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Look Inside for Details On:

Bread of Life Higher Things 2016 Conferences

Retrospective Issue www

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Taste of the Sem

(For high school guys and girls)

(For high school guys only)

June 21-26, 2014

January 18-20, 2014

Ready to register? Visit www.csl.edu or call 800-822-9545. Scripture taken from the HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan Bible Publishers.

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T h e s e m in a r y h a s c h a n g e d K i r k s l i f e . Check out how you can serve God in ministry!

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Taste of the Sem Jan. 14-16, 2en01on7ly)

(For high school m

801 SEMINARY PLACE ST. LOUIS, MO 63105 WWW.CSL.EDU

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June 2

(For high s 4-29, 2017 chool men and wome n)


Contents T A B L E O F

Volume 16/Number 3 • Fall 2016

Special Features 4 The Sophia of Worthy Reception

By Rev. George F. Borghardt Do you ever wonder if you’re truly worthy to receive Christ’s Body and Blood? By giving you a peek into the precious life of his 14-year-old daughter, Rev. Borghardt addresses that concern with compelling clarity.

6 Praying for Your Front-Line Pastor

By Rev. Duane Bamsch October is Pastor Appreciation Month and what greater way to show gratitude for your pastor than to pray for him. As an experienced pastor himself, Rev. Bamsch lays bare the typical struggles that characterize his vocation.

8 Higher Things Conferences: A Life-Changing Experience

By Benjamin Heinz Benjamin’s enthusiasm is contagious as he recounts his adventures as an attendee and College Conference Volunteer at numerous HT conferences. He might just convince you to sign up!

10 Who Am I?

By Rev. Harrison Goodman That’s a good question and probably one of the most common asked by each one of us. The key, according to Rev. Goodman, is deciding whether you are going to listen to the world’s answer or God’s declaration.

12 Free to Sing in Faith

By Taylor Schmidt Maybe you have the dulcet tones of an angel. Or perhaps your pipes could make paint curl (at least you think so). Even so, there is a great deal of richness in the historic liturgy that magnifies God as giver and us as receivers, which Taylor strives to encourage you to remember as you sing in church.

14 Bread of Life Photo Retrospective Check out our photo collage and see if you recognize anyone!

20 Does Everything Happen for a Reason?

By Sarah Grandfield-Connors Isn’t it the classic question of the unbeliever to ask, “If there’s a God why does he allow so much suffering and pain?” Even if your identity is found in Christ, you will have times when you ask, “Why?” Sarah poignantly shares her story of grief and how God has answered that question for her.

22 The Stepfamily Redemption Connection

By Katie Hill To say the forming of a stepfamily is a life adjustment would be a major understatement. Katie explains that, in the midst of all of that adjusting, God sees a stepfamily as fertile ground to work His redemption through Christ Jesus.

HigherThings

®

Volume 16/Number 3/Fall 2016 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. Gaven Mize Rev. Dr. Matthew Richard Copy Editor

Dana Niemi Bible Study Authors

Rev. Randy Blankschaen Rev. Jacob Ehrhard Rev. Aaron Fenker Rev. Samuel Schuldheisz Subscriptions Manager

Elizabeth Carlson

Regular Features

___________

16 Check out the HERE I STAND Higher Things 2017 Summer Conferences!

President

28 Catechism: The Gift of Stuff

By Rev. William M. Cwirla We may never find out what happened to Rev. Cwirla’s yellow Schwinn bicycle but by the time you finish this article, you’ll definitely have a better understanding of the Seventh Commandment.

30 Bible Study:

Higher Things Conferences: A Life-Changing Experience Be sure to check out this sample of one of our student Bible studies which links up with Benjamin Heinz’s article on P. 8.

Board of Directors

Rev. George Borghardt Vice-President

Rev. Duane Bamsch Treasurer

Mr. Eric Maiwald Secretary

Rev. Joel Fritsche Rev. Dr. Carl Fickenscher Sue Pellegrini Matt Phillips Rev. Chris Rosebrough ___________

Executive Council Deputy Executive/ Conference and Retreats

Sandra Ostapowich Media Executive

Rev. Aaron Fenker Business Executive

Connie Brammeier Technology Executive

Jonathan Kohlmeier Marketing Executive

Ann Osburn

Development Executive

Erica Jacoby

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 2016. Higher Things® is 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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The

Sophia

of Worthy Reception By Rev. George F. Borghardt


My daughter’s Sophia’s name means “wisdom.” She’s more precious to us than rubies! (Proverbs 8:11) She has taught me more about being a pastor than any theology book or seminary class. Her whole life flows from God. She literally can’t make it on her own. She lives and grows completely and totally from the God who gives gifts to her. In her conception, she received as gift from the Lord one of the rarest genetic disorders in the world (partial trisomy 9q, partial monosomy 21q). This means that the bottom of the ninth chromosome was copied and attached itself to the bottom of the twenty-first chromosome, and some of twentyfirst chromosome was deleted...in every cell in her body. She was baptized just after her birth with the Lord’s Name and three squirts of a syringe. She spent nearly a quarter of her first year in the hospital, winning every lottery she could, too—every test was a 1:1,000,000 chance or “probably not this but we are going to test for it just in case,” she won that one too. What can I say? She’s just a winner. The experts said she wouldn’t ever be anything other than “a bump on a log” and that she wouldn’t live more than a year. But she just kept receiving the gift of life from God. She wanted to play with her brothers, so she learned to roll. She rolled everywhere! Then she noticed that everyone else was walking, so she learned first to army crawl and then to walk. It was a big deal—even when she was seven years old—that she could walk. Not bad for my little “Bump on a Log!” Now, my Little Bump on a Log has turned 14 and what about her partaking of the Lord’s Supper like the other kids her age? Surely the Bread of Life is for her, too! The world’s wisdom says, “No.” She can’t talk. She’s delayed in many ways. She can’t communicate like you and I can. She makes hand signs and uses an iPad. How can she have the Lord’s Supper when she can’t even go through confirmation class? The Small Catechism says, “Fasting and bodily preparation are certainly fine outward training. But that person is truly worthy and well prepared who has faith in these words: ‘Given and shed for you for the forgiveness of sins.’ But anyone who does not believe these words or doubts them is unworthy and unprepared, for the words ‘for you’ require all hearts to believe.” Faith! Faith makes even a Bump on a Log worthy and well prepared for the Sacrament—faith in the words, “Given and shed for you for the forgiveness of sins.” Whoever has faith in those words, and believes that Jesus lived and died for them, and that He comes to them in the Body and Blood of the Lord’s Supper receives exactly what the Lord says: the forgiveness of sins. The world’s wisdom is completely wrong! It would have

you look inside yourself to see how prepared you are, how much theology you know, or how you feel about God to determine if you are worthy for God’s grace and care. Get your life together and then God’s gifts will be for you. Stop sinning so you can come to the Lord’s Supper. The world’s wisdom is so wrong that following it is what would actually make you unprepared for the Sacrament! Reject Jesus, choose your sins over Him, and you truly aren’t worthy. Doubt these words, don’t believe them, go with what you think or feel or do, and Jesus’ Supper isn’t a gift to you anymore. It’s deadly poison for your soul. So, Sophia stood before her pastors and was asked the questions that everyone was asked at their confirmation. She answered “Yes” by raising both of her hands over her head. That’s the way she says “Yes,” like a referee signaling a touchdown. “Do you renounce the devil and all His ways?” Touchdown. “Do you believe in God the Father Almighty?” Touchdown. “Do you believe in His Son, Jesus Christ our Lord, who was conceived by the Holy Spirit…” Touchdown. “Do you believe in the Holy Spirit?” Touchdown. And so, she confessed her faith—faith that receives both good and bad from Jesus. Faith that trusts the Word of God in the water to deliver the Cross to her. Faith which believes that the Absolution spoken by her pastor is just as valid and certain even in heaven as if Christ her Lord had forgiven her Himself. Faith that believes Jesus’ words, “This is My Body,” means “This is my Body,” and “This is My Blood really means, “This is my Blood.” Her pastor tried to teach her about the Sacrament since she was a baby. I would get on my knee and hold the Host up to her face and say, “Sophia, this is Body of Christ.” I would hold the Cup up and say, “This is the Blood of Christ.” She would simply respond with her sign for “Please,” which is to rub one hand across her stomach. And so on this day, after her great confession, the pastor held the Body and Blood of Christ to Sophia’s mouth and said, “Take, eat, the Body of Christ…Take, drink, the Blood of Christ.” No touchdown this time. No please. This time, she turned around and touched a certain button on her iPad. “Amen,” it said. Gift received. That’s faith! Maybe, my little Bump on a Log has some Sophia wisdom for you, too. Don’t look at yourself to see if you are worthy for the Lord’s Supper. Don’t look at your life and how it’s going. Don’t get wrapped up trying to figure out how you feel about God that day. Confess your sins. And run to the Sacrament where you are forgiven. If you have doubts—about God or yourself—take them to the Lord’s Supper. And the Body and Blood of your Lord and Savior will strengthen and keep you steadfast in the one true Faith unto life everlasting. Rev. George F. Borghardt is the senior pastor at Zion Evangelical Lutheran Church and School in McHenry, Illinois. He also serves as the president of Higher Things.

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Praying for Your Front-Line Pastor By Rev. Duane Bamsch

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There are far too many people

who seem to think that their faithful pastors are shrinking violets or spineless buffoons who are unable (or even unwilling) to hear of your demons and sins. Perhaps you fear that we cannot handle the rawness and reality of your failings. It may help to remember that we pastors spend every single day in hand-to-hand combat with Satan himself and his demons. St. Paul even gives us a reminder: “For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places” (Ephesians 6:12 ESV).

There are no medals for the clergy. No “welcome home” parades after a difficult fight in enemy territory. Nor do we seek such things. Our deep wounds aren’t seen in slings or scars, crutches or prosthetics. All too often we hear that a brother pastor has fallen to the lure of Satan, or that despair has taken another, or that persecution is about to overrun yet another faithful servant of Christ and his family. Even so, we readily and willingly gird ourselves with the full armor of God for another day of confronting the evil Satan that hurls your way. We take up the most wondrous and most powerful weapon on earth—the very Body and Blood of Christ in our Communion Kit. This is the Bread of Life come down from heaven, which we eat so that we may not die, given for you for the forgiveness of sins, and armed thus we plunge into the gaping maw of death for another day of the care of souls. In your moment of need, your pastor will not shun you. He will not shake his head at your sin and failure. He will not call your parents or friends and tattle on you. He will unflinchingly stand by your side even as the evil one drops his mightiest artillery on your position. Your pastor will warn you of the dangers of unrepentance and unbelief, of turning to the gods of this world and betraying your baptism for fleeting pleasure. All the while he laments that eternity separates those who flee Christ their Savior in order to willfully shape gods of their own making. For this, he loses sleep and is stressed over the

likelihood that those he loves and serves will attack him because they don’t want to hear the admonition of their Lord. Yes, the pay is awful. There aren’t enough hours in the day. The phone never stops ringing. Pastors miss their children’s birthday parties or recitals. They receive bsolutely devastating and gutting news far too often. They are cursed and despised, just as our Lord Christ was. These are the consequences of your pastor taking up the cross, of having the Lord’s hands laid upon him so that he may deliver to you—the saints of God—what was once delivered to him: the very Bread of Life, which brings life, forgiveness, and salvation to all who believe. He will have moments of rest and respite: a short vacation here, a getaway or retreat there. Three days with no cell coverage never seemed so wonderful! Yet, vacation is just that—a temporary sabbatical from the endless assaults of the evil one. So, please pray for your pastor. When he seems to be a bit “off” or not quite on task, he may have gotten a terrible phone call, he may not have slept much after trying to finish a sermon that was delayed because of a hospital call that turned into the Commendation of the Dying, or he may even be worried sick over a parishioner who has left the faith. At your youth group gatherings, remember your pastor in your prayers, too. When you see him during the week, or even on Sunday, ask him how you can pray for him and what kinds of prayers he needs. In between bringing you God’s

good gifts of Word and Sacrament, he prays for you constantly; he will never say it, but he appreciates your prayers for him more than you will ever know. Pastors, if you’re reading this, remember your baptism—in which death and Satan lost their grip on you. Hold high the Crucified Christ for those in your charge—He who is the Author of Life. Proclaim the life-giving Word of God—speak with the same voice that spoke from Mt. Sinai, the burning bush, and the Risen Christ. Give those who need and desire it the Medicine of Immortality—the very antidote to death. And take comfort in the knowledge that there are those who lift you up in their petitions and prayers. As a brother pastor once prayed, so also you may pray for your own pastor: Holy Father, as Your Son and His blessed apostles cast out demons in Galilee and Judea and beyond by Your Holy Spirit, so remove from our pastor that demon called Despair by Your Word and Spirit, that he might not be tempted to unbelief but would be strengthened by the witness of Your Spirit through the mysteries You have provided, calling us little children and granting us the life and kingdom of Your eternal Son, our Lord Jesus Christ. Amen. Rev. Duane Bamsch is the pastor of Zion Lutheran Church and School in Terra Bella, California. He also serves the vice president of the Board of Directors for Higher Things.

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Higher Things Conferences:

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A Life-Changing Experience By Benjamin Heinz


This summer, I had the extraordinary opportunity to serve

the Lord in sharing the gospel with hundreds of youth, including myself: first, on the campus of Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tennessee, and then a week later on the campus of the University of Northern Iowa, I laughed, sang, read the Lord’s words, made friends, received forgiveness (and quite a few blisters), ate, walked, lived and breathed in an environment centered entirely in Christ. I’ve gone to quite a few Higher Things conferences since 2010, and every year I’ve always looked up to the College Conference Volunteers (CCV’s) and imagined myself becoming one of them, serving the Lord and having a blast while doing it. Fast forward six years later and my waiting was finally over. Over the course of the week that I participated as a volunteer for HT, I slept very little, learned very much, and ran all over the place with my fellow volunteers to make sure the conference ran as smoothly as possible. Meeting awesome new CCV friends was not only a plus, it also gave me the opportunity to be part of a cohesive and effective team. At the end of the week, I felt incredibly accomplished in the fact that my new friends and I had done our best to serve the Lord in whatever way was needed. While my experience as a CCV has been a highlight for me, each Higher Things conference has changed me as a person forever. First, participation in each conference has brought about a change of perspective. Yes, this is the same faith you’re being taught in your home churches, but hearing the same word taught by at least a dozen different pastors is very different than experiencing just one or two in your home church. Every single pastor and teacher at a Higher Things conference has a different story—a unique way they came to teach the gospel to others. Some are converts to Lutheranism, while others have been lifelong Lutherans. Some started out their adult life training to become a pastor; others did not follow that path until much later. So when we get to hear the same words of Christ in all those different voices it can mean all the difference in how it is received. This has helped me to grow in the Gospel in ways that I might not have through hearing from only one pastor at my home church. Second, there is a sense of community at a Higher Things conference you will never feel anywhere else. Everyone you see and meet at a Higher Things conference is there for one reason: Jesus. Because of this, there is a deep connection that you can feel with complete strangers. Many of my closest, dearest friends in the world I met “by chance” at a Higher Things conference, all from towns and churches I’ve never heard of. It’s become clear over time that

meeting these people has been no accident, as the Lord clearly brought me together with them for a reason. Randomly bumping into a stranger can be the beginning of a friendship with your future best friend. Why? Because these friendships start in a pure and raw form: centered in Christ. With friendship grounded on the one true solid Rock, it’s unshakeable and unforgettable. Third, every single year I get an infinitesimally small idea of what heaven is like during the final service of a Higher Things conference. At the end of the conference, you’ve learned so much, experienced so many things, and have returned to where you began: at the Lord’s Table. In this service you receive the Lord’s gifts, while the orchestra is playing along with the organ to these beautiful hymns, and you hear God’s Word infuse all you have heard throughout the week and in that moment you realize that this is the closest thing to the celebration in heaven that you can ever experience on earth. At a Higher Things conference, you understand what it means to believe what you believe and how you believe it, how you worship, and how you learn. You’re broken by the Law and raised in the Gospel of Christ. As both an attendee and as a CCV, I’ve discovered how God can use His people as His hands and feet to share His gifts with folks from all walks of life. Ultimately, the best part—one “Thing” is “Higher” than the rest—is the focus on Jesus, for you!

Benjamin Heinz (far left) is currently a freshman at Concordia University Chicago in the Lutheran elementary education program. When he is not attending conferences or delving into his studies, Ben appreciates reading comic books, watching Star Wars films, playing the trumpet, and drawing superheroes. He is a member at St. John’s Evangelical Lutheran Church in Lanesville, Indiana.

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Who Am I? By Rev. Harrison Goodman

I

t seems like a simple question. It should have a simple answer. It doesn’t. I can tell you who I’m expected to be. I can imagine who I want to be. The problem is that I’m neither of those things. Reality doesn’t seem to match up with expectation. That makes a simple little question a lot tougher. Who am I? Where do I fit? How can I be loved?

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The answer I always hear in movies and after-school specials is “Just be yourself.” Have you ever noticed that the people telling you to “just be yourself” don’t seem to have your problems? It’s great for Taylor Swift to be herself. She’s rich, famous, attractive, and popular. I’m honestly happy for those people, but I have tried to be myself. That was the whole problem. As a Christian, my understanding of who I am makes that advice even more problematic. Just be yourself. Jesus said “What comes out of a person is what defiles him…evil things come from within. (Mark 7)” If you’re asking me to be myself, you’re really just asking me to sin. I’ll enjoy it, but I’m not sure it will be helpful. Even the secular crowd gets that, though. That’s why there’s a second unspoken part of “Be yourself.” Be yourself, but better. And if you can’t be better, at least tell yourself you are. The name for it is self-esteem. The problem is, most of us struggle with it. The reason we struggle with selfesteem is because it’s all law. The burden is entirely on us. That burden gets really heavy when every failure and insult are heaped on an already confusing struggle with identity. The problem with self-esteem is that the law can’t save us. Only the gospel can do that. All law and no gospel can only leave us in one of two places. Arrogance or despair. Jesus told a parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous and treated others with contempt.

“Two men went up into the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee, standing by himself, prayed thus: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other men, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I get.’ But the tax collector, standing far off, would not even lift up his eyes to heaven.” (Luke 18:9-13) We all know someone like the Pharisee. He thinks way too much of himself. He definitely has self-esteem— he just has too much. It’s called arrogance. It happens when we believe we’re better than we actually are. It usually happens when we lower our standards until the law isn’t so heavy anymore. If there’s no gospel to forgive sins, we need a law that won’t actually convict us. Instead of looking at the fullness of God’s Word, the Pharisee just looks to himself and sets the standard to something achievable. The problem with a sliding morality that never convicts us is that it’s only really good for looking down on someone else. Arrogance is easy to hate. The tax collector sees every bit of the law. He’s honest about it. It has crushed him. He can’t even lift his eyes up to heaven. He has bad self-esteem. We all know someone with too much self-esteem, and chances are we know someone with next to none, too. As different as they seem from each other, they actually have something in common. They’re both only looking at themselves.


But here’s the important part. Selfesteem is a lie. It’s a demonic concept. The tax collector isn’t saved by improving his self-esteem. Jesus finishes the parable by saying, “the tax collector, standing far off, would not even lift up his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, a sinner!’ I tell you, this man went down to his house justified, rather than the other.” The tax collector doesn’t find hope in self-esteem but in mercy. Mercy is a Gospel word. Mercy is a Jesus-for-sinners word. Jesus loves you no matter what you think of yourself. The idea that we’re supposed to find some magical balance of not thinking too little of ourselves, and not thinking too much of ourselves, and then maintain it in the face of the devil, the world, and our own sinful flesh is insane. It’s why the concept of selfesteem isn’t in the Scriptures, which aren’t about you, or even how you’re supposed to feel about yourself. The Bible is more than just the Law. It’s also the Gospel. The Bible is about Jesus, for you. Who am I? I’m not just the sum of my actions, or even what I think of myself. I have worth, not because I earned it, but because I was bought with a price—not just gold or silver, but the holy, precious blood and the innocent suffering and death of Jesus. Who am I? I am a sinner for whom Jesus died. I am what Christ has named me. I am baptized. This isn’t a “Go tell those mean kids your baptized, and they’ll stop making fun of you” solution. It’s a promise that if the whole world screams insults at you, Christ’s promise to you is still louder. It is finished. You are forgiven, saved, precious and holy. His promise, delivered to you in your baptism, is a promise so strong that it ties you to life everlasting on the other side of the grave. That’s a promise strong enough to endure. That’s an identity that we wear today, tomorrow, and every day until the last. I am baptized, a member of the Body of Christ— knit together, not by works, but by a love so powerful that it joins sinners together, forgives them, and then conquers death. When I don’t know who I am, Christ answers: You’re baptized. Rev. Harrison Goodman serves as pastor at St. Paul Lutheran Church in Carroll, Nebraska. He taught a sectional on this subject at the Ft. Collins, Colorado conference this summer.

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By Taylor Schmidt

As traditional and confessional Lutherans,

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we sing. It’s what we do. This has been made even more real to me through my attendance at four Higher Things Conferences as well as my stint as a College Conference Volunteer (CCV) in Iowa this summer. Worship is a key component of the time we spend there, and there’s a reason for that: Singing has a way of feeding our faith. We sing the Divine Liturgy. We sing the Psalms. We sing theology-packed hymns. We sing the Word of God. If we go back to the creation of man, we read: “then the LORD God formed the man of dust from the ground and breathed into

his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living creature” (Genesis 2:7). This is God down in the dirt, forming and breathing into man life! Man became a living creature. This means that the man breathed back! From God,


we received life. We always receive. Without God, we are and have nothing. This is much like the Divine Service. The pastor, who is standing in the place of Christ, sings to us Christ’s words, and then we sing them back! Let us take a look at the liturgy of Divine Service Setting Two. In the Kyrie, the pastor chants, “In peace let us pray to the Lord.” We chant or sing back, “Lord, have mercy.” Again, our pastor chants, “For the peace from above and for our salvation let us pray to the Lord.” We respond with “Lord, have mercy.” This goes on yet a little longer. The pastor chants, we chant back. The Word is sung into our ears, and we sing the Word back into the ears of all those around us. In Matins, we proclaim “O Lord, open my lips, and my mouth will declare your praise.” In the Introit, we sing and pray the psalms together. The pastor

with boldness and confidence, why wouldn’t we also sing it that way? We are sinners in need of saving, and those sins have been washed away by the blood of the Lamb. You are free to sing like you have been saved... because you have been! You are free to sing like you have been forgiven. Christ saved you... from death! From Satan! Sing! Proclaim! Praise! You aren’t going to hell! You will be with God for all eternity instead of rotting in the fiery damnation of Satan’s dominion. This is most definitely something to rejoice about. We read in Isaiah 6 that God sanctified Isaiah’s lips and set them free to proclaim, sing, and confess. Isaiah confesses he is a sinner: “Woe is me! For I am lost; for I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the LORD of hosts” (Isaiah 6:5), but it doesn’t

sings and we respond, back and forth. When we sing “Lord, have mercy” or “O Lord, open my lips,” we are praying as a congregation! The hymns, the liturgy, and the psalms are all forms of prayer that we sing and chant as one voice. When we know this, why would we not sing louder? Through the psalms, liturgy, and hymns, we sing our very confession of faith. Recently at my church, we spoke the liturgy because we were without an organist. We spoke boldly our confession. Luther said that after the Word of God, music is the greatest treasure in the world, but it is the confession that can stand alone. If we speak our confession

stop there. “Then one of the seraphim flew to me, having in his hand a burning coal that he had taken with tongs from the altar. And he touched my mouth and said: ‘Behold, this has touched your lips; your guilt is taken away, and your sin atoned for’” (Isaiah 6:6-7). We are all Isaiahs. We are sinners, but we have been sanctified by Christ. We have been set free in the truth of the Gospel. We are free from our bondage and slavery to sin so that now we may sing at the top of our lungs. In fact, to sing is just the thing to do. Rejoice in your freedom from Satan, death and the world by singing! Do not be afraid of your own voice. Do not worry about that note you just

sang off-key. You don’t have to have perfect pitch. This is our sinful flesh looking inward at ourselves. We begin to think, “I would just make it worse, so I won’t sing at all.” Instead, look outward at those around us who need the Word of God preached and sung into their ears, and this includes ourselves! It is not about how perfect it is or sounds. Rather, it is about the content
of what is being sung or chanted. Just think: if you sing louder, someone else might decide that they, too, can sing louder. When everyone sings louder, the congregation begins to sound like one voice, one sound coming from the Body of Christ. Our prayers rise to heaven, and we do not sing alone. We sing with all the saints. We sing with the cherubim and the seraphim. You don’t hear it with your earthly ears. It is one of those heavenly wonders, a mystery we know and receive solely by faith And while it’s absolutely heavenly to sing as a part of a large group like we do at each Higher Things conference, we can remember these things as we sing in our local churches as well. “Te Deum Laudamus” is Latin for “You, O God, we praise.” Coming to the Lord’s house is never about us. It is always about receiving Christ and His saving promises and rejoicing about it! So, please, stop being afraid of your voice. We receive, pray, and return thanksgiving to Christ, the Son of the Living God, who has seen our sinful condition. He was crucified for us. He washed us. He cleansed us. Why? So we could be heirs of His kingdom, “here in time” and “there in eternity.” Taylor Schmidt recently started her sophomore year of college and is currently undecided about her plans in life. She lives in Excelsior Springs, Missouri where she attends a faithful church receiving the Word and Sacraments of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. She can be contacted at taylor. schmidt13@yahoo.com.

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Bread of Life Higher Things 2016 Conferences

June 28-July 1 Vanderbilt University Nashville, TN

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July 5-8

University of Northern Iowa Cedar Falls, IA

July 26-29

Colorado State University Fort Collins, CO


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Valparaiso University Valparaiso, Indiana

July 25-28, 2017

Valparaiso, I

Valparais

July 27-30,

Bozeman, M

Montana

July 20-23,

Mars Hill, So

Mars Hill

July 4-7, 20

San Antonio

Trinity Uni

June 27-30,

Visit HereIStand2017.org or email conferences@higherthings.org for more details.

from the Holy Scriptures or with open, clear, and distinct grounds and reasoning—and my conscience is captive to the Word of God—then I cannot and will not recant, because it is neither safe nor wise to act against conscience. Here I stand. I can do no other. God help me. Amen.” “Here I stand.” That’s daring to be…Lutheran! What words! What a theme! So on this 500th anniversary of Dr. Luther’s firing the Gospel shot heard around the Church, Higher Things is excited to stand with Luther and announce “Here I Stand” as the theme of our 2017 Summer Conferences.

Montana State University Bozeman, Montana

July 18-21, 2017

Now, he was ordered to either recant this Gospel or become an outlaw. He prayed that God would keep him from repenting a “single jot or tittle.” (Kittleson 161). The next morning, he stood before them all again. And again, he tried to debate but they would have none of it. This wasn’t a trial.“Will you recant or not?” asked the papal examiner coldly. Everyone had already decided that Luther was guilty. And in a way, he was! He was teaching the truth of the Gospel that had come clear to him a year earlier when he posted those 95 Theses that started it all: Jesus saves sinners by grace alone that is received by faith alone, and this is found in Scripture alone. “Unless I can be instructed and convinced with evidence

Mars Hill University Mars Hill, North Carolina

Trinity University San Antonio, Texas

There Luther was standing, at the Diet of Worms on April 17, 1518 in front of the Emperor of the Holy Roman Empire, the papal representatives, and their soldiers dressed in their parade uniforms. He wanted to debate the Gospel: that man is justified before God by faith in Christ and not by works. But they wanted no discussion. It was simple:“Are these are your books? Do you recant?” All Luther could say to the first question was “Yes, these books are mine and I have written more.” To the second question he asked for a night to pray, for the Gospel itself was at stake. Just a few months earlier, on October 31, 1517, he had posted 95 Theses on the door of Castle Church in Wittenburg. It was like a blog post. He wanted to discuss the Gospel then, too.

July 4-7, 2017

2017 HIGHER THINGS CONFERENCES

Here I Stand

June 27-30, 2017

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Trinit

San A

July 4

Mars

Here I Stand 2017 HIGHER THINGS CONFERENCES

Mars H

July 2

Mont

Bozem

July 2

Valpa

Valpa

June 27-30, 2017

July 4-7, 2017

Trinity University San Antonio, Texas

Mars Hill University Mars Hill, North Carolina

Why Higher Things? We live in a culture of blurry religious distinctions and do-it-yourself spirituality. Youth, especially, need solid ground that will nurture lasting Christian faith. Rather than treating youth as an adolescent subculture and confusing them with religious experiences that cannot be replicated at home, Higher Things believes in challenging youth to learn the pure doctrine of the Christian faith. By teaching them the same message that they hear at home, youth grow in the fullness of the Christian faith as they come to appreciate historic liturgical practice and its unique focus on God’s gifts of forgiveness, life and salvation for us delivered in Word and Sacrament.

The Theme: Here I Stand

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On October 31, 1517, Martin Luther posted 95 Theses on the door of Castle Church in Wittenburg. It was like a blog post that went viral. He wanted to discuss the Gospel: that man is justified before God by faith in Christ and not by works. Just a few years later, at the Diet of Worms on April 17, 1518, Luther got his chance…or so he thought. He stood in front of the Emperor of the Holy Roman Empire, the papal representatives, and their soldiers dressed in their parade uniforms. But they wanted no discussion. It was simple:“Are these are your books? Do you recant?” All Luther could say to the first question was “Yes, these books are mine and I have written more.” To the second question he asked for a night to pray, for the Gospel itself was at stake. Luther was ordered to either recant this Gospel or become an outlaw. He prayed that God would keep him from repenting a “single jot or tittle.” Everyone had already decided that Luther

July 18-21, 2017 Montana State University Bozeman, Montana

July 25-28, 2017 Valparaiso University Valparaiso, Indiana

was guilty. And in a way, he was! He was teaching the truth of the Gospel that had come clear to him back in 1517, when he posted those 95 Theses that started it all: Jesus saves sinners by grace alone that is received by faith alone, and this is found in Scripture alone. “Unless I can be instructed and convinced with evidence from the Holy Scriptures or with open, clear, and distinct grounds and reasoning—and my conscience is captive to the Word of God—then I cannot and will not recant, because it is neither safe nor wise to act against conscience. Here I stand. I can do no other. God help me. Amen.” “Here I stand.” That’s daring to be…Lutheran! What words! What a theme! So on this 500th anniversary of Dr. Luther’s firing the Gospel shot heard around the Church, Higher Things is excited to continue to stand and confess the Gospel with Dr. Luther at our 2017 Summer Conferences.

Registration Please note: Registration windows have changed! Download a Registration Packet with detailed registration information and instructions at HereIStand2017.org. Registration will open on November 1, 2017 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 on or after May 1, 2017. Balances paid on or after May 1, 2017 will be subject to a $25 per-person late fee. See the Registration Packet for more information about fees and deadlines.


EARLY BIRD! Nov. 1, 2016 to Jan. 31, 2017

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Trinity University, TX (June 27-30, 2017) Mars Hill University, NC (July 4-7, 2017) Montana State University, MT (July 18-21, 2017) Valparaiso University, IN (July 25-28, 2017) Your Registration Fee includes: • All conference programming (Catechesis, Worship, Entertainment) • Three (3) nights of campus housing (double-capacity) • Nine (9) Meals (Tuesday supper through Friday lunch) • Conference Handbook • Daily Services Book • Conference T-Shirt • Free issue of Higher Things magazine Not only can you register your group online at HereIStand2017.org, you can pay deposits and your balance online for no additional charge too! All you need is a valid HT Online account. If you don’t have one yet, you can sign up for one at www.higherthings.org.

Age Requirements Higher Things conferences are generally planned for high-school-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 confirmed or in high school, their group leaders be prepared to provide additional supervision accordingly.

Chaperones Chaperones must be at least 21 years old at the time of the Conference, 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 a Group needs assistance in finding Chaperones for the number of Youth they’re bringing, Higher Things can provide a list of Group Leaders from their area who may be contacted to ask if they would be willing to help out. Please contact the Conference Registrar (registrar@higherthings.org) for this assistance. All Higher Things staff, volunteers, and leadership have completed child safety training and annual background checks. All adults/ chaperones registered to attend a Higher Things conference must also pass a national criminal and sexual predator background check by May 1 of the conference calendar year. See the Registration Packet for more information about background checks.

Conference Capacities Trinity University in San Antonio, TX - 1,000; Mars Hill University in Mars Hill, NC - 500; Montana State University in Bozeman, MT - 600; and Valparaiso University in Valparaiso, IN - 950.

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Does Everything Happen for a Reason? By Sarah Grandfield-Connors

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verything happens for a reason, people often claim. When I lost my daughter, this became a most hated response to my grief. What reason was there for the pain I was feeling? What rationale could be applied to my grief as I viewed her body in its tiny casket?

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Everything happens for a reason isn’t a balm to the mourning heart. It’s a harsh truth that no one wants to acknowledge. It goes to the core of what each of us believes about theology, Lutheran or not. All humans wonder about the afterlife, and we’d like to think that whatever answer we come up with is based on our intellectual reasoning. In that sense, we all can conceptualize that everything does indeed happen for a reason, no matter what our belief system. It’s the deep philosophy behind this fact that causes us to avoid dwelling on it. As my grief unfolded and deeply took root during my second year of mourning, I found myself unable to rationalize much of anything. I began to avoid God. I was angry. I stopped attending church on a regular basis. We Lutherans are very big on music, and since music is so soul stirring, it was

difficult for me to read the words in my hymnal and hear the voices around me sing out about God’s truth. I didn’t want to hear the truth; I wanted my baby back. I finally did begin attending church regularly again after I had moved and found a new LCMS church close by. This church was very different than the one I had previously attended, which had been a modern church with a praise band and had featured sermons which were preached in a very motivational speaking style. This new pastor’s preaching style was “oldfashioned” and wordy. Each sermon was rich with information I could bring home and mull over. There was an organ and a choir that sang only traditional hymns. The service was reverent, and when the institution of the Sacrament began, the sanctuary


was so quiet you could hear a pin drop. This was comforting to my broken heart. The constant “sameness” of each Sunday was healing and reassuring. The order of service was the same one we had used in my childhood church, and being a part of this Lutheran liturgy was like coming home. I became more involved in the church and made friends with members of the church, inviting them into my life in person and via social media. Then it happened. On a social media platform I posted an image which said, “Not everything happens for a reason.” I received a message from my new pastor explaining that, in fact, all things do happen for a reason. I fired off an angry response. That dreaded notion had reared its head again when I thought I had finally found some solace. I didn’t want to believe that everything happened for a reason, because that would mean I would have to accept my child’s death on God’s terms. As the days went by, I dwelled on this conversation. I wavered. I thought about leaving the church once again. I wondered if I would ever be able to love church again. I pondered over whether I would ever be able to sing hymns without feeling such deep sorrow. I loved and needed Church so much, however, that “everything happens for a reason” began to work its way into my mind. I had a choice: it was either accept this as a truth, or turn my back on my faith. As I continued attending services, I watched colors and seasons change. Children were baptized, families buried their loved ones, and each Sunday our pastor was there preaching the Gospel—never wavering in his convictions, quietly answering most of the questions in my heart during the sermons. In this church I began to comprehend that everything does happen for a reason. I have been a lifelong Lutheran (with a few forays into other Christian belief systems as a young woman), but I used to tell people I wasn’t a Christian until I lost my daughter. The concept of “every knee shall bow” hits home when you hold your dead child in your arms, but this was not the beginning of my Christianity, like I thought—just the beginning of my true understanding of the Law and the Gospel. I suffered because I had been keeping my entire focus on the Law. The despair of loss made me forget the promise of the Gospel: the promise of life. I almost stopped at my suffering, validating the Law as the means of my salvation. I understand now that my daughter’s death did happen for a reason. After all, we live in a sinful, fallen world. Death is our evidence of this fact. We

cannot escape it. It is a constant reminder of our failings as human beings. Yet because I have been so well catechized, I have learned to focus not just on the Law, but also on the Gospel. Within a richer context, I understand that death is not the end, and so this has allowed me to accept my child’s death. This is a monumental admission. Very few families ever reach the point of acceptance. I see so many women suffering, and I grieve for their losses, not just of their children but of the faith they barely held onto before their losses. My baptism secured the Gospel promise for me. Regular attendance at church and weekly communion allow me to consistently receive God’s gifts and feed my wavering faith. Emphasis on liturgical worship and its focus on different seasons reminds me of life changes we all go through; the liturgy reminds me that there will be times of deep grief and times of great joy. It has been almost six years since my daughter

died. I am able to sing with my fellow worshippers, and instead of feeding sorrow, the hymns bring me a deep and abiding comfort. I am so grateful for my Lutheran church, which teaches me that bodily death is an inevitability but also reminds me that, by the grace of God, I have been baptized into new life and there is a resurrection to come. And it is the same for you, no matter what losses you have experienced or have yet to face. Jesus’ death and resurrection happened for a reason, too: to bring you forgiveness and salvation! Sarah Grandfield-Connors is a wife, mother of four and founder of limbbodywallcomplex.net, a pro-life, diagnosis specific website which supports parents who continue their pregnancy after receiving the same lethal diagnosis which took her daughter, Beatrix.

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The Stepfamily

Redemption Connection By Katie Hill

And he who was seated on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new.” Revelation 21:5

A

ccording to the U.S. Census Bureau, roughly 1,300 new stepfamilies are created each day and this number is increasing. If this statistic holds up, the odds are either you, or someone you know is part of a blended family.

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The brutal reality is that by definition, stepfamilies come about because of loss. Either one parent has died or both parents have been ripped apart by divorce. Both circumstances mean there is a lot of healing required and that can take a very, very long time. And then when a stepfamily is formed, this healing gets compounded by trying to build new relationships. I know this is not what you signed up for. Deep down, you might even wish that somehow your dad and mom could just pull it together and not be divorced anymore. You still desperately miss your mom whom you lost to cancer, even though you appreciate what your stepmom does for you. Maybe you struggle to get along with your stepdad. You like your stepbrother, but your stepsister? Lord, have mercy! And then there’s the matter of going back and forth between two houses—sometimes it feels like you’re walking on Jello. Why do I care? Besides having been a teacher and watching many young people go through these family changes, I’ve been on both ends of the stepfamily spectrum myself. My mom was divorced when I was 5 and remarried when I was 7. Because my biological father surrendered his parental rights, my stepfather legally adopted me and gave me his name. He took on an instant family and invested the time to raise me and love me for the sake of my mom. I know I gave him a hard time


on occasion but in the long run, I began to marvel at his patience with me. And even though I would occasionally long for the father I had barely known, I knew that my stepdad was “Daddy.” Now[ some years later, I am mom to two biological children and three stepchildren— experiencing all of the joy and pain that living in a blended family can bring. What I can affirm to you is that the Cross-centered understanding of grace and forgiveness that I have as a Lutheran has had a direct bearing on how I navigate these sometimes very choppy waters. In light of your chief identity as a baptized child of God, let’s work through some of the common struggles with which you might be wrestling:

Why did God allow this to happen? We live in a fallen world where sin’s devastating effects are clearly evident. Death and broken relationships are the consequence of Adam’s sin. However, God is in the redemption business through His Son, Jesus. None of this surprises God and, in a way we cannot always comprehend, He promises to work these things for our good (Romans 8:28). Sin leads to awful consequences, but forgiveness of sins has even deeper, far-reaching effects. God can take all of the broken pieces and make something new. Isn’t it, after all, the overarching theme in the Scriptures is that in spite of all of our brokenness, Christ’s perfect life, death and resurrection redeem us?

I’m not sure God blesses stepfamilies like He does other families. There is not a single family on the face of this earth presently or who has ever existed, that hasn’t dealt with struggle and contention. Look at the book of Genesis alone…nearly every family on its pages experienced some kind of dysfunction. Who had a son who killed his brother (by blood, no less)? Adam. What father of the faith had sons from four different women who conspired to get rid of their brother? Jacob. And on and on it goes. Yet, because God chooses to bless us in spite of our brokenness, we see He uses those messed-up families—and yes, even our families—to point us to Christ.

It will never be the way it used to be. You’re right. How I wish I could comfort you that way, but I can’t. And I can’t promise you it will be amazingly better than you expected, but remember that God makes all things new. The forming of a stepfamily presents unique challenges but it can also give you the opportunity to learn more directly about forgiveness. One observation of many adult stepchildren is that they learned how to be more forbearing and forgiving in ways they might not have otherwise.

What’s my role? It is not my purpose to tell you how to be a good stepchild or how to understand your stepparent(s). There are plenty of good resources out there filled with excellent day-to-day practical advice. What I want to communicate is that if you’re a stepchild, then that is a vocation. We Lutherans get catechized early on about the concept of vocation—a role in which God places us. And we have many such vocations. While stepchild is a vocation you didn’t voluntarily choose, much of what is expected of you is similar to the vocation of son or daughter. The Small Catechism reminds us with clarity about the extent of the Fourth Commandment: Who are parents and other authorities? Parents are fathers, mothers and guardians, other authorities are all those whom God has placed over us at home, in government, at school at the place where we work, and in the church. When it comes to the Fourth Commandment, you don’t have to choose between mom and stepmom/dad and stepdad. God calls you to honor the guardians He has placed over you, whether you like them or not and whether you live with both of your biological parents or only one and a stepparent. My hope is that in time you will experience a rich relationship with your stepparent(s) but the Fourth Commandment doesn’t require that.

What now? There’s no denying the growing pains you have and will experience. Avail yourself of the means of grace through the water, Word and Lord’s Supper. Seek out absolution, not only at Divine Service but also whenever you need it—your pastor is there for you. Remember your baptism each morning with the sign of the cross, for every day is a new day in Christ! As often as you can, feast on the Body and Blood of Christ, which will strengthen your faith as you travel this path. Hang out with people who will remind you of these truths. And remember that the same Lord who is seated on the throne making all things new gives you all that you need to sustain you in this life, no matter what challenges come your way. He will always be your firm foundation as He lovingly forgives you and strengthens you. Katie Hill is the editor of Higher Things Magazine. She is mom to Caitlyn, Daniel, Troy, Holly and Kelly. She has occasionally been referred to as “the Evil Stepmother” but this has thankfully been an endearment. She can be reached at katie.hill@higherthings.org.

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From the author of

TEENS PRAY

This time, Edward Grube teams up with his son Aaron. Combining a father’s biblical wisdom with a son’s real-life experiences,

LIVING LIFE, LIVING FAITH brings comfort, wisdom, and humor to readers who are dealing with a whole lot of newness.

52 DEVOTIONS cover topics such as these:

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Printed in the USA

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❯ Coping with crisis ❯ Staying connected to God ❯ Finding contentment in your vocation

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Accident or On Purpose?

October 21-22, 2016 Trinity Lutheran Church in Gillette, WY Cost: $45/person Speaker: Rev. Brent Kuhlman Contact: Rev. Jared Tucher — revtucher@gmail.com or (307) 682-4886

Confession and Absolution

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I Believe That I Can’t Believe

November 19-20, 2016 Zion Lutheran Church in McHenry, IL Cost: $50/person Speaker: Rev. Donavon Riley Contact: Rev. Mark Buetow — buetowmt@gmail.com or (618) 318-3680

Mark your calendars for these winter HT Retreats! February 17-18, 2017 – Trinity Lutheran Church in Sheboygan, WI March 17, 2017 – Redeemer Lutheran Church in Waterloo, ON March 24-25, 2017 – St. Paul Lutheran Church in Chatfield, MN March 31-April 1, 2017 – Our Savior Lutheran Church in Houston, TX Would you like more information about hosting a Higher Things Retreat at your congregation? Email retreats@higherthings.org

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Daring to be Lutheran... and having a blast! Higher Things Vlogs: Each week Pastor George Borghardt, president of Higher Things, and Pastor Harrison Goodman put out new HT Vlogs. Pastor Goodman is working his way through Luther’s Large Catechism on Wednesdays. Pastor Borghardt answers questions from youth and on current events on Thursdays. If you have a question or topic that you’d like covered in a Vlog, please email them to support@higherthings.org. HT Simulcast: Pastor Donovan Riley and Sandra Ostapowich discuss current events and topics inside and outside the Church from a biblical, catechetical, pastoral and practical perspective to explain how these events get in the way of, or help deliver, Christ and His gifts. Keep up to date with all HT content on Facebook: facebook.com/HigherThings.

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The Gift of Catechism

By Rev. William M. Cwirla

You shall not steal.

What does this mean? We should fear and love God so that we do not take our neighbor’s money or possessions, or get them in any dishonest way, but help him to improve and protect his possessions and income.

I

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still remember the day someone stole my bicycle. It happened 38 years ago. I was a graduate student at Berkeley pulling an all-nighter in the chemistry lab. In the morning, bleary-eyed from a night of work, I walked home, forgetting that I had ridden my bicycle to campus the day before. When I returned to campus later that day, my bike was gone. That bike was nothing particularly special, but I loved it anyway. It was a bright yellow Schwinn Varsity I purchased in high school with allowance money I saved for over a year. I’d ridden it on all sorts of great adventures. I had just torn it down to its frame and rebuilt it. And then someone had the audacity to steal it. I was mad!“Next to our own person and our spouse, our temporal property is dearest to us” (Large Catechism). That’s for sure! And boy, do I get angry when people steal my stuff! How dare they! Usually, when we think of “stealing” we think of various crimes and misdemeanors: burglary, armed robbery, breaking and entering, larceny, fraud, shoplifting, and bicycle theft. The Large Catechism expands our view to include being lazy at work, dishonest in business, overcharging for goods and services, underpaying workers, etc. The student who wastes the teacher’s and class’ time, the government that wastes taxpayers’ money, the company that sells shoddy products, the employer who takes advantage of his workers are all thieves in their own way. That includes you and me, too. “If we look at mankind in all its conditions, it is nothing but a vast, wide stable full of great thieves” (Large Catechism). Why is that? What is it that makes us all thieves at heart? There are many reasons for stealing—poverty, financial problems, drug addiction, or maybe just the rush that comes from getting away with something. But

the deep down reason is that our old Adam’s heart is unbuckled from God. We do not fear, love, and trust in God above all things, and so we steal other people’s stuff, and they steal from us. Our hearts are always hungry for more, and they will stop at nothing, including theft, to get it. Thieves are sneaky and often get away with their crimes. The person who stole my bicycle probably never got caught.


Stuff The Large Catechism warns that God may let the thief “get away with it” for a time. He may become wealthy and acquire great riches and possessions, all to his ruin.“For every penny you have taken and for every penny’s damage you have done you will have to pay back thirty-fold” (Large Catechism). Think about it. A thief never has a moment’s peace or joy with his plunder. He’s always afraid that someone will steal his stuff from him. After all, he’s a thief, so everyone else must be, too.

It’s especially bad to steal from the poor. We steal from the poor by failing to help them, by taking advantage of them, or by pretending to be poor when we aren’t. God, who hears the cries of the poor, will not be pleased (Large Catechism). Our Lord Jesus was numbered among the thieves, though He never stole a thing. Two thieves were His companions in crucifixion. He became the Thief to save a world thick in thieves. He rescues us from our enslavement to stuff that makes us thieves, and then He turns our hearts to Him. He frees us to enjoy our stuff and to share our possessions with others, especially those in need. He enables us to discipline our old Adam to to keep his hands off our neighbor’s stuff (including his bicycle!) and to help him preserve and protect it. There is great satisfaction in an honest day’s work for an honest wage. And there is joy in sharing the fruits of your labors freely with others. “Let the thief no longer steal, but rather let him labor, doing honest work with his own hands, so that he may have something to share with anyone in need” (Ephesians 4:28). Your stuff is God’s first article gift to you. Enjoy it, share it, and help your neighbor keep his or her stuff, too. And if you spot an old yellow Schwinn Varsity, think of mine. I hope it’s still running. “You shall not steal or take away What others worked for night and day, But open wide a gen’rous hand And help the poor in the land.” Have mercy, Lord! (Lutheran Service Book 581:8)

Rev. William M. Cwirla is the pastor of Holy Trinity Lutheran Church in Hacienda Heights, California, and is a president emeritus of Higher Things. He can be reached at wcwirla@gmail.com.

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Higher Things Conferences: a Life-Changing Experience

A HIGHER THINGS BIBLE STUDY • Fall 2016

1

Paul sends his greetings to the saints in Rome at the end of his epistle. Read Romans 16:1-23 and see how many you can identify. See Acts 18:13, 2426 to see how Prisca (Priscilla) and Aquila were fellow workers with Paul. How might Rufus have been involved with the story of Jesus, according to Mark 15:21? What special job did Tertius have?

2

Read 1 Corinthians 16:12-24 and 2 Corinthians 13:11-14. Are there any familiar names? Any new names? What problem with names does Paul identify with the Church in Corinth in 1 Corinthians 1:10-17? Although he does not identify anyone by name in 2 Corinthians, what does this final greeting have in common with the ones you’ve already read?

3

Read Ephesians 6:21-24; Philippians 4:10-23; Colossians 4:7-18. Who is repeated in these epistles, and what might that indicate? Which names sound familiar, and which names are new?

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4

Read 2 Timothy 4:19-22; Titus 3:12-15; Philemon 23-25. What makes the letters to Timothy and Titus different from the previous epistles? How might these greetings differ from the others?

5

Read 1 Peter 5:12-14; 2 Peter 3:14-18; 2 John 12-13; 3 John 13-15. These letters of Peter and John differ from Paul’s letters because they are not written to a specific body of believers, but rather to the Church at large. How are the final greetings different from Paul’s final greetings? Are there any similarities? What is the specific wish at the end of the second and third epistles of John?

6

Having read these personal greetings, how would you characterize the relationship of these fellow Christians, even though they are separated from each other? Read Hebrews 12:1-2. What benefit is this fellowship in the Christian faith?

7

Big crowds, hearty singing, a rockin’ organist, and hundreds of your peers sharing good theology— like at a Higher Things Conference—are very exciting. But even more important than the excitement is that you find the same fellowship in your own congregation. Discuss how you see this common faith displayed in your home church.

8

Close with the hymn “Blest Be the Tie That Binds” (Lutheran Service Book #649) and one of the Collects “For the Church” (Lutheran Service Book, pg. 305).

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 HTOnline subscription, point your browser to: higherthings.org/magazine/biblestudies.html.


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“Higher Things Conferences: A Life-Changing Experience” A HIGHER THINGS® BIBLE STUDY Leader’s Guide

Leaders’ Introduction Higher Things conferences and retreats provide an opportunity for Christians to connect with others of the same faith in order to be encouraged and strengthened by their common confession. Sometimes these friendships span the country, and even cross international borders. The first Christians made disciples of all nations and, in their travels, made many friends. Though they were often separated, they still maintained the bond of the common faith by the Holy Spirit. In their letters, the Apostles send greetings to those they have left behind. But they also bear witness to the blest tie that binds them together. This Bible study will explore some of the lesser-known saints who are named at the conclusion of the epistles. The Lutheran Study Bible (TLSB), or another Bible with study notes will be helpful in navigating this cloud of witnesses. 1. Paul sends his greetings to the saints in Rome at the end of His epistle. Read Romans 16:1-23 and see how many you can identify. See Acts 18:13, 24-26 to see how Priscilla and Aquila were fellow workers with Paul. How might Rufus have been involved with the story of Jesus, according to Mark 15:21? What special job did Tertius have? The concluding chapter of Romans lists a number of names—some familiar and some unknown. Priscilla and her husband, Aquila, were responsible for catechizing Apollos, who became a companion of Paul and also a fellow-worker. Rufus is identified as one of the sons of Simon of Cyrene, and may witnessed to his father carrying the cross of Jesus. Tertius was the one who wrote the letter that Paul dictated (a common practice in the ancient world in general, and the biblical writers in particular). Also of note is Erastus, the city treasurer. An archaeological discovery found this name and title inscribed in Corinth (see note for 16:23 in TLSB, pg. 1,943). Also Phoebe is mentioned first and is called a deaconess, and is an indication of how women supported the work of the Gospel. She is called a “patron,” which can also mean a “protector.” 2. Read 1 Corinthians 16:12-24 and 2 Corinthians 13:11-14. Are there any familiar names? Any new names? What problem with names does Paul identify with the Church in Corinth in 1 Corinthians 1:10-17? Although he does not identify anyone by name in 2 Corinthians, what does this final greeting have in common with the ones you’ve already read? Priscilla and Aquila are mentioned along with Apollos. Stephanus and his household are mentioned in the concluding greetings, but also identified as recipients of Holy Baptism from Paul at the beginning of this letter. However, it seems that the Church in Corinth was divided into different sects, following different people. They were a cult of personality. Paul’s letter is meant to show that it is God who works through the various ministers of the Gospel. As the Large Catechism states, “To be baptized in God’s name is to be baptized not by men, but by God Himself. Therefore, although it is performed by human hands, it is still truly God’s own work” (LC IV.10). In the final greetings of Romans and both Corinthian epistles, Paul urges the saints to greet each other with a holy kiss. This was likely a liturgical ceremony, a sign of peace before receiving the Lord’s Body and Blood together at the altar. 3. Read Ephesians 6:21-24; Philippians 4:10-23; Colossians 4:7-18. Who is repeated in these Epistles, and what might that indicate? Which names sound familiar, and which names are new? © 2016 Higher Things, Inc.

Magazine Bible Studies - Fall 2016


Tychicus is referenced in both Ephesians 6:21 and Colossians 4:7. He seems to be a personal messenger for St. Paul. Epaphras from Colossians 4:12 sounds like Epaphroditus from Philippians 4:18, but these are likely different people (see study notes in TLSB for each verse). Two very familiar names from the conclusion of Colossians are Mark (Colossians 4:10) and Luke (Colossians 4:14). These are the Mark and Luke of Gospel fame. We learn that Mark was a cousin of Barnabas and Luke was a physician. Another familiar name from the epistles of Paul is Onesimus, who is the subject of Paul’s letter to Philemon. Note that Galatians, and the two Thessalonian epistles have no personal greetings. 4. Read 2 Timothy 4:19-22; Titus 3:12-15; Philemon 23-25. What makes the letters to Timothy and Titus different from the previous epistles? How might these greetings differ from the others? Unlike the previous epistles, 1 & 2 Timothy, Titus, and Philemon are personal letters. Thus Paul requests that the recipients deliver personal greetings on his behalf, much like those who delivered his letters to the churches. Many of the same fellow-workers of St. Paul are mentioned again. Since these letters were written later in Paul’s career, it shows an enduring relationship with the saints, even though they were separated by large distances for some time. 5. Read 1 Peter 5:12-14; 2 Peter 3:14-18; 2 John 12-13; 3 John 13-15. These letters of Peter and John differ from Paul’s letters because they are not written to a specific body of believers, but rather to the Church at large. How are the final greetings different from Paul’s final greetings? Are there any similarities? What is the specific wish at the end of the second and third epistles of John? The general epistles (also called the catholic epistles because they were sent to the whole church) do not include greetings to specific people. However, Peter mentions a few names. Silvanus, also known as Silas, acts as Peter’s secretary in the way that Tertius did. You can read more about him in Acts 15-17, 18:5, and he is also named in Paul’s letters to Corinth (2 Corinthians 1:19) and Thessalonica (1 Thessalonians. 1:1; 2 Thessalonians 1:1). Peter also mentions Paul’s writings. The two shorter epistles of John stop just short of delivering personal greetings, but express hope for a personal visit in the near future. 6. Having read these greetings, how would you describe the relationships of these believers, even though they are separated from each other? Read Hebrews 12:1-2. What benefit is this fellowship in the Christian faith? Answers will vary. Hebrews 12 begins with a reference to the great cloud of witnesses that surrounds us. This statement follows a survey of the Old Testament saints who persevered in the faith. Similarly, the common faith and fellowship of Christians, even though separated by time and space, gives us endurance. This is because the faith of the saints that surround us points us to Jesus—to His cross and His present rule in the Church by the means of grace. Though separated, we share a common Gospel, a common Word of forgiveness, one baptism, and the fellowship of Christ’s Body and Blood. 7. Big crowds, hearty singing, a rockin’ organist, and hundreds of your peers sharing good theology— like at a Higher Things Conference—are very exciting. But even more important than this is finding the same fellowship in your own congregation. How do you see this common faith in your home church. If any participating youth have attended a Higher Things conference, ask them to share how the events of the conference point back to the fellowship of the saints in your own congregation. If participating youth have not attended a conference, ask them to identify a few ways that the common faith is displayed in their home congregation. Be sure to direct them not only to a common faith or like-mindedness, but to the Word of God, the Holy Baptism that we all share, and the Lord’s Supper, which is our fellowship.

Closing Sing together “Blest Be the Tie That Binds,” (LSB #649).

© 2016 Higher Things, Inc.

Magazine Bible Studies - Fall 2016


“Higher Things Conferences: A Life-Changing Experience” A HIGHER THINGS® BIBLE STUDY 1. Paul sends his greetings to the saints in Rome at the end of His epistle. Read Romans 16:1-23 and see how many you can identify. See Acts 18:13, 24-26 to see how Priscilla and Aquila were fellow workers with Paul. How might Rufus have been involved with the story of Jesus, according to Mark 15:21? What special job did Tertius have? 2. Read 1 Corinthians 16:12-24 and 2 Corinthians 13:11-14. Are there any familiar names? Any new names? What problem with names does Paul identify with the Church in Corinth in 1 Corinthians 1:10-17? Although he does not identify anyone by name in 2 Corinthians, what does this final greeting have in common with the ones you’ve already read? 3. Read Ephesians 6:21-24; Philippians 4:10-23; Colossians 4:7-18. Who is repeated in these Epistles, and what might that indicate? Which names sound familiar, and which names are new? 4. Read 2 Timothy 4:19-22; Titus 3:12-15; Philemon 23-25. What makes the letters to Timothy and Titus different from the previous epistles? How might these greetings differ from the others? 5. Read 1 Peter 5:12-14; 2 Peter 3:14-18; 2 John 12-13; 3 John 13-15. These letters of Peter and John differ from Paul’s letters because they are not written to a specific body of believers, but rather to the Church at large. How are the final greetings different from Paul’s final greetings? Are there any similarities? What is the specific wish at the end of the second and third epistles of John?

6. Having read these greetings, how would you describe the relationships of these believers, even though they are separated from each other? Read Hebrews 12:1-2. What benefit is this fellowship in the Christian faith?

7. Big crowds, hearty singing, a rockin’ organist, and hundreds of your peers sharing good theology— like at a Higher Things Conference—are very exciting. But even more important than this is finding the same fellowship in your own congregation. How do you see this common faith in your home church.

Closing Sing together “Blest Be the Tie That Binds,” (LSB #649).

© 2016 Higher Things, Inc.

Magazine Bible Studies - Fall 2016


“Free to Sing in Faith” A HIGHER THINGS® BIBLE STUDY Leader’s Guide

Opening Prayer “Sing praise to the God of Israel, Sing praise for His visitation! Redeeming His people from their sin, Accomplishing their salvation, Upraising a mighty horn within The house of His servant David!" ("Sing Praise to the God of Israel,” LSB 936, st. 1) 1. Read Psalm 51:15. For what reasons do we sing, as Lutherans? David not only gives us an amazing psalm of confession and absolution, but in this verse he teaches us the rhythm of worship, especially as it relates to singing. O Lord, open my lips; and my mouth will declare Your praise. That’s the way Scripture speaks of singing and worship. The Lord opens our lips. He gives us words to sing. He saves, rescues, and forgives; we respond with thanks, praise, and singing. And so, Lutherans sing because God commands us. But more than that; we sing because we rejoice in the God who saves us. We sing because we have something to sing about: the Gospel! We sing because music is a gift from God. Set to music, the Scriptures are easily learned and meditated upon, even memorized and taken to heart. We sing because through this gift we confess our Christian faith to one another and our neighbor. We sing because it teaches us everything Jesus would have us know (Matthew 28:18ff). We sing because the Lord opens our lips to declare his praise. 2. Using your hymnals, look at any of the five orders of Divine Service in Lutheran Service Book (LSB); also look at the bottom of the hymns in LSB. In the side and bottom margins there are Scripture passages. What does that communicate to us? Why do you think the Scripture passages were included when the hymnal was being created? Often when people hear the word “liturgy” or worship they think it is man’s words and man’s actions. In fact, the opposite is true. Liturgy—at least in our doctrine and practice—is a rich tapestry of God’s Word set to music. Worship is first and foremost God serving us and giving us His life and salvation. This begins with His Word, which is all over the five settings of Divine Service in Lutheran Service Book. His Word is the foundation of the hymns in our hymnal. Many hymns paraphrase Scripture, while others poetically interpret and proclaim Scripture to us. Still others simply quote Scripture verbatim, such as the Nunc Dimittis which we sing after the Lord’s Supper. The Scripture references serve as a reminder that everything we say and do in the Church is founded on God’s Word. 3. Scripture is full of songs. In fact, the book of Psalms is the hymnal of the Old Testament, and now the New Testament Church. Look up the following Scriptural songs. What’s the central message in each? How does each of these songs point us to Jesus? Exodus 15:1-21, Psalm 100, Luke 1:46-56, Luke 1:67-79, Luke 2:13-14, and Luke 2:25-32. Answers to this question will vary. Part of the purpose in this question is to show how in each song of Scripture, God’s saving work is on display and at the heart of OT and NT stories/events/people, etc. The other purpose is to show that all things in Scripture point us to the work of Christ, just as He says in Luke 24. So, for example, in Exodus 15, the people of Israel have just crossed the Red Sea, Pharaoh’s army and all its host have been defeated, God’s people were saved, and so they sang: “I will sing unto the Lord for he has triumphed gloriously!” The Lord saved them and so they gave praise and thanks through song. This points us forward brilliantly to Jesus’ own death and resurrection where He triumphed gloriously over sin, death, and the devil for us. © 2016 Higher Things, Inc.

Magazine Bible Studies - Fall 2016


4. When most people talk about worship (no matter their religious background), how do they usually describe it? How is Lutheran worship different than most peoples’ views on worship? In what ways is Lutheran worship different from the ways other Christians worship? Why are these important? Typically, people think of worship as something we do for God, or that we owe God, or as our work. However, Scripture teaches us the exact opposite. Worship does, of course, involve us. And we do offer thanks and praise. But worship begins with God serving us—just as He did Israel in the tabernacle and temple with all the sacrifices for atonement and forgiveness. Every world religion—except for historic, orthodox Christianity—thinks of worship this same way: it’s what must be done for God to obey or earn His favor, and so forth. Lutheran worship is completely different. It’s not about you, but Jesus for you. It’s not about what you do for God, but what God in Christ has done, is doing, and will do for you. It’s not that you need to try and climb a stairway to heaven, but that Jesus has come down to you in his Word, in Baptism, in Absolution, in the Lord’s Supper. He brings heaven to earth in the Divine Service. Answers will vary for the second part of this question depending on the participants’ experience and exposure to other churches (Lutheran or other denominations) who have a different doctrine and practice of worship. The differences are—more often than not—one of great importance. For example, if a church teaches that Jesus’ Body and Blood are only a symbol (as many sadly do), then chances are that the importance of the Lord’s Supper and the frequency of it being celebrated are greatly diminished. The teaching influences their practice. Their doctrine shapes what they do. What we say and do in worship are related to each other. On the other hand, when a church (such as many in the LCMS do) offer weekly communion, that communicates both to members and visitors that the Lord’s Supper is something treasured and sacred among them. 5. Read Hebrews 12:18-24. How these words parallel what we experience on Sunday morning and throughout the life of the Christian Church on earth? As we learned above, the Divine Service really is heaven on earth. Will heaven be better? Sure. But in the meantime, as we wait the resurrection and the new creation, Christ is present with us here in His Word and Sacrament. And wherever Jesus is, heaven and all of His blessings are with Him. As we sing so often…we worship with angels and archangels and all the company of heaven. And if Christ is present, then that ought to shape the way we worship in the church on earth, both in form and substance. 6. According to the Revelation of St. John, what will heaven be like? Read Revelation 5:9-10; 19:6-8. If you don’t like singing here on earth much, you’d better get ready. Heaven is going to be one giant Divine Service. Scripture speaks of it as the marriage supper of the lamb—a feast like no other. And singing will accompany this. But don’t worry, there will be no more tone deafness, no more straining to hit that high note, or worrying about what others think of you when you sing. The former things will pass away. In Christ you are a new creation and you will be in heaven, too. Revelation gives us a glimpse of the heavenly divine service so that we have hope and joy in this life when sin and persecution and death threaten to rob us of the joy Christ has won. But do not despair, the Lamb is on the throne, and you are written in His book of Life. As we await that Last Day, we are given a foretaste of the feast to come every Divine Service where Jesus is fulfilling His promise to you: Behold I am making all things new!

Closing “My soul rejoices, My spirit voices – Sing the greatness of the Lord! For God my Savior Has shown me favor – Sing the greatness of the Lord! With praise and blessing, Join in confessing God, who is solely Mighty and holy – O sing the greatness of God the Lord! His mercy surely Shall rest securely On all who fear Him, Love and revere Him – O sing the greatness of God the Lord!” (“My Soul Rejoices," LSB 933, st. 1)

© 2016 Higher Things, Inc.

Magazine Bible Studies - Fall 2016


“Free to Sing in Faith” A HIGHER THINGS® BIBLE STUDY Opening Prayer “Sing praise to the God of Israel, Sing praise for His visitation! Redeeming His people from their sin, Accomplishing their salvation, Upraising a mighty horn within The house of His servant David!" ("Sing Praise to the God of Israel,” LSB 936, st. 1) 1. Read Psalm 51:15. For what reasons do we sing, as Lutherans?

2. Using your hymnals, look at any of the five orders of Divine Service in Lutheran Service Book (LSB); also look at the bottom of the hymns in LSB. In the side and bottom margins there are Scripture passages. What does that communicate to us? Why do you think the Scripture passages were included when the hymnal was being created?

3. Scripture is full of songs. In fact, the book of Psalms is the hymnal of the Old Testament, and now the New Testament Church. Look up the following Scriptural songs. What’s the central message in each? How does each of these songs point us to Jesus? Exodus 15:1-21, Psalm 100, Luke 1:46-56, Luke 1:67-79, Luke 2:13-14, and Luke 2:25-32.

4. When most people talk about worship (no matter their religious background), how do they usually describe it? How is Lutheran worship different than most peoples’ views on worship? In what ways is Lutheran worship different from the ways other Christians worship? Why are these important?

5. Read Hebrews 12:18-24. How these words parallel what we experience on Sunday morning and throughout the life of the Christian Church on earth?

6. According to the Revelation of St. John, what will heaven be like? Read Revelation 5:9-10; 19:6-8.

Closing “My soul rejoices, My spirit voices – Sing the greatness of the Lord! For God my Savior Has shown me favor— Sing the greatness of the Lord! With praise and blessing, Join in confessing God, who is solely Mighty and holy —O sing the greatness of God the Lord! His mercy surely Shall rest securely On all who fear Him, Love and revere Him – O sing the greatness of God the Lord!” (“My Soul Rejoices," LSB 933, st. 1)

© 2016 Higher Things, Inc.

Magazine Bible Studies - Fall 2016


“Praying for Your Front-Line Pastor” A HIGHER THINGS® BIBLE STUDY Leader’s Guide

Leaders’ Introduction A Bible, a Small Catechism, and a Lutheran Service Book are what you’ll need for this study. This study follows up on Pastor Bamsch’s article. Some starter questions might be: What do you think your pastor’s week is like? What does he do? What do you want him to do? When would you like your pastor to be there for you? A youth may be comfortable sharing a personal story about when his pastor was there for him. You be the judge of your own group and think about how best to get your youth thinking about what it is pastors do. 1. Read Ephesians 6:10-17. In verse 12, Paul mentions our enemies. Who are pastors and all Christians fighting against? Paul goes on to mention “the armor of God,” and then he asks them to pray for him. What is Paul’s current situation and what does he ask them to pray for? See Ephesians 6:18-24. Verse 12 says, “For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.” Paul is currently in prison. You could imagine that he could get rather down about that. I would! Paul faced a lot of opposition when he shared the Gospel there (Acts 18-20) and the church at Ephesus faced persecution, too. In fact, it was Jews from Asia (the province in which Ephesus was) who brought the charges against Paul that led to his appeal to Caesar and imprisonment in Rome (Acts 21:27). Paul is sending Tychicus to them to give this report (Ephesians 6:22). Paul asks them to pray for him to be bold to proclaim the good news (Ephesians 6:19) despite his difficult situation. While it is unlikely that your pastor has been imprisoned, encourage the group to think about the difficulties that pastors do face and how they can pray for their pastor. 2. Pastors have a lot of hidden wounds. Pastors experience a lot of joys. List some things that you think give your pastor joy and sadness. Answers will vary. Sorrows might include people leaving the church or faith, people speaking bad about him, the church, or her members, all sorts of sins or hardships that people have. One thing to consider is that your pastor is a human being. So, get the youth to think of him as a person. Surprising, I know! Is he away from his family (family there and extended family living elsewhere)? Does he have a hobby? These may cause sadness because he doesn’t have enough time to spend in his vocation as a son, husband, father, etc. His vocations are also where he has great joy! Joys might also include hearing an encouraging word or that someone is praying for them, how much his ministry has meant to them, baptizing, teaching, visiting members, distributing the Lord’s Supper, etc. If your pastor is present for the study, leaders may want to check with him ahead of time and ask him if he’d be willing to share some of his joys and sorrows. If he doesn’t want to, that’s ok. But you’ll want to ask him if he has someone that he can talk to about them and let him know you are praying for him! 3. Use your Small Catechism and find the section in the front called the “Table of Duties.” Read the section for pastors. What are some of responsibilities for your pastor? Read the section for hearers. What are some of the responsibilities of you and your fellow church members? Answers are in the Table of Duties of the Small Catechism. Interestingly, one answer that is rarely given is that pastors are to receive their livelihood since they are serving God’s people. Take note if your group is able to see this in the Table of Duties. In the end, because the pastor serves faithfully, he is to be loved in our

© 2016 Higher Things, Inc.

Magazine Bible Studies - Fall 2016


words and deeds. Remember how much grace God has delivered to you through this man. It’s nice to return the favor and shower grace, forgiveness, and support upon your pastor! 4. When some workers go to work they have items on a belt. Think of a police officer or a construction worker. Now think about your pastor. He likely doesn’t wear a tool belt for his work as a pastor. But if he had a “tool belt,” what would be on it? What are the tools and what does he use as your pastor? He uses God’s Word and Sacraments. These are the means of grace that deliver the forgiveness of sins! 5. Read 2 Corinthians 1:1-11. What name appears in verse 1 that’s familiar to you already in this Bible study? If pastors are constantly giving God’s gifts to God’s people and bringing them comfort, what comfort do pastors have? See verses 3-4. Was their ministry easy or difficult? Why do you answer the way you do? See verses 6-8. What does Paul ask them to do for him in verse 11? Timothy is a familiar name. He’s a fellow pastor with Paul. Pastors need to receive the Gospel in Word and Sacrament as well. The comfort that Paul and Timothy had in their trial is what comforts all believers in our afflictions. Some may say that Paul’s ministry was easy since He exhibits such faith and confidence in the Lord. Most will say that it was hard. If there’s any question, refer to 2 Corinthians 11:21-30. 6. Read 2 Timothy 4:1-5. What does Paul charge Timothy to do (vs. 1-2)? What was happening in the churches (vs. 3-4)? Should Timothy change his preaching and teaching to scratch the itching ears? The verses are pretty clear here. Obviously, Timothy shouldn’t change his preaching to satisfy those who have itching ears for false theology or myths. Pastors have a difficult call that demands faithfulness over accommodation. Verse 5 likely shows what will result because of this faithfulness—they will have to endure suffering. 7. Sing or read out loud Lutheran Service Book hymn #586 “Preach You the Word.” What scriptures does this hymn use for its wording? How does stanza 4 end? Is this happy or sad? How does stanza 5 end? Is this happy or sad? Who do pastors and lay members alike rely upon and what will he do? See st. 6. This hymn uses 1 Timothy 4:1-5; The Parable of the Sower – Matthew 13, Mark 4, or Luke 8. Others are listed on the bottom of the page of that hymn. Teach the youth that and help them learn how to use their hymnal. For further reading, read through the pastoral epistles this week. These are the books 1st and 2nd Timothy and Titus.

Closing “Lord Jesus Christ, our Good Shepherd. Abide with our pastors that they may faithfully proclaim your word and administer your sacraments according to your institution. Help us to encourage our pastor and support him in his ministry among us. Lift his burdens, protect him from the attacks of our enemies, and grant him joy in his service; through the same Jesus Christ our Lord we ask this. Amen.”

© 2016 Higher Things, Inc.

Magazine Bible Studies - Fall 2016


“Praying for Your Front-Line Pastor” A HIGHER THINGS® BIBLE STUDY 1. Read Ephesians 6:10-17. In verse 12, Paul mentions our enemies. Who are pastors and all Christians fighting against? Paul goes on to mention “the armor of God,” and then he asks them to pray for him. What is Paul’s current situation and what does he ask them to pray for? See Ephesians 6:18-24.

2. Pastors have a lot of hidden wounds. Pastors experience a lot of joys. List some things that you think give your pastor joy and sadness.

3. Use your Small Catechism and find the section in the front called the “Table of Duties.” Read the section for pastors. What are some of responsibilities for your pastor? Read the section for hearers. What are some of the responsibilities of you and your fellow church members?

4. When some workers go to work they have items on a belt. Think of a police officer or a construction worker. Now think about your pastor. He likely doesn’t wear a tool belt for his work as a pastor. But if he had a “tool belt,” what would be on it? What are the tools and what does he use as your pastor?

5. Read 2 Corinthians 1:1-11. What name appears in verse 1 that’s familiar to you already in this Bible study? If pastors are constantly giving God’s gifts to God’s people and bringing them comfort, what comfort do pastors have? See verses 3-4. Was their ministry easy or difficult? Why do you answer the way you do? See verses 6-8. What does Paul ask them to do for him in verse 11?

6. Read 2 Timothy 4:1-5. What does Paul charge Timothy to do (vs. 1-2)? What was happening in the churches (vs. 3-4)? Should Timothy change his preaching and teaching to scratch the itching ears?

7. Sing or read out loud Lutheran Service Book hymn #586 “Preach You the Word.” What scriptures does this hymn use for its wording? How does stanza 4 end? Is this happy or sad? How does stanza 5 end? Is this happy or sad? Who do pastors and lay members alike rely upon and what will he do? See st. 6.

Closing “Lord Jesus Christ, our Good Shepherd. Abide with our pastors that they may faithfully proclaim your word and administer your sacraments according to your institution. Help us to encourage our pastor and support him in his ministry among us. Lift his burdens, protect him from the attacks of our enemies, and grant him joy in his service; through the same Jesus Christ our Lord we ask this. Amen.”

© 2016 Higher Things, Inc.

Magazine Bible Studies - Fall 2016


“Does Everything Happen for a Reason?” A HIGHER THINGS® BIBLE STUDY Leader’s Guide

Leaders’ Introduction The title of the article on which this Bible study is based is a variation of the question of theodicy. Theodicy literally means, “justifying God,” or trying to find reasons why a good God allows evil to happen. It’s a question that Christians inevitably ask in the face of hardship, suffering, and sorrow. However, searching for reasons for why evil happens necessarily means searching in God’s hidden will. This can only end in despair and fear of God’s judgment. This Bible study will instead turn us to God’s will as it is revealed in Christ. There is where we can find comfort and know that God’s makes a reason happen for everything. 1. Does everything happen for a reason? Discuss some reasons why the following might happen: running late for school; getting into a car accident and becoming paralyzed; the death of a child. How might you find a reason for something bad that happens? The Bible study leader will lead the youth in this open-ended discussion. The search for a reason will be twofold. First the youth may look for causes for these effects: staying up too late makes you late for school; driving while drunk ends with an accident; seeking an abortion results in the death of a child. But there is also the search for a “silver lining.” Is there a reason, i.e. a greater good, for these things to happen? The Bible study leader should allow the youth to speculate as to possible good, but also challenge whether we can know this for sure. 2. Searching for reasons that God has not revealed can lead to despair. Read 2 Samuel 12:13-23. What is the reason that David’s child died, and how do we know this? How were his servants afraid he would react? What was the end result for David? David’s child dies because of David’s sin of rejecting God’s Word. This is revealed by Nathan, the prophet. However, it was revealed in order to bring David to repentance and to strengthen him in his faith. His servants, who did not have the revelation, thought David would despair and even harm himself. But knowing God’s mercy and forgiveness, David had hope of going to his son once again. 3. If you search in God’s hidden will for the reason for suffering and sorrow, you can only end up concluding that God has judged you or abandoned you. How should you search for God’s will? Read Luke 22:39-46. Jesus, who was Himself God, sought His Father’s will in prayer. Despite His impending suffering and death, He pleaded that He would avoid it. But His submitted to the will of the Father. 4. Read the Small Catechism: Lord’s Prayer, Third Petition, How is God’s will done? Even when we don’t know the reason that something has happened, what has God revealed to us about His will? The explanation to the Third Petition of the Lord’s Prayer in the Small Catechism is a summary of how God’s will is done. First, when He hinders the evil of the devil, the world, and the sinful nature to prevent evil from happening. If not for God’s will being done, evil things would happen all of the time. Second, when He strengthens us and keeps us firm in His Word and faith until we die. God’s will is that when we encounter struggles, hardships, and sorrows, that we be strengthened by His help to endure them. 5. Read Romans 8:18-25. What does God reveal about our present sufferings?

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Magazine Bible Studies - Fall 2016


Our present sufferings, though they seem insurmountable now, are not worth comparing to the future glory that will be revealed. Thus we have a hope, that is, a faith in a future promise. Not everything is revealed right now. We don’t know a reason for everything, but we do know that what God has prepared for us will far outweigh the sorrow and trouble we now experience. 6. Continue reading Romans 8:26-30. What kind of help does God provide for us in our weakness? What do we know for sure about all things, even the things which seem meaningless? God helps us by giving us His Spirit, who drives us to prayer and provides the words when we don’t know what to say. Because of the gift of the Spirit, a sign and seal of God’s favor, we know that God causes all things to work together for our good. Instead of asking if everything happens for a reason, we instead know that God makes a reason happen for everything. Even sorrows, struggles, and hardships work together to conform us to the image of His Son, Jesus Christ. 7. And finally, read Romans 8:31-39. Why is it necessary for us to suffer hardships and sorrows? What can these things never do? God gave up His own Son Jesus to the suffering of the cross. But it was not because He delights in the sufferings of His beloved. It was for the purpose of redemption and resurrection. Since we are conformed to the image of Christ by our own suffering and faithful endurance in the Spirit, we will also share in His resurrection. This is when the hope we have will be revealed. Because of the death and resurrection of Jesus, and the gift of the Spirit, no suffering, no sorrow, and no hardship will separate us from the love of God the Father.

Closing Sing together “What God Ordains Is Always Good” (LSB #760)

© 2016 Higher Things, Inc.

Magazine Bible Studies - Fall 2016


“Does Everything Happen for a Reason?” A HIGHER THINGS® BIBLE STUDY 1. Does everything happen for a reason? Discuss some reasons why the following might happen: running late for school; getting into a car accident and becoming paralyzed; the death of a child. How might you find a reason for something bad that happens?

2. Searching for reasons that God has not revealed can lead to despair. Read 2 Samuel 12:13-23. What is the reason that David’s child died, and how do we know this? How were his servants afraid he would react? What was the end result for David?

3. If you search in God’s hidden will for the reason for suffering and sorrow, you can only end up concluding that God has judged you or abandoned you. How should you search for God’s will? Read Luke 22:39-46.

4. Read the Small Catechism: Lord’s Prayer, Third Petition, How is God’s will done? Even when we don’t know the reason that something has happened, what has God revealed to us about His will?

5. Read Romans 8:18-25. What does God reveal about our present sufferings?

6. Continue reading Romans 8:26-30. What kind of help does God provide for us in our weakness? What do we know for sure about all things, even the things which seem meaningless?

7. And finally, read Romans 8:31-39. Why is it necessary for us to suffer hardships and sorrows? What can these things never do?

Closing Sing together “What God Ordains Is Always Good” (LSB #760)

© 2016 Higher Things, Inc.

Magazine Bible Studies - Fall 2016


“The Sophia AofHIGHER Worthy Reception” THINGS® BIBLE STUDY Leader’s Guide

Leaders’ Introduction Pastor Borghardt’s article, while very personal for him, leads us to a greater understanding of faith and of our receiving the Lord’s Supper. It’s important to make the point that faith and receiving the Lord’s Gifts isn’t “abstract,” that is, it’s not a mental exercise, something you think about. It’s concrete. It’s physical. Bread and wine physical—bread and wine that deliver, according to our Lord’s promise, His Body and Blood. Because of this, there are real world situations where Jesus’ salvation is glorified, and we can give thanks and praise for these situations.

Opening Prayer “Dear Savior, at Your gracious invitation I come to Your table to eat and drink Your holy body and blood. Let me find favor in Your eyes to receive this holy Sacrament in faith for the salvation of my soul and to the glory of Your holy name; for You live and reign with the Father and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.” (Collect for Before Communing) 1. Read Psalm 139:12–17. How does God make each of us? How does this change our view of people born with “disabilities”? God knits each of us together. He creates each of us the way we are. We are all precious and unique in His sight. While we may think that people have “disabilities,” but God made them especially that way, as a gift. 2. Read Titus 3:5–8 and 2 Corinthians 5:17. How does God make us His children? How does He make us holy, make us new? In Holy Baptism God makes us His children by baptizing us into His Son, Jesus. In Holy Baptism faith is created within us. In Holy Baptism, we receive the Holy Spirit who makes us holy. When we are baptized, we are also made new. We are new creation in Christ. 3. Read Romans 8:18–30. How does God use the trials and struggles of life? How will these struggles really affect us? For those who are in Christ Jesus, those who have faith in Him, all things work together for good. Nothing will really keep us down. Nothing can separate us from God’s love in Christ Jesus our Lord. He died for us and rose for us. We have been placed in Him. If we’re “in Him” by Holy Baptism, nothing can really separate us from Him. He’s united us to His very self. All things will work out for good, maybe not in this life, but definitely on the Last Day when Christ raises our bodies from the dead. 4. Read James 2:18 and Romans 10:5–17. How does faith show itself? Faith expresses itself in word and deed. Because of our faith, we respond to the Word of God, respond to what Jesus has done for us: died and rose. Faith rejoices in Jesus’ salvation and forgiveness given in Holy Baptism. Faith receives what God has done, and faith confesses who God is and what He’s done. Faith wants to receive more from Jesus. By faith a Christians fulfills the Third Commandment by not despising preaching and God’s Word. Faith wants to receive the Lord’s Gifts. An example of this is the Ethiopian Eunuch (Acts 8:27–39). He heard the preaching, had faith in Jesus, and then desired baptism.

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Magazine Bible Studies - Fall 2016


5. Read 1 Corinthians 11:27–29 and “Who receives this Sacrament worthily?” from “The Sacrament of the Altar” in the Small Catechism (LSB 327). Faith discerns, recognizes, and confesses what Jesus is giving in His gifts. Receiving the Sacrament worthily has nothing to do with how holy we are, how much we know, or how much we understand about what’s actually happening in the Supper. It doesn’t matter if we come up with fancy explanations about how it’s Jesus body and blood. All that matters is Jesus’ Word of promise: “This is my body and blood; given and shed FOR YOU for the forgiveness of sins.” We trust Jesus and His Word and so we are worthy to receive His Body and Blood. Faith simply receives and says, “Amen.”

Closing “O Lord, in this wondrous Sacrament You have left us a remembrance of Your passion. Grant that we may so receive the sacred mystery of Your body and blood that the fruits of Your redemption may continually be manifest in us; for You who live and reign with the Father and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.” (Collect for Maundy Thursday)

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Magazine Bible Studies - Fall 2016


“The Sophia AofHIGHER Worthy Reception” THINGS® BIBLE STUDY Opening Prayer “Dear Savior, at Your gracious invitation I come to Your table to eat and drink Your holy body and blood. Let me find favor in Your eyes to receive this holy Sacrament in faith for the salvation of my soul and to the glory of Your holy name; for You live and reign with the Father and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.” (Collect for Before Communing) 1. Read Psalm 139:12–17. How does God make each of us? How does this change our view of people born with “disabilities”?

2. Read Titus 3:5–8 and 2 Corinthians 5:17. How does God make us His children? How does He make us holy, make us new?

3. Read Romans 8:18–30. How does God use the trials and struggles of life? How will these struggles really affect us?

4. Read James 2:18 and Romans 10:5–17. How does faith show itself?

5. Read 1 Corinthians 11:27–29 and “Who receives this Sacrament worthily?” from “The Sacrament of the Altar” in the Small Catechism (LSB 327).

Closing “O Lord, in this wondrous Sacrament You have left us a remembrance of Your passion. Grant that we may so receive the sacred mystery of Your body and blood that the fruits of Your redemption may continually be manifest in us; for You who live and reign with the Father and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.” (Collect for Maundy Thursday)

© 2016 Higher Things, Inc.

Magazine Bible Studies - Fall 2016


“The Stepfamily Redemption Connection” A HIGHER THINGS® BIBLE STUDY Leader’s Guide

Leaders’ Introduction Whether or not the youth in your group are part of a stepfamily, there is still much to be learned from family life—either the family we are born into, or our adoption into the family of God. The truth is, all families are flawed because each individual in every family is a sinner. Wherever God places us is an opportunity to learn how to forgive and love. 1. In the article, the author refers to a few of the many families referenced in the book of Genesis: Adam and his sons, Jacob and his sons. Read through Genesis 37. In this particular account, what is the main sin that Joseph struggles with? What about his brothers? What results from these sins? Joseph is prideful. His half-brothers are jealous of the affection that Jacob has showered on Joseph. (Remember that Joseph is the first son of Rachel, Jacob’s first love.) This results in the brothers plotting to kill him and tell their father Jacob that he has been the victim of a wild animal attack. 2. Later in Genesis we learn that Joseph, although his life is spared, gets sold into slavery and is even imprisoned for a time under false pretenses. Eventually, however, God puts Joseph in a position of great authority. Then Joseph is reunited with his brothers who desperately need his help. Read Genesis 45:1-8 and 50:18-21. What does Joseph tell his brothers once he reveals his identity? First of all, he forgives them. Then, he lets them know that God placed him in a position where he was able to save his family from starvation. What the brothers meant for evil, God meant for good. The nation of Israel was preserved and not only that—this eventually led to the birth of Christ. 3. Read Jesus’ family genealogy listed out in Matthew 1:1-17. Even the line of Jesus reflects a line of sinners (all of them, in fact), which is why He could not have an earthly father. Skim through the list of names and see if any in particular stand out. Explain that each and every individual who has ever lived of course has been a sinner. However, some sins have a way of standing out or being more notorious. Some of the more infamous names in this listing include: Judah (slept with his daughter-in-law—this can be brought out depending on the ages of your youth), Rahab (was a prostitute), David (adulterer and murderer) and Solomon (idolater). Sinners though these people were, their decisions—yes even their sinful ones (think David in particular), led to the birth of Jesus. 4. The author addressed stepfamilies in the context of ending up in a vocation that one didn’t choose. Another Joseph in the Scriptures found himself in a vocation that he didn’t anticipate. Read Matthew 1:18-25. How did Joseph feel when he found out about Mary’s situation? What brought him reassurance? In those days, a pregnancy outside of marriage would have been grounds for divorce (breaking their betrothal) and quite scandalous. Joseph planned to send Mary away so as to protect her dignity but was visited by an angel of the Lord who explained the importance of the precious cargo Mary was carrying. Joseph did what the angel commanded him and married Mary, taking on the role of stepfather to Jesus.

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Magazine Bible Studies - Fall 2016


5. What role was the Apostle John placed into by Jesus in John 19:25-27? Jesus, knowing He was dying (and even though He was to rise again, His time on earth would not be long), and due to the absence of Joseph (Bible scholars assume that by this time Joseph had died), he gave his mother, Mary into John’s care. He told them both to consider one another mother and son. 6. Paul tells us our baptism makes us God’s children. Read Romans 8:14-19. What does this adoption accomplish for us? We are now able to call God “Abba! Father!” which is like calling Him “Daddy”—a very close and intimate relationship. This adoption also makes us fellow heirs with Christ. 7. The author encourages the reader to look later into Romans 8, particularly verse 28. What promise is contained therein? Why is this a comfort in the midst of turmoil in family life? There is a time and a place to take to heart this promise that God works together all things for good for those who love Him. Sometimes when we are first dealing with a trial or a new challenge we don’t want to accept this truth. However, once we do, we can often look back and see how God has worked in a situation to bring together what is good for us, even if we thought it was the worst thing ever. In a stepfamily situation, there are aching hearts on both ends—parents and children. God can take this jumble of emotions and new situations and make something new because He promises just that.

Closing Sing together “Oh Blest the House” (LSB 862, st. 4).

© 2016 Higher Things, Inc.

Magazine Bible Studies - Fall 2016


“The Stepfamily Redemption Connection” A HIGHER THINGS® BIBLE STUDY 1. In the article, the author refers to a few of the many families referenced in the book of Genesis: Adam and his sons, Jacob and his sons. Read through Genesis 37. In this particular account, what is the main sin that Joseph struggles with? What about his brothers? What results from these sins?

2. Later in Genesis we learn that Joseph, although his life is spared, gets sold into slavery and is even imprisoned for a time under false pretenses. Eventually, however, God puts Joseph in a position of great authority. Then Joseph is reunited with his brothers who desperately need his help. Read Genesis 45:1-8 and 50:18-21. What does Joseph tell his brothers once he reveals his identity?

3. Read Jesus’ family genealogy listed out in Matthew 1:1-17. Even the line of Jesus reflects a line of sinners (all of them, in fact), which is why He could not have an earthly father. Skim through the list of names and see if any in particular stand out.

4. The author addressed stepfamilies in the context of ending up in a vocation that one didn’t choose. Another Joseph in the Scriptures found himself in a vocation that he didn’t anticipate. Read Matthew 1:18-25. How did Joseph feel when he found out about Mary’s situation? What brought him reassurance?

5. What role was the Apostle John placed into by Jesus in John 19:25-27?

6. Paul tells us our baptism makes us God’s children. Read Romans 8:14-19. What does this adoption accomplish for us?

7. The author encourages the reader to look later into Romans 8, particularly verse 28. What promise is contained therein? Why is this a comfort in the midst of turmoil in family life?

Closing Sing together “Oh Blest the House” (LSB 862, st. 4).

© 2016 Higher Things, Inc.

Magazine Bible Studies - Fall 2016


“The Gift of Stuff” A HIGHER THINGS® BIBLE STUDY Leader’s Guide

Leaders’ Introduction Stealing is a prevalent problem in our society, culture, and world. You might open discussion by asking the youth if they’ve had similar situations to Pastor Cwirla. Encourage the kids to come up with different examples of stealing they can think of. Some examples they might not be able to come up with: piracy, cheating on a test, being lazy at work.

Opening Prayer “You shall not steal or take away What others worked for night and day, But open wide a gen’rous hand And help the poor in the land.” Have mercy, Lord!” (“These Are the Holy Ten Commands,” LSB 581, st. 8) 1. Read Genesis 12:1–3 and Joshua 24:1–5. What sort of person was Abraham when Yahweh (“the LORD”) called him to go to Canaan? We tend to think that being people of faith means you’ve got your act together. We think that father Abraham must’ve been an upstanding sort of fellow for Yahweh to call him to go to Canaan. But Scripture tells us that Abraham was an unbeliever when Yahweh called him. 2. Read Romans 5:1–10. Discuss the impact verses 6 and 8 have not only on our understanding of Abraham but also our understanding of ourselves. Follow this up with Ephesians 2:8-9. How are all sinners saved? How is faith given? We believe that Jesus died to save sinners. We’re thankful that He came to do exactly that. But this wasn’t only the case in the New Testament. The Old Testament is full of stories where Yahweh called and saved sinners. Abraham had nothing to offer Yahweh. He didn’t even worship Him! But Yahweh was “gracious and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love” (Psalm 145:8; see Exodus 34:6). In His grace and mercy, He called Abraham and spoke with Him, that is, gave Abraham His Word. Through that Word, Yahweh created faith within Abraham as a gift (Ephesians 2:8). 3. Read Luke 19:1–4. Who was Zacchaeus? Why was he looking for Jesus? What had he heard? (Refer to Luke 7:16–17.) Zacchaeus was a tax collector. That means collected taxes for the Roman Government. He wasn’t liked because of this since he was helping those who were oppressing the Jews. But he wasn’t liked for another reason. He was a thief. Tax collectors would overcharge people and they would keep the leftovers. Tax collectors were rich because they stole. Zacchaeus went out to meet Jesus. Jesus’ fame had spread, and news of what He was doing was going everywhere. Zacchaeus would have heard that Jesus was healing people, raising the dead, and even eating with tax collectors and other sinners.

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Magazine Bible Studies - Fall 2016


4. Continue reading in Luke 19:5-9. What does Jesus say to Zacchaeus? What did Zacchaeus do? What did Jesus do for Zacchaeus? Jesus said, “Zacchaeus, I must come to your house today.” Jesus was going after Zacchaeus. He was making good on His Word: that He’d come for sinners (Luke 5:31). He was going to reconcile with Zacchaeus, to eat and drink with Zacchaeus. That’s what Jesus wants to do with sinners, even you. He gives you His Body and Blood for the forgiveness of your sins. Zacchaeus responds to Jesus’ salvation by restoring what He’d stolen. He did this by giving to the poor and by restoring fourfold what he’d stolen. This didn’t save him. What Zacchaeus did proved he already had faith (James 2:18). This story is all about what Jesus does for Zacchaeus, the thieving tax collector. “The Son of Man came to seek and to save that which was lost,” (verse 9). 5. What other tax collector did Jesus save? Read Matthew 9:9. Jesus didn’t just rescue Zacchaeus. He rescued Matthew, too. He called Matthew the tax collector not only into faith, but He also called Matthew to be one of His Twelve Apostles and one of the four Evangelists. No thief—no sinner!—is ever outside the saving grace and mercy of Jesus. 6. Read Philippians 2:5–11. What did Jesus do? How did He think of His power and position as God? When Christ died for you, did He die alone? (Mark 15:25–28) Jesus is the eternal Son of God. He’s always been God, but, out of His great love, He didn’t think it was something to be hoarded or even stolen. He freely set aside His power and glory and went to the cross to save sinners, to save thieves. He was even crucified between two thieves! His blood covers all theft. That includes even our laziness, your piracy, your cheating. He saves us from these things and does want us to live in them anymore. He gives us true and eternal riches. He gives us forgiveness, new life, and eternal salvation. He won it for us in His death and resurrection which He also delivers to us in HIs Baptism, His Absolution, and the Supper of His Body and Blood. No one can ever take these things from us (Matthew 6:19–21).

Closing “O Son of God, our blessed Savior Jesus Christ, you called Matthew the tax collector to be an apostle and evangelist. Through his faithful and inspired witness, grant that we also may follow You, leaving behind all covetous desires and love of riches; for You live and reign with the Father and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.” (Collect for the Feast of St. Matthew)

© 2016 Higher Things, Inc.

Magazine Bible Studies - Fall 2016


“The Gift of Stuff” A HIGHER THINGS® BIBLE STUDY Opening Prayer “You shall not steal or take away What others worked for night and day, But open wide a gen’rous hand And help the poor in the land.” Have mercy, Lord!” (“These Are the Holy Ten Commands,” LSB 581, st. 8) 1. Read Genesis 12:1–3 and Joshua 24:1–5. What sort of person was Abraham when Yahweh (“the LORD”) called him to go to Canaan?

2. Read Romans 5:1–10. Discuss the impact verses 6 and 8 have not only on our understanding of Abraham but also our understanding of ourselves. Follow this up with Ephesians 2:8-9. How are all sinners saved? How is faith given?

3. Read Luke 19:1–4. Who was Zacchaeus? Why was he looking for Jesus? What had he heard? (Refer to Luke 7:16–17.)

4. Continue reading in Luke 19:5-9. What does Jesus say to Zacchaeus? What did Zacchaeus do? What did Jesus do for Zacchaeus?

5. What other tax collector did Jesus save? Read Matthew 9:9.

6. Read Philippians 2:5–11. What did Jesus do? How did He think of His power and position as God? When Christ died for you, did He die alone? (Mark 15:25–28)

Closing “O Son of God, our blessed Savior Jesus Christ, you called Matthew the tax collector to be an apostle and evangelist. Through his faithful and inspired witness, grant that we also may follow You, leaving behind all covetous desires and love of riches; for You live and reign with the Father and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.” (Collect for the Feast of St. Matthew)

© 2016 Higher Things, Inc.

Magazine Bible Studies - Fall 2016


“Who Am I?” A HIGHER THINGS® BIBLE STUDY Leader’s Guide 1. As Christians, we try to forgive and love one another. Sometimes it’s easier to see the good in others than the good in us. We all love to hear positive things about ourselves. Read Mark 7:18-23. What does our Lord say about our hearts? Jesus does not paint a nice picture. He’s blatantly honest to the point that it hurts. In the exercise above we were asked to overlook one another’s bad traits and qualities. But, if we’re being honest with ourselves and exposed all of our thoughts, words, and deeds, then we’d have a lot to confess. Jesus’ words are hard to hear, but they’re clear. Some youth may think that they aren’t that bad and these things aren’t in their hearts. But a reading of the Sermon on the Mount exposes the heart of God’s law (Matthew 5:21-28). 2. Take out your catechisms and read through Questions 81-82 in the explanation section (page numbers will differ, so be sure to look up questions 81-82!). What is original sin? What has it done to human nature? Does original sin cause us to sin or if we stopped sinning would we cease to be sinners? See James 1:14-15. The first part is straight forward. Follow the catechism. The last question, at first, appears confusing, but it’s meant to get you thinking. If we just cleaned up our acts, would we cease to be sinners? No! In fact, original sin has us lured toward sin and our sinful nature delights in it. Because of original sin and the fact that we are sinners, we will sin. Some youth may say, “But I don’t want to sin.” or “Then why even try not to?” The next few parts of the study will help answer those questions. 3. Read Luke 18:9-12. How does the Pharisee think of himself? Does he really think that he’s keeping God’s Law? Has he set up a different standard than God’s perfect Law? The Pharisee thinks that he’s righteous or at least better than others. He compares himself to others. Youth especially do this so you may find their ears perking up here! Youth are constantly checking to see if they fit in, if they’re normal, or if they’re not normal, they tend to embrace that. They are constantly looking around them to see what social status they’re in, if they’re picked first or last, what table they sit at, and how they are labeled (hipster, geek, jock, etc.) The Pharisee is obsessed with himself and others would think that he was better than them. He’s not “top of the class” without reason. The problem is that he compares himself to others and thinks this makes him more righteous on the basis of works. 4. Read Luke 18:13-14. How were tax collectors viewed by others in this society? Compare what the tax collector said vs. the Pharisee. What does each say about himself? Toward whom is each looking? Tax collectors were viewed very poorly. They were agents of the Roman occupying state and many were Jews. This means the Romans were using them and they were also seen as betraying their fellow Jews. Tax collectors typically overcharged, and were seen as thieves. The tax collector looks to God, asks for mercy, and calls himself a sinner. When he looks to himself, he confesses his sin. He looks to God for help.

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Magazine Bible Studies - Fall 2016


5. Read Romans 7:15-25. Paul speaks of the struggle that you have as a sinner and a saint at the same time. What does Paul want to do? What does Paul find himself doing? What does God want Paul to do? What does Paul’s sinful nature do and want Paul to do (see v. 23)? What does Paul say about himself in verse 24? What does Paul ask and to whom does he look? See Romans 7:24b-25. Paul wants to keep God’s law and be perfectly obedient to Him. Paul still sins and his sinful nature wants him to sin and tempts him. It’s a struggle. The struggle itself can be a good thing. Like Paul, we want to be good children of God, but we sin. The very fact that we don’t want to and that we want to do better shows us that the new man is alive in us, delighting in God’s law, and wanting to do God’s law. Paul’s sinful nature, and our sinful natures tempt us and would have us revel in sin. We have to be very honest with our confession of sin—we’re wretched. But, for help, just like the tax collector in Luke 18! We look to God for rescue and help. 6. Read Romans 6:1-12. How does Romans 6 remind you of who you are? What does it say about sin? What does it say about death? What does it say about life? What does it say about baptism? A lot of times, people define who they are by what they do. Romans 6 speaks about who we are in our baptism. You are baptized into Christ Jesus. You are forgiven. You have died to sin and you are alive in Christ Jesus. So, the struggle is on. We fight against our sinful flesh even though our sinful flesh has been joined to Christ’s death through baptism. We will have this struggle until we die or Christ returns. But we also have God’s promises about who we are and our life with him! Again, the struggle is on until death. We aren’t to go on sinning or make excuses for it. We confess our sin boldly like the tax collector and like Paul. We look to God for what He has said to us in baptism—I am His beloved child. I am forgiven. My value is determined by the one who paid for me. A great example is to take a worthless object in your youth room and ask your youth how much they’d pay for it. Then, you say that you’d pay 1 million dollars for it. Then ask them, just how much is that object worth. The point is that your value is determined outside of you by the one who bought you. The 2nd Article of the Creed is great here. You were bought not with gold, silver, or dollars, but with Christ’s blood and his innocent suffering and death. Your value is seen at the cross. God died for you. There’s your value. And you know that your real value because He put that price tag on you in baptism. That’s your value no matter how you feel about yourself.

© 2016 Higher Things, Inc.

Magazine Bible Studies - Fall 2016


“Who Am I?” A HIGHER THINGS® BIBLE STUDY 1. As Christians, we try to forgive and love one another. Sometimes it’s easier to see the good in others than the good in us. We all love to hear positive things about ourselves. Read Mark 7:18-23. What does our Lord say about our hearts?

2. Take out your catechisms and read through Questions 81-82 in the explanation section (page numbers will differ, so be sure to look up questions 81-82!). What is original sin? What has it done to human nature? Does original sin cause us to sin or if we stopped sinning would we cease to be sinners? See James 1:14-15.

3. Read Luke 18:9-12. How does the Pharisee think of himself? Does he really think that he’s keeping God’s Law? Has he set up a different standard than God’s perfect Law?

4. Read Luke 18:13-14. How were tax collectors viewed by others in this society? Compare what the tax collector said vs. the Pharisee. What does each say about himself? Toward whom is each looking?

5. Read Romans 7:15-25. Paul speaks of the struggle that you have as a sinner and a saint at the same time. What does Paul want to do? What does Paul find himself doing? What does God want Paul to do? What does Paul’s sinful nature do and want Paul to do (see v. 23)? What does Paul say about himself in verse 24? What does Paul ask and to whom does he look? See Romans 7:24b-25.

6. Read Romans 6:1-12. How does Romans 6 remind you of who you are? What does it say about sin? What does it say about death? What does it say about life? What does it say about baptism?

© 2016 Higher Things, Inc.

Magazine Bible Studies - Fall 2016

Profile for Higher Things: Dare to be Lutheran!

2016 Fall - Higher Things Magazine (with Bible Studies)