reason, I give God thanks.
F. Alleluia and Verse The Holy Gospel is Christ speaking. Where else can I go to find eternal life? Because of this, the Church raises up her alleluias of praise.
G. The Creed I believe in God the Father Almighty, and in One Lord Jesus Christ, and in the Holy Spirit. My faith is my own, but it is the same as the faith of the Church throughout time. I cannot rely on anyone else’s faith for my eternal salvation (John 3:16).
H. The Sermon God’s love for me is so great that He has given me a trained and ordained pastor and preacher: that His Word may be delivered to me in its truth and purity, that I may be convicted by God’s Law and learn to live under it, and that I may see with new sweetness and thanksgiving the life-giving and freeing Gospel of Jesus Christ (2 Timothy 4:1–5).
I. The Prayer of the Church God calls me again to come directly to Him in prayer; He wants to hear my prayers.There is one Mediator between God and man, the one man, Jesus Christ. In His name, I join with the Church, offering up prayers and petitions and thanksgiving for all things (Luke 11:9–13).
J. Offering and Offertory I am blessed to give God’s Church a part of the blessings God has given me so that the work of the Gospel, namely the ministry of Word and Sacrament, may continue through His called and ordained servants (1 Timothy 5:17–18).
hristian Living Service of Holy Communion K. Preface, Sanctus, and Proper Preface The Lord is with us so we lift our hearts and give thanks, singing Him songs of praise, the very angelic hymn, which confesses our Holy Triune God to be almighty and with salvation in His wings (Isaiah 6:1–3).
L. Lord’s Prayer God loves me so much that He has graciously taught me to pray (Luke 11:1–4).
M. Words of Institution Jesus Christ, the Son of God and the Son of Mary, has given me His own body and blood as He says in His Gospel, which is the true and complete Word of God.The bread and wine that we receive as a testament of the Lord’s death are truly what He says they are, that is, body and blood given for our forgiveness (1 Corinthians 11:23–26).
N. Pax Domini The peace of the Lord is found in His Eucharist that gives us Christ and the forgiveness of sins (John 20:19–23).
O. Agnus Dei I recognize Christ in the Sacrament by the words of St. John the Baptizer and Forerunner: Lamb of God,You take away the sin of the world (John 1:29).
P. Distribution Again, God in His all-availing love, has not left me to my own reason and experience to know that He comes to us in the body and blood but has called and ordained certain men to give us and assure us that we receive the body and blood of Christ for the forgiveness of sins (1 Corinthians 4:1).
Q. Post-Communion Canticle and Collect My response to God’s mercy and kindness is a canticle of praise, either thanking our Lord and singing His praise, or asking Him to bless us with peace for the gift of His salvation and coming before Him in prayer (Psalm 9:1–2; Luke 2:29–32).
R. Benediction I leave this beautiful presence of the Lord, again reminded that it is in the name of the Triune God that I received and continue to receive all blessings, namely the forgiveness of sins, life, and salvation (Numbers 6:24–26).
S. Amen That is, it shall be done. Rev. Jim Roemke is the pastor of Good Shepherd Lutheran Church in Middleville, Michigan. His e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org
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By Rev. James May
Mission Work? I n the summer of 2001, I went to Russia as a short-term missionary working in orphanages to build beds for children to sleep on and tables and chairs for their meals.Those three months really changed who I am and caused me to ask,“What is mission work?”
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Rev. May baptizes an infant in West Africa.
The orphanage was run in conjunction with a drug rehab center. Many of the orphans were addicts and needed help and a home. Many had been abandoned by their mothers because their fathers disappeared—killed by the mafia, committing suicide, or simply abandoning the family.The mothers could not afford to feed their children, or bear to see their children waste away and slowly die before their eyes. Many of these mothers would take their children into a large crowd in the big city of St. Petersburg, and tell them to wait on the curb while they went into the store, and then never come back. Left to starve, these children would steal their daily bread. If they could not feed themselves that way, they would sniff industrial glue to get high and not feel the hunger pains. Other children, both boys and girls, would sell themselves to men in order to get money to eat. Many were so ashamed, they would try and kill themselves. I was not the only “missionary” helping out.There were many short-term teams sent from the United States. The majority of teams that came out to the orphanage where I was serving performed Christian skits teaching the children how to behave themselves and not sin.The teaching of the Gospel was lacking or overshadowed by instructions for
living. It was evident by their actions that the way in which one lives was, in their minds, the most important aspect of Christianity.Team after team came with the same message, “Be good and God will bless you.” In the evenings I would listen to my fellow Americans talk about the pride they felt.“God is going to be so happy about what we did.”The focus was on what“we do,”on“worksrighteousness,”the idea that we become pleasing in God’s eyes by doing good works or by being“good little girls and boys.” Although I was ashamed to hear those words, those teenage American Christians were honest about their reasons for going on a mission trip.The question for me was,“Is this mission work?” Is this the mission of the Church? Is this what Jesus wants us to teach and preach? Because I lived in the orphanage for months, I was able to observe and assess the impact of those short-term mission trips.The children did listen and tried their best to be better. They used the toothbrushes they got from their American friends.They helped keep the orphanage clean and they took better care of each other. But being normal kids, sometimes they got frustrated or selfish and fought.They sinned. Sometimes they would try to make up for what they had done but sometimes others would instigate the situation.The others felt they were the good Christian kids because, as they were taught, they did good things.The others were bad kids and were sidelined by the others. The most significant result of the skits teaching the orphans how to be good kids came to light a few months later. I went back to Finland at the end of the summer to round up more support and returned to Russia in November. When I arrived there was news waiting that crushed me. One of the orphans, who had tried to kill himself, was gone. He had tried his best to be a good Christian like the teams said, but he didn’t feel the love of Jesus or the Holy Spirit in him. So he ran away. I was crushed, because this boy, more than any other, had been faithful in prayer and Bible study attendance. He wanted more than anything to be “like Jesus.” But he never felt, or more accurately, he never heard the love of Jesus proclaimed to him. He never heard that Jesus loves him and died for all his sins making him a pure and righteous child of God, an heir of the kingdom of heaven.The mission of the Church, the primary work of a missionary, is to deliver the “free entrance tickets” to the kingdom of heaven.Those free tickets are the Gospel, applied in Word and Sacrament. If you do a survey of mission work, the majority of mission work has a social, rather than a Gospel focus. More often one sees missionaries teaching English, taking care of orphans, building houses, or providing medical care.These are all excellent and important works for Christians to do. But by themselves, is that mission work?
Outside America, life is not so easy. In Russia and in Africa, where I am serving now, death and sickness are more prevalent than in the United States. Many times I hear the worries of the people.They don’t worry so much about disease because if they survive one sickness, another is around the corner.Their greatest worry is,“What happens to me when I die?” Jesus Christ has the answer.“I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live” (John 11:25). Social works are good and pleasing in God’s sight but the mission of the church is found in the command of Christ,“Go into all the world and proclaim the gospel to the whole creation” (Mark 16:15). Buildings and food are worthless if the soul is lost because the Gospel is not proclaimed first. While we’re engaged in such works of mercy, we use the opportunity to proclaim the Gospel. We can help and do good works, but what I have learned is that the proclamation of Jesus’ death for our salvation is more important and necessary than a building.“For what shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?” (Mark 8:36) Rev. James May is currently on furlough to the United States but will continue his mission work in Africa accompanied by his wife and five children. He can be reached at email@example.com.
Rev. May with sixteen newly baptized parishioners F A L L
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Amen - Poconos University of Scranton Scranton, PA June 24–27, 2008
Amen - St. Louis St. Louis University St. Louis, MO July 1–4, 2008
A Higher Things
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Amen - Irvine Concordia University – Irvine Irvine, CA July 15–18, 2008
Lutheran Youth Conference
Top five things you didn’t hear at Higher Things Amen! conferences this summer…
5. I should have brought my parka. 4. Will someone please teach Pastor Buetow how to turn on his computer? 3. I got way too much sleep last night. 2. Don’t they have church services at these conferences? 1. I could have listened to Pastor Borghardt sing karaoke all night!
Top five reasons to go to Sola, Texas… 5. 4. 3. 2.
Steak for every meal! (okay,maybe not really…) Because you nearly forgot the Alamo. Everything’s bigger in Texas. The weather at Amen, Saint Louis was too cold for you. 1. Party in Pastor Borghardt’s backyard!
Top five reasons to go to Sola, Michigan…
5. Wooden shoes for everyone! (okay, maybe not really…) 4. You might meet a Yooper! 3. Only 160 miles from a foreign country! 2. You can point to it in the palm of your hand. 1. All your exs live in Texas!
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For we maintain that a man is justified by faith alone, apa
SOLA - Texas SOLA - Michiga Trinity University San Antonio, TX July 7â€“10, 2009
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Calvin College Grand Rapids, MI July 21â€“24, 2009
Check out www.sola2009.org for more information
art from works of Law.
Christo Gratia Fide Scriptura
Lutheran Youth Conference
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Information about the 2009 Higher Things Conferences
SOLA - Texas SOLA - Michigan
What To Expect
Trinity University San Antonio, TX July 7–10, 2009
Calvin College Grand Rapids, MI July 21–24, 2009
WORSHIP – Conferences provide many opportunities for youth and chaperones to participate in our best possible expression of traditional, Christ-centered, Lutheran worship.Three times a day, services are conducted from the Lutheran Service Book by LCMS pastors.The preaching and singing at a Higher Things conference is an amazing thing to behold. Smaller groups are also invited to pray the service of Compline together each night before lights-out.Youth really come to appreciate the liturgical traditions of our churches when they are taught why we do what we do, so materials and opportunities to learn about our historical worship practices will be provided for groups both before and during the conferences. WORK –“Don’t let anyone look down on you because you are young,” St. Paul tells Timothy (1 Timothy 4:12). How can young people “Dare to be Lutheran” if they don’t know what it means to be a Lutheran in this world? Catechesis (religious instruction) at Higher Things conferences is known for being fairly intense so come prepared to learn! Many people today don’t think youth are capable of learning about doctrinal issues or that they’re even interested in doing so. We have found just the opposite to be true! At our conferences, youth have many, many opportunities to learn more about their faith and its uniqueness in the Christian world. Sectional workshops are offered on a variety of subjects of interest to young people to help them understand and express a faithful perspective when talking to their friends, teachers, and families. Catechetical speakers at Higher Things conferences are pastors or laity in the LCMS.
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PLAY – One of the reasons youth come to conferences is to meet other Lutherans from around the world. Higher Things conferences incorporate many fun activities as an integral part of the week! Each site we visit offers new and very different ways for youth to enjoy themselves and get to know each other; baseball games, karaoke, laser tag, hiking, square dancing, bowling, and improv comedy have all been some of the ways we’ve had fun at past conferences.We also schedule some free time so that groups can have an opportunity to have fun together during the week as well. Higher Things dares to be Lutheran, meaning that we don’t hide our uncompromising emphasis on the Gospel and all that Christ has done for us.Youth tell us again and again that they love Higher Things conferences because they get to spend four days immersed in hearing the about their Savior and their Christian faith.
Who May Attend
Higher Things conferences are planned for high school age youth, but registrants may be any youth who has been confirmed before the date of the conference, including college students. Non-LCMS youth may attend with the approval of a registered group’s pastor and group leader. Unfortunately, spouses, personal assistants, and other adults cannot be accommodated as unregistered conference participants. Higher Things 18 recommends a ratio of one adult for every seven youth in your group, and
one male adult if there are male youth and/or one female adult if there are female youth in your group. Each group must be accompanied by at least one chaperone. All adults in a group must also complete the registration process. Chaperones must be at least twenty-one years old at the time of registration and approved by the group’s pastor for their role.
Christ on Campus Volunteers
Once again, college students have an opportunity to apply to serve the conferences as Christ on Campus Volunteers (CCVs).Those selected to serve as CCVs will receive a discount on their registration fees and help by assisting the staff and speakers during the conferences. Fifteen CCVs will be accepted for each of the conferences in San Antonio and Grand Rapids. Young adults enrolled this academic year in college or graduate school may download application forms from our conference website. Applications will be received from November 1, 2008 to March 1, 2009.
Registration for the 2009 Sola conferences will be open from November 1, 2008 until March 1, 2009. The registration fee for the 2009 Sola Conferences is $335.00 per person. Groups who pay their registration balance early (on or before January 15, 2009) will receive a discount of $5.00 per registration. Remember, to register your group at the $330.00 per person rate, you need to pay your group's entire registration fee by January 15, 2009. Groups paying their registration balance between January 16 and March 1, 2009 will be charged the regular rate of $335.00 per person. Registration balances paid after March 1, 2009 will be charged a late fee of $15.00 per person, making the perperson registration fee total $350.00. Register and pay by: January 15, 2009 - $330.00 per person ($5.00 discount for early registration payment!) March 1, 2009 - $335.00 per person after March 1, 2009 - $350.00 per person Registration fees include access to all the conference activities, most meals, on-site housing, a conference T-shirt, a one-year subscription to Higher Things: Dare to Be Lutheran magazine, and more! A $100 non-refundable deposit per person must be paid at the time of registration. Conference registration will be open from November 1, 2008, to March 1,2009 or when each conference fills, whichever happens first. All fees must be paid in U.S. funds. Group leaders may register and pay deposits online or download registration forms at www.sola2009.org. If the conference of your choice reaches capacity before your registration is processed, you may opt to be placed on a waiting list for that conference, transfer your group’s deposit and registration to one of the other conferences, or receive a refund of your deposit. Watch www.sola2009.org for more information coming soon.
News & Notes The 2008 Amen conferences have drawn to a close. Check out just how many Lutheran youth got a chance to hear Law and Gospel, sing some karaoke, and meet up with their Higher Things friends from last yearâ€™s conferences. Higher Things Statistics: PA MO registrants 613 801 groups 64 101 new groups 12 37 states 23 23
CA 305 32 14 13
TOTALS 1719 197 63
The yearly meeting of the Higher Things Board of Directors as well as Executives met during the Amen conference in Irvine, California, to hold elections.The board is made up of nine members, and each member serves for three years. In turn, three seats are available for election each year.
Higher Things is pleased to announce that Pastor Bruce Keseman and Pastor William Cwirla were both re-elected and will serve another three-year term.Pastor David Kind, who has been both a conference chaplain and a part of Christ on Campus in Minneapolis, Minnesota, was also elected to the board. Officers were also elected to the board during this meeting, and Pastor William Cwirla was elected to be president. Also, Pastor Brent Kuhlman is vice president, Lynn Fredericksen will continue as treasurer, and Sandra Ostapowich will carry on as secretary.
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Other Pittsburgh Area Colleges ✠ University of Wisconsin - Milwaukee ✠ University of Wisconsin - Superior ✠ University of Wyoming ✠ Vanderbilt University (TN) ✠ Wright State University (OH) ✠
Ball State University (IN) ✠ Central Michigan University ✠ Chico State University (CA) ✠ Colorado State University ✠ Dickinson State University (ND) ✠ Har
Of Testimonies, Healings, and
A Holy Sp
eing Lutheran felt like part of my genetic makeup, highlighted by the fact that I was related to at least three-quarters of the people in my church outside the small town of Ida, Michigan.
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I loved it. Every church event was like a family reunion. Church was so integrated into my home and community life that I thought the IHS carved into the beautiful altar stood for Ida High School until I started confirmation. Sunday School teachers were cousins, distant cousins, or descendants of someone who married my dad’s cousin a generation or two before. Even four years of confirmation on Saturday mornings wasn’t so bad because I got to be with family. I felt at ease at church. I knew Jesus Christ was my Savior from sin and death. I loved my Lutheran church, but . . . I was curious about kids at school who seemed dramatically Christian. During my senior year, a kid talked about a night at his church where people gave testimonies. He explained that’s when people described how they were saved. “What’s your testimony?” he asked. I frantically tried to remember a time when I didn’t know I was a Christian. Going all the way back to my preschool Sunday School memories with nothing coming up, I blurted,“I was baptized a week after I was born.” “That doesn’t count!” he said rather indignantly. Feeling embarrassed, I said,“I’m sorry I can’t remember a time when I wasn’t saved.Your story is really exciting though.” He went on to tell how some people were healed while praying at his church. Suddenly, I felt I was missing out on something. No one at my church ever walked in sick and came out healed. No one told exciting stories about how they found Jesus. Everyone just kind of knew Jesus in my church. How boring! So began my descent into doubting if being Lutheran was all it was cracked up to be.This thought went against every molecule in my body. Even so, I accepted invitations to attend my friend’s church on Sunday nights, while going to my Lutheran church on Sunday morning. I saw things like a Holy Spirit Car Wash where people walked through a gauntlet of outstretched arms and hands. By the end of the line, the washee was speaking in tongues, a sure sign that the Holy Spirit had entered into them. Despite intense curiosity, I declined going through the Wash. Confirmed
Lutherans didn’t do Holy Spirit Car Washes. Throughout my college years, most of my friends were not Lutherans but evangelicals. During this time, I still identified with being Lutheran, mainly because if I didn’t, my body would surely disintegrate. I graduated from an evangelical Christian college and ended up joining the staff of Youth for Christ as the token Lutheran. I met some wonderful people during this period and admire the dedication of these friends in bringing the Gospel of Jesus Christ to the unchurched. I credit them for influencing me in many positive ways, but . . . Something was gnawing within me during my first year with YFC. I felt good about what I was doing, but my mind kept going back to “I cannot by my own reason or strength believe in Jesus Christ, my Lord, or come to Him,” from Luther’s Small Catechism.That conflicted with the YFC practice of asking people to make a decision to accept Jesus. If they weren’t making a decision, what was going on inside those unchurched kids who suddenly believed? Later that year, my new roommate turned out to be a Lutheran parochial school teacher. I hoped sharing an apartment with a Lutheran teacher might validate my Lutheranness. One evening, I happened to glance at his bookshelf and noticed a book I had never seen before called the Book of Concord. My roommate was amazed that I was brought up Lutheran and had never read anything besides the Small Catechism. I began reading the strong and clear statement of faith in the Augsburg Confession. It was the most beautiful thing I had ever read.Totally impressed, I poured over the rest of its contents. I felt like I had returned home from a long, long journey.
win Cities ✠ University of Northern Colorado ✠ University of Northern Iowa ✠ University of Oklahoma ✠ University of Tennessee ✠ University of Pittsburgh &
rvard University & Other Boston Area Colleges ✠ Indiana University ✠ North Carolina State University ✠ NW Oklahoma State University ✠ Sam Houston State
By Rev. Richard Woelmer
Christ on Campus is: ✠ The campus ministry arm of Higher Things As I read, all the superfluous stuff that I thought was important peeled away until I was left with God’s Word and Sacraments. I realized that the Holy Spirit called, enlightened, and sanctified those previously unchurched kids through the Gospel. It wasn’t my doing. It wasn’t their doing. From that time on, I never referred to a decision for Christ again. Who knows why it took so long to encounter the Book of Concord. My pastor was a faithful undershepherd. I’m sure he quoted it, but I never held one in my hands until I pulled it off my roommate’s shelf. Like many kids, I wrestled with the distractions of adolescence and thought,“I’m never going to be a pastor, so I don’t have to read the deeper stuff.”That caught up with me once I let my feelings dictate what the Christian faith required, and I became confused. But returning to the teaching of my youth, I realized that sick people did indeed enter my church and come out healed.Their sins had been forgiven in Christ. Hundreds gathered together on Sunday morning and gave their testimony. It was the Nicene Creed. I didn’t need a Holy Spirit Car Wash to receive proof of having it. I am baptized in Christ, washed in the water joined with His Word, with the Holy Spirit constantly at work in me. Happily, my roommate and I are now pastors. It’s amazing what clearly presented theology can do to people! But don’t worry. Reading the Book of Concord won’t cause angels to instantly appear with a clergy collar for you. Go ahead. Read it! Just be ready for something much better than a Holy Spirit Car Wash! Rev. Richard Woelmer is campus pastor of University Lutheran Church at Indiana University, Bloomington, Indiana.
✠ Pastors and laity interested in confessional Lutheran campus ministry ✠ A great source for campus ministry resources ✠ Discussion forums for college students and campus ministry workers ✠ College retreats and service opportunities ✠ A growing and developing network of campus ministry chapters
Christ on Campus Chapters Thirty-one strong and growing! The newest chapters include: ✠ College Hill Lutheran Church, Cedar Falls, IA (Serving students at the University of Northern Iowa) ✠ Our Savior Lutheran Church, Raleigh, NC (Serving students at North Carolina State University) Join the network! Apply online or contact Pastor Zill to become a Christ on Campus Chapter today!
Upcoming Retreats More information about study weekends available online! More retreats to be added soon. Feb. 2009
St. Andrew’s Lutheran Church and Campus Center, Laramie, WY Speaker: Rev. Jeffrey Grams, “The Christian and Medical Ethics”
2009 Annual Campus Staff Conference Set aside your calendar and join us in early June next year for our Annual Staff Conference at Trinity Lutheran Church, Palo Alto, CA. Exact date TBA.
Learn more about Christ on Campus http://christoncampus.net Contact: Rev. Marcus Zill, Christ on Campus Executive: firstname.lastname@example.org or (307) 745-5892
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University (TX) ✠ Slippery Rock State University (PA) ✠ South Dakota State University ✠ Stanford University (CA) ✠ University of California – Berkeley ✠ University of Colorado ✠ University of
pirit Car Wash
Illinois ✠ University of Iowa ✠ University of Louisville ✠ University of Minnesota – Duluth ✠ University of Minnesota – Morris ✠ University of Minnesota –
“Pastor Meyer is gone today, isn’t he?”I asked over my toast.
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Mom was bent over, emptying the dishwasher.“Yeah.They went to visit family in Wisconsin,” she said without looking up. “Who’s preaching?” I asked. “Why does it matter?” she asked, jerking her head out of the dishwasher. “I hope it’s not Pastor Henline. He’s sooooo boring,” I said, taking a drink of my milk. Mom stood up and put her hands on her hips.“Maybe you’re boring,” she said. Then I snorted milk out of my nostrils. Mom turned from slightly angry to heavily amused. I hate that I snort when I laugh. Snorting milk is more than an embarrassing pig noise; it hurts. Mom came over to help me clean it up. I could see her trying not to laugh while I continued to cough and gag. When I caught my breath, I asked,“What do you mean that I’m boring?” “You only get out of a sermon what you put into it,” she said.“Now go brush your teeth.We’ve got to leave in a few minutes.” She shooed me out of the kitchen with a snorted-milk soaked towel. I found my Dad waiting outside the bathroom for John to finish. He reached out palm up for me to give him five, like I was five years old. But I did it anyway. I don’t know why, but I can’t resist giving five to an open palm, and it somehow pleases Dad. I shook the sting off my hand, and, since he is an elder at our church asked
him,“Who’s preaching today?” Still grinning, he said,“Jesus.” “Aww, come on! You know what I mean,” I said as I softly stamped my foot. “Pastor Henline,” he answered. “Awww! He is soooo boring,” I said, rolling my eyes and looking up.“And don’t say I am too,” I warned.“He preaches too long, and he doesn’t say anything.” “You only get out of a sermon what you put into it,” Dad said as John opened the bathroom door. Before I could respond, he had slipped into the bathroom, and I heard the soft click as the lock slid home. I thought I might find a sympathetic ear in John. He was headed toward his room. I called out,“Pastor Henline is preaching today!” He stopped and turned.“So what?”he said. “He’s so boring!” I nearly shouted. “They’re all boring,” he said.“What does it matter?” Mom had come up behind me.“You two quit fooling around,” she said.“We have to get going or we’re going to be late.” Late for Mom is anything less than ten minutes early. John made a quick retreat to his room. No one argues with Mom when she
starts into us about being late. But I was stuck waiting to brush my teeth. Perhaps it looked like I was sulking though really I was just tired. It didn’t matter. Mom was after me. She spun me around and leaned into me,“I don’t want to hear any more complaints about Pastor Henline from you. He is a good man doing a difficult job.” Then she headed back toward the kitchen. I didn’t say a word. She threw over her shoulder,“Maybe the problem is that you’re too taken with Pastor Meyer’s rhetoric and style.You’re confusing the man and the message.” “But Mom,”I protested,“you love Pastor Meyer and his sermons.There’s nothing wrong with wanting a good sermon.” She stopped.“Of course,”she said.“But you need to think about what makes a good sermon good. I’m thankful for Pastor Henline. He’s faithful. He loves us and seeks to instruct us. He brings us Communion and listens . . . Oh! Never mind! Go get dressed. It’s almost time to go.You can brush your teeth after church.” Then she was really gone, and Dad was opening the bathroom door, wiping toothpaste from his mouth. He said, “Sometimes we forget what a privilege it is not only to have the freedom to go to church but also to have a church to go to. Pastor Henline might not be the most eloquent preacher around, but if you put a little effort into your listening, you’ll find that he has plenty to say.” I knew when I’d been beat. I just nodded and got my brushing done. All our rushing paid off. We got to church with fifteen minutes of waiting around. I
Sermon and a Boring Listener
by Kathy Luder
was a bit annoyed at the verbal spanking I’d gotten but figured I’d take a shot at working at listening. I decided to pretend like it was a mystery novel. I would try to predict Pastor Henline’s points or at least consider how I would relate what he said to the cops who showed up afterwards to inspect the scene of a crime. When Pastor Henline drug himself into the pulpit, I listened as attentively as I ever had. I even took notes on my bulletin. Usually I can’t stand Pastor Henline’s stories, and I still think they’re kind of corny, but for the first time I saw a theme developing.Then he caught me by surprise. I realized that I was guilty of what he was talking about. I stopped taking notes. I cast my eyes down in shame. I was the sinner, arrogant and proud, selfish and conceited.Then, just as quick, he let me off the hook. He opened up grace. He showed me the sweet love of Jesus Christ that forgives sinners. He forgave me and spoke the love of God into me. I felt a huge burden lifted. During the Offertory, I had to catch my breath. Pastor Henline preached a good sermon. For what else could a good sermon do or say than proclaim Jesus Christ? Pastor Henline doesn’t have the precision or power of Pastor Meyer. His sermon wasn’t as true to life for me. It wasn’t as engaging, and I had to work at it. But it was good. It was good
because it was faithful. I am thankful for that and thankful for the prodding from Mom and Dad that helped me see that. I don’t need Pastor Meyer, even if he is my favorite.The Lord provides through Pastor Meyer with powerful sermons that leave me feeling as though I’ve stood on holy ground. But He also provides through Pastor Henline with long and boring sermons that don’t dazzle but do proclaim Jesus Christ. I am certainly glad to have Pastor Meyer as my pastor. If anything I am more thankful than before but also I know that whether Pastor Meyer comes or goes or leaves on vacation the Lord will never forsake me. He will provide.
You only get out of a sermon what you put into it, which has me wondering just what goodness I’ve been missing even in Pastor Meyer’s sermons. Kathy Luder is a world famous author, web designer, and fashion model; unfortunately, the world of her fame isn’t earth but her own mind.
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A Tale of forms evolved into more complex life forms, even over billions of years. Just as one potter makes many different pots that share characteristics and also bear his style, so God made many different life forms that share characteristics and also bear His style. Creationists often are astounded that evolutionists continue to believe in common ancestors for all living things. After all, fossils have not yielded the expected “missing links.”What they don’t understand is that many evolutionists aren’t bothered by the “missing links.” Once you grant that Plants likenesses must come from common ancestors, then, as Darwin explains by quoting Sir J. Lubbock,“Every species is a link between other allied forms.”2 The likenesses are seen as undeniable proof for evolution against creation. By Darwin’s logic, likenesses disprove creation; in his words, there is an “arrangement of all the forms of life in groups subordinate to groups, all within a few great
Darwin makes a lot of sense. I found myself thinking this several times as I read through The Origin of the Species and On the Descent of Man.You simply can’t deny that living things are like each other in many ways. Once the likenesses are seen, it doesn’t take much imagination to suggest that the reason for it is a common ancestry. It is fascinating to see supertree charts like the following, showing that all living things are like each other, and suggesting that they have been separated from their common ancestors only by time.1 The main problem with Darwin is not that he noticed the likenesses Animals that living things share.The You main problem is that he are imagined that the likenesses here came from having a common ancestor. He didn’t believe in having a common Creator. The chart shown above can be a helpful method of showing the common characteristics of living forms. At the same time, it doesn’t imply that the simplest life H I G H E R
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According to the Darwin fish, we are ‘no better than chickens, redwoods, fireflies, earthworms, goldfish, algae, or infectious salmonella.’
Two Fish By Rev. Dr. Nathan R. Jastram
We have a glorious future to anticipate: ‘Christ . . . will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like his glorious body’ (Philippians 3:20-21). classes, which has prevailed throughout all time.This grand fact of the grouping of all organic beings under what is called the Natural System is utterly inexplicable on the theory of creation.”3 One of the ways evolutionists fight against creationists is by parodying the Christian fish symbol.The Greek word for fish is ΙΧΘΥΣ, rendered in English letters as Ichthys or Icthus. Already in the first century, Christians understood the word as an acrostic, with each letter standing for a complete word, spelling out a confession of faith: Ιησους Χριστος Θεου Υιος Σωτηρ,“Jesus Christ, God’s Son, Savior.” “When threatened by Romans in the first centuries after Christ, Christians used the fish to mark meeting places and tombs, or to distinguish friends from foes. According to one ancient story, when a Christian met a stranger in the road, the Christian sometimes drew one arc of the simple fish outline in the dirt. If the stranger drew the other arc, both believers knew they were in good company.”4 The evolutionist parody of
this fish was developed in the 1980s. Darwin’s name was inserted as a substitute for the acrostic confession of “Jesus Christ, God’s Son, Savior,” and feet were added to the fish to symbolize the evolution of all species from a common ancestor. These two fish tell very different tales. According to the Darwin fish, we are “no better than chickens, redwoods, fireflies, earthworms, goldfish, algae, or infectious salmonella.’’5 According to the Christian fish, we were created to be like God:“God said,‘Let us make man in our image, in our likeness,’ (Genesis 1:26); and we have a glorious future to anticipate:“Christ . . . will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like his glorious body” (Philippians 3:20-21). It really does make a difference which you believe. Rev. Dr. Nathan R. Jastram is a professor of Theology at Concordia University Wisconsin. He can be reached at Nathan.Jastram@cuw.edu.
1 David M. Hillis, Derrick Zwickl, and Robin Gutell,“Tree of Life,” (University of Texas, 2003), n.p. [cited 8 August 2008], online: http://www.zo.utexas.edu/faculty/antisense/ DownloadfilesToL.html .“This tree is from an analysis of small subunit rRNA sequences sampled from about 3,000 species from throughout the Tree of Life.”When the Tree of Life is seen in full size, the fuzzy outside of the circle becomes the individual names of the three thousand represented species.This chart has only four end nodes for mammals, and just a few for birds, reptiles, and fish, going clockwise from the “You are here” marker for homo sapiens. Many of the other animals are worms and beetles. 2 Charles Darwin, The Origin of the Species, 2d ed. (Chicago: Encyclopædia Britannica, 1990), 160. 3 Darwin, The Origin of the Species, 235. 4 Elesha Coffman,“Ask the Editors,” n.p. [cited 8 August 2008], online: http://www.christianitytoday.com/history/ features/ask/2001/oct26.html. 5 Survey respondent quoted in Thomas M. Lessl,“The Culture of Science and the Rhetoric of Scientism: From Francis Bacon to the Darwin Fish,” Quarterly Journal of Speech, 93 (2007): 140–141.
Just as one potter makes many different pots that share characteristics and also bear his style, so God made many different life forms that share characteristics and also bear His style.
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Defend the Real
“You actually believe that Jesus is really present in bread and wine?” A couple of issues back, we noted that a lot of our fellow Christians don’t understand why we baptize babies, so we provided a few answers to their arguments. Another topic of contention is our doctrine of the Real Presence, that in the Lord’s Supper Jesus gives us His Body and Blood in, with, and under the bread and wine.That’s what makes Holy Communion a holy communion after all. But along the way, you’re likely to be challenged for this doctrine, so here are a few of the common criticisms and suggestions on how to respond. Tedious Grammatical Arguments Made Funner. Oops. I Mean, More Funner. 1.“When Jesus said,‘This is My body,’ He meant,‘This represents My body.’” Response:“Ah. So when Jesus said,‘This is My body,’ He really meant,‘This is not My body?’” Reason: Can “is” really mean “is not?”They sure sound like opposites to me. In fact, while I’ve often heard that “‘is” doesn’t always mean “is,” my quick check of online dictionaries couldn’t find a definition where that’s true.This clarifies how bad the argument against you is—it turns the word “is” into its opposite.You could always follow up with,“When God said,‘Let there be light,’ did He mean ‘Let there not be light’?”
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2.“When Jesus said,‘This is My body,’ He meant,‘This symbolizes My body.’The bread and wine are just symbols or signs.” Response #1: Same as above. Response #2:“If you’re at the mall, and you see a sign with a fire extinguisher on it, what else do you find?” Reason:You find a fire extinguisher—not a poster that tells you that the extinguisher is with you in spirit.This may sound dumb, but it’s important.This argument is that the bread and wine are symbols because Jesus’ Body and Blood aren’t there. But signs and symbols are
often found exactly where things are—to announce a presence! Lutherans have sometimes referred to the bread and wine as signs, but only because they announce the Savior who is present but unseen. Response #3: Why didn’t Jesus just say what He meant? Reason: The arguments against the Real Presence must always try to change the simple words,“This is my body” into what Jesus “really meant.” So why didn’t the Savior say what He really meant? Why allow centuries of strife among Christians when He could have prevented it in the first place? Unless, of course, Jesus really meant what He said, which is “This is My body!” 3.“Jesus said,‘I am the door’ (John 10:9). But Jesus obviously isn’t a door. Therefore,‘is’ doesn’t always mean ‘is.’” Response:“So Jesus symbolizes some door?” Reason: This one is tedious, but be ready anyway.The argument so far has been that “is” means “represents” or “symbolizes.” In this case, it should mean that when Jesus says,“I am the door,” He really means,“I symbolize the door.” Except that it doesn’t make sense: the door symbolizes Jesus, not the other way around.Therefore, Jesus must really mean,“I am
symbolized by the door.” He really meant to use a passive verb, but He used an active one instead. Logically,“am” hasn’t changed its meaning in “I am the door.” It still means “am,” not “am symbolized by.” “Door” can also mean “doorway” or “entry.” Jesus is saying,“I am the entry [into the sheepfold],” just like He says elsewhere,“I am the Way, the Truth and the Life” (John 14:6). (We could even say that Jesus is the Door and sets the standard for all doors—and every door you ever use should remind you of Him.) 4.“Jesus can’t be present in all that bread and wine, because His body was a finite thing, and His body is at the right hand of God. Aren’t you denying that Jesus was human?” Response:“When Jesus walked on water, was He wearing pontoons?” Reason: Human bodies can’t walk on water, but Jesus did. He walked on water even though He was fully man because He was also the Son of God. The risen Jesus appeared to His disciples in a locked room (John 20:19): human bodies can’t just materialize like that either.The Lord can do whatever He wants.The Real Presence doesn’t deny that Jesus is human. Rather, it affirms that He is also God.
and Have Fun Doing It By Rev.Tim Pauls
Dreary Philosophical Rationales 5.“The Son of God is infinite. Bread and wine are finite. You can’t fit something infinite into something finite. Aren’t you denying that Jesus was God?” Response:“How could Jesus be a baby inside Mary’s womb?” Reason: This objection is good physics but crummy theology.The Lord has a long history of occupying finite spaces, like the burning bush, the Holy of holies in the temple, Mary’s womb and a human body. Could Jesus be present in bread and wine? Yes, if He wills.The Real Presence doesn’t deny the divinity of Jesus. Rather, like the Incarnation, it affirms His humanity. 6.“Wouldn’t this make y’all cannibals at your church?” Response #1:“Yes.That’s why I invited you.” (If possible, hold up a fork and stare creepily.) Response #2:“When Jesus rose from the dead, did He teleport out of the tomb?” Reason: Ok, Response #1 might not get you very far.The point of Response #2 is this: Jesus left the tomb before the stone was rolled away. He clearly got His body out of there in a way that violated the laws of physics—like through the wall. As Luther noted, this shows that Jesus can be really, physically present in something without occupying space in it. How? We don’t know, but He does. Likewise, Jesus is physically
present in the bread and wine without occupying space in those elements.When the Body and Blood of Jesus go into one’s mouth, the teeth bite something that occupies space—bread and wine. Faith receives Jesus’ physical body and blood. Lutherans have always condemned the accusation that we actually chew the Lord’s Body. If you’re accused of being a cannibal, though, you’re in good company. Early Christians were persecuted because they were rumored to be cannibals for the same reason. (Hey, wait a second! How come those early Christians didn’t make sure everybody knew that Jesus really meant to say,“This represents my Body but really isn’t?”They could have avoided a whole lot of suffering, but they believed in the Real Presence, so much so that they were willing to die for it.) You get the idea. Rather than try to figure out what Jesus really meant or make Him obey the laws of physics, rejoice in this simple truth: when Jesus said,“This is My body,” that’s exactly what He meant to say. In the Lord’s Supper, you find Jesus’ Body and Blood, given and shed for you for the forgiveness of sins just like He said.
Pastor Tim Pauls is the associate pastor of Good Shepherd Lutheran Church in Boise, Idaho. He is also the editor of Higher Things Magazine.
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Learning by W
hen I was in confirmation instruction, my pastor repeatedly told us about an American POW in Korea.This poor fellow’s only Bible and source of comfort in his captivity were the passages he had memorized as a confirmation student.
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I don’t doubt the story, corny though it might sound. Our Lord provides.That poor fellow had much to be thankful for in a thorough instruction. But that extreme, and somewhat unlikely, scenario hardly seemed justification to me at the time for all that memory work. I always thought that if I found myself in such dire straits I would simply ask the Red Cross for a Bible, and in the meantime, I could use the time saved on memory work to build a bomb shelter or otherwise prepare for crazy possibilities. For me, shallow as I was, it came down to this: Why should I memorize something I can just look up? Now I am a pastor. Hardly a week goes by that I don’t listen to children recite their memory work. Children are much nicer and better behaved now then when I was a boy. They hardly ever complain or argue about it. But when they do (because there is always someone who does, isn’t there?), I tell them that I don’t want them to memorize. I want them to learn by heart. You could, I note, look up your phone number in the phone book. It is there in the public record. It is probably on the Internet as well.You could even write it down and carry it in your wallet. But that doesn’t seem convenient for a number so important. I think the Bible passages and the Catechism are more important than that. I want people to have them on the tips of their tongues. But there is more to it than that.There is more than the possibility of Siberian prison camps without Bibles or the convenience of a quick reference.The main reason I want people
by Rev. David Petersen
Heart Preface to The Large Catechism
to learn God’s Word by heart is so that they will be transformed by the Word. For when you memorize, you internalize, and the Word becomes a part of you.This is why in years gone by people used to memorize poetry. It is also why actors become so attached to their characters. A poem comes out differently when you’ve savored every word and let it settle down inside your mind; so also does your sense of it change over the years.The meaning doesn’t change, but understanding deepens. I’ve never met anyone who wished he could forget the poems of William Shakespeare or Robert Frost or who regretted the ability to recite the Gettysburg Address. If that is true of secular works of art, and it is, then it is even truer of the Word of God. When we know the Word of God by heart, it changes our hearts. It transforms and deepens how we think and speak. It changes our view of the world, our families, our pets, the steaming blacktop, and the majestic birds. Learning the Word of God by heart doesn’t change the meaning of the words. It changes us.The Word of Christ is the power of God unto salvation. He speaks with authority. He is not simply some nice ideas or playful sounds or even profound ideas. He is more than the most sublime of haikus. He is grace. He makes sinners into saints. He washes black hearts as white as snow. He gives new starts every day. When the Word of God is in our hearts, Christ, the Lord, lives and moves inside of us. He lives in our hearts.That is a most helpful and comforting thing if you are ever in a POW camp. But it is also a most helpful and comforting thing if you ever have to ride the bus, or watch a sunset, or be told by your beloved that she doesn’t love you, or take a test, or eat an apple. It is good and right, healthy and helpful in every situation of this life, and it certainly will not fail in the next life either. Rev. David Petersen is pastor of Redeemer Lutheran Church in Fort Wayne, Indiana, and is also on the Higher Things editorial board. His e-mail address is David.H.Petersen@att.net.
And what need is there for more words? If I were to list all the profit and fruit God’s Word produces, where would I get enough paper and time? The devil is 13 called the master of a thousand arts. But what shall we call God’s Word, which drives away and brings to nothing this master of a thousand arts with all his arts and power? The Word must indeed be the master of more than a hundred thousand arts. And shall we easily despise such power, profit, strength, and fruit— we, especially, who claim to be pastors and preachers? If so, not only should we have nothing given us to eat, but we should also be driven out, baited with dogs, and pelted with dung. We not only need all this every day just as we need our daily bread, but we must also daily use it against the daily and unending attacks and lurking of the devil [1 Peter 5:8], the master of a thousand arts. 14 If these reasons were not enough to move us to read the catechism daily, we should feel bound well enough by God’s command alone. He solemnly commands in Deuteronomy 6:6–8 that we should always meditate on His precepts, sitting, walking, standing, lying down, and rising.We should have them before our eyes and in our hands as a constant mark and sign. Clearly He did not solemnly require and command this without a purpose. For He knows our danger and need, as well as the constant and furious assaults and temptations of devils. He wants to warn, equip, and preserve us against them, as with a good armor against their fiery darts [Ephesians 6:10–17] and with good medicine against their evil infection and temptation. McCain, Paul, ed., Concordia: The Lutheran Confessions (St. Louis, MO: Concordia Publishing House, 2005), 354.
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Amen Higher Things Magazine • Fall, 2008 Bible Study • Leader Guide In his sermon “Amen,” Pastor Esget makes clear that there is nothing we can do to atone for our sins. However, Christ has atoned for our sins—and by faith we say, “Amen,” “Yes, it shall be so!” Is “amen” just a word to throw around—do you want to say yes to just anything? Figuring that you probably say “Amen” more during a worship service than elsewhere during the week, perhaps it’s a good idea to think about what you add your “amen” to during worship. What has God promised, so that you would add your “Amen” to… The Invocation (Matthew 28:19b; 18:20) The Invocation reminds you that you were baptized “In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit” (Matthew 28:19); when you say “Amen” to the Invocation, you’re saying, “Yes! Jesus has joined me to His death and resurrection (Romans 6:3-5), and He’s present (Matthew 18:20) here to preserve me in that faith.” The Absolution (John 20:19-23) In the Absolution, the pastor is saying what Jesus says to you: “I forgive you all of your sins.” It’s not the pastor who is forgiving you, but Jesus Himself in His Word. When Christians hear they are forgiven, the response of faith is “Yes! Amen!” Gloria Patri (“Glory be to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Ghost; as it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be, world without end.”) All the glory belongs to the one, true triune God. You’ve already confessed that you deserve no glory because of your sin—and because you’re a creation, not the Creator. As the Gloria Patri is spoken or sung at the end of the Introit or the psalm, you’re saying “Yes!” to what God declares in that text—and that He deserves all glory. Gloria in Excelsis (Luke 2:14) The Gloria in Excelsis begins with the words that the angel sang to the shepherds when Jesus was born. In other words, this was the song of praise that angels sang to celebrate that the Son of God had become flesh, present on earth, to save you from your sins. The same Jesus is present, by His Word and Sacraments, in the worship service to save you. Thus we say, “Yes!” to the angel’s acknowledgment that our Savior is present. Collect for the Day Listen carefully to the Collect for the Day, and you’ll find that it sums up the themes of God’s work declared in the Scripture readings. We add our “Yes!” that the Lord will continue to accomplish His promises, and He will. (In fact, take a look at this Sunday’s Collect for the Day. Compare it to the readings, and see what it says about the Lord’s work for you.) Creed The Creeds of the Church (Apostles’, Nicene and Athanasian) are confessions of who God declares Himself to be in the Bible. By saying “Amen” or “Yes” to these, we are saying that we believe in the one true God, in keeping with the First Commandment. We can be sure that God is who He says He is—that’s why we can be sure He’ll keep His Word. Offertory (Psalm 51:10-12) In this Offertory, we repeat David’s plea for forgiveness after his sins of adultery and murder, praying that God would create in us clean hearts and remain present with us. Trusting that God will keep His Word of forgiveness and salvation, we rejoice to say, “Amen!”
Prayers (1 Timothy 2:1-4) The Church prays for those in need, confident that God hears the prayers of His people because He’s promised to. As the pastor voices the prayers of the people, the people add their “Amen,” trusting that God will keep His promises. Lord’s Prayer (Matthew 6:9-13) As the Small Catechism demonstrates, the seven petitions of the Lord’s Prayer are built upon God’s promises to us: therefore, in Christ, we can pray with confidence. Trusting in His promises, we pray this prayer that He has taught us—and we say our “Amen,” because this prayer is certainly in keeping with God’s good and gracious will for us. Pax Domini (John 20:19) When the risen Jesus appeared to the disciples, His first words were, “Peace be with you.” Not, “Why did you doubt?” or “You’re fired” or “You’ve got some stuff to make up for.” He was present with them to give them forgiveness, so that they might have peace with God. The Pax Domini is spoken just after the Words of Institution during the Service of the Sacrament. Why? Because the same Jesus is just as present with His body and blood, in bread and wine, to give you forgiveness and peace with God. What a miraculous wonder to say “Yes!” to. Agnus Dei (John 1:29) John the Baptist pointed to Jesus at the Jordan and said, “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!” We sing of the Lamb of God just prior to receiving the Lord’s Supper, because the Lamb of God brings us His body and blood for the forgiveness of sins. The same Jesus to whom John pointed is present with us in His Supper, giving us life and salvation. Amen! During the Distribution: “The Body of Christ, given for you.” Many Christians say, “Amen” as they receive Christ’s body and blood at the Supper. What a wonderful “Amen:” “Yes! Jesus, who died for the world, has died for me! He’s present and giving me forgiveness here! Amen!” Nunc Dimittis (Luke 2:29-32) Simeon held the Baby—body, blood and all—in his arms as he prayed this prayer. You’ve just received the same body and blood for your salvation, so that you can depart in peace according to God’s Word. Amen!
Post-communion collect If you read through the post-communion collects in the hymnal, you’ll find that we pray that the Lord would not forsake us, but continue to preserve us in grace. Given the temptations of the world and our sinfulness, we give thanks for God’s promises of faithfulness and add our “Amen” to the prayer. Benediction (Number 6:24-26) At the conclusion of the service, we hear the astonishing truth that the Lord blesses us, makes His face shine on us, lifts up His countenance upon us (meaning He is present with us for our good), and gives us peace. This is fulfilled in Christ, present in His Word and Supper so that we might have peace with God. He has done all the work to save us. There is nothing for us to do, so we add our “Amen.” Yes, it shall be so.
Amen Higher Things Magazine • Fall, 2008 Bible Study • Leader Guide In his sermon “Amen,” Pastor Esget makes clear that there is nothing we can do to atone for our sins. However, Christ has atoned for our sins—and by faith we say, “Amen,” “Yes, it shall be so!” Is “amen” just a word to throw around—do you want to say yes to just anything? Figuring that you probably say “Amen” more during a worship service than elsewhere during the week, perhaps it’s a good idea to think about what you add your “amen” to during worship. What has God promised, so that you would add your “Amen” to… The Invocation (Matthew 28:19b; 18:20)
The Absolution (John 20:19-23)
Gloria Patri (“Glory be to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Ghost; as it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be, world without end.”)
Gloria in Excelsis (Luke 2:14)
Collect for the Day
Offertory (Psalm 51:10-12)
Prayers (1 Timothy 2:1-4)
Lord’s Prayer (Matthew 6:9-13)
Pax Domini (John 20:19)
Agnus Dei (John 1:29)
During the Distribution: “The Body of Christ, given for you.”
Nunc Dimittis (Luke 2:29-32)
Benediction (Number 6:24-26)
The ABCs of Christian Living Higher Things Magazine • Fall, 2008 Bible Study • Leader Guide If you go to a Christian bookstore and look at the “Christian Living” section, you’re going to find all sorts of books about being a better Christian woman, having a more Christian home, avoiding temptations and sins that Christians should avoid, etc. That’s what a lot of people think of when they hear the term “Christian Living.” When Pastor Roemke writes an article about it, though, he walks you through a worship service instead. (For another look at the Divine Service, see the Bible Study for Pastor Esget’s sermon “Amen,” also in this issue.) But for now, we need to ask the question, “What’s Pastor Roemke getting at with his take on Christian living?” Christian Life 1. What is Jesus called in John 14:6 and Acts 3:13? How are you described in Ephesians 2:1,5? So what? Jesus calls Himself “the Life” in the former; Peter calls Jesus the “Author of Life” in the latter. Apart from Jesus, we’re dead in our sins. If you’re going to live as a Christian and do things that are pleasing to God, first you need to have life: first, you need to have Jesus.
2. Read John 10:10-11. What has Jesus come to do, and how has He accomplished this? Jesus has come to give life to us. He has accomplished this by laying down His life for us at the cross.
3. Read Romans 5:17 and Titus 3:4-7. What goes together with life in each of these passages? In Titus 3:4-7, how does one receive life? Grace and life go together: when you are forgiven for your sins, you are alive in Christ; and to be alive in Christ is to be a living Christian. How does one receive life? Titus speaks of the “washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit,” also known as Holy Baptism. Joined to Jesus’ life (Romans 6:4) in Baptism, you’re alive.
4. Once you’re alive in Christ, how do you stay that way? Read John 5:24 and Matthew 26:26-28. The Holy Spirit keeps you alive by continuing to give you forgiveness by means of the Word and the Lord’s Supper. Christian life centers on worship, because that is where the Lord gathers the congregation to be present in His means of grace, to give life to His people.
What to Do When You’re Alive 3. So now that you’re alive in Christ, what’s next? Read through John 15:1-10 as the Lord walks you through. What makes a branch alive (v. 2 and 5)? A branch is alive when joined to the vine. We are alive when we are “joined” to Jesus by grace. What do live branches do (v. 2), and what does this mean? They bear fruit. Made alive in Christ, we do good works.
What happens to live branches that don’t (v. 2, 6)? What does this mean? Those who don’t bear fruit aren’t doing good works, which means they’re doing bad works. They’re not keeping God’s Law, and so they are destroying their faith (cf. James 2:17). Romans 6:1-4 addresses this as well: can a baptized Christian continue to sin willfully? May it never be! What has already made them clean and ready to bear fruit (v. 3)? The Word that Jesus speaks. Here, our Lord confirms that it’s still the Gospel that delivers forgiveness and life to us today. How necessary is it to be joined to Christ if you are to do good works that are pleasing to God (v. 5)? Without faith, it is impossible to please God (Hebrews 11:6); or as Jesus says, “Apart from Me you can do nothing.” (Unbelievers can do works that are “good” in the sense of being helpful to others, but they aren’t pleasing to God.) While you live as a Christian how do you know what sorts of things are pleasing to God (v. 10)? Those thoughts, words and deeds which are in keeping with His Commandments, are good works. 4. Sometimes, people think that “Christian living” is something you’re supposed to do above and beyond the normal routine. What does John the Baptist say in Luke 3:1014? He tells soldiers to be good soldiers and tax collectors to be fair tax collectors. This is the doctrine of vocation: the student who cleans up his room and does his geometry homework is doing good as a Christian, because that’s his calling. (The unbelieving heart surgeon who saves lives is not pleasing God with his work, even though God is using him as an instrument to save lives!) This is an important lesson: your daily, normal life is pleasing to God. 5. Evaluate the sentence: “Good works are necessary, but not for salvation.” This is a good summary of “Christian living.” We live because we are saved by grace, not works; and because we live, we do good works.
The ABCs of Christian Living Higher Things Magazine • Fall, 2008 Bible Study • Leader Guide If you go to a Christian bookstore and look at the “Christian Living” section, you’re going to find all sorts of books about being a better Christian woman, having a more Christian home, avoiding temptations and sins that Christians should avoid, etc. That’s what a lot of people think of when they hear the term “Christian Living.” When Pastor Roemke writes an article about it, though, he walks you through a worship service instead. (For another look at the Divine Service, see the Bible Study for Pastor Esget’s sermon “Amen,” also in this issue.) But for now, we need to ask the question, “What’s Pastor Roemke getting at with his take on Christian living?” Christian Life 1. What is Jesus called in John 14:6 and Acts 3:13? How are you described in Ephesians 2:1,5? So what?
2. Read John 10:10-11. What has Jesus come to do, and how has He accomplished this?
3. Read Romans 5:17 and Titus 3:4-7. What goes together with life in each of these passages? In Titus 3:4-7, how does one receive life?
4. Once you’re alive in Christ, how do you stay that way? Read John 5:24 and Matthew 26:26-28.
What to Do When You’re Alive 3. So now that you’re alive in Christ, what’s next? Read through John 15:1-10 as the Lord walks you through. What makes a branch alive (v. 2 and 5)?
What do live branches do (v. 2), and what does this mean?
What happens to live branches that don’t (v. 2, 6)? What does this mean?
What has already made them clean and ready to bear fruit (v. 3)?
How necessary is it to be joined to Christ if you are to do good works that are pleasing to God (v. 5)?
While you live as a Christian how do you know what sorts of things are pleasing to God (v. 10)?
4. Sometimes, people think that “Christian living” is something you’re supposed to do above and beyond the normal routine. What does John the Baptist say in Luke 3:1014?
5. Evaluate the sentence: “Good works are necessary, but not for salvation.”
The Language of the Kingdom: Why Jesus Teaches in Parables Higher Things Magazine • Fall, 2008 Bible Study • Leader Guide Rev. Wolfmueller explains in his article, “When Jesus uses parables, He is speaking in the language of the kingdom, and this speaking is for the citizens of the kingdom….the citizens hear and understand what’s being said; outsiders don’t.” Sometimes, though, insiders seem to get the parables wrong, too. In a kingdom, the focus is the king. In parables of the kingdom of heaven, the titles in Bibles usually put the focus not on Jesus. So here’s the exercise for this Bible study: each of the popular parable titles below doesn’t mention Jesus. It’s your job to read through them, rename them so that the title talks about the Lord, and explain why. For instance, read through the Parable of the Wicked Tenants (Luke 20:9-16). Who is the Lord in this parable? Clearly, the owner and the son are the Father and the Son, and the real news of the parable is what they do: namely, they’re willing to sacrifice to give the tenants every chance to repent. So what would you call this parable to make the title about the Lord: “The Patient Owner and the Sacrificial Son”? Ok, it’s a little long, but it puts the focus back on Jesus. The Two Debtors (Luke 7:36-50) The parable focuses on the debtors and their love for the moneylender, but this doesn’t focus on the Gospel. The Gospel, as portrayed in the parable, is that the moneylender cancels their debts. That’s bad business—but it’s great Good News. Title-wise, how about “The Parable of the Forgiving Lender”?
The Hidden Treasure and The Pearl of Great Price (Matthew 13:44-46) In the case of these two parables, the titles have illustrated a mistake that many people make: they think that Jesus is the hidden treasure and the pearl. He’s not: we are, and He comes into the field and market (world) to redeem us by sacrificing Himself. As far as titles go, maybe “The Man Who Sold All for the Treasure” and “The Merchant Who Gave All”? (Note: is the man who re-buries the treasure and buys the field dishonest? No. He was following the law. Since there were no banks, people buried treasures all the time, then died or forgot where. If the owner of the field knew it was there, he’d get the treasure before he sold the field. If he didn’t, it wasn’t his to begin with.) The Lost Sheep (Luke 15:1-7) The joy of the parable is that the sheep is found; better put, the joy is that the Shepherd finds it. Maybe a good title would be, “The Searching Shepherd.”
The Dishonest Manager (Luke 16:1-8) a.k.a “The Shrewd Steward,” it’s the dishonest servant who usually gets the spotlight in this difficult parable. And if it’s all about the steward, how is this like the kingdom of God? In keeping with the plots of other parables, it’s the master who symbolizes the Lord. We’re the dishonest servants; and while Judgment Day is coming, the Lord still keeps giving us blessings, even though we misuse them. And because He gives us forgiveness, we’ll be delivered. A title? How about, “The Outrageously Generous Master”?
The House Built on the Rock (Matthew 7:24-27) The focus naturally goes to the wise and foolish men in this short story, but remember: no matter how wise the wise man, it didn’t matter if there wasn’t a rock to build his house on. We give great thanks that our rock is Jesus Christ, the Son of the Living God (Matthew 16:1618). Suggested title: “The Rock that Saves in Storms.”
The Ten Virgins (Matthew 25:1-13) Once again, we have wise and foolish characters—five of each. Clearly, it’s advisable for us to be wise, rather than foolish, by having enough oil. But how? By the oil that the Bridegroom provides—it’s His wedding feast, so His family would supply what was needed. Clothed in Jesus’ blood and merit, we’re prepared for His return in glory: let the wedding feast begin! A title? Maybe, “The Bridegroom Who Makes Wise.”
The Talents (Matthew 25:14-29) Nearly always, I’ve heard that the focus of this parable is on the action of the tenants: “You’d better use what God gives you, or you’re out!” That would be a rather Law-oriented message! What if the focus goes on the master of the house? In that case, the servants are already in the household—they’re not trying to earn their way in, and He’s already entrusted to each of them a fortune (even one talent is a huge treasure!). The one servant isn’t thrown out because he used the talent poorly, but because he considered the master to be hard instead of giving. So it is for those who believe God to be a harsh taskmaster who commands salvation by works, not the One who has given His Son to die for us. Title: maybe “The Kind and Giving Master”? The Prodigal Son (Luke 15:11-32) This famous title isn’t especially helpful: after all, there are two sons in the parable—and neither one is Jesus! The Lord is the father who forgives. He won’t even let the prodigal son offer to be a servant who earns his keep, but forgives and restores him as a son. A better title would be about “The Loving Father.” Bonus challenge: the brothers seem complete opposites, but they share the same sin. What is it? (Both think that their father loves them because of what they do. The prodigal says, “Since I haven’t worked, my father won’t love me. His brother says, “Since I have worked, my father will love me.” The truth is that the father loves both—not because of their works, but because they’re his sons!)
The Language of the Kingdom: Why Jesus Teaches in Parables Higher Things Magazine • Fall, 2008 Bible Study • Student Guide Rev. Wolfmueller explains in his article, “When Jesus uses parables, He is speaking in the language of the kingdom, and this speaking is for the citizens of the kingdom….the citizens hear and understand what’s being said; outsiders don’t.” Sometimes, though, insiders seem to get the parables wrong, too. In a kingdom, the focus is the king. In parables of the kingdom of heaven, the titles in Bibles usually put the focus not on Jesus. So here’s the exercise for this Bible study: each of the popular parable titles below doesn’t mention Jesus. It’s your job to read through them, rename them so that the title talks about the Lord, and explain why. For instance, read through the Parable of the Wicked Tenants (Luke 20:9-16). Who is the Lord in this parable? Clearly, the owner and the son are the Father and the Son, and the real news of the parable is what they do: namely, they’re willing to sacrifice to give the tenants every chance to repent. So what would you call this parable to make the title about the Lord: “The Patient Owner and the Sacrificial Son”? Ok, it’s a little long, but it puts the focus back on Jesus. The Two Debtors (Luke 7:36-50)
The Hidden Treasure and The Pearl of Great Price (Matthew 13:44-46)
The Lost Sheep (Luke 15:1-7)
The Dishonest Manager (Luke 16:1-8)
The House Built on the Rock (Matthew 7:24-27)
The Ten Virgins (Matthew 25:1-13)
The Talents (Matthew 25:14-29)
The Prodigal Son (Luke 15:11-32)
Swimming in Faith Higher Things Magazine • Fall, 2008 Bible Study • Leaders Guide Mr. Verage talks about the importance of discipline for Christians, a necessity as long as we’re in this sinful world. 1. To restate the obvious and the important foundation, this follows justification. In other words, God doesn’t save us because we lead a well-disciplined spiritual life; but because God saves us, we can lead such a life by His grace. Read Ephesians 2:1-10 and John 15:1-5: how does each one describe (a) our condition apart from Christ, (b) our salvation, (c) our lives as Christians once we’ve been justified? Ephesians 2:1-10: Ephesians describes (a) us as dead in our trespasses and sins, in league with the sinful world, following the devil and following the passions of our flesh—all of which adds up to our being children of wrath and unable to save ourselves. But although we were dead, God (b) made us alive with Christ; verses 8-9 make clear that grace, faith and salvation are all God’s doing, and not ours. What happens (c) after we’ve been justified? We are created to do good works (v. 10). John 15:1-5: Jesus declares that (a) apart from Him, we can do nothing; in keeping also with Ephesians 2, a branch that is not connected to the vine for nourishment and life cannot do anything. Our salvation (b) is to abide in Christ, to be joined to Him. How does this happen? He joins Himself to us in Holy Baptism (Romans 6:3-5), and sustains us by His Word and His Supper. What do we do since we abide in Him? We (c) bear fruit—we do good works. 2. “Discipline” can mean “training” or “punishment,” and we’re talking about the former. A well-disciplined swimmer is well-trained, not well-punished. In fact, “discipline” means “instruction given to a disciple.” Why is discipline necessary for those who are followers of Jesus by His grace? See Romans 7:19-25. What is the battle that Paul fought, and you fight, every day? Why is it tough? Paul fought against his old, undisciplined sinful flesh. It’s not just that the sinful flesh is lazy and ill-trained, but it hates the instruction of God’s Word. It’s an enemy of God. Did Paul always win the battle? What was the point of disciplining himself? Paul often lost. But to give up would be to return to a life of willingly sinning, which would have destroyed his faith. Ultimately, what was his deliverance? His deliverance was Jesus Christ our Lord. Discipline is necessary for a Christian: it’s a good work, and good works are necessary for Christians. (They don’t save, but they’re necessary!) But Paul wasn’t alive in Christ because of his good works/discipline. He could do good works because Jesus had given Him life, and continued to give life, with forgiveness for his sins. 3. Back in the time of the apostles, a religious group called the Gnostics taught that the body was evil and that only the soul would be saved. Because of this, some of them taught that they could do whatever they wanted with their bodies, since their bodies were going to be destroyed anyway. What do the following passages say, and what does this mean for your treatment of your body? 1 Corinthians 9:24-27 Paul disciplines his body and keeps it under control, lest misuse of his body would lead him to forsake the faith and be lost.
1 Corinthians 6:13-20 Paul is warning against sexual immorality in this passage, a sin which certainly requires discipline to avoid in our present age. What does he say of the body? It has been redeemed by Christ and is meant for the Lord. Our bodies have been bought with a price, namely Jesus’ own sacrifice of His body and blood on the cross; therefore, we should glorify God in our bodies. Adolescence provides all sorts of challenges for glorifying God with one’s body, be it the temptations of promiscuity, drug abuse, etc. It’s a vital time to live repentant lives by the grace of God; to misuse the body invites both physical harm and spiritual destruction. 4. As far as discipline goes, Mr. Verage also speaks of meditation. What do Mark 7:2123 and 3:12-16 say, and why is meditation so important? Mark 7:21-23 warns that all sorts of evil thoughts comes out of man’s heart, and Colossians 3:1216 speaks of meditating on the Word of Christ. Quite simply, God created people with the ability to meditate, so you’ll be meditating on something: it might be the lyrics to a secular song, a trashy TV show, a hymn or Scripture. But what you meditate on will determine how you act; and what you meditate on will hurt or strengthen your faith.
Let me hear in the morning of your steadfast love, for in you I trust. Make me know the way I should go, for to you I lift up my soul. (Psalm 143:8)
Swimming in Faith Higher Things Magazine • Fall, 2008 Bible Study • Student Guide Mr. Verage talks about the importance of discipline for Christians, a necessity as long as we’re in this sinful world. 1. To restate the obvious and the important foundation, this follows justification. In other words, God doesn’t save us because we lead a well-disciplined spiritual life; but because God saves us, we can lead such a life by His grace. Read Ephesians 2:1-10 and John 15:1-5: how does each one describe (a) our condition apart from Christ, (b) our salvation, (c) our lives as Christians once we’ve been justified?
2. “Discipline” can mean “training” or “punishment,” and we’re talking about the former. A well-disciplined swimmer is well-trained, not well-punished. In fact, “discipline” means “instruction given to a disciple.” Why is discipline necessary for those who are followers of Jesus by His grace? See Romans 7:19-25. What is the battle that Paul fought, and you fight, every day? Why is it tough?
Did Paul always win the battle? What was the point of disciplining himself?
Ultimately, what was his deliverance?
3. Back in the time of the apostles, a religious group called the Gnostics taught that the body was evil and that only the soul would be saved. Because of this, some of them taught that they could do whatever they wanted with their bodies, since their bodies were going to be destroyed anyway. What do the following passages say, and what does this mean for your treatment of your body? 1 Corinthians 9:24-27
1 Corinthians 6:13-20
4. As far as discipline goes, Mr. Verage also speaks of meditation. What do Mark 7:2123 and 3:12-16 say, and why is meditation so important?
Let me hear in the morning of your steadfast love, for in you I trust. Make me know the way I should go, for to you I lift up my soul. (Psalm 143:8)