We Advance Ourselves by Advancing Others

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Reading:                                     Psalm 35

 (Verses 26-28)

May all who gloat over my distress     

be put to shame and confusion;

may all who exalt themselves over me     

be clothed with shame and disgrace.

May those who delight in my vindication     

shout for joy and gladness;

may they always say, “The LORD be exalted,     

who delights in the well-being of his servant.”

My tongue will proclaim your righteousness,     

your praises all day long. (NIV)

Reflection

Psalm 35 draws to a close with this warning against Schadenfreude: May all who gloat over my distress be put to shame and confusion; may all who exalt themselves over me be clothed with shame and disgrace.

David Kitz as Centurion

David Kitz as the Centurion

So what is Schadenfreude you ask? Dictionary.com defines Schadenfreude as satisfaction or pleasure felt at someone else’s misfortune. It is a compound German word: Schaden harm + Freude joy. In other words, Schadenfreude is the joy you may feel when hearing about another person’s calamity. Schadenfreude can be viewed as the ladder-climber’s delight in seeing others fall behind. Far too often it manifests in the false assumption that we can advance ourselves by putting others down. The truth is we advance ourselves by advancing others. Advancing by putdowns has no firm foundation and usually ends badly because pride precedes a fall, just as darkness follows sunset.

Are you exalting yourself at the expense of others? If so, take some time to repent. Do your best to repair the damaged relationships that result from such behavior.

Paul, the apostle, gives us this advice: Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn. Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position. Do not be conceited (Romans12:14-16).

Take joy in the success of others rather than resenting their achievements. Let their successes ignite within you a desire for self-improvement. With God’s help change what you can within yourself before looking to change others. We all have a room in our heart that needs some renovation.

Then with David we can rejoice when others succeed. May those who delight in my vindication shout for joy and gladness; may they always say, “The LORD be exalted, who delights in the well-being of his servant.”

Response: Father God, give me a heart of thanksgiving. Grant me a pure heart with pure motives. May I always delight in the well-being of your servants. Amen.

Your Turn: Do you suffer from a bad case of Schadenfreude?

Are you a peacemaker?

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Reading:                                     Psalm 35

 (Verses 22-25)

LORD, you have seen this; do not be silent.     

Do not be far from me, Lord.

Awake, and rise to my defense!     

Contend for me, my God and Lord.

Vindicate me in your righteousness, LORD my God;     

do not let them gloat over me.  

Do not let them think, “Aha, just what we wanted!”     

or say, “We have swallowed him up.” (NIV)

 Reflection

There’s an old saying, “The more things change, the more they stay the same.” That certainly is true of the conflict in the Holy Land. About 3,000 years ago, in David’s time the Kingdom of Israel was in a struggle for survival. Chief among its enemies were the Philistines along the Gaza coast. Today as I write this post, Israel’s chief enemy Hamas is firing rockets into Israel from the Gaza coast.

David’s words from Psalm 35 have a present day resonance. LORD, you have seen this; do not be silent. Do not be far from me, Lord. Awake, and rise to my defense! Contend for me, my God and Lord. Many in present day Israel are praying this prayer with the fervour of those who are being attacked.

But the residents of Gaza could pray this prayer with equal fervour. Their homes and businesses are also under bombardment. Where is God in all this suffering? Whose side is He on? Many in the Christian community affirm with great confidence that God is on the side of Israel. Does that make God complicit in the deaths of innocent children in Gaza?

Jesus gave this counsel to his disciples, “You have heard that it was said, ‘Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.’ But I tell you, do not resist an evil person. If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to them the other cheek also” (Matthew 5:38-39). Present day Israel (and America for that matter) has a well-established policy of hard-hitting retaliation when attacked. What are the long term consequences of this policy? Is the conflict resolved or is it inflamed?

Jesus’ admonition to turn the other cheek goes unheeded. Most feel that turning the other cheek implies weakness. In reality it requires far more strength, but in the end it yields the peaceable fruit of righteousness—not a righteousness that insists on its own way—but a righteousness that sees both sides of an issue and works hard for peace and reconciliation.

Jesus asks us to do the far harder thing. Retaliation is easy. It’s the natural response. Forgiving when we are wronged, that requires far more effort. Whose side is God on? He is on the side of peace. That’s something worth fighting for.

Response: Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God (Matthew 5:9). Lord God, help me to be a peacemaker in my world today. Amen.

Your Turn: Forgiveness and turning the other cheek works on a personal level. Can it work on an international level as well?

Learning in the “School of Hard Knocks”

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Reading:                                       Psalm 35

 (Verses 17-21)

How long, LORD, will you look on?     

Rescue me from their ravages,     

my precious life from these lions.  

I will give you thanks in the great assembly;     

among the throngs I will praise you.

Do not let those gloat over me     

who are my enemies without cause;

do not let those who hate me without reason     

maliciously wink the eye.

They do not speak peaceably,     

but devise false accusations     

against those who live quietly in the land.

They sneer at me and say, “Aha! Aha!     

With our own eyes we have seen it.” (NIV)

Reflection

This portion of Psalm 35 begins with David’s cry for help, “How long, LORD, will you look on? Rescue me from their ravages, my precious life from these lions.”

Briton Riviere -- Daniel in the Lions' Den

Briton Riviere — Daniel in the Lions’ Den

When I am in distress, help can never arrive too soon. I want an instant answer from God. Better yet, He should have pre-empted this disappointment—this disaster. But often God doesn’t instantly ride to our rescue. If poor choices are the cause of our distress, He may let us experience the consequences of our folly. When you are enrolled in “The School of Hard Knocks” the test comes first and then you learn the lesson. Often patient endurance brings about an invaluable change in character through the work of the Holy Spirit. James, the brother of our Lord, reminds us of this truth:

Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything (James 1:2-4).

But all of our troubles do not come as a result of bad decisions on our part. Yet man is born to trouble as surely as sparks fly upward (Job 5:7). Job reminds us that even the good and the just will at times face suffering. Anyone who tells you differently is not being faithful to the full counsel of scripture. Satan severely tested Job, but he remained firm in his faith.

When hardships come will you stand firm? When the haughty accuse can you bear it? David felt the sting of false accusation. They sneer at me and say, “Aha! Aha! With our own eyes we have seen it.” 

Thanks be to God. We can bring our trials and burdens to the Lord in prayer.

Response: Lord, you know the troubles and trials that I face daily. You are my help and my strength. I will give you thanks in the great assembly; among the throngs I will praise you. Amen.

Your Turn: Do you learn from God’s word or from “The School of Hard Knocks” or from both?

Do you stand accused?

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Reading:                                     Psalm 35

 (Verses 11-16)

Ruthless witnesses come forward;     

they question me on things I know nothing about.

They repay me evil for good and leave me like one bereaved.

Yet when they were ill, I put on sackcloth     

and humbled myself with fasting.

When my prayers returned to me unanswered,

I went about mourning as though for my friend or brother.

I bowed my head in grief as though weeping for my mother.

But when I stumbled, they gathered in glee;     

assailants gathered against me without my knowledge.     

They slandered me without ceasing.

Like the ungodly they maliciously mocked;     

they gnashed their teeth at me. (NIV)

 Reflection

There is a prophetic, messianic element to today’s Psalm 35 reading. This psalm is attributed to David, and historically on several occasions, close friends viciously turned on David. During Absalom’s rebellion David was betrayed not only by his son, but also by his confidants, who repaid his kindness with evil. He was openly mocked and tormented by Shimei, son of Gera, as he fled Jerusalem. See 2 Samuel 16:5-14. Though this is part of David’s experience, this psalm portion also has its prophetic fulfilment in the slanderous betrayal of Christ.

Jesus before Pilate

Jesus before Pilate

Matthew records that, “The chief priests and the whole Sanhedrin were looking for false evidence against Jesus so that they could put him to death. But they did not find any, though many false witnesses came forward” (Matthew 26:59-60).

After being betrayed by Judas, his own disciple, Jesus was mocked, stripped and beaten by Roman soldiers (Matthew 27:27-31). While nailed to a cross the crowd hurled abuse at him. In the same way the chief priests, the teachers of the law and the elders mocked him. “He saved others,” they said, “but he can’t save himself! He’s the king of Israel! Let him come down now from the cross, and we will believe in him. He trusts in God. Let God rescue him now if he wants him, for he said, ‘I am the Son of God.’” In the same way the rebels who were crucified with him also heaped insults on him (Matthew 27:41-44).

The shrieking crowds of hell heaped abuse onto our Savior. Those same demonic crowds are ready to hurl their accusations at us when we stumble. Satan, our accuser, delights in tormenting us by bringing up the sins of our past. He mocks our efforts at change, insisting that it can’t be done. But he is wrong—dead wrong.  I can do all this through him who gives me strength (Philippians 4:13).

The Accuser only has power over us if we listen to his lies. Our victory is in the risen Christ!

Response: Jesus, you are my victory when the enemy accuses me.I put my trust in your redeeming blood. Amen.

Your Turn: Have you put your trust in Jesus? He can change a wayward heart.

Help in the Battles We All Face

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Reading:                                      Psalm 35

 (Verses 7-10)

Since they hid their net for me without cause     

and without cause dug a pit for me,

may ruin overtake them by surprise—     

may the net they hid entangle them,     

may they fall into the pit, to their ruin.

Then my soul will rejoice in the LORD     

and delight in his salvation.

My whole being will exclaim,     

“Who is like you, LORD?

You rescue the poor from those too strong for them,     

the poor and needy from those who rob them.” (NIV)

 Reflection

Paul the apostle reminds us that as believers in the Lord Jesus Christ, we are engaged in spiritual warfare. Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand (Ephesians 6:11-13).

Take up the Armor of God

Take up the Armor of God

The conflicts that David experienced in the Old Testament, reflected in the words of this portion of Psalm 35, are mirrored in the spiritual warfare experienced by New Testament believers. Make no mistake—the Devil and his cohorts have dug a pit to trap you; they spread their nets to ensnare you in sin and degradation. But as with David, the LORDhas also provided a way of escape. Once again Paul reminds us of this: No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it (1 Corinthians 10:13).

The LORD has equipped us with the armor of God and He has provided a way of escape, so then with David we can rejoice in the victory the LORD will bring.

Then my soul will rejoice in the LORD    

and delight in his salvation.     

My whole being will exclaim,    

“Who is like you, LORD?   

You rescue the poor from those too strong for them,     

the poor and needy from those who rob them.”

Satan is a thief and a robber, who robs us of victory, peace and joy. But like David and Paul we can overcome. “Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord!” (Romans 7:25).

Response: Heavenly Father, I thank you that you have provided armor so that I can stand against the wiles of the devil. I have victory through you, Lord Jesus. Amen.

Your Turn: In your battle against sin are you using “the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God?”

Is God on your side?

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Reading:                                     Psalm 35

Of David.

(Verses 1-6)

Contend, LORD, with those who contend with me;     

fight against those who fight against me.

Take up shield and armor; arise and come to my aid.

Brandish spear and javelin against those who pursue me.

Say to me, “I am your salvation.”

May those who seek my life be disgraced and put to shame;

may those who plot my ruin be turned back in dismay.

May they be like chaff before the wind,     

with the angel of the LORD driving them away;

may their path be dark and slippery,     

with the angel of the LORD pursuing them. (NIV)

Reflection

David was a man acquainted with warfare. Throughout his life, Israel was in a prolonged struggle with its neighbours, even as it is today. From time to time this struggle would flare into open combat. Quite naturally in those times David would turn to the LORD in prayer. Psalm 35 is David’s call for help against his enemies—enemies that may be external or internal.

David Warrior

www.joymag.co.za

Who doesn’t want God on their side? The answer is obvious; we all want God’s help when we find ourselves in trouble. Therefore, David cries out: Contend, LORD, with those who contend with me; fight against those who fight against me.

But there are some questions we should ask ourselves before we enlist the LORD’s help. Am I being truthful? Is my cause just? Am I in the right? Do I know all the facts in this matter? Am I seeing this issue solely from a narrow personal perspective? Finally, we should ask ourselves if our heart is right. One can be totally right about a matter, but have a heart that is full of hate, bitterness and anger.

God always stands on the side of truth and justice. He knows the full extent of a matter. He sees all sides. We can’t fool Him or hide from His searching eyes. The Lord examines the righteous, but the wicked, those who love violence, he hates with a passion (Psalm 11:5). Therefore, we need to come before Him humbly with hearts opened wide.

David asks this of the LORD: Say to me, “I am your salvation.”

The LORD will be our salvation—He is on our side—if our hearts are open and humble before Him. David’s confession in Psalm 51 confirms this truth. My sacrifice, O God, is a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart you, God, will not despise (Psalm 51:17). In other words, God is on our side when we move to His side in honest, humble contrition.

Response: LORD God, give me a humble heart that sees beyond my narrow interests. Help me to stand for righteousness, justice and truth. I want to align myself with you. In Jesus’ name, I pray. Amen.

Your Turn: Has the LORD fought on your side? Did you need to get your heart right first?

Who Do We Love?

davidkitz:

I have been very busy with another writing project and a home renovation project. As a result my Psalms posts have suffered. Here is a re-blog from Morning Meds to fill that void.

Originally posted on Morning Meds (Take 1 each Morning with all the Prayer You Need):

God is waiting to show you the way.

God is waiting to show you the way.

1 You should know this, Timothy, that in the last days there will be very difficult times. 2 For people will love only themselves and their money. They will be boastful and proud, scoffing at God, disobedient to their parents, and ungrateful. They will consider nothing sacred. 3 They will be unloving and unforgiving; they will slander others and have no self-control. They will be cruel and hate what is good. 4 They will betray their friends, be reckless, be puffed up with pride, and love pleasure rather than God. 5 They will act religious, but they will reject the power that could make them godly.–2 Timothy 3:1-5​a​ (NLT)
​Every​ day we see and hear about more and more evil. The spirits of discord, deception, violence and disobedience are more and more apparent and open. All of us seem to be more…

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Do you want a trouble free life?

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Reading:                                      Psalm 34

 (Verses 19-22)

The righteous person may have many troubles, but the LORD delivers him from them all;

he protects all his bones, not one of them will be broken.

 Evil will slay the wicked; the foes of the righteous will be condemned.

The LORD will rescue his servants;     

no one who takes refuge in him will be condemned. (NIV)

 Reflection

This final portion of Psalm 34 reflects David’s faith in a God who saves. He began this psalm with praise because he experienced the saving power of God. Now David states that the LORD delivers, protects and rescues. But for these words to be meaningful, the LORD must deliver, protect and rescue from various forms of trouble and adversity. There is no rescue if there is no danger. There is no deliverance if there is no oppression.

Ottawa River

Ottawa River

If you choose to follow the LORD, you are not guaranteed a trouble-free life. Jesus told his disciples, “In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world” (John 16:33).

Many of us believe that if we do our best to lead a good life, following the commandments as found in the Bible, God will exempt us from hardship and trouble. But Jesus, the sinless Son of God, did not have a trouble-free life. Why should we expect our lives to be trouble free? God has not promised me a trouble-free life; He has promised to be with me when trouble and adversity comes.

About three years ago a close friend of mine suffered a debilitating stroke. He lost his position as a teacher, his finances took a hit and he struggled mightily to get his mobility back. In an instant every movement became much more difficult for him—every step a monumental effort. Last week he made a startling confession. He said, “If I had it to do over, I wouldn’t go back. I wouldn’t return to my pre-stroke days. God has drawn me so much closer to Himself through this. I wouldn’t wish this on any man. But God has changed me and used me in new ways that wouldn’t have been possible unless this happened.”

All of us desperately try to avoid the furnace of affliction. It’s too hard—too unpleasant—full of things we cannot bear. But God meets us there. He bears us up on eagle’s wings. When our resources and abilities run out, He takes over. He becomes our help and our deliverer in ways we cannot fathom.

His promises are tried, tested and true: The LORD will rescue his servants; no one who takes refuge in him will be condemned. 

Response: Heavenly Father, I can’t always see what is genuinely in my best interest, especially when that involves adversity. Be my sure help and protection in troubled times. May your unfailing love be with us, LORD, even as we put our hope in you. In Jesus’ name, we pray. Amen.

Your Turn: Has God met with you in a time of trouble?

What does God look like?

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Reading:                                   Psalm 34

 (Verses 15-18)

The eyes of the LORD are on the righteous, and his ears are attentive to their cry;

but the face of the LORD is against those who do evil,     

to blot out their name from the earth.

The righteous cry out, and the LORD hears them; he delivers them from all their troubles.

The LORD is close to the broken-hearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit. (NIV)

 Reflection

In my previous post discussing Psalm 34 I asked the question, “What does God taste like?” Remember David invites us in Psalm 34:8 to “Taste and see that the LORD is good.”

Violets 2014-05-14

As this psalm continues David again invites us to take a closer look at God. He reminds us that, “The eyes of the LORD are on the righteous, and his ears are attentive to their cry; but the face of the LORD is against those who do evil to blot out their name from the earth.”

In this passage David depicts the LORD as having eyes, ears and a face. I always have trouble picturing God. This inability does not stem from a lack of imagination. It comes from the knowledge that God is a spirit. How do you picture something that has no physical substance or form? But picturing God comes with further difficulties. We are specifically forbidden to create an image or likeness of God. The God of the Hebrews sat on the Mercy Seat on the Ark of the Covenant between two cherubim. But there was no image or statue there. To create an image or statue would be blasphemous. For that reason I find Michelangelo’s painting on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel offensive. I am not offended by the depiction of a naked Adam. I’m offended by the portrayal of an old grey-haired man as God. How dare he create an image of God? I am similarly troubled by any artistic rendering of God the Father. God is so far beyond human that to render Him as having a human form demeans His Majesty.

Bleeding-hearts 2014-05-14

But that’s what makes the incarnation so spectacular. This God of no fixed form took on material reality. In the person of Jesus, He became a man with eyes, ears and a human face. The God who sees all and hears all limited himself to a human body. The Creator took on the form and limitations of a creature—limitations that encompass betrayal, pain and death. In the body of Jesus, the Creator God, who sees and hears, experienced our reality—our humanity.

The psalmist, David declares, “The righteous cry out, and the LORD hears them; he delivers them from all their troubles. The LORD is close to the broken-hearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.”

The LORD is close to the broken-hearted because in the form of Christ his heart was broken. He experienced the pain that touches you and more. His eyes are on you. He is listening when you cry out.

Response: Hear my prayer. I seek your face. Be my healer. In Jesus’ name, who defeated death, I pray. Amen.

Your Turn: Do you have a picture of God? How does God look to you?

Full of Grace and Truth

davidkitz:

There is so much grace and truth in this article by Kevin DeYoung, I felt I had to pass it on. Can opposite characteristics cohabit in the same body? Read on to find the answer.

Originally posted on LifeCoach4God:

grace and truth

By Kevin DeYoung

And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth. (John 1:14)

We need to be grace people and truth people. Not half grace and half truth. Not all grace on Mondays and all truth on Tuesdays. All grace and all truth all the time.

When I was being interviewed to be the pastor at University Reformed Church, I had to indicate where I was on a spectrum of issues. One of the lines measured grace versus truth. I wrote something like: “This is a bad question. Seeing as how Jesus came from the Father full of grace and truth, I believe we should be 100% in both directions.” I think they knew it was a loaded question and wanted to see my response.

“Or” Is Not an…

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