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Look Inside for Details On:

In This Issue:

Absolution Is the Answer • The Two Parts of Repentance • The Fruitful Downtime of Divine Service • Willing All This I Suffer for You

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Contents T A B L E O F

Volume 17/Number 1 • Winter 2017

Special Features 4 Are the Scriptures ABOUT You or FOR You?

By Rev. George F. Borghardt While the Scriptures do indeed include a lot of dos and don’ts, those things aren’t central to the Bible’s core message. Rev. Borghardt focuses in on what that message is: Jesus doing all that the Law requires perfectly “for you” so that you can be “for others.”

6 Absolution Is the Answer

By Rev. Aaron T. Fenker There isn’t a sin that Christ’s blood can’t cover and Absolution is God’s way of making that crystal clear to us. Rev. Fenker reminds us that the forgiveness we are granted covers every thought, word, and deed, and that our pastors are here to deliver the comforts of Absolution to us.

8 The Two Parts of Repentance

By Rev. Jacob Ehrhard Repentance has been often misunderstood in our modern church era. One popular idea is that repentance means you’re getting your life together and following the right path. Rev. Ehrhard clearly defines repentance and explains where the fruit of repentance comes into play.

10 Loving Your Older Neighbor

By Kaitlin Jandereski Through her own recent experience with a dear friend, Kaitlin opens up our eyes to be more aware of our older brethren in our churches. To foster a relationship with an older believer in the Lord results in a host of Christ-filled blessings.

12 Resting in Christ in the Midst of Depression’s Betrayal

By Madison Ezzell Depression can suck the life out of you—it blinds, weighs down, and torments. Madison, who struggles with depression, sets out to encourage us as she continues to learn that the crucified, resurrected, and forgiving Christ is the one constant upon which we can rely during our lowest times.

14 The Fruitful Downtime of Divine Service

By Rev. Michael Keith For many of us, our phones are like extensions of our arms. It seems like we’re constantly plugged into something. While technology can be a gift from God it can, if we let it, so easily distract us. Rev. Keith reminds us of the necessity of a little peace and quiet in our lives and how the Divine Service is the perfect opportunity to harness some of that.

20 Willing All This I Suffer for You

By Rev. Gaven M. Mize Rev. Mize dissects a Lenten hymn and expounds on three significant symbols for Christ that date back to the earliest days of the Church.

Regular Features 28 Catechism: The Gift of Reputation

By Rev. William M. Cwirla Because we live in the era of social media it’s easier than ever to get caught up in harming or not preserving the reputation of our neighbor. Taking to heart Rev. Cwirla’s wisdom regarding the Eighth Commandment will not only increase your awareness of the pitfalls but will also encourage you with the forgiveness you have in Christ.

30 Bible Study: The Two Parts of Repentance

Be sure to check out this sample of one of our student Bible studies which links up with Rev. Jacob Ehrhard’s article on P. 8.

HigherThings

®

Volume 17/Number 1/Winter 2017 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. Jacob Ehrhard Rev. Aaron Fenker Rev. Samuel Schuldheisz Subscriptions Manager

Elizabeth Carlson ___________ Board of Directors President

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 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 2017. 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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Are the Scriptures ABO

By Rev. George F. Borghardt

The Scriptures can be read two ways: about you and for you. One speaks about your condition before God and those around you. It’s all about you. The other delivers Christ crucified for you, for the salvation of sinners.

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Modern Christianity wants to look for what the Scriptures have to say “about us.” We are to read the Bible as though it were an instruction manual and then figure out what the words mean to us. How do the Scriptures make us feel? How do we apply them to our lives? What lessons do we glean from the written words in order for us to succeed or to have a better and more prosperous life? That’s how you read the Scriptures to find out about you. And, to be sure, there really is a lot of useful stuff about life in the Bible. You can find out how to be a nicer person. You can learn how to (and how not to) handle your anger and how to deal with the people who hate you. You can learn how to seem like the smartest person in the room and how to never make friends with the stuff you have. You can learn how to properly treat your neighbor and be a good steward of your money. All of that good stuff about you can be found in the Scriptures! Unfortunately, the more you read the Scriptures for what they say about you the more you’ll find out that what’s actually true about you is that you are blind, dead, and an enemy of God. The Scriptures say you sin daily and much and that nothing inside you is good. You’ll also learn just how angry God really is about you and the things you do and don’t do. How everything about you is evil, ever since you were in the womb; how all that you do, think, and feel is twisted by sin; how, even knowing this about you, you still want everything to be about you. You want it to be at the center of it all. You are that self-centered— even in how you are tempted to read the Scriptures: about you.  Even if you could do all that the Scriptures say you should do, all by yourself, you couldn’t make up for all the things you haven’t done. And any message all about you, or your relationships, or how to be a better parent when you grow up than your crazy parents are, or what you can do for God to devote yourself to His Word, will inevitably end in guilt because you don’t or won’t do these things—not well enough and not perfectly, which is what God demands. Not doing what you are commanded to do always ends in condemnation. If your reading of the Scriptures is that all or most of the Scriptures are about you, then they are only Law for you—Law that ends in your death and going to hell. But the Gospel is in the “for you” of Scripture. All of Scripture speaks of Jesus. Jesus is all about you: born for you, baptised for you and for your righteousness. Jesus preached, taught, healed the sick, raised the dead for all those people and for you, too. For you, He kept every “about you” of the Law perfectly and then counted all those things He kept as having been kept by you. He died the death you deserve for


OUT you or FOR you? you—suffering on the Cross the penalty for you and your sins. After three days, He rose again from the dead for you. Everything about you became about Him on Calvary so that everything about Him is now for you. Jesus is your life, your forgiveness, your holiness, your justification, your sanctification, your eternal life. For Lutherans, the Scriptures aren’t merely a history book or a set of basic instructions before leaving Earth (B.I.B.L.E.). They testify of Jesus for you. Every word points to Jesus on the Cross for you. Every sentence delivers Jesus’ holy life and bitter sufferings and death for you. “For you” is how Lutherans read the Bible! And the “for you” isn’t just a little bit of the Scriptures and then you can get back to everything being “about you”. The Gospel is not just a single in the Scriptures’ virtual iTunes library. The “for you” of the Gospel is the center of every single song! Everything in the Scriptures points to Jesus for you! The “about you” of the Law kills you so that the “for you” of the Gospel can raise you again. The “for you” of the Gospel enlivens you to live no longer about you but for those around you. We read the Scriptures—or better, the Holy Spirit reads us the Scriptures—to see how the Word shows us Jesus. The Old Testament tells us how the prophets testified of the Son’s coming into our flesh to save us. The New Testament delivers this Jesus to us—God in the flesh for you—to save you from only being about you. That Lutherans look for Jesus in the Scriptures doesn’t mean that Lutherans ignore the Law. The Law was given to save you—not by you keeping it, but so that you would die to it. God gives His Law about you in order to kill the you-centered you so that you might be raised to life again in Christ by the “for you” of the Gospel. Without Jesus for you the “about you” of the Law is nothing but a word that accuses and condemns you. And apart from Christ, that’s all it can do. Only in Christ can the “for you” of the Gospel show you how the “about you” of the Law may guide you in living for others. For others! When you read the Scriptures centered on the “for you” of Jesus, you’ll see that God is not only for you but for those around you, too! He makes you alive not just so that you would go to heaven, but that you would do the good things in His Law for those around you! Your neighbor could really use you being “about them.” You’ll miss that completely if you are only looking for stuff about you! Jesus is so “for you” that He is even “for others” through you. So read the Scriptures looking for Jesus for you. The Words are more than just information on how to live. The Scriptures have been given by God to make you alive with Jesus. He’s the center of the Scriptures: the “for you” and the “about you”. 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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re you really forgiven?

But you can be certain. You can know, without a shadow of a doubt, that you really are forgiven. How? Because Jesus sent His pastors to forgive your sins, that’s how! Whatever sin your pastor forgives, it really is forgiven. By your pastor’s Word of forgiveness “your sins are forgiven before God in heaven” (Small Catechism). Your pastor’s word “is just as valid and certain, even in heaven, as if Christ our dear Lord dealt with us Himself” (Small Catechism). That’s exactly what Jesus says. “This

fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies” (Matthew 15:19). If we’re honest with ourselves, we know it’s true! We need Him to “Create in me a clean heart, O God, And renew a right spirit within me” (Psalm 51:10). And He does! His promise is that He “will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you” and “will take the heart of stone out of your flesh and give you a heart of flesh” (Ezekiel 36:26). This is is what happens in the Absolution! He wipes your sin away. “As far as the east is from the west, So far has He removed our transgressions from us” (Psalm 103:12). Your omniscient, all-knowing heavenly Father, doesn’t even “remember your sins” (Isaiah 43:25) because of His all-knowing Son’s death and resurrection, which won forgiveness (Luke 23:34) and the opening of Paradise (Luke 23:46). It’s delivered in the forgiveness spoken by your pastor, as Jesus commanded and promised (John 20:22-23), and that absolution “cleanses us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9)— unrighteousness of thoughts and desires included! When we sadly give in to the temptation, the desire, we can’t wrap our minds around Absolution being for our desires, too. Your pastor is certainly there for you to

is what St. John the Evangelist writes in chapter twenty: The Lord Jesus breathed on His disciples and said, ‘Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive anyone his sins, they are forgiven’” (Small Catechism). Now, when we confess our sins, we confess that we’re “poor miserable sinners” (Divine Service: Setting 3), that we’ve sinned in “thought, word, and deed” (Divine Service: Setting 1), that “my thoughts and desires have been soiled with sin” (Individual Confession and Absolution). But most of the time, we equate “sins” with bad things we’ve done. That’s not all that sin is, though, is it? We all know that we have thoughts that we don’t want anyone to know about. How many friends would we have left then? We all have desires (lusts) we’re ashamed of. If anyone knew about those, maybe our moms and dads would still love us, but that might be it! And if we’ve acted on those desires, well, good luck! We might be alone then. But you’re never alone, and that’s the problem! God’s omniscient—all knowing! He knows your thoughts. He knows your desires. He knows “the imagination of man’s heart is evil from his youth” (Genesis 8:21). He knows “out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries,

forgive you when you’ve fallen into sin, when desires and temptations have overwhelmed you. He’s there to restore you “in a spirit of gentleness,” to help “bear one another’s burdens” (Galatians 6:1). He does this with the Absolution: forgiving your sins and the deep-seated desires that produced them. But wait there’s more! Yes, more! Absolution covers even more! What if you wanted to do something bad, really bad, maybe even horrible, but you didn’t actually do it? That’s great! By the power of the Holy Spirit, you’re a new man in Christ, created in Holy Baptism and sustained by the Spirit in the Word and Body and Blood of Jesus. God be praised! He answered your prayer to “lead us not into temptation.” The Holy Spirit truly has and continues to sanctify you (Third Article of the Apostles’ Creed). To God alone be the glory! What if it bothers you, though? I mean, you’re supposed to be happy, right? It’s a very good thing when temptation is ignored, when evil is avoided. It’s awesome! It should make you happy that it was. But you’re not. Why? Well, maybe you’re worried that people will judge you for it. If they only knew what you’d planned, they’d judge

Has your heavenly Father really forgiven you? Did Jesus’ death really pay for your sins? Sure! Then you sin…again. Then you think about that sin…again. Then you think about doing that sin…again. Not so sure then, huh? You want to do better, but that doesn’t bring you any assurance that your sins are forgiven.

Absolution Is the H I G H E R T H I N G S __ 6


you, condemn you, disown you! So, maybe you lash out when people condemn that sin in others. That sin, along with all sins, should be condemned, but the truth is, you’re angry because you still feel like they’re really condemning you, right? Or maybe you’re disturbed by the very fact that you even thought about doing something so awful. You know that everyone would tell you, “But you didn’t actually do it, so you don’t need to worry.” Maybe you tell yourself that, too, but that’s all just empty comfort. It won’t last. Whether your response is anger or despair, the underlying idea is the same: your works determine your forgiveness. You can make up for something you do, but how do you make up for an idea, a thought, a plan? You can’t. Think better thoughts, maybe, but that just gets you all mixed up! So, what’s the answer? “Absolution, that is, forgiveness from pastor as from God Himself” (Small Catechism)—that’s the answer! That’s Jesus’ answer to the problem—the problem of sin, of sinful actions, of desires and temptations (whether you give in to them or not). It’s why Jesus sent you a pastor, to forgive your sins of “thought, word, and deed” (Divine Service: Setting 1),

Answer Rev. Aaron T. Fenker

to forgive even your desires and thoughts that “have been soiled with sin” (Individual Confession and Absolution). Your pastor has the command, power, and authority to forgive your sins—all your sins! That’s Jesus’ promise to you! Are you really forgiven? Yes, your pastor is there to do exactly that.

Rev. Aaron T. Fenker is the pastor of Bethlehem and Immanuel Lutheran churches in Bremen, Kansas. He is Media Executive for Higher Things.

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The Two Parts of By Rev. Jacob Ehrhard

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fter Jesus returns from His temptation by Satan in the wilderness, He begins His public ministry with the preaching of repentance.“Now after John was arrested, Jesus came into Galilee, proclaiming the gospel of God, and saying, ‘The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel’” (Mark 1:14-15). In Greek, repentance is metanoia. It’s a change of mind, a new way of thinking. Now, strictly speaking, repentance consists of two parts. One part is contrition, that is, terrors striking the conscience through the knowledge of sin. The other part is faith, which is born of the Gospel or the Absolution and believes that for Christ’s sake, sins are forgiven. It comforts the conscience and delivers it from terror (Augsburg Confession XII.3-5).

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The first part of this change of thinking has to do with the knowledge of sin. By nature, we consider ourselves to be generally good people who occasionally do some bad things. And by reason and observation that may be true for all but the worst of the worst. But reason cannot grasp the depth of the problem of sin. It must be revealed to us, and that’s the particular work of God’s Law. “Now we know that whatever the law says it speaks to those who are under the law, so that every mouth may be stopped, and the whole world may be held accountable to God. For by works of the law no human being will be justified in his sight, since through the law comes knowledge of sin” (Romans 3:19-20). Repentance begins with contrition. Contrition is simply sorrow for sin, or as defined by our Lutheran Confessions, “terrors striking the conscience.” This doesn’t necessarily mean a severe emotional breakdown complete with weeping and gnashing of teeth (although it can); it doesn’t necessarily mean dragging ourselves around in sackcloth and ashes (although it can). First and foremost, contrition is a knowledge of sin— acknowledging that even our best and holiest works are sinful works. It’s the admission that, left on our own, we are lost and condemned and destined for destruction. But if repentance stops with contrition, it’s not repentance. It’s incomplete without its second part. Repentance is completed by faith. Faith believes that for Christ’s sake, the sins revealed by God’s Law—the sins we acknowledge and are sorry for—are forgiven. This faith doesn’t just spring up on its own, but is born of the Gospel. It’s a result of Absolution. Faith is not complete until we hear, “I forgive you all your sins in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.” The words of forgiveness create faith in forgiveness, and repentance is complete.

In this way, the word repentance is a figure of speech called a synecdoche (si-NEK-duh-key). This is when a whole thing is referred to by one of its parts. But repentance always includes faith in the forgiveness of sins. Jesus’ first sermon on repentance is to “repent and believe in the gospel” (Mark 1:15). When He rises from the dead, Jesus repeats this mandate, but extends it to the entire world. “Then he opened their minds to understand the Scriptures, and said to them, ‘Thus it is written, that the Christ should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead, and that repentance for the forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem’” (Luke 24:45-47). Peter’s first sermon on Pentecost echoes this theme. “And Peter said to them, ‘Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit’” (Acts 2:38). Properly speaking, repentance begins with contrition and is completed by faith. But there is also a third part we could add, although it’s not repentance, per se. To deliver godly consciences from these mazes of the learned persons, we have attributed these two parts to repentance: contrition and faith. If anyone desires to add a third—fruit worthy of repentance, that is, a change of the entire life and character for the better—we will not oppose it (Apology of the Augsburg Confession XIIa.28). This is the gift of the Holy Spirit, which Peter proclaims in his Pentecost sermon. But repentance must never rest on its fruits. To make repentance depend on a change of character or a moral improvement in life is to put the sanctification cart before the justification horse. Faith in the forgiveness of sins drives sanctification; we cannot be holy without first believing that our sins are forgiven. The specific changes in character and life are like a load of apples pulled in the cart. They are the fruits that are delivered by faith and the sanctification caused by the Spirit. We see the approaching season of Lent as giving us Christians 40 days to reflect upon repentance. Certainly, we should intensify our fight against our sinful lusts, and perhaps even take up a discipline to restrain the Old Adam that makes war against the Spirit in each of us. But let us not stop there. Let us also redouble our reflection on the Gospel, and thus intensify our faith with the comfort and consolation that our sins, no matter how great, are forgiven for the sake of Christ. And when these 40 days are finished, let us journey to the cross on Good Friday where our Savior shed His blood, and find an empty tomb on Easter Sunday. And by God’s grace, we will even find some fruits of the resurrection in a new life. Rev. Jacob Ehrhard is pastor of Trinity Lutheran Church in New Haven, Missouri.


Repentance

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Loving Your Ol By Kaitlin Jandereski

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here was nobody in the hallway. The long corridor stretched from one end of the hall to the other—clean and eternally verdant, except for a faint, irregular, white stain by Mr. Kuzmich’s door, as if someone had accidentally blotted a tube of toothpaste on it and dabbed it dry with a frumpy towel.

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I twisted the golden knob to his door, sure he wouldn’t hear me if I knocked, even if I did so loudly. Mr. Kuzmich’s hearing was like an AM radio station, twirling around on a dancefloor of static, falling in step and out of step. On his bed, Mr. Kuzmich was sitting upright with his prickly gray, upside down mustache, cabbage green eyes and speckled brown jacket he thought was important to wear even while watching the Detroit Tigers on television. He had a popcorn bag placed on his lap—the kind that people sometimes use to feed the ducks. His jaw moved up and down, up and down as he gnawed at the buttery kernels. I looked around the room, giving him time to move his jaw up and down, up and down. The air tasted dead, like a sniff of old tree bark. I hate the smell of nursing home rooms. Mr. Kuzmich’s mustache latched itself onto his small lips as he smiled and said, “Sit down,” while he patted the Victorian blue seat next to his bed. I grabbed my pen from my purse and scooted myself closer to him so that we could write. The big hand on the clock passed the twelve about three times before Mr. Kuzmich and I had finished writing. I slid my blotted black ink on yellow paper over to him. This was an activity we had made into a ritual the past few months, reading and writing and reading each others’ poetry to each other, but this time, he could barely read it. His eyes squinted at it like he was trying to catch the glimpse of a one-quarter moon against a cloudy background of a midnight black fog sky. I could tell that he couldn’t read my words, which never used to be a problem for him, so I read it to him while he continued to lift pieces of popcorn up to his mouth. It was a

halfandhalf thing. One piece would reach his mouth, the other would drop through his fingers and onto his lap. Mr. Kuzmich never acknowledged that he kept dropping popcorn. It was as if it were the most natural and sensible thing in the world. I left him with a goodbye hug. Two months later, while I was in Indiana for graduate school, I received a paperback book of poems in the mail. It was one of the poetry books Mr. Kuzmich and I used to read together—before we would start writing, before his eyesight went bad. On the inside cover of the book, his wife had written me this note: “My husband is now with the Lord. I thought you might like this book of his. You two had some fond memories reading it together. If he were here right now, he’d ask when you’re coming over next and tell me to ask you to bring your pen, a pad of paper and your wildest imagination. I love you.”


Older Neighbor

Mr. Kuzmich was old and had trouble making sense of the words on paper. I was told that during his last few weeks on earth he needed an oxygen mask to breathe...yet I was still befuddled that he was not going to be in his nursing home bed, in all its dim light and stiff air, the next time I visited. I cried a little that day. Mr. Kuzmich had lived a lengthy life—one that sprinkled on a special joy that you or I could hear even in the silence. Like many elderly people, he had the type of stories you read in the historical textbooks, but his was a special edition that came with color and flavor, with details and conversations, with laughter and tears. He would share those stories with me and thank me each time for listening to him. “Nobody else will listen,” he’d always note at the end. I never really could understand that last statement as I always thought that it was Mr. Kuzmich who should be the

one receiving the thanks, so, in light of his life, I thought I should encourage you, as a young person, to go and talk to the elderly members in the Church’s body. There certainly isn’t another Mr. Kuzmich out there, but there is a friend like him somewhere— one who may be a bit older than you, one who has quizzical joints and warm sweaters, one who will share his or her coffee with you, one who will tell you stories and write poetry with you, one who will tell you why he or she is Lutheran, one who will give you bendy straws to make a boring lunchtime meal enjoyable and one who will tell you that simple things like long laughs, a baby’s cuddle, and green grass gently flirting with the wind in the springtime next to a dairy farm are three of the best things in the world. It might be scary to go up to him. She might not hear you the first two or three...or even five times you try conversation with her, but a friendship with her—made up of the old and the young, the experienced and the learning—is quite possibly one of the most rewarding friendships you’ll ever have. And for him, too. He’s most likely by himself. You have lots to learn and much beauty to see, and he can help you with that. Love your older neighbors. Although their bodies are ailing and their minds are fading, they are in fact the most alive that they’ve ever been because they’ve never been more dependent on Christ than now, at the last moments of their life. And in you, they can see Christ working through others to bind up the broken-hearted and give kinship to the lonely. And, together, you both can rejoice in the eternal waters of your baptisms that poured from the font of Calvary when Christ died and rose again for you so that you would never die but would rise again with Him on the Last Day. Kaitlin Jandereski is a deaconess student at Concordia Theological Seminary, and she’s from Bad Axe, Michigan. You may reach her at kaitlin.jandereski@ctsfw.edu.

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H I G H E R

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12 Stained glass windows of St Botolph’s AldersgateWard and HughesJesus Christ walking on water

Resting in Christ in the Midst of Depression’s Betrayal

By Madison Ezzell


My name is Madison and I am Peter.

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here is a delicate line between depression and reality. In an instant you can cross it, and all of a sudden where you were is not where you are. Instead of joy there is indescribable pain. Emotions bottle up in your chest and scream at you. And while what you want to do is cry and rage against the world, all you do is sit in the bog of depression. This deep darkness reminds you of all your sins, of how far you are from God. You don’t remember that He paid for all of this, that by His death you live and that by your death in this world He lives in you. I sin. I don’t deserve anything I have, had, or ever will have. I should be dead. But, as a favorite song of mine says, the beauty of grace is that it makes life unfair. In spite of this depression with which I contend, the wonders of God’s mercy have given me life; He uses me so that through me He can give others this gift of grace. The riches of His love are evident in every corner of my life and being. So why I am sitting here crying over my sin? Why can I not let go of the past and instead look to the future where I think I can do better? Why am I trapping myself in darkness when there is light? Instead of this I must go, serve, love, and have faith. I must be determined to do better and live for Him every day. He has given His life for me, and so I know that the past is gone. I have another chance. So, while I ache to scream, I must let go and enter a new day. Trust in Him and be utterly thankful for this new day. So, Lord, help me to let go. People who know my outer shell say my heart is good. But really, my heart is black—only made white by the red blood of Christ who died for me. He cried out in agony as everyone abandoned Him while He saved them. Yet, my black heart cries out, “I love you, Lord!” But how can a person leave the one they love? I have denied Him. My name is Madison and I am Peter. I am Peter. Strong until the storm comes, where I wither and die. And, while I know this, I also know that Jesus died so that I could live. Living does not mean sitting and crying about the past. It means resting in Christ. It means to love as He loves, serve as He serves, show mercy as He shows mercy, and go make disciples for Him. Depression is a real and dangerous thing. It darkens even the brightest lights and casts shadows over the truth. When it comes, whether scattered over time or in crushing waves, we collapse. I have, many times. And each time I doubt, I fear, I hate, I, I, I…Each time everything in my mind suddenly becomes only about me. This time last year was the darkest period of my life. The monster that is depression and anxiety

gripped me so tightly in its hands and that I could not free myself from it. I would pray daily, hourly, every moment, for help. I just wanted the fear and the darkness to leave me. I ached to sleep better, I yearned to be healthier and happy again, I wanted to feel purpose in my life. But instead of regaining those things I found myself losing faith in the only thing I had ever known. For the first time in my life I doubted that God was real and true. Yes, I had doubted before. Everyone has doubts. But my mind was so clouded with lies that I could no longer recognize the truth. I don’t think I have ever cried as much as I did then. I grasped at what strands I could and prayed every night to a God I couldn’t see, “Lord, I believe. Help my unbelief.” That was last November. Last Easter I sat in church with my family and listened to my pastor preach the gospel, I prayed the same prayer, but I was not so afraid. I had fought a long war with myself, and I still fight it now, but I am not so easily shaken. I believe, and I pray every night that God in His mercy would be with me and guide me through my unbelief. Now, as I am able to look at my past with a clear mind and hopeful heart, I see where the darkness takes me. It takes me to myself. It takes me to places so full of my own thoughts that I cannot see God. It turns everything inward. This life is not about me, it is about love—the love of Christ for me and the love of Christ I can give to my neighbor. If not for love, Jesus’ true and unending love, none of us would be here. Because of His great love, I am free to love my neighbors as myself. That’s what Jesus has already done for me. He went through darkness and pain for me. He rose from death to life for me. He’s washed and clothed me with His love. He’s fed me with His life—His Body and Blood—in the Supper. He does this for me and my neighbors. Loving others is hard, and I fail each and every day. Thank God in His mercy that He has forgiven me each and every time I fail. When next comes the darkness, I hope that I do not give in. But because I am human, I will. That is why my hope is not in me, but in a God who has promised to never forsake me. He can’t and won’t: I’m baptized through Him, and in Him alone, I live. My name is Madison, and I am Peter— saved by the grace of a glorious God. Madison Ezzell is an aspiring writer living in Boone, North Carolina. She is working to complete her Associates of Arts Degree in May. She is a member of Augustana Evangelical Lutheran Church in Hickory, North Carolina.

Author’s note: If you suffer from anxiety or depression, you are not alone. It is a hard battle and sometimes we have to fight it far too often. I am thankful for the support my parents and pastors give to me. Do not be afraid to seek help. Talk to your parents, your pastor, and doctors. I know how hard it is to do that, but it is worth it. An excellent resource is the book I Trust When Dark My Road, by Todd Peperkorn.

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The Fruitful Downtime of Divine Service By Rev. Michael Keith


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hen I was in college and in seminary I would spend a lot of time thinking. That’s right, just thinking. No iPhone. No iPad. No Facebook. No iTunes. No TV. No radio. I would just sit in my chair alone in my little basement suite and…think.

At that time, I was learning a lot of things that made me think. I was confronted with concepts and ideas that were new to me. They challenged me. They made me try to figure out how they fit together. Sometimes they upset me and blew apart previously held convictions. Sometimes they made me think about things I had never conceived of before. Sometimes it was like having scales removed from my eyes, and I began to see something clearly. Sometimes the more I wrestled with something the more unclear it got. So, I used to sit and think a lot. I don’t sit and think much anymore. I’m busy. I’m distracted. I’m busy because I have stuff to do. I’m a husband. I’m a father. I’m a pastor. I generally find myself finishing one thing and then going to the next thing and the next thing and the next thing. The list doesn’t really end. So, it can be a struggle to find time to just sit and…think. I suspect that you, too, in your own way, know what this is like. Maybe it is the demands of school, chores at home, sports teams, music lessons, part time jobs, etc. We’re all struggling to fit into our lives everything that we think we need to fit into them. I’m also distracted. We’re all distracted now. There are many blessings that come with technology. But there are some struggles that come along with it as well. One of those struggles is that we are constantly bombarded with interruptions from our technology. We receive notifications about this or that post or update or email or text. Sometimes the phone will actually ring and someone might actually call us on our phones to have a conversation. Often, we just pick up our device without thinking about it because we feel like we might miss out on something if we don’t “check in.” Whatever free time there may have been is often eaten up by our use of technology. So what to do? “The unexamined life is not worth living” Socrates said. I think he is right. There is a lot of danger in going through life without giving much thought to what happens around us. I think we need time in our lives free from distractions and free from demands to sit…and think. And it is here where I think the Church can be a great blessing to us in our day and age. It is here that the Third Commandment can save us from ourselves. “Remember the Sabbath Day by keeping it holy.” What does this mean? “We should fear and love God so that we do not despise preaching and His Word, but hold it sacred and gladly hear and learn it.” The Lord has built into our lives a time of rest and reflection and examination. The Church has built this into Divine Service. I encourage you to get to church early rather than to blow in during the last stanza of the opening hymn.

What? Well, if you can swing it, do try to get to church early. Sit in the pew. Quietly. Leave your phone in the car. You don’t need it here. Just sit. Think. Think about your week. Think about your life. Where are you? Where are you going? What do you want? How can serve others? Think about questions you have. Struggles you have. Fears you have. Joys you have. Think about God and what He has done and continues to do for you. What questions do you have for Him? Think about…well, whatever you want to think about. But be reflective. Pray. In this quiet time of rest and peace, pray. Pray about what you have been pondering. Don’t let life just rush by you without giving it consideration, thought, and examination. The Church gives you this quiet time. Take it. During Divine Service we often have Confession and Absolution at the beginning. This is another time for reflection and thinking. We carefully examine ourselves according to God’s Word. We think about our lives. We eagerly receive God’s forgiveness as He speaks through the pastor. Often while the offering is received there is a quiet time of waiting. This is another good time for contemplation. Even as you place your offering in the plate you could give thought to how it is you offer yourself to the Lord in service to Him by serving others. You can give thought to the needs of those around you. You can take time to pray for the Lord to help you in your life. As you kneel at the altar, remember what Jesus has done for you. This is another quiet time of thoughtful prayer. Here, at the rail, Jesus offers you His very Body and Blood. You receive the forgiveness of sins and life. Everything you might think about is put in perspective as the Body and Blood of Jesus are given to you. All the struggles and doubts and fears and worries and shame and guilt you have brought to the table are taken away in the blood of the Lamb. You leave the altar forgiven and loved and given newness of life. Afterward there is often some quiet time in the pew for you to sit and think and pray. Use that time. It’s there for you as a gift in your busy and distracted life. Take advantage of the down times—the quiet inactivity during the Divine Service. Such moments are gifts to us in our busy and distracted lives. Take them. Receive them. Use them thoughtfully and prayerfully. Rev. Michael Keith serves as pastor at St. Matthew Lutheran Church and Christian Academy in Stony Plain, Alberta, Canada.

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Valparaiso University Valparaiso, Indiana

July 25-28, 2017

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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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Trini

San A

July 4

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Here I Stand 2017 HIGHER THINGS CONFERENCES

Mars

July 2

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Bozem

July 2

Valp

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

REGULAR Feb. 1, 2017 to April 30, 2017

LATE (on or after May 1, 2017)

$355

$385

$410

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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Are you ready to teach the world to see?

EyesOfLife.org

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With eyes of life, we rejoice in God’s grace and mercy, Christ’s forgiveness and love, the Holy Spirit’s direction and nurturing … life. “In him was life, and the life was the light of men.” John 1:4

EyesOfLifeLCMS


Solus Christus When: Where: Cost: Teacher: Contact:

February 18-19, 2017 Trinity Lutheran Church—Sheboygan, Wisconsin $50/person Rev. Brent Kuhlman Rev. John Berg—berg@trinitysheboygan.org; (920) 458-8246

Good News for People with Big Problems When: Where: Cost: Teacher: Contact:

February 23-24, 2017 Mount Olive Lutheran Church—Regina, Saskatchewan, Canada US $50/CA $67 per person Rev. Brent Kuhlman Rev. Ted Giese—pastorted@sasktel.net; (306) 543-9744

The Gospel in the Reformation March 17, 2017 Where: Redeemer Lutheran Church— Waterloo, Ontario, Canada $30 Cost: Teacher: Rev. George Borghardt III Contact: Rev. David Saar—(519) 323-6992; prsaar@wightman.ca When:

Immanuel: God with Us When: Where: Cost: Teacher: Contact:

March 24-25, 2017 St. Paul Lutheran Church—Chatfield, Minnesota $40/person Rev. Dr. Arthur Just Judy Goldsmith—(507) 867-4604; judyg@rochester.lib.mn.us

Confessing Sin; Confessing Jesus April 28-29, 2017 Where: Immanuel Lutheran Church—Wahpeton, North Dakota $50/person Cost: Teacher: Rev. Sean Daenzer and Rev. Matt Richard Contact: Tana McKenna—(701)308-0411; ziongwinner@gmail.com When:

Download Registration Packets and register online for these Higher Things Retreats at www.higherthings.org/retreats.

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Willing All This I Suffer for You By Rev. Gaven M. Mize


hen it was time to leave my vicarage assignment, a family to whom I’m still very close gave me a gift. This family knew my love for art that reflects our Christian faith and they wanted to give me something that would not only remind me of them but also of the Savior whom I was going to be serving in about a year. The gift was a mold of a carving that was originally created to decorate a castle in England during the Middle Ages. The mold featured one of my favorite Christological symbols of the faith named “The Pelican in Her Piety.” On the back of the gift was a taped note and a verse from St. John 15:13 that read, “Greater love has no man than this, that he would lay down his life for his friends.” It was amazing how much the verse reflected the symbolism of the mold. According to legend, when there is little to no food around, the mother pelican will take her beak and slice open her own breast so that her chicks can feed on her blood and live. The reason that this ancient symbol has remained for so long in the Church is because it so vividly reminds us of the same willingness of Christ to sacrifice Himself for the sake of His own brood. continued on next page

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St. Thomas Aquinas pointed to both the symbolism and the truth behind the pelican and the crucifixion. In the hymn “Thee We Adore, O Hidden Savior” we sing the words, “Thou, like the pelican to feed her brood, Didst pierce Thyself to give us living food; Thy blood, O Lord, one drop has pow’r to win Forgiveness for our world and all its sin.” Christ was wounded for our transgressions, and from His blood we are fed. The pelican is an enduring symbol in the Church, but if we delve deeply into what my favorite hymn writer, Paul Gerhardt, has to say in his Lenten hymn “A Lamb Goes Uncomplaining Forth” we’ll see two other significant symbols: the lamb and the anchor: A Lamb goes uncomplaining forth, The guilt of all men bearing; And laden with the sins of earth, None else the burden sharing! Goes patient on, grow weak and faint, To slaughter led without complaint, That spotless life to offer; Bears shame and stripes, and wounds and death, Anguish and mockery, and saith, “Willing all this I suffer.” The Lamb of God is none other than Jesus Christ, our Lord! He Himself is the one who was wounded for our transgressions and from those wounds we are still fed, like little pelicans whose only interest is our own survival, but then we gaze upon the one who is feeding us. St. John that Baptist, after calling all to repentance who would hear him, pointed to Christ and declared loudly,““Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!” And as that Lamb of God walked forward to be baptized to sanctify and make clear all waters to be a lavish washing away of our sins, He journeyed even closer to the slaughter of the Lamb and He did this willingly—For YOU. In the second stanza Gerhardt sums up the walk of the Lamb who was heading forward and ever constantly toward our salvation at His great expense:

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This Lamb is Christ, the soul’s great Friend, The Lamb of God, our Savior; Him God the Father chose to send To gain for us His favor. “Go forth, My Son,” the Father saith, “And free men from the fear of death, From guilt and condemnation. The wrath and stripes are hard to bear, But by Thy Passion men shall share The fruit of Thy salvation.”

The pairing of the Lamb of God and the soul’s great Friend seems like an unlikely duo, yet the Lamb marches ever forward to the salvation of our souls. He does this with the great command of the Father to, “Go forth, My Son” so that we would be freed from the fear of death, but more importantly, freed from death itself. By the wrath that dug into the breast of the most pious of Pelicans and into the fleece of the meekest of Lambs we find the fruit of our salvation. If that weren’t enough, we also receive the merits of that Passion poured into both font and chalice and we hail the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. Gerhardt goes even further in his fourth stanza when he puts the mercy walk of the Lamb/penetration of the Pelican’s breast into our account to be paid in full upon the receiving and having full sins atoned, we fear death no more: Of death I am no more afraid, New life from Thee is flowing; Thy cross affords me cooling shade When noonday’s sun is glowing. When by my grief I am opprest, On Thee my weary soul shall rest Serenely as on pillows. Thou art my Anchor when by woe My bark is driven to and fro On trouble’s surging billows. In this stanza, we learn that we can rest from our journey here on earth. Through Christ, our Anchor, we are weighted down so that no billowing waves or turn of the tides in this life may harm us. When our eyes grow sleepy in death, we have the firm assurance that when our eyes open once again we will behold Christ face to face. As Lent approaches, let us take note of many the symbols of the Church that remind us of what Christ has done for us. May we also repent, not because of the season, but because we are in need. May we flee from those who disregard God’s Law for the sake of a false Gospel that harms more than helps. May we drink from the breast of the Pious Pelican and give thanks for the Lamb of God who was slaughtered for our sake. Finally, let us be happily weighted down by the crucified and resurrected Christ, our Anchor, who is our only true hope. Rev. Gaven M. Mize is the pastor of Augustana Evangelical Lutheran Church in Hickory, North Carolina. A graduate of Concordia University of Wisconsin and Concordia Theological Seminary, he is married to Ashlee Mize, who is awesome.


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Reflections Higher Things is pleased to provide free daily devotions, called “Reflections,” for youth and their families. These Reflections are centered on the Gospel of Jesus Christ, and are based upon each day’s texts from the weekly readings in the one-year lectionary and from Luther’s Small Catechism. You can download and print a seasonal Reflections booklet, subscribe to the daily Reflections and receive them in your e-mail box or connect to an RSS Feed and Podcast by visiting: www. higherthings.org/reflections.html

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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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Catechism

The Gift of By Rev. William M. Cwirla

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You shall not give false testimony against your neighbor.

What does this mean? We should fear and love god so that we do not tell lies about our neighbor, betray him, slander him or hurt his reputation, but defend him, speak well of him, and explain everything in the kindest way.

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ave you ever been the victim of gossip or slander? Has anyone ever spread lies about you or put your private sins in a public light? In these social media days of Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Snapchat it’s easier than ever. One little click, comment, or picture and a reputation can be ruined. People have been driven to despair, depression, and even suicide over having their name and reputation dragged through the social media muck. Cyberbullying is a real problem, as is cyber-gossip and cyber-slander. Maybe you know someone who has experienced it. Maybe you have yourself. In the Second Commandment, God’s concern is over His Name and how we use it. In the Eighth Commandment, God’s concern is over the name of your neighbor. God’s desire is that we have a good name and reputation. He has covered our sin with the righteousness of His Son. He has named and claimed us as His own children in Holy Baptism. He has silenced the accusation of the Law against us. In God’s court, we aren’t simply declared “not guilty” but rather “innocent” and “holy.” Of course, that’s not in ourselves, but in Christ, who is our innocence and holiness. Our good name is Jesus’ good Name. The Eighth Commandment, first of all, applies to the courtroom, where we swear to tell “the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth.” This isn’t for our benefit but for our neighbor’s benefit. We may suffer injustice personally, but “everyone should help his neighbor maintain his rights” (Large Catechism). Lying in court is not only perjury, but a subversion of justice. Everyone suffers when lies are told in court. And God’s justice is mocked. The Eighth Commandment also speaks to how we speak about others. It deals with the works and sins of the tongue, which is like a wild beast that cannot be tamed (James 3:7-8). We are commanded to speak well of our neighbor, even if we know something ill about him, and to “put the best construction on everything.” If you can’t say something nice, then be silent until you think of something

good to say.“I may see and hear that my neighbor sins, but to make him the talk of the town (or social media) is not my business.” (Large Catechism). Indeed, “love covers a


eputation multitude of sins” (1 Peter 4:8). Instead of broadcasting the sins of others, the commandment would have us do what Jesus has done for us: Cover them up with love. Gossip ends at your ears. Make your ears a tomb to gossip and bury it. What if you know that someone is guilty of something? “God forbids you to speak evil about another even though,

your mouth and bite your tongue. God has not made you judge over your neighbor. This is why Jesus has us go to our brother or sister alone when someone sins against us (Matthew 18:15-18). If you’re not willing to do that, then you have no business telling anyone else. And, if your brother or sister repents, then you’re obligated to forgive and move on, just as God in Christ forgives us. If not, then take one or two trusted friends with you and try again. You see, Jesus would have us work to preserve our neighbor’s name and reputation, even when he isn’t doing such a good job at it himself! Finally, if he won’t listen to you and your friends, tell it to the whole church, but even then, only with the intent of restoring and forgiving him. Let’s face it. Old Adam, our sinful nature, loves gossip. He loves to talk about the sins of others, so that no one will notice his sins and call him out. He loves to point out the speck in his brother’s eye, all the while ignoring the two-byfour made of the same wood stuck in his own eye (Matthew 7:3-5). He even argues, “Hey, I’m telling the truth!” But the truth is to be spoken in love to build each other up not to tear others down (Ephesians 4:5). Old Adam needs to shut up, which is the work of this commandment. When we cover the sins of another, when we strive to speak good about others and put the best, rather than the worst, construction on things, we are speaking with the mouth of Christ Himself, who doesn’t speak of our sins but covers them up with His blood and righteousness. “Father, forgive them. They don’t know what they’re doing.” That’s putting the best construction on everything. Bear no false witness nor defame Your neighbor nor destroy his name, But view him in the kindest way; Speak truth in all that you say.” Have mercy, Lord! (Lutheran Service Book 581:9)

to your certain knowledge, he is guilty” (Large Catechism). If you’re not willing to press charges with the proper authorities and testify in open court, then you need to close

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.

W I N T E R 2 0 1 7 _ 29


The Two Parts of Repentance A HIGHER THINGS BIBLE STUDY • Winter 2017 A form of the word “repent” appears 56 times in the New Testament. It occurs in a verb form (metanoeō) and a noun form (metanoia). Below is a chart for all the references found in the New Testament (verses with two occurrences have a numeral 2 in parentheses after the reference): Matthew Mark Luke

Repent (v.) metanoeō

Acts 2 Corinthians Revelation

3:2; 4:17; 11:20; 11:21; 12:41 1:15; 6:12 10:13; 11:32; 13:3; 13:5; 15:7; 15:10; 16:30; 17:3; 17:4 2:38; 3:19; 8:22; 17:30; 26:20 12:21 2:5 (2); 2:16; 2:21 (2); 2:22; 3:3; 3:19; 9:20; 9:21; 16:9; 16:11

1

What do you notice about where the words for repentance are found? Which writer uses the word the most? Are there any notable omissions? What conclusions may we draw from where this word is found in the New Testament?

2

Individually or in small groups, read through the passages listed above (your Bible study leader may divide them up amongst your group). Look at the immediate context and the wider context of each passage. Does your translation use a word other than repent or repentance? Does one book or writer use the word differently than another? When you return to a full group, try to come up with a definition for repentance.

3

The dictionary definition for metanoia is “a change of mind,” or,“a change of thinking.” It has the idea of turning away from something, often with remorse. How does this definition compare to what your group came up with?

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

4

The first part of repentance is what you turn away from, what you change your mind from. What is the first part of repentance, and how does your thinking change? See especially Acts 3:18; 8:22; Luke 5:32; 2 Corinthians 7:8-10.

Repentance (n.) metanoia

Matthew 3:8; 3:11 Mark 1:4 Luke 3:3; 3:8; 5:32; 15:7; 24:47 Acts 5:31; 11:18; 13:24; 19:4; 20:21; 26:20 Romans 2:4 2 Corinthians 7:9; 7:10 2 Timothy 2:25 Hebrews 6:1; 6:6; 12:17 2 Peter 3:9

5

Repentance, however, is often paired with something else. What follows repentance in Mark 1:15; Luke 3:3; Luke 17:3; Luke 24:47; Acts 2:38; Acts 20:21; 2 Timothy 2:25? How would you characterize this new way of thinking?

6

Often, repentance is thought to be a change of behavior. But works are not, properly speaking, part of repentance. What role do sanctification and good works play in repentance, according to Matthew 3:8; Acts 26:20?

7

Finally, repentance—a change of mind—is not possible as an act of human will. How do we come about this new way of thinking to be sorry for our sins and trust in the Gospel of forgiveness? See Romans 7:21-25; Romans 12:1-2; 1 Corinthians 2:14-16; Ephesians 4:17-24; Philippians 2:1-11.

8

In closing, ask your pastor to lead your group through the service of Corporate Confession and Absolution (LSB, pg. 290). If your pastor is not available, use the service of Confession from Compline (LSB, pg. 254). A suggested hymn is “As Surely as I Live,” God Said (LSB 614).

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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“Absolution Is the Answer” A HIGHER THINGS® BIBLE STUDY Leader’s Guide

Opening Prayer “Almighty, everlasting God, for my many sins we justly deserve eternal condemnation. In Your mercy You sent Your dear Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, who won for us forgiveness of sins and everlasting salvation. Grant us a true confession that, dead to sin, we may be raised up by Your life-giving absolution. Grant us Your Holy Spirit that we may be ever watchful and live a true and godly life in Your service, through Jesus Christ, our Lord. Amen.” (Collect for Before Confession and Absolution, LSB Inside Cover) 1. Read John 20:19–23. When does Jesus talk and with whom? How does He appear to them? Jesus sends them out with what kind of authority? What does He say that they can do? On Easter evening, Jesus appeared to 10 of His Apostles while they were hiding in the upper room. Judas had killed himself (Matthew 27:5), and Thomas was out. When Jesus appears, He doesn’t judge them, but He says twice, “Peace be with you!” Jesus gives His Apostles the same authority He has—He gives them the Holy Spirit so that they can do one thing: forgive sins. If the Apostles forgive sins, they are forgiven, and if they don’t forgive them, they are not forgiven. When it comes to the words of Jesus, we don’t interpret them to mean something else. He clearly says that the Apostles forgive sins. If He didn’t mean it, He would have said something else. He simply says, “If you forgive anyone His sins, they are forgiven.” 2. Read Titus 1:5–9 and Acts 20:17–35 (especially 17, 25–31). What two terms does Paul use for “pastor” in Titus and Acts? In Acts 20, Paul uses language from another profession when he’s talking about being pastors, what language does He use? Paul uses two terms for pastor that were interchangeable in New Testament times. The first term is “elder,” and the second is “overseer” or “bishop.” Later, these two terms meant different things. Now they can be used separately (1 Timothy 3:1, 4:14) or together (Titus 1:5–7; Acts 20:17, 28). Even today, we use the term “elder” in a completely different way. We use it for men who help the pastor in our congregations. But in the New Testament, it means “pastor.” Paul, when talking to the Ephesian “elders” (pastors), uses shepherding language. He exhorts the pastors to take care of the flock, the Church of God, to shepherd them. This fits very well into our using the term “pastor.” The Latin word for “shepherd” is “pastor.” We don’t even realize it, but when we call our pastors “pastor” we’re calling them our shepherd, just like Paul tells the Ephesian elders to be. 3. Read 1 Peter 5:1–4. What language does Peter use for pastors here? What does He call Jesus? How does this fit with what Jesus says? (Read John 10:11–16) What three things does Peter call himself? Peter also uses shepherding language when he talks about pastors. He calls Jesus “the Chief Shepherd.” Jesus, the Good Shepherd, appoints under-shepherds to care for His flock. They’re set apart by Jesus to stay with the flock and forgive the sins of the sheep. Jesus delivers redemption and forgiveness through His under-shepherds. The Apostles were pastors, but pastors are not necessarily Apostles. There’s one Office of the Ministry that goes by many different titles. Peter calls himself a “fellow elder” and “a witness” and “one who also will share” (NIV) or “partaker” (ESV/NKJV). Peter calls himself a “partaker of the glory that will be revealed”
 (NKJV) because he is a believer in Christ. He calls himself “a witness” because He is an Apostle, that is, an eyewitness of Jesus. He heard and saw what Jesus said and did. © 2016 Higher Things, Inc.

Magazine Bible Studies - Winter 2016


4. Read Titus 1:5–9, Ephesians 4:11–13, 1 Corinthians 4:1 and 2 Corinthians 5:18–20. What are some of the New Testament words for the Office of the Ministry? Some New Testament terms for the Office of the Ministry are: elder, overseer (bishop), apostle, prophet, evangelist, pastor, teacher, steward, minister (deacon). 5. Read 1 John 1:8–9 and Psalm 32:1–5. When do we use these words? When it comes to Psalm 32, can you think of a time when David received absolution after confessing his sin? In preparation for confessing our sin in the Divine Service we use 1 John 1:8–9 (Setting 1/2) or Psalm 32:5 (Setting 3). After confession, the pastor pronounces absolution. He says either, “As a called and ordained servant of Christ, and by His authority, I therefore forgive you all your sins,” (Setting 1/2) or “In the stead and by the command of my Lord Jesus Christ I forgive you all or your sins” (Setting 3). The pastor says, “I forgive you” because of Jesus Word in John 20, but this also echoes the Catechism: “… receive absolution, that is, forgiveness from the pastor as from God Himself, not doubting, but firmly believing that by it our sins are forgiven before God in heaven.” David received absolution from the prophet Nathan when Nathan had preached to David about his sins of adultery, lying, and murdering. After preaching a sermon to David, and David’s subsequent confession of sin, Nathan absolved him saying, “The LORD has put away your sin; you shall not die.” (2 Samuel 12:13). 6. From the Small Catechism read “What is Confession?”, “What sins should we confess?”, and “Which are these?” (LSB p. 326). Read Psalm 19:12. Are you able to list and confess every one of your sins? What do we confess before God? What do we confess to our pastor? We sin daily and much and can’t list them all. For this reason, “We plead guilty before God of all sins.” In the Lord’s Prayer we pray, “Forgive us our trespasses.” We pray that all our sins would be forgiven, and we don’t try and limit it to anything specific. Not that it doesn’t include specific sins, but it’s asking for forgiveness for all our trespasses and transgressions. When it comes to confessing a sin to our pastor, it can be nerve-wracking. What will he say? What will he do? Will he tell anyone? How much do I have to tell him? Which sins should I confess? You don’t have to tell him about each time you sin. If you have a sin that’s especially troubling you, that’s what private confession and absolution is for. Your pastor won’t judge you. He already knows you’re a sinner, and Jesus has given him to you to give you forgiveness—especially when a sin is particularly bothering you. Your pastor isn’t trying to be nosy. He wants to forgive that sin, and to be able to preach the Gospel to you about that sin. Why? So you know for certain that Jesus really did forgive that sin. Your pastor also promised not to tell anyone about the sins that are confessed to him. Your sins are confessed to be forgiven not to be gossiped about. 7. Read LSB 292–293. Your pastor may use this form of confession and absolution. Notice that you don’t have to tell him anything specific! The rubrics say, “If you wish to confess specific sins that trouble you, continue…” You could simply use the general confession printed, and then your pastor will absolve you. While your pastor may use this, if you go and tell him what’s bothering you, he might just absolve you without this too. Whichever your pastor does, rejoice that your pastor’s forgiveness isn’t his but God’s. You may trust that “your sins are forgiven before God in heaven” and that your pastor’s forgiveness “is just as valid and certain, even in heaven, as if Christ our dear Lord dealt with us Himself.”

Closing Prayer “All praise to You, O Christ, shall be For absolution full and free, In which You show Your richest grace; From false indulgence guard our race. Amen.” (LSB 614. st. 7

© 2016 Higher Things, Inc.

Magazine Bible Studies - Winter 2016


“Absolution Is the Answer” A HIGHER THINGS® BIBLE STUDY Leader’s Guide

Opening Prayer “Almighty, everlasting God, for my many sins we justly deserve eternal condemnation. In Your mercy You sent Your dear Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, who won for us forgiveness of sins and everlasting salvation. Grant us a true confession that, dead to sin, we may be raised up by Your life-giving absolution. Grant us Your Holy Spirit that we may be ever watchful and live a true and godly life in Your service, through Jesus Christ, our Lord. Amen.” (Collect for Before Confession and Absolution, LSB Inside Cover) 1. Read John 20:19–23. When does Jesus talk and with whom? How does He appear to them? Jesus sends them out with what kind of authority? What does He say that they can do?

2. Read Titus 1:5–9 and Acts 20:17–35 (especially 17, 25–31). What two terms does Paul use for “pastor” in Titus and Acts? In Acts 20, Paul uses language from another profession when he’s talking about being pastors, what language does He use?

3. Read 1 Peter 5:1–4. What language does Peter use for pastors here? What does He call Jesus? How does this fit with what Jesus says? (Read John 10:11–16) What three things does Peter call himself?

4. Read Titus 1:5–9, Ephesians 4:11–13, 1 Corinthians 4:1 and 2 Corinthians 5:18–20. What are some of the New Testament words for the Office of the Ministry?

5. Read 1 John 1:8–9 and Psalm 32:1–5. When do we use these words? When it comes to Psalm 32, can you think of a time when David received absolution after confessing his sin?

6. From the Small Catechism read “What is Confession?”, “What sins should we confess?”, and “Which are these?” (LSB p. 326). Read Psalm 19:12. Are you able to list and confess every one of your sins? What do we confess before God? What do we confess to our pastor?

7. Read LSB 292–293.

Closing Prayer “All praise to You, O Christ, shall be For absolution full and free, In which You show Your richest grace; From false indulgence guard our race. Amen.” (LSB 614. st. 7 © 2016 Higher Things, Inc.

Magazine Bible Studies - Winter 2016


“The Fruitful Downtime of Divine Service” A HIGHER THINGS® BIBLE STUDY Leader’s Guide

Opening Prayer “Blessed Lord, who caused all holy Scriptures to be written for our learning: Grant us so to hear them, read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest them, that by patience and comfort of Your holy Word, we may embrace and ever hold fast the blessed hope of everlasting life, through Jesus Christ, Your Son, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.” 1. In your Small Catechism, look up and read the first article of the Apostles’ Creed and Martin Luther’s explanation. What does Luther say about man’s reason and thinking? Luther says that God gave us reason and all of our senses. Though man can—and often does—abuse God’s gift of thinking and reason because sin has warped and twisted it, thinking and reason is still a gift of God used to glorify Him and serve our neighbor. In other words, God gives us reason and thinking to use in our various vocations (i.e. husband, wife, student, teacher, etc.). 2. What kinds of things in daily life distract you the most from resting and hearing God’s Word? Answers may vary on this depending on the participants. The leader might get better discussion by providing a few examples from his or her own life first. The key will be to avoid generalities and have people think about what specifically it is in their daily life that causes distraction from God’s gift of rest in his Word. 3. How is the Divine Service a time of rest? Use specific examples. When Jesus talks about the Sabbath day with the Pharisees who accused Him and His disciples of breaking the Third Commandment, Jesus reminds them (and us) that Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath. God made a time for His people to rest – not just physically, but also rest in body and soul in His word and promises. This was to be eternal but all that changed in the fall into sin. Now this rest is hard to find, is easily disturbed, and filled with distractions. One aspect of the Divine Service that is particularly helpful is in giving us this rest is focusing our attention, voice, ears, and all senses toward Christ and His saving gifts in Word and Sacrament. Look at how frequently Scripture is quoted in the margins on any given order of service in the hymnal, for example. Now every time we hear God’s Word we have a Sabbath rest that points us to the great endless day of rest in the resurrection.

© 2016 Higher Things, Inc.

Magazine Bible Studies - Winter 2016


4. Look up Psalm 32:5 and 1 John 1:8-9. Why do you think our hymnal quotes these Bible passages in the rite of Confession and Absolution as we prepare for the Service of the Word? The Confession and Absolution that begins all five of the Divine Service settings in Lutheran Service Book is also called the Preparation. It prepares us to hear God’s Word by telling us who we are and what we have done according to our sinful flesh, but the rite does not end there. We also hear about our new identity in Christ. We are forgiven by God’s called and ordained servant. We hear the same words we heard at our Baptism. Yes, God speaks his Law to us and we acknowledge that we are sinful and unclean, but we also confess that Jesus is greater than our sin and has cleansed us from all unrighteousness. This prepares us to sing and hear God’s Word in the Service of the Word, to meditate on God’s Word in the sermon, and then to receive Jesus’ Body and Blood for our forgiveness in the Holy Supper. The whole time we’re experiencing God’s Sabbath rest. 5. Read Matthew 26:26-28; Mark 14:22-24; Luke 22:19-20; and 1 Corinthians 11:23-25. Why do the synoptic Gospel writers and Paul include Jesus’ Words of Institution for the Lord’s Supper? And how does the Lord’s Supper give us what God commands in the Third Commandment? Think of the Gospel writers as if they were different eyewitnesses of a car accident on different corners of the same intersection. They all report the same events; they all agree in the major parts of the account, and even use some of the same language to report the event. Yet, they also say it and give the report of these events in their own words as they were led by the Holy Spirit. This gives a fuller, richer understanding of Jesus’ Words in the Lord’s Supper. It also tells us that the Lord’s Supper is sacred and important and that the words of Jesus are meant to be heard and repeated as He gave us, and for the purpose He gave them to us. In the Third Commandment explanation, Luther explains that we ought not despise the preaching of God’s Word nor the hearing of it, but rejoice in it and gladly learn and hear it. Nowhere does this happen more clearly than in the Lord’s Supper where God’s Word who became flesh for us, gives us His flesh and blood to heal, pardon, forgive, and save us.

Closing Prayer “Be present, merciful God, and protect us throughout this day, so that we who are wearied by the changes and chances of life may find our rest in You; through Jesus Christ, our Lord. Amen.”

© 2016 Higher Things, Inc.

Magazine Bible Studies - Winter 2016


“The Fruitful Downtime of Divine Service” A HIGHER THINGS® BIBLE STUDY Opening Prayer “Blessed Lord, who caused all holy Scriptures to be written for our learning: Grant us so to hear them, read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest them, that by patience and comfort of Your holy Word, we may embrace and ever hold fast the blessed hope of everlasting life, through Jesus Christ, Your Son, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.” 1. In your Small Catechism, look up and read the first article of the Apostles’ Creed and Martin Luther’s explanation. What does Luther say about man’s reason and thinking?

2. What kinds of things in daily life distract you the most from resting and hearing God’s Word?

3. How is the Divine Service a time of rest? Use specific examples.

4. Look up Psalm 32:5 and 1 John 1:8-9. Why do you think our hymnal quotes these Bible passages in the rite of Confession and Absolution as we prepare for the Service of the Word?

5. Read Matthew 26:26-28; Mark 14:22-24; Luke 22:19-20; and 1 Corinthians 11:23-25. Why do the synoptic Gospel writers and Paul include Jesus’ Words of Institution for the Lord’s Supper? And how does the Lord’s Supper give us what God commands in the Third Commandment?

Closing Prayer “Be present, merciful God, and protect us throughout this day, so that we who are wearied by the changes and chances of life may find our rest in You; through Jesus Christ, our Lord. Amen.”

© 2016 Higher Things, Inc.

Magazine Bible Studies - Winter 2016


"The Two AParts of Repentance" HIGHER THINGS® BIBLE STUDY Leader’s Guide

Leaders’ Introduction This Bible study is a word study on the Greek word “metanoia." The verb form of the word appears 34 times in the New Testament and the noun form appears 22 times. Depending on the size of your group and the time available you may not be able to look at each reference in depth. You may consider dividing the readings among the study participants and having individuals or groups report to the whole group what they have found. 1. A form of the word “repent” appears 56 times in the New Testament. It occurs in a verb form (metanoeō) and a noun form (metanoia). Below is a chart for all the references found in the New Testament (verses with two occurrences have a numeral 2 in parentheses after the reference):
 Repent (v.) metanoeō Matthew 3:2; 4:17; 11:20; 11:21; 12:41 Mark 1:15; 6:12 Luke 10:13; 11:32; 13:3; 13:5; 15:7; 15:10; 16:30; 17:3; 17:4 Acts 2:38; 3:19; 8:22; 17:30; 26:20 2 Corinthians 12:21 Revelation 2:5 (2); 2:16; 2:21 (2); 2:22; 3:3; 3:19; 9:20; 9:21; 16:9; 16:11

Repentance (n.) metanoia Matthew 3:8; 3:11 Mark 1:4 Luke 3:3; 3:8; 5:32; 15:7; 24:47 Acts 5:31; 11:18; 13:24; 19:4; 20:21; 26:20 Romans 2:4 2 Corinthians 7:9; 7:10 2 Timothy 2:25 Hebrews 6:1; 6:6; 12:17 2 Peter 3:9

What do you notice about where the words for repentance are found? Which writer uses the word the most? Are there any notable omissions? What conclusions may we draw from where this word is found in the New Testament? The noun and verb forms of repentance are found most often in the synoptic Gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke) and in Acts, with a heavy usage in Luke-Acts (both written by Luke). Paul uses the word selectively in his epistles, with most appearing in 2 Corinthians. A very notable omission is the Gospel and epistles of John. Revelation, on the other hand contains many uses of the word. Because of this and other stylistic differences, many people think that the John of Revelation is different than the John of the Gospel and epistles, the disciple of Jesus. From this, we may conclude that the message of repentance is central to the Gospel message and the Church’s preaching in Acts. Its omission from John’s writings, however, does not mean that John is not concerned with repentance. Rather, he uses other vocabulary to speak of what repentance is. 2. Individually or in small groups, read through the passages listed above. Look at the immediate context and the wider context of each passage. Does your translation use a word other than “repent” or “repentance”? Does one book or writer use the word differently than anther? When you return to a full group, try to come up with a definition for repentance.

© 2016 Higher Things, Inc.

Magazine Bible Studies - Winter 2016


The Bible study leader will decide how to divide the passages among the study group. Make sure to give the group sufficient time to read through the passages. When the group reunites, work toward a definition of repentance. There is no right or wrong answer to this part of the study. 3. The dictionary definition for metanoia is “a change of mind,” or, “a change of thinking.” It is turning away from something, often with remorse. How does this compare to what your group came up with? The definition given here is a summary from the entries from one Greek lexicon. Other dictionaries may bring out additional nuances of the word in certain contexts. The root of the word derives from the word meta, which means “with,” and nous, which means, “mind” or “thinking.” Literally, “with a new mind.” How does the group’s definition compare? What led the group to a similar or different definition? 4. The first part of repentance is what you turn away from, what you change your mind from. What is the first part of repentance, and how does your thinking change? See especially Acts 3:18; 8:22; Luke 5:32; 2 Corinthians 7:8-10. Repentance is to turn away from sin. This is the first part of repentance. The change of thinking that happens first is to recognize that you are a sinner, and that sin is much more than the occasional misdeeds you commit. Paul writes to the Corinthians that his first letter caused them to grieve on account of their sins, which began their repentance. Contrition, or sorrow over sins, is the beginning of repentance. 5. Repentance, however, is often paired with something else. What follows repentance in Mark 1:15; Luke 3:3; Luke 17:3; Luke 24:47; Acts 2:38; Acts 20:21; 2 Timothy 2:25? How would you describe this new way of thinking? Forgiveness always follows repentance, because without forgiveness repentance is incomplete. Not only do you turn away from something, you turn toward something. The preaching of forgiveness is what imparts faith to believe the Gospel. This is the second part of repentance. It is often added explicitly, but even if it’s not mentioned, faith in the forgiveness of sins is always implicit in repentance. It is, in the words of Paul to Timothy, a “knowledge of the truth.” 6. Often, repentance is thought to be a change of behavior. But works are not, properly speaking, part of repentance. What role do sanctification and good works play in repentance, according to Matthew 3:8; Acts 26:20? Good works follow repentance. Sanctification grows out of repentance like fruit grows from a tree. Strictly speaking, repentance is only sorrow over sin and faith in the forgiveness of sins. Good works can be included with repentance in the sense that no work is truly good without being done in faith. 7. Finally, repentance is not possible as an act of human will. How do we come to this new way of thinking to be sorry for our sins and trust in the Gospel of forgiveness? See Romans 7:21-25; Romans 12:1-2; 1 Corinthians 2:14-16; Ephesians 4:17-24; Philippians 2:1-11. The the new way of thinking is the mind of Christ. Because the flesh continues in its bondage to sin even after conversion, repentance is an ongoing thing in the life of a Christian. Repentance is often connected to baptism in the Scriptures, and the Small Catechism teaches that baptism signifies a daily repentance and renewal. Even though repent is an active verb, it has a passive force. You cannot repent, except that God acts on you in Christ. The new mind of Christ is a work of the Spirit, and the gift of God.

Closing Ask your pastor to lead your group through the service of Corporate Confession and Absolution (LSB, pg. 290). If your pastor is not available, use the service of Confession from Compline (LSB, pg. 254). A suggested hymn is “As Surely as I Live,” God Said (LSB 614).

© 2016 Higher Things, Inc.

Magazine Bible Studies - Winter 2016


"The Two AParts of Repentance" HIGHER THINGS® BIBLE STUDY 1. A form of the word “repent” appears 56 times in the New Testament. It occurs in a verb form (metanoeō) and a noun form (metanoia). Below is a chart for all the references found in the New Testament (verses with two occurrences have a numeral 2 in parentheses after the reference): Repent (v.) metanoeō Matthew 3:2; 4:17; 11:20; 11:21; 12:41 Mark 1:15; 6:12 Luke 10:13; 11:32; 13:3; 13:5; 15:7; 15:10; 16:30; 17:3; 17:4 Acts 2:38; 3:19; 8:22; 17:30; 26:20 2 Corinthians 12:21 Revelation 2:5 (2); 2:16; 2:21 (2); 2:22; 3:3; 3:19; 9:20; 9:21; 16:9; 16:11

Repentance (n.) metanoia Matthew 3:8; 3:11 Mark 1:4 Luke 3:3; 3:8; 5:32; 15:7; 24:47 Acts 5:31; 11:18; 13:24; 19:4; 20:21; 26:20 Romans 2:4 2 Corinthians 7:9; 7:10 2 Timothy 2:25 Hebrews 6:1; 6:6; 12:17 2 Peter 3:9 What do you notice about where the words for repentance are found? Which writer uses the word the most? Are there any notable omissions?

2. Individually or in small groups, read through the passages listed above. Does your translation use a word other than “repent” or “repentance”? Does one book or writer use the word differently than anther? When you return to a full group, try to come up with a definition for repentance. 3. The dictionary definition for metanoia is “a change of mind,” or, “a change of thinking.” It is turning away from something, often with remorse. How does this compare to what your group came up with? 4. The first part of repentance is what you turn away from, what you change your mind from. What is the first part of repentance, and how does your thinking change? See especially Acts 3:18; 8:22; Luke 5:32; 2 Corinthians 7:8-10. 5. Repentance, however, is often paired with something else. What follows repentance in Mark 1:15; Luke 3:3; Luke 17:3; Luke 24:47; Acts 2:38; Acts 20:21; 2 Timothy 2:25? How would you describe this new way of thinking? 6. Often, repentance is thought to be a change of behavior. But works are not, properly speaking, part of repentance. What role do sanctification and good works play in repentance, according to Matthew 3:8; Acts 26:20? 7. Finally, repentance is not possible as an act of human will. How do we come to this new way of thinking to be sorry for our sins and trust in the Gospel of forgiveness? See Romans 7:21-25; Romans 12:1-2; 1 Corinthians 2:14-16; Ephesians 4:17-24; Philippians 2:1-11.

Closing Ask your pastor to lead your group through the service of Corporate Confession and Absolution (LSB, pg. 290). If your pastor is not available, use the service of Confession from Compline (LSB, pg. 254). A suggested hymn is “As Surely as I Live,” God Said (LSB 614).

© 2016 Higher Things, Inc.

Magazine Bible Studies - Winter 2016


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

Opening Prayer “Lord, help us walk Your servant way Wherever love may lead And, bending low, forgetting self, Each serve the other’s need.” (LSB 857, st. 1) 1. Read Philippians 2:4. What does Paul say that parallels God’s admonition in the 8th Commandment? Paul exhorts us to look not only to our own interests but also to the needs and interest of others, counting others more worthy than ourselves. Humility is not an easy virtue for sinful people who like to talk about me, myself, and I. And yet, this is one of God’s gifts by the Spirit. Paul calls us to look at others as more worthy than ourselves and the Eighth Commandment calls us to look after our neighbor, especially in what we say about them. Both call us to care and love for our neighbor as ourselves, which is the summary of the second table of the Law. 2. Why do you think gossip comes so easy to us? Why is the Eighth Commandment so hard to keep? Read James 3:7-8. Like the Pharisee and the tax collector, we are constantly comparing ourselves to one another in all areas of life: school, sports, home, and even church. It is far easier to find sin in someone else and to point out his or her sin than it is to look at ourselves in the mirror of the Law and confess that “I am the chief of sinners”. And yet, until we do gossip and other sins of the tongue continue to cloud our hearts and minds in blindness of sin. 3. What does a good reputation look like in a Christian? You’ll often hear something like this: “Oh yeah…so and so…she’s a great person; he’s a real nice guy” and so on. But what makes the reputation of a Christian different? Probably not being perfect—since only One can claim that! Rather, a good reputation for a Christian might look something like Paul’s list of fruit of the Spirit in Galatians 5. A good reputation in a Christian might also look rather ordinary: someone who goes to church, confesses their sin, receives the Lord’s Supper, and simply lives in his baptism and works hard in his daily vocations, whatever they may be. 4. How does Jesus keep this commandment in our place? Use specific examples from his life and ministry. The comfort of Jesus’ ministry is that He not only passively obeyed the Law by suffering in our place on the cross, but also actively kept it by doing what we are unable to do—keep every commandment perfectly. Jesus never gossiped—not for Himself, but for you. Jesus always spoke kindly of His neighbor and put the best construction on everything—for you! Even on the cross He was forgiving us for knowing not what we do—He was keeping the Eighth Commandment perfectly for you.

© 2016 Higher Things, Inc.

Magazine Bible Studies - Winter 2016


5. Read Matthew 18:15-18. What is the goal of forgiveness in Matthew 18? In a word, Matthew 18 is about reconciliation, especially between people who have sinned or been sinned against. That’s the point of the preaching of repentance and the Law—not to make us despair and then leave us hanging in our guilt and shame, but to give us a proper diagnosis and then prepare us for the treatment of the Gospel – God’s Word that brings the reconciliation we need, that forgives our sin, and rescues us.

Closing Prayer “Bear no false witness nor defame Your neighbor nor destroy his name, But view him in the kindest way; Speak truth in all that you say.” Have mercy, Lord!” (LSB 581. st. 9)

© 2016 Higher Things, Inc.

Magazine Bible Studies - Winter 2016


“The Gift of Reputation” A HIGHER THINGS® BIBLE STUDY Opening Prayer “Lord, help us walk Your servant way Wherever love may lead And, bending low, forgetting self, Each serve the other’s need.” (LSB 857, st. 1) 1. Read Philippians 2:4. What does Paul say that parallels God’s admonition in the 8th Commandment?

2. Why do you think gossip comes so easy to us? Why is the Eighth Commandment so hard to keep? Read James 3:7-8.

3. What does a good reputation look like in a Christian?

4. How does Jesus keep this commandment in our place? Use specific examples from his life and ministry.

5. Read Matthew 18:15-18. What is the goal of forgiveness in Matthew 18?

Closing Prayer “Bear no false witness nor defame Your neighbor nor destroy his name, But view him in the kindest way; Speak truth in all that you say.” Have mercy, Lord!” (LSB 581. st. 9)

© 2016 Higher Things, Inc.

Magazine Bible Studies - Winter 2016


“Resting in Christ in Midst of Depression’s Betrayal” A HIGHER THINGS® BIBLE STUDY Leader’s Guide

Opening Prayer “Be our light in the darkness, O Lord, and send your Holy Word to comfort those who doubt or despair Your love and promises; sustain all of us in Jesus Christ, who is the Light of the world, the light no darkness can overcome; through Jesus Christ, our Lord. Amen.” 1. Read Ephesians 2:1-10. What does Paul say about the reality of our sin? What does Paul say about the reality of God’s grace to us? Paul writes that we are dead in our trespasses and sin. Dead people can’t do anything for themselves; can’t think, feel, or work their way to God. Dead is dead as can be. That’s the wages of sin. But Paul goes on to say that we are alive in Christ Jesus by grace through the gift of faith in Christ. In this world of sin we will have many troubles of body, mind, and spirit, but God’s grace and mercy are bigger and stronger, and outweigh any sin of ours or disease we may bear in this life. 2. Read Mark 4:35-41. How did Jesus calm the storm? What about this event might be of comfort to someone going through a difficult time in life? Jesus said three simple words, Peace. Be still. It was Jesus’ Word that calmed the storm. The disciples marvel at Jesus’ Word at the end of the story. Jesus’ Word of peace itself may be of comfort to someone suffering mental illness or from a particularly bad time. Also of comfort is the word He spoke to the waves: peace, be still. If Jesus can calm the storm and the wind and waves obey Him, then His Word of peace will also be with us, no matter what we may think or feel. Unlike our word, Jesus’ Word has the power to do what He says it will do: give life, heal, save, rescue, and deliver us from sin and darkness. In His Word Jesus continues to speak to us those same words: peace, be still. 3. What passages would you use to bring consolation or comfort to someone who is suffering with depression and/or anxiety? Answers will vary depending on the participants’ familiarity with both Scripture and mental illness, and additionally those who might suffer from it. Some passages of particular comfort are in the Psalms: 23, 121; 118; and 103. The passages of Jesus as the Suffering Servant in Isaiah 53 and Jesus the Good Shepherd in John 11 are also comforting Gospel. Often when one is suffering mental illness of any degree, strong feelings of being alone or isolated will be present. Scripture passages such as Matthew 28:20 are helpful here: I am with you always.

© 2016 Higher Things, Inc.

Magazine Bible Studies - Winter 2016


4. Throughout the Scriptures, we find God’s people afraid (I.e. the disciples on numerous occasions, Joseph, Moses, etc.). How does Jesus address and calm the fears of His people? When angels visit God’s people to deliver a message, almost every time the first words out of their mouths are “do not be afraid”. Like the angels and the shepherds: do not be afraid…I bring you good news of a great joy! Likewise, when Jesus appears to His disciples, time after time, following His resurrection— before he says anything else—He says: peace be with you, do not be afraid. Jesus’ Word is the peace that surpasses all our understanding, and in His Word is the very peace and His presence that we long for and need. When Jesus speaks peace He gives it to us. It is also His gift. His Word makes that peace happen. We also receive that peace through the reminders of our Baptism and through the gift of the Supper. 5. Read John 1:9-13 and John 8:12. What title does Jesus give Himself in these passages? How does this bring us comfort in whatever time of darkness we may be enduring? Jesus says “I AM the Light of the world.” Darkness is an image of sin and separation from God throughout the Bible. Here Jesus reminds us that He is the Light that no darkness can overcome—not the darkness of sin, nor death, nor even the despair and anguish that comes with mental illness.

Closing Prayer “Our hands and feet, Lord, strengthen; With joy our spirits bless Until we see the ending Of all our life’s distress. And so throughout our lifetime Keep us within Your care And at our end then bring us To heav’n to praise You there.” (LSB 754, st. 6)

© 2016 Higher Things, Inc.

Magazine Bible Studies - Winter 2016


“Resting in Christ in Midst of Depression’s Betrayal” A HIGHER THINGS® BIBLE STUDY Leader’s Guide

Opening Prayer “Be our light in the darkness, O Lord, and send your Holy Word to comfort those who doubt or despair Your love and promises; sustain all of us in Jesus Christ, who is the Light of the world, the light no darkness can overcome; through Jesus Christ, our Lord. Amen.” 1. Read Ephesians 2:1-10. What does Paul say about the reality of our sin? What does Paul say about the reality of God’s grace to us?

2. Read Mark 4:35-41. How did Jesus calm the storm? What about this event might be of comfort to someone going through a difficult time in life?

3. What passages would you use to bring consolation or comfort to someone who is suffering with depression and/or anxiety?

4. Throughout the Scriptures, we find God’s people afraid (I.e. the disciples on numerous occasions, Joseph, Moses, etc.). How does Jesus address and calm the fears of His people?

5. Read John 1:9-13 and John 8:12. What title does Jesus give Himself in these passages? How does this bring us comfort in whatever time of darkness we may be enduring?

Closing Prayer “Our hands and feet, Lord, strengthen; With joy our spirits bless Until we see the ending Of all our life’s distress. And so throughout our lifetime Keep us within Your care And at our end then bring us To heav’n to praise You there.” (LSB 754, st. 6)

© 2016 Higher Things, Inc.

Magazine Bible Studies - Winter 2016


“Are the Scriptures ABOUT You or FOR You?” A HIGHER THINGS® BIBLE STUDY Leader’s Guide

Opening Prayer “Blessed Lord, You have caused all Holy Scriptures to be written for our learning. Grant that we may so hear them, read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest them that, by patience and comfort of Your holy Word, we may embrace and ever hold fast the blessed hope of everlasting life; through Jesus Christ, our Lord. Amen.” (Collect of the Word, Lutheran Service Book, 308) 1. Read 2 Timothy 3:16–17 and 2 Peter 1:21. What are the Scriptures? Where is their source? The Scriptures are God’s Word. They’ve been breathed out by the Holy Spirit who carried along the specific authors as they penned their books. 2. Read 1 Timothy 1:8–11 and Galatians 5:16–24. Who is the Law for? Why do Christians need the Law? The Law is for the unrighteous. Christians still need the Law because they aren’t only righteous, they are still sinners. They are "simul iustus et peccator,” that is, “righteous and sinner and the same time.” For this reason, they still need the Law to guide them in their daily lives. Christians, as far as they are new creations in Christ, do the Law completely freely and fully by the power of the Spirit who dwells within them. 3. Read Luke 24:44–49 and 1 Corinthians 15:1–8. When Jesus and Paul says “the Scriptures,” what do they mean? How does Paul summarize the Gospel? Read 2 Peter 3:15–16. Who else does Peter include among the Scriptures? When Paul and Jesus use the term “Scripture,” they mean the Old Testament. Both Jesus and Paul are saying that all that Jesus did, especially His death and resurrection, was prophesied and proclaimed throughout the Old Testament in the Law, the Prophets, and the Psalms. When Paul summarizes the Gospel, he says that the Gospel is that “Christ died for our sins, was buried, and raised on the third day, according to the Scriptures.” While the Scriptures do tell us about living the Christian life, the Gospel is their primary teaching. The Scriptures from cover to cover are all about proclaiming Jesus crucified and raised. Peter certainly understood “the Scriptures” as being the Old Testament, but he adds another author to the list of authors of the Scriptures. He adds Paul. Peter wants his readers to not only read the other Scriptures (the Old Testament), but he exhorts them to read Paul on the same level, that is, to read Paul as Scripture. 4. Read Luke 1:1–4 and 2 Peter 1:16–21. What did Peter claim about the Christian faith? What did Luke claim about his Gospel? Read Luke 2:19 and 2:51. What do these verses tell us about Luke’s sources? When it comes to the books of the New Testament, they’re books of eyewitnesses. The Apostles saw and heard what Jesus said and did. As you read in 1 Corinthians 15:1–8, even Paul was an eyewitness of Jesus! Peter said that they weren’t following myths that were made up, but what he “made known” the Gospel. No, Peter said he was an “eyewitness” with the other Apostles, and they were also earwitnesses, that is, “we ourselves heard.”

© 2016 Higher Things, Inc.

Magazine Bible Studies - Winter 2016


Luke recognized that others had written accounts of Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection. Luke also wanted to lay out an “orderly account” for his student/patron, Theophilus. He cites that there are “eyewitnesses.” (You could also bring up some of the eyewitnesses from 1 Corinthians 15:1–8). Luke said he investigated the sources to produce his account. Luke 2:19 and 2:51 give us one source of Luke’s Gospel: Mary. 5. Read John 5:31–40. What do the scribes and Pharisees look for when they read the Scriptures? What does Jesus say to look for? When the scribes and the Pharisees read the Old Testament, they were looking for a rule book. They were looking for a guide on how to gain eternal life, to live a good life. Jesus says that all of the Old Testament testifies about Him. When you read the Old Testament, it’s not supposed to be a book of works while the New Testament is all about Jesus. Jesus says that the Bible (Genesis through Revelation) is all about Him. 6. Read Genesis 3:15 and Isaiah 7:14. When was the first promise of Jesus made? How specific was it? Read Leviticus 14:1–7. What aspects of this sacrifice point us to Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross? Read Psalm 22, Matthew 27:32–35, 41–43, 46, and John 19:31–36. What aspects of Jesus’ death and resurrection are prophesied by David in Psalm 22? The Old Testament is full of examples that proclaim Jesus. They can be prophesies. They can be types, or events that foreshadow what Jesus would do. Some or all of the examples listed here may be used. In Genesis 3:15, after the fall into sin in the Garden of Eden, God proclaimed that He would put enmity between the serpent’s seed and the woman’s Seed. This is the only place in the entire Old Testament that says, “Her Seed.” Every other time it says, “His Seed.” This points forward to the Virgin Birth, which is more clearly prophesied in Isaiah 7:14. St. Paul picks up on this in 1 Timothy 2:13–15 where “She will be saved through childbearing” is an illusion to Genesis 3:15. All the sacrifices of the Old Testament point forward to Jesus’ sacrifice. Jesus is, of course, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world (John 1:29). Some sacrifices point forward not only to Jesus’ death but also His resurrection. The Leprosy Sacrifice is one such sacrifice. It’s all about purifying and cleansing, and this is quite clear in the use of hyssop and scarlet yarn. Hyssop was for cleansing (Psalm 51:7), and as the Lord says, “Though your sins are like scarlet, They shall be as white as snow; Though they are red like crimson, They shall be as wool.” (Isaiah 1:18) Also, the blood mingled with water and the cedar wood points to the blood and water from Jesus’ side as He hanged dead on the cross. Finally, there are two birds in order to proclaim Jesus’ death and resurrection. In Psalm 22, David prophesies what the coming Christ would endure for our salvation. It’s striking how vivid the Psalm is in this regard. Jesus cries out in the opening words of the Psalm, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me.” (Psalm 22:1; Matthew 27:46) Those who mock Jesus mock Him in the way laid out in the Psalm, “He trusts in the LORD; let him deliver him; let him rescue him, for he delights in him!” (Psalm 22:8; Matthew 27:41–43) Also, “they have pierced my hands and feet—I can count all my bones— they stare and gloat over me; they divide my garments among them, and for my clothing they cast lots.” (Psalm 22:16–18; Matthew 27:35, John 19:31–36) Finally, even Jesus’ resurrection is proclaimed by David: “You have rescued me from the horns of the wild oxen! I will tell of your name to my brothers; in the midst of the congregation I will praise you.” (Psalm 22:21–22)

Closing Prayer “Eternal God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, grant us Your Holy Spirit who writes the preached word into our hearts so that we may receive and believe it, and be gladdened and comforted by it in eternity. Glorify Your Word in our hearts. Make it so bright and warm that we may find pleasure in it, and through Your inspiration think what is right. By Your power fulfill the Word, for the sake of Jesus Christ, Your Son, our Lord. Amen.” (Luther’s Prayer to Receive the Word, The Lord Will Answer: A Daily Prayer Catechism, 38) © 2016 Higher Things, Inc.

Magazine Bible Studies - Winter 2016


“Are the Scriptures ABOUT You or FOR You?” A HIGHER THINGS® BIBLE STUDY Opening Prayer “Blessed Lord, You have caused all Holy Scriptures to be written for our learning. Grant that we may so hear them, read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest them that, by patience and comfort of Your holy Word, we may embrace and ever hold fast the blessed hope of everlasting life; through Jesus Christ, our Lord. Amen.” (Collect of the Word, Lutheran Service Book, 308) 1. Read 2 Timothy 3:16–17 and 2 Peter 1:21. What are the Scriptures? Where is their source?

2. Read 1 Timothy 1:8–11 and Galatians 5:16–24. Who is the Law for? Why do Christians need the Law?

3. Read Luke 24:44–49 and 1 Corinthians 15:1–8. When Jesus and Paul says “the Scriptures,” what do they mean? How does Paul summarize the Gospel? Read 2 Peter 3:15–16. Who else does Peter include among the Scriptures?

4. Read Luke 1:1–4 and 2 Peter 1:16–21. What did Peter claim about the Christian faith? What did Luke claim about his Gospel? Read Luke 2:19 and 2:51. What do these verses tell us about Luke’s sources?

5. Read John 5:31–40. What do the scribes and Pharisees look for when they read the Scriptures? What does Jesus say to look for?

6. Read Genesis 3:15 and Isaiah 7:14. When was the first promise of Jesus made? How specific was it? Read Leviticus 14:1–7. What aspects of this sacrifice point us to Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross? Read Psalm 22, Matthew 27:32–35, 41–43, 46, and John 19:31–36. What aspects of Jesus’ death and resurrection are prophesied by David in Psalm 22?

Closing Prayer “Eternal God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, grant us Your Holy Spirit who writes the preached word into our hearts so that we may receive and believe it, and be gladdened and comforted by it in eternity. Glorify Your Word in our hearts. Make it so bright and warm that we may find pleasure in it, and through Your inspiration think what is right. By Your power fulfill the Word, for the sake of Jesus Christ, Your Son, our Lord. Amen.” (Luther’s Prayer to Receive the Word, The Lord Will Answer: A Daily Prayer Catechism, 38) © 2016 Higher Things, Inc.

Magazine Bible Studies - Winter 2016

Profile for Higher Things: Dare to be Lutheran!

2016 Winter - Higher Things Magazine (with Bible Studies)  

Whether it’s on FaceBook or XYZ Cable News, it seems like everywhere you look, there’s fake news! Not so at Higher Things, where you’ll read...

2016 Winter - Higher Things Magazine (with Bible Studies)  

Whether it’s on FaceBook or XYZ Cable News, it seems like everywhere you look, there’s fake news! Not so at Higher Things, where you’ll read...