God Speaks

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Reading:                                      Psalm 32

(Verses 8-11)
I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go;
I will counsel you and watch over you.
Do not be like the horse or the mule,
which have no understanding
but must be controlled by bit and bridle
or they will not come to you.
Many are the woes of the wicked,
but the L
ORD’s unfailing love
surrounds the one who trusts in him.
Rejoice in the LORD and be glad, you righteous;
sing, all you who are upright in heart!
(NIV)

Reflection
In Psalm 32 God speaks back. David begins this psalm and we clearly can hear his voice addressing us, as he tells how wonderful it is to be forgiven. He then goes on to speak of his own struggle with unconfessed sin. Finally, he tells us of the great relief he experienced as he is pardoned and restored to a place of close fellowship with the LORD. But then abruptly in verse eight, we hear a different voice. God is speaking. The LORD responds to what David has said. Through this psalm David is modelling true prayer. This psalm is two-way communication.

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Petrie Island sunset — photo by David Kitz

We have heard David’s words; let’s hear God’s words now. I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will counsel you and watch over you.

Clearly this is not the voice of David. David is not going to counsel and watch over us. This is the work of the LORD. The LORD will teach and guide us. It is His role to shepherd the flock of His pasture.

These words, from verse eight to the end of this psalm are coming from the LORD. David has heard God speak, and now he is passing on this message from the LORD directly to us. In this respect David is fulfilling the role of a prophet. He is acting as God’s spokesperson. In fact in Acts 2:30, Peter asserts that David was a prophet. And what is a prophet? In the simplest terms, it is someone who hears God, and then passes on God’s message to others.

Do you hear God? This is no idle, rhetorical question. It is essential to our Christian faith that we as believers hear the voice of God. I would go so far as to say, that you cannot experience salvation unless you first hear God. Jesus said, “My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish” John 10:27-28a (NIV).

In short, we must be able to hear Jesus in order to follow Him, and it is in following Him that we receive eternal life. Hearing God’s voice is of paramount importance.

Response: LORD God, give me ears to hear what you have to say to me. Please instruct me and teach me in the way I should go. Then give me grace to obey. I put my trust in you, O LORD. Amen.

Your Turn: Do you hear God’s voice? How does He speak to you? Have you heard the Lord’s voice recently? How do you distinguish God’s voice from all the other voices that you hear?

Hide ‘n’ Seek with God

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Reading:                                      Psalm 32

(Verses 6-7)
Therefore let everyone who is godly pray to you,
while you may be found;
surely when the mighty waters rise,
they will not reach him.
You are my hiding place;
you will protect me from trouble
and surround me with songs of deliverance
(NIV).

Reflection
In the previous stanza of this psalm, David received the amazing dam-busting forgiveness of God. He has just experienced a wonderful release from a load of guilt. But now in his next breath he has some advice for us, and here it is. Therefore let everyone who is godly pray to you, while you may be found.

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Is God near or distant? — Ottawa River photo by David Kitz

We are to pray to God while He may be found. This raises some interesting questions. Is God unavailable at times? If God cannot be found, is He hiding? Furthermore, if God is hiding, where does He hide?

At this point I feel like jumping to my feet, like a lawyer pleading a case in the court of reason, and shouting out, “I object! All that David has told us about God so far would lead us to believe that God is always close at hand. Didn’t David testify to this earlier in Psalm twenty-three? He said the following words about the LORD his shepherd: Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me. And now it seems David is telling us that there are times when God cannot be found. Which is it David? It can’t be both.”

Ah, but it is both. This is one of those great divine paradoxes. The God, who is near, even in my heart, can also be distant—light years away, both in time and space. There exists a perceived distance between us that can vary according to the state of my heart—according to the state of my relationship with God.

The fact remains that we cannot see God though we see evidence of His handiwork all around us. Our infinitely complex human bodies and finely tuned senses are themselves proof of His existence, yet Him we cannot see. He is a hidden God, and when we walk beside Him, we walk by faith and not by sight.

Repeatedly in the scriptures we are commanded to seek after the LORD. I find this to be a rather curious expression. We cannot see God, and yet we are commanded to seek Him, as though He might suddenly appear over the next hill, or around the next bend in the road. Suddenly, in unexpected ways, we may encounter God. In reality the Psalms are all about encounters with God. Psalm nineteen began that way. Suddenly the starry hosts began talking to David about God, declaring His glory. We may pick up the Bible, and suddenly it speaks to our deepest need—the need of the moment, and we know that this is the voice of God with a word specifically for us today. Even the ungodly people of this world recognize that people encounter God. They use expressions like, “He found God,” to describe someone’s conversion to faith in Christ. The LORD invites us to play the most amazing game: Hide ‘n’ seek with God.

Response: LORD God, I want to seek after you. Show yourself to me today in this grand adventure called life. I want to have an encounter with you. I want to know what it means to be found by you. Amen.

Your Turn: Have you had a recent encounter with God? Do you sense His nearness or distance?

Dam Breaking

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Reading:                                     Psalm 32

Of David. A maskil.
(Verses 1-5)
Blessed is the one
whose transgressions are forgiven,
whose sins are covered.
Blessed is the one
whose sin the L
ORD does not count against them
and in whose spirit is no deceit.
When I kept silent,
my bones wasted away through my groaning all day long.
For day and night your hand was heavy on me;
my strength was sapped as in the heat of summer.
Then I acknowledged my sin to you
and did not cover up my iniquity.
I said, “I will confess my transgressions to the L
ORD.”
And you forgave the guilt of my sin
(NIV).

Reflection
A right relationship with God is like a flowing stream. In such a relationship there is a natural giving to God that includes prayer, worship, time spent in His word, and periods of quiet communion. In turn, God by the Holy Spirit pours His peace, love and joy into our lives. And just as trees naturally line a river bank, there is a verdant fruitfulness that comes to the believer as that refreshing current is allowed to flow.

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The Rideau Falls, Ottawa, ON — photo by David Kitz

Sin acts like a boulder hindering the flow of God’s Spirit in our lives. As more and more un-repented sin piles up, a dam is formed. Suddenly prayer stops. Worship and thanksgiving that once cascaded so freely from our lips comes to a halt. The word of God becomes boring, and we find other interests. Times of quiet communion with our Maker are replaced by a search for other things like constant entertainment.

This is the state of David’s soul at the start of this psalm. The flow has stopped. Where was the overflowing cup experience of Psalm twenty-three? At this point David’s cup—his soul—is sitting stagnant. And in the natural realm any liquid left unstirred becomes foul as time goes by. David’s spiritual life was turning into a swamp because of unconfessed sin.

But there was a turning point for David: Then I acknowledged my sin to you and did not cover up my iniquity. I said, “I will confess my transgressions to the LORD.”

Confession breaks the dam. David verbally brought his sin out in the open before God. He acknowledged what God knew all along. You see David’s sin and my sin are never hidden from God. Our sin is always in plain sight of the LORD. But praise God! He forgives the guilt of our sin when we break the spiritual dam through confession. Repentance restores the flow.

Response: LORD God, have mercy on me. I acknowledge my sin to you and do not cover up my iniquity. I need your forgiveness. I put my trust in the redeeming sacrifice of your Son, Jesus. Amen.

Your Turn: Has unconfessed sin dammed up the flow of prayer and worship in your life?

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Living in a City Under Siege

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Reading:                                     Psalm 31

(Verses 21-24)
Praise be to the LORD,
for he showed me the wonders of his love
when I was in a city under siege.
In my alarm I said,
“I am cut off from your sight!”
Yet you heard my cry for mercy
when I called to you for help.
Love the LORD, all his faithful people!
The L
ORD preserves those who are true to him,
but the proud he pays back in full.
Be strong and take heart,
all you who hope in the L
ORD (NIV).

Reflection
David ends Psalm 31 with a testimony to God’s great love and mercy. Hear his declaration: Praise be to the LORD, for he showed me the wonders of his love when I was in a city under siege. In my alarm I said, “I am cut off from your sight!” Yet you heard my cry for mercy when I called to you for help.

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The Rideau Canal in downtown Ottawa — photo by David Kitz

Are you living in a city under siege? My quick and simple answer is no. My city is not surrounded by enemy troops who are lobbing artillery shells down on my neighbourhood.

While in the physical sense that may be true, in the spiritual realm my city is caught up in active warfare. Demonic forces are firing their missiles into my city. The airwaves and social media feeds are filled with smut and pornography. In the public square Christian faith is routinely mocked and under attack. Atheists trumpet their cause with bestselling books and spew venom on any who dare to embrace the faith.

Meanwhile, pop culture plunges headlong into the deep end of gothic horror, vampire blood lust and zombie self-identification. Then we stand back in amazement when those same young people lash out in murderous deranged madness as happened when five young people were stabbed to death in Calgary or in my hometown when an eighteen-year-old killed his mother.

When you shun God and bed down with the devil, many are going end up hurt. My city is under siege, but with the help and grace of God, I will not succumb to the enemies attack. I will emerge triumphant. David did. And here is his advice for you and me: Love the LORD, all his faithful people!

David’s advice is counterintuitive. Take your eyes off the enemy. Don’t be mesmerized by the devil’s devices and machinations. Your salvation comes from the LORD. Set your heart and your affections on Him. The LORD preserves those who are true to him, but the proud he pays back in full. Be strong and take heart, all you who hope in the LORD.

Response: LORD God, have mercy on me. I love you, LORD. Preserve me through the unfailing love of your Son, Jesus. I will be strong and take heart because I set my hope on you. Amen.

Your Turn: Do you feel that your faith is under attack? How do you respond? Do you cower or advance?

Because He Loves Me

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I will praise Him!

Karen Iris 2016-06-07

Backyard iris — photo by David Kitz

“Because he loves me,” says the LORD, “I will rescue him;
    I will protect him, for he acknowledges my name.
He will call on me, and I will answer him;
    I will be with him in trouble,
    I will deliver him and honor him.
With long life I will satisfy him
    and show him my salvation.”

(Psalm 91:14-16, NIV)

How generous is God?

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Reading:                                      Psalm 31

Verses 19-20

How abundant are the good things
that you have stored up for those who fear you,
that you bestow in the sight of all,
on those who take refuge in you.
In the shelter of your presence you hide them
from all human intrigues;
you keep them safe in your dwelling
from accusing tongues
(NIV).

Reflection
Our view of God is of crucial importance. It will greatly influence how we live our lives on planet earth. Is He a divine ogre waiting to pounce on us for the slightest transgression? Is He aloof, hard of hearing, out of touch and out of reach? Does He stand opposed to your wishes and dreams—the nagging heavenly parent who frowns at your ambitions?

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Bilberry Creek, Orleans, Ontario — photo by David Kitz

That’s not David’s view of God. He saw a caring LORD of heaven and earth, who was only too eager to bless those who sought refuge in Him. That’s why David exclaims, “How abundant are the good things that you have stored up for those who fear you that you bestow in the sight of all, on those who take refuge in you.” 

Think of it for a moment: God has a storehouse of good things just waiting for you. He has prepared a whole series of blessings that He will lavish on those who fear Him. Furthermore, the LORD will bestow those blessings in the sight of all—on all who seek shelter in the shadow of His wings. Now that’s a picture of an amazing God.

What might some of those good things be? First and foremost the LORD has an abundance of mercy set aside just for you. In the midst of unparalleled disaster, as a witness to the destruction of Jerusalem, the prophet Jeremiah rightly discerned the heart of the LORD. Through the LORD’s mercies we are not consumed, because His compassions fail not. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness (Lamentations 3:22-23). For Jeremiah God was good all the time, even in disaster.

God has an abundance of love, peace and joy set aside just for you. Tap into it; drink deep of it. It’s there for you. For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking, but of righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit, because anyone who serves Christ in this way is pleasing to God and receives human approval (Romans 14:17-18).

We serve a generous God—a God of grace who extends unmerited favor to us. In your mind, stop limiting His blessings. They are abundant, they are stored up for you and they will manifest in the lives of those who love and fear Him.

Response: LORD God, thank you for all the good things you have stored up for me, both temporal and spiritual. I rejoice in you! You are a generous God lavishing mercy on me through your son, Jesus. Amen.

Your Turn: How do you see God? Do you have the right perspective of Him? Is He opposed to your wishes and dreams?

My Times Are in Your Hands

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Reading:                                     Psalm 31

(Verses 14-18)

But I trust in you, LORD;
I say, “You are my God.”
My times are in your hands;
deliver me from the hands of my enemies,
from those who pursue me.
Let your face shine on your servant;
save me in your unfailing love.
 Let me not be put to shame, L
ORD,
for I have cried out to you;
but let the wicked be put to shame
and be silent in the realm of the dead.
Let their lying lips be silenced,
for with pride and contempt
they speak arrogantly against the righteous
(NIV).

Reflection

Yesterday I made a trip to the hospital to visit a neighbor from down my street who is dying due to a brain tumor. Today, I just returned from visiting another neighbor who is dying due to heart failure. About ten years ago this medical missionary had a heart transplant. Now that heart is being rejected, and she has less than a year to live. Making matters more dire, she has a thirteen-year-old son and a ten-year-old daughter.

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Landestreu sunrise — photo courtesy of Donald Adam

David spoke the truth when he declared, “My times are in your hands.” We have no idea—no certainty about what tomorrow will bring. Will it bring life or death, joy or sorrow, pain or ecstasy, excitement or boredom? Our times are in His hands. We devise our plans, but ultimately the LORD determines the outcome. Many are the plans in a person’s heart, but it is the LORD’s purpose that prevails (Proverbs 19:21).

As if to prove my point, as I went on line to search for the Proverbs passage quoted above, I discovered that Canada’s former finance minister, Jim Flaherty, had suddenly died of a heart attack. While to non-Canadian readers the name Jim Flaherty may mean nothing, to those who live in the true north strong and free Mr. Flaherty was a well-known and well-respected leader who piloted Canada through the Great Recession with consummate skill. He retired just one month before his sudden passing. Mr. Flaherty’s times were in His—that is God’s hands.

But we can easily forget that our times are in God’s hands. It is God who judges: He brings one down, he exalts another (Psalm 75:7). He determines the length of our days. That’s why the opening words of this psalm portion are so important. David asserts, “But I trust in you, LORD; I say, ‘You are my God.'”

In life and in death He is Lord. Put your trust in Him for today, for tomorrow and for all eternity.

Response: LORD God, I do not know what the future holds for me, but like David, I put my trust in you. Guide me in your ways. My life is in your hands. Amen.

Your Turn: How long do you think you have on this earth? Are you ready for eternity?

Postscript: This post was originally written three years ago. Both neighbors to whom I referred have passed away. The cancer patient died a few months later, but the heart transplant recipient survived until this spring.

Stuck in a Dry Well

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Reading:                                     Psalm 31

(Verses 9-13)

Be merciful to me, LORD, for I am in distress;
my eyes grow weak with sorrow,
my soul and body with grief.
My life is consumed by anguish
and my years by groaning;
my strength fails because of my affliction,
and my bones grow weak.
Because of all my enemies,
I am the utter contempt of my neighbors
and an object of dread to my closest friends—
those who see me on the street flee from me.
I am forgotten as though I were dead;
I have become like broken pottery.
For I hear many whispering,
“Terror on every side!”
They conspire against me
and plot to take my life
(NIV).

Reflection
How often do you find yourself crying out for mercy as David does at the start of this psalm portion? I confess daily I need God’s mercy. Be merciful to me, LORD, for I am in distress; my eyes grow weak with sorrow, my soul and body with grief.

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Are you in narrow place or a wide open space? — photo by David KItz

The desperate cry for help is a recurring theme throughout the psalms. While there is plenty of rejoicing and we find ample helpings of praise for the LORD throughout the Book of Psalms, we also find time after time David and the other writers of the psalms calling out to God for mercy. It is as though David has stumbled into a dry well and has no one to rescue him. Only God can help. Only God will listen.

Is that where you find yourself? In this psalm portion we can see that David is experiencing a deep sense of abandonment. He feels he is alone with none to help. He laments, “I am forgotten as though I were dead.”

Is that where you find yourself? But David’s sense of abandonment plums even greater depths. Not only does David feel the sting of rejection, he also feels totally worthless. In his despair he cries, “I have become like broken pottery.” It appears as though he has lost all sense of meaning and purpose to his life. He is abandoned, useless and worthless.

Is that where you find yourself? Then do as David did. Pour out your complaint to God. Call out to Him. He is listening. He cares and He answers. The LORD has not changed.

Response: LORD God, have mercy on me. Come to my aid. When I stumble and fall into the dry well of despair, please come to my rescue. Help me see Jesus peering down at me. Loving Jesus, extend your hand of help. Amen.

Your Turn: Reflect on how God has helped you in the past. Has he pulled you out of a pit?