The Sacrifice of Thanksgiving

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Reading:                                         Psalm 50

(Verses 7-15)

“Listen, my people, and I will speak;
I will testify against you, Israel:
I am God, your God.
I bring no charges against you concerning your sacrifices
or concerning your burnt offerings, which are ever before me.
I have no need of a bull from your stall
or of goats from your pens,
for every animal of the forest is mine,
and the cattle on a thousand hills.
I know every bird in the mountains,
and the insects in the fields are mine.
If I were hungry I would not tell you,
for the world is mine, and all that is in it.
Do I eat the flesh of bulls or drink the blood of goats?

 “Sacrifice thank offerings to God,
fulfill your vows to the Most High,
and call on me in the day of trouble;
I will deliver you, and you will honor me”
(NIV).

Reflection

What is humanity’s greatest sin? Think about that for a moment. Is it murder? Hatred? Racism? The desecration of the planet? All of these are serious problems—serious sins. But what is the greatest sin?

Central Park, New York, NY - David Kitz

Central Park, New York, NY – David Kitz

Psalm 50 begins with a great summoning of all nations. The LORD is about to enter into judgment. But what charge does He bring against His people? He does not accuse them of heinous crimes, or the desecration of His temple. I bring no charges against you concerning your sacrifices or concerning your burnt offerings, which are ever before me. Instead God calls for thank offerings. The LORD wants His people to have thankful hearts.

There is something rather anticlimactic about this call for thanksgiving. My initial reaction is one of surprise. I thought we had a serious problem here. Why summon the nations to a great gathering unless there is a declaration of some significance. Surely a lack of thanksgiving is an offence of no great significance. Or is it? Apparently in God’s view it is of great importance.

In his epistle to the Romans, St. Paul attributes a lack of thankfulness to the blinding power and deception of sin. For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse, because, although they knew God, they did not glorify Him as God, nor were thankful, but became futile in their thoughts, and their foolish hearts were darkened (Romans 1:20-21).

Because of its long term consequences, a failure to offer thanks may be the gravest sin of all.

Response: LORD God, I owe my life to you. I have so much to be thankful for. Every day is a gift. Amen.

Your Turn: What are you most thankful for?

The Great Summoning!

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Reading:                                          Psalm 50

A psalm of Asaph.

(Verses 1-6)

The Mighty One, God, the LORD,
speaks and summons the earth
from the rising of the sun to where it sets.
From Zion, perfect in beauty,
God shines forth.
Our God comes and will not be silent;
a fire devours before him,
and around him a tempest rages.
He summons the heavens above,
and the earth, that he may judge his people:
“Gather to me this consecrated people,
who made a covenant with me by sacrifice.”
And the heavens proclaim his righteousness,
for he is a God of justice
(NIV).

Reflection

Psalm 50 begins by reminding us that Judgment Day is coming. A great summoning will take place. We will all gather before the throne of God. Rich and poor, the powerful and the weak, the living and the dead—all will gather before the LORD. None are excused. The Mighty One, God, the LORD, speaks and summons the earth from the rising of the sun to where it sets.

On the day before his crucifixion Jesus elaborated at some length on this great summoning. For some it will be a day of joy and gladness; for others it will be a day of dread and sorrow. “When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his glorious throne. All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left” (Matthew 25:31-33).

Swamp tree2015-05-02

Lagoon Tree — David Kitz

What kind of day will it be for you?

It will certainly be a day of justice. The world is crying out for justice. All too often in this world—in this life—there is no such thing. The innocent suffer, while the perpetrators get off free. They gloat in their pride, while swaddled in luxury. On that great day—that Judgment Day—the tables will be turned. The great Judge of all the earth will see to that. And so He should. Since the fall of man, the world is crying out for justice.

It is well worth noting that in his account of Judgment Day, Jesus decides if we will enter into bliss or torment based on how we treat others. He states, “The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me’ (Matthew 25:40).

Response: LORD God, help me to live my life in joyous preparation for that great summoning when wrong will be made right. Help me to be merciful so that I will receive your mercy in Jesus’ name. Amen.

Your Turn: How can we prepare our hearts and live our lives aright in the knowledge that Judgment Day is coming?

Two Fates—One Choice

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Reading:                                     Psalm 49

(Verses 13-20)

This is the fate of those who trust in themselves,
and of their followers, who approve their sayings.
They are like sheep and are destined to die;
death will be their shepherd
(but the upright will prevail over them in the morning).
Their forms will decay in the grave,
far from their princely mansions.
But God will redeem me from the realm of the dead;
he will surely take me to himself.
Do not be overawed when others grow rich,
when the splendor of their houses increases;
for they will take nothing with them when they die,
their splendor will not descend with them.
Though while they live they count themselves blessed—
and people praise you when you prosper—
they will join those who have gone before them,
who will never again see the light of life.

People who have wealth but lack understanding
are like the beasts that perish
(NIV).

Reflection

Throughout Psalm 49 the psalmist is establishing a contrast between those who trust in themselves and the wealth they have accumulated, and those who put their trust in God. Death is the fate of all, rich and poor, wise and foolish. The grave spares no one. This is the fate of those who trust in themselves, and of their followers, who approve their sayings. They are like sheep and are destined to die; death will be their shepherd (but the upright will prevail over them in the morning).

Daffodils-- David Kitz

Daffodils– David Kitz

I find great hope between the parentheses in the passage above. But the upright will prevail over them in the morning. A new day is coming—a day of resurrection—a day where justice will prevail at last. We can rest in hope that wrongs will be righted, truth will triumph over lies, and joy will snuff out sorrow. Yes, a new morning will dawn. A Redeemer is coming. Along with suffering Job believers can say, “I know that my redeemer lives, and that in the end he will stand on the earth. And after my skin has been destroyed, yet in my flesh I will see God” (Job 19:25-26).

The psalmist boldly declares where he has placed his faith: But God will redeem me from the realm of the dead; he will surely take me to himself.

Is that where you have placed your faith? Do you put your trust in Jesus, the Redeemer, who purchased your redemption with his shed blood? Death is a certainty, but so is redemption for those who put their trust in the One who died and rose again.

Response: LORD God, I thank you that Jesus, my Redeemer, lives! I put my trust in you, now and for eternity. I rest in the hope that a new day will dawn when the dead in Christ will rise. Amen.

Your Turn: Is your heart ready for that glorious day?

The Psalmist Gets it Wrong!

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Reading:                                          Psalm 49

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

(Verses 1-12)

Hear this, all you peoples;
listen, all who live in this world,
both low and high, rich and poor alike:
My mouth will speak words of wisdom;
the meditation of my heart will give you understanding.
I will turn my ear to a proverb;
with the harp I will expound my riddle:

Why should I fear when evil days come,
when wicked deceivers surround me—

 those who trust in their wealth and boast of their great riches?

No one can redeem the life of another
or give to God a ransom for them—

the ransom for a life is costly, no payment is ever enough—

so that they should live on forever and not see decay.
For all can see that the wise die,
that the foolish and the senseless also perish,
leaving their wealth to others.
Their tombs will remain their houses forever,
their dwellings for endless generations,
though they had named lands after themselves.

People, despite their wealth, do not endure;
they are like the beasts that perish
(NIV).

Reflection

This opening portion of Psalm 49 reminds me of that old maxim: There are only two certainties in this life: death and taxes. The same fate awaits us all; no one is spared. The Grim Reaper cuts down all without exception. The psalmist asserts the obvious: For all can see that the wise die, that the foolish and the senseless also perish, leaving their wealth to others. 

“Where, O death, is your victory? (1 Corinthians 15:55)

“Where, O death, is your victory? (1 Corinthians 15:55)

But the psalmist is not entirely correct. He makes a sweeping statement that fails to account for a most unusual exception. The psalmist states: No one can redeem the life of another or give to God a ransom for them—the ransom for a life is costly, no payment is ever enough—so that they should live on forever and not see decay.

Jesus Christ is that unusual exception. He proves the psalmist wrong. Jesus paid my ransom. He redeemed my life. He went to the cross on my behalf and there he poured out his life blood so that I can live forever. Then to prove that Jesus’ sacrifice was accepted, God the Father raised Him from the dead. Death no longer has dominion over Him. Better still, those who put their trust in Jesus Christ will be raised to life on the last day. Praise be to God, who breaks the bonds of death.

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

Your Turn: Jesus faced death and overcame. Will you be an overcomer too?

My Cityscape

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Reading:                                          Psalm 48

(Verses 9-14)

Within your temple, O God,
we meditate on your unfailing love.
Like your name, O God,
your praise reaches to the ends of the earth;
your right hand is filled with righteousness.
Mount Zion rejoices,
the villages of Judah are glad
because of your judgments.

Walk about Zion, go around her,
count her towers,
consider well her ramparts,
view her citadels,
that you may tell of them
to the next generation.

For this God is our God for ever and ever;
he will be our guide even to the end (NIV).

Reflection

Have you watched a television newscast recently? Invariably at some point during that telecast you will see a cityscape—a grand view of the city skyline in all its glory. If experts from Montreal, Vancouver or Chicago are being interviewed, they will appear against the backdrop of a large photo of their city. Routinely, sports telecasts feature brief live shots of the arena and the host city’s downtown.

Parliament of Canada, Ottawa, ON -- David Kitz

Parliament of Canada, Ottawa, ON — David Kitz

Why do broadcasters go to the trouble of filming these cityscapes and providing these skyline backdrops? A good part of the answer is identification. We identify a city by its skyline and by its landmark buildings and towers. Washington, D.C. is intimately linked to pictures of the Capitol, Ottawa with the Parliament Buildings and Toronto with the CN Tower. When the twin towers of the World Trade Center were destroyed, New York mourned not only the loss of lives, but also the loss of its identity—the twin icons of its identity.

Psalm 48 is the Bible’s version of a cityscape telecast. Read the psalmist’s call: Walk about Zion, go around her, count her towers, consider well her ramparts, view her citadels that you may tell of them to the next generation.

What is the psalmist asking us to do? He is asking us to identify with the city of God. What makes Zion unique in the earth is the presence of God within her. The psalmist clearly stated, “God is in her citadels.” Is God within you? Is He reigning in your heart and mind? Is He the master of your affections? Have you had landmark experiences with God that changed the course of your life? Have you climbed towers of prayer? Have you stood guard on the ramparts of your mind? Then with conviction you can say with the psalmist, “For this God is our God forever and ever; he will be our guide even to the end.”

Response: LORD God, reign in me. Establish your capital in my heart. Govern my ways, now and forever more. Amen.

Your Turn: Has Jesus come to rule your heart?

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?

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