These devotions are written by Pastor Kirtes. If you wish to receive the regular devotions the pastor writes via email, please send an email request to firstname.lastname@example.org and ask to be placed on the devotion email list.
May 15, 2013
Lift up your spear and javelin against those who pursue me. Let me hear you say, “I will give you victory!” Psalms 35:3 (NLT)
The attitude of the Psalmist that God revenge and destroy the psalmist’s enemies needs to be interpreted in light of Jesus’ command to “pray for our enemies.” I don’t think Jesus meant to pray that God would destroy the enemies; nevertheless, the psalmist is teaching us something important. Do we truly live with reliance upon God to come to our aid in all of life?
Are the size of my tasks and the quality of those tasks such that in order for them to succeed they will need God’s help? Or are they ones that I can do “on my own?” That God would have to actually do the fighting (“lift the spear”) implies that the task is more than I can accomplish on my own. And when the task succeeds will there be any doubt as to why and to whom the honor goes?
Living by faith is not living just with the attitude that you have the skills and resources to achieve on your own. Living by faith is moving beyond your resources and abilities. It is only when we are beyond ourselves that we have to depend upon God. Frankly, that is why giving generously of our finances or tithing can be a faith step. And tithing is just one example. If we only give what we think we can afford to give we probably are not giving in faith. And if we only give our time and energy to projects that we think we have the resources to achieve, that too is probably not faith living. In those times of living on our own skills there is little need for God to lift up His spear and javelin.
Lord Jesus, I am not a big risk taker. You know that. But I want to join in with You on Your things so that You get to do more of the spear throwing. And I like the idea of hearing Your voice, I mean really hearing You. Help me this day to see Your battles and join in. Amen
May 14, 2013
So if you consider me a partner, welcome him as you would welcome me. Philemon 1:17 (NIV)
In what enterprise was Paul suggesting that he and Philemon were partners? He probably meant that they were partners in living the Christian life. The Greek word that some versions translate “partner” is an interesting Greek word, koinonos. In its various forms it is translated “communion, community, fellowship, contribution, and communication.” A rather famous Christian community in Georgia is named Koinonia Farms. Small Bible study groups are sometimes called “K-groups” with the K short for koinonia. One of the church’s purposes is to foster “koinonia” among its members, a sense in which members experience fellowship, community, and “partnership.” I think it is one of the most challenging aspects of church life because we so easily substitute meeting together as the same thing as koinonia.
Sharing in a church “fellowship” dinner or a Sunday School party may or may not foster true partnership. The way a person senses or feels him or herself partnered with another person can be different for different people. Working together on a project may be for many the best way to experience koinonia.
Whose responsibility is it to nurture and develop koinonia in a church? Certainly leadership has a responsibility to help. And individual members must share as well. Developing a sense of spiritual partnership is not an easy thing to develop. It takes intention. I think it is very possible for a person to be an active member of a church for years and never truly experience partnership.
For me, the take-away from the devotional is to not be satisfied with membership without partnership. And I also know that achieving it is easier said than done.
LORD, you entrusted yourself to others in true koinonia. Help us, your church, grow in our desire for true partnership life and in our willingness to develop it. Amen.
May 13, 2013
8 In the meantime, I will be staying here at Ephesus until the Festival of Pentecost. 9 There is a wide-open door for a great work here, although many oppose me. 1 Corinthians 16:8-9 (NLT)
Opposition does not seem to be a welcome component for success. It was for Paul. And it must be for Walgreen’s and CVS stores. You seldom see one without the other across the street. I have never read their business plans but the strategy of building a store opposite the opposition must be there.
Is there correlation between the twins of open door and opposition and love and hate? Years ago a friend of mine commented that if a person can hate he or she can love. The two emotions and related actions are both related to passion. Jesus told the church through the writings of John in Revelation that he would prefer that we be “hot or cold, rather than lukewarm.” (Rev. 3:16) Is Jesus saying that he can steer a moving car better than one that is sitting still? It is easier to work with a person who actually feels passion one way or the other than who is dispassionate about life? Could Paul be saying that the people of Ephesus have a great concern for issues related to faith, even if they are misguided in their thinking? Does Paul imply that where there is opposition he at least knows that he can arouse interest in the listeners, even if they oppose him?
Is there a lesson for us who have a desire to share our faith with others? If the other person is strongly opposed to what we think and say, should we, like Paul, look at the situation as an open door for great work?
LORD, I think of specific persons who seek to share their faith in especially hostile places and I ask that you strengthen them with all kinds of encouragement. Athol Barnes is traveling to Thailand today to encourage church leaders who work in such places. Bless and protect him, please, And strengthen the leaders with whom he works. And Lord, help us to see opposition in a new and encouraging way---as a possibility for an open door for great work. Amen.
May 9, 2013
There are seven things that the Lord hates and cannot tolerate: A proud look, a lying tongue, hands that kill innocent people, a mind that thinks up wicked plans, feet that hurry off to do evil, a witness who tells one lie after another, and someone who stirs up trouble among friends. Proverbs 6:16 (TEV)
The message to me is that if God HATES these things then I should hate them too, hate them in myself and hate them in others. How seriously do I take these sins? How carefully do I seek to recognize them in myself?
Do I justify “small” exceptions? For example, does telling a telephone salesman (calling for my wife) that she is not at home when she is, ok? When I share with another person a criticism I have of a mutual acquaintance, is that ok if I end the criticism with “bless her heart”?
I realize that some have taken the serious searching of the heart for sin into a very unhealthy extreme. A more dangerous “normal” is not taking it seriously enough. At least that is how I see it.
LORD, turning on the search light reveals dirt we would rather not see. And yet we know that as we sweep the dirt out we will be healthier, our witness will have integrity, and you will be honored. So let your church world-wide, of which we are members, share in the heart cleaning.
May 8, 2013
Son, do what your father tells you and never forget what your mother taught you. Proverbs 6:20 (TEV)
Mother’s Day will be celebrated this coming Sunday, May 12, 2013. Mothers will be honored and remembered. Hopefully, you had a mother whom you can honor or remember with gratitude.
Dwight L. Moody was one of the most respected Christian leaders of the 19th century in America. His mother was an enormous influence on him and he honored her openly throughout his life. Dwight had seven brothers and sisters when his father died. His mother was pregnant when Mr. Moody died and gave birth to twins one month after he died. When Mr. Moody died he was in such debt that creditors came to their simple home and literally took anything of value, including the kindling wood. Relatives urged Mrs. Moody to give the children up for adoption but she refused. Dwight recounted how his mother worked like a slave keeping that large family together. Dwight said that after all the children were put in bed for the night he would often hear her weeping in prayer, begging God to strengthen her and protect them, yet he said that she never acted fearful before the children. And in addition to teaching the children scripture verses and hymns she took them to church and Sunday School every Sunday. All nine of the children stayed close to her for her entire life. Dwight’s eulogy of his mother at her funeral is a tremendous testimony of her character. (You can read it online: http://www.biblebelievers.com/moody/03.html)
Father’s Day is also celebrated soon.
If your parents are still alive and you do have appreciation for what they have tried to teach you why not share with them what you would want to say at their funerals? And whether they are alive or not, allow this verse to prompt a prayer of thanks to God for them. Be specific in your prayer. What specifically are those things about the parents that you are thankful?
May 7, 2013
Cornelius stared at him in terror. “What is it, sir?” he asked the angel. And the angel replied, “Your prayers and gifts to the poor have been received by God as an offering! Acts 10:4 (NLT)
When you gave your offering or put money in the Salvation Army red kettle, did the thought cross your mind that the gift was received not by the organization that collected it but by God? Or to ask another way, “when you gave an offering recently did you give it with the thought and awareness that you were presenting a gift to God?” I cannot say that I have never had that thought but I cannot say that I had that thought “recently.” But that is the picture Luke creates in his recording of the meeting of the angel and Cornelius, the Roman soldier.
A missionary returned to his home city, where he announced a collection for foreign missions. A good friend said to him, "Very well, Andrew, seeing it is you, I'll give five hundred dollars." "No," said the missionary, "I cannot take the money since you give it, seeing it is me." His friend saw the point and said, "You are right, Andrew. Here is a thousand dollars, seeing it is for the Lord Jesus."
The story of Cornelius raises some fascinating questions on a variety of topics; and the topic of giving is certainly one of them. In many churches the taking and receiving of the offering is not recognized as a genuine act of worship. It is often given little thought in terms of its place in the order of worship. I think we frequently treat it as something we have to do either for practical reasons or out of tradition. And we fail to see it as something that God “receives” and appreciates, something which may be a better expression of praise than words.
LORD, as you have been so generous in giving, may all who know and love you find new joy in giving, giving not grudgingly but generously, and seeing our giving as a gift to You!
May 6, 2013
Your righteousness is like the mighty mountains, your justice like the ocean depths. You care for people and animals alike, O Lord. Psalms 36:6 (NLT)
When I was in grade school I read two books about animals that bothered me immensely. One was Jack London’s book, White Fang, about a dog in Alaska; and the other was Black Beauty by Anna Sewell about a horse. What bothered me was the cruelty that these two animals endured at the hands of people.
Anna Sewell did not write her book for children, although it is a children’s favorite. She wrote it for the purpose of changing people’s cruel treatment of horses. She was not subtle. In the book she wrote, ".... there is no religion without love, and people may talk as much as they like about their religion, but if it does not teach them to be good and kind to man and beast, it is all a sham...." Sewell’s feelings are not without Biblical support as can be supported by verses such as Psalm 36.6.
“Most High, Glorious God, enlighten the darkness of our minds. Give us a right faith, a firm hope and a perfect love, so that we may always and in all things act according to Your Holy Will.” And that includes acting with kindness and concern toward all your creation including the animals. Amen.
May 3, 2013
6 The Lord merely spoke, and the heavens were created. He breathed the word, and all the stars were born. Psalms 33:6 (NLT)
Scientist rightfully seek to know the process by which stars are born. They explain a star’s birth process as beginning with a cloud of dust that gets agitated and compressed by gravity. And then eventually that cloud of dust ends up being a heated ball of helium and hydrogen. “But wait” one interrupts. “Where did the cloud of dust come from?”
I certainly am not capable of understanding the mechanics and physics of a star’s birth even though I do not doubt that it can be generally explained scientifically. But somewhere down the line there was a beginning piece such as the first dust molecule. Where did it come from?
Atheists and agnostic scientists tell us that the first piece of something, the first “thing” that started all galactic life just “was.” In other words, rather than believe in an eternal, uncreated God, they believe in an eternal, uncreated “thing” or “something.”
British philosopher Antony Flew created a huge stir in 2004 when, after 50 years of stridently supporting atheism, he did a 180 degree change. In an NBC news interview he said “Yet biologists’ investigation of DNA has shown, by the almost unbelievable complexity of the arrangements which are needed to produce [life], that intelligence must have been involved.” He went on to say that although he doesn’t believe in a personal God his beliefs are very similar to those who believe in intelligent design. 
Though his fellow atheists are stating that Flew’s change in thought is no big deal (because Flew’s concept of God is that of a “minimal god”), their words come across to me as a sad attempt at spin-control. God has gotten out of their box again!
God did not blow his breath and stars come from his mouth. That is a wooden, unnecessary literalism. The psalmist’s image of God speaking the universe into existence captures, however, the intelligence and the incomprehensible power of God like scientific words can never do.
LORD, thank you for being powerful, creative, and personal. I pray, Lord, that all who are intrigued and in awe of the natural world will ultimately see You and believe that you are a personal, loving, intelligent creator who deserves our love and obedience. Amen.
 “There is a God, leading atheist concludes;” http://www.nbcnews.com/id/6688917/ns/world_news/t/there-god-leading-atheist-concludes/#.UYOjusoYJSE
May 2, 2013
The LORD is my light and my salvation-- whom shall I fear? The LORD is the stronghold of my life-- of whom shall I be afraid? Psalms 27:1 (NIV)
I have lots of fears. Furthermore, I have a tendency to run when I am afraid. I am not a fighter. I hate conflict. I need and want to be able to think and feel the confidence in God that the psalmist voices.
Martin Luther King Jr. had accepted the leadership position for the bus boycott in Montgomery, Alabama that the negroes had begun in the1950’s. He began to receive death threats and he knew they were serious. He had a young wife and one year old daughter. Threats on their lives were just as real. Martin said that he had just gone to sleep around midnight when the phone rang. The caller was another who threatened his life if he continued in his leadership.
Martin said he went to the kitchen and made some coffee. As he sat there he began to talk to God. He was rightfully afraid for his own life and that of his family. “I have nothing left” he said to God. “I have come to the point where I can’t face it alone.”
Yet he did not want to quit and look like a coward.
Martin said that as he sat there he felt as though God spoke to him. “Martin, stand up for justice, stand up for truth; and I will be at your side forever."
His home was bombed one week later. I am not sure if Martin was free from fear. But he did continue to obey his calling in spite of it, believing that the Lord truly was with him and would never leave him alone.
LORD God, someone today needs your strength in some unusual way. They are fearing some conflict. Strengthen them with the promise that you are our light, salvation, and stronghold and you will never leave us alone. Amen.
April 26, 2013
23 Someone asked him, “Lord, will only a few be saved?”
He replied, 24 “Work hard to enter the narrow door to God’s Kingdom, for many will try to enter but will fail. 25 When the master of the house has locked the door, it will be too late. You will stand outside knocking and pleading, ‘Lord, open the door for us!’ But he will reply, ‘I don’t know you or where you come from.’ Luke 13:23-25 (NLT)
Here is a passage that challenged my Baptist theology of salvation by faith alone when I read it recently. It caused me to do some study and thinking. What was Jesus’ intention?
I think that the key words in this text may be “too late” rather than “work hard,” although they are vitally connected. When we were in New York City we took the ferry tour, seeing the Statue of Liberty, Ellis Island, etc. When the captain sounded the horn he was signaling that the boat was seconds from leaving and the gang plank would be taken up. If you happened to be lolly-gagging around and heard the horn sound you knew you better “work hard” (run) to the boat and “enter the narrow door” (the gang plank) or you would be left behind. If the door had been shut and the boat leaving you could scream, “We are paying customers. I visited with you at the pop machine. My mother is on board.” And the captain would yell back “Sorry. You were late. We have a schedule to keep” (“I don’t know you or where you come from!”)!
Jesus gives us ample opportunity to get on board with him. There will be a time when the door is shut. The story can be persuasive to the one who has heard the message but who has put off making a decision. Today is the day. Run to Jesus. And the story is a wake-up reminder to the Christian as well. Our invitations to those who do not yet know Christ must have an urgent tone. There will come a time when the door is shut and it will be too late for our friends to get in.
LORD, “I want to be in that number, when the saints come marching in.” But I do not want to be alone. I want many others who have yet to give you their hearts to come in also. Spark in your church a desire to get others through the door before it is too late. Amen.
The Marion Kauffman Scholars Program has the mission to support inner-city (Kansas City, Mo.) kids, help them graduate from high school. If the kid graduates from high school with a 3.0 grade point and gets at least a 25 on the ACT, the Kauffmans will pay college tuition to any of 20 select colleges or give what those colleges charge to the student who is accepted in another college. The Kauffman program recently announced the change in the program which pays directly to only 10 select colleges in Missouri and Kansas, all reasonably close to Kansas City, Mo. The Program evaluated the previous years and determined that more whom the Program supported actually graduated from colleges close to Kansas City. And it was this change that created a little firestorm of criticism from some parents of kids in the Program.
Here is a program that offers literally thousands of dollars of support at no cost to students, except for the price of good school work. And people are complaining. Parents were expressing what we have come to know as “entitlement mentality.” It is a way of thinking that one “deserves” something and “has a right” for something.
Do we also show spiritual entitlement mentality? One goes through a series of sad and difficult circumstances (illnesses, relationship changes, job loss, etc.) and may ask “What have I done to deserve this?” Or “Don’t I deserve better than this?”
A man seeks revenge against someone who has harmed his family. Someone asks him if it would not be better to forgive the person. “No,” the angered man says. “He doesn’t deserve to be forgiven!”
Do I have an entitlement mentality? Ask yourself that question. Do I think or feel that I deserve only the good? Do I think deep-down that God should reward me with heaven? Or do I live with and truly believe that heaven will be a gift from God, a gift that I do not deserve, a gift born of mercy and grace?
Romans 4:4-5 (MSG)
4 If you're a hard worker and do a good job, you deserve your pay; we don't call your wages a gift.5 But if you see that the job is too big for you, that it's something only God can do, and you trust him to do it—you could never do it for yourself no matter how hard and long you worked—well, that trusting-him-to-do-it is what gets you set right with God, by God. Sheer gift.
April 23, 2013
The Lord is my shepherd; I have everything I need. Psalms 23:1 (TEV)
Henry Ford painted all the automobiles he built during the first few years black. Why would anyone need a car of another color? Marketing people figured out that what people want and what people need are two different things. Selling products is about far more than selling a product; it is selling someone a self-image, esteem, sex-appeal and happiness. Marketing has to constantly create a dis-satisfaction in us. The psalmist, on the other hand, seems to express a deep satisfaction with his relationship with God. He doesn’t need anything or anyone else.
We know that we can become so set in our religious ways as to be resistant and unmoved by God’s call in our lives. On the other hand, can we also be influenced to be so dis-satisfied with our relationship with God that we never feel deep comfort with God? Can preachers and teachers and authors arouse in us, like religious marketing experts, a constant spiritual dis-satisfaction that keeps us from having a secure feeling that God really is providing everything we need?
The psalmist gives thought to the various blessings that he credits God for bringing into his life. So do I. And I will constantly wonder how I will or would respond to life if I did not have a comfortable home, income, and good health. Would I, like the psalmist, still say “Lord, you are my shepherd; I have everything I need”? I hope I would. I want to.
LORD, you are the source of all that is good. Thank you for being our shepherd, for caring for us, for guiding us, and for providing for us. May we live with deep satisfaction of the bond you have with us and we with you. Amen
April 22, 2013
My God, my God, why have you abandoned me? I have cried desperately for help, but still it does not come. Psalms 22:1 (TEV)
Jesus quoted the Psalmist as he died on the cross. Did Jesus think to himself or say out loud the entire psalm? Or did he just feel the feelings that are expressed in this one verse? This Psalm reveals or may predict two other aspects of Jesus’ crucifixion: the verbal scorn of Jesus (vs.7-8) and gambling for his garment (vs. 18). The psalm ends in a completely different tone than it begins. It ends in victory: Future generations will serve him; they will speak of the Lord to the coming generation. 31 People not yet born will be told: "The Lord saved his people." Psalms 22:30-31 (TEV)
It is certain that the crucifixion of Jesus began with the same sad distress, not only for Jesus but for those who loved him. Yet the crucifixion has become the message of hope and key component of the Christian message of salvation. The Lord, in fact, has “saved his people.”
Nevertheless, presuming this psalm was originally written for or by David, he did feel that God had abandoned him. That was a true and genuine feeling which he did not deny. Many have felt that same way. The hope for all of us, however, is that we feel the same sense of victory with which he ended his psalm. Obviously, the Jewish author of Psalm 22 felt secure in his relationship with God and believed that God could handle his truthfulness. That God is not rattled can in itself be a wonderful and powerful source of hope.
LORD, I do not understand how you operate. I admit it. I usually want you to do what I want when I want. But you are not at our command. There is someone today who may read this who is feeling abandoned. Please, Lord, bring to them peace that is rooted in the hope of final victory. Amen.
April 20, 2013
Some nations boast of their chariots and horses, but we boast in the name of the Lord our God. Those nations will fall down and collapse, but we will rise up and stand firm. Psalms 20:7-8 (NLT)
What do you rely on? What gives you confidence? In our consumer driven society we are bombarded with advertisements that promise us that confidence can be purchased. Cars, jewelry, clothing, cosmetics, guns (this is a current article of debate) and even cosmetic surgeries are the “chariots and horses” equal. Entire societies can be led to believe that their national confidence as well as their personal confidences can be built on something outside of themselves, usually something material (economy, military might, etc.) or in someone.
School children are taught that self-confidence is something a person can achieve and have regardless of their economic status, looks, grades, etc.---that they are inherently valuable. Christians can applaud that effort. But we ask? “On what basis can a person assert his value?”
The Judeo-Christian foundation is that every person is valuable because God has created us and we somehow share God’s image.
I think of Nick Vujovich who was born without arms or legs. Nick had desperate moments of self-doubt and suicidal thoughts. But now he lives with passion and confidence; and he developed that confidence as he came to believe that he too was valuable because he was carrying the image of God. (You can see and hear him speak on Youtube.) His value, he testifies, has nothing to do with externals like appearance.
Self-confidence, I think, is truly an “inside” work.
LORD, there is a person reading this who has allowed lack of confidence from keeping them from doing something they have been asked to do. It may be as little a thing as smiling. Maybe they have no teeth or their teeth are crooked. Maybe they stutter or have limited education. Maybe they have been given a medical diagnosis that is not good. Help us this day, Lord, place our hope in you, knowing you are the source of strength, the one who can best help us rise up and stand firm.