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e sid on In n es io c at ren rm fe fo n In 0 Co 1 20

Higher Things


Inside this issue:

• It Is Time to

Go to Confession

• Triskaidekaphobia • Free to Offend

W W W. H I G H E RT H I N G S . O R G

/ SPRING / 2010

Worship, Theology, and Roller Coasters… Where do I sign up?


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Join guys like you, guys who have been encouraged to consider serving the Church as a pastor. ✠ Worship together ✠ Study together ✠ Play together

For more information about Christ Academy, please call us at 1-800-481-2155. You can also find information at the seminary’s Web site or e-mail

June 20–July 3, 2010 Theme: "Evangelical Responses to Non-Christian Religions" Featuring: "Ministry in a Pluralistic Context" with Dr. Douglas Rutt and Dr. Adam Francisco.

Students will explore how to present and defend the faith "with gentleness and reverence (1 Peter 3:15)" during a day-trip to Chicago where we will visit the Baha'i temple, a mosque, and a modern Jewish synagogue.

Concordia Theological Seminary ✠ 6600 N. Clinton St. ✠ Fort Wayne, IN 46825

Contents T A B L E





Reality TV

By Rev. Tom Chryst The Bachelor Jake picked Vienna instead of Tenley? Ugh. He’s so unbelievable! Wait. Back up the train. Reality TV . . . isn’t. Most often, it’s based on short clips that don’t tell the whole story. But Pastor Chryst knows the reality of what Jesus does for us: He frames our thinking about all of reality, even reality TV. He’s our God, and we are His people. Really.


By Rev. James Leistico Do thoughts of Friday the 13th make you shudder? Do you stay in bed that day to avoid mirrors and black cats? If so, call the doctor! You have a severe case of triskaidekaphobia, the fear of the number 13. But there’s a sure cure for this disorder: a healthy dose of the Gospel! Pastor Leistico is here to remind you of the blessings, not luck or four-leaf clovers, that are yours in Christ.

Last Easter I Was Robbed

By Mrs. Tracey Dann Wander into an unfamiliar church on Easter morning, and you may hear phrases like,“We hear the voice of Christ in the stillness of a clear night, in the way our friends call our name, and in a song that brings tears to our eyes.” Say what? Mrs. Dann was robbed of the Gospel last Easter, but this year, she’s not leaving church until she hears about Jesus’ death and resurrection for her and for you!

12 Rescue from Death

By Mr. Roy Coats Most baptisms take place in a church with sponsors, a baptismal shell, and a beautiful white gown. Mr. Coats, however, performed an emergency baptism to the victim of a random shooting on the streets of Baltimore.Whether in church or in the gutter, we rejoice that Christ’s gift of life and salvation through baptism puts death to death.

Volume 10/Number 1 • Spring 2010

22 A Church Full of Young People

By Rev. Tim Pauls On Sunday morning, you have to fight your little brother for the bathroom. And the front seat. And the last donut. But what if, when Sunday rolled around, you had to dodge bullets, rocks, and police to get to church? Many of your fellow Christians across the globe are in danger, and Pastor Pauls tells you why getting to church is worth risking their life for.

24 Good Things When Life Isn’t Good

By Rev. George Borghardt III When life hands Pastor Borghardt lemons, he drinks a Diet Coke. Wait . . . huh? As Christians, we know that God is good. But what do we do when it doesn’t seem like it? God is, right now, working all things for your good, and we don’t want you to forget it.

26 Piety and Pietism: Can a Christian Listen to Secular Music?

By Mr. Jordan McKinley One of your friends asks,“Do you have any music we can listen to?”“Sure!” you say.“My CDs are over next to the stereo.The Beatles, Bon Jovi, CCR . . . take your pick.”Your friend says,“But don’t you have any Christian music?” Uh oh. Does this make you an impious Christian? Mr. McKinley sets the record straight on the difference between piety and pietism and whether or not Christians can listen to music that isn’t straight out of the LSB.


10 Mining the Riches: Feasting with Our Lord

By Rev. Thomas Messer The Feast of the Passover. Unleavened bread. Male lambs. Bitter herbs. What is it with all this feast talk anyway? Pastor Messer fills you in on what this event meant for Christians in the early church and the significance of it for you today.

14 Looking Forward

20 Free to Offend

18 I Believe God Has Made Me and All Creatures

28 It Is Time to Go to Confession

By Dcs. Rachel Mumme Admit it. Some Sundays it’s awfully hard to pull yourself out of bed and go to church.You already know what you’re going to hear and see and sing. Why should you have to go again? Dcs. Mumme has a different perspective on the Divine Service, and she’s anxious to help you see why the delivery of our Lord’s gifts is a great reason not to hit the Snooze button. Again.

By Rev. Rick Serina Most heresies are pretty obvious, right? Buddha, Muhammed, Tom Cruise jumping on couches . . . those are fairly noticeable. But what about Gnosticism, that sneaky little lie that says anything that is fleshly or material in creation is a mistake? If you’ve heard this popular buzzword, check out Pastor Serina’s article. Christ has redeemed creation, and you are no mistake!

By Rev. Jeffrey Grams Christians know all about political correctness. We’re not supposed to use the words sinners, unbelievers, or hell. And having a discussion with someone about your faith? Fuggedaboutit! Pastor Grahams wants you to know that Christ has forgiven your sins and set you free, and that gives you all the freedom in the world to speak God’s truth in love! Rev. David Petersen Gulp. Who? Me, confess? Going to private confession can be scary. After all, you’re talking with your pastor about your sin, and that can be painful, and, well, awkward. Pastor Petersen has heard confession a time or two, and he wants you to know that Christ uses the words of absolution spoken from your pastor to forgive your sins, and that’s not scary at all.



Volume 10/Number 1/Spring 2010 Where the doctrine is strong, the editors a trifle peculiar, and the readers are both cool and under the cross. Editor

REV. TIM PAULS Managing Editor


STEVE BLAKEY Editorial Associates


STAN LEMON ___________ Board of Directors President




REV. MARK BUETOW Christ on Campus Executive REV. MARCUS ZILL 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 2010. Higher Things® and Christ on Campus® are registered trademarks of Higher Things Inc.; All Rights Reserved. Printed in the United States. Postage paid at St. Louis, Missouri. For subscription information and questions, call 1-888-448-2359 or e-mail (This phone number is only used for subscription queries.) For letters to the editor, write letters@higher Writers may submit manuscripts to: Please check for writers’ guidelines and theme lists.


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Reality TV By Rev.Tom Chryst

Survivor. Big Brother.The Bachelor and the Bachelorette.The Apprentice. Top Chef.Top Model. So You Think You Can Dance? The Biggest Loser. Celebrity Boot Camp. And the list goes on.Yes, it’s reality TV. And it’s everywhere you look. A recent list of top TV shows reported eight of the top ten were reality shows! But what IS a reality show? The wise oracle known as perhaps says it best: Reality television frequently portrays a modified and highly influenced form of reality, utilizing sensationalism to attract viewers to generate advertising profits. Participants are often placed in exotic locations or abnormal situations, and are sometimes coached, to act in certain scripted ways by offscreen “story editors” or “segment producers,” with the portrayal of events and speech manipulated and contrived to create an illusion of reality through editing and other post-production techniques.1 Translation: Reality TV . . . isn’t. But you knew that, right? So, one thing that might sour us on reality TV right off the bat is that it’s often premised on dishonesty. It’s supposed to represent something real, but it really doesn’t. What’s a Lutheran Christian to think while we’re surfing channels and we land on Cheaters or Wife Swap? Is it bad to watch these kinds of shows? Should we tell our friends and family they are of the devil (and are really very poorly done too)? For the most part, I’d give the same advice to anyone about watching television in general. As with most activities in life, there are good and healthy uses, and unhelpful, unbalanced, and even sinful abuses we’ll have to face. So, here’s a short list of things to think about as we ponder our relationship with reality TV.1 1. Does it glorify sin? Many reality shows, particularly the dating shows, seem to promote a promiscuity that Christians should find distasteful. Others appeal to the vilest urges in our nature: revenge, greed, pride, and the like. When you sense a TV show is tempting you or leading you into sin, run away! Examples: Rock of Love, The Bachelor. 2. Is it a good use of my time? Or is there something better I should be doing (e.g., homework, getting some exercise)? Maybe the program you are watching is a harmless pastime. Or maybe it’s eating up time that would be better spent elsewhere.

3. Is there a redeeming value to the program? Some shows are feelgood stories, like Extreme Home Makeover. Others can perhaps teach us something of human nature. It may get you thinking about your own values, how you would react in a certain situation, or why you should appreciate an art form. Some of those dance competition shows are amazing! 4. Am I so hooked on this show that I am missing other things in life to watch it? (Maybe you have TIVO and that’s not a problem.) But if a reality show, or any TV show, or any created thing becomes your reason for getting up in the morning, you’ve got a serious First Commandment problem.

1. Wikipedia contributors, "Reality Television," Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, (accessed February 16, 2010).

So I guess my advice is the same as it is with all of the physical things of this world. Television, including reality TV, isn’t good or bad in and of itself. The value or danger lies with how the child of God uses it. And there is great potential for abuse. St. Paul says,“Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things”(Philippians 4:8). If you have a hard time fitting reality TV into Paul’s list of things excellent and praiseworthy, then maybe you should be thinking about other things. And here are some excellent things to ponder: the true reality—what is really real—in Jesus Christ; Jesus’ real presence in the Sacraments, and His real Word, written for you and preached to you; the Gospel, that your sins are really forgiven in Christ. There’s nothing untrue or illusionary, nothing misleading or tempting about Him. With Jesus, what you see is what you get. He is who He says He is and does what He says He will do. He’s always a good use of your time whether it is in worship or study or prayer. He values and redeems you so much that He died for you:“not with silver or gold, but with His holy, precious blood.” And He is true God and true man, our one and only Savior.This is most certainly true! That won’t answer every question for you about whether and when to watch what a TV show. But the reality of what Jesus does for us frames our thinking about all of reality, even reality TV. He’s our God, and we are His people. Really. Rev.Tom Chryst serves as pastor at Grace Lutheran Church in Racine,Wisconsin, and can be reached at


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Triskaidekaphobia By Rev. James Leistico H I G H E R

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Friday the 13th was my birthday. It started with my baby peeing all over me while I changed her diaper. Ugh. I wondered what else would go wrong. Friday the 13th. Hmmm. Our world has a number of superstitions about good and bad luck. Last spring, my oldest daughter suddenly started squealing in our yard,“I found a four leaf clover! I’m lucky!” But the Chinese zodiac says she is not so lucky.The chart at the Chinese restaurant we go to says that, according to the years we were born, she should avoid my wife and me because our animals bring her bad luck. Weddings have their own share of superstitions.The bride should have something old, something new, something borrowed, and something blue for good luck, and it is bad luck for her to see her groom before the wedding. When I encourage couples to get as many photos done as possible before the service, I tell them, “We are to fear love and trust in God above all things, even superstitions.”The Lord is our light and our salvation. Shall we be afraid of bad luck because a bride and groom saw each other before the wedding? Shall we be afraid of Friday the 13th? No, the Lord is the stronghold of our life (Psalm 27). Now, we might be afraid of God . . . or at least be uncertain about what He thinks about us. After all, we have not kept that First Commandment, especially when we act as if luck has more control over our lives than the Lord does. After all, it’s the Lord who can destroy both body and soul in hell forever. Yet consider this: when His people are frightened in the Bible because either He or His angels arrive in His world, scared sinners consistently hear this message from God:“Do not be afraid.” Adam and Eve hide in the bushes, terrified. But God does not come to destroy them. He invites them out into His salvation in the Son of Man who will come years later to destroy the Devil’s work. Remember the Easter Scripture of the disciples locked away behind the closed doors for fear of the Jews. After defeating death and rising from His grave, Jesus appears to them but not to destroy them for abandoning Him and being a bunch of faithless cowards on Good Friday. Jesus does not hold a grudge. But neither does He simply ignore their failure and pretend they never sinned. Rather, our Lord forgives it to release them from the condemnation that is worse than any imagined bad luck.“Peace be with you,” He says. And then God sends them out as His ambassadors. “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent Me, even so I am sending you . . . If you forgive the sins of anyone, they are forgiven; if you withhold forgiveness from anyone, it is withheld” (John 20:21, 23). It was not

enough that the Father sent the Son to suffer and die for the sins of these disciples. More sinners remain scared to death, and they must be made alive until His Kingdom is filled with people from every tribe and people and language. Jesus puts forgiveness in the apostles’ mouths for a world imprisoned by the same sins and fears that once held these men. He sends His Word of peace to people locked in the darkness where we hide from bad luck. He sends His Word of pardon for our false beliefs based on superstitions and fears.The times we have been ungrateful to God for His goodness because we were too busy trusting good luck are all forgiven by the Lord who says to you,“Peace be with you.” The Scriptures say,“This is the day that the LORD has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it” (Psalm 118:24). That is always true, whether today is Friday the 13th or not.The Bible does not speak about good luck or bad luck, but it does speak about blessings and curses. And whatever curse does come your way, let us rejoice because God knows about it, and He will work the curse into something that will eventually be good for you. Whether Good Friday was on the 13th or not, look what God did with the evil murder of Christ on the cross. “Cursed is everyone who is hanged on a tree” (Galatians 3:13). The Holy God was willing to take upon Himself the curse of hell that we deserved. There is no sin of yours that He did not wrap up in His sacrifice. His cursedness results in your eternal blessing in paradise, the place where no one will even think about bad luck. We can rejoice and be glad in this day for your eternal Christ has blessed you with the freedom from fearful lives controlled by false beliefs in superstitions. You have no bad luck . . . or good luck for that matter! You have something better.You have the goodness of the Lord who blesses you with sins forgiven in the name of the crucified and risen Jesus. Rev. James Leistico is pastor of Saint Peter Lutheran Church in Evansville, Illinois. E-mail him at


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Last Easter I Was Robbed. By Tracey Dann

Last Easter I was robbed. I have small children. Easter began the usual way, with family, innumerable chocolate bunnies, pastel hair ribbons, and whining about the necessity of a necktie. Far from home, we ended up in an unfamiliar church. I thought it made no difference. As it turns out, not all services are created equal.


T H I N G S __ 8

I glanced down at the opening words of the church bulletin, a quote from John Updike that began,“Religion enables us to ignore nothingness.” My stomach fell. I recognized the feeling; it was as if I had taken a late night shortcut down a dark alley and just spotted movement out of the corner of my eye. Unfortunately, we were trapped in the pew by the processing choir. On the outside, this looked like an Easter service. There was singing. A pastor spoke. Nicely dressed people were sitting in pews. But an hour and fifteen minutes later, no one mentioned the crucifixion of Christ.The hymns described with great eloquence how wonderful we feel on Easter morning.The sermon was an impressive list of all the ways the church had contributed to the community that year.The confessional was a responsive poem written by one of the clergy. It included lines like,“We hear the voice of Christ in the stillness of a clear night, in the way our friends call our name, and in a song that brings tears to our eyes.” A far better soft drink advertisement than a proclamation of faith, I half expected the reading to end with a logo and the slogan “Jesus: the taste of a new generation.”The pastor referred only once to Christ’s “journey to the cross.” But never in this anesthetized version of faith did any hymn, reading, or verse mention Christ’s bitter suffering and death.

I am not sadistic. I do not revel in the suffering of others. I rejoice in Christ’s sacrifice on the cross because the cross is that pivotal point in history where Christ met me, a poor miserable sinner. It was on the cross that His grace poured out for all of mankind.The joy in Christ’s resurrection comes as a direct response to the blood He shed for my redemption. Without Christ’s suffering and death, an empty tomb is simply empty. Needless to say, we will be attending Easter services at our home church this year. My children, like most children, are very good at identifying elephants, particularly if that elephant is sitting in a room with them. There was a brief lull about halfway through the Easter sermon that morning. It was during this moment of quiet reflection my fiveyear-old son turned to me and, announcing my thoughts to the group, proclaimed “What is he talking about?” I was proud of my son for daring to be Lutheran, in fact, too proud to scold him for shouting in church. I simply said,“I don’t know, son, but today Christ is risen!” And he responded “He is risen, indeed!” Tracey Dann is a youth leader and mom who attends Our Redeemer Lutheran Church, Smithfield, Rhode Island.

Dare to Support

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• Social Networks: Facebook and MySpace • Is It a Sin if You Don’t Get Caught? • Breathtaking Blurbs from Blogs W W W. H I G H E RT H I N G S . O R G

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• Ballroom Dancing: A Lesson in Life • Questions and Answers about Virginia Tech

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Films All Lutherans Should Know and Love

Inside this issue:

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Inside this issue:

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appears, then you too will appear with Him

in glory. Colossians 3:1-4





Christ, your Life,



You see, you

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have died, and your

life is hidden with

Christ in God.



your mind on things

above, not on earthly things.


right of God.


Now if you were raised

with Christ, be eager for the things that

are above, where Christ

is sitting at the

igher Things

/ 2001


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uis ! . Lo e St r th ence in u 2 fo nfer e yo -2 co Se ly 19 ings Ju Th er High


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, Higher Things was started by a handful of pastors and laypeople who cared very deeply about the young people of the Church. Today over 750 LCMS congregations have been impacted by the mission of Higher Things. The organization—while comprised of many components such as the conferences and the magazine—as a whole seeks to keep young people focused on Christ and His gifts as they grow and mature in their faith.That means that the future of Higher Things is as limitless as the Gospel it proclaims. Higher Things relies on the financial support of Lutheran laymen and congregations. In celebration of Higher Things’ tenth anniversary, we ask that you please consider a special, tax-deductible gift in support of this organization. Because of your help, we can continue to do the much-needed work of daring young people to be Lutheran. Please mail your donation to: Higher Things, Inc., P.O. Box 155, Holt, MO 64048 or donate online at

Inside this issue:

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Guide for Trouble

• What’s with the Collar? • Normal

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/ SUMMER / 2009



T H I N G S __ 10

Israel that on the tenth day of this month every man shall take a lamb according to their fathers' houses, a lamb for a household. And if the household is too small for a lamb, then he and his nearest neighbor shall take according to the number of persons; according to what each can eat you shall make your count for the lamb. Your lamb shall be without blemish, a male a year old.You may take it from the sheep or from the goats, and you shall keep it until the fourteenth day of this month, when the whole assembly of the congregation of Israel shall kill their lambs at twilight.“Then they shall take some of the blood and put it on the two doorposts and the lintel of the houses in which they eat it.They shall eat the flesh that night, roasted on the fire; with unleavened bread and bitter herbs they shall eat it. Do not eat any of it raw or boiled in water, but roasted, its head with its legs and its inner parts. And you shall let none of it remain until the morning; anything that remains until the morning you shall burn. In this manner you shall eat it: with your belt fastened, your sandals on your feet, and your staff in your hand. And you shall eat it in haste. It is the Lord's Passover. For I will pass through the land of Egypt that night, and I will strike all the firstborn in the land of Egypt, both man and beast; and on all the gods of Egypt I will execute judgments: I am the Lord.The blood shall be a sign for you, on the houses where you are. And when I see the blood, I will pass over you, and no plague will befall you to destroy you, when I strike the land of Egypt.This day shall be for you a memorial day, and you shall keep it as a feast to the Lord; throughout your generations, as a statute forever, you shall keep it as a feast. Exodus 12:3–14 ESV

Studio of Godfrey of Huy (d.1173/1174). An Israelite marks the door with the blood of a lamb. 3rd quarter 12th CE. Meuse valley. Champleve enamel plaque. Inv. N.1150. Louvre, Paris, France. Photo: Réunion des Musées Nationaux/Art Resource, NY

Tell all the congregation of

Feasting with Our Lord: The Feast of Passover and Unleavened Bread By Rev.Thomas Messer

From the beginning, our God has desired His people to live in harmony with Him. Even after Adam and Eve brought sin into God’s perfect creation through disobedience, God still had this desire. It really is rather amazing when you think about it. God could have scrapped the whole project and started over, but He didn’t. He still loved His creation and desired to have a relationship with His people, so He put His plan of salvation in place. He set about to fix what His people had broken. He promised to send them a Savior who would save them from their sins and restore the perfect, harmonious relationship they were created to have with Him. We witness God working out His plan of salvation throughout the Old Testament, always pointing His people to the promised Savior that they might believe in Him and be saved. He even established a liturgical calendar for His people to follow for this purpose, complete with specific feasts to be celebrated at appointed times each year (see Leviticus 23). God used these feasts to meet with His people on a regular basis and give them the forgiveness, life, and salvation He promised them. The first of the feasts God appointed for His people to observe was the Passover, or Feast of Unleavened Bread (see Exodus 12; Leviticus 23:4–8). This feast served as the most significant observance on the liturgical calendar for it was celebrated in remembrance of God’s awesome deliverance of the Israelites from their bondage in Egypt.They were to recall how God struck down the firstborn in Egypt but passed over their homes because of the lamb’s blood spread on their doorposts and lintels. The Passover was celebrated on the fourteenth day of the first month.The Israelites were to slaughter and eat an unblemished, male lamb along with unleavened bread and bitter herbs. During the Passover meal, they were to recount the story of that fateful night in Egypt when the Lord rescued them. The next day, the Feast of Unleavened Bread began. This was a seven-day feast in which the Israelites were not permitted to eat leavened bread.While all seven days of this feast were set apart as holy days, the first and seventh days were especially important. On those days, the Israelites were to refrain from doing any ordinary work and a holy convocation (i.e., Divine Service) was held. Eventually, the Feast of Passover and Unleavened Bread became one of the great pilgrim feasts in Israel, and many Israelites would travel to the temple in Jerusalem for the Feast. The significance of this feast and, indeed, of all the feasts God appointed for the Israelites, is seen more by what they foreshadowed than by what they commemorated. All of the feasts pointed forward to the Savior to come: Jesus Christ.This is vividly clear in

the Feast of Passover and Unleavened Bread.The countless, innocent lambs that were sacrificed by the Israelites year after year find their fulfillment in Jesus, who is the holy, innocent Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world.The blood on the doorposts and lintels of the Israelites’ homes on that first Passover in Egypt pointed forward to—and received its saving power from—the blood Jesus would shed on the cross on the eve of the Passover in Jerusalem. Jesus is our Passover Lamb and, through faith in Him, we are covered by His blood, so that we are passed over by death and live forever in His Kingdom. But what about the unleavened bread? What is that all about? Leaven is a symbol of sin in the Bible (see Luke 12:1), so abstaining from leaven symbolized the new life lived in Christ, having been cleansed from sin by His atoning blood.Thus, the Feast of Unleavened Bread pointed forward to the eternal life God’s people will enjoy with Him in the new Jerusalem (see Revelation 21) where sin and all of its devastating effects will be no more. Do we still celebrate the Feast of Passover and Unleavened Bread? Yes, we do! We celebrate our Lord’s fulfillment of this feast each year during Holy Week and Easter. But, more than that, each time we gather together for Divine Service, we behold the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world. We eat His body and drink His blood for the forgiveness of our sins. We remember what He has done, and continues to do, for us. Our God, who has always desired to live in harmony with His people, meets us in the Divine Service to give us the forgiveness, life, and salvation He promises us in His Word, which was foreshadowed in the Old Testament feasts and fulfilled by His Son, Jesus Christ, our Passover Lamb and Lord. Next time: the Feast of Booths. Rev.Thomas Messer serves as pastor at Peace Lutheran Church in Alma, Michigan. He can be reached at


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Rescue from Death

By Roy Coats


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It was a typical hot and humid afternoon in the inner city of Baltimore. Groups of kids, freed from the confines of summer school, were playing in the streets.The adults loitered on the stoops. It was too hot to go inside since the row houses are like brick ovens that late in the day. It was a typical day. Three shots rang out. Unmistakable. Gun shots.The crowds of kids and adults quickly ran from the sound. But a small girl, no older than five, did not move. She crumpled to the ground in the middle of the street and lay motionless with blood streaming from her temple, forming a halo around her head. Her doll lay shattered next to her. Two women rushed and knelt down beside her. They started the lament, the lament that goes back to Eve weeping for Abel, to St. Mary at the foot of the cross.The crowd, running back up the street, encircled them.Yet, instead of crying out, many just gawked at death. For too many onlookers, this was still a typical day in Baltimore. Holy Baptism is meant for dying people.This does not mean that one should wait until someone is taking their last breath to baptize. It means that we baptize everyone we can, for everyone is in the grips of death and under the curse of death.This is true of the small, newborn infant and of the grandfather diagnosed with cancer. Death is an ever-present reality, and Baptism is Christ’s answer to death. In Holy Baptism, He gives dying people life, an eternal life, one that death cannot overcome. The youth group and I were just exiting the back door of St.Thomas Evangelical Lutheran Church where I was serving as a vicar. We had just finished cleaning up after the summer kid’s club, and I was about to drive them home. We heard those three shots ring out a block and a half away. We ducked back into the church. I looked out the window and watched a crowd of people running down the street in a panic. I went out to see what had happened, leaving the youth in the safety of the church. I saw the crowd in a circle, and in the middle were the two women wailing uncontrollably. Between them lay the little girl, blood trickling from her temple. Only faint breathing indicated that she was still alive. I asked the women what had happened, but they were in complete, continuous, and uncontrollable hysterics, wailing and crying out, as this young girl, only five years old, was dying before us.

I started to pray. As I did, I realized that she was dying and she should be baptized. I did not know where to find the water, yet I did not need to look far for next to where I knelt, in the middle of the street, was a bottle of water, unopened. I asked the women if the girl had been baptized.They eventually communicated that they did not know. I asked what her name was; they mumbled a name that I could barely make out. I told them and the surrounding crowd that there was going to be a Baptism. I began with the sign of the cross and said the Apostles’ Creed. Then, opening the water bottle, I poured the water into my hand.There Christ baptized that small girl in the Name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit, and I watched as her baptismal water mixed with her blood.There, in the middle of that street in the inner city of Baltimore, death was swallowed up in the victory of Christ. “What benefit does Baptism give?” Luther asks us in the Small Catechism. We respond,“It works forgiveness of sins, rescues from death and the devil, and gives eternal salvation to all who believe this, as the words and promises of God declare.”1 Holy Baptism rescues from death. We baptize because there is death in the world. If you encounter someone near death, be bold to speak about the Sacrament of Holy Baptism. Furthermore, if there is an emergency and no pastor is available, be bold to be the hands of Christ and rescue that person from eternal death. If there is any doubt about the nearness of death or whether the person is baptized, be bold and baptize. And take comfort in knowing that the Baptism that you administer is as much Christ’s Baptism as if it were St. Peter or St. Paul or your pastor administering it. Mr. Roy Coats is a fourth year student at Concordia Theological Seminary and was a vicar at Martini Lutheran Church, St.Thomas Evangelical Lutheran Church, and the Lutheran Mission Society in Baltimore, Maryland. Reach him at 1. Taken from Luther's Small Catechism with Explanation, copyright © 1986, 1991 Concordia Publishing House.


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Looking Forward By Dcs. Rachel Mumme


T H I N G S __ 14


atrin is an eleven-year-old girl from a sketchy part of Berlin, Germany. This summer, one of her friends invited her to a week-long camp at St. Mary’s Lutheran Church, which is something like Vacation Bible School meets confirmation meets summer camp. Katrin had never really been to any church before, and in fact, her mom wasn’t thrilled that she was spending a whole week there. Katrin came nonetheless and had a great time with about forty other kids. After the week was over, Katrin kept coming on Sunday mornings! Her mom still wouldn’t bring her to church, so she hopped on a bus and traveled clear to the other side of Berlin every week. From the beginning, it was pretty clear that the Divine Service was foreign to her. She was always sitting in the front row (a sure sign that she didn’t grow up Lutheran!), she didn’t know when to sit or stand or kneel, she talked with her friends throughout the whole service, and she could never find the right page in the hymnal. But she kept coming, week after week, and the pastor, Rev. Martens, started to talk with her about instruction toward Holy Baptism. Why do you go to the Divine Service? Or why don’t you? Why does anyone? Is it to be entertained or to get something out of it? Is it to bring our praise and worship to the Lord? For Katrin, the Divine Service at St. Mary’s was something new, a place where she simply received what the Lord had to give without any requirement or expectation on her end. She found a place where she was loved, where people cared about her, and where she could learn of Jesus’ love and forgiveness. She would see that each week as well when Pastor Martens would absolve each baptized congregation member of their sins. She would hear God’s Word preached faithfully each week with a message that was for her. And in another year or two, after more confirmation classes, she’ll also be able to join with all the saints when she receives Jesus’ body and blood in the Lord’s Supper, getting what Christ has promised: forgiveness of sins, life, and salvation. If we step back a few centuries to the year 304, we see another perspective, this time from Christians in Abitene (present-day Tunisia).There was a law that said the Eucharist (or the Lord’s Supper) could not be celebrated.When this group of Christians was caught receiving Communion,

they were brought before a judge who then asked them why they were doing so, knowing that it was an offense punishable with death. One of their leaders, Emeritus, answered simply,“Sine dominico non possumus” or “We cannot live without the Lord’s day.” Of course, the Lord’s Day wasn’t celebrated without the Lord’s Supper, and so the confession of these martyrs was more than just about going to church. It was a refusal to live without those gifts that the Lord would give each week, namely the forgiveness of sins, life, and salvation through Christ’s body and blood. Life without those gifts was simply another form of death. What about us? What does our life look like without the Divine Service? Do we roll our eyes at waking up early on Sunday morning, or do we look forward to being filled up with Christ’s mercy and forgiveness? Is life without Sunday morning simply another form of death for us as it was for the Abitene martyrs, or is it something to check off of our list for the week? Katrin continues to come to St. Mary’s, and in October, she became a member of God’s family through Holy Baptism! And every week, as before, Katrin comes and sits in the front row, but it’s different now, because after a few short months, she knows exactly when to sit, stand, and kneel; she points her friends to the right page in the hymnal; and she shushes them if they’re making too much noise. She knows most of the liturgy by heart and practically bounces into the sanctuary with excitement each Sunday. The Divine Service and the congregation have become an integral part of Katrin’s life, and her Sunday morning joy gets passed on to the rest of us! Deaconess Rachel Mumme works for LCMS World Relief and Human Care and attends St. Mary’s Lutheran Church in Berlin, Germany.


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Take and eat; this is my body. This is my blood... H I G H E R

T H I N G S __ 16

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I Believe God Has Made Me and All Creatures By Rev. Rick Serina


T H I N G S __ 18

Gnosticism is a popular buzz word in religious circles these days. Walk through the religion section at any bookstore or watch a special about Christianity on the History Channel or PBS and you are likely to find some reference to this Gnosticism. But what is it?

Gnosticism, broadly speaking, was a variety of religions present in the Ancient Near East from the period of the Gospels through the third century.Though there were numerous versions, all shared a few features in common. First, Gnostics believed that the material world was a mistake, brought about by a massive cataclysm in the heavens. Second, they believed that God wanted nothing to do with the material world, with the bodies inhabiting the material world, and with the activities of the material world.Third, they believed that Jesus could not be divine if He was also human, precisely because God would not debase Himself in a material world. Fourth, they believed that the material world, including the physical bodies of humans, was incapable of salvation and so there was no resurrection of the flesh on the Last Day. One would like to think these views are relics of the past, but that is not necessarily the case. No pastor worth his salt would claim outright that the creation was a mistake, that God wants nothing to do with His creation, that Jesus was not fully divine and fully human, or that there is no bodily resurrection to come. But listen closely to funeral sermons, and you might be shocked to hear how prevalent a form of Gnosticism is within American churches. You might hear something like what follows. A preacher gets in the pulpit when Aunt Freda dies and says that she is in a better place because she no longer suffers in the body but lives with Jesus. So far, so good; this squares with Philippians 1:22–23 and 2 Corinthians 5:8. But the preacher goes on to say that this body in the casket has held Aunt Freda back her entire life, and now she is flying in the sky forever with the angels and will never be trapped in her body again. Worse still, he says that the same destiny awaits you for heaven is a place where we no longer need our flesh, where we live without bodies, and where we float around like ghosts. This is Gnosticism. Anyone who claims that our bodies are inherently bad and that God will not raise our bodies to live with Him in heaven is a Gnostic. Gnosticism is a heresy because its teachings deny fundamental truths of the Scriptures and the Lutheran Confessions. Gnosticism tells us that the world is a mistake, but we know that the world was perfect in its creation; yet by succumbing to the temptation of the devil, we have subjected the world to sin.

Gnosticism tells us that God wants nothing to do with the world, but we know that God loves His creation, that He preserves it still, and that He gives us all we need to support this body and life. Gnosticism tells us that Jesus was not truly human and divine, but we know that Jesus is the second person of the Holy Trinity and the eternal Son of God, who took flesh and was born of a virgin, that He might suffer, die, and rise again in that flesh to redeem our sins. Gnosticism tells us that God does not save our bodies, but we know that the Lord who rose again on the third day will return in glory to raise our mortal bodies from the dirt and grant us an everlasting salvation in those bodies, free from sin, death, and the Devil forever. What would Gnosticism look like in your life? The easiest way to identify Gnosticism is how you deal with the bodies God has given you and those around you. If a body is something to harm out of anger, if a body is something to use for illicit sex, if a body is something to abuse with drugs, then you are thinking like a Gnostic. But if you protect the living bodies of the unborn and the aged, if you feed and clothe the bodies of the poor and sick, if you honor the bodies of the opposite sex with pure thoughts and pure actions, if you use your body to honor God in worship with bended knees and confessing tongues, then you are thinking like a Christian. The modern Gnostic wants you to believe that this world and everything in it is wicked and corrupt because it is material.That can’t be true though. If it were, then our Lord would not have taken bread and wine on the night He was betrayed and blessed it and broke it and given His promise that He would add His body and blood to those ordinary and simple, created and material elements whenever we gather around the altar.Yet He has, and every time you kneel before the table of the Lord and receive His flesh and blood beneath that bread and wine, you confess that the Gnostics are wrong. Rev. Rick Serina is pastor of Trinity Lutheran Church in Albany,Texas. He can be reached at


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Free to

By Rev. Jeffery Grams

In the age of political correctness, it has

become more and more difficult not to offend someone with almost anything you say.This is especially true on college and university campuses where students and professors alike are being taught that the greatest virtue of all is tolerance. Students are being taught from a very young age that it is unacceptable, even sinful, to say something that might offend other people.


T H I N G S __

Into this culture of correctness, I would like to propose a statement that may offend: Freedom of speech depends on our ability to say things that other people find offensive! What does our Constitution actually say? “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances” (United States Constitution, First Amendment). The writers of our Constitution understood the simple truth that what one person proclaims as true another will find offensive. At the very core of this amendment is the idea that those public discussions that people find the most potentially offensive—religion, politics, and the press—should be legally protected from censorship. Freedom of speech means the freedom to publicly say what others find offensive! It was understood that religious speech and the free exercise of faith would cause offense. It was understood that those who held opposing political viewpoints would find each other offensive. It was understood that the press would print stories that many would find offensive. It was understood that politicians would find criticism of their personal life and their politics offensive.


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Christ on Campus Chapters It was even understood that groups of people would assemble together and say things that the majority of the people in our nation would find offensive. Even so, the First Amendment of the Constitution of the United States of America was adopted. This is especially important to understand when it comes to proclaiming the Gospel! “Therefore, to you who believe, He is precious; but to those who are disobedient,‘The stone which the builders rejected has become the chief cornerstone’ and ‘A stone of stumbling and a rock of offense’“ (1 Peter 2:7–8a NKJV). The heart of sinful man finds the Word of God offensive.The good news that God the Father sent His Son to be born of human flesh and to die for the sins of the world is a stumbling block to mankind.The truth that He rose again from the grave and now rules all creation at the right hand of His Father is scandalous to the scientific mind. The exclusive claims of Holy Scripture regarding salvation in the Name of Jesus are probably the most offensive of all: “Nor is there salvation in any other, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:12 NKJV). The body of Christ is called to proclaim repentance and forgiveness of sins in the name of Jesus Christ to the ends of the earth.This good news is offensive to many; nevertheless it is the only hope for fallen humanity, and we have been entrusted with the task of sharing the love of God in Christ Jesus with the world. The Lord Jesus Christ has forgiven your sins and set you free.You are free to bear witness to His love without fear.You are free to speak the truth that sets men free.You are free to declare the love of God for His sinful and fallen world. And yes—no matter what the world might declare to the contrary—you are free to offend for the sake of the Gospel. Rev. Jeffery W. Grams is pastor of St. John’s Lutheran Church, Scottsbluff, Nebraska, and can be reached at

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A Church Full of Young People By Rev. Tim Pauls


T H I N G S __ 22

Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. Resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same kinds of suffering are being experienced by your brotherhood throughout the world. 1 Peter 5:8–9


have some new friends—a family that started visiting our congregation several months ago, whom I’ve been visiting regularly with the Small Catechism since.We’ve had many discussions about many different things. As we were discussing church one day, the adult daughter said,“Pastor, I have a question for you: where are all the young people?” Where, indeed. We’ve got some great youth, but they’re not exactly a huge chunk of the congregation. When this family moved to Boise, they left behind a congregation full of youth. Curious, I asked them to tell me more, trying to find out what might fill the pews with youth. I’m always curious. (You might be too: after all, if you’re reading this, there’s an unfortunately strong possibility that you’re in a very small youth group. Shoot, you might be the youth group.)

After the discussion, here’s my conclusion: I think that their former congregation is full of young people because they all risk their lives to go to church. This family is from a Middle East war zone where Christians are few in number and far from popular. Especially because of radical Islam, they could easily be killed walking to church on any given Sunday. We came up with other reasons why there might be more youth in attendance.Western thought tends to be more scientific and more skeptical of religion while Eastern thought is far more sympathetic to religion; so while our society usually mocks religion, Eastern society supports it. It certainly helps attendance when going to worship is the thing to do. (It’s often the wrong religion, but it’s supported.) Furthermore, they live so much closer to the lands where biblical events took place, which helps with a historical connection.Walking where Abraham walked doesn’t create faith, of course, but it does reinforce that God’s plan for salvation took place in history. Some might wonder if differences in worship contribute. Actually, no: this family came to our congregation because they found our service (TLH, p. 15) remarkably similar to their home church thousands of miles away—an elegant commentary on the catholicity of the liturgy. But I come back to this with wonder: a church full of youth where they risk their lives to attend. + Satan makes the most of any situation to tempt you away from the faith. In parts of the world, he tempts with terror: like the martyrs of the early Church, Christians are tempted to deny the faith or die for it. Around here, the devil’s strategy is quite different. Satan uses peace and prosperity to tempt you into thinking that evil is about as real as Hogwarts Academy and death as far away; thus, he twists God’s gifts of peace and prosperity into potential idols. After all, if forgiveness is really about deliverance from evil and death that’s far away, why worry about being forgiven? I think I’m onto something: I know that many Christians who fade away from attending church feel no need for it. Were they more conscious of death and devil, I’m betting I’d see them at church more often. And I conclude that, confronted with so much death and evil, Christians in dangerous lands see more clearly the need for Christ and the life that He gives. Don’t be deceived, even though the deception is strong. Death is all around. Everybody in America dies eventually, just like everybody else. It may be from old age rather than an I.E.D., but they still die.The devil works hard to keep us thinking about death.The Scriptures don’t; death and die in various forms pop up over a thousand times, because the wages of sin is death. Christ has conquered death.The Lord does not speak of death to bring you to despair, but to tell you the truth. It’s the devil who lies, not Jesus. So Jesus declares that all die, because all have sinned; but He also tells you that He’s died in your place for your sin and that the grave couldn’t hold Him in. Unless He returns soon, you and I still face the death of our bodies. But death doesn’t have the final word. Jesus does, and His Word to you on the Last Day will be,“Arise.” Adults sometimes grouse that youth think they’re never going to die. It’s a pretty common temptation and the cause of some spectacularly stupid ideas.Thus my plea and reason for this article: confess that you’re mortal.That doesn’t just mean,“Don’t do stupid things that could hurt you.” It means,“Confessing that you’re sinful and, therefore, face death, rejoice that Jesus has died for you. Go to where He promises to be: His Word, His Sacraments.”That’s why church should be full of all ages on Sunday morning: Christ, the Death of death, is there for you. + Also, pray for your fellow Christians in dangerous places, for martyrs and refugees. Returning from Iraq, an officer told me of a group of young Christian girls near Mosul, kidnapped on their way to worship at Easter time.Their headless bodies were recovered the following day.We might fixate on the brutality, the horror that these little girls were killed on the way to church. But it strikes me: despite the dangers, they were still going to church. Knowing death was all around, they knew where the Lord of Life was for them. In Him, the world was not worthy of them. Death normally wears a prettier disguise in our part of the world, but it is death all the same. Take heed, and give thanks: the same Lord of Life has made you His too, and He is as near to you as His Word. Rev.Tim Pauls is the associate pastor of Good Shepherd Lutheran Church and Editor of Higher Things. He can be reached at


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“Good Things When Life Isn’t Good.” Rev. George Borghardt III


T H I N G S __ 24

God is good, and God does good: good creation, good works, good salvation. If the Lord is doing it, it’s going to be good. How could it not be? Our good God is doing it!

Remember creation? Each day ended the same: evening, morning, another good day. After He was done, His creation was very good. Good is what He does. We fell. Adam and Eve ate the fruit that He said wouldn’t be good for them.They ate it anyway. It wasn’t good for us either.With our fall, death came–also not good. It was our fault, not His, our sin, not His.The Lord doesn’t do evil, remember? He does good. Then what does He do? He makes it good—makes creation good again—by redeeming it in His Son. Jesus lived His good life before God, keeping good all that is good about God.Then He took all the sins and bad of the whole world upon Himself and died the death we deserve. Did you catch that? God even takes evil—our evil— and uses it for good in Jesus! Because of Him, we are saved. We get heaven, eternal life, and a perfect (very good) relationship with God. God outdid death by the good work of His Son. And so faith trusts that what God is doing is always good. Faith clings to the simple promise that the Lord is “ever bringing good from ill” (LSB 394:3). He did it in creation. He did it with our redemption. He’s doing it now. But life’s not always good. What happens when you don’t make the cut for the football team? Or when the girl you ask to prom says,“No”? Or the boy you like doesn’t like you back? Or worse, he likes your best friend? What happens when the doctor finds something strange going on with your mom? What then? Where’s God and all His goodness when my little sister is born with some super-rare genetic disorder or my cousin isn’t even born alive at all? These things hurt.They’re scary.They are definitely not right. God didn’t intend them for you. He’s all about being good to you in Christ. Some things can’t be fixed with the wave of a wand, even a good one.The pain is deep, and sometimes you just want to look at the heavens and cry, “Not good!” The Lord knows you are hurting. He weeps when you weep. He did on the cross when He died for all that is not good about you and your life. He does now as you go through all the bad things in your world. But He doesn’t stop being God in your sadness! He makes all things good in the sending of His Son. Good is what the Father does after all. It’s not that God is so big that He can fix anything. (He is, but that’s not the Gospel.) The Gospel is found in the cross of Christ where God makes all things good for you—even in

sickness, rejection, and death. Christ has taken on Himself all the bad, all of the rejection. All of it died with Him. He rose.You died and rose with Him in your Baptism. Life still hurts. It still stinks. It’s still not fair and not the way you planned. It’s not what you wanted.Yet faith remembers that God has mercy upon us and saves us in Christ. The Christian faith is not a “just believe and it’ll all be better” kind of religion.True faith sees beyond this mess and knows that things are already better because of Christ. By His death on the cross, Christ has redeemed us. We can’t come up with something this good from ourselves, and we certainly don’t believe it because the evidence around us is so convincing.That’s why faith comes to us as a good gift from God. Faith reminds us that it’s all good, and it’s going to be good too. It’s going to be good because God gave up His Son for it to be good. He’s using all these evil things that have been flung at us in this world to save us. Weep with those who weep. God does too. Smile with those who are smiling. And above all else know this: the Father has sent His Son to die for you and all things now are good in Him. And nothing—not in heaven, or on earth, or under the earth—shall be able to separate you from the love—the goodness of God—that is in Christ Jesus, our Lord. In Christ. In the Cross. In the empty tomb. In the font. In the words of Absolution. In the body and blood of Jesus. That’s where He’s good to you, and He will be good to you. One day soon, when the worst thing happens to you that could possibly happen to you, He’ll show you that He really has made even that into the best thing (the good-est) that could ever happen to you. Good. God does good: good creation, good works, good salvation. He’s doing good for you in good times and in times that are just tough. After all, if God is doing it, it’s going to be good for you. “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose” (Romans 8:28). Rev. George Borghardt III is the Associate/ Youth Pastor at St. Mark Lutheran Church in Conroe,Texas. He also serves as the Deputy Executive for Higher Things, and can be reached at


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Pietyand Pietism:

Can a Christian listen to secular music? By Jordan McKinley


T H I N G S __ 26

ave you ever heard the phrase,“Oh, stop being such a Pietist!”? To be pious means to be sincerely religious. It’s also related to the nouns piety and pietism, but the two nouns can mean very different things. Piety, simply defined, is how you practice your Christianity. However, if that practice is done to put down others to show your superiority or is done in an attempt to make yourself righteous by how you pray, then you are engaging in pietism. In a word, this isn’t good.


Music makes for a popular example.You and your friends are getting together to hang out and to watch the Super Bowl.You’ve got the chips set out, and you’ve even made some tasty cheese dip to go with it.The sodas are in the refrigerator, you’ve got plenty of ice in the freezer, and you are all set to go. Your friends come over a little early to chat, play some cards, and watch the pregame coverage. Overall, the party seems to be a pretty big success. One of your friends asks,“Do you have any music we can listen to?” “Sure!”you say.“My CDs are over next to the stereo.” Your friend goes over to find something to play. You’ve got a great CD collection, so you aren’t worried about him finding something good to play: the Beatles, Bon Jovi, or CCR all seem appropriate to the occasion.Your friend turns with a confused look on his face,“Don’t you have any Christian music?” As a matter of fact, you don’t.You and your family are devoted members of your church, and all of your friends know it.They go to different churches, but you all enjoy sharing a common belief in Jesus Christ as Savior. But you don’t listen to any Christian music in your free time. Is this okay? Does this make you unchristian? What does the catechism say about listening to music in your free time? Well, maybe Luther didn’t have very much free time to listen to his iTunes, so he didn’t write about it. In the Large Catechism, he tells us in the explanation of the second article of the Apostle’s Creed,“[God] gives all physical and temporal blessings” (LC II.2). Later, he further defines those temporal blessings as “all that we have” (LC II.2). So, what does the Bible say about so-called Christian and secular music? There are many references in Scripture to music. In fact, the entire book of Psalms is the hymnal of the early Christian Church and ancient Israel (which predates The Lutheran Hymnal, if you can believe that!). However, there is no clear mandate from

Scripture on what kind of music a Christian is supposed to listen to. Maybe we’re asking the wrong kind of question. Maybe we shouldn’t be asking about what kind of music to listen to. Instead, maybe it’s better to ask,“Does the music I listen to cause me to fall into sin in any way?” Think about it more concretely: is the music you’re listening to compromising your Christian vocation according to the Ten Commandments or the Table of Duties in the Small Catechism? If there are any songs your parents don’t particularly want you listening to because of the message they’re communicating, it’s probably best to honor their decision. After all, God calls you to honor, serve, obey, love, and cherish your parents. Here’s another example: If there were a certain artist on your playlist that swears every other word, you’d be better off hitting Shuffle on iTunes or better yet Delete. After all, God reminds you not to curse or swear in the Second Commandment. Since that commandment also warns against teaching what is false in God’s name, it’s best to skip by a socalled Christian song with a good beat but lyrics that contradict God’s Word. The most important thing to remember is that God gives you many good gifts. Not only does He provide everything needed for your salvation in the death of His Son, Jesus Christ, on the cross, but He also gives you everything you need to support your body in life.This includes clothing and shoes, food and drink, house and home, and even music and entertainment. All of these can be misused, turned into idols, or manipulated to harm your faith, but all of these are good gifts that your Father in heaven gives to you out of His divine goodness and mercy toward you. Mr. Jordan McKinley is a second year seminarian at Concordia Theological Seminary in Fort Wayne and can be reached at

1. Quotations taken from Luther's Small Catechism with Explanation, copyright © 1988 Concordia Publishing House.


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It Is Time to Go to Confession. By Rev. David Petersen

What is Confession? Confession has two parts. First that we confess our sins, and second, that we receive absolution, that is, forgiveness, from the pastor as from God Himself, not doubting, but firmly believing that by it our sins are forgiven before God in heaven.


T H I N G S __ 28

It may surprise you, but there was a dismal period in the history of

The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod when individual confession and absolution was almost unknown, despite that fact that it was well known and promoted by Martin Luther, Martin Chemnitz, and C. F. W. Walther. Luther thought so highly of it that he inserted an example of it right into the catechism itself. It was also mentioned and put forth as a good practice in the first constitution of the LCMS. The synod’s first English catechism of 1943, however, omitted it along with Luther’s Preface and any mention of the sign of the cross. Nor did it appear in the synod’s first English hymnal, The Lutheran Hymnal (1941), or its companion books. What happened? Lots of things, few of them good. There was an anti-Roman Catholic prejudice in America, and the loss of German made Luther and the Lutheran fathers largely inaccessible and left us quite susceptible to American religious movements.The American context was steeped in revivalism and individualism, neither of which had any use for the Office of the Keys. All those things contributed, but I don’t think they were the real cause.The real cause was what still threatens to keep this gift from us today: sin, shame, and fear. Our fallen flesh doesn’t ever want to confess sins and certainly not to a man. Indeed, there is more than a little risk in such an act, for while our pastors all promise at ordination to never reveal any sins confessed to them, all our pastors break their promises. I can tell you honestly that I have never yet divulged a sin confessed to me and that I never intend to but the reality is that I might. Why then would you take such a risk? Especially since we can take what Luther says about confession and the Office of the Keys in the Small Catechism and apply it, in a general way, to what we call public confession and absolution on Sunday mornings, to preaching, and even to the mutual consolation of the brethren? If I don’t have to confess my sins to the pastor in order to be forgiven, why would I? Because this is what the Lord has given, instituted, and promised:“When the called ministers of Christ deal with us by His divine command . . . and absolve those who repent of their sins and want to do better, this is just as valid and certain, even in heaven, as if Christ our dear Lord dealt with us Himself.” To deny ourselves this is to deny ourselves the fullness of what God Himself deems to be good for us, to stop short of all He would have us have, and to imply that we don’t really need what He has bothered to give. With such a wonderful gift, why would you stay away? By God’s grace, individual confession and absolution, as taught and demonstrated in Luther’s Small Catechism,

is regaining its place among us. A form of it was placed in the synod’s second English hymnal, Lutheran Worship, in 1981 and the actual form from the catechism has appeared in the latest hymnal, Lutheran Service Book (p. 292) and in The Treasury of Daily Prayer (p. 1463). It was also put back into the English catechism in 1986.This is the translation and text in the newest, maroon catechism. You can find the order for Individual Confession and Absolution on page 27.These are great strides, unthinkable forty years ago. While it is not mandatory, it is more than a commendable practice, for individual confession and absolution is what the Lord Himself has established and given for us. There is some risk, to be sure, along with some discomfort, but the penitent who confesses his sins to his pastor is in control. He chooses what to reveal.The pastor may ask you to examine yourself theologically. He might ask you what commandments you have broken and so forth. But he will not probe. His goal is to help you confess, to call yourself to account for your sins, but only so that he might do what he was sent to do, fulfill the divine command of his ordination, and speak the words of Christ’s absolution to and upon you. The scariest part is thinking about it before the first time; actually going is not that bad.There is no guarantee that it will make you feel better. It may simply leave you feeling the way you felt when you began or even worse. The guarantee is that through it Christ will deliver Himself to you and remove the guilt of your sins. He will forgive you. And while there is no guarantee of a good feeling, that grace usually does fill the absolved with some measure of joy and gladness. Most penitents walk away with a sense of peace and a spring in their step. For my part, I’ve never heard of any Lutheran who went to a faithful and beloved pastor for this gift, no matter how scared and uncertain he was on the way there, who regretted it. Rev. David Petersen is pastor of Redeemer Lutheran Church in Fort Wayne, Indiana. His e-mail address is

The Ten Commandments. Luther's Small Catechism. © 1986 Concordia Publishing House. Used with permission.


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A Higher Things Lutheran Youth Conference GIVEN - Utah GIVEN - Nashville

Utah State University, Logan, UT June 29–July 2, 2010 "Take and eat; this is my body. This is my blood . . . poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins" (Matthew 26:27–28).

Jesus does the giving; we are given to. Jesus gives His life for us on the cross. We are given His cross-won forgiveness in the Divine Service: in the Word, in Holy Absolution, in Holy Baptism, and His Supper. As Jesus gives us His life and salvation in the Divine Service, so we are given to pray in His name, to praise, and to give thanks unto our Father in heaven. We live with love for those around us. For just as we are given the Gospel of Jesus in the Divine Service, so does He give us as a gift to our neighbors.

☛ Venue Has Changed!

Vanderbilt University, Nashville, TN July 6–9, 2010 At next year’s Higher Things conferences, we will rejoice in all that we are given in the Divine Service. Jesus gives us His body to eat and His blood to drink. His Word and Sacraments enliven us to give our lives in service to our neighbors. It’s all given to us in the Divine Service: the cross, forgiveness, eternal life, salvation, and service to others! For more information, please see page 18 inside this issue or e-mail to ask any questions you might have. Everything that is available about the conferences at any GIVEN time can also be found at

Profile for Higher Things: Dare to be Lutheran!

2010 Spring - Higher Things Magazine (no Bible Studies)  

2010 Spring - Higher Things Magazine (no Bible Studies)