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Inside This Issue!
• (Not So) New Age • Prayer on the Fly
• When Jehovah’s Witnesses
Come Knocking www
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Christ Academy-High School The Summer Event for High School Men June 19–July 2, 2011
Do you know there are lots of other guys like you? Many young men across the country are considering the Holy Ministry for their future vocation. Come to Christ Academy to worship, study and fellowship with those who have your same aspirations and find the answer for your future.
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This year, our professors will lecture on: � The Proper Distinction Between Law and Gospel � The Divine Economy of Salvation � St. Paul’s Letter to the Romans � Being a Theologian of the Cross � Christian Ethics at the Beginning and End of Life
For more information call us at 1-800-481-2155, visit our website www.ctsfw.edu/christacademy or e-mail Rev. Andrew Yeager at Andrew.Yeager@ctsfw.edu.
We will also go to Cedar Point and a TinCaps Baseball game!
Concordia Theological Seminary � 6600 N. Clinton Street � Fort Wayne, IN 46825
Contents T A B L E
4 Theology and The Simpsons
By Rev. Robert Wentzel Warning: Watching The Simpsons may play an unexpected role in the development of your theological discernment. Rev. Wentzel’s humorous presentation of some of the choice theology portrayed on The Simpsons may just help you get a better grasp of your own understanding of Lutheran theology. Maybe you can finally set the record straight for Homer, who has been known to claim that Christianity is “You know, the one with all the well-meaning rules that don’t work out in real life.” D’oh!
6 Creation and Current Questions
By Rev. Frederick W. Baue Prominent atheist Richard Dawkins has asserted that the creation account in Genesis is merely one of many mythical versions since the beginning of civilization. For the Christian, however, this first book in the Scriptures is absolutely foundational to understanding the rest of God’s Word. A fundamental misunderstanding of its account can lead to the compromise of Biblical truth. Rev. Baue shows you how some of the most “relevant” questions of our day can be dealt with from the solid truths presented in the Doctrine of Creation.
8 Out of Many, One in Christ
By Rev. Jacob Gaugert “There were this Mexican and a Slovak in church one Sunday...” Sounds like the start of a bad joke but it’s the reality at Rev. Gaugert’s church. Find out the history of Evangelical Church of Doctor Martin Luther in Chicago and how God’s faithfulness has brought this unique body of believers together and sustained them, in spite of substantial cultural barriers. It’s an encouraging reminder that nothing can thwart the work of the Holy Spirit.
10 When Jehovah’s Witnesses Come Knocking
By Rev. Eric Lange Do you run and hide when your friendly, neighborhood Jehovah’s Witnesses pop by? Perhaps you politely open the door and listen to them give their earnest spiel, your eyes glazing over. Well try this on for size: Maybe you can equip yourself to handle their claims but more importantly, give an answer for the hope that is in YOU. Rev. Lange gives you some great foundational information and counsel as you consider your response for the next time you hear that knock on the door.
Photos courtesy of CM Almy & Son, Inc. www.almy.com © 2010
12 The Handiwork of God: Foundations
By Rev. Dr. James Lamb We live in a culture where life is attacked on many fronts. Abortion and euthanasia are two of the most prominent aggressors, but sometimes the attackers are more covert. Rev. Lamb weaves together a warm blend of family accounts and Scriptural truths in this first of four articles dealing with the preciousness of life and how we can protect it by remembering that our true value is found in Christ!
Volume 10/Number 4 • Winter 2010
14 Going to Hell with Jesus
By Rev. Shawn Kumm “Go to H-E-double hockey sticks!” Usually this is merely an expression of anger. For Christ, it was a vital part of His mission to conquer sin and death on your behalf. Rev. Kumm carefully handles that somewhat mysterious phrase in the Apostles’ Creed: “He descended into Hell.” The best part is that Christ’s descent has given YOU the freedom to tell the Devil where to go with his lies and accusations.
19 Why Do Pastors Wear Vestments? By Rev. Jon J. Sollberger In an era where pastors who wear Hawaiian shirts are seen as in touch with their congregations, it’s important to understand the tradition of vestments. Every piece has a purpose. It’s not just about the threads, it’s about the theology.
20 Can Modern, Rational Adults Believe in Miracles?
By Mr. Mark Pierson We carelessly throw around the word “miracle” all the time. We take it for granted. How many of us have been eyewitnesses to an actual miracle? It’s no surprise that this is one of the first areas a non-Christian will attack. Mr. Pierson’s training in apologetics (AKA defense of the faith) will help arm you to defend the rationality of believing in miracles.
24 (Not So) New Age
By Rev. John Sound Over the past few years you have probably caught bits and pieces of the beliefs of Scientology due to some of its more famous followers like John Travolta or Tom Cruise. Think it’s more like science fiction than a religion? Find out by reading Rev. Sound’s thorough summary of the tenets of Scientology and his clear proclamation of the sweetness of the true Gospel.
22 Feasting with Our Lord: The Feast of Weeks
By Rev. Thomas C. Messer Discover through the final article in this series by Rev. Messer how type and shadow find their fulfillment yet again in the New Testament. The Feast of Weeks, also known as Pentecost, a celebration of the harvests God provided, led to the beginning of a great harvest that continues to this very day. And we get to rejoice in that each time we are part of the Divine Service.
28 Catechism: Prayer on the Fly
By Rev. William Cwirla Does your mouth go dry and pasty when you are asked to pray aloud? Heart thump out of your chest? Perhaps you are deathly afraid of saying the wrong thing. Thankfully, in the name of Christ, we pray to a God who loves to hear what His children have to say. Rev. Cwirla provides some simple guidelines that will free your heart up to bring your petitions, and those of others’ before your gracious Father in Heaven.
30 Bible Study
By Rev. Mark Buetow We have included a simple Bible study in this issue to give you a tantalizing taste of the bountiful study resources available to you online at: http:// higherthings.org/magazine/biblestudies.html.
Volume 10/Number 4/Winter 2010
Bible Studies for these articles can be found at: http://higherthings.org/magazine/biblestudies.html Editor
Rev. Tim Pauls Managing Editor
Katie Micilcavage Art Director
Steve Blakey Editorial Associates
Rev. Greg Alms Rev. Paul Beisel Rev. Bart Day Subscriptions Manager
Elizabeth Carlson Webmaster
Stan Lemon Conference Coordinator
Sandra Ostapowich ___________
Board of Directors President
Rev. William Cwirla Vice President
Rev. Brent Kuhlman Secretary
Rev. Joel Fritsche Rev. Bruce Keseman Rev. David Kind Chris Loemker Sue Pellegrini Jeff Schwarz ___________
Executive Council Conferences and Deputy Executive
Rev. George Borghardt Business Executive
Connie Brammeier Media Services
Rev. Mark Buetow Christ on Campus Executive
Rev. Marcus Zill
Higher Things® Magazine ISSN 1539-8455 is published quarterly by Higher Things, Inc., PO Box 156, Sheridan, WY 82801. 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 firstname.lastname@example.org. (This phone number is only used for subscription queries.) For letters to the editor, write letters@higher things.org. Writers may submit manuscripts to: email@example.com. Please check http://higherthings.org/magazine/writers.html for writers’ guidelines and theme lists.
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But I probably don’t have to tell you any of this. Almost every young person I’ve asked is a frequent viewer of The Simpsons, often against the wishes of his or her parents and other authorities who fear that young people will be corrupted by the examples of bad-boy Bart and the clueless Homer. But you watch anyway. You know the dialogue. You know the characters. You know the plots. What you may not realize, however, is that your viewing could be an exercise in theology. Simply put, theology is words about God and words about the things of God. Every person who thinks about God, speaks about God, or even denies that God exists is doing the work of a theologian. Theology can be good or bad, true or false, wise or foolish, useful or useless, helpful or harmful. Most people base their theology on what their experience and reason teaches them—a “theology from below,” so to speak. We Christians, and Lutherans in particular, base our theology on what God has revealed in His Word—a “theology from above,” given to us as a divine gift. Holy Scripture reveals to us what our experience and reason cannot—that our God is the Triune God: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Holy Scripture reveals to us that we are by nature sinful and unclean, and that we cannot free ourselves from the power of sin, death, and the devil by any effort of our own. Holy Scripture reveals to us that only in the person and work of Jesus Christ, God the Son taking on human flesh, do we find forgiveness of sin and eternal salvation—salvation by grace alone and through faith alone. We preach Christ crucified for our sin and raised for our justification. This is the theology that we believe, teach, and confess. This is the “theology from above” that those who produce The Simpsons do not understand. Instead, they usually mirror the mistaken theologies of both the unbelieving world and of Christians whose beliefs have been compromised by applying “theology from below.” Very few of the writers are Christian (a notable exception is Conan O’Brien of late night television fame), and therefore are unequipped to rightly represent Christian theology. We should not be surprised when they are not able to do so. Their job is to entertain their audience and, above all, to attract advertising revenue. That’s how they keep their jobs. So how does The Simpsons show portray the Christian faith? In essence, it erroneously teaches that it’s all about trying to be good and trying to make God happy. Perhaps the most telling episode
focuses on Homer’s refusal to attend church with the rest of the family. He initially finds there are no consequences. Then, in a dream, he is visited by a white-bearded, white-robed God who thunders, “Thou hast forsaken my church!” Homer counters with, “I’m not a bad guy! I work hard and I love my kids. So why should I spend half my Sunday hearing about how I’m going to hell? I figure I should try to live right and worship you in my own way.” God seems to find Homer’s response quite reasonable. Later in the episode, Homer, falling asleep on the couch on Sunday morning (with the help of a few beers), starts a fire with his cigar and is saved by Christian neighbor Ned Flanders and a crew of volunteer firemen of various faiths led by Rev. Lovejoy. Of course, Homer draws the wrong conclusion—”The Lord is vengeful.” He does agree, however, to give church another try. Funny stuff. Irreverent. Bad theology! But harmful to your faith? Not necessarily. The key is to be discerning, that is, to know the one true faith delivered to you and so be able to judge what you see and hear wisely. In my family, I often watched The Simpsons with my teen-aged children, and helped them understand the theology, good or bad, that they were seeing and hearing. St. Paul tells us, “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.” (Romans 12: 2 ESV) They became skilled at discerning the good theology from the bad, although they often complained about my sermonizing while they were simply trying to enjoy the program. It’s a constant hazard when you’re a pastor’s kid. You, too, can learn to practice discernment. Your Bible and your pastor and your Small Catechism teach you the very wisdom of Christ, the Word of God made flesh, and this divine wisdom will make you wise unto salvation through faith in Jesus Christ (2 Timothy 3: 15 ESV). So, in the immortal words of Bart, “Don’t have a cow, man!” Laugh at The Simpsons, and learn about the folly of the world in which you live, but present yourself where Christ’s Word is preached and His Sacraments administered, and you will be kept firmly grounded in the saving knowledge of Jesus Christ, and Him crucified for you.
! h o ’ D Rev. Robert Wentzel is the pastor of Trinity Lutheran Church in Walton, Nebraska. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
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The Baptism Formula (“in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit”)—is it sexist?
Why do high schools have Gay Lesbian Bisexual Transgender (GLBT) groups?
Is God really in control?
Will your Biology 101 professor in college flunk you if you reject Evolution?
Does Creation have anything to do with Jesus Christ?
Creation and Current Questions By Rev. Frederic W. Baue
These and many other intriguing questions came up in the course of writing my
new book on the Doctrine of Creation. Most orthodox Lutheran theologians simply say that God created the world out of nothing (ex nihilo) in six days and leave it at that. They oppose Evolution, but do not connect Creation with wider cultural issues.
The vast majority of modern theologians, both Protestant and Catholic, have compromised with Evolution. Regarding question # 2, not only will your biology professor flunk you, so will your theology professor. They espouse what is called “Theistic Evolution.” That is, the world and its living things came into being the way science describes it, but God was guiding the process. Then somewhere along the line God anointed some cave man with the gift of reason, and old Trog became the first human being. Today, a new idea is emerging—a Theology of Evolution. The basic principle is not the Bible, but Evolution. God has some power but is not omnipotent. He has some knowledge, but is not omniscient. He kind of got things going in the beginning, but now He is standing by and watching in amazement as things evolve according to natural, scientific principles. So much for question # 4. The bottom line: Darwin’s Theory of Evolution has become a basic first principle of modern thought, not only in science but also theology. But the problem is, when you destroy the Doctrine of Creation, you also destroy the Doctrine of Redemption. As I say in my book: “No creation, no Adam; no Adam, no Fall; no Fall, no sin; no sin, no need for a Savior. Thus is the axe laid to the root of the cross.” (Question # 5) Everything the Bible says in Genesis 1-3 is literally true, and connects in every way with the Gospel of Jesus Christ, who is the Last Adam, the Image of God, the King of Creation, the Gardener of Paradise, the High Priest of the Tree of Life, and the Bridegroom of the Church. Modern man—and particularly modern woman—cannot stand this. The Bible sets forth God the Father and God the Son. Of course the maleness of the Divine Persons is not the same as the maleness of human beings, as the Bible teaches. But for many scholars, the Bible is just a collection of myths and legends. And Christianity is patriarchal, sexist, and oppressive. Evolution, of course, frees one from these medieval superstitions and customs. Man is just another animal, and in many animal social groups, the female rules. So feminist theologians put pressure on liberal churches to change the Baptismal Formula to something less offensive, like “Creator, Redeemer, and Sanctifier” (Question # 3).
The Bible knows nothing about such nonsense. It simply says, “Male and female he created them” (Genesis 1:27). And, “She shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man” (Genesis 2:23). So the Bible gives headship to the man in marriage, because of the Order of Creation. Note, however, that even before the Fall, in a sinless world, the woman is in a subordinate role. She is Adam’s helper (Genesis 2:18). This does not mean she is inferior to him in any way. After all, Adam says of her, “This at last is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh” (Genesis 2:23). But modern thought continues to lurch recklessly onward, destroying one cultural institution after another. I once heard Dr. Francis A. Schaeffer say of the Sixties’ rebels, “They seem to think that if they smash everything, something wonderful will drop out,” as if society were a big piñata. How many people your age do you know who “hook up” with a member of the opposite sex? How many of you are in “blended” families? How many have divorced parents? How many have older brothers or sisters who are living with someone to whom they are not married? How many know someone who is gay or lesbian? (Question # 1). The Doctrine of Creation speaks to all these contemporary issues. As Jesus Himself said, “Have you not read that he who created them from the beginning made them male and female, and said, ‘therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh’? So they are no longer two, but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let not man separate” (Matthew 19:4-6). Study the Doctrine of Creation. It is the foundation of everything else that follows. Rev. Frederic W. Baue, STS, Ph.D., is the pastor of Bethany Evangelical Lutheran Church in Fairview Heights, Illinois. He takes his youth group to Higher Things every year, and has often been a featured speaker. He is the author of Creation: A Literary, Apologetic, and Doctrinal Approach (Naperville, IL: Blue Pomegranate Press, 2010). His email is email@example.com.
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By Rev. Jacob Gaugert
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Christ Mosiac courtesy of LCMS World Relief and Human Care
Out of Many, One in Christ
“Somos uno en el Espírtu.”“Mysme jedno v duchu”“We are one in the Spirit.” A trio of banners with these words that echo Ephesians 2:18 welcomes all who come to the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Dr. Martin Luther in Chicago. These languages are an odd combination, but they reflect the people who receive the Lord’s gifts here.
e are one in the Spiri
In the early 20th century thousands of immigrants came from what is known today as Slovakia. They were fleeing from a centuries-old program by which the Hungarian government forced the Slovaks and others to speak and act more Hungarian. The Slovaks could not use their language in public—not in papers, schools, church, nor even in the spelling of their own names. The economic situation in Slovakia left much to be desired. Taking a chance to forge a better life in America, large groups of Slovaks settled in Chicago, Pennsylvania, and New Jersey. Upon their arrival, many Slovak Lutherans used their new liberties to encourage the use of their language. In October 1908, a group of Slovak men in Chicago formed a group they named the Slovak Evangelical Literary Circle. These men, many of whom did not have a formal education, came together to read, recite poems, and sing in Slovak. They were holding onto their traditions, their culture, and most of all, their Lutheran confession. The writings of Luther, translated centuries before, were readily available. They also loved to sing from their beloved Slovak Lutheran hymnal, the Tranoscius. For them, being a good Slovak went hand in hand with being a good Lutheran. In August 1913, they and their families formed the Slovak Congregation of Dr. Martin Luther. They were gradually blessed with stable and fair employment, and slowly became more established and “American.” In 1933, English services were added. In 1948, the congregation moved to its current house of worship in Gage Park. Along with their Polish and other eastern European neighbors, the Slovak Lutherans continued to enjoy their nice neighborhood. They could go to their restaurants, their stores, their banks and speak their language in their community. This cozy situation, however, would not last. Like most urban centers in the 70’s and 80’s, the city of Chicago began to experience “white flight.” Those of European descent moved farther out of the city and other groups moved in. In Gage Park, these new people were predominantly Mexican. Like the Slovaks decades ago, they were also seeking out a better life. As the evangelism committee went knocking on doors in the neighborhood each year, they encountered more and more people who did not speak English or Slovak, but instead spoke Spanish. English signs on the surrounding businesses were replaced. Gangs also moved in. The community quickly changed. In contrast to other congregations that sold their buildings and moved out to the suburbs, the stubborn Slovaks decided that their church was called to the place where it was. But how would they change while still being faithful to their good confession? The congregational leadership began to act. In the 90’s, English as a Second Language (ESL) classes were offered for the first time. Various pastors and deacons received calls to the congregation specifically to do outreach to the new neighbors. Spanish hymnals were added and Spanish Bible studies and worship
services offered, but the new neighbors did not come streaming in to join the congregation. These new residents and their families had their own language and culture which were closely tied to their identity as Roman Catholics. Cultural ties to the faith had facilitated the founding of the congregation long ago. Now they presented a new barrier to outreach. Despite slow progress and few new members, the congregation held on to their Lord’s promise to bless HIS work, year after year. Now, slowly, by the Lord’s blessing, things are changing. Like the Slovaks decades ago, the Mexican neighbors are also becoming more “American.” With each generation, more speak English. Mixed marriages are not uncommon. The neighborhood is far from perfect, but home ownership is on the rise. The lines and distinctions between “us” and “them” are gradually fading. That’s not to say that there are no more challenges, but our Lord’s promises are greater than our fears, prejudices, and doubts. Slowly, the Spirit is drawing more of our neighbors to come and receive Jesus’ forgiveness in this place. ESL classes are still offered. Spanish versions of Luther’s Small Catechism, Portals of Prayer and Good News magazine are available. Spanish Bible studies and bilingual Divine Services are offered. The youth group is active. We not only pray for the needs of our own members, but also consciously remember “all people according to their needs,” our neighbors, and those who suffer in our city and the whole world. Our church potlucks feature traditional Slovak halusky and pirohy, as well as tamales and Spanish rice. The gospel is not bound or limited to any particular skin color, culture, or language group. Being German, Slovak, American, or Mexican does not determine if one is a good Lutheran. Rather, it is the faith and confession that Christ gives that does. The Church is not called to avoid what is new or foreign, but to encounter it head on and engage it with our Lord’s powerful, transformative Word. The reality of Pentecost is still a reality for Christ’s Church in the here and now. Now this doesn’t mean that we are to go out and try to make our churches into poster-child communities of multiculturism. Many churches do just that, but without truly caring for the souls of their members with genuine Law and Gospel proclamation. We are called to be faithful and to receive our Lord’s gifts as He gives them to us in Word and Sacrament. That’s how true unity is formed and fostered. Thanks be to God for His work here and to His whole Church on earth! Out of many, by God’s grace,“We are one in the Spirit.” Rev. Jacob Gaugert is originally a country boy from Wisconsin. He is the pastor of Evangelical Church of Doctor Martin Luther in Chicago, Illinois. In his free time he enjoys reading, studying languages, and gardening. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
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When Jehovah’s Witnesses Come Knocking By Rev. Eric Lange
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They’re at your door!!! Now what do you do? Peter tells you. “Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have.” (1 Peter 3:15) Are you ready?
When it comes to Jehovah’s Witnesses, it is helpful not only to know what you believe, but also to be familiar with what they believe. They come with “another gospel which is really no gospel at all” (Galatians 1:6-7). You will use many of the same words, but with totally different meanings. It can be pretty confusing. Jehovah’s Witnesses will talk about God’s Son, Jesus Christ. But the Jesus Christ of the Jehovah’s Witnesses is very different than the Jesus Christ we confess. Jehovah’s Witnesses believe that Jesus was at first only a spirit creature, that is, an angel. He was the first of God’s creations and God used Him to create all other things. Then He became a man—and only a man—so that He could provide a ransom for mankind. After His “resurrection” He once again became only a spirit creature. For Jehovah’s Witnesses, at no time was Jesus, “very God of very God,” nor can they confess that He is “begotten, not made.” Jehovah’s Witnesses will talk about the ransom Christ paid for mankind, but they will argue that for it to be a genuine “ransom” it could only be the value of one human life. As proof of this they cite “an eye for an eye” (cf. Exodus 21:24). Thus, Jesus’ ransom obtains merely the opportunity for human life that Adam lost for his children. This is also why, in the minds of Jehovah’s Witnesses, Jesus could not be a man after His “resurrection” because He sacrificed His right to human life. Thus, He cannot take it back again. When Jehovah’s Witnesses talk about “resurrection” they do not mean the returning of the soul or spirit to the body, as we do, but they actually mean that God “remembers” you and “recreates” you. When you die there is no “you” left, except in God’s memory. For Jehovah’s Witnesses, death means “ceasing to exist.” For us, death refers to “separation.” Therefore, we distinguish between three types of death: spiritual death, referring to our separation from God due to sin; physical death, referring to the separation of body and soul; and eternal death, referring to the eternal separation from God’s gracious presence. Jehovah’s Witnesses also don’t believe that all believers will go to heaven. Taking the symbolism in the Book of Revelation literally, they believe only 144,000 will go to heaven. These, like Jesus, cease to be human, but become spirit beings. All other Jehovah’s Witnesses—what they call “the other sheep” or “the great multitude”—will live on “paradise earth.” Most importantly, Jehovah’s Witnesses have no certainty of God’s favor, for it is based on their faithfulness, not Christ’s faithfulness. Because Jehovah’s Witnesses, like any other sinful human beings, fail to be perfectly “faithful,” they can never
be sure of God’s love for them as individuals. There are a few important things to remember when confronted with Jehovah’s Witnesses. First, not every Jehovah’s Witness is the same, so it is important to view them as individuals. Some will be aggressive and assertive, convinced that they have the truth and that you are in error. But others will be not so firmly attached to their beliefs. Even those who come to your door are not all the same. Many times one individual is a long-time Jehovah’s Witness and the other(s) are beginners. Second, you will be exposed to them in different contexts. Obviously, having a relative who is a Jehovah’s Witness is a different scenario than the stranger who comes to your door. If you can build a relationship, that is always helpful. This, of course, requires time and commitment. However, even when they come to the door you, as a Christian, ought to be able to “give the reason for the hope that you have.” Slamming the door in their faces does not begin to accomplish this. Peter reminds us to give the reason “with gentleness and respect.” Thus, we need to remember that “our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms” (Ephesians 6:12). Therefore, we endeavor to “speak the truth in love” (Ephesians 4:15), even to Jehovah’s Witnesses. Slamming the door is easy, but it only further convinces Jehovah’s Witnesses that they have the truth because they view such actions as persecution. On the other hand, what would individual Jehovah’s Witnesses think if every time they came to a Lutheran door they heard, “Although I am open-minded and will take your literature, I am a Lutheran, and I have to tell you I am so blessed by my church and knowing all that Jesus has done and continues to do for me I just don’t see how anything could be better than what I already have. I hope you can possibly find this same comfort in your church, too.” Witnessing to Jehovah’s Witnesses is a difficult task, and this article barely scratches the surface of their teachings. Nor does it discuss the Bible passages Jehovah’s Witnesses cite and the counterarguments that can be found in the Bible. For those you need to speak to your pastor, or you can contact me. But hopefully this article helps you to see the hope that you have and the need to be prepared to answer the Jehovah’s Witnesses, when they come knocking. Rev. Eric Lange serves as pastor at Redemer Lutheran Church in Gresham, Oregon. He invites questions at email@example.com.
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Foundations The Handiwork of God:
Dr. James Lamb begins a four-part series on the sanctity of life by laying a few foundational stones.
The Wrong Questions to Ask “What will the quality of her life be?” “What real meaning does his life have?” “Would Grandma want to be like this?” Such questions center life’s value in a person’s ability or lack thereof. The Right Question to Ask The Christian asks a more fundamental question: “What does God do that gives value to human life?” This question centers life’s value in God. The answer gives Christians a solid foundation for dealing with life issues. The following answers provide the foundation upon which we stand. God Creates Life with His Hands “For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.” (Psalm 139:13-14 ESV) An old clump of thread rests in a place of honor in our home. Close inspection reveals the beginning intricacies of tatting, a fine form of crocheting. But it doesn’t look like much, and it certainly is not useful for anything. Why then the honor? Well, Grandma started making this just before she died. It was found by her rocking chair. Its value does not come from its looks or usefulness but from who made it. Our first foundation stone: The value of human life is not found in appearances or productivity but in the handiwork of God, who knits each life together in the womb. The unborn child, Grandma in the care center, Uncle Ralph with Alzheimer’s, you and me— each of us has a God-given value. God Redeemed Life with His Hands “You were bought with a price.” (1 Corinthians 6:20)
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Many happy memories come from Grandma’s old pump organ in our family room. Grandma used to spin us around on a three-legged stool until we could reach the keyboard. Then she pumped the pedals as we played the keys. I was a poor seminarian with a family when Grandma died, but we scraped together enough funds to purchase the organ at the auction. We bought the organ for $800.00 and the stool for $125.00! Now Grandma’s organ has doubled in value. It has value because it was hers and because we paid dearly to get it back. Human life has value because God created it, and it has value because He paid dearly to buy it back! It wasn’t $925.00. It wasn’t “gold or silver,” but His “holy precious blood” and His “innocent suffering and death.” God loved what He made with His hands so much He sent His only Son to buy us back from sin with a price. It all began in a womb. “And behold, you will conceive in your womb . . .” (Luke 1:31). Jesus had to be a holy embryo because we were unholy embryos. (Psalm 51:5). The road to the cross began in Mary’s fallopian tube! The hands and feet that became flesh in Mary’s womb would one day be pierced with nails. Our second foundation stone: The hands that knit you together in the womb became hands that stretched out on a cross and bled the price of redemption—for every human life.
God Holds Us by the Hand “I am the LORD; I have called you in righteousness; I will take you by the hand and keep you.” Isaiah 42: 6a One Christmas, Joey received a coat with deep, fur-lined pockets. He talked his dad into going for a walk to see if his hands would stay warm in those pockets. The Minnesota weather cooperated in the experiment with blowing snow and ice-covered walks. “We should hold hands,” said Dad. “No,” replied Joey, “I want to keep my hands in my pockets.” The first patch of ice claimed Joey. “Daddy,” he said as he brushed himself off, “maybe I should hold your hand.” He reached up, able to grasp only a couple of Dad’s fingers. When the next patch of ice sent his feet dancing, he went down again. That’s when Dad said, “Joey, maybe I should hold onto your hand.” In the above verse, the Lord gives a picture of His relationship with those He calls in Baptism, where the “righteousness” of Christ covers the unrighteous sinner. He sends His Spirit to give us new life and to walk by our side, not as our “buddy,” but as our God. He holds us by the hand. Our third foundation stone: God desires to call every human life into this relationship. Conclusion The value of human life comes from what God does. He creates life with His hands. He redeemed life with His hands. He desires to call every life and hold that life by the hand. We can stand firmly in these truths as we confront the life issues facing our society and our own families. Rev. Dr. James Lamb is Executive Director of Lutherans for Life. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Coming up in the next issue: The Handiwork of God and Stem Cell Research.
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Going to Hell with Jesus By Rev. Shawn Kumm
Christ’s Descent into Hell, Russian, second quarter of the fifteenth century. Private collection. Photo Roulier, Zimmerwald.
Hell. Who wants to go there? Jesus tells us just enough about heaven that we know we want to be there. He also reveals just enough about hell that we know we don’t. The word hell was spoken at your baptism. Right smack dab in the middle of the Apostles’ Creed, there it is: Jesus descended into hell. Big deal, right? Yeah, hell is a BIG deal. Misery loves company, and Satan desires nothing more than to have lots of company. That is why Jesus suffered on the cross so that you wouldn’t ever have to. You don’t need to worry about hell. But did Jesus descend into hell in order to suffer—or did He go there for another reason? There are those who understand these words to mean that after Jesus died upon the cross He wasn’t quite finished with His work, so He needed to suffer in hell. This doesn’t make sense, since Jesus exclaimed on the cross,“It is finished.” This literally means,“It is finished and stands finished forever” (John 19:30). On the cross, Jesus has already suffered hell. Period. The Apostles’ Creed summarizes the Christian faith in the tightest, briefest language possible. There are churches that confess creeds. There are churches that do not confess creeds. There are churches that sort of confess creeds. The sort-of-confessing-creeds churches omit the words, “He descended into hell.” Since the phrase doesn’t show up until later in history, these folks believe the words shouldn’t be said. But a later addition to this creed shouldn’t bother us. The words may very well have been added to combat the wrong teaching that the effect of Jesus’ death and resurrection wasn’t as far-reaching as everyone thought. Even now it appears Satan is still in control and hellish things still happen in this world. So some conclude that Jesus’ work on the cross just wasn’t quite enough. But remember Jesus said, “It is finished.” His devildefeating work reached the very pits of hell. In fact, Jesus descended there to tell Satan himself. At least two passages of Scripture teach us this: “For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, that He might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh but made
alive in the spirit, in which He went and proclaimed to the spirits in prison . . .” (1 Peter 3:18-19). “He [that is, Jesus] disarmed the rulers and authorities and put them to open shame, by triumphing over them in Him” (Colossians 2:15). In all of His resurrected glory, Jesus descended into hell so you wouldn’t have to. If Jesus’ death is your death and if Jesus’ resurrection is your resurrection (see Romans 6:3-11), then Jesus’ descent is your descent. There is great comfort in that for you. Who of us could stand face-to-face with Satan and proclaim such Good News? Not a single one of us. I know I wouldn’t want to and I don’t have to. Neither do you. But there is the pesky question about timing. We know when all but one of the events of Holy Week happens. But what about Jesus’ descent into hell? Does His descent happen as soon as Jesus says, “It is finished?” Does Jesus go to hell when the sun rises on Easter morning? We simply do not know. God, in His wisdom, chooses not to say much about the invisible world. Think about, for example, how He does not tell us during which of the six days of creation the angels were made. There is a curiosity on the part of God’s people to have answers about angels and demons. But God’s Word tells us just enough to know they exist. So why don’t we know when Jesus descends? Perhaps it’s similar to the way we tend to focus on what we know about the angels or demons; we often end up tempted to know less about Jesus. He wants us to focus on Him and no one else. Jesus goes victoriously to hell for us so that we don’t have to. Rev. Shawn Kumm once served as campus pastor to Southern Illinois University-Carbondale. He serves as pastor of Zion Evangelical Lutheran Church in Laramie Wyoming, about as close to heaven on earth as a pastor can get (elevation 7,220 feet). Pastor Kumm is eternally grateful to his Lord Jesus that he’s not going to hell, and may be reached at email@example.com.
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Higher Things Conferences
Coram Deo? What exactly does “Coram Deo” mean? Well, it’s Latin for “before God,” as in His presence, under His reign. Think a bit about living Coram Deo, before God. What does it mean that you live Coram Deo? Under the Law, life before God is terrifying. It is living under His judgment and wrath. But under the Gospel, life before God is beautiful, a restoration of what God intended when He made Man in the beginning. “Can mortal man be righteous before God? Can a man be pure before his Maker?” (Job 4:17) This is the core religious question: How can a sinner destined to die stand before a righteous and holy God? Only by grace through faith for Christ’s sake!
LasJ Vegas, NV Bloomington/Normal, IL Atlanta, GA
University of Nevada July 5-8, 2011
Illinois State University July 12-15, 2011
Emory University July 19-22, 2011 www.coramdeo2011.org
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Lutheran Youth Conference
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Information about the 2011 Higher Things Conferences
Las Vegas, NV Bloomington/Normal, IL Atlanta, GA
University of Nevada July 5-8, 2011
Why Higher Things?
We live in a culture of blurry religious distinctions and do-ityourself spirituality.Youth, especially, need solid ground that will nurture lasting Christian faith. Rather than treating youth as an adolescent subculture and confusing them with religious experiences that cannot be replicated at home, Higher Things believes in challenging youth to learn the pure doctrine of the Christian faith. By teaching them the same message that they hear at home, youth grow in the fullness of the Christian faith as they come to appreciate historic liturgical practice and its unique focus on God’s gifts of forgiveness, life and salvation for us delivered in Word and Sacrament.
Coram Deo? What exactly does “Coram Deo” mean? Well, it’s Latin for “before God,” as in His presence, under His reign, etc.Think a bit about living Coram Deo, before God. What does it mean that you live Coram Deo? Under the Law, life before God is terrifying. It is living under His judgment and wrath. But under the Gospel, life before God is beautiful, a restoration of what God intended when He made man in the beginning. “Can mortal man be righteous before God? Can a man be pure before his Maker?” (Job 4:17) This is the core religious question: How can a sinner destined to die stand before a righteous and holy God? Only by grace through faith for Christ’s sake!
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Registration will open on November 1, 2010 and close on February 28, 2011 – or when a site reaches capacity, whichever happens first. We work very diligently to keep costs as low as possible while providing the best conferences we can – every year! Here’s how it works out this year: Nov.1,2010 to Jan.1,2011 to After Dec.31,2010 Feb.28,2011 March 1,2011 Las Vegas, NV $335 $350 $365 Bloomington/Normal, IL $300 $325 $335 Atlanta, GA $300 $325 $335 The per-person rates above are based on the date your group’s registration fees are paid in full. Additional fees may apply for registrations and changes made after March 1, 2011.
Illinois State University July 12-15, 2011
Emory University July 19-22, 2011
Not only can you register your group online at www.coramdeo2011.org, you can pay deposits and your balance online too! All you need is a valid Higher Things account. If you don’t have a free HT Account yet, you can sign up for one at www.higherthings.org. Your Registration Fee covers: � Conference Programming (Planning, Catechesis, Worship, Entertainment) � Three (3) Nights of Housing (double capacity) � Nine (9) Meals � Conference Handbook � Daily Services Book � Conference T-Shirt
Higher Things conferences are generally planned for high-schoolaged youth, but registrants may be any youth who have been confirmed prior to the conference, including college students. We recognize that the ages of confirmed youth vary from congregation to congregation, and just ask that if a group is bringing young people who are not yet in high school, the group leaders be prepared to provide additional supervision accordingly.
Higher Things requires a minimum of one (1) chaperone for every seven (7) youth in your group. Each group must be accompanied by at least one chaperone – one male adult for the male youth and/or one female adult for the female youth in your group. Chaperones must be at least 21 years old at the time of registration and must also be approved by the group’s pastor for their role. All chaperones and other adults in a group must complete the registration process. If you are unable to recruit the necessary number of chaperones from your congregation for your youth to attend a conference, Higher Things is happy to help you find other groups from your area who might be willing to share their chaperones with you. More information will be available to you very soon! But if you just can’t contain your curiousity and excitement, you may visit www.coramdeo2011.org or email firstname.lastname@example.org to make sure you haven’t missed anything.
Why do Pastors Wear Vestments? O By Rev. Jon J. Sollberger
It was a good question. It was good because of the way it was phrased; it answered itself. Those “God clothes” are called vestments, and the basic answer to my young friend’s question was this: To hide the man, so that Christ is seen and heard. Truly, vestments are “God Clothes”, because they are worn by the pastor to show that he is standing in the stead of (place of) Christ. When a called and ordained pastor is leading a church service, he is to speak Christ’s Word to the people, and administer Christ’s Sacraments to them. The pastor is not the source of these gifts, but he is the means by which Christ comes to His people in Word and Sacrament. And this means that what the pastor does in the Service should not draw attention to himself at all. God’s means of grace should never be received as if they were from the pastor himself (how well he spoke when he preached, etc.). In fact, the pastor’s individuality is to be downplayed and hidden as much as possible. A good pastor is continually speaking John the Baptizer’s words in St. John 3:30, “He [Christ] must increase, but I must decrease.” One very effective way of ensuring this is vestments. No expensive suits or fancy silk ties. No casual blue jeans and t-shirts. All of these would only point to the man. Vestments hide the man, so that Christ is not obscured. Vestments also symbolize some very important things. One vestment for a Divine Service is called an alb (from the Latin word for “white”). The color white symbolizes both the righteousness of Christ (given to us in His Body and Blood) and the “robe of righteousness” that He gives through Holy Baptism (Rev. 7:14). The stole (the long, colored piece of fabric the pastor wears on his shoulders) is the Church’s mark of ordination. Whoever wears the stole is to be properly called and consecrated to stand in the stead of Jesus Christ, and speak His Word with His authority. This is for our assurance as we receive the Word and Sacraments, that they are from Christ,
Photos courtesy of CM Almy & Son, Inc. www.almy.com © 2010
n a recent Sunday morning, as I was walking toward the sanctuary to begin the Divine Service, one of our smaller parishioners (7 years old) asked me: “Why are you wearing those God clothes?”
not from the man who is serving. The stole can be traced to 2 Kings 2:13-15. Sometimes people may think that a pastor’s vestments are too formal, and that Jesus would never have worn anything like them. But that’s not the point. The point is this: Pastors are not Christ, but they are to stand in His stead, and deliver His Gifts to His people. Vestments help him do this with dignity and respect for God, who has come down to visit us, that we may receive Jesus Christ unto our life everlasting. Rev. Jon J. Sollberger serves the Parish Immanuel Lutheran in Louisville, Nebraska, and a national and regional speaker on liturgy and church music. He can be reached at email@example.com.
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(PA) @ University of South Dakota @ University of Tennessee @ University of Tulsa (OK) @ University of Pittsburgh and Other Pittsburgh Area Colleges @ University of Wisconsin—Milwaukee @ University of Wisconsin—Superior @ University of Wyoming @ Valparaiso University (IN) @ Vanderbilt University (TN) @ Wright State University (OH)
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Can Modern, Rational Adults Believe in Miracles?
By Mr. Mark Pierson
What happens in Vegas doesn’t always stay in Vegas. One night, after finishing his popular stage show “Penn & Teller,” magician Penn Jillette had a memorable encounter with a fan—so memorable that he felt compelled to post a video about it on YouTube. “It was really wonderful,” Penn recalled thoughtfully. “He was really kind, and nice, and sane, and looked me in the eyes, and . . . . gave me this Bible.” Penn then proceeded to do something quite remarkable. He criticized believers who refuse to evangelize, and chastised those who think Christians should keep their mouths shut and never bother anyone. Why is this surprising? Because Penn is a stone-cold, outspoken atheist. It may be rare for an atheist to tell Christians they should convert others, but the reasons why Penn is an atheist are actually quite common. It’s not that atheism is a popular position—only about 2% of people are true atheists (that is, materialists). But skeptics who reject the Bible frequently do so because it contains accounts of miracles. Surely, no thinking adult who lives in our scientific age can believe in those, right? Wrong.
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People Are Entitled to Their Own Opinions, but not Their Own Facts “Jesus fooled thousands with smoke and mirrors, like a magic act in Vegas.”“Ancient people were gullible, and didn’t know the difference between facts and fairy tales.” “The supernatural stories of Scripture are myths. They might convey spiritual truths, but they can’t be taken literally.” Unbelievers who talk like this think they have an open-andshut case. No need for discussion. It’s decided: They’re smart, and we’re stupid. However, when we look at their reasoning, we find a few problems. Many who deny the possibility of miracles often assume that the laws of nature can never be altered. So whenever a miracle is said to have occurred, it automatically gets placed into the “myth” category. An investigation simply isn’t necessary. God or no God, everything has a natural explanation, and no amount of evidence can support the supernatural. Does this sound reasonable? On the contrary, it’s as closed-minded as it gets!
Imagine if this is how a court trial proceeded. The prosecutor presents piece after piece of incriminating evidence, showing beyond a reasonable doubt that the suspect is guilty. Even the defendant’s lawyer is persuaded, and chooses not to give his closing argument. Yet when the judge reads his verdict, everyone is shocked to hear the words “Not guilty.” After court is adjourned, the plaintiff asks the judge privately what he found unconvincing. “Nothing,” the judge replies. “I simply made up my mind beforehand that he was innocent, so I knew you had to be wrong.” As ridiculous as this may seem, it is precisely what happens when opinions triumph over facts. From Present to Past? Another widespread assumption of the anti-miracle crowd concerns the nature of history. It is presumed that the way the universe operates now is the same way it always has. In other words, what we observe in the present determines how we should understand the past. And since water is neither turned into wine nor walked on these days, surely Christians invented such tales.
Duluth @ University of Minnesota—Morris @ University of Minnesota—Twin Cities @ University of North Carolina—Greensboro @ University of North Dakota @ University of Northern Colorado @ University of Northern Iowa @ University of Oklahoma @ University of Pittsburgh
) @ Dickinson State University (ND) @ George Mason University @ Grand Valley State University and Calvin College (MI) @ Harvard University and Other Boston Area Colleges @ Indiana University @ Indiana State University @ Lake Superior State University (MI) @ Mississippi State University
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Fifty-four strong and growing. Newest chapter: @ St. Athanasius Lutheran Church, Vienna, VA (serving students at George Mason University) Join the network! Apply online or contact us.
Christ on Campus Retreats
Check online for information about all of our fall retreats and study weekends! February 11-12, 2011 University Lutheran Church & Student Center, Bloomington, IN Speaker: Rev. Dr. Carl Fickenscher, “Law and Gospel”
Check Your Assumptions, not Your Brains, at the Door Contrary to what most people think, it is not necessary to assume the Bible is God’s Word before its miracles can be believed. Why not? Because Jesus is a figure of history, who lived in full view of thousands of people, such that both friendly and hostile eyewitnesses knew what He did and said. This means the records of His life, death, and even resurrection can be examined by the standard methods of historical investigation. If one doesn’t rule out the possibility of miracles beforehand, and takes into account all the available evidence, the most probable scenario is that Christ physically and supernaturally rose from the dead. It is easy to see why Paul said all of Christianity stands or falls on this one event (1 Corinthians 15:14). For with the resurrection, Jesus’ claims to be God have been vindicated (Matthew 12:40; John 2:19-21). Thus, every miracle He performed is true. It also means He continues to do miracles everyday, whenever someone is baptized into His name or fed His body and blood, for only God can forgive sins.
May 20-22, 2011 Camp Lone Star, TX Theme: “Pro Deo et Patria” For God and Country: The Christian’s Role as Citizen
Mark Pierson is finishing his M.Div. at Concordia Theological Seminary in Fort Wayne, Indiana. Last year he served as vicar at UCLA’s campus ministry church, which allowed him to engage unbelievers on a daily basis. You can email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Ninth Annual Christ on Campus Staff Conference University Lutheran Chapel, Boulder, CO May 24-26, 2011 More information to come, but mark your calendars now!
Apply to be a Christ On Campus Volunteer at “Corum Deo”: http://www.coramedo2011.org
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@ North Carolina State University @ NW Oklahoma State University @ Pittsburg State University (KS) @ Rhode Island College and other RI Colleges @ Sam Houston State University (TX) @ San Francisco State University (CA) @ Slippery Rock State University (PA) @ South Dakota State University @ Stanford University (CA) @
The problems with this line of thinking are manifold. First, we cannot be absolutely certain that miracles don’t happen today. Honest science requires that each claim be examined on its own merits. Second, even if no current claims are legitimate, it does not necessarily follow that all past accounts are likewise false. Honest historical inquiry requires that these, too, be investigated on their own merits prior to being dismissed. Third, we must consider cataclysmic events. If we fail to take into account the effects of a drastic change in the earth’s atmosphere, of a large meteor slamming into the planet, or of a global flood, we will miss a big piece of the historical puzzle. Thus, we would be wrong in our assumption that the present essentially mirrors the past. Finally, the God who established the laws of physics in the first place can certainly adjust them when and where He pleases,whether that means turning the Nile into blood, having someone swallowed by a fish, or entering time and space Himself as a Jewish baby in the womb of a virgin. And He’s under no obligation to perform a miracle today to prove that He also did them in the past. So when skeptics say they don’t believe in miracles because they’ve never witnessed one firsthand, push them on that logic. Point out that they also shouldn’t believe in Christopher Columbus, abstract concepts, or subatomic particles, since they’ve never personally seen any of those either.
Texas State University (TX) @ University of Arizona @ University of California—Berkeley @ University of Colorado @ University of Connecticut—Avery Point and other CT Colleges @ University of Illinois @ University of Iowa @ University of Louisville @ University of Minnesota
Mining the Riches
‘ And you shall count for yourselves from the day after the
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Sabbath, from the day that you brought the sheaf of the wave offering: seven Sabbaths shall be completed. Count fifty days to the day after the seventh Sabbath; then you shall offer a new grain offering to the LORD. You shall bring from your dwellings two wave loaves of twotenths of an ephah. They shall be of fine flour; they shall be baked with leaven. They are the firstfruits to the LORD. And you shall offer with the bread seven lambs of the first year, without blemish, one young bull, and two rams. They shall be as a burnt offering to the LORD, with their grain offering and their drink offerings, an offering made by fire for a sweet aroma to the LORD. Then you shall sacrifice one kid of the goats as a sin offering, and two male lambs of the first year as a sacrifice of a peace offering. The priest shall wave them with the bread of the firstfruits as a wave offering before the LORD, with the two lambs. They shall be holy to the LORD for the priest. And you shall proclaim on the same day that it is a holy convocation to you. You shall do no customary work on it. It shall be a statute forever in all your dwellings throughout your generations. ‘When you reap the harvest of your land, you shall not wholly reap the corners of your field when you reap, nor shall you gather any gleaning from your harvest. You shall leave them for the poor and for the stranger: I am the LORD your God.’” Leviticus 23:15-22
Feasting with Our Lord:
The Feast of Weeks Rev. Thomas C. Messer
We come now to the conclusion of our series
had an (S. Maria della Salute, Venice) Titian (Tiziano Vecellio) (1488/9-1576)
in which we have reviewed some of the Feasts established by God for the Israelites to observe annually. As we noted at the beginning, all of the Old Testament Feasts fall upon a set liturgical calendar established by God Himself (Leviticus 23). God used this calendar and its appointed Feasts to meet with His people on a regular basis and to deliver to them forgiveness, life, and salvation. These Feasts served to remind the Israelites of what God had done for them, what He continued to do for them, and what He would ultimately do for them through the Promised Messiah. All of these Feasts pointed forward to, and find their fulfillment in, our Lord Jesus Christ. It is through Him and His saving work that forgiveness, life, and salvation were delivered and applied to the Old Testament saints. In the same way it is delivered to us New Testament saints today. It’s always all about Jesus!
So, what of the Feast of Weeks (Leviticus 23:15-22), the last feast to be considered in our series? This feast is tied to the Feast of Passover and Unleavened Bread. The Israelites were commanded by the LORD to count seven weeks from the Sabbath celebrated during the Feast of Passover and Unleavened Bread. The Feast of Weeks was celebrated on the day after that seventh Sabbath, on the fiftieth day. The Feast of Weeks gets its name from the fact that it is celebrated seven “weeks” after the Feast of Unleavened Bread. But it is also known by a name every Christian will recognize: Pentecost, which means, in ancient Greek, “fiftieth [day].” The Feast of Weeks (Pentecost) was a celebration of the completion of the harvest season. God placed this feast on the liturgical calendar to remind His people that the blessings of the harvest came from His bountiful goodness to them. As with the other feasts, the Israelites made offerings that the Lord commanded and the priests sacrificed animals, that His people would receive with thanksgiving not only the physical blessings of the harvest, but also the spiritual blessings
of forgiveness of sins and peace with God. A Holy Convocation (i.e., Divine Service) was held on this feast and the Word of God was proclaimed to the people, reminding them of the LORD’s commands and promises (i.e., Law/ Gospel preaching). The fulfillment of the Feast of Weeks is revealed to us in Acts 2, where we read about the miraculous outpouring of the Holy Spirit upon Jesus’ disciples on the Day of Pentecost. Just as the Old Testament Feast of Weeks is tied to the Feast of Passover and Unleavened Bread so, too, is its fulfillment in the New Testament Feast of Pentecost. It was during the Feast of Passover and Unleavened Bread that Jesus offered Himself as the ultimate sacrificial Lamb of God on the cross. In doing so, He brought this Feast to its fulfillment. And, after resting in the tomb on the Sabbath, Jesus rose from the tomb on the third day as the firstfruits of all who believe in Him (cf. Leviticus 23:9-14; 1 Corinthians 15:23). He then appeared to His disciples in His resurrected flesh for forty days during the seven weeks leading to Pentecost, preparing them for the Word and Sacrament ministry they were being called and ordained
to in His stead and by His command. On the fortieth day, Jesus ascended into heaven to sit at God’s right hand, commanding His disciples to wait in Jerusalem for the promised Holy Spirit. It was on the Day of Pentecost that the Holy Spirit came. Jerusalem was filled with pilgrims who had come to keep the Feast of Weeks and celebrate the harvest. But these pilgrims were in for a big surprise on this particular Day of Pentecost, for they witnessed the miraculous power of the Holy Spirit at work within Jesus’ disciples. They came from all over and spoke many different languages. As the disciples preached, each pilgrim heard them preaching in his own language. It was on this Day that St. Peter delivered the first Christian sermon, proclaiming the death and resurrection of Christ to all who would hear. Three thousand were baptized and brought into our Lord’s kingdom that day. It was a revelation that a new sort of harvest had begun: God’s harvest of believers in Christ. This harvest will continue to be reaped by the ongoing preaching of the Gospel and administration of the Sacraments until our Lord returns in great glory on the Last Day. It will include people of all nations, regardless of nationality, race, or language, for Christ lived, died, and rose again for all people. And so it is that the Christian Church continues to celebrate the Feast of Weeks to this day, although in the fulfilled, New Testament manner. We do so, not just seven weeks after Easter on the Day of Pentecost, but each time we gather together for Divine Service, where Jesus is present among us to forgive our sins and preserve our faith through His Holy Word and Sacraments. Thus, does He keep us in His Kingdom, which has no end, presenting us as a glorious harvest to His Father. In Jesus’ Name. Amen. Rev. Thomas C. Messer serves as pastor at Peace Lutheran Church in Alma, Michigan. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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New Age By Rev. John Sound
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Scientology is a worldwide movement which became a religion with the founding of the Church of Scientology in 1954. Hundreds of thousands of people have taken counseling courses, including such celebrities as Tom Cruise, John Travolta, Kirstie Alley, and Lisa Marie Presley. What is this New Age movement? How can we respond?
Scientology hit the headlines in June 2009 when John Travolta’s son, Jett, passed away from a seizure disorder. He was autistic, which John Travolta himself acknowledged, but the Church of Scientology refused to dignify the diagnosis. Travolta’s use of the term “autistic” was a break away from that church’s doctrine—that psychiatric diagnoses are fake ailments invented by Nazi psychiatrists so they could give people drugs to keep them from realizing their true potential of controlling the physical world with their minds. Does this sound strange to you? Let us explore. The teachings of Church of Scientology are based on Ron L. Hubbard’s 1950 publication of Dianetics: The Modern Science of Mental Health. Hubbard researched the human mind, influenced by his knowledge of psychology, Oriental religions, and the occult. Scientology does not teach that one has to accept anything on faith alone. Rather, people have to discover the principles of Scientology to be true by applying them and observing the consequences. The ultimate goal is true spiritual enlightenment and freedom. Scientology teaches that man is a spirit, has a mind, and occupies a body. He is basically good and is an immortal being who can gain neverending happiness in his life, beyond imagination. Thus, Scientology is something one does, not merely something one believes. Scientology asserts that people were once happy, but now they are not. Improvements can be made if man understands the truth about himself, others and the universe. Hubbard suggests that man possesses the following dynamics: the desire to survive, the desire for sex or procreation, the desire for the group, and the desire for human kind (to which he later added the desire of the species), to seek to survive through identification with the universe, spirituality, and infinity or the Supreme Being. Positive actions toward these achievements yield pleasure, whereas destructive actions yield failure, suffering, and death.
Psychological pathologies, or images called “time tracks,” may prevent man from obtaining these pleasures, but Dianetics is able to cure these inhibitions. The road to cure, as Hubbard states, lies in addressing the two kinds of minds which are in every man: the analytical mind and the reactive mind. The analytical mind takes those images, analyzes them, and comes up with survival-oriented decisions. On the other hand, while the analytical mind is turned off (sleep) or is distorted by certain events, the unconscious or reactive mind is operative in us and stores mental data. Hubbard calls these collective images engrams. They cause destructive responses: pain, depression, humiliation, and so on. To eliminate all the negative images from the mind, Hubbard offers a mental therapy called “auditing.” Trained counselors (“auditors”) bring these engrams to the consciousness of the person (called a “pre-clear”). Through this process the pre-clear is led to an awareness of these negative factors. The end awareness is enlightenment, or being “clear.” The clears are happy, confident and generally successful. In this state, the soul is called a thetan— the immortal soul. How do we respond with God’s Word? In Scientology, there is no god or the concept of a god—only the urge toward existence as infinity. Our God is Triune: Father, Son and Holy Spirit—Three in One and One in Three (Galatians 4:6). Scientology has no theory of the universe’s origin, but our God created everything out of nothing (ex nihilo), simply by His Word (Psalm 33: 6, 9). Moreover, God created Adam and Eve in His own image and let them have dominion over His creation (Genesis 2:26-27). But sin came into the world through the disobedience of Adam and Eve (Romans 5:12). The image of God was lost. That we may be saved through the work of Christ and that the image be fully restored in heaven, God announced redemption through His Son, Jesus (Genesis 3:15)—protoevangelium (the first Gospel). Christ, who had no sin, became sin for us and He is the propitiation for our sins (Hebrews 2:17;
1 John 2:2). Salvation is a gift of God; it can, by no means, be achieved by human efforts (1 Peter 2:24). Unlike Scientology, which puts the emphasis on humans to clear their minds of engrams, God (Psalm 139:1-4) invites us to come to Him with repentance—with broken and contrite hearts that He will not despise (Psalm 51:17). Having heard our confession, He grants us forgiveness for the sake of Christ who took our guilt and punishment upon Himself (2 Corinthians 5:21; 1 John 1:9). The answer to our anxieties, problems, worries, cares and concerns is not found in auditing but in Christ who has overcome them all (John 16:33). Christ is our living God who rose from the dead and is seated at the right hand of God, the Father Almighty (Ephesians 1:20-23). Once ascended, He sent the Holy Spirit to grant to all Christians through the Word and sacraments, the most precious gifts: faith in Christ, the forgiveness of sins, and eternal life. So let us rejoice in the truth that eternal life is ours and let us
continue to live a life of faith that on the Last Day, you and I and all the believers in Christ, in both body and soul, will begin experiencing the full enjoyment of being with Christ forever. “Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when He appears, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is” (1 John 3:2). Soli Deo Gloria! Rev. Dr. John Sound is the pastor of Our Savior Lutheran Church in Winchester, Virginia. He can be reached at email@example.com.
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Witness, Mercy, Life Together.
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Newly-elected president of the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod Rev. Matthew C. Harrison recently unveiled a new three-part emphasis for The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod: mercy, witness, and life together. Performed in conjunction with one another, these three constitute what the Church is and what she does. Higher Things stands with the LCMS in support of this emphasis. In doing so, it strives to assist parents, congregations, deaconesses, and pastors in cultivating a uniquely Lutheran identity among the youth of the LCMS. To that end, for over a decade, Higher Things has shown mercy, witnessed to the unchurched, and lived together in compassion and love with those whom it hopes to catechize. In fact, more than 750 LCMS congregations have been impacted by this work. But these efforts come at a cost. To continue to carry out the Church’s work and emphasis among children hungry for the Gospel, Higher Things needs your assistance. Please consider supporting Higher Things financially. Your tax deductible contribution will allow us to continue to dare kids to be Lutheran. We appreciate your ongoing support. Go to http:// higherthings.org/support.html to make a secure online donation. You can also donate by check. Make your check payable to “Higher Things” and send it to: Higher Things, P.O. Box 155, Holt, MO 64048. Higher Things is an RSO of The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod and a 501(c)3 non-profit organization.
Upcoming Higher Things Youth Retreats! ®
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Creation or Evolution – Does it even matter? January 7-8, 2011 Holy Cross Lutheran Church Carlisle, Iowa
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“My brother is sick and in the hospital, would you pray for him? My best friend is in a lot of trouble and I don’t know what to do, would you pray with me?” Now what do you do? And what do you say? Some of us are good at speaking on our feet and can rattle off a prayer on demand. Most of us just get embarrassed and tongue-tied, and if we say anything, it comes out as a jumble of random religious phrases punctuated with “we just.” So how do you pray on the fly? You need an outline. And you have a great one in the liturgy! The Collect of the Day--it’s that prayer before the readings that collects the thought of the service in a single sentence. It has a simple 5-part outline. Learn it, and you’ll have a great outline for the next time someone says, “Would you pray for me?” Here’s how it goes.
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Address - First, you address God. Now you wouldn’t say, “Hey God,” although God wouldn’t mind. “Lord” is okay, but we confess God as three Persons. Jesus taught us to pray to “our Father,” so “Father” is probably best. You can pray to Jesus and the Holy Spirit, too, but your Father in heaven loves to hear from you. Prayer flows from you to the Father, through the Son, by the Holy Spirit. And it’s easier to keep your Persons of the Trinity straight. Just say something like, “Dear Father in heaven.” Basis - The Basis is the foundation of your prayer. It says something about who God is or what He’s done. Yes, God already knows that, but He loves to hear that from His children. It’s like a little confession of faith. It presumes you know your Scriptures, so now you have
one more good reason to read your Bibles daily. It gives you words for prayer. So if you are praying for someone who is sick, you might say, “Dear Father in heaven, Your Son Jesus healed many people in His earthly ministry and is the source of all healing.” Or if you are praying for a family going through a divorce, you might say, “Dear Father in heaven, You established marriage when you created Adam and Eve and your Son blessed marriage and affirmed it as your good and gracious will.” Or, you might keep it simple and say, “Dear Father in heaven, Your Son Jesus healed lots of people.” You’re talking to God about God and building your prayer on what God in Christ does. Prayer begins with God, not with you. And you are also proclaiming God’s goodness and mercy to the person for whom you are praying.
you express why you are praying and often helps the person for whom you are praying to express their thoughts and feelings, too. Conclusion - All prayer flows through Jesus, our High Priest and Mediator. We confess that in our prayers by saying “in the Name of Jesus” or “through Jesus Christ, our Lord.” And then say a strong and bold “Amen!” As the Small Catechism reminds us, “Amen” is not a wimpy word, but is faith’s confidence that your Father in heaven will hear your prayer and act on it, according to His good and gracious will.
Petition - Tell God what you want. “Heal Sally of her sickness.”“Bring peace and reconciliation to Ted’s family.” Don’t be afraid to tell God what you want. You’re not telling Him anything He doesn’t already know. Saying it is good for you and the person for whom you are praying. You are coming to a good and gracious Father who knows to give good gifts to His children.
Okay, let’s try a couple. “My dog is sick. Will you say a prayer for him?” (Yes, you can pray for animals!) Dear Father in heaven, You made all creatures great and small and you give special ones to us as our companions. Bring health to my friend’s dog, that he would be able to enjoy his company for as many years as You will, through Jesus Christ, our Lord. Amen. “My parents are facing divorce and I’m scared. Would you pray for our family?” Dear Father in heaven, You have set us in families and ordained marriage for our blessing. Bless my friend’s family with peace and reconciliation, that their hearts would be turned to repentance toward You and love for each other, in Jesus’ name, Amen. Now you try it. Let us pray….
Desired Outcome - Tell God why this is important to you or what you hope will happen. “Heal my friend, Tom, so he can return to school and rejoin his friends.”“Bless our pastor so that he can preach the Word faithfully.” This helps
Rev. William M. Cwirla is the pastor of Holy Trinity Lutheran Church in Hacienda Heights, California, and the President of Higher Things. He can be reached at email@example.com.
The Lord’s Prayer The Introduction Our Father in heaven. What does this mean? With these words God tenderly invites us to believe that He is our true Father and that we are His true children, so that with all boldness and confidence we may ask Him as dear children ask their dear father. From Luther’s Small Catechism © 1986 Concordia Publishing House. Used with permission. All rights reserved. www.cph.org
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Going to Hell with Jesus Christ’s Descent into Hell, Russian, second quarter of the fifteenth century. Private collection. Photo Roulier, Zimmerwald.
A Higher Things Magazine Bible Study
What does Jesus say about our salvation in John 19:30? What does this tell us His descent into Hell is NOT about?
Read 1 Peter 3:18-22. Did Christ’s descent occur before or after He accomplished our salvation? For what purpose did He descend into hell? What connection is made to the Flood? What is true, now that Jesus is at the right hand of the Father?
Read Colossians 2:13-15. How has Christ triumphed over the evil one?
This victory over the Devil is still thrown in his face every day. When does this victory of Christ get proclaimed to the Devil? See Luke 10:1, 17-20.
Read Revelation 12:12. Why is Satan so enraged? But what is his fate? See Revelation 20:10.
Read God’s promise in Genesis 3:15. What is to happen to the Seed of the Woman? Where is this fulfilled? What happens to the serpent? Where is this fulfilled?
What part of the Catechism reminds us that in our daily lives Christ’s victory and descent are His promise for our good?
Conclude the Bible Study by singing or praying LSB Hymn 539. (Note especially stanza 3!) To access the Leader’s Guide for this study as well as Bible Studies for articles in this and other issues as part of an HTOnline subscription, point your browser to: http://higherthings.org/magazine/biblestudies.html. H I G H E R T H I N G S __ 30
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Coram Deo 2011 Higher Things Conferences
Coram Deo? What exactly does “Coram Deo” mean? Well, it’s Latin for “before God,” as in His presence, under His reign. Think a bit about living Coram Deo, before God. What does it mean that you live Coram Deo? Under the Law, life before God is terrifying. It is living under His judgment and wrath. But under the Gospel, life before God is beautiful, a restoration of what God intended when He made Man in the beginning. H I G H E R T H I N G S __ 32
“Can mortal man be righteous before God? Can a man be pure before his Maker?” (Job 4:17) This is the core religious question: How can a sinner destined to die stand before a righteous and holy God? Only by grace through faith for Christ’s sake!
July 5-8, 2011
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July 12-15, 2011
July 19-22, 2011
Illinois State University
"CREATION AND CURRENT QUESTIONS" A HIGHER THINGS MAGAZINE BIBLE STUDY
1. What does Colossians 1:13-18 tell us about the Son's role in creation? Everything was created by Him and through Him. That means that everything was created with a purpose. In Him, all things hold together. This in no way sounds like a God who is detached from His creation. St. Paul directly connects our redemption (v. 14) to Jesus' credentials as the creator of all things. 2. Look over Matthew 19:1-6. To what does Jesus appeal when He is challenged by the Pharisees? Why is this significant? He appeals to the creation of man and woman/ male and female. Jesus sees creation as a real historical event. He refers back to Adam as a real, historical person. This is the God of the universe making these references. This gives serious weight to the understanding about how foundational a correct understanding of creation is to the other vital doctrines of Christianity. 3. As you read through Romans 5:12-21, compare and contrast the first Adam and Jesus, the Last Adam. First Adam: sin and death entered the world. Through his transgression many died. Act results in condemnation. Death reigns through the one. Many made sinners. Death results Last Adam: Grace of God through Jesus Christ abounds to many. Act results in justification; gift of righteousness reigns in the life through Jesus Christ. Many made righteous. Eternal life results. The last Adam, Jesus, did what the First Adam was unable to do. All throughout the Scriptures God has used real, historical people as types and shadows of His Son--such as King David, Jonah, Moses, and many others. Adam is one of many. 4. Romans 8:18-25 How does the redemption of creation tie into our hope as we live in a fallen world? We can know that although we see the results of sin around us all the time, even in creation, that God has promised all will come to fruition and even creation will be redeemed. This shows us God's love, concern and specific intent for His creation. He is not the god of Deism, who stands by and watches as creation unfolds on its own. Redemption not only involves man, it includes the entirety of creation.
5. 1 Timothy 1:12-14. To what does St. Paul appeal when making his case about women teaching or having authority over a man? Why is this important? He appeals to the order of creation. As Rev. Baue states in his article, it is not that women are inferior to men, but from the beginning their roles have been different. Man carries the ultimate responsibility of headship. When this is ignored or disregarded, there are often negative results. What we understand about creation has implications for the rest of our beliefs.
"CREATION AND CURRENT QUESTIONS" A HIGHER THINGS MAGAZINE BIBLE STUDY
1. What does Colossians 1:13-18 tell us about the Son's role in creation?
2. Look over Matthew 19:1-6. To what does Jesus appeal when He is challenged by the Pharisees? Why is this significant?
3. As you read through Romans 5:12-21, compare and contrast the first Adam and Jesus, the Last Adam.
4. Romans 8:18-25 How does the redemption of creation tie into our hope as we live in a fallen world?
5. 1 Timothy 1:12-14. To what does St. Paul appeal when making his case about women teaching or having authority over a man? Why is this important?
“FEASTING WITH OUR LORD: THE FEAST OF WEEKS” A HIGHER THINGS MAGAZINE BIBLE STUDY 1. Read Leviticus 23. Why did God establish the Feasts? Through His Word, God appointed these times to meet with His people (Leviticus 23:2, 21, 37). On these days, God’s people were to rest from their labors and devote themselves to the things that God established by His Word. This primarily happened through the performance of the sacrificial rituals in the divine service. But even if the people couldn’t be at the sanctuary, by their rest from work to enjoy God’s Word and how He provides, they were involved in the divine service and, thus, benefited from it. 2. What does the Feast of Weeks celebrate? It was a harvest festival, and it celebrated God’s provision for His people. It acknowledged the reality that their land belonged to the Lord, the creator and sustainer of all things. And what came off of it, too, belonged to him. (Leviticus 23:17, 20). He provided it. But this festival especially focused on God’s provision for the priests at the sanctuary, as well as the poor and foreigner. For just as God provided bread to the priests through the grain offering (Leviticus 23:20), He likewise gave food to the poor and foreigner by gleanings of the harvest (Leviticus 23:22). 3. How did the Israelites benefit from this feast? The Israelites benefited from the feast ritually. They were to refrain from work and rest. At the same time, they were to enjoy the proclamation of the Lord’s Word. This was God’s work on them through the divine service that the priests enacted on their behalf (Leviticus 23:22). 4. Read Colossians 2:16–17. What does it mean that Jesus is substance of the festivals or Sabbaths? By His observance of the Israelite liturgical calendar, Jesus not only fulfills them. He transforms them, for He is the substance of them. Everything that God promised His people by observing these feasts, He gives in full measure through Jesus. Since Jesus is the Word of God made flesh to meet and dwell with His people, He is the fullest enactment of God’s Word. He embodies them. 5. Read Acts 2:1–42. How is the Feast of Weeks most fully enacted in the New Testament? On Pentecost, God does not pour out on His people the blessings of a bountiful harvest. Rather, he pours out upon them the blessing of the first-fruits of the dead, the giving of the promised Holy Spirit (Romans 8:23; 1 Corinthians 15:23; 2 Corinthians 5:5; James 1:18). Thus even the foreigner and the
poor heard God’s proclamation (Acts 2:11–12). Even those who were far off were blessed (Acts 2:39). They heard God’s Word enacted in the man Jesus, the Word made flesh. And that Spirit-filled Word acted upon their hearts to receive the Holy Spirit. 6. Do we still celebrate the Feast of Weeks? Read the Third Commandment and its meaning in the Small Catechism. Just like the people of Israel, we observe the Feast of Weeks by resting from our work to enjoy the proclamation of God’s Word. His Word is a word done to us and for us. It is enacted upon us and for us in Holy Baptism, Holy Absolution, Holy Supper, for in these we receive the forgiveness of sin, life, and salvation.
“FEASTING WITH OUR LORD: THE FEAST OF WEEKS” A HIGHER THINGS MAGAZINE BIBLE STUDY 1. Read Leviticus 23. Why did God establish the Feasts?
2. What does the Feast of Weeks celebrate?
3. How did the Israelites benefit from this feast?
4. Read Colossians 2:16–17. What does it mean that Jesus is substance of the festivals or Sabbaths?
5. Read Acts 2:1–42. How is the Feast of Weeks most fully enacted in the New Testament?
6. Do we still celebrate the Feast of Weeks?
"THE HANDIWORK OF GOD: FOUNDATIONS" A HIGHER THINGS MAGAZINE BIBLE STUDY 1. Take a few minutes to read through Psalm 139. According to David, what are some of the ways we see God is with us? There are a myriad of phrases David uses to illustrate this. What they all have in common is God's minute-by-minute involvement in the lives of His children. No matter where we are He is there with us. That is meant to be a comfort at all times,, but particularly when we are going through the most difficult trials. And God is not merely "there," He is ACTIVELY present and has been since before each of us was born. 2. What is the basis of value in life? How does Paul describe life as created via Christ in Colossians 1:16-17? Follow this up with reading Philippians 2:1-7. How does this passage demonstrate how valuable we humans are to God? Christ is the Creator of all things and all things were created FOR Him. Therefore, that is where our value lies: We are His creation. In Philippians 2, St. Paul reminds us about the Son's willingness to take on human flesh in order to save us. He the God of the universe who chose to come amongst His creation. 3. Many times in the Gospels we see Jesus referring to Himself as the Good Shepherd. Explain how John 10:7-18 shows us that as His sheep we are valuable to Him. So after taking on human flesh, Jesus makes His purpose clear during His ministry...to redeem us and give us life. In likening Himself to a shepherd, Jesus explains very clearly how much He values and cares for us and He has done so willingly. Jesus sees us as worth the dear cost of His life. Surely we are God's treasure on account of Christ! 4. Dr. Lamb highlights Isaiah 42:6a. Read through Isaiah 41:10, Psalm 73:21-26 and John 10:28-29. What similar assurance do we find in all three passages? God says He is the one who holds our hand. He will be by our side to sustain us and strengthen us. He is our portion. Once we are His, no one can take us from Him. Jesus cares for His sheep. We can be confident and believe what He says because He is the one who paid the price by dying on the cross for our sins. He put His money where His mouth is. That is why we know we have true value.
"THE HANDIWORK OF GOD: FOUNDATIONS" A HIGHER THINGS MAGAZINE BIBLE STUDY 1. Take a few minutes to read through Psalm 139. According to David, what are some of the ways we see God is with us?
2. What is the basis of value in life? How does Paul describe life as created via Christ in Colossians 1:16-17? Follow this up with reading Philippians 2:1-7. How does this passage demonstrate how valuable we humans are to God?
3. Many times in the Gospels we see Jesus referring to Himself as the Good Shepherd. Explain how John 10:7-18 shows us that as His sheep we are valuable to Him.
4. Dr. Lamb highlights Isaiah 42:6a. Read through Isaiah 41:10, Psalm 73:21-26 and John 10:28-29. What similar assurance do we find in all three passages?
“GOING TO HELL WITH JESUS” A HIGHER THINGS MAGAZINE BIBLE STUDY 1. What does Jesus say about our salvation in John 19:30? What does this tell us His descent into Hell is NOT about? Jesus' work of salvation is finished on Calvary. He says, “It is finished.” This means that whatever else His descent into Hell is about, it is NOT that He had to suffer some more. When Christ goes to hell, it is entirely a descent of triumph and a declaration of the Devil's defeat. 2. Read 1 Peter 3:18-22. Did Christ's descent occur before or after He accomplished our salvation? For what purpose did He descend into hell? What connection is made to the Flood? What is true now that Jesus is at the right hand of the Father? Peter is clear that Christ's descent took place after His suffering (confirming Jesus' Words above). Again, the purpose of this descent is not some more suffering but to declare to the Devil and the wicked that their evil has been overturned. The wicked generation of Noah is mentioned with a connection to Baptism. As Pr. Kumm points out in his article, our Baptism into Christ means that His descent is our descent; we would never have to go to Hell because Jesus has done even that for us. Baptism is our promise from God that our consciences are clean; we will not go to hell for our sins! Now that Jesus has ascended, He has all things under His authority, even the powers of hell. We should be comforted by the fact that no matter what the Devil tries to do, He cannot overcome Christ! 3. Read Colossians 2:13-15. How has Christ triumphed over the evil one? Christ took the accusation of the Law that was against us and nailed it to the cross and paid the price by His blood. In doing so, He robbed the Devil of any power to accuse us or harm us. Therefore, between Good Friday and Easter (which is presumably when the Descent took place) the Lord is delivering a proclamation of triumph. The cross and its bestowal upon us in Baptism and Absolution is the sign that Satan's power really is overturned and he cannot harm God's people. An important application is when the consciences of our young people are troubled by their sins. They need to know that those accusations are false; their sins have been taken care of in Christ! 4. This victory over the Devil is still thrown in his face every day. When does this victory of Christ get proclaimed to the Devil? See Luke 10:1, 17-20. This victory of Christ is proclaimed whenever and wherever the Gospel is preached. When Jesus says He saw Satan fall like lightning, He is referring to the preaching of His disciples which drives Satan away. Satan knows he is defeated and so he tries to take us with him. Yet the preaching of repentance
and forgiveness in Jesus' name drives him away, steals his power, and denies him the ability to accuse us because of our sins. Just as Christ proclaimed His victory in the Devil's face in His descent into Hell, so the preaching of Christ continually casts down the Devil by that same victory of Christ. 5. Read Revelation 12:12. Why is Satan so enraged? But what is his fate? See Revelation 20:10. The Devil knows his time is short so he seeks to bring woe and misery to everyone he can. Christians know for certain that in Christ, Satan has been defeated and he will be done for, once and for all, on Judgment Day. Until then, we are not to fear his power but rejoice that Christ has already informed the Devil that he is done for and cannot harm those who are in Christ. 6. Read God's promise in Genesis 3:15. What is to happen to the Seed of the Woman? Where is this fulfilled? What happens to the serpent? Where is this fulfilled? The Seed of the Woman is Christ, born of Mary. The serpent will bruise His heel, that is, cause Him to suffer. One thinks of the nails in Jesus' feet as part of the fulfillment of these words. But the Savior will crush the serpent's head. This happens when Jesus pays the price for our sins on the cross and then descends to Hell to chain Satan and rob him of his power. It will be completely fulfilled on the Last Day when the Devil is cast away for all eternity into the Lake of Fire. 7. What part of the Catechism reminds us that in our daily lives Christ's victory and descent are His promise for our good? Recall the Third Petition of the Lord's Prayer, “Thy will be done,” the meaning of which says, “God's will is done when He breaks and hinders every evil plan and purpose of the devil, the world and our sinful nature, which do not want us to hallow God's name nor let His kingdom come; and when He strengthens and keeps us firm in His Word and faith until we die. This is His good and gracious will.” Christ's victory over Satan is confirmed by His Words in which he promises to protect us from the Evil One. We know He can do it because He has already descended and ended the devil's reign over us. Conclude the Bible Study by singing or praying LSB Hymn 539. (Note especially stanza 3!)
â€œGOING TO HELL WITH JESUSâ€? A HIGHER THINGS MAGAZINE BIBLE STUDY 1. What does Jesus say about our salvation in John 19:30? What does this tell us His descent into Hell is NOT about?
2. Read 1 Peter 3:18-22. Did Christ's descent occur before or after He accomplished our salvation? For what purpose did He descend into hell? What connection is made to the Flood? What is true now that Jesus is at the right hand of the Father?
3. Read Colossians 2:13-15. How has Christ triumphed over the evil one?
4. This victory over the Devil is still thrown in his face every day. When does this victory of Christ get proclaimed to the Devil? See Luke 10:1, 17-20.
5. Read Revelation 12:12. Why is Satan so enraged? But what is his fate? See Revelation 20:10.
6. Read God's promise in Genesis 3:15. What is to happen to the Seed of the Woman? Where is this fulfilled? What happens to the serpent? Where is this fulfilled?
7. What part of the Catechism reminds us that in our daily lives Christ's victory and descent are His promise for our good?
Conclude the Bible Study by singing or praying LSB Hymn 539. (Note especially stanza 3!)
The leader guide for this study, as well as all the other student Bible studies and guides for the articles in this magazine, can be found at http://higherthings.org/magazine/biblestudies.html.
“WHEN JEHOVAH’S WITNESSES COME KNOCKING” A HIGHER THINGS MAGAZINE BIBLE STUDY 1. Jehovah’s Witnesses say that Jesus is the Son of God but not “very God of very God.” How do we know that Jesus is true God? We know that Jesus is true God for three reasons. First, He is called God (Read John 1:1–2, 14–17; 20:28; Romans 9:5, and 1 John 5:20). Second, He does things only God can do (Read Matthew 9:6 and John 1:3). Third, He receives worship (Read Matthew 2:11; 14:33; 28:9; Luke 17:11–19; 24:52; John 9:38). 2. Jehovah’s Witnesses will say that Jesus paid a ransom for mankind, but that ransom is not a universal atonement for sin, however. Do the Scriptures support that? Read 2 Corinthians 5:14–21 and 1 John 2:1–2. No, in fact they say just the opposite. Jesus’ death on the cross, St. Paul says, is for all, “. . . one has died for all, therefore all have died and he died for all . . .” (2 Corinthians 5:14). Later, St. Paul says that through the death and resurrection of Jesus, God the Father reconciled the world to himself (2 Corinthians 5:19). Also, St. John wrote in his first letter that Jesus Christ “is the propitiation for our sins, an not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world” (1 John 2:2). Jesus’ death on the cross propitiates—atones for and satisfies—God’s wrath against not only our sin but the sin of the whole world. 3. When Jehovah’s Witnesses say that believe in the resurrection, they do not mean a bodily resurrection. Read John 5:28–29 and Job 19:25–27. What do the Scriptures teach about the resurrection of the body? In John’s Gospel, Jesus says that there is a time coming when “all who are in the tombs will . . . come out” (John 5:28–29). Jesus does not say that all those who are dead will arise in an abstract way. He says, in a very concrete and tangible way, that all those in the tomb will come out. What’s in a tomb, but a concrete, tangible dead body? Our Lord, thus, does not leave room for interpretation. He clearly says that there will be a bodily resurrection. Job also leaves no room for doubt. He says, that even after his skin has been destroyed in death’s decay, “yet in my flesh I shall see God” (Job 19:26). Job knows that when he and all the dead are raised, he will see God, not as a disembodied spirit, but with his very own eyes, in his very own flesh. 4. Read 1 Peter 3:15. What are the reasons for the hope that is within you?
Remember the Creed! The Apostles’ Creed, as well as its meaning in the Small Catechism, is a perfect summary of biblical Christianity. It highlights the essential Christian beliefs. It also gives a way to help you discern whether someone is using a word or term in the same way you are. For example, when speaking with a Jehovah’s Witness about Jesus as the Son of God, consider whether they understand that as “true God, begotten of the Father from eternity, and also true man, born of the virgin Mary . . . .” (What are some other examples of how you can use the Apostles’ Creed and the Small Catechism to defend what you believe from the Scriptures?) Learn it by heart so that you can use it as a way to help you give the reasons for the hope within.
“WHEN JEHOVAH’S WITNESSES COME KNOCKING” A HIGHER THINGS MAGAZINE BIBLE STUDY 1. Jehovah’s Witnesses say that Jesus is the Son of God but not “very God of very God.” How do we know that Jesus is true God?
2. Jehovah’s Witnesses will say that Jesus paid a ransom for mankind, but that ransom is not a universal atonement for sin, however. Do the Scriptures support that? Read 2 Corinthians 5:14–21 and 1 John 2:1–2.
3. When Jehovah’s Witnesses say that believe in the resurrection, they do not mean a bodily resurrection. Read John 5:28–29 and Job 19:25–27. What do the Scriptures teach about the resurrection of the body?
4. Read 1 Peter 3:15. What are the reasons for the hope that is within you? www.higherthings.org
“OUT OF MANY, ONE IN CHRIST” A HIGHER THINGS BIBLE STUDY 1. Where do the various ethnic backgrounds and languages come from? Read Genesis 11:1-9. How do these various cultures remind us of God's curse on the earth? The confusion of languages at Babel was the Lord's direct punishment for those who tried to make a name for themselves and to climb to heaven. The fact that cultures and races all around the world have constantly fought one another and even today continue to clash, is a reminder that the world is under the curse of sin. This does NOT mean that one culture is better than another. However, sin supposes that each culture will consider itself better than another. 2. In the Old Testament, God chose the people of Israel to be His chosen people. What are the reasons He chose them and what are reasons He did NOT choose them. For the answer, read Deuteronomy 7:6-7. Here is a reminder that those whom God chooses are not chosen in the way the world chooses. It was because of God's Promise that the Lord made the Israelites His people. They were not bigger or better than the peoples around them. But they did have something: the Promise of God which He did not break. 3. If the Israelites were the chosen people, does that make them better than others? What about other nations and tribes? See Exodus 12:48. The Lord made it clear that anyone was welcome to eat the Passover, provided they were circumcised, that is, had become a part of Israel. There are numerous passages in the Old Testament which show how “foreigners” were connected by the Lord to His own people. Rahab the harlot is an example in Joshua 2, as is the book of Ruth. You could even point out that those two “foreigners” ended up in Jesus' family tree! 4. Even though Israel was the Lord's chosen people, for whom were they to be a light? See Isaiah 49:6. This passage, which refers directly to the Messiah, teaches us that the Lord's purpose for having a special people was to bring into the world the Savior for all people.
5. How is the passage from Isaiah fulfilled? Read Luke 2:25-32. Isaiah's prophecy is fulfilled by Christ who is the glory of Israel and the Light to the Gentiles. Simeon, a faithful Israelite, confesses the truth that the Savior whom he held in his arms is the Savior, not only of Israel, but of all people. 6. Read Acts 2:1-17. What does it mean that the Gospel was heard in all those different languages at once? Here is the reversal of the curse of the Law at Babel. Now, the Gospel, the forgiveness of sins in Jesus' name, is delivered to all nations. It doesn't matter what language you speak. You might give the example that even today a good Jewish child will have to learn some Hebrew for their bar/bat-mitzvah. True Muslims will learn the Koran in Arabic. Not so with the Gospel. It is present in just about every language (even Klingon) and where it isn't, people are hard at work translating the Scriptures. The point is that in Christ, races and tribes and languages don't matter. What matters is, as Pastor Gaugert points out in his article, that it is faith and Christ that make us Christians regardless of our skin color or country of origin. 7. Read Revelation 7:1-17. Who stands around the throne? What races and nations are there? What does this tell us about Christ's church? There are people from every race, tribe and language around the Lamb's throne. What unites them all is that they are in Christ. These verses are a great reminder that the Gospel is (and always has been) for all people. The things that divide us in this world are overcome in Christ because we all have the same need: the forgiveness of our sins. This Christ gives to all people where the Gospel is preached, whether it's in our neighborhoods made up of many different people or around the world in different countries. 8. Who is it that brings people into the church and makes them Christian? Why is this a comfort to us when we see many different races and cultures? It is the Holy Spirit who “calls, gathers and enlightens us.” This means the burden for growing the church is on the Holy Spirit, not on our pastors or us. When our pastors preach faithfully and we give witness to Christ by our words and deeds, the Holy Spirit will bring into the church whomever He will. We need not be pressured to make the church look a certain color. Rather, we are to rejoice that the Lord brings all sorts of people into the church—even us!
â€œOUT OF MANY, ONE IN CHRISTâ€? A HIGHER THINGS BIBLE STUDY 1. Where do the various ethnic backgrounds and languages come from? Read Genesis 11:1-9. How do these various cultures remind us of God's curse on the earth?
2. In the Old Testament, God chose the people of Israel to be His chosen people. What are the reasons He chose them and what are reasons He did NOT choose them. For the answer, read Deuteronomy 7:6-7.
3. If the Israelites were the chosen people, does that make them better than others? What about other nations and tribes? See Exodus 12:48.
4. Even though Israel was the Lord's chosen people, for whom were they to be a light? See Isaiah 49:6.
5. How is the passage from Isaiah fulfilled? Read Luke 2:25-32.
6. Read Acts 2:1-17. What does it mean that the Gospel was heard in all those different languages at once?
7. Read Revelation 7:1-17. Who stands around the throne? What races and nations are there? What does this tell us about Christ's church?
8. Who is it that brings people into the church and makes them Christian? Why is this a comfort to us when we see many different races and cultures?
"CAN MODERN RATIONAL ADULTS BELIEVE IN MIRACLES?" A HIGHER THINGS MAGAZINE BIBLE STUDY 1. Read 2 Kings 5:1-14. Why did Naaman go away angry at the simple words of the prophet? Naaman wanted a spectacular show. He wanted the prophet to do something wonderful. He got nothing but the dirty Jordan and not even an appearance from the prophet. What sort of miracle is this? The leader will want to discuss how God works in the world and how easy it is to be distracted away from His work and miracles. God works in the ordinary, simply, mundane things of this world. He works wherever His word is attached. His word does what it promises. That is a miracle. 2. What is the purpose of the New Testament miracles? Often the miracles of Jesus had a purpose beyond what was seen with the eye. The miracle of the feeding of the five thousand (John 6) led to teaching about the true Bread of Life that has come down from heaven. The healings on the Sabbath (Mark 2) taught about the Lord of the Sabbath. The healing of the boy born blind (John 9) showed that true sight (faith) is had, apart from the flesh. Many of the healing miracles served the purpose of fulfilling to prophecies of old, especially Isaiah's. The miracles were signs that the Messiah had arrived. 3. How were miracles received by the New Testament audience? Seeing is not believing. The miracles did not cause faith, in fact, sometimes they hardened hearts and caused people more doubt. Read Hebrews 11:1. What does it teach us about miracles and faith? 4. Is God working miracles today? Naaman wanted a show and got nothing. The NT miracles did not create faith. So what about miracles today? I have often heard people say, â€œPastor, I would believe if only God would do a miracle. I would believe if God would just give me a sign (miracle).â€? The truth is, no you would not.
God is working miracles today. We simply are looking for the wrong thing. God is still working in simply, humble, ordinary ways. He is working miracles with His word. Baptism is a miracle. Nothing spectacular. Ordinary word, simple words, a funny dressed pastor. But there God is working faith, a true miracle. God is working miracles in holy absolution, in the declaration that our sins are forgiven, that they are as far as the east is from the west. God is working a miracle in taking ordinary bread and wine and making it His body and blood. Talk about the sacraments of the church and how they look and what they do. Remember the Luther quote, “The sacraments and all the external things ordained and instituted by God should be regarded not according to the gross, external mask (as we see the shell of a nut) but as that in which God’s Word is enclosed.” (LC IV 19). 5. What do we say to those who are demanding miracles? Read 1 Corinthians 1:22-24. Seek God where He is to be found. He is doing glorious things.
"CAN MODERN RATIONAL ADULTS BELIEVE IN MIRACLES?" A HIGHER THINGS MAGAZINE BIBLE STUDY 1. Read 2 Kings 5:1-14. Why did Naaman go away angry at the simple words of the prophet?
2. What is the purpose of the New Testament miracles?
3. How were miracles received by the New Testament audience?
4. Is God working miracles today?
5. What do we say to those who are demanding miracles? Read 1 Corinthians 1:22-24.
"(NOT SO NEW) AGE" A HIGHER THINGS MAGAZINE BIBLE STUDY 1. Upon what does the church base her teaching? Read and discuss Luke 24:27, John 20:31, 1 John 1:1. The church is often accused of strange and bizarre teachings and practices. However, the church believes the truth of God is only revealed in the Bible through the Old Testament, which promises the coming of the Savior, and the New Testament, which tells of the Savior who has come. The church can and should be judged upon the Word of God. If something sounds strange, ask where it has come from. The leader might also want to ask where people believe the truth about God comes from today. Many will say it is their own experience and belief in a god, which makes it real or believable. Sinful mankind will always make himself or herself god, or a god created to his/her liking and image (1st commandment). God has spoken to us externally, from outside us, in the Word of Holy Scripture. 2. What is the attraction of a religion that teaches it is all about what â€œone doesâ€?? The sinful flesh, suffering under the law, wants to know what to do and not to do in order to be saved. Give me a list and I will keep it. The leader will want to discuss to appeal of the law. Making us feel good, or at least, better than others. Remember the rich young ruler (read Mark 10:17-22) who wanted to know what he had to do? The Lord reminded him that he could do nothing. The wages of sin is death. The curse of the law is too great. The pure gospel is foreign to us and it does not set well with us. God is blatantly unfair. He is no respecter of persons. He gives his gifts lavishly and without measure. Christianity is acknowledging that we can do nothing, we are not good, we are not holy. Christ is everything. He has kept the law and gives us His own righteousness, innocence, and blessedness. This is not because we deserve it but because He is merciful and abounding in steadfast love.
3. Why is it important to share the pure gospel with scientologists? We must speak the truth in â€œloveâ€? (read 1 John 1). All need to be led to repentance so that we can preach Christ and Him crucified, dispelling all the darkness of the liar. Scientologists need the gospel of Christ, the forgiveness of sin, and the eternal life that come only in Him. As with anyone, we may be best heard if our words come from love and concern for our neighbor. Your group might want to share how they have opportunity to share the gospel in their various vocations. Where and how is God using you?
"(NOT SO NEW) AGE" A HIGHER THINGS MAGAZINE BIBLE STUDY 1. Upon what does the church base her teaching? Read and discuss Luke 24:27, John 20:31, 1 John 1:1.
2. What is the attraction of a religion that teaches it is all about what “one does”?
3. Why is it important to share the pure gospel with scientologists?
"PRAYER ON THE FLY" A HIGHER THINGS MAGAZINE BIBLE STUDY Lutherans are great when it comes to talking about prayer and writing bible studies about prayer. Following Pastor Cwirla's lead in the article . . . how about we actually get to it. Lutheran Service Book provides us a wealth of resources to help us in our daily prayer life. Check out pages 294-298. Here you will find four simple outlines for praying alone, with family, or a small group. Page 294 even helps fill in some of the service details and most importantly includes a daily pattern of remembering “others and ourselves.” Hymns can be chosen to follow the season of the church year, bible readings are suggested, and reading through the six chief parts of the catechism so that they become a prayer book of the faith is always useful. When it comes time for the prayers, follow the simple outline: address, basis, petition, desired outcome, conclusion. And remember, if you are ever finding it difficult to pray, lacking the right words, well the Lord Jesus has given us the greatest prayer ever, and it covers everything under the sun. “Our Father . . .”
A HIGHER THINGS BIBLE STUDY “THEOLOGY AND THE SIMPSONS” LEADER'S GUIDE 1. In The Simpsons Movie, there is a scene where there is a bunch of trouble taking place at church. Homer flips through the Bible and groans, “Ooooh...this book doesn't have any answers!” What view of the Bible does Homer (and many people) have? What does 2 Timothy 3:15-17 say about the purpose of the Bible? Homer, like most people, supposes that the Bible is a book about answers for the everyday problems of life. The Scriptures are, for many people, a book to tell you what to do in a certain situation or how to fix something that's wrong. While the Law partly serves that purpose in telling us how to live, the main purpose of the Scriptures is to “make us wise unto salvation.” That is, the Bible is about Jesus and how He is the Son of God in the flesh, sent to save sinners. The Bible is read the wrong way when it is a book of rules rather than the Book which delivers our Savior to us. 2. Much of the religion portrayed in shows like The Simpsons is funnily yet accurately individualistic, or as the author points out, “bottom up.” That is, it tries to figure out God from our experiences rather than learning from God's Word. What does St. Paul tell us about how the faith comes to us in Romans 10:6-8? Popular religions start with some ideas about God and then these grow based on the thinking and experiences of the individual. In this way, all other religion involves people trying to figure out God. Paul is clear that we don't figure God out (ascend) or drag God up to be what we want (bring Him up). Rather, the Word is near us. He is near in the flesh and it is there in the Scriptures which our pastors preach. It is God's Word that tells us who He is and what He has done for us. 3. What is the answer to the idea that we can “basically be good” and get to heaven? See Galatians 3:21-14. Clearly the Law teaches us how to live and condemns us when we do not keep it. However, it was not given so that we could try to keep it and thereby be justified in God's sight. Rather, the purpose of the Law is to show us that we are sinners who need to be saved. The Law's purpose is to teach us that we can't trust in ourselves or our good works. By doing so, it points us to our need for a Savior, who is delivered in the preaching of the Gospel.
4. The question is raised in the article as to whether watching The Simpsons is bad for your faith. Read Romans 12:2. How would this verse answer the question? The author of the articles says that “discernment” is called for. That means being able to tell what is true and what is false. It is pretty clear that while many TV shows have lots of religion in them, none really portrays faith in Christ as the point of the religion but rather a works-righteousness religion. Here encourage the students to make the distinction between the true religion which is centered in Christ crucified and risen and life by the Word and Sacraments, and the false religions they see on TV. We should be clear in our minds that whatever is not about Christ is some other religion or portrayal that we need not take seriously. 5. Often The Simpsons and other programs make fun of God and Jesus in particular. Many Christians get worked up about what they perceive to be insults to their Lord. How should we react? See Matthew 12:31-32. Jesus makes it clear that since the world does not know Him, it is going to hate Him and make fun of Him. When we see this happen, Jesus' words remind us that we need not get all worked up over it. Our Lord certainly doesn't need us to defend Him! To sin against the Holy Spirit means to deny Christ and faith. As Christians who take Christ's Words seriously we on the one hand don't want to encourage others to misuse Christ's name. On the other hand, we needn't go too far the other way, assuming God's name is only holy if we make it so. 6. While we might be entertained by a funny show like The Simpsons, where does the Psalmist teach us to find our highest joy? See Psalm 26:8. The house of the Lord is where His glory dwells. In church, where the Gospel and Sacraments are delivered is where our true joy is to be found. TV shows reflect the culture and society we live in. The church reflects the culture and society we are a part of for all eternity: the family of God. 7. Discuss favorite shows of the youth and how these programs portray religion. What is the point of the religion? Is there ever any mention of Christ? What are the most common views of religion in today's movies and TV shows? Answers will vary but the general idea of religion in movies and TV is one of “being good.” Often shows like to point out the apparent hypocrisy in religion. It's a good time to point out to the youth that being a Christian isn't about "not sinning" but rather it's about being forgiven for our sins.
A HIGHER THINGS BIBLE STUDY “THEOLOGY AND THE SIMPSONS” LEADER'S GUIDE 1. In The Simpsons Movie, there is a scene where there is a bunch of trouble taking place at church. Homer flips through the Bible and groans, “Ooooh...this book doesn't have any answers!” What view of the Bible does Homer (and many people) have? What does 2 Timothy 3:15-17 say about the purpose of the Bible?
2. Much of the religion portrayed in shows like The Simpsons is funnily yet accurately individualistic, or as the author points out, “bottom up.” That is, it tries to figure out God from our experiences rather than learning from God's Word. What does St. Paul tell us about how the faith comes to us in Romans 10:6-8?
3. What is the answer to the idea that we can “basically be good” and get to heaven? See Galatians 3:21-14.
4. The question is raised in the article as to whether watching The Simpsons is bad for your faith. Read Romans 12:2. How would this verse answer the question?
5. Often The Simpsons and other programs make fun of God and Jesus in particular. Many Christians get worked up about what they perceive to be insults to their Lord. How should we react? See Matthew 12:31-32.
6. While we might be entertained by a funny show like The Simpsons, where does the Psalmist teach us to find our highest joy? See Psalm 26:8.
7. Discuss favorite shows of the youth and how these programs portray religion. What is the point of the religion? Is there ever any mention of Christ? What are the most common views of religion in today's movies and TV shows?
“WHY DO PASTORS WEAR VESTMENTS?” A HIGHER THINGS MAGAZINE BIBLE STUDY 1. Read Leviticus 8:1–36. What do we learn about the priests' vestments? The investiture of the priests with their vestments is part of the larger ordination rite. In the priestly ordination rite, the Lord through Moses is consecrating Aaron and his sons to serve as the Lord’s priests in His Tabernacle. As part of that rite, they were given certain clothes to wear. These vestments were not only marks of the priest’s office with all of its responsibilities, status, authority, and power. They also gave the office and empowered the priests to do the duties of it. Also, they were only allowed to do their priestly duties in their vestments. They were a requirement. 2. How are the pastor’s vestments similar to and different from vestments of the Old Testament priests? (1 Tim 4:14). The vestments that pastors wear are not like those of the priests in that they do not confer the office. That happens through the Word of God, prayer, and the laying on of hands. Neither are pastors required to where them, although they are beneficial. But the pastor’s vestments are like those of the priests because they mark those who have been placed into the office of the pastor. They mark the one through whom the Lord is distributing the gifts of His cross. They mark the man but do not highlight him. It’s about the office and its responsibilities and authority. Thus we know that when we see a pastor vested, he speaks not his own words but the very Word of God. He speaks in the stead and by the command of Jesus to condemn and forgive, to chasten and heal, to kill and make alive. 3. Why are pastor’s vestments different than those of the Old Testament priests? The two are different because the office of the pastor is not the fulfillment of the office of the priests. Christ fulfilled the office of the priest (Hebrews 2:17; 3:1; 4:14–15; 5:5; 6:20; 7:26; 8:1; 9:7–11). He was anointed by the Holy Spirit in His baptism in the Jordan (Acts 10:38). By His sacrificial death on the cross, He consecrated Himself priest (John 17:19). God the Father made Him eternal priest in the order of Melchizedek, not Levi (Hebrews 5:1–10; 7:1–28) to serve not in the earthly sanctuary but the heavenly one (Hebrews 8:1–2; 9:11–12; 10:19–21) as our intercessor (Hebrews 7:25) and mediator (Hebrews 12:24). 4. Read Matthew 28:18–20 and John 20:21–23. How do we know that the pastor speaks in the stead and by the command of Jesus?
At the end of the Gospels, Jesus establishes how he is going to give out what he achieved on the cross: the forgiveness of sins, life, and salvation. At the end of the Gospel of Matthew, we learn the through the office given to the apostles, Jesus will be with them. Jesus promises to be with the office of the pastor to forgive sins, give life, and grant salvation always until the end of time. The Gospel of John elaborates on this. Jesus sends the apostles with His Spirit to forgive sins, as the Father sent Him to do so. Only God can forgive sins (Mark 2:7). They forgive and retain sin, therefore, not by their own authority but in the stead of Jesus by His Spirit as sent from the Father.
“WHY DO PASTORS WEAR VESTMENTS?” A HIGHER THINGS MAGAZINE BIBLE STUDY
1. Read Leviticus 8:1–36. What do we learn about the priests' vestments?
2. How are the pastor’s vestments similar to and different from vestments of the Old Testament priests? (1 Tim 4:14).
3. Why are pastor’s vestments different than those of the Old Testament priests?
4. Read Matthew 28:18–20 and John 20:21–23. How do we know that the pastor speaks in the stead and by the command of Jesus?