Our Refuge and Strength

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Reading:                                        Psalm 46

For the director of music. Of the Sons of Korah. According to alamoth. A song.

(Verses 1-7)

God is our refuge and strength,
an ever-present help in trouble.
Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way
and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea,
though its waters roar and foam
and the mountains quake with their surging.

There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God,
the holy place where the Most High dwells.
God is within her, she will not fall;
God will help her at break of day.
Nations are in uproar, kingdoms fall;
he lifts his voice, the earth melts.

The LORD Almighty is with us;
the God of Jacob is our fortress
(NIV).

Manhatten Skyline 2014-11-10Reflection

Why are you confident? Confidence is a key ingredient in the life of any child of God. If we lack confidence, we lack faith. In fact, the word confidence is rooted in faith. Confidence is derived from the Latin word fide, which means faith. It is etymologically linked to words like fidelity and fiduciary—words that stand for trust and true faithfulness. But this faithfulness, fidelity and confidence come as a result of a relationship.

If we have no relationship with someone, how can we trust them? How can we have confidence in them or their actions?

Here in Psalm 46, the psalmist expresses his complete confidence in God. He expresses that confidence despite the evidence around him. Hear his confident assertion: God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea, though its waters roar and foam and the mountains quake with their surging.

There is nothing quite as unnerving as an earthquake. I know this from personal experience. When the solid ground beneath one’s feet suddenly gives way and rolls and buckles, nerves begin to fray. But the psalmist remains confident because he knows the One who is in control—the One who remains unmoved and unshakable. In times of trouble we can turn to Him.

But we should not turn to God as a last resort. He is the God who is with us. Our confidence grows as we live with Him day by day, in good times and bad. We must experience Him as our rock of refuge and our shelter in the storm. Then we can say, “The LORD Almighty is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress.”

Response: LORD God, I put my trust in you. In times of trouble you have been my help and my strength. I turn to you in confidence. You are my Savior and my God. Amen.

Your Turn: Has your confidence been shaken recently? Where have you turned for help?

The Gallant Lover

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Reading:                                          Psalm 45

(Verses 10-17)

Listen, daughter, and pay careful attention:

    Forget your people and your father’s house.

Let the king be enthralled by your beauty;

    honor him, for he is your lord.

The city of Tyre will come with a gift,

    people of wealth will seek your favor.

All glorious is the princess within her chamber;

    her gown is interwoven with gold.

In embroidered garments she is led to the king;

    her virgin companions follow her—

    those brought to be with her.

Led in with joy and gladness,

    they enter the palace of the king.

Your sons will take the place of your fathers;

    you will make them princes throughout the land.

I will perpetuate your memory through all generations;

    therefore the nations will praise you for ever and ever (NIV).

 Reflection

If we interpret Psalm 45 as a messianic psalm, as most Bible scholars do, then it logically follows that Jesus is the royal bridegroom and the church is his chosen bride. For reasons we cannot fathom, the King has fallen in love with us. Now this would make sense if we possessed some godly characteristic or showed some inclination to holiness. But the scripture declares that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us (Romans 5:8).

Gatineau Park Trail -- David Kitz

Gatineau Park Trail — David Kitz

I am reminded of some romance novel, where the gallant lover takes off his coat and lays it in the mud so that his lady love can step across a puddle without soiling her shoes. Jesus is that gallant lover. But he did more than lay down his coat. He lay down his life that we might cross from death to life. Now that’s true romance! Jesus has romanced us into his kingdom, and I for one, am forever grateful.

Listen to the psalmist’s advice, “Listen, daughter, and pay careful attention: Forget your people and your father’s house. Let the king be enthralled by your beauty; honor him, for he is your lord. 

If you have bowed your knees at the foot of the cross, He is your Lord. Be beautiful for Him; you are his betrothed.  The apostle Paul reminds us of this truth with these words of admonition:  I am jealous for you with a godly jealousy. I promised you to one husband, to Christ, so that I might present you as a pure virgin to him (2 Corinthians 11:2).

Having been redeemed by Christ, it’s now time to make yourself presentable before Him, the eternal Lover of your soul.

Response: LORD God, I want to be beautiful for Jesus. I make it my aim to please you today. Amen.

Your Turn: In what ways can you make yourself beautiful for the King?

Anointed with the Oil of Joy

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Reading:                                         Psalm 45

For the director of music. To the tune of “Lilies.” Of the Sons of Korah. A maskil. A wedding song.

(Verses 1-9)

My heart is stirred by a noble theme as I recite my verses for the king;
my tongue is the pen of a skillful writer.

You are the most excellent of men and your lips have been anointed with grace,
since God has blessed you forever.

Gird your sword on your side, you mighty one;
clothe yourself with splendor and majesty.

In your majesty ride forth victoriously
in the cause of truth, humility and justice;
let your right hand achieve awesome deeds.
Let your sharp arrows pierce the hearts of the king’s enemies;
let the nations fall beneath your feet.
Your throne, O God, will last for ever and ever;
a scepter of justice will be the scepter of your kingdom.
You love righteousness and hate wickedness;
therefore God, your God, has set you above your companions
by anointing you with the oil of joy.
All your robes are fragrant with myrrh and aloes and cassia;
from palaces adorned with ivory the music of the strings makes you glad.
Daughters of kings are among your honored women;
at your right hand is the royal bride in gold of Ophir.
(NIV)

Reflection

The introductory words of Psalm 45 describe it as a wedding song, but it is not merely depicting the wedding of a commoner. This is the wedding of a king. No, this is not just a king; He is the King—the King of kings and Lord of lords. There is none like Him in heaven or on earth.

Old Orchard Beach, ME --David Kitz

Old Orchard Beach, ME –David Kitz

The New Testament writer of the Book of Hebrews quotes directly from this psalm: But about the Son he says, “Your throne, O God, will last for ever and ever; a scepter of justice will be the scepter of your kingdom. You have loved righteousness and hated wickedness; therefore God, your God, has set you above your companions by anointing you with the oil of joy” (Hebrews 1:8-9).

Of course, Jesus is the Son that the writer of Hebrews is referring to. The throne of Christ will last for ever and ever; His kingdom reign will never end. But how did Jesus come to occupy this exalted position? Though conceived by the Holy Spirit, He was nevertheless fully human. He was subject to the same frailties and temptations that we face.

This psalm tells us that Jesus was elevated to the highest throne because He loved righteousness and hated wickedness. Can the same be said about you and me? Do we love righteousness? Do we hate what is evil? The same oil of joy is available to those who follow in the footsteps of our Lord.

Response: LORD God, help me to love what you love and hate what you hate. Anoint me with your joy as I seek to follow you in every aspect of my life. I pray in Jesus’ name. Amen.

Your Turn: What do you love? What do you hate? Do some of these things need to change?

Pouring Out Your Complaint to God

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Reading:                                 Psalm 44

(Verses 17-26)
All this came upon us, though we had not forgotten you;
we had not been false to your covenant.
Our hearts had not turned back;
our feet had not strayed from your path.
But you crushed us and made us a haunt for jackals;
you covered us over with deep darkness.
If we had forgotten the name of our God
or spread out our hands to a foreign god,
would not God have discovered it,
since he knows the secrets of the heart?
Yet for your sake we face death all day long;
we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.
Awake, Lord! Why do you sleep?
Rouse yourself! Do not reject us forever.
Why do you hide your face and forget our misery and oppression?
We are brought down to the dust;
our bodies cling to the ground.
Rise up and help us; rescue us because of your unfailing love. (NIV)

Reflection
As previously noted, Psalm 44 begins in a very positive fashion as the psalmist recalls the goodness of the LORD and the great victories Israel has won because of the LORD’s help. But that is not the present reality. The present reality is filled with defeat, death and destruction. The psalmist moves from rejoicing over past victories to lamenting over present-day tribulations. Hear his words of anguish: Yet for your sake we face death all day long; we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.

Psalms Alive! by David Kitz

Psalms Alive! by David Kitz

What do you do in the midst of defeat? Do you put on a brave face and pretend all is going well? There may be occasions when putting on a brave face is warranted, even necessary—but inside, when we are alone with our thoughts we question why God would allow such things. Why would God allow a child to die? Why would He allow a natural disaster like an earthquake to claim countless innocent lives? Normally, these life-shattering matters don’t come with pat answers in tow. We are left in a state of grief and bewilderment.

Often believers see such events as retribution for sins committed against a holy God. But note the psalmist’s complaint: All this came upon us, though we had not forgotten you; we had not been false to your covenant. Our hearts had not turned back; our feet had not strayed from your path.

The brutal truth is bad things happen to good people. Sometimes Christians are martyred on a beach in Libya. Sometimes a cruel disease hems us in on every side and there is no escape, aside from death and heaven’s door. Sometimes all we can do is pour out our complaint before a God of unfailing love.

Response: LORD God, when life is hard, help me to remember to bring my complaints and travails to you. You are bigger than any agony or grief I may face. I call out to you, my Savior and my God. Amen.

Your Turn: In your opinion has God been unfair to you? How do you respond?

“What is Truth?”

davidkitz:

There are some excellent thoughts on prayer in this “Morning Meds” post.

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. 37 Pilate said, “So you are a king!”​ Jesus answered, “You are the one saying I am a king. This is why I was born and came into the world: to tell people the truth. And everyone who belongs to the truth listens to me.”​ 38 Pilate said, “What is truth?” After he said this, he went out to the crowd again and said to them, “I find nothing against this man. 39 But it is your custom that I free one prisoner to you at Passover time. Do you want me to free the ‘king of the Jews’?”​ 40 They shouted back, “No, not him! Let Barabbas go free!” (Barabbas was a robber.)—John 18:37-40 (NCV)
​Jesus states ​that the purpose of His being be born and coming into the world was to tell people the truth. Now, Pilate asks the ages-old…

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What do you do in times of defeat?

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Reading:                                          Psalm 44

(Verses 9-16)

But now you have rejected and humbled us;
you no longer go out with our armies.
You made us retreat before the enemy,
and our adversaries have plundered us.
You gave us up to be devoured like sheep
and have scattered us among the nations.
You sold your people for a pittance,
gaining nothing from their sale.

You have made us a reproach to our neighbors,
the scorn and derision of those around us.
You have made us a byword among the nations;
the peoples shake their heads at us.
I live in disgrace all day long,
and my face is covered with shame
at the taunts of those who reproach and revile me,
because of the enemy, who is bent on revenge.
(NIV)

Reflection

Psalm 44 begins on a very positive note as the psalmist recalls the goodness of the LORD and the great victories Israel has won because of the LORD’s help. But that was the past. This is now and the triumphs of bygone years are just fading memories. The current reality as described in this portion of the psalm is a depressing litany of disgrace, disaster and defeat.

The Path Forward -- David Kitz

The Path Forward — David Kitz

But now you have rejected and humbled us; you no longer go out with our armies. You made us retreat before the enemy, and our adversaries have plundered us.

We can all pretend that after we turn our lives over to Christ everything will go well for us. Often it does. After all, isn’t He on our side? Isn’t He working on our behalf for our success? Why would He allow stress, trouble and hardship to come our way?

The truth is the LORD is far more interested in developing our character than our comfort. Character development doesn’t happen without adversity. James, our Lord’s brother has some sound advice on this topic.

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).

I dislike adversity, but we should greet adversity as a friend—a friend that provokes us to prayer and to overcoming.

Response: LORD God, help me to see the difficulties I face as stepping stones to victory. I know I need your help, so I call out to you. Change me through the hard times. You are my Savior and my God. Amen.

Your Turn: How has adversity helped to develop your character?

What brings you success?

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Reading:                                      Psalm 44

For the director of music. Of the Sons of Korah. A maskil.

(Verses 1-8)

We have heard it with our ears, O God;
our ancestors have told us what you did in their days, 
in days long ago.

With your hand you drove out the nations and planted our ancestors;
you crushed the peoples and made our ancestors flourish.
It was not by their sword that they won the land,
nor did their arm bring them victory;
it was your right hand, your arm,
and the light of your face, for you loved them.

You are my King and my God, who decrees victories for Jacob.
 Through you we push back our enemies;
through your name we trample our foes.
I put no trust in my bow, my sword does not bring me victory;
but you give us victory over our enemies,
you put our adversaries to shame.
In God we make our boast all day long,
and we will praise your name forever.
(NIV)

Reflection

What brings you success? There are thousands of books, blogs and advice columns out there that promise you success. If you will just do this, that and this other thing, success is sure to come your way. Now don’t misunderstand me. Many of those self-improvement tips and success formulas can be helpful, if applied. And educating yourself on sound habits and business practices can be rewarding. But…

Winter Sunrise --David Kitz

Winter Sunrise –David Kitz

But if you succeed, what is the source of your success? The author of Psalm 44 would respond by saying success does not come from a formula, a habit or a tip. Success and victory come from the LORD. In this psalm the psalmist refers to the conquest of Canaan by the children of Israel. It was not by their sword that they won the land, nor did their arm bring them victory; it was your right hand, your arm, and the light of your face, for you loved them.

If you succeed in your field of endeavor, what will be the reason for your success? Undoubtedly, hard work, sound practices, wisdom and creativity all play a part, but there are plenty of people who have these character traits in spades, but still they fail to reach their potential. We only succeed—succeed in the fullest sense—when God is working with us. Paul, the apostle, reminds us of this truth, “No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us” (Romans 8:37).

We conquer in our field of endeavor when God is working with us. If you succeed, who is the reason for your success?

Response: LORD God, any success I have comes from you. Every triumph is a victory that you bring. Help me to always remember that you are my source. I succeed because of your love, Lord Jesus. Amen.

Your Turn: Who deserves the credit for your success?

Antique Rocker

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Occasionally, I write some poetry. In honour of Valentine’s Day, Flag Day and Family Day weekend here in Ontario, I offer this story/poem/lullaby.

Antique Rocker

We found it in the derelict farmhouse –

the abandoned house –

not really a house now.

For many years this home-of-the-pioneers had been used as a barn.

There in the lean-to kitchen it sat.

The ornately carved pressed back chair

looked so out of place,

yet somehow at home

in the grime and dust.

There through the decades it sat –

weathered into

its chicken coop surroundings –

A treasure sitting in barnyard filth.

Curious,

I lifted it up

Out of the mire

Out of the manure.

Then, I saw this was no chair.

From the muck and straw

emerged the rockers.

Here was an antique, pressed back rocker!

Now redeemed

It sits in my house –

In my home –

Washed clean,

Renewed,

A treasure.

Rocker 2015-02-13 On this antique rocker

My son was nursed.

His tears were wiped.

His cry was soothed.

Here he heard the Redeemer’s lullaby

Just like a hundred years ago.

Just like a hundred years ago.

Scan_20130801_142512 Rock me gently now,

My antique rocker.

As I drift off to sleep

Rock me gently.

Let me hear the Redeemer’s Lullaby.

Rock me gently now,

Just like a hundred years ago.

Just like a hundred years ago.

Rock me gently now.

From the seat of sweet redemption

Let me sing redemption’s song.

Let me sing redemption’s song –

the Redeemer’s Lullaby –

Just like two thousand years ago.

Just like two thousand years ago.

Because you pulled me from the mire,

Let me sing redemption’s song.

Let me sing redemption’s song –

the Redeemer’s Lullaby –

Ten thousand years from now.

Ten thousand years from now. . .

As I drift off. . .

Rock me gently,

Antique Rocker.

Have you been altered at the Altar?

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Reading:                                  Psalm 43

Vindicate me, my God, and plead my cause     

against an unfaithful nation.

Rescue me from those who are deceitful and wicked.

You are God my stronghold.     

Why have you rejected me?

Why must I go about mourning, oppressed by the enemy?

Send me your light and your faithful care,     

let them lead me; let them bring me to your holy mountain,     

to the place where you dwell.

Then I will go to the altar of God, to God, my joy and my delight.

I will praise you with the lyre, O God, my God.

Why, my soul, are you downcast?     

Why so disturbed within me?

Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him,

my Savior and my God. (NIV)

Reflection

I want to be proven right. Over and over again I find myself pleading to be heard—pleading to be proven right. That’s what it means to be vindicated. As I look about my country—as I look about the world—and read or watch the news of the day, I see so much injustice. Senseless death and destruction are everywhere.

Sunrise brings hope -- David Kitz

Sunrise brings hope — David Kitz

Courts that are intended to protect the innocent and vulnerable do the complete opposite. Evil is on a rampage. Islamic militants taunt and behead the innocent. Russian tanks invade Ukraine as long rang artillery flattens villages. Vicious rapists glory in their shame. In our cities gangster thugs roam freely.

But there is a better way—the way of the cross—the way of the Prince of Peace. Why can’t others see it? Why can’t they grasp it? Along with David we cry out, “Vindicate me, my God, and plead my cause against an unfaithful nation. Rescue me from those who are deceitful and wicked.”

In this bleak state of affairs, David appeals to the mercy of LORD, “Send me your light and your faithful care, let them lead me; let them bring me to your holy mountain, to the place where you dwell.”

David journeys to the altar. He is altered at the altar. The world is altered at the altar of God. Vindication comes at the altar. Victories over sin are won at the altar. Jesus is the sacrifice on the altar of God and when we gaze on him we are changed. Jesus said, “Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the wilderness, so the Son of Man must be lifted up, that everyone who believes may have eternal life in him” (John 3:14-15). Because of the cross—the altar of God—we have hope for the future.

Response: LORD God, alter me at the foot of the cross. I need you to change my heart, my life, my attitude. I put my hope in you, Lord. You are my Savior and my God. Amen.

Your Turn: Has your life been altered by the cross?

Hope for the Downcast Soul

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Reading:                                       Psalm 42

 (Verses 6-11)

My soul is downcast within me;     

therefore I will remember you from the land of the Jordan,     

the heights of Hermon—from Mount Mizar.

Deep calls to deep in the roar of your waterfalls;

all your waves and breakers have swept over me.

By day the LORD directs his love,     

at night his song is with me—a prayer to the God of my life.

I say to God my Rock,     

“Why have you forgotten me?

Why must I go about mourning, oppressed by the enemy?”

My bones suffer mortal agony as my foes taunt me,

saying to me all day long, “Where is your God?”

Why, my soul, are you downcast?     

Why so disturbed within me?

Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him,     

my Savior and my God.  (NIV)

Reflection

Let’s face the truth. We all go through times when we are downcast. A few minutes ago my wife asked me, “Are you grumpy today?”

I was surprised she noticed. I thought I had been hiding my downcast state quite well. After reflecting a moment I answered, “I guess I am.” Then I began to justify my grumpy mood. “It’s cold, windy and snowing. Again! And my face feels numb and puffy from my visit to the dentist.”

Ice Formation-- Ottawa River -- David Kitz

Ice Formation– Ottawa River — David Kitz

What I didn’t say was that I was discouraged about my writing career. My literary agent may drop me as a client. Every news report I read seems to be filled with gloom and dire predictions. I have a backache, probably from shovelling snow. And did I mention that this winter feels interminable? Along with the psalmist, David, I can say, “My soul is downcast within me.”

But David didn’t stay wallowing in his pity party. He rallied through songs of worship and prayer. Hear his words, “By day the LORD directs his love, at night his song is with me—a prayer to the God of my life.”

When I am discouraged—when you are discouraged—we can both do the same. We can turn to the LORD in song. I can pray to the God of my life—the God who knew me in my mother’s womb—the God who left His throne to rescue me. Why should I be downcast when Jesus cast himself down on my behalf?

Response: LORD God, I thank you for Jesus. I am thankful that he willingly laid down his life so that I could be forgiven and experience new life. I put my hope in my Savior and my God. Hallelujah! Amen.

Your Turn: What do you do when times of discouragement come?

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