Pastor Schreiber's Devotions

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"A New Commandment"- John 13:31-35

The spiritual song’s refrain said it well. “They’ll know we are Christians by our love….”

As a youngster, I used to enjoy singing this song. It would fill me with hope, confidence, and joy. And when I would see an often loveless and sin-filled world, I would wonder where all the Christians had gone. Perhaps you have felt the same.

As I have aged, I have learned something that I consider very important. It is that people often behave with love-less and even selfishness ways. Does this mean the world’s Christians are a figment of an over-active imagination? Or that professed Christians are liars? I don’t think so.

The very worldly penchant for sin, selfishness, and pride-filled action reinforces something very important to me. It is that Christians are not perfect—they are forgiven!

That being said, we can look at this new commandment that Jesus gave and learn something very important about God’s grace and mercy in Jesus Christ. It is that God supplies in Jesus Christ what we are incapable and unwilling to do and be. Jesus walked the walk where we would not. He did what we could never do. Jesus gave His life as ransom for sinners, so that we could escape God’s wrath and the impending punishment in hell.

So, what remains for us to do or be? NOTHING, and EVERYTHING!

There is “NOTHING” remaining for us to do or be for our salvation because Jesus Christ has won it for us; and it is in that act of grace that God offers us full and free forgiveness through faith in Jesus Christ. “EVERYTHING” remains, because not one “jot or tittle” will be removed from God’s expectations for us. Our God continues to demand perfect obedience; but now we can find hope despite our failure. We have Jesus!

This brings me to another favorite spiritual song –

Amazing grace—how sweet the sound—

That saved a wretch like me

I once was lost, but now am found,

Was blind but now I see! (Lutheran Service Book, #744:1)

Jesus said: A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another."

Let us pray: You have given us a new commandment, Lord Jesus, to love each other as You have loved us. Give us Your Spirit that we may obey You and love each other. In Your name we pray. Amen.

"No Fiction"- Psalm 23

I remember a scene from a movie, based upon the personal history of one of the kings of Israel. A young shepherd walked slowly across open ground, stooping down to pick up a few stones. He was walking toward a powerful enemy soldier. This shepherd boy wore no armor. He carried no sword or spear. He had only his shepherd’s sling and those few stones. Still, he continued his journey—a journey that would take the boy into history. This scene transported me back to when giants walked the face of the earth and mere mortals did unlikely things, but it was just a movie.

I have never been in such a situation, myself. I have never faced mortal combat or almost certain death, but the Psalm upon which this scene is based is neither pointless nor meaningless. Rather, Psalm 23 is a comfort in the face of uncertainty and a source of strength and courage regardless of where we find ourselves.

It could be such a resource for you, too! This Psalm’s pithy lines give clear statement of where we all need to be in our relationship with God. It gives credit where credit is due. Jesus is what we need when we face impossible odds. Verse four of this Psalm says it well:

Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me;

your rod and your staff, they comfort me.

Jesus Christ is my confidence! Jesus Christ is the rod and staff who will strengthen and support us when things become impossible, because mere mortals could never accomplish what Jesus did. Ordinary people will never be able to provide complete forgiveness of sins or give absolute assurance of life without end in heaven. In John 3:16-18 we read:

"For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God.”

I appreciate that movie scene, but I appreciate even more the image of the now barren cross and the empty tomb! In Jesus Christ the battle against sin, death and Satan has been fought and won!  This is not a moment of celluloid fiction. It is God’s truth!

We pray:  Holy God, Your Word has revealed to us the power and wonder of Your love for fallen humankind in Christ Jesus.  Grant us Your Spirit that by His power we would always believe and find comfort in His truth! In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.

"Fishing"- John 21:1-14

“I am going fishing!” So said Peter. The two sons of Zebedee, Nathan and Thomas said they would go along.

Now before you conjure up images of a rowdy fishing trip remember that these men were disciples of the crucified and now risen Jesus of Nazareth. Some had been professional fishermen on the Sea of Tiberias (also known as the Sea of Galilee). They probably knew the lake, the conditions, and their quarry.  Still, they came up empty handed – or more exactly with empty nets.

After a fruitless night of fishing a stranger on shore asked if they had caught anything; and they admitted that they had caught nothing. So, the stranger told them to cast their net on the right side of the boat. There they caught fish! One hundred and fifty-three of them, to be exact! And they were big fish! It was then that John, the son of Zebedee recognized the man on the shore. It was Jesus! He exclaimed this to his companions, and Peter threw on his clothes and jumped into the water. The other disciples struggled to bring the catch in, only able to drag it ashore. Then they came in to the shore.

I love this account of Jesus’ third appearance to the disciples. It reminds me that our Lord often blesses the mundane and common things we are involved in. It reminds me that Jesus can and will turn these things into blessings of unfathomable worth! The disciples later went out into the world and preached and shared Jesus Christ once dead but now risen from His grave and ascended into heaven. These men were willing to risk their lives on what they had witnessed.

So how is it with you? Are you, now that the holiday festivities are concluded just going to return to your old habits and activities? Or will you see and obey Jesus?

We pray: Lord Jesus, thank You for Your victory over sin, death, and the devil. We praise You for all You have given us and done for us. Help us live our lives by living for You. In Your name we pray. Amen.