Pastor Schreiber's Devotions

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"The Better Way"—1 Corinthains 12:31b–13:13

I’ll bet that most politicians would have loved to write the beginning words of our text for this week—but they didn’t. I’ll bet that most news writers would have loved to have penned these words, but they didn’t either. These words come straight from the real source—God Himself—as He inspired His apostle Paul to write to the Christian congregation in Corinth (and by extension, to every one of us too).

Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 12: 31b, “And I will show you a still more excellent way.”

That more excellent way is nothing less and no one other than Jesus Christ—God’s only begotten Son and our Savior from sin.  Other people, places, and things can lead only to destruction and misery beyond description. Jesus Christ is the fulfillment of all God’s demands, the only salvation offered to people who would otherwise be destined to everlasting perdition in hell. 

The words of 1 Corinthians chapter 13 are a beautiful way to remember what God gave us when Jesus was born into this sin-corrupted world, when He lived a sinless life, when He offered Himself as the only sinless offers for lost mankind and then rose victorious from His grave and ascended triumphantly into heaven to prepare homes there for all who love and trust in Him for forgiveness, life, and salvation.

So, dear friends, I invite you to read 1 Corinthians 13 with Jesus in mind.

If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing.

Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.

Love never ends. As for prophecies, they will pass away; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will pass away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part, but when the perfect comes, the partial will pass away.When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I gave up childish ways. For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known.

So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love.

We pray: Lord God Almighty, help us always to remember, to love, and to share the great Good News of Jesus wherever we go and in all we do. In His name we pray. Amen.

"Merry Christmas"—John 3:16–18

Sitting in my easy chair one evening, the thought came to me: A devotion for Christmas Day is really a special opportunity (for me) to present a devotion on my favorite passage of Scriptures. It is probably the first passage I committed to memory as a child, and I keep referring back to it in my devotions, sermons, and occasional papers. I’d like to share it with you (again) because it is the reason for my becoming a pastor, writing my sermons and devotions, and simply because I feel like it. It is also one of the best known passages of Scripture. So, here it is as a reminder of who our God is, and what He has done for us and our everlasting salvation.

"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. (John 3:16-18)

God is a just and holy God who hates sin and blesses true good. He defines “good” as doing His will, and “evil” as breaking His commandments in thought, word, or deed. He applies this standard equally to all people, including His own Son Jesus, who willingly took on human flesh and blood so that He could do for mankind what mankind was incapable of doing. Verses sixteen and seventeen of our reading tell us this: "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.

We, sadly enough, have not been “good little boys and girls.” We have sinned in thought, word, and deed, by what we have done and the things we have left undone; so, we need what God gave on that first Christmas. We need to hear time and again what Jesus said in verse 18 of our reading: “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.” So, we return to verse 16, "For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.

With this, I wish you all a joyous, forgiving holy-day! MERRY CHRISTMAS!

"Baptism"—Titus 3:5–8

In the Christian Church there has been more than just a little controversy and conflict over Baptism and when it should take place and how it should be administered. Should candidates for Baptism be infants, or young adults able to answer for themselves, or people on their death beds (as was the case with Roman emperor Constantine)? Should the candidates be washed, sprinkled, or immersed? Should Baptism ever be repeated or renewed? These are just some of the questions I have encountered during my forty years of ministry, and I am sure other pastors have had to deal with other questions, too!

In his Small Catechism the Reverend Doctor Martin Luther answered the question of what baptism is with a brief statement: “Baptism in not just plain water, but it is the water included in God’s command and combined with God’s Word.” What Baptism is, simply enough, is water applied in God’s name and according to Christ’s command. This is evident in the Great Commission (Matthew 28:19). Here Jesus, as He was preparing to return to heaven after His resurrection from the grave, said to His disciples: “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit….” Jesus’ command is simply that water be applied in the name of the Triune God—Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

In the third portion of Luther’s consideration of Holy Baptism, he cited our text, Titus 3:5-8. Here, St. Paul, the author of the letter to Titus (a young pastor), wrote:

He saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, He washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that being justified by his grace we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life. The saying is trustworthy, and I want you to insist on these things, so that those who have believed in God may be careful to devote themselves to good works. These things are excellent and profitable for people.  (Titus 4:5-8)

St. Paul had it right: these things are excellent and profitable! Lord, grant that we will learn and live by them, In Jesus’ name. Amen.

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