Pastor Schreiber's Devotions

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"Pay Attention!"—Hebrews 2:1–4

Parents are probably aware of and maybe even familiar with the plea, “Pay attention!” Children seem to think they already know all the answers (but maybe they just haven’t thought of the questions, yet). Teachers, likewise, may have to deal with inattentive students. I can only imagine preachers today wanting to shout it out to church members who are busy playing electronic games or texting someone on the electronic devices during the worship service.

“Pay attention!” is what the writer to the Hebrews is telling us, too! “Pay attention!”

“We must pay much closer attention to what we have heard, lest we drift away from it.” (Hebrews 2:1)

So, what have we heard (and learned)? 

John 3:16-18 is a great place to begin:

"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.”

The writer to the Hebrews said it well: “For since the message declared by angels proved to be reliable and every transgression or disobedience received a just retribution, how shall we escape if we neglect such a great salvation?” (Hebrews 2: 2-3a)

The fact of the matter is that we cannot and will never be able to escape what we owe God because of our disobedience in thought, word, and deed. We will never escape that anger. We will never be able to be truly free of the guilt we harbor because of our hatred, selfishness, pride, jealousy, indifference to God and to other people, our wastefulness and greed, and on inborn inclination to evil.

I will always remember what an elderly lady once told me after I had preached on this text. She said that she didn’t need to hear “all that law and gospel stuff” because she knew Jesus was her Savior—so get on with the “good stuff” like the misdeeds of her neighbors. She missed the point of why we need to hear the full Word of God: Law and Gospel. We are and will always continue to struggle with temptations and sin until we reach heaven itself. Her action and attitude came close to “neglect(ing) such a great salvation.”

I keep returning to this statement: “It was declared at first by the Lord, and it was attested to us by those who heard, while God also bore witness by signs and wonders and various miracles and by gifts of the Holy Spirit distributed according to his will. (Hebrews 2: 3b-4)

The now barren cross, the empty tomb, the presently empty sky are reminders of what God has done and will do for us sinners. Jesus Christ, God’s Only-begotten Son is our Savior! He gave His life so that we could live forever with Him in heaven. This is the message Jesus shared with Nicodemus in John 3:16–18. This is the point of reference the writer to the Hebrews used in our reading, too!

So we pray: God keep this message of Your forgiveness in and through Jesus  always in our hearts and minds!  In Jesus’ name. Amen.

“The Power of Prayer”—James 5:13–20

This is something I have mentioned in other devotions. It was something you had to witness, I think.

I was a young pastor, sitting at the bedside of an elderly lady who was fast approaching her final moment on earth. I was holding her hand, praying the Lord’s Prayer for her (because she was no longer capable of speaking). When I had finished the prayer, I told her, “You can go home to heaven now.” She squeezed my hand, breathed her last, and passed away. This moment moved me tremendously.

Such is the power of prayer, and of God’s answer to prayer! This was exactly what St. James was getting at in our reading for this week! The power of prayer is awesome! And, it is not in the praying, but in God answering prayer. That lady entrusted herself and all that she held dear to God’s care and keeping.  St. James understood this power! Just consider his admonition in verses 13-15:

Is anyone among you suffering? Let him pray. Is anyone cheerful? Let him sing praise. Is anyone among you sick? Let him call for the elders of the church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord. And the prayer of faith will save the one who is sick, and the Lord will raise him up. And if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven.  (James 5:13-15)

In the following verse, James wrote: “Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working.” (James 5:16)

James gave the example of Elijah, the prophet: "Elijah was a man with a nature like ours, and he prayed fervently that it might not rain, and for three years and six months it did not rain on the earth. Then he prayed again, and heaven gave rain, and the earth bore its fruit." (James 5:17-18)

James closes his lesson with this: “My brothers, if anyone among you wanders from the truth and someone brings him back, let him know that whoever brings back a sinner from his wandering will save his soul from death and will cover a multitude of sins.” (James 5:19-20)

This is the reason why our congregation so often includes special petitions for family, for friends, our government, clement weather, and so on. God hears and answers the prayers of righteous people (in His way and time)!

So, we pray: Lord God Almighty—Father, Son, and Spirit—You know our needs, our fears, and the reasons for joy, too! Hear the prayers we say and the prayers in our hearts, and answer them according to Your will. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

"When Push Comes to Shove"—James 3:13–4:10

“When push comes to shove…” “When all else fails…” “When in doubt…”

Our culture and speech are full of sayings like these; but I suspect that you get the idea; life is full of uncertainties. The truth is that we do not know how long we’ll live, how well we will live, with whom and how happily we will live. Between that first slap on the bottom of a baby to his or her final breath, nothing much is guaranteed. So, what is guaranteed? Death and life are guaranteed: death as a result of sin, and life because of Jesus.

In our reading for this week, St. James makes this abundantly clear. He asked, “Who is wise and understanding among you?” (James 3:13) He then goes on to answer: “But if you have bitter jealousy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast and be false to the truth.” (James 3:14) That is what sin generates in human kind.

James said it very well: " ‘He (God) yearns jealously over the spirit that he has made to dwell in us?’ " But he gives more grace. Therefore it says, "God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble." (James 4: 5,6)

When push came to shove, God in His undeserved grace for the humble gave Jesus Christ, His only begotten Son. In His mercy, our God sent His Son to the cross to suffer and die and rise again to save the lost. This is us—you and me! When all else failed, Jesus accomplished what God wanted done by rising from the dead on the third day and ascending back into heaven, where He even now is preparing heavenly homes for all who love and trust in Him! So, when you are in doubt, uncertain about what is happening, how you will deal with life’s challenges, hurting, look to Jesus!

We pray: Almighty God, we are limited in our knowledge and understanding, but You know all things. Send us Your Holy Spirit so that we can look to Jesus in the face of our sins. In His name we pray. Amen.