THE SOLDIER, THE TERRORIST AND THE DONKEY KING: the most cinematic account of the Passion of Christ that I have ever read.

davidkitz:

I don’t like to blow my own horn, but this book review by Alex Szollo certainly sounds a horn on my behalf. In this post Alex reviews my Passion of Christ novel, The Soldier, the Terrorist & the Donkey King.

Originally posted on Alexszollo's Blog:

Entire libraries can be filled with accounts of the life and times of Jesus Christ, worshipped by billions of people all over the world as the Son of God, the Messiah, the Savior of the world, and this has, of course, happened over the course of time. I’ve always been fascinated with Jesus and the world He was born, lived, died and resurrected in. I’ve seen countless movies based on His life, and I’ve read a wealth of fiction books, from all sorts of perspectives.bl

I think it’s safe to say that after years of reading about Christ, I found the most gripping, dramatic account of His passion that I’ve ever read. It arrived in the form of a novel called THE SOLDIER, THE TERRORIST AND THE DONKEY KING, written by David Kitz, whom I wholeheartedly thank for the signed copy of the novel. I also hereby declare that…

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The City of God

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Reading:                                          Psalm 48

A song. A psalm of the Sons of Korah.

(Verses 1-8)

Great is the LORD, and most worthy of praise, in the city of our God, his holy mountain.

Beautiful in its loftiness, the joy of the whole earth, like the heights of Zaphon is Mount Zion, the city of the Great King.

God is in her citadels; he has shown himself to be her fortress.

When the kings joined forces, when they advanced together, they saw her and were astounded; they fled in terror.

Trembling seized them there, pain like that of a woman in labor. You destroyed them like ships of Tarshish shattered by an east wind.

As we have heard, so we have seen in the city of the LORD Almighty, in the city of our God: God makes her secure forever (NIV).

Reflection

I grew up on a farm in wide open rural Saskatchewan. It was a cross-country mile to the nearest neighbour, but if you stood at the right spot in our farmyard, you could see our neighbour’s house. I loved growing up on the farm and I still love visiting. Who wouldn’t? I was living in God’s country surrounded by the wild beauty of nature in all its varied, changing forms.

Easter Sunrise --David Kitz

Easter Sunrise –David Kitz

But I have spent the last forty years living in the city—actually three rather large cities with populations of more than a million. Is the God of the open country the God of the city too? The psalmist seemed to think so. He begins Psalm 48 with this declaration: Great is the LORD, and most worthy of praise, in the city of our God, his holy mountain.

Of course the sons of Korah were referring to biblical Jerusalem, more specifically Mount Zion, the fortified citadel within the walls of Israel’s capital. God was within her. During the reign of David the Ark of the Covenant—the seat of the LORD’s rule—was housed in the sacred tabernacle on Mount Zion. This was where God dwelt.

Where does God dwell today? As partakers of the new covenant, through the blood of Christ we are the temples of God. Paul, the apostle, asks, “Don’t you know that you yourselves are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in your midst?” (1 Corinthians 3:16). God dwells in the city too—your city. Whether it’s Edmonton, Ottawa, New York or Tokyo, God is within her because His redeemed people live there.

Response: LORD, I thank you because you live within us! Help me to let my light shine in my city. Amen.

Your Turn: How would you characterize your city? How is God revealing His presence there?

Resurrection Victory!

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Reading:                                Psalm 47

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

Clap your hands, all you nations; shout to God with cries of joy.

For the LORD Most High is awesome, the great King over all the earth. He subdued nations under us, peoples under our feet. He chose our inheritance for us, the pride of Jacob, whom he loved.

God has ascended amid shouts of joy, the LORD amid the sounding of trumpets. Sing praises to God, sing praises; sing praises to our King, sing praises. For God is the King of all the earth; sing to him a psalm of praise.

God reigns over the nations; God is seated on his holy throne. The nobles of the nations assemble as the people of the God of Abraham, for the kings of the earth belong to God; he is greatly exalted (NIV).

Reflection

I appreciate God’s timing; it brings a smile to my face. Last week’s psalm reading seemed particularly appropriate as we reflected on the events of Good Friday. This week’s psalm posting is fitting as we rejoice in the triumph of the resurrection. I can’t help but think of the risen Christ as I read these words: God has ascended amid shouts of joy, the LORD amid the sounding of trumpets.

Resurrection Sunrise, Durham, ON --David Kitz

Resurrection Sunrise, Durham, ON –David Kitz

Psalm 47 calls forth a spontaneous joy. It is a song of celebration to the LORD for the victories of the LORD. He has conquered! What has He conquered? The LORD has conquered the nations. Sing praises to God, sing praises; sing praises to our King, sing praises. For God is the King of all the earth; sing to him a psalm of praise. God reigns over the nations; God is seated on his holy throne.

In its original context, Psalm 47 celebrated the victory of Israel over the surrounding nations. But that is a feeble victory compared to Christ the King’s triumph over death, hell and the power of grave. Hallelujah! The King is alive. He arose from the dead. The power of sin and Satan are defeated, and because He lives and reigns we too will live and reign with Him through eternity. For if, while we were God’s enemies, we were reconciled to him through the death of his Son, how much more, having been reconciled, shall we be saved through his life! (Romans 5:10).

In the resurrection of Jesus we have the ultimate cause for celebration. Shout to God with cries of joy!

Response: LORD God, I thank you for the victory of Jesus! I will live and reign through Him. Amen.

Your Turn: The resurrection means the dead in Christ will be raised. Who will you want to greet first?

Learning to Be Still

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Reading:                                           Psalm 46

 (Verses 8-11)

Come and see what the LORD has done,
the desolations he has brought on the earth.
He makes wars cease
to the ends of the earth.
He breaks the bow and shatters the spear;
he burns the shields with fire.
He says, “Be still, and know that I am God;
I will be exalted among the nations,
I will be exalted in the earth.”

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

Reflection

As I sit writing this, it’s Holy Week—a week of contemplation leading to Good Friday—leading to our Savior’s death on the cross. The opening line of this reading from Psalm 46 grabs my attention: Come and see what the LORD has done.

Ecclesiax Iron Cross -- David Kitz

Ecclesiax Iron Cross — David Kitz 

Yes. Come and see what the LORD has done! Come and see what has happened to God’s son. Come and see the desolations he has brought on the earth—the desolations He has brought on the dust-formed bundle of flesh that at birth was laid in a manager. Now he is laid on a cross. He is not wrapped in swaddling clothes. He is stripped naked, pried wide open and nailed to a cross.

Come and see what has happened to him. This is the LORD’s doing. This is the Father’s will. This is the Son’s willing obedience. Now hear the Spirit’s beckoning call, “Come and see what the LORD has done!”

This is what love looks like—not love for God—love for man. God’s love looks like Jesus on the cross. Love looks like a bloody sacrifice, engineered by God, inflicted on God, God come-in-the-flesh. Love looks painful. It looks painful because it gives to the last drop. It calls us near to the last breath. “Come and see what the LORD has done!”

And when you come be still. He says, “Be still, and know that I am God.”

This is not the time to rush. Eve reached for the forbidden fruit. Adam rushed after her. Rushing has brought us this mess—this messed up world—this mess on the cross. Self-centered rushing hurtles us into sin with no thought for tomorrow—no thought for a man on a cross. Instead today, “Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.”

Be still. Be still before the cross. He is God. The man on the cross is God. Love has a price, always has a price. It’s written in blood—the Savior’s blood.

Response: LORD God, alter me at the foot of the cross. I need you to change my heart, my life, my attitude. Help me be still before you as I contemplate your love. Amen.

Your Turn: Does the cross have meaning for you?

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?

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