Pastor Schreiber's Devotions

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"Differences of Opinion"- Romans 14:1–12

It seems that just about every Christian congregation will at some times or another experience a conflict. Sometimes it is centered around building projects. Maybe it will be a mission project.  It could even concern congregational employees or membership privileges and responsibilities. Sometimes these disagreements are generated by genuine concern for someone’s eternal welfare, but at other times the discussion (and conflict) will center around the mantra “We’ve never done it that way before.”

St. Paul wrote in our text: “For none of us lives to himself, and none of us dies to himself.” He then asked two very important questions: “Why do you pass judgment on your brother? Or you, why do you despise your brother?

His reply was as follows: “For we will all stand before the judgment seat of God; for it is written, ‘As I live, says the Lord, every knee shall bow to me, and every tongue shall confess to God.’"

We humans may not share total agreement in all things; but there is one point where we must agree: “For we will all stand before the judgment seat of God…” He concluded his argument with a succinct statement: “So then each of us will give an account of himself to God.

So, then, what about the arguments and disagreements that so often mar a congregation’s ability to serve God and offer Him true worship? Do they bother an individual because of some doctrinal point or not? Do they deny Christ or disavow God, or not? My mother used to call most disagreements arguments over “peripheral piffle.” That was her way of saying that something didn’t make much difference. Saint Paul would probably have agreed with her.

But then, what is important? “For we will all stand before the judgment seat of God; for it is written, ‘As I live, says the Lord, every knee shall bow to me, and every tongue shall confess to God.’" What is important is faith in and confession of Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord!

God grant us the ability to look beyond our own thoughts, and instead believe in and confess Jesus as Savior and Lord! Amen.

"Our God's Command"- Romans 13:1–10

My wife and I were listening to a podcast on the current political situation. Candidates were pointing their fingers at each other, blaming these opponents for the world’s woes. At the same time, they were trying to claim that they were themselves somehow responsible for whatever was going well. 

In this, it didn’t seem to make much difference whether the candidates were Democrat, Republican, Communist, Libertarian, or something else. They were right, and everyone else was wrong. The net result they all desire is that they or their candidates win the upcoming elections. St. Paul said in verse 7 of our reading: “Pay to all what is owed to them: taxes to whom taxes are owed, revenue to whom revenue is owed, respect to whom respect is owed, honor to whom honor is owed.

He continued in the following verses:

Owe no one anything, except to love each other, for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law. The commandments, "You shall not commit adultery, You shall not murder, You shall not steal, You shall not covet," and any other commandment, are summed up in this word: "You shall love your neighbor as yourself." Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfilling of the law.

So why is it that we see and hear so much bitterness, apparent falsehood, hatred, and vitriol at this time? Many will attribute it to political angst, desire, distrust of politicians, and so on—but it still boils down to sin in its various forms. Sin affects us. Sin will discourage us, offend us, and disappoint us. Sin can and will destroy us. So, what is to be done about sin in the world and sin in each of us? 

There is only one thing to do: repent of our personal sins, lay them at the base of Christ’s cross, and seek and claim the full and free forgiveness God offers all who confess their need for forgiveness and claim what Jesus has won for all people on Calvary’s cross. That is where we will find what we truly want and need. This is truly the love that “does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfilling of the law.” It is Jesus Christ who shed His blood and then reclaimed His life and complete victory over sin, death and the devil! This is the love that does no wrong!

We pray:  O God Almighty, in this age of political and economic uncertainty, give us that which is sure, solid, and true: Your Son Jesus and His cross-bought merits. In His name we pray. Amen.

"How to Be a Christian"- Romans 12:9–21

Self-help and personal growth publications seem to be all the rage. People are looking for instruction in how to become more (and here you can fill in the blank). In this, I suspect that nothing much has changed over the years. People have long searched out ways to improve themselves or show others the way to improve themselves or others.

Saint Paul gives some brief and pithy instruction for how people should live (especially as Christians). 

Let love be genuine. Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good. Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor. Do not be slothful in zeal, be fervent in spirit, serve the Lord. Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer. Contribute to the needs of the saints and seek to show hospitality. Romans 12: 9-13

He continues:

Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them. Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. Live in harmony with one another. Do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly. Never be conceited. Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all. If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, "Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord." To the contrary, "if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals on his head." Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good. Romans 12: 14-21

The problem is that even in Christ’s Church on earth this doesn’t always happen, does it? Even Christians bicker and fight, get angry, or seek to “get even.” We, who should know (and do) better, often fail to do and be what we profess and seek for.

So, what should we do? It is as simple and clear as the cross many of us wear or use to decorate our homes, persons, or churches. Return to the cross of Jesus Christ, remembering His sacrifice for sinners, and give thanking to God for His mercy and grace in Jesus Christ!

In my humble opinion, this is how we become and live as Christians!

We pray:  O God—Father, Son, and Spirit—give us the grace to know, live in, and share the message of Jesus. This we pray in Jesus’ name. Amen.

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