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• They Testify of Christ • Your Church is Too Sexy • The Mark of a False Teacher •

Merry Christmas from Above higherthings

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Contents T A B L E O F

Volume 13/Number 4 • Winter 2013

Special Features

4 Merry Christmas From Above

By Rev. George F. Borghardt Delve right into the spirit of Christmas as we recapture the magic of Rev. Borghardt’s impassioned, Christ-laden Gospel message from the Higher Things 2013 conferences.

6 They Testify of Christ

By Rev. Mark Buetow From Genesis to Malachi, Jesus is on every page of the Old Testament Scriptures. Rev. Buetow takes us on a tip-of-theiceberg tour through the OT, demonstrating how it points to the promise of the Messiah to come.

8 Your Church is Too Sexy: Why Church Architecture Matters

By Chad Bird Think there’s a disconnect between theology and architecture? Chad Bird artfully presents just how intertwined they actually are and why this is so important when understanding the doctrines that undergird worship.

10 The Mark of a False Prophet: They Draw Away Disciples After Themselves

By Chris Rosebrough There are so many messages being sent out on blogs, twitter, radio airwaves, TV channels from preachers of every stripe... how do we know whom we can trust? What distinguishes a false prophet, or a wolf from a faithful preacher? Chris Rosebrough deals with this subject on a regular basis on his radio program and shares his insight with us.

12 Know-Nothing Know-It-Alls? The Curious Case of Agnosticism By Rev. Mark Pierson It’s one thing to deny there is a God. It’s another thing altogether to operate as if you cannot know if there is a God. Far from being “atheismlite,” agnosticism offers its own set of challenges. Rev. Pierson sheds some light on this lesser known belief system.

22 The Church Year and the Liturgy

By Dr. Jon Eifert Not only is our divine service liturgy filled with Scripture, it also sets the scene for God to give us His wonderful gifts of Baptism and the Lord’s Supper, which Dr. Eifert explains as he lays out the cool connection between this same liturgy and our Church Year.

24 Ambition: Should a Christian Seek Success?

By Rev. James Hageman Rev. Hageman encourages us to take the talents God has given us and use them to the best of our ability for His glory. Such ambition, he says, is not contrary to the Christian life.

Regular Features 14 Poetry Page

20 Christ on Campus Christendom on Campus

By Bethany Lange No matter where you go to college or end up going, there will probably come a time when the views of your professor are diametrically opposed to the values of your Christian faith. Bethany Lange offers up her experience and advice on how to deal with these sorts of situations.

28 Catechism The Table of Duties: Parents and Children

By Rev. William M. Cwirla We live in a day when the roles of parents and children in the home are being blurred or sometimes even obliterated. As always, Rev. Cwirla provides an excellent walk through this area in Luther’s Small Catechism, which will equip you in the faith, whether you are a child, a parent or both.

30 Bible Study They Testify of Christ

Be sure to check out this sample of one of our student Bible studies which links up with Rev. Buetow’s article on P. 6.

HigherThings

®

Volume 13/Number 4/Winter 2013 Bible Studies for these articles can be found at: higherthings.org/ magazine/biblestudies.html Editor

Katie Hill Art Director

Steve Blakey Editorial Associates

Rev. Greg Alms Rev. Paul Beisel Rev. Bart Day Copy Editors

Lu Fischer Dana Niemi Bible Study Authors

Rev. Mark Buetow Rev. Sam Schuldheisz Rev. John Drosendahl Subscriptions Manager

Elizabeth Carlson IT Assistant

Jon Kohlmeier ___________

Board of Directors President

Rev. George Borghardt Vice-President

Rev. Dr. Carl Fickenscher Treasurer

Chris Loemker Secretary

Rev. Joel Fritsche Rev. William M. Cwirla Rev. Brent Kuhlman Sue Pellegrini Matt Phillips Chris Rosebrough ___________

Executive Council Deputy Executive/Media

Rev. Mark Buetow Conference and Retreats Executive

Sandra Ostapowich Business Executive

Connie Brammeier Technology Executive

Stan Lemon

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 2013. 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 1-888-4826630, then press 4, or e-mail subscriptions@higherthings.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: submissions@ higherthings.org. Please check higherthings.org/magazine/ writers.html for writers’ guidelines and theme lists.

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Merry Christmas from Above! By Rev. George F. Borghardt

M

erry Christmas! In the Name of Jesus. Amen. Oh yes, Merry Christmas! Say it to me! Merry Christmas! Say it to those around you. Merry Christmas! “O Come All Ye Faithful” to hear some “Angels We Have Heard on High.”“Joy to the World the Lord has come” into “the little town of Bethlehem.” You see, there’s no FROM ABOVE without our Lord Jesus coming to you “from above.” And that first “from above” is all Christmasy! For Christmas is the celebration that Jesus is God of God, Light of Light, very God of very God, begotten, not made, being of one substance with the Father, by whom all things were made;” (Nicene Creed)

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The eternal Word was with God in the beginning and is the One through whom all things were made… for us men and for our salvation came down from heaven and was incarnate by the Holy Spirit of the virgin Mary and was made man.” (Nicene Creed) In the Virgin’s arms, wrapped in swaddling clothes is God Himself. God Incarnate! Like chili con carne is “chili with meat.”“Incarnate” means “became meat, became flesh.” God is in our flesh to save us. He’s in our flesh. The Word became flesh and dwelt, literally “tabernacled,” among us and not just in a tent like He did in the Old Testament where He was delivering blood-sprinkled forgiveness to us veiled and hidden behind a curtain, lest His glory do us in. But, since Christmas, God has “from-aboved” to us. He dwells with sinners now! With even you and me whose hearts are all “two sizes too small!” He tabernacles with us! We beheld His glory in the flesh and blood of the man, Jesus. Now all the rules of how the God-who-was-up-there are off! For since God in Christ has taken on your flesh, God has fingers like you. Ten piggies like you. He has a heart that beats fast when He’s excited. He hungers and thirsts. He has dirty diapers. He spits! God spits!


He gets cold. He even gets frosty like you do. And yes, crying He makes... And on Good Friday, we beat God up, we mocked, spit upon Him and stripped Him naked, we drove nails into His hands and feet and lifted Him up from the earth. Then, the God whose job description says “cannot die” did just that. God breathed His last. We then pierced Him with a spear through His side into His no-more-beating heart to make sure we’d properly killed Him. Nails, spear shall pierce Him through, The cross be borne for me, for you; Hail, hail the Word made flesh, The babe, the son of Mary! (LSB 370, 2) Behold God for you—come “from above” to be crucified for you under Pontius Pilate. He trades for you the wood of the manger for the wood of the cross. The swaddling clothes are traded for burial clothes and the warmth of the Blessed Virgin’s arms for the loneliness of the grave. Now He showers His Christmas gifts on you and into you in the water and blood flowing from His pierced side. You could live as if Christmas never happened. As if Christ hasn’t taken on your flesh, as if you are on God’s “naughty” list. As if you have got to be good for goodness sake for God to call you His child. You can “let your sins and sorrows grow and let thorns infest the ground” of your life. You can snatch and grab what you can while and act like the people trying to grab the last gift on a shelf on Christmas Eve. You could be hateful, so grinchy with yourself and those whom you love. You could live “from below” in your sins, clutching hold of them as if you’ll die without them. No Christmas cheer then! You will die in your sins. And God will give you what you want: a life without

Jesus—full of coal in your stocking and the dirt of the grave and the fires of hell. But, faith! Faith receives, faith believes, that God on Christmas came “from above” and changed everything for this world and so also for you. For in His incarnation, Jesus has become all that you are and all that is you to redeem all that you are and all that is you with His holy life and His Good Friday and Easter. What you suffer, He suffered. The hurt and aches that hurt and ache you, hurt and ached Him first: the heartbreak, failures, betrayal, abandonment, loneliness, joy, stress, temptation, sicknesses, pain, even death itself. He experienced it all. He took it into the grave with Him and left it there. He rose. You rose with Him. God dwells with you. Near you. He’s washed down your forehead, making you as white as snow. His Body and Blood are put into your mouth to drive away all your bah humbugs. His Words deck the halls of your life with the forgiveness of all your sins. So cue the Angels! Wake the shepherds—and sleeping youth leaders! God is with sinners. He has come from above into our world to save us from our world. It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas. Merry Christmas! Say it to me. Merry Christmas! Say it to each other. Merry Christmas! In the name of Jesus! Amen. (This article has been adapted from a sermon preached by Rev. Borghardt at the three From Above conferences last summer.) Rev. George F. Borghardt is the president of Higher Things and serves as the senior pastor at Zion Ev. Lutheran Church in McHenry, Illinois.

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By Rev. Mark Buetow

Christ

They Testify of

O Come, O Come, Emmanuel...Thou Wisdom from on high...Thou Lord of Might... Thou Branch of Jesse’s tree...Thou Key of David...Thou Dayspring...Desire of nations.

n that familiar Advent hymn, “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel” (LSB 357), we see the hope and heart of the Old Testament. What is the Old Testament about? It’s about Jesus: Genesis with its stories of the creation and the family of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob; Exodus and the Red Sea; the Law written on stone tablets; the Promised Land, Judges, King David, the prophets, all of it. From the very first promise of a Savior to Adam and Eve (“He will crush the serpent’s head!” Genesis 3:15) to the very closing pages of the last prophet (“Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet.” Malachi 4:5), the Old Testament is pointing to Jesus, for in it we see God’s repeated promise of a Savior who would be born of a woman, suffer and die for our sins and rise again.


A pastor was leading a Bible Study on the book of Judges. One of the people asked, “Why are we studying the Old Testament?” It’s as if now that Jesus has come, we don’t have to learn all of that stuff that happened back then. But the answer to that question is given by Jesus Himself, to His enemies and to His disciples. To the Jews, Jesus said, “You search the Scriptures, for in them you think you have eternal life; and these are they which testify of Me.” (John 5:39). After His resurrection, Jesus explains it to His disciples on the Emmaus road: “And beginning at Moses and all the Prophets, He expounded to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning Himself” (Luke 24:27). When we say that the Old Testament is about Jesus, we’re not just making that up. Jesus Himself tells us that! So why is this important? Everyone reads the Old Testament and gets different things out of it. Many so-called Christians read the Old Testament merely as examples of good or bad behavior. Others read it as the definitive treatise on everything, even though clearly the Bible doesn’t address every topic. A good example of this is trying to reconcile science and the Bible. The Bible is God’s Word but that does not make it a science textbook. The Bible was not written to refute the theory of evolution. Others read the Old Testament as a merely made-up record explaining how monotheistic (one God) religion developed. Some people read it only as great literature. Still others use the Old Testament as proof that religion is silly and false, pointing to a God who kills so many people and plays favorites with His chosen tribes. People can read the Old Testament and get pretty much whatever they want out of it; that’s because they’re reading it through the wrong lens. The Old Testament is about Jesus. It answers the question of where our sin comes from and what God is going to do about it. The Old Testament, when we read it as Christ teaches us and as the Spirit enlightens us, opens the eyes of faith to see a God who is a “right there” God—a God who shows up in certain places. And He doesn’t come just to kill but to give life. All of the appearances of God in the Old Testament, whether in burning bushes, or pillars of fire, the beautiful tabernacle or the preaching of the prophets, are teaching His people: God shows up where He says He is going to show up. And all of these lead up to God finally coming in the flesh, as a man, when Jesus is conceived in Mary’s womb and born into this world. Christmas is proof that God keeps His promises. Through all those centuries, the Lord remembered that sinners need saving and in “the fullness of time” (Galatians 4:4) He sent His Son to be born under the Law for us, to grow up and keep the Law for us, to suffer and die under the curse of the Law

for us, and to rise from the dead for us, too. We know the Scriptures are true because Jesus was alive on Easter. His tomb was empty. He did what He said He would do. And if what He said about that is true, then what He says about the Old Testament is true, too: It’s all about Him. Since the birth of Jesus on Christmas is the proof that God keeps His promises, there is something else to learn. We are reminded and taught that the church didn’t begin with us or our grandparents. It didn’t begin with Martin Luther. It didn’t even begin with Jesus and the Apostles. No, God’s people, our brothers and sisters who trusted in this promise, go all the way back to Adam and Eve. We believe in Jesus who died and rose. The people of the Old Testament believed in the Savior who was to come. Same Savior! They just didn’t know all the details. So the Lord continually reminded them and pointed them to this Savior who would arrive someday. They sang of Emmanuel (“God with us”) and the Branch of Jesse’s tree, that is, the one from King David’s line. They knew. The Spirit called, gathered, enlightened and sanctified them in Jesus, too, although they fell asleep before they could witness it. When you read the Old Testament, ask this question: “What is this telling me about Jesus? Where is Jesus in these verses?” Jesus didn’t just show up when He was born. The Son was always with His people. But now, in these last days, He has come in the flesh so that we can behold His face. Now, the promise is complete in Jesus. All that remains is for Him to come again and bring His saints of all times and places together into His everlasting paradise. The Old Testament is important because it’s about Jesus! This is why the church today still sings songs of the Old Testament in her liturgy. The words of the Psalms speak the voice of Jesus into our ears. And, in order that we understand what we hear in the New Testament, the Spirit teaches us the Old Testament, which is about Jesus. So rejoice, Israel! Rejoice, church! Rejoice, because Emmanuel was coming and has come and is still “God with us.” Jesus in the flesh is the Savior of sinners. He is the Savior of sinners back then, sinners right now, and sinners who haven’t even been born yet, because in the Old Testament, God made a promise, and He always keeps His promises. Jesus, born on Christmas, crucified and risen, is that promise kept for you. Merry Christmas and enjoy those Old Testament books about Jesus! Rev. Mark Buetow is pastor of Bethel Lutheran Church in DuQuoin, Illinois and serves as the deputy and media services executive for Higher Things. He can be reached at buetowmt@gmail.com.

Above: Detail of the “Emmanuel Altarpiece” by Edward Riojas, recently commissioned by Emmanuel Lutheran Church in Adell, Wisc. To order giclee prints of the altarpiece, contact the artist at eriojas@mlive.com or follow him on his Facebook page at Edward Riojas - Artist.

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Your Church Is Too

T

Sexy:

Why Church Architecture Matters

by Chad Bird

he chandelier is fashioned from fingers, toes, skulls, and a whole skeleton’s worth of other bones. There are chalices, candelabras, pillars, and other artwork, all forged from the remains of saints. In fact, over 40,000 people are crammed into this Sedlec Ossuary, a small church in the Czech Republic—at least, parts and pieces of them are. The obvious question is why? You might say that, inside this Bone Church, an artist has literalized the verse,“surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses” (Hebrews 12:1). These skeletal “witnesses,”gathered from the nearby church cemetery when the citizens eventually ran out of burying room, were artistically arranged to form this most unique architecture. And while it’s a bit creepy, this creation confesses a truth about which today’s church is often mute: that within the walls of God’s house, we are never alone. Now let’s slip inside another church. This one is worlds away from the Bone Church’s rather raw architecture. Welcome to Lakewood Church, in Houston, Texas, where Joel Osteen serves as pastor. Maybe you’ve heard of this popular preacher or seen his books. Osteen’s congregation has mushroomed over the decades to out-mega all other mega

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churches. To fit everyone in, they transformed the sports arena, where the Houston Rockets used to play, into a 16,000-seat worship facility. One end of the stadium was gutted and remodeled to become what traditionally would be known as the chancel. Two 30-foot waterfalls gurgle and splash on either side of this platform. Three massive screens project images of the preacher or other worship leaders.


Several hundred LED lights allow for multiple mood settings. What is most obvious, however, is what is absent: crosses and crucifixes, altars and icons, baptismal fonts and stained glass, along with just about everything a traditional church might have. And, needless to say, in Lakewood Church, there hangs no chandelier of saints’ bones. So from this tale of two churches, what can we learn? When you visit other churches with friends, or check out churches around your college campus, does the art and architecture of those churches really matter? Is it all just a matter of taste and practicality? Here’s the point: There was nothing haphazard in the construction of either of these churches. From the carpet color in Lakewood to the bone choices in Sedlec, the architects of each venue did not work willy-nilly. They had a theological “vision” for what a church should be, even on the level of the senses— how it should look, feel, sound, smell, and what kind of taste it should leave in your mouth. In short, doctrine determined design. Theology designed architecture, and architecture signaled theology. Sometimes, when you walk into a church, what you see is indeed what you get. If you’re like me, you wouldn’t want to sip Christ’s blood from a chalice of human bones, but neither would you want to sip Starbucks from a comfy stadium seat while gazing at Osteen’s smile beaming from a monstrous screen. Somewhere between the super-earthy of Sedlec and the swank-and-sexy of Lakewood, there’s a church that captures the reality of what church is: a gathering of wounded, hurting sinners around the throne of God and the Lamb, surrounded by angels and archangels and all the company of heaven, to become united with the crucified and resurrected Christ. That’s the church we need. I mentioned earlier that within the walls of God’s house, we are never alone. That’s because the church on earth and the church in heaven are not two churches, but one. And never are they more together as one than in the liturgy. Earthly soil becomes heavenly ground. We are surrounded by heavenly believers and angelic hosts. So why not make the invisible, visible in art? That’s one purpose of pictures and icons of the saints; those images remind us that the

church is bigger than what we see. Also, since Christ is not only the central message, but the sole message of the church, shouldn’t the architecture proclaim the same? For example, crucifixes preach the only knowable God; altars, the table from which we feast upon the body and blood sacrificed for us; fonts, the bath in which the filthy garments of sinners are made white in the blood of the Lamb; incense, the smoke of supplications wafting upward to Christ’s throne. All of these, in their own way, serve the Gospel. They preach the God who became a man with all His senses, that we, with all our senses, might receive His life and worship him. The art and architecture of a church deeply matter. They are the embodiment of theology. They should be catechetical, teaching the faith; beautiful, imitating the God who makes all things well; catholic, expressing the totality of the church on earth and in heaven; and Christ-centered, focusing upon the One who is the be-all and end-all of the church. For when people step into the space in which the Lord is present, the goal is not for them to say, “This is none other than a stadium!” or “This is none other than a practical place for worship and, afterward, basketball!” No, they should confess with Jacob, “This is none other than the house of God, and this is the gate of heaven!” (Genesis 28:17). Chad Bird is a member of Crown of Life Lutheran Church in San Antonio, Texas. His email address is birdchadlouis@yahoo.com.

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The

Mark of a

False

They Draw Away the

False teachers and false prophets have been and will always continue to be a very serious threat to the Church and to each and every baptized Christian. In today’s postmodern society it is not considered politically correct to speak this way because people wrongly believe that everyone who claims to be a Christian is a Christian, regardless of what they believe, teach or confess. Yet, Jesus warns us in his Sermon on the Mount about false teachers and false prophets and describes them as wolves in sheep’s clothing and not has harmless people who should be ignored—or worse—tolerated. Here’s what our Lord said: “Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves. You will recognize them by their fruits. Are grapes gathered from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? So, every healthy tree bears good fruit, but the diseased tree bears bad fruit. A healthy tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a diseased tree bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Thus you will recognize them by their fruits.” (Matthew 7:15–20)

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Notice that Jesus warns us that false teachers and prophets disguise themselves to look like Christians. But also notice that Jesus says the sheep-like camouflage won’t work too well because we will be able to recognize the wolves by their fruits. So what are these bad fruits that make wolves easy to recognize? Answer: their messages. One of the regular features on my radio program, Fighting for the Faith, is the sermon review. Over the past five and half years I’ve reviewed hundreds of sermons by the world’s most popular Bible twisters. Each one puts his own spin on the Bible and each one has concocted his own unique theology. Yet there is a common characteristic that each of these false teachers possesses: They preach about themselves, not Christ. The Apostle Paul, when he warned the elders of the church in Ephesus about the false teachers who would be coming after his departure, gave them a simple way to spot the wolves:


Teacher:

Disciples After Themselves

By Chris Rosebrough

“Pay careful attention to yourselves and to all the flock, in which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to care for the church of God, which he obtained with his own blood. I know that after my departure fierce wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock; and from among your own selves will arise men speaking twisted things, to draw away the disciples after themselves. Therefore be alert.” (Acts 20:28–31) Note well what Acts 20:30 says about the fierce wolves— they draw away the disciples after themselves. The 5th century Church Father Ammonius of Alexandria, preaching on this text noted: “In order to draw away the disciples after them.” Heretics strive to make the people their own instead of the Lord’s, so that they might boast in themselves...Paul himself checked this beforehand when he silenced and censured

those who were saying, “I’m Paul’s; I’m Apollos’s; I’m Cephas’s,” since he did not want their faith to be explained by the name of a person but by Christ’s name; he wanted them all to be called Christians, even though they had been taught by different teachers. Accordingly, whenever all the teachers strive for the same goal of proclaiming the true faith, of profiting the students while suppressing their own names, they are called, by the same name, Christians.1 The fruit of false teachers, prophets and ravenous wolves is easy to spot. If they preach themselves, not Christ, then they’re wolves.

Wolves preach about their lives, their victories, their dreams, their visions, their ideas, the tips and tricks they’ve discovered to achieve success. Jesus, if He’s mentioned at all by them, is merely held up as an example to be followed. The goal of their preaching is to convince you to apply the pastor’s insights and life tips so that you can be successful, just like the pastor is successful. Faithful teachers of the one true faith, on the other hand, are not like wolves but are like the apostle Paul who said: “But we have renounced disgraceful, underhanded ways. We refuse to practice cunning or to tamper with God’s word, but by the open statement of the truth we would commend ourselves to everyone’s conscience in the sight of God….For what we preach is not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, with ourselves as your servants for Jesus’ sake.” (2 Corinthians 4:2, 5) If you ever find yourself in a church where the pastor is preaching himself, not Christ, run! As a baptized sheep in Christ’s flock you must always remember that wolves are not harmless, they eat sheep! The pastor who preaches himself rather than Christ is working for the devil and is preaching himself and his congregation into the fires of hell rather than into Christ’s eternal kingdom. And when you hear the faithful preaching of Christ crucified and raised for sinners, then rejoice and give thanks for that faithful pastor through whom Jesus delivers His forgiveness and life and makes you a member of His own flock of dearly bought sheep. 1 Martin, F., & Smith, E. (Eds.). (2006). Acts (p. 255). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.

Chris Rosebrough is on the board directors of Higher Things and is also the captain of PirateChristianRadio.com and host of the Fighting for the Faith radio program.

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Know-Nothing Know-It-Alls? “Knowledge is power.” “It’s not what you know, it’s who you

know.”“Know your enemy.” Popular phrases like these reinforce the notion that knowledge is of the utmost importance. Indeed, many people think being called “ignorant” is among the worst of insults. After all, who wants to be characterized as someone who ignores facts? Yet there is a religious position that actually takes pride in not knowing what is true or false. Agnosticism gets its name from the Greek prefix a- (no, not) and the noun gnosis (knowledge). Some have called it the “non-position position,” however, because its most basic belief is that one cannot really know what to believe.

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Not Atheism, Not Relativism, But What? Time after time, Christian apologists have successfully shot down the arguments of atheists, from the philosopher Nietzsche boldly saying, “God is dead,” to zoologist Richard Dawkins claiming “Evolution is a fact!” The evidence simply convinces most people of a higher power. But when it comes to who or what this higher power is, many seem content not knowing. Do you believe in only one God, or in many gods? “I don’t know.” Is God distinct from the universe because He made it, or is the universe itself sort of divine—like Mother Nature? “I’m not sure.” Do you believe in a personal deity who can be known, like the God of the Bible, or is “god”—just an impersonal force like in Star Wars? “Who can say, really?” And so Christians often get confused (if not annoyed) because agnostics not only doubt every basic belief of ours, but also the beliefs of everyone else. This is partly due to globalization—the increase in knowledge of other religions, cultures, and worldviews. When people are confronted with a buffet of beliefs in the cafeteria of religion, some simply throw up their hands in despair. “How can we ever know which one is correct? But what agnostics don’t say is that all religious beliefs are correct, depending on how one views them. That is the position of relativism, which says there are many paths to the same “god”—that whole Jesus-istrue-for-you-but-Buddha-is-true-for-me nonsense. Agnostics, like Christians and atheists, realize that all religions contradict each other. So while they can all be false, they can’t all be true because that flies in the face of simple logic. Humble Honesty or Skeptical Smokescreen? It can be helpful to distinguish between two general types of agnostics. First, there are those who think there’s currently insufficient evidence for reaching definite conclusions about religion, but (and

that’s a crucial but) they are willing to leave the door open for the possibility that something will convince them someday. Agnostics such as these hope to acquire some new evidence and discover the truth at some point, or at least be able to cross a few options off their list. The second type of agnostic goes far beyond this and claims it is impossible for anyone to know what religious position is true. It’s not simply a matter of needing the missing pieces of the puzzle, but of declaring that the pieces will never be found. These agnostics not only claim they don’t know, but also that they can’t know. When Arrogant Ignorance Knows No Bounds In my experience, the first kind of agnostic is few and far between. That’s because they are genuinely humble about how little they know, and are willing to do some research in hopes of learning something. Conversation with this type of agnostic is generally more fruitful, because they are willing to listen and exchange ideas. However, talking with the second kind of agnostic can be more difficult. They regularly remain stubborn in their views, often using statements about how “nobody can know anything” as a trump card to shut down all conversation. Sometimes it seems like their insistent “I don’t know” is really “I don’t want to know.” Then agnosticism becomes a cop-out—an excuse that allows one to be lazy and not look for answers. Or it’s used to play an endless game of questioning, where nothing but 100% proof with absolute certainty will satisfy. It’s like children who keep asking “Why?” after every answer you give. When you finally say, “I don’t know,” they act like they achieved some grand victory when in fact they never really wanted an answer in the first place. While agnostics are not always on the same page, one thing many seem to have in common is their dismissal of the specific truths of the Christian faith.


The Curious Case of Agnosticism By Rev. Mark Pierson

Often times this is not just the result of globalization, but of someone or something (like a professor, textbook, webpage, or roommate) actively trying to point out supposed problems in the Bible. So while agnostics all say, “I don’t know what’s true,” many of them would add, “but I do know that the beliefs particular to Christianity aren’t.” The idea of progress is also considered important here. If we hold to the primitive and erroneous views of the Bible, the argument goes, then we’ll be closing our eyes to other options and miss the truth. It is a fair question to ask the agnostic, “How do you know that?” And, “How do you know that the Bible is as full of holes as you’ve been led to believe? Why don’t you doubt those who told you this as much as you doubt the text itself?” More often than not, a double standard is at work. Indeed, by now you may have noticed some serious problems with agnosticism. To state flat out that we cannot know anything about religious matters is a claim of knowledge about religion. This view is therefore self-refuting. Likewise, not committing to any particular beliefs in favor of sitting on the fence indefinitely is actually a commitment in itself—a commitment to being non-committal. To be sure, there is nothing wrong with a healthy skepticism. Nobody should believe everything they hear. But there is also such a thing as unhealthy skepticism, which is dangerous. The truth will be missed if an unreasonable amount of certainty is demanded before knowledge is considered possible. Plus, it is inconsistent to apply such extreme skepticism to religious questions but not to other things in life. Imagine endlessly asking about whether the lunch your mom made was really poisoned, with no answers ever satisfying you. Eventually you’d starve to death! You Shall Know the Truth It is precisely when it comes to knowing the truth that Christianity alone has something to offer. Our God has not primarily made Himself known through philosophy or personal experience. Nor has He done so in creation or even by doctrines. Instead, the Christian God has revealed Himself first and foremost through a person—a real flesh and blood man who lived at an actual time and place, who said and did particular things. Knowing the truth about God depends on knowing the truth about this person, Jesus Christ. As a figure in history, Jesus has opened himself up to being investigated, to the evidence being weighed, and to a verdict being rendered based on the reliability of the testimony about

Hm. So there is no need to throw one’s hands up in despair when deciding between Jesus and Buddha, Muhammad, Joseph Smith, or other religious leaders. Nor should anyone be stumped by questions about whether God exists and what He’s like. These all are answered—these are all known—by examining the evidence in the Gospel accounts of the One who is “God with us.” And in the end, faith is never something we can talk a person into. It’s the gift of the Holy Spirit who calls, gathers, enlightens and sanctifies us by the Gospel. Agnostics may think they have the upper hand by remaining undecided, but there is no neutrality when it comes to Jesus. You are either for Him or against Him—period. As Christ Himself said, only those who know they’re sick will look for a doctor. Sadly, agnostics prefer ignorance, and thereby reject both the diagnosis and the cure. For those interested in the truth, however, you can point them to this Man who is Truth itself, whose historic life, death, and resurrection have set the world free from guilt, death, and religious ignorance. For if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed. Rev. Mark Pierson is assistant pastor at St. Paul’s Lutheran Church in Long Beach, California. He wrote the chapter entitled, “The New Testament Gospels as Reliable History,” in Making the Case: Case Studies in Christian Apologetics, eds. Adam Francisco and Korey Maas (St. Louis: Concordia, 2014). You can email him at markapierson@gmail.com.

AGNOSTIC

A person who says they know nothing about God and, who, when you agree with them, becomes angry.

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Justification for Sinners From birth we were condemned to die, All sin and vice accusing, For Adam’s weakness and Eve’s lie Were ours without our choosing. The sinful flesh, our poisoned heart, From Eden’s gates pulled us apart, Away from God our Maker.

The Helper of the Strays Tax collectors and the lame, blind and mute and lepers came. Those with thirst and many sores, came to Jesus by the scores. “Help me, heal me, Lord,” they prayed. Jesus knew that all had strayed. So He took their sins and loss on his shoulders to the cross helping, healing all the strays, always giving God the praise.

By MaryAnn Sundby

But God, to heal this wretchedness, Accomplished our salvation. He sent His Son, our Righteousness, The cross, His only mission. Beneath the law was born and died, The Word made flesh was crucified For everyone’s transgression. This Gospel lives within the Church, Christ’s blessings to deliver. As sinners here we need not search Within us for the answer, For we are justified by faith, Thus God brought us to life from death, Reborn by Word and water. While sufferings burden us with doubt, In Christ we can find peace. Sin crouches near, but we cry out For rescue by His grace. As we endure through earthly strife, One hope remains, eternal life Through Jesus Christ our Savior. ­

By Bethany M. Woelmer

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r s! l e a e t 11 th o a or w ) al gl k e ne jo ar yf th ” ( n r lM t h :1 e r e d it “M l a e e s y t o e -2 l d s , h a th d a ar s! fu ! s Ps ois ve u s! l e a e t 1 t lo a o w v) a g k e n j t ” l ” n r l t h 1: he r e rd it “ ll la e e es oy h (P ! s (Ps ois ve M o e l 1-2 l d sv , h Ma th dn a ar s! fu ! s sa 11 th o a o w ) al g k e e jo t ” ( l e a e t e n r lM t h : e r e rd it “M l la e e s y h P n rv 1- l d s , h o v ! s sa o e s a f a o d t i e a ! u a se t 11 th lo 2a or wi v) al gl ke he ne jo rth ” (P l er lM ise l h r “ ve M to e :1- e l d es d, th M l t ad a ea ss yf ! s sa no ve 1 a h n j r !” u e l is t 1 2 v l a w 1 o g t th 1 h or a r i ) “ ll l ke e e o th (P l r M e h to e :1 e d es d th M t ad a ea ss yf ! s no v 1 t e e , 11 th lo -2a lo w v) al g ak he ne jo rt !” ( ul se alM is t 1: o t r it “ l la e e s y h P n r e h 1 r : d e e v M ! s sa o e 1 to e l -2a e 1- l d s , h s a f a d t lo 2a o w v) a g ak he n j rt !” ul e l is t 1: t o r it “ ll la e e es oy h (P n r M e h 1 h r r e d es d h M t d a a s f ! s o v 1 t e -2 e d 2a lo w v , a g ak h n j r !” ul se al is e t 1: o t lo a lo r it ) “ ll la e e e es oy th (P n r M e h 1 h r es d es d, h M t d a a s f ! s sa o ve 1 to e l -2a e d v) w v) al g ak he ne jo rt !” ul e l is t 1: t o e lo w r it “ l la e e s y h (P n r M e h 1 h r s r it d h M t d a a s f ! s o v 1 t e -2 e d v d h v) , a g ak he n j rt !” ul se al is e t 1: o t lo a lo w ) “ , a “Mll la e e es oy h! (Ps n rv M e t he 1-2 he rd esv rd ith Ma l h a t d a a s! fu s a o e 1 o l a k g k he ne jo rt ” ( l e lM is th 1: t o e lo wi ) “M, a gl e 1- h rd s r t ll a l la e e s y h! Ps n rv e h a d t e 2 th d a ar s! fu s a o e 11 o l a l w v) , g k t d k e ne jo t ” ( l er lM ise th :1 th or e or it “M al la e he a e h P s

CMS

! s u n Joi Servant eventS

The JOY of Living Love

lCMs servant events

800-248-1930, Ext. 1155 youth.ministry@lcms.org

“Make a joyful noise to the Lord, all the earth! serve the lord with gladness! Come into his presence with singing!” (Psalm 100:1-2 ESV)

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Mequon, WI

Concordia University – Wisconsin (July 8-11, 2014)

Logan, UT

Utah State University (July 22-25, 2014)

Visit

crucified2014.org or email conferences@higherthings.org for more details.

Crucified. We preach Christ and Him crucified. I desired to know nothing amongst you other than Christ and him crucified. The words of the Cross are to those perishing foolishness but to us being saved they are the power and wisdom of God. Crucified. You seek Jesus of Nazareth who was crucified. It was necessary for the Son of Man to be betrayed to the chief priests and teachers of the Law, be crucified, die, and after three days rise again from the dead. Crucified. We were crucified with Him in the waters of Holy Baptism. As surely as we died with Him, we rose with Him. We live in Him. We eat the Body and drink the Blood of the one who gave up His life on the Cross for us. Crucified. Join us this summer, as we receive all the gifts that come from the Lord who was crucified for us under Pontius Pilate and raised from the dead on the third day. His crucifixion is our faith. His crucifixion is our death. His resurrection is our justification by faith alone.

University of Florida (July 1-4, 2014)

Gainsville, FL

HIGHER THINGS 2014 CONFERENCES

Crucified

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Crucified HIGHER THINGS 2014 CONFERENCES

Gainsville, FL University of Florida (July 1-4, 2014)

Crucified

Why Higher Things?

We live in a culture of blurry religious distinctions and doit-yourself spirituality. especially, need solid ground that HIGHER THINGS Youth, 2014 CONFERENCES 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.

The Theme: Crucified

Crucified. We preach Christ and Him crucified. I desired to know nothing amongst you other than Christ and him crucified. The words of the Cross are to those perishing foolishness but to us being saved they are the power and wisdom of God. Crucified. You seek Jesus of Nazareth who was crucified. It was necessary for the Son of Man to be betrayed to the chief priests and teachers of the Law, be crucified, die, and after three days rise again from the dead. Crucified. We were crucified with Him in the waters of Holy Baptism. As surely as we died with Him, we rose with Him. We live in Him. We eat the Body and drink the Blood of the one who gave up His life on the Cross for us. Crucified. Join us this summer, as we receive all the gifts that come from the Lord who was crucified for us under Pontius Pilate and raised from the dead on the third day. His crucifixion is our faith. His crucifixion is our death. His resurrection is our justification by faith alone.

Registration

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Registration will open on November 1, 2013 and close as each site reaches capacity. We work very diligently to keep costs as low as possible while providing the best conferences we can – every year! The per-person rates below are based on the date your group’s registration fees are paid in full. Additional fees may apply for registrations and changes made after May 1, 2014. Balances paid after June 1, 2014 will be subject to a per-person late fee. See the detailed registration materials for more information about fees and deadlines. Nov. 1 to Dec. 31

University of Florida (July 1-4) Concordia University – Wisconsin (July 8-11) Utah State University (July 22-25)

Jan. 1 to Feb. 28

Mar. 1 to April 30

Mequon, WI

Concordia University – Wisconsin (July 8-11, 2014)

LATE (May 1)

$325 $350 $375 $400

Logan, UT

Utah State University (July 22-25, 2014)

Your Registration Fee includes:

• Conference Programming (Planning, Catechesis, Worship, Entertainment)

• Three (3) Nights of Housing (double capacity) • Nine (9) Meals (Tuesday dinner through Friday lunch) • Conference Handbook • Daily Services Book • Conference T-Shirt Not only can you register your group online at crucified2014.org, you can pay deposits and your balance online too! All you need is a valid HT Online account. If you don’t have one yet, you can sign up for one at higherthings.org.

Age Requirements

Higher Things conferences are generally planned for highschool-aged youth, but registrants may be any youth who have been confirmed prior to the conference, including middle school and 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.

Chaperones

Chaperones must be at least 21 years old at the time of Registration, and approved by the group’s pastor to serve in that role. There must be at least one (1) male chaperone for up to every seven (7) male youth in a registered group, and at least one (1) female chaperone for up to every seven (7) female youth in the group. There is no restriction on the number of chaperones that may register with a group. 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 will be happy to help you find other groups from your area who would be willing to “share” their chaperones with you.

Conference Capacities

The Higher Things conference at the the University of Florida has a capacity of 500 registrants. The conference at Concorida University – Wisconsin has a capacity of 1,200 and the conference at Utah State University has a capacity of 600 registrants. We’ll be making detailed registration information available very soon! But if you just can’t contain your curiousity and excitement, you may visit crucified2014.org or email conferences@higherthings.org regularly to make sure you haven’t missed anything!


Cross train your brain. “The Core really made me think outside of the box and forced me to answer difficult questions, not accepting an “I don’t know” or “I don’t care” answer. It involved a lot of connection-making, which really helped me articulate my responses to difficult questions.”

Education should strengthen your brain, challenge you to ask questions, and build a strong foundation for your future. In Concordia University Irvine’s *nationally recognized Core curriculum, you will learn about God and service to the world through the cross of Christ. You will cross disciplinary boundaries by studying biology with theology, mathematics with

philosophy, and history with literature. You will wrestle with questions and concepts of life that have endured across the

centuries. You will cultivate sound academic habits and skills that apply across the curriculum, to your future careers, and life. Exercise your mind. Exercise your faith. Cross train your brain. *Concordia University Irvine is a member of the Association for Core Texts and Courses’ Liberal Arts Institute. This prestigious institute— composed of 12 universities that include Columbia, St. John’s, Pepperdine, and Notre Dame—promotes “the integrated and common study of world classics and texts of major cultural significance” in general education programs across North America.

www.cui.edu/core

W I N T E R 2 0 1 3 _ 19


(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)

@ Air Force Academy (CO) @ Ball State University (IN) @ Boise State University (ID) @ Brock University (Ontario) @ California Polytechnic State University @ Carthage College (WI) @ Central Michigan University @ Chico State University (CA) @ Colorado State University @ Cornell College (IA)

Christ On Campus

Christendom in

College By Bethany Lange

It comes as no surprise

that Christian students are facing theological challenges in the classroom. I witnessed this firsthand when I entered college for the first time in 2011. As I read the first chapter of my book in geology class I found anti-Christian statements, which I expected. However, when I took the first exam, I found three questions I had not anticipated—questions that referred to “absolute truths” when these “truths” were unproven. I discovered that, in good conscience, I could not say “the age of the Earth is 4.5 billion years old,” even though this was what the textbook said. I simply could not say that this was true, especially when I have seen and heard so much evidence to the contrary— including in the teacher’s very own lectures.

HH II GG HH EE RR TT HH II NN GG SS __ __

My difficulty was that false or unproven information, specifically about the distant past, was stated as fact. I had expected wording such as “according to the textbook, …” or “according to the theory of ….” I was completely unprepared for a multiplechoice online test. Given the questions, I decided to get the answers as right as I could get them—but according to research I trusted. I lost some points for my answers, but I realized that if I decided that grades were more valuable than truth, I would be compromising what is most important. In the past year especially, Christians around the world have watched in horror as the Muslim Brotherhood has violently attacked Christians in various countries. Thousands of Christians have been brutally persecuted and martyred, and these attacks have prompted me to ask myself, What would I do if I were in this situation? Deep down, I fear I might compromise. Which type of Christian is more devout—someone

2020

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

several options for Christian students to follow, and they don’t have to threaten your success in school. First of all, work hard in class, be respectful, and, when theological points cause conflicts, do not deliberately incite more conflict. Martin Luther explains the 4th Commandment in the Small Catechism by saying, “We should fear and love God so that we do not despise or anger our parents and other authorities, but honor them, serve and obey them, love and cherish them.” When in doubt, consult with a pastor and find a Christian support network to help you when you get discouraged or overwhelmed. Pray constantly for discernment and strength, for we cannot prevail against our own doubts and fears without the Armor of God. Most importantly, remember that we are not fighting “against flesh and blood, but against principalities ... [and] powers” (Ephesians 6:12). Federal laws, teachers, classmates—they are not our enemies. Look to Christ for wisdom and faith! Your pastor is the Lord’s gift to help you answer questions that your classes might bring about your faith. He is also there to comfort you with the promises of Jesus that He is always faithful. Even in the face of open challenges to Christianity within school, many students today are becoming more and more used to doing what is expected of them without thinking about or questioning their reactions. All Christians who see this type of attack in their lives should assess what is happening, what is true or false, and what their reactions are. Christians should not attack their teachers, but school should not be excluded from the areas in which we should be Christians. Our duty as Christian students should be clear: work hard, be respectful, and do not act or speak contrary to God’s Word. But above all, recognize that when the world brings you trouble, Jesus has overcome the world (John 16:33) and He has made you a part of His kingdom forever. Bethany Lange is a lifelong Lutheran and the oldest daughter of nine children. She is a junior studying English Teaching at Utah State University. She lives in Wyoming and likes to spend her time reading, teaching violin, knitting, and crocheting. She can be contacted at prestissimo93@yahoo.com.

Christ On Campus Is: @ The campus ministry arm of Higher Things @ Pastors and laity interested in confessional Lutheran campus ministry @ A growing and developing network of 113 campus ministry chapters @ A great source for campus ministry resources

Learn More At:

higherthings.org/campus Email Rev. Sam Schuldheisz: samwise.schuldheisz@ gmail.com

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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) @

who renounces his faith with his fingers crossed, or one who refuses to renounce his faith no matter what the cost? It is good to remember that ultimately, faithfulness is not something I can achieve on my own. Only by the Holy Spirit and the gifts of Jesus do I have any confidence that I will have the words to say or the courage to resist even if I am persecuted for my being a Christian. While the persecution in science classes is clearly far less of a threat than martyrdom, the school system’s way of persuading youth to leave Christianity is still quite effective. Students are pressured to scorn Christianity and Christian principles by classmates, teachers, textbooks, school rules, and federal laws. Many of those who leave home for college lose their faith. In my church alone, ten out of fifteen youth have left the faith after high school. If we, as students, cannot even stand firm in school, how can we expect to be able to testify to Christ when it’s a matter of life and death? The current scientific trend is to separate faith and fact entirely, in keeping with the separation between church and state. However, the Christian faith is based on facts—not just murky “truths.” The world asserts that religion is about morals and good deeds, not the reality around us, and therefore has no relevance to the real world and science. Our responsibility, however, is to understand how matters such as science point to God’s creation and laws. There is comfort in knowing that the Christian faith is not about proving science wrong but about God’s grace and forgiveness in Jesus. There is nothing that can overturn what Jesus has accomplished for us by His death on the cross and His resurrection! I have often been told that I should just repeat what the teachers want me to say, but not believe it in my heart. How would the Apostles have responded to this philosophy? I cannot imagine St. Paul saying mildly, “I don’t believe that evolution is right, but I’ll say whatever you want me to say … for now.” Is it right to say and do nothing to defend the faith that Christ has given? I know that I can personally do nothing to stay in the faith, but I do know that Satan is constantly throwing out that old question, “Did God really say?” He wants me to question God’s Word. The Lord’s promise to never leave us or forsake us is a good defense when that worry comes. What, then, is the solution? There are

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


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H I G H E R

THE CHURCH YEAR AND THE LITURGY By Dr. Jon Eifert


Why use the same liturgy every Sunday?

For one thing, the liturgy is a framework which summarizes the whole history of salvation—a story which we all need to hear! By now we know the story of the Baby of Bethlehem who grew up to teach, heal, suffer, die, rise from the dead, ascend into heaven, and send His Holy Spirit to create faith and sustain the church. We have learned this story in worship and Bible classes and Sunday school and confirmation classes. We have also experienced the church year—a means of reviewing our complete spiritual history as it outlines what God, in Christ Jesus, has done for us. Our liturgy saturates our worship with Scripture. It also provides a framework though which God dispenses His gifts and we respond to His great love. Yet there is another reason to celebrate the liturgy regularly. The order of Divine Service is itself a mini-church year—a “microcosm,” if you will. Open your hymnal and follow along as we examine the various seasons of the church year and find them reflected in the Divine Service. For our purposes, we will use Divine Service III, beginning on p. 184 of Lutheran Service Book, but any of the five LSB settings will work. @ ADVENT This first season of the year is a time of preparation as we anxiously await the arrival of the Savior. As more of the advent wreath candles are lit week by week, the anticipation grows. Likewise, in the confession and absolution (pp.184185) we prepare ourselves to meet the Savior who is about to enter into our midst by means of Word and Sacrament. @ CHRISTMAS We gather with the shepherds at the manger to welcome the Bread of Life. The overwhelming nature of this greatest Gift is underscored by the announcement which was given to the shepherds by “a multitude of the heavenly host” (Luke 2:13) singing praises to God. We are privileged to join with the angels in welcoming the Savior by singing. “Glory be to God on high, and on earth peace, good will toward men” (p.187). @ EPIPHANY During Advent, we anticipated the gift of the Savior. At Christmas, we received this gift. Now, in Epiphany, we open this gift and examine what the Savior came to do and teach. In Epiphany, we see that the gift of the Savior is for the whole world (as the Magi learned), that He came to take our place under the law (as He claimed at His baptism), and that the Father is well pleased with Him (see the

baptism and Transfiguration accounts). We learn about the Savior through the Scripture readings and sermon, highlighted by the Gospel reading which recounts His exact words to His disciples. We also summarize all of His teachings as we recite the creed (pp. 190-192). @ LENT Lent is a penitential season in which we prepare ourselves to recall the suffering and death of our Savior. We are reminded that it was our sin that led Him to the cross, and we pray that He would forgive our sins and help us to lead more God-fearing lives. Psalm 51, one of the great penitential Psalms, is the text of the Offertory (pp.192-193). As truly penitent believers we ask that God would grant His Spirit to uphold us and renew us. @ HOLY WEEK Lent concludes with Holy Week, a special time when we focus on a number of separate events in the last week of our Lord’s earthly life. Specifically, we remember the following: @ PALM SUNDAY The crowd in Jerusalem greeted the coming King by shouting “Hosanna! Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord” (Matthew 21:9). We join in their song of welcome in the Sanctus (p.195)

@ MAUNDY THURSDAY It was on this night, in the upper room, that Jesus gave to His church the Sacrament of the Altar. This story is recounted as the pastor speaks the Words of Institution (p.197) which give us this gift of Jesus’ body and blood, too. @ GOOD FRIDAY It was on the cross that Christ earned the forgiveness of sins for the entire world. We are reminded of this as we sing to “Christ, the Lamb of God, that takest away the sin of the world” (p.198). @ EASTER The risen Jesus first appeared to Mary Magdalene, then to the two disciples walking to Emmaus, and then to the gathered disciples in the upper room. What were His first words to the fully assembled group? “Peace be with you” (p.197). @ PENTECOST In this season, the focus is upon the church and the gifts that God gives to and through the church to help us fulfill the Great Commission. In the Benediction (p.202) we hear again the Lord’s promise to go with us as we leave His house and go into the world to proclaim the gospel. He blesses us, keeps us, and gives us His peace to share with everyone we meet. So there we have it. In one brief hour or so we have the entire story of our salvation presented to us and we receive all the gifts of Jesus His words bring. Thanks be to God for the gift of salvation and for the liturgy which delivers this gift while teaching us how it came to us! Dr. Jon Eifert is a teacher at St. Paul Lutheran School in Austin, Texas. He has served as organist for HT Conferences in Vegas, Bloomington, and Maryville. He can be reached at prinzipale16@yahoo.com.

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Ambition:

Should a Christian Seek “Be still and know that I am God” (Psalm 46:10). “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28).

So there we were, in a room full of mostly young Christians. We were

listening to a presenter talk about ambition and the pressure to succeed in our world. He said youth today live in an age of self-promotion. They brand themselves on Facebook and Twitter and on their college admission applications, all in the name of securing for themselves the best lives possible. They are ambitious, and their ambition is for things and success, and ultimately, for self-meaning and self-validation.

H I G H E R T H I N G S __ 24

Our speaker told us to realize that our identity is found not in things and success, but in Jesus. He died for us and shed His blood for our sins, including materialism and self-idolatry. We are baptized into Christ and inherit eternal life through Him. The speaker said we will find peace, not in our ambition, but in God’s word. With this revelation comes the end of the pressures of our material world, the end of the pretense of acting like something we are not. The engine of uncertainty and insecurity is shut down, and we rest in the grace of God. I liked this presentation. The speaker accurately depicted the world’s sinful condition and identified how young adults are trapped in it. He offered as a remedy the security and certainty of Christ and the eternal life His sacrifice guarantees. All this was thoughtful, true, and comforting. But is there a conflict between ambition and faith in Christ? My wife and I have three ambitious, driven kids. They openly and aggressively pursue the best life, the best jobs, and the best educations. But they also know they find their identities and self-worth, not in their own accomplishments, but in the forgiveness of sins and in Christ alone. I believe that there is no conflict here and that there is room for ambition in the life of a Christian. Ambition can be directed toward our own ends, but it can be used for God’s ends, too.


By Rev. James Hageman

Scripture tells us that God has put us in our situations in life (our vocations) to do our best with the gifts He has given us. Open your Small Catechism and read the “Table of Duties.” You’ll find scripture that instructs us on how to handle ourselves in our various positions in life. These verses are a guide, not for how to get ahead in the workplace or classroom, but how to use our lives for service to God and our neighbor. Part of the final instruction is “The commandments . . . are summed up in this one rule: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself” (Romans 13:9). This love shows itself in practical ways. If I play the flute in the band, I should strive to be the best flute player I can be—the band will sound better for it. If I play baseball, I should work hard to hit well—the team will win more games. If I run for office, I should be interested, articulate, intelligent and honest—my constituency will benefit from it. In these places we Christians serve our neighbors, be they a listening audience, the fans in the stands, or the citizens of our community. This kind of ambition is not sinful, but God-pleasing, and even imperative to life as a Christian. A warning, though. Every vocation has its temptations, and every human ambition has them, too. In that Table of Duties, under “Youth,” the apostle Peter writes, “Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that He may lift you up in due time” (I Peter 5:6). He would not have warned the young to humble themselves if arrogance were not a threat. We all want to excuse and justify ourselves, and to serve ourselves rather than our

?

neighbors. When the fastest runner thinks the race is all about her, when the winner thinks it’s all his doing, things have gone too far. We are all too ready to accept credit for what is not ours to claim. Humility can be tough for the gifted and talented, but even they must confess their sinful motives to their heavenly Father. The good news is that Christ is for all of us. You may succeed or fail in the world’s eyes. But the key is to know that since you are washed, s justified and anctified, in the name of the Lord Jesus and by the Spirit of our God (1 Corinthians 6:11), your identity and worth come from Him. Everything else proceeds from this. And so we live, our selfishness from the Old Adam put to death by our baptism and the forgiveness of sins and the New Man daring to excel and be the best, for the good of those around us. Be ambitious! Use your talents and remember who gave them to you. Find what you love and where your talents lie, and give it all you’ve got. You have nothing to lose, for Christ has given you everything. Rev. James Hageman is the pastor at Our Savior Lutheran Church in Glendive, Montana, and Grace Lutheran Church in Fallon, Montana. His two sons, Eric and Josef, greatly assisted in editing this article. His wife, Stephanie, and daughter, Jenna, also contributed, and lent moral support and humor. Pastor Hageman can be reached at cuisapiunt@gmail.com.

W W II NN TT EE RR 2 0 1 3 _ 25


When: January 10-11, 2014 When: January 17-18, 2014

H I G H E R T H I N G S __ 26

Cost: $30/person

Cost: $50/person

When: February 14-16, 2014

Cost: $50/person thru 12/31/13
 $60/person: 1/1-31/14
 Where: Holy Cross Lutheran 
 Where: St. Paul Lutheran Church $70/person: after 1/31/14 Church, Carlisle, IA
 Chatfield, MN
 Where: Trinity Lutheran Church
 (515) 989-3841 (507) 867-4604 Sheboygan, WI
 (920) 458-8246

A Higher Things® Junior Youth Retreat

Jesus said, “I am the way the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father but through me.” This is most certainly true! Really? How can I be so sure that the Christian faith is really true? How can I speak of the reality of this truth to my family and friends? How do I live the Christian faith in a world that is increasingly hostile to it? Pastor Peter Bender will answer these and many more of your questions as we look at the rich gifts that God has given to us in His Holy Word and Luther’s Small Catechism.

Boys, Girls, Cooties and Jesus: A Pre-Dating Retreat for Junior Youth

A Higher Things® Youth Retreat

This is Most Certainly True!

The officer invites the suspect to “Come clean, spill your guts, tell us what you know. Maybe the DA will cut a deal, go easy on ya.”  We know about coming clean with God, confessing our sins. Yeah, yeah, we know about coming clean, confessions. But does any of that have anything to do with Peter confessing, “You are the Christ?” Could it possibly have anything to do with the Augsburg Confession? (The what?) What do we mean by “confessing Christ?”  What will it mean for us to confess Christ? What will it mean if we don’t? Let’s talk and come clean!

A Higher Things® Youth Retreat

How does a baptized Christian understand the supernatural? We see Ghost Hunters TV shows and movies like “The Exorcist” or “The Rite.” How do we understand what to believe and what is mere myth? What do angels, demons and the idea of ghosts have to do with our daily life as Christians especially as we pray daily, "Deliver us from (the) evil (one).” or "Let Your holy angels be with me, that the evil foe may have no power over me." Come and learn how the baptized Christian sees this life—both the "visible and the invisible" in Christ.

Coming Clean: Confessing Your Faith

A Higher Things® Youth Retreat

Deliver Us From the Evil One

Winter Higher Things Retreats!

If you haven’t already, you’ll soon discover that members of the opposite sex not only don’t have cooties, but that they may even be kind of cute. Join us as we see what G o d ’s Word teaches us about Jesus and the church, what that teaches us about marriage, and what marriage teaches us about dating and relationships. We’ll tackle the topic of marriage, sex, and dating in a way that puts Jesus at the center and is appropriate for Junior High aged Youth.

When: February 21-22, 2014 Cost: $40/person

Where: Zion Lutheran Church
 Staunton, Illinois
 (618) 635-2880

Download registration forms and register online at www.higherthings.org/retreats More retreats are being scheduled and planned all the time! If your church would like to host a junior youth retreat this spring, contact retreats@higherthings.org.


At

we firmly believe that the best way for kids to be Lutheran (For grandparents to be Lutheran… For anyone of any age, really, to be Lutheran…) is to worship, study, and breathe the time-tested teachings of Lutheranism. That is nothing less than the pure Gospel—the very news that Jesus Christ has come to save us. His Gospel lies at the heart of all that Higher Things does. We invite you to continue to partner with us in our mission. We need your support to further the development of confessionally sound, youth-oriented resources that are firmly set in the Lutheran tradition. As an individual, we ask you to support the work of Higher Things with a one-time (or monthly) tax-deductible gift of $25, $50, $100 or more. Beyond your individual gift, would you ask your church to include a donation to Higher Things in its annual budget? A gift of $500 from every congregation sending youth to this year’s conferences would provide over $100,000 toward conference and publication expenses. Your support is needed! We ask you to continue to join with us by giving, praying, and supporting our mission to dare young people to be Lutheran! You may donate securely online at our website: www.higherthings.org by clicking on “Support” or by mailing a check to Higher Things, P.O. Box 155, Holt, MO 64048. Higher Things is a registered 501(c)(3) corporation and is a Registered Service Organization (RSO) of the LCMS.

W I N T E R 2 0 1 3 _ 27


Catechism

Parents & Children The Table of Duties:

By Rev. William M. Cwirla

From the moment of our birth,

God places us in an order. We have a father and a mother who have begotten and birthed us. Even if we have been adopted or have stepfathers or mothers, God has set us into the holy order of a household as children under the authority of our parents.

H I G H E R T H I N G S __ 28

This is the very heart of the 4th commandment. “ Honor your father and your mother.” Out of fear and love of God we should not despise or anger our fathers and mothers, but honor them, serve and obey them, love and cherish them. Father and mother are God’s deputies; they share a verb normally reserved for the Lord alone: to honor. Their rules are God’s law for us. This is why the apostle Paul warns fathers not to exasperate their children. Don’t frustrate them with endless, useless rules, which will only make them worse and teach them to despise God’s Law. Rather parents, with fathers at the head, are to bring up their children in the nurture and instruction of the Lord. This begins with bringing their child to Baptism, where the life of being a disciple of Jesus begins. It means bringing the kids to church, teaching them how to sit still in the pews, how to use the hymnal, how to hear and speak and sing with your fellow believers. It means involving the

children in devotions at home, teaching them the Scriptures and the catechism, confessing and forgiving each other, and training them to live as God’s free and forgiven children. Parents are for our blessing, even though it may not always seem that way, especially when we as children don’t get what we want. They protect us, provide for us, nurture us, and mentor us into adulthood. The apostle Paul reminds us that this commandment is the first one that contains a promise: “…that it may go well with you and that you may enjoy long life on the earth.”


and in school, why we don’t help with the dishes or clean our rooms or come home at the appointed hour or don’t listen with respect to our parents. The Old Adam is why we resent their place in our lives. God’s order of the household is intended to reign in that old brat of ours. Like the Law itself, parents are a curb, a mirror, and a guide. They curb the effects of sin with curfews, rules, and expectations. They show us where we have fallen short of the glory of God and how we have failed to live up to standards. They guide and instruct us into adulthood, apprenticing us, and teaching us by example. This literally kills our old brat, Adam, and that’s precisely what’s supposed to happen. Daily we die to sin; daily we rise to new life in Christ, until we attain full maturity in Christ (Ephesians 4). The evangelist St. Luke tells us that Jesus, as a 12-year-old young man, was obedient to his parents, Mary and Joseph, and lived under their authority in Nazareth (Luke 2). Imagine that. The Son of God in the flesh, the second Person of the eternal holy Trinity, lived in the household of Mary and Joseph under their authority and was obedient to them. He did this for us and for our salvation. He did this to redeem our broken homes by His obedience, suffering and death. He became the obedient child for us all, so that in Him, our lives might again be ordered as God’s children, and we would receive the gift of an ordered household as God’s good and gracious gift to us. Where sin has disrupted the holy order between parent and child, Christ brings forgiveness and reconciliation. Where we have sinned against one another, confess to one another and forgive one another as you have been forgiven in Jesus.

While obedience to parents doesn’t necessarily increase your life span, life does tend to go a lot better when you live at peace within the order God places you. You don’t get into trouble with your teachers. You don’t run afoul of the government and wind up in jail. You aren’t a nuisance to your neighbors. In short, you become a good citizen, member of the household, and congregation member. Our problem is that we have this old Adam, our inborn “brat” who doesn’t want to be under anyone’s authority and even despises father and mother. Our old Adam is why we act up at home

Gracious Father, bless our homes with ordered peace. Bless fathers and mothers in their holy vocations of raising their children in Your nurture and instruction. Bless children in their vocations as they apprentice to adulthood and train to form their own households. Bring healing and forgiveness to homes that are broken by sin, and turn the hearts of parents to their children and children to their parents, for the sake of Your Son, our Savior, Jesus. Amen. Rev. William M. Cwirla is the pastor of Holy Trinity Lutheran Church in Hacienda Heights, California, and serves on the board of directors for Higher Things. He can be reached at wcwirla@gmail.com.

W I N T E R 2 0 1 3 _ 29


Christ

They Testify of

A Higher Things Bible Study • Winter 2013

Introduction: The entire Old Testament is about Jesus, from the very first promise of a Savior in Genesis to the closing promise of Malachi regarding the coming prophet (John the Baptist). This study will look at Jesus’ own words teaching us that the Old Testament points to Him and is about Him (and that He is there in the Old Testament).

1

Read Matthew 1:18-23. How is the Old Testament referenced in these verses? When were these words written? Why do the New Testament writers quote the Old Testament so much?

2

Read John 5:37-40. Why do the Jews not have God’s Word abiding in them? What does Jesus say about the Scriptures? What is meant by “scriptures?”

3

What did Jesus explain to the disciples on Easter evening, on the road to Emmaus? See Luke 24:13-27. Why did He need to tell them these things?

4

Later that day, Jesus speaks to His apostles. What does He teach them? Read Luke 24:44-48.

H I G H E R T H I N G S __ 30

5

Read Acts 2:14-39. What does Peter preach? What Bible verses does He use in his sermon? What does this show us about New Testament preaching?

6

Read Acts 8:26-39. What was the eunuch reading? What does Philip preach to him? Where does it all end up?

7

What promise does God make immediately after man’s fall into sin? See Genesis 3:15. To what does this refer?

8

Read Malachi 4:5-6. Who is this talking about? (For the answer, see Matthew 11:7-13). How does this point to the Old Testament being about Jesus?

9

What does the Lord tell Moses his name is? Exodus 3:13-14. What does Jesus tell those who ask who He is? See John 8:54-58. What does this mean for how the Old Testament is all about Christ?

10

Close by singing or speaking together LSB 810, “O God of God, O Light of Light.”

To access the Leader’s Guide for this study, as well as Bible studies for articles in this issue and previous issues, as a part of an online HTOnline subscription, point your browser to: higherthings.org/magazines/biblestudies.html.


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Crucified H I G H E R

T H I N G S __

Crucified. We preach Christ and Him crucified. I desired to know nothing amongst you other than Christ and him crucified. The words of the Cross are to those perishing foolishness but to us being saved they are the power and wisdom of God. Crucified. You seek Jesus of Nazareth who was crucified. It was necessary for the Son of Man to be betrayed to the chief priests and teachers of the Law, be crucified, die, and after three days rise again from the dead. Crucified. We were crucified with Him in the waters of Holy Baptism. As surely as we died with Him, we rose with Him. We live in Him. We eat the Body and drink the Blood of the one who gave up His life on the Cross for us. Crucified. Join us this summer, as we receive all the gifts that come from the Lord who was crucified for us under Pontius Pilate and raised from the dead on the third day. His crucifixion is our faith. His crucifixion is our death. His resurrection is our justification by faith alone.

GHER THINGS 2014 CONFERENCES 32

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Know-Nothing-Know-It-Alls: The Curious Case of Agnosticism A Higher Things Bible Study Winter 2013

! Leader's Guide !

Introduction: Pastor Pierson's article discusses agnosticism, the uncertainty as to whether God exists or not. The answer to the skepticism of agnostics is not to try to convince them that there is a God “up there” but to confess Jesus, true God and man, who actually lived and died and rose. While there are good arguments for why the Christian faith is reasonable and historical and real, we recall that it is only by the working of the Holy Spirit that faith is created in those who hear God's Word.

!

1. What is the difference between atheism and agnosticism? Do you know and have you spoken with anyone who is agnostic? How did the conversation go? 
 
 Atheism is the belief that there is no God; that He does not exist. Primarily, atheism seems often directed against the Christian faith specifically. Agnosticism is the belief that you don't know. God may or may not exist, but you can't be sure; there is no certain way to know. Answers will vary about people students have spoken with. Share conversations and ask this question: If you could talk to an agnostic, what you ask? How about: “What would convince you or give you enough evidence that you would believe?” 
 
 2. Is the problem that there is no evidence for God? If not, what is it that leads to uncertainty and the inability to say we know something about God? See Romans 1:18-23.
 
 That something exists greater than us is plain from the creation and universe around us. Even scientists cannot truly claim to know where everything came from or why stuff exists rather than not. Paul tells the Romans that knowledge of God's existence and power is seen in creation but people deliberately refuse to acknowledge and believe it. Instead, they worship other things or nothing. They became fools on purpose! 
 3. The question of an agnostic is, “How can I know?” What does Thomas ask and how does Jesus answer in John 14:1-11? On what basis does Jesus tell them to believe in Him? How do these words help direct us in our conversations with agnostics? 
 
 Jesus teaches His disciples that they cannot get to the Father apart from Him. He reveals the Father to them and through Him they are drawn to the Father. To see Christ is to have God revealed to us (because He is true God after all). Jesus calls their attention to His Word and works--the things He does that prove He is the Savior. They were eyewitnesses of these things. What is helpful here in our


discussions with agnostics (and even atheists) is that we don't start with some unseen God “up there” but down here, with us, a real, historical man who is not only God but reveals God the Father to us. 
 
 4. Read John 20:24-29. What was Thomas' objection? How does Jesus deal with Thomas? What promise does He give to us who come later? 
 
 Thomas not only doubts, he flat out rejects the idea that Jesus is alive. He demands the physical proof, not unlike what many agnostics might say. But the faith that Thomas has doesn't come because He later sees Jesus but because Jesus speaks faith into Him by saying “Be believing.” "Those who have not seen and yet believe are blessed" is referring to us. This indicates that faith is a gift from God, not something we crank up inside ourselves based on evidence or not. Remind students that we never convince someone into the faith; the Holy Spirit works faith in us through His Word. 
 
 5. Read 2 Timothy 3:1-9. What else might be lying behind agnosticism? (Note especially v. 7). 
 
 The fact is, agnosticism usually has less to do with some diehard desire to know the truth but the frustration of not being able to figure it out. Rejection of the Lord is much more often the result of sinners who acknowledge that there is indeed a God but they just don't care and it is of no concern to them. Sometimes, agnostics are to be pitied not because they have a hard time understanding, but because they do in fact get it and don't want anything to do with God. 
 
 6. Read The Third Article and Meaning from the Small Catechism. How are we brought to faith and kept in the faith? How does this help us in our discussions with our agnostic family or friends? 
 
 Faith is the work of the Holy Spirit. Again, while there are many good arguments, it is not these that make us Christians but the Spirit who calls to repentance with the Law and brings faith and comfort by the Gospel. Reminding our agnostic family and friends that the resurrection of Jesus really happened (see the great resources on the HT website that talk about this) is the best starting point to keep the discussion centered on Christ. 
 
 7. Read Psalm 14:1-7. What have all done? How does this make us relate to our agnostic family and friends? What does Jesus say to such ignorance? See Luke 23:32-34. 
 
 The fact is, as sinners, we all doubt and question God. Remind students that while doubt and unbelief are indeed sin, Jesus rescues us from these, too. In fact, from the cross, He specifically forgives those who in ignorance put Him to death. Jesus died even for atheists and agnostics and haters and doubters, which includes our own unbelief and doubt. This too is something to emphasize to even those who don't acknowledge or believe it. 
 
 8. To close, read or sing LSB #573, Lord, 'Tis Not That I Did Choose Thee.

! ! ! !

www.higherthings.org


Know-Nothing-Know-It-Alls: The Curious Case of Agnosticism A Higher Things Bible Study Winter 2013

! !

Introduction: Pastor Pierson's article discusses agnosticism, the uncertainty as to whether God exists or not. The answer to the skepticism of agnostics is not to try to convince them that there is a God “up there” but to confess Jesus, true God and man, who actually lived and died and rose. While there are good arguments for why the Christian faith is reasonable and historical and real, we recall that it is only by the working of the Holy Spirit that faith is created in those who hear God's Word.

!

1. What is the difference between atheism and agnosticism? Do you know and have you spoken with anyone who is agnostic? How did the conversation go? 


! ! 
 


2. Is the problem that there is no evidence for God? If not, what is it that leads to uncertainty and the inability to say we know something about God? See Romans 1:18-23.
 


! ! ! 


3. The question of an agnostic is, “How can I know?” What does Thomas ask and how does Jesus answer in John 14:1-11? On what basis does Jesus tell them to believe in Him? How do these words help direct us in our conversations with agnostics? 


! ! ! 
 


4. Read John 20:24-29. What was Thomas' objection? How does Jesus deal with Thomas? What promise does He give to us who come later? 


! ! !


5. Read 2 Timothy 3:1-9. What else might be lying behind agnosticism? (Note especially v. 7). 
 


! ! ! ! ! ! ! 


6. Read The Third Article and Meaning from the Small Catechism. How are we brought to faith and kept in the faith? How does this help us in our discussions with our agnostic family or friends? 


! ! ! ! 
 


7. Read Psalm 14:1-7. What have all done? How does this make us relate to our agnostic family and friends? What does Jesus say to such ignorance? See Luke 23:32-34. 


! ! ! ! ! ! 


8. To close, read or sing LSB #573, Lord, 'Tis Not That I Did Choose Thee.

! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! !

www.higherthings.org


Ambition: Should a Christian Seek Success? A HIGHER THINGS BIBLE STUDY Winter 2013

!

!

Leader Guide

And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him. - Colossians 3:17

!

1. Read Colossians 3:1-17. How does St. Paul describe the worldly, sinful ambitions of mankind before our resurrection in Christ through Baptism? How does he describe our life after Baptism?

!

Paul lays out the deadness of sin--starkly and clearly. In the words of Luther, he calls sin like it is. If time allows, encourage participants to use specific examples of the words Paul uses to expose our sinfulness and the fallen world. For example, what are the idols we worship? Spend time unpacking the words of Law Paul uses there. And then, behold the contrast in our Christian life after Baptism. Now, Paul says, we are God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved. The worldly ambitions before Baptism are entirely self-serving, while after Baptism, the New Man delights in serving others in love, even forgiving others as God in Christ forgave us.

!

2. Pastor Hageman writes, “I believe there is no conflict here and that there is room for ambition in the life of a Christian.” As the article continues, what’s the difference he points out for us in following godly ambition and sinful, worldly ambition?

!

Answers may vary depending on which portion of the article is referred to. However, it essentially works the same way that Paul says it does in Colossians 3. Following the Table of Duties, Pastor Hageman rightly points us to the fact that worldly, fallen ambition is always curved inward on our own desires, wishes, etc. On the other hand, the Table of Duties also reveals that ambitions, when turned to the neighbor in service, are God-pleasing. And this difference is the difference between false works and good works, between being a child of Adam and a Child of God.

!

3. Pastor Hageman uses the word “vocation” in his article. What does this word mean in our common, every-day language? How is the biblical doctrine of vocation different, and far better?

!

Typically the world associates the word “vocation” with strictly what is done, someone’s job. People go to vocational school, receive vocational training, and attend vocational seminars. But the word vocation, as taught in Lutheran and biblical theology, comes from the Latin word


“vocare,” meaning to call. So, vocation is more than just your job; it’s a calling. And in life we have many callings. The first, of course, is the calling to faith by the Holy Spirit in Water and Word. But we also have other callings in life: being a sibling, parent, friend, student, etc. In the home, at school/work, and in the church we have many and various vocations (callings) through which God works as a mask. He hides himself in these vocations so that through us He works for others’ benefit and through us we serve Christ.

!

4. Name and describe as many biblical vocations you can think of and how they exist to serve others.

!

Answers will vary to this question depending on how well the students know the Old and New Testament. The leader can do a lot with this question to help illustrate the biblical doctrine of vocation simply by using the plethora of examples in the Scriptures.

!

5. “Love your neighbor as yourself,” St. Paul writes in Romans 13. Why is this so hard to do? Who has perfectly loved the neighbor and kept this commandment?

!

It is incredibly hard (and even impossible according to our sinful nature) to perfectly love our neighbors as ourselves. This is because, as Paul writes elsewhere, man in dead in sin (Ephesians 2) and hostile to God; sinful man is bent inward on himself. So, our love is twisted and misplaced. We love ourselves and not others. Thankfully, there is one who has perfectly loved his neighbor as himself (and even better than himself). Christ loved the neighbor both actively, by living a perfect life serving the neighbor and fulfilling the Law where we had failed, but also passively by dying on the cross for our sins, in our place as a substitute.

!

6. Which commandments are summed up in the passage from Romans 13:9 that Pastor Hageman quotes? How does Jesus parallel this in his own teaching? See Matthew 22:34-40.

!

Paul is quoting the 10 Commandments here by summarizing the second table of the Law (commandments 4-10) which chiefly deal with our interaction with the neighbor (the horizontal relationship). In Jesus’ teaching with the Pharisees in Matthew 22, Jesus summarizes the entire Law – both tables – by saying that all the Law and the prophets hang on these two commandments: You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and soul and mind; and love your neighbor as yourself. And thankfully for us poor miserable sinners, Both of these commandments and their fulfillment hang on Jesus as He was crucified for us.

!

7. Pastor Hageman quotes St. Peter’s words about humility in 1 Peter 5. Read the full context in verses 1-10. What is Paul writing this about? Who is he writing it for? And how do St. Paul’s words apply to other vocations as well?

!

Paul is teaching Peter and pastors how to conduct their ministry and what they in their vocation are responsible for. And yet, in the midst of that context, much of what he says also applies to all Christians, no matter what vocation they are called to serve in by God. One of the best examples of this is what Peter says about humility and casting our anxieties on Christ. No matter what the


vocation, humility is needed. The question is, how do we get it? Not by ourselves or our own work, but by Christ. Only Christ can truly give humility and work it in us for others.

! 7. End with this prayer: !

Lord, help us walk Your servant way Wherever love may lead And, bending low, forgetting self, Each serve the other’s need.

! (Lord, Help Us Walk Your Servant Way-LSB 857:1) ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! !

www.higherthings.org


Ambition: Should a Christian Seek Success? A HIGHER THINGS BIBLE STUDY Winter 2013

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And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him. - Colossians 3:17

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1. Read Colossians 3:1-17. How does St. Paul describe the worldly, sinful ambitions of mankind before our resurrection in Christ through Baptism? How does he describe our life after Baptism?

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2. Pastor Hageman writes, “I believe there is no conflict here and that there is room for ambition in the life of a Christian.” As the article continues, what’s the difference he points out for us in following godly ambition and sinful, worldly ambition?

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3. Pastor Hageman uses the word “vocation” in his article. What does this word mean in our common, every-day language? How is the biblical doctrine of vocation different, and far better?

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4. Name and describe as many biblical vocations you can think of and how they exist to serve others.

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5. “Love your neighbor as yourself,” St. Paul writes in Romans 13. Why is this so hard to do? Who has perfectly loved the neighbor and kept this commandment?


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6. Which commandments are summed up in the passage from Romans 13:9 that Pastor Hageman quotes? How does Jesus parallel this in his own teaching? See Matthew 22:34-40.

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7. Pastor Hageman quotes St. Peter’s words about humility in 1 Peter 5. Read the full context in verses 1-10. What is Paul writing this about? Who is he writing it for? And how do St. Paul’s words apply to other vocations as well?

! ! ! ! ! ! 7. End with this prayer: !

Lord, help us walk Your servant way Wherever love may lead And, bending low, forgetting self, Each serve the other’s need.

! (Lord, Help Us Walk Your Servant Way-LSB 857:1) ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! !

www.higherthings.org


“Merry Christmas from Above!” A HIGHER THINGS BIBLE STUDY Winter 2013

! Leader Guide !

1. Pastor Borghardt points out the importance of Jesus’ incarnation at Christmas for us throughout the whole year. Read Luke 2:10-14. What is the good message the angels brought to the shepherds? Was it just for them? What effect would the Christ’s incarnation have for the people of the world?
 
 The promised Christ (Messiah, which means “Anointed”) had been born to be their Savior. He was the Christ, and He was the Lord. He was God in the flesh! This message of great joy was also for all people. Jesus’ birth glorified God on high, because He had come as the Savior to bring peace on the earth. It was not that wars between nations would stop, nor would arguments between people cease. The peace Jesus offered wasn’t horizontal, but vertical. It was the favor of God’s grace—the good pleasure of the Lord come down toward people in Christ Jesus. 
 2. The Lord came to earth to be “incarnate”—God in the flesh. Read John 1:1-5, 9-14. Who is this “Word” who was both with God and was God? What had He already accomplished? What had He come to earth to be? How does He do this for us here on earth? How does He live (“dwell in tents,” literally “tabernacle”) among us? 


!

Jesus is the Word of God. He was the very Word by which all things were created (“Let there be light!”). He came to bring God’s light to this world, darkened by sin and death. His enlightening is to make you God’s Own children, born of God Himself! The glorious presence of God is what Jesus brings to you, just as God’s glorious presence was in the holy of holies in the tabernacle of old. Jesus accomplishes this by His special saving, loving, forgiving presence among us in His means of grace. 
 
 3. Before Jesus bodily ascended to heaven, He spoke to His disciples. Read: Matthew 28:20. Was this Jesus “in the flesh” speaking to them? Was He promising that only His spirit would be with them? When would the “in the flesh” Jesus be with them? Until when? How could this be? 
 
 Jesus comforts the Apostles before they see Him bodily ascend to the right hand of the Father. He’s not splitting himself apart, but promising that He, Himself, body/soul/mind would be with them literally “all the days." This on-going presence of the incarnate Jesus would continue until this eon comes to its end. Through the means of His grace, Jesus is fully present with believers.
 
 4. We sometimes like to think of heaven as a place, like New Jersey or Rodeo Drive. Read Luke 17:20-21. How does Jesus describe the kingdom of heaven quite differently here? What is the best way


to understand “heaven?” In what ways is God’s kingdom “in your midst?” In what way is this kingdom of heaven within you?
 
 Jesus challenges our child-like notion that “heaven is a wonderful place.” He teaches that one can’t point to the God’s kingdom in this sense. The best definition of heaven is “where God is.” Heaven is wherever God is bestowing His gracious love to you. So when you see the bread and wine on the altar becoming the body and blood of Jesus, you know God’s kingdom is in your midst. When you feel the water of baptism poured on your head in the name of the Triune God, you know God’s kingdom is there for you. When your ears hear that your Savior Jesus loves you so much that He died your death at Calvary so you may live His life, you know you are in the middle of God’s kingdom. When by faith, you receive the grace God gives in His Word proclaimed and His sacraments administered, you know also that the kingdom of heaven is within you. 
 
 5. Read Matthew 18:20 What does it mean to do something “in God’s name”? Where are Christians gathered in God’s Name? How? With what words does the Divine Service begin? With what words does the Divine Service conclude? Just how does Jesus promise to be present with us in worship at church? 
 
 Doing something “in God’s name” does *not* mean you just attach the name of Jesus to whatever you want to do as though it sanctifies your whims. What is done “in God’s name” means what is in accordance to the promises God reveals in connection with His divine name. So believers in Christ are gathered together to receive the gifts God promises to bestow in His name. It is the Holy Spirit Who calls, gathers, enlightens and sanctifies us by the incarnate presence of the Christ. Worship begins “In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.” Worship concludes with the three-fold blessing of God, in His name, in the Benediction. Throughout the Divine Service, your divine Savior Jesus is fully present, in the flesh, to be in your midst to bless you in word and sacrament. 
 
 6. Holy Baptism connects you with the incarnate Jesus. Read Romans 6:2-11. To what events does your baptism take you back in time? What happens to sinful you (your old Adam of the flesh) when you are baptized? What happens to your new self that it can rise up to walk a new life? Have you really, literally, died with Jesus and been raised in Him? 
 
 Your baptism takes you back in time (without a souped-up DeLorean) to Good Friday and Easter Sunday. The sinful nature of your flesh is crucified together with God-in-the-flesh Jesus, dead and buried. The new you (Christ within) is raised in the body of Jesus resurrected to new, glorious, everlasting life. You truly died with Jesus on Good Friday. You are really raised in Jesus on Easter Sunday, through your baptism! 
 
 7. The Lord’s Supper connects you with the incarnate Jesus. Read John 6:51-56 and 1 Corinthians 11:23-25. Is Jesus’ flesh real food to be eaten? Is Jesus’ blood real drink for you? What does Jesus give you to eat in Communion? What does He give you to drink in the Eucharist? Does this make you a cannibal? What comes forward in time to bless you in the Sacrament of the Altar?


!

Jesus flesh is true food, and His blood is genuine drink. Jesus gives you His body to eat and His blood to drink in Communion. You are not a cannibal, because you receive His body and blood to eat in


connection with your faith. The very body Jesus gave up unto death on the cross almost 2000 years ago comes to you in the Lord’s Supper, and the very blood He shed for you at Calvary is in the cup of your salvation! 
 
 8. Close with the following prayer.

!

O God, our Maker and Redeemer, Who wonderfully created us, and in the incarnation of Your Son yet more wondrously restored our human nature, grant that the birth of your only-begotten Son in human flesh may set us free, that we may forever be alive in Him Who made Himself to be like us; through Jesus Christ, our Lord. Amen.

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www.higherthings.org


“Merry Christmas from Above!” A HIGHER THINGS BIBLE STUDY Winter 2013

! !

1. Pastor Borghardt points out the importance of Jesus’ incarnation at Christmas for us throughout the whole year. Read Luke 2:10-14. What is the good message the angels brought to the shepherds? Was it just for them? What effect would the Christ’s incarnation have for the people of the world?
 


! ! ! 


2. The Lord came to earth to be “incarnate”—God in the flesh. Read John 1:1-5, 9-14. Who is this “Word” who was both with God and was God? What had He already accomplished? What had He come to earth to be? How does He do this for us here on earth? How does He live (“dwell in tents,” literally “tabernacle”) among us? 


! ! ! ! 


3. Before Jesus bodily ascended to heaven, He spoke to His disciples. Read: Matthew 28:20. Was this Jesus “in the flesh” speaking to them? Was He promising that only His spirit would be with them? When would the “in the flesh” Jesus be with them? Until when? How could this be? 
 


! ! ! 


4. We sometimes like to think of heaven as a place, like New Jersey or Rodeo Drive. Read Luke 17:20-21. How does Jesus describe the kingdom of heaven quite differently here? What is the best way to understand “heaven?” In what ways is God’s kingdom “in your midst?” In what way is this kingdom of heaven within you?


! ! !


5. Read Matthew 18:20 What does it mean to do something “in God’s name”? Where are Christians gathered in God’s Name? How? With what words does the Divine Service begin? With what words does the Divine Service conclude? Just how does Jesus promise to be present with us in worship at church? 
 


! ! ! ! 


6. Holy Baptism connects you with the incarnate Jesus. Read Romans 6:2-11. To what events does your baptism take you back in time? What happens to sinful you (your old Adam of the flesh) when you are baptized? What happens to your new self that it can rise up to walk a new life? Have you really, literally, died with Jesus and been raised in Him? 


! ! ! 
 


7. The Lord’s Supper connects you with the incarnate Jesus. Read John 6:51-56 and 1 Corinthians 11:23-25. Is Jesus’ flesh real food to be eaten? Is Jesus’ blood real drink for you? What does Jesus give you to eat in Communion? What does He give you to drink in the Eucharist? Does this make you a cannibal? What comes forward in time to bless you in the Sacrament of the Altar?


! ! ! ! 


8. Close with the following prayer.

!

O God, our Maker and Redeemer, Who wonderfully created us, and in the incarnation of Your Son yet more wondrously restored our human nature, grant that the birth of your only-begotten Son in human flesh may set us free, that we may forever be alive in Him Who made Himself to be like us; through Jesus Christ, our Lord. Amen.

! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! !

www.higherthings.org


Table of Duties--Parents and Children A HIGHER THINGS BIBLE STUDY Winter 2013

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Leader Guide 1. Read Exodus 20:12 and Ephesians 6:1-4. Pastor Cwirla reminds us that St. Paul points out this is the first commandment with a promise. What sort of long life did this promise the Israelites? In what ways does obedience to this commandment also give us long life today?


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The long life was not "eternal life," but earthly life. The Israelites were promised a long life in the promised land if they kept this commandment. This promises you long life, too. Not because, by keeping this commandment, your parents are less likely to kill you. But if your Mom taught you, "look both ways before you cross the street", and you heed her warning, you won't so soon get run over by a mack truck, will you? 
 2. Read Hebrews 2:9-11. Pastor Cwirla compares parents to God, in that they both receive "honor." In what ways are Christian parents glorified, as Jesus is glorified? What "Father" do Christian parents share with Jesus? Whose holy, sanctified acts are they, which bless you through your parents' words and actions? 
 
 Christian parents reflect the very same glory of God which comes from Jesus. As Christ was crowned with glory and honor, parents who represent Him before their children are worthy of the same glory and honor. Jesus is the God of all holiness, who sanctifies Christian parents with His own holiness. Because Jesus has credited His righteousness to your parents' account, Jesus now calls them His "brothers" and they share the same heavenly Father. The holy words and actions, with which you are blessed from your parents, are actually the holy things Jesus Himself says and does through them, to bless you. 
 
 3. Read Romans 13:1-4 When you move out of your parents' house and live on your own, can you disregard this commandment? Who else does God place over you, in much the same way as parents for young children? What is your obligation to anyone placed in authority over you?
 
 Fourth commandment keeping doesn't end when you move out. They are still your parents, and you still respect and honor them, even if as an adult you no longer have to


obey them. But you will always have some authorities over you. The boss at work. The professor at college. The police officer when you exceed the speed limit. And the government to which you must pay your taxes. God places you under the government He ordains, making you subject to obedience. If you obey, God promises blessings. If you disobey the government, God promises punishment.
 
 4. Read Romans 6:3-11. Pastor Cwirla describes Christian parents as agents of God's Law and Gospel in connection with baptism. What does your baptism do to the sinful you? What kind of life is the new you raised to live? How should you regard yourself now as a baptized believer? What happens for you daily as you remember that you are a baptized child of God?
 
 Christian parents remind you both of your sin and of God's grace in Christ Jesus. At your baptism, the "old Adam" of your sinful nature (the flesh) is crucified with Christ, dead and buried with Him by baptism into His death. As a sinner, you died with Jesus on Good Friday. But just as Jesus didn't remain dead but rose to life that first Easter Sunday, so, too, did you rise with Jesus to walk now in newness of life! So you consider yourself now "dead to sin," those old tempting bad habits left behind, and living now "to God" in Jesus. But because your "old Adam" is a really good swimmer, your baptism becomes for you a daily bath, so that through contrition and repentance he drowns and dies along with all sins and evil lusts. So that daily a new you (Christ within) arise in Jesus' righteousness and purity. 
 
 5. Read Luke 2:41-50 Is this a story of pre-teen Jesus causing trouble for His parents? Was Jesus wrong for not paying attention to His earthly parents? How does this story actually teach us about the importance of honoring a parent? 
 
 Some mistakenly think that this story shows some sort of fault in Jesus, but it does not. It is not that Jesus wasn't paying attention to His earthly parents, but that they weren't paying attention to their child, as each one thought he was with the other parent. Jesus is found in the Temple, which He correctly describes as His "Father's house." Jesus is showing how best to honor His heavenly Father by hearing and speaking His holy word in the Temple. 
 
 6. Read Colossians 3:20-21 Does this command for children to obey make them like slaves to their parents? Why should they want to obey Mom and Dad? How are fathers to treat their children? For what reason? 
 
 No, children are not slaves, but their obedience should be even greater than that of a slave. For they are not obeying just because they "have to," but because they are part of a God-pleasing relationship of parent and child. Dads, on the flip-side, shouldn't over-do it with their children. They shouldn't abuse them or over-expect from them, for the children can get overwhelmed and lose heart, easily. Loving Christian parents will not treat their


children in such a way as to overly frustrate them or provoke them to anger.
 
 7. Read 1 Timothy 5:4. Is a child exempt from honoring parents when he/she becomes an adult? What is expected from children when their parents grow old, or if one of their two parents should die? What piety does God expect from adult children toward their parents in need? Why do they care for aging parents?


!

Adulthood does not make one immune from 4th commandment keeping. They are still your parents, no matter how old you are or they get. You are expected to be "pious" toward your parents, should they have needs in their latter days. This means that you help them, see that they are taken care of, and even provide for them financially if they have need. This is the sort of Christian behavior toward older parents that is acceptable in God's sight. 
 
 8. Close with the following prayer. 
 Almighty God, heavenly Father, You have blessed parents with the joy and care of children, and You bless children to grow in Your grace and in the knowledge of Your word. Bless parents with calmness, strength and patient wisdom, so as to teach their children to love whatever is just and true and good; and grant that such children may grow to serve You well and usefully, to Your glory and to the welfare of their neighbor; through Jesus Christ, our Lord. Amen.

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www.higherthings.org


Table of Duties--Parents and Children A HIGHER THINGS BIBLE STUDY Winter 2013

! !

1. Read Exodus 20:12 and Ephesians 6:1-4. Pastor Cwirla reminds us that St. Paul points out this is the first commandment with a promise. What sort of long life did this promise the Israelites? In what ways does obedience to this commandment also give us long life today?


! ! ! 


2. Read Hebrews 2:9-11. Pastor Cwirla compares parents to God, in that they both receive "honor." In what ways are Christian parents glorified, as Jesus is glorified? What "Father" do Christian parents share with Jesus? Whose holy, sanctified acts are they, which bless you through your parents' words and actions? 


! ! ! 
 


3. Read Romans 13:1-4 When you move out of your parents' house and live on your own, can you disregard this commandment? Who else does God place over you, in much the same way as parents for young children? What is your obligation to anyone placed in authority over you?


! ! ! ! 
 


4. Read Romans 6:3-11. Pastor Cwirla describes Christian parents as agents of God's Law and Gospel in connection with baptism. What does your baptism do to the sinful you? What kind of life is the new you raised to live? How should you regard yourself now as a baptized believer? What happens for you daily as you remember that you are a baptized child of God?



! ! ! 


5. Read Luke 2:41-50 Is this a story of pre-teen Jesus causing trouble for His parents? Was Jesus wrong for not paying attention to His earthly parents? How does this story actually teach us about the importance of honoring a parent? 
 
 
 6. Read Colossians 3:20-21 Does this command for children to obey make them like slaves to their parents? Why should they want to obey Mom and Dad? How are fathers to treat their children? For what reason? 
 


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7. Read 1 Timothy 5:4. Is a child exempt from honoring parents when he/she becomes an adult? What is expected from children when their parents grow old, or if one of their two parents should die? What piety does God expect from adult children toward their parents in need? Why do they care for aging parents?


! ! ! ! 


8. Close with the following prayer. 
 Almighty God, heavenly Father, You have blessed parents with the joy and care of children, and You bless children to grow in Your grace and in the knowledge of Your word. Bless parents with calmness, strength and patient wisdom, so as to teach their children to love whatever is just and true and good; and grant that such children may grow to serve You well and usefully, to Your glory and to the welfare of their neighbor; through Jesus Christ, our Lord. Amen.

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www.higherthings.org


The Mark of a False Teacher: They Draw Away the Disciples after Themselves A HIGHER THINGS BIBLE STUDY Winter 2013

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!

Leader Guide

I charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by his appearing and his kingdom: 2 preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching. 3 For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, 4 and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths. – 1 Timothy 4

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1. Read Matthew 7:15-20. What does Jesus warn His disciples, and us, about? How will his disciples be able to discern what is good fruit (true teaching) and what is bad fruit (false teaching)?

!

Jesus is warning us all about the dangers of false teachers and how easily they can manipulate the truth and appear outwardly as disciples, but inwardly as demonic. The chief tool for measuring the truthfulness of the false teachers’ words is to measure it against the word of Christ. Look at the fruit, the message, of the true or false teachers and see how it compares to that of our Lord. This, of course, requires that all Christians know what they believe and why they believe it. It is easy for false teachers to trick the ignorant in doctrine by their lack of knowledge. In a culture that prides itself on words having changing or no meaning at all, it is increasingly important for Christians to emphasize the importance of words and their meanings, especially in Christian doctrine.

! 2. What are some ways Christians can guard against false teaching? !

Answers may vary here depending on the level of catechesis. One of the best ways of tackling false teaching, however, is not by looking at all the possibilities/forms of false teaching (although this is helpful to an extent). Rather, we should catechize like bank tellers are trained. Bank tellers are taught how to identify counterfeit bills, not by looking and studying all the counterfeits, but by looking at the real bill and knowing it backwards and forwards so that when they see the false bills, they’ll know it instantly. So too, with Christian doctrine: By studying the truth of God’s Word (in such places like the Catechism and Lutheran Confessions) we will be better prepared for false teaching that comes our way.

!


3. Some people say, “What’s the big deal about true doctrine? You’re just arguing over words. Why get upset about a little misunderstanding; a little error here and there won’t hurt.” How would you answer this? Why is false teaching so dangerous?

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Let the participants answer this and push them on using clear, critical thinking along with biblical answers. Here’s an example that could be adapted for any place and time: There’s an older lady in my congregation who used to teach the bible lessons for the youth kids. They were talking about false teaching and why even a little bit is dangerous. And to illustrate this point she brought in some brownies for the kids to eat while they were discussing this. Half way through the study she stopped and asked if the brownies were good. The kids answered, “Yes!” “Well,” she said, “I put a little bit of my cat litter box in there. But it’s okay, just a little false teaching doesn’t hurt, right?” “Wrong,” the kids said. “That’s gross!” And they were right. Even a little false teaching is harmful. Words matter. Definitions matter. And it’s vital for Christians to know what we believe and why we believe it based on the teachings of Scripture, not our own thoughts or feelings.

!

4. Read 1 Corinthians 1:10-31. Why does Paul instruct the Corinthian Christians not to look to Paul, Cephas, or Apollos as their leader? Where does Paul want us to focus our attention? See 1 Corinthians 2:1-5.

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In the Corinthian church there was apparently an argument over whom the people would follow. They had assembled into “Team Paul” or “Team Cephas” or “Team Apollos.” Paul warned against this because it distracted the people away from Christ, obscured the Gospel, and caused division in the Church. It is true doctrine that unites. False teaching divides, and none more so than making the Church about any one person other than Christ. This is why Paul says that he knows nothing among them except Christ and Him Crucified. We must decrease, Christ must increase.

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5. What are some marks of faithful, biblical teaching and preaching that you can identify so as not to be led astray? How is this helpful when visiting other churches or looking for a new church home?

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Again answers will vary here, but try to keep the discussion based on issues of content and substance. For example, some marks of faithful, biblical preaching are: properly distinguishing the Law and the Gospel; faithfully handling the Word of truth in context, meaning, and proclamation; pointing the hearers to Christ and not themselves; preaching Jesus’ and the forgiveness of sins, not Jesus the buddy or homeboy; simply identifying how many times Jesus is mentioned is a good tool; also, what kind of verbs are being used to describe Jesus’ work, saving verbs or something else? These are just a few examples. Knowing how to listen for these things can be of great use when visiting a friend’s church or another church when you’re on vacation or have recently moved to a new place. Listen to what the content of the message (and the hymns and liturgy for that matter too!). Who are the pastors pointing people to, Jesus Crucified or themselves? If it’s all for and about themselves, find a faithful shepherd and not a ravenous wolf.


! 6. End with this prayer: !

Yea, Lord, ‘twas Thy rich bounty gave My body, soul, and all I have In this poor life of labor. Lord, grant that I in ev’ry place May glorify Thy lavish grace And help and serve my neighbor. Let no false doctrine me beguile; Let Satan not my soul defile. Give strength and patience unto me To bear my cross and follow Thee. Lord Jesus Christ, my God and Lord, my God and Lord, In death and comfort still afford.

! (Lord, Thee I Love with All My Heart-LSB 708:2) ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! !

www.higherthings.org


The Mark of a False Teacher: They Draw Away the Disciples after Themselves A HIGHER THINGS BIBLE STUDY Winter 2013

!

!

Leader Guide

I charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by his appearing and his kingdom: 2 preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching. 3 For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, 4 and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths. – 1 Timothy 4

!

1. Read Matthew 7:15-20. What does Jesus warn His disciples, and us, about? How will his disciples be able to discern what is good fruit (true teaching) and what is bad fruit (false teaching)?

! ! ! ! ! 2. What are some ways Christians can guard against false teaching? ! ! ! ! ! !

3. Some people say, “What’s the big deal about true doctrine? You’re just arguing over words. Why get upset about a little misunderstanding; a little error here and there won’t hurt.” How would you answer this? Why is false teaching so dangerous?

! ! ! ! ! !


4. Read 1 Corinthians 1:10-31. Why does Paul instruct the Corinthian Christians not to look to Paul, Cephas, or Apollos as their leader? Where does Paul want us to focus our attention? See 1 Corinthians 2:1-5.

! ! ! ! ! !

5. What are some marks of faithful, biblical teaching and preaching that you can identify so as not to be led astray? How is this helpful when visiting other churches or looking for a new church home?

! ! ! ! ! ! ! 6. End with this prayer: !

Yea, Lord, ‘twas Thy rich bounty gave My body, soul, and all I have In this poor life of labor. Lord, grant that I in ev’ry place May glorify Thy lavish grace And help and serve my neighbor. Let no false doctrine me beguile; Let Satan not my soul defile. Give strength and patience unto me To bear my cross and follow Thee. Lord Jesus Christ, my God and Lord, my God and Lord, In death and comfort still afford.

! (Lord, Thee I Love with All My Heart-LSB 708:2) ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! !

www.higherthings.org


THEY TESTIFY OF ME (CHRIST IN THE OLD TESTAMENT) A Higher Things Bible Study Winter 2013

! Leader's Guide !

Introduction: The entire Old Testament is about Jesus, from the very first promise of a Savior in Genesis to the closing promise of Malachi regarding the coming prophet (John the Baptist). This study will look at Jesus' own words teaching us that the Old Testament points to Him and is about Him (and that He is there in the Old Testament).

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1. Read Matthew 1:18-23. How is the Old Testament referenced in these verses? When were these words written? Why do the New Testament writers quote the Old Testament so much? 
 
 Most Bibles will print the quoted material in italics. “Behold, the virgin will conceive, etc.” is from Isaiah 7:14. Show the youth how to read the footnotes that are in their Bibles that show where this verse comes from. Take a moment to look it up and read a few of the verses around it. Isaiah wrote those words about 750 years before Jesus was born. The New Testament authors frequently quote the Old Testament, showing that what Jesus says is true, namely, all the Old Testament is about Him. 
 
 2. Read John 5:37-40. Why do the Jews not have God's Word abiding in them? What does Jesus say about the Scriptures? What is meant by “scriptures?” 
 The “scriptures” means the books of the Old Testament. (The New Testament had not been written yet, and did not begin to be written until about 30 years after Jesus' ascension.) The Jews were experts in knowing what the Old Testament said, yet they didn't understand it. They thought their salvation was in all the Laws of the Old Testament. Jesus is teaching them that the Old Testament is about Him. Even the Laws point to Him in their fulfillment and they show people who cannot keep them that they need a Savior from sin. 
 
 3. What did Jesus explain to the disciples on Easter evening, on the road to Emmaus? See Luke 24:13-27. Why did He need to tell them these things?

!

The disciples were confused and saddened over Jesus' death. They thought He was going to be the Savior. So Jesus explains that the Savior was always foretold to suffer and die and rise again to save sinners. He pointed them to the words of the Old Testament and showed how they were about Him and the things He had to do and all that had happened. They knew the Scriptures, but didn't see Jesus as the key to understanding them. 



4. Later that day, Jesus speaks to His apostles. What does He teach them? Read Luke 24:44-48. 
 
 He explains to them all the things in Moses, the Prophets, and the Psalms (another way of describing the whole Old Testament) how those writings are about Him. He summarizes what the Old Testament is about by saying the Christ must suffer and rise. He then sends them, as eyewitnesses, to preach this Good News to the world. Make sure to emphasize that when we say the Old Testament is about Jesus, we do so because Jesus Himself teaches us that!
 
 5. Read Acts 2:14-39. What does Peter preach? What Bible verses does He use in his sermon? What does this show us about New Testament preaching? 
 
 Peter bases his sermon on words from the prophet Joel, along with the Psalms (again, look at the footnotes to see which particular verses), and a dose of his own eyewitness testimony. In other words, Peter takes for granted that the things Jesus said and did, particularly His death and resurrection, are told in the Old Testament. 
 
 6. Read Acts 8:26-39. What was the eunuch reading? What does Philip preach to him? Where does it all end up? 
 
 The eunuch is reading from Isaiah (check your Bible's notes for the exact verses). Philip starts with those verses and preaches Jesus to the eunuch. It ends up that they stop near some water and the eunuch is baptized. See how Philip goes from the words of the Old Testament, to Jesus, to baptism. This substance of a Christian sermon is always the fulfillment of God's promises in Christ, Christ's work for sinners, and His delivering that forgiveness in baptism, word and Supper.

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7. What promise does God make immediately after man's fall into sin? See Genesis 3:15. To what does this refer? 
 
 The Lord promises a Savior who will be born of a woman. The Old Testament is all about the Lord working that promise out through a particular family tree (Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Judah, David, etc). But from the very first pages of the Bible, Jesus being our Savior is foretold and promised. 
 
 8. Read Malachi 4:5-6. Who is this talking about? (For the answer, see Matthew 11:7-13). How does this point to the Old Testament being about Jesus? 
 
 The Lord promises a prophet who will immediately come before the Savior actually does. This was John the Baptist. The Old Testament began with the promise of a Savior and it closes with the promise that right before that Savior comes, the Lord will make sure people know it. So John the Baptist came and pointed to Jesus as the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. 
 
 9. What does the Lord tell Moses his name is? Exodus 3:13-14. What does Jesus tell those who ask who He is? See John 8:54-58. What does this mean for how the Old Testament is all about Christ? 
 
 Jesus identifies Himself as the God of the Old Testament. It's not just that the Old Testament points to Jesus (it does). It doesn't just prophesy that He will come. Jesus is giving witness that He is the eternal


Son of the Father who has always and everywhere been around, only coming in time in the flesh to died and rise for us. 
 
 Encourage students as they read the Old Testament to ask the question, “How does this show Jesus?” Sometimes it is more obvious than others but remind them to ask their pastor to teach them how to see Jesus in the words of the Old Testament. 
 
 10. Close by singing or speaking together LSB 810, “O God of God, O Light of Light.”

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THEY TESTIFY OF ME (CHRIST IN THE OLD TESTAMENT) A Higher Things Bible Study Winter 2013

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Introduction: The entire Old Testament is about Jesus, from the very first promise of a Savior in Genesis to the closing promise of Malachi regarding the coming prophet (John the Baptist). This study will look at Jesus' own words teaching us that the Old Testament points to Him and is about Him (and that He is there in the Old Testament).

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1. Read Matthew 1:18-23. How is the Old Testament referenced in these verses? When were these words written? Why do the New Testament writers quote the Old Testament so much? 
 


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2. Read John 5:37-40. Why do the Jews not have God's Word abiding in them? What does Jesus say about the Scriptures? What is meant by “scriptures?” 


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3. What did Jesus explain to the disciples on Easter evening, on the road to Emmaus? See Luke 24:13-27. Why did He need to tell them these things?

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4. Later that day, Jesus speaks to His apostles. What does He teach them? Read Luke 24:44-48. 
 


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5. Read Acts 2:14-39. What does Peter preach? What Bible verses does He use in his sermon? What does this show us about New Testament preaching? 


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6. Read Acts 8:26-39. What was the eunuch reading? What does Philip preach to him? Where does it all end up? 
 


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7. What promise does God make immediately after man's fall into sin? See Genesis 3:15. To what does this refer? 
 


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8. Read Malachi 4:5-6. Who is this talking about? (For the answer, see Matthew 11:7-13). How does this point to the Old Testament being about Jesus? 
 


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9. What does the Lord tell Moses his name is? Exodus 3:13-14. What does Jesus tell those who ask who He is? See John 8:54-58. What does this mean for how the Old Testament is all about Christ? 
 


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10. Close by singing or speaking together LSB 810, “O God of God, O Light of Light.”

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“Church Year and the Liturgy” HIGHER THINGS BIBLE STUDY Winter 2013

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Leader Guide 1. Dr. Eifert addresses the liturgy. Exactly what is a “liturgy”? Read 2 Corinthians 9:10-15 and Hebrews 8:1-6. Of what does this ministry consist? Who is served by the liturgy? Who is the chief “Liturgist” of the Divine Service? Who does He use on Sunday to serve the people of a congregation?
 
 “Liturgy” comes from a Greek compound word. The “lit” part is related to the English “laity” meaning people. The “urgy” part is related to the English “energy” meaning “ability to do work.” So a liturgy is work that blesses or benefits people. This work in the church is forgiving sins, saving souls, and bestowing life eternal. The people of the congregation are served with these blessings. Christ, our High Priest is the Liturgist who works these benefits for God’s people. Pastors are ministers whom Jesus uses to deliver His gifts, as His spokesmen and His servants. 
 2. The church year begins with Advent, the season that readies us for Christ’s return. Read John 20:20-23. What does Jesus commission His Apostles to do here? What does your pastor do for you either privately or prior to the start of the Service of the Word? How may your pastor do this? 


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Your preparation for Christ’s advent, and your preparation for worship are the same. Jesus sent the Apostles on a mission to forgive sins of those whom He brings to repentance. The preparatory rite for Christians includes Christ’s forgiveness. Your pastor may absolve you individually in the sacrament of private Confession and Absolution, or he may forgive the congregation corporately with a public confession and absolution. Or your pastor may offer a declaration of grace in the preparation of worship, reserving confession and absolution for private reception. 
 
 3. Christmas worship includes a special canticle: the Gloria in Excelsis. Read: Luke 2:13-14. What do the angels say about God on high in heaven? What is this? What do they say about people here on the earth? What is this? 
 
 The Christmas canticle, omitted for the 4 weeks of Advent, returns on the day of Jesus’ birth. The angel army praises God by singing of His glory. This refers to the bright splendor which radiates from God the Father’s face, which no sinner may see without dying. The angels honor God by glorifying Him before the shepherds, magnifying Him and crediting Him with all honor. To people on earth, they bring news of peace. This isn’t necessarily a horizontal peace between people or nations, but a vertical peace between God the Father and all mankind. In Jesus, the God-man, both God and man are reconciled by His atonement at the cross of Calvary.



4. What is an epiphany? Compare Matthew 4:13-17 and Matthew 17:1-8. What are the two highlight events of the Epiphany season? What does God the Father say about Jesus both times? What new thing does He add on the second occasion? Why?
 
 An epiphany is a “showing” or a “manifestation.” Jesus’ epiphany is His coming out party. He reveals Himself as the Savior at His baptism, and with a reflection of His Father’s glory on the mount of transfiguration. Each time the Father’s voice is heard from above saying, “This is my Son, the Beloved, in Whom I delight.” This teaches us to focus upon the works of Jesus. At His transfiguration, the Father adds, “You listen of Him.” This teaches us to hear the very words of Jesus Himself, and also to listen to the preaching of Christ crucified. 
 
 5. Lent is a time of catechesis and repentance, to learn what God says about our sins, and what Jesus reveals to us as our Savior. Read John 1:29-37 What does John the baptizer call Jesus? Why? What purpose of Jesus’ ministry does John reveal here? 
 
 John calls Jesus the “Lamb of God”. This has two references: first, it is the Passover lamb sacrificed to spare the firstborn. Secondly, it is the spotless lamb of Yom Kippur, the “Day of Atonement,” whose blood was poured on the mercy seat of the ark of the covenant, and sprinkled upon the people for the forgiveness of their sins. Jesus, like a lamb led silently to the slaughter, willingly offered Himself as your sacrifice at Calvary. He did this for the purpose of taking away your sins. This is forgiveness. You sins are taken from you, as at baptism, and Jesus becomes your sin at the cross, suffering your death their so that by the blessed trade of your sins for His righteousness, you are blessed with everlasting life! (Since the canticle of praise is omitted during Lent, some Pastors will repeat these words, “Behold, the Lamb of God Who takes away the sin of the world” as they hold forth the consecrated bread and cup.) 
 
 6. Holy week begins with the triumphal entry into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday. Read Matthew 21:1-11. In the Sanctus, we sing some of these same words. What is the first thing the people shouted on Palm Sunday? Why? What did they shout next? Why? 
 
 As they shouted “hosanna in the highest,” we sing these same words in the Sanctus. Hosanna means “save us,” so we sing this right before communing, in anticipation of Jesus’ answer as He comes to us in His body and blood. Then we sing, “Blessed is He Who comes in the name of the Lord.” Here, too, we are looking forward to the forgiveness, life and salvation we receive in the sacrament of the altar. (Some pastors may lift up the cup and paten to the crucifix at the words “Blessed is He Who comes…” as a visual reminder that the body given and blood shed at the cross actually come to us in communion.) 
 
 7. Read John 20:19-21, 26. How does Jesus greet the 10 disciples? How many times? A week later, how does Jesus greet them again? What is so important about Jesus’ peace? When was it promised to people (see question 3)? Where is peace found for you in the divine service?


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The customary paschal blessing of Easter is of peace. Jesus greets His disciples three times with “Peace to you.” Jesus is that Prince of Peace promised of old, Who first came as an infant with the


promise that He would bring peace on the earth for people. Jesus came to be that blessed peacemaker at Calvary. Raising Himself to life again, Jesus proclaims the peace He brokered to the disciples. Your pastor does the same thing at Communion. He proclaims, “The peace of the Lord be with you” after the words of institution. The congregation responds with a resounding “Amen”, meaning, “Yes, yes, it shall be so.” (The pastor may lift the bread and the cup as He speaks these words, so the people can see where Jesus is offering them His peace in the Lord’s Supper.) 
 
 8. Close with the following prayer. 
 Almighty and eternal God, You mercifully hear the prayers of Your people. Keep your people continually in the true faith that they who lean upon the hope of Your heavenly grace may ever be defended by Your mighty power, and grant us peace in our days; through Jesus Christ, our Lord. Amen.

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“Church Year and the Liturgy” HIGHER THINGS BIBLE STUDY Winter 2013

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1. Dr. Eifert addresses the liturgy. Exactly what is a “liturgy”? Read 2 Corinthians 9:10-15 and Hebrews 8:1-6. Of what does this ministry consist? Who is served by the liturgy? Who is the chief “Liturgist” of the Divine Service? Who does He use on Sunday to serve the people of a congregation?
 


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2. The church year begins with Advent, the season that readies us for Christ’s return. Read John 20:20-23. What does Jesus commission His Apostles to do here? What does your pastor do for you either privately or prior to the start of the Service of the Word? How may your pastor do this? 


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3. Christmas worship includes a special canticle: the Gloria in Excelsis. Read: Luke 2:13-14. What do the angels say about God on high in heaven? What is this? What do they say about people here on the earth? What is this? 
 


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4. What is an epiphany? Compare Matthew 4:13-17 and Matthew 17:1-8. What are the two highlight events of the Epiphany season? What does God the Father say about Jesus both times? What new thing does He add on the second occasion? Why?


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5. Lent is a time of catechesis and repentance, to learn what God says about our sins, and what Jesus reveals to us as our Savior. Read John 1:29-37 What does John the baptizer call Jesus? Why? What purpose of Jesus’ ministry does John reveal here? 
 


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6. Holy week begins with the triumphal entry into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday. Read Matthew 21:1-11. In the Sanctus, we sing some of these same words. What is the first thing the people shouted on Palm Sunday? Why? What did they shout next? Why? 


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7. Read John 20:19-21, 26. How does Jesus greet the 10 disciples? How many times? A week later, how does Jesus greet them again? What is so important about Jesus’ peace? When was it promised to people (see question 3)? Where is peace found for you in the divine service?


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8. Close with the following prayer. 
 Almighty and eternal God, You mercifully hear the prayers of Your people. Keep your people continually in the true faith that they who lean upon the hope of Your heavenly grace may ever be defended by Your mighty power, and grant us peace in our days; through Jesus Christ, our Lord. Amen.

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Profile for Higher Things: Dare to be Lutheran!

2013 Winter - Higher Things Magazine (with Bible Studies)