You, LORD, are my Shepherd

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You, LORD, are my shepherd. I will never be in need (Psalm 23:1, CEV).

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Quiet waters at Kingfisher Bay Retreat Centre — photo courtesy of Ruth Waring

Reflection

This week’s I Love the Psalms theme is shepherding.

The most endearing thought in all the scriptures may well be the thought of the LORD’s precious care for the sheep of His pasture. The Good Shepherd supplies all our needs. When we are in His care there is no need for worry.

David, the shepherd king, makes this bold declaration:

You, LORD, are my shepherd. I will never be in need (Psalm 23:1, CEV).

Our needs for food, clothing, shelter and loving companionship are constant. They are ever present with us. At some point I’ll be hungry today, and though I will eat well, tomorrow, I’ll be hungry again.

The only thing more constant than our neediness is our Shepherd’s ample provision. What wonderful assurance we can draw from Jesus’ care! He will supply all we need.

Response: LORD God, help me to live in the calm assurance that you are my provider. You have provided abundantly in the past and will continue your care into the future. Thank you. Amen.

Your Turn: Are you under the Good Shepherd’s care? Are you resting in His provision?

The One to be feared

Reading:                                        Psalm 76

For the director of music. With stringed instruments. A psalm of Asaph. A song.

God is renowned in Judah; in Israel his name is great.
His tent is in Salem, his dwelling place in Zion.
There he broke the flashing arrows,
the shields and the swords, the weapons of war.

You are radiant with light,
more majestic than mountains rich with game.
The valiant lie plundered, they sleep their last sleep;
not one of the warriors can lift his hands.
At your rebuke, God of Jacob,
both horse and chariot lie still.

It is you alone who are to be feared.
Who can stand before you when you are angry?
From heaven you pronounced judgment,
and the land feared and was quiet—
when you, God, rose up to judge,
to save all the afflicted of the land.
Surely your wrath against mankind brings you praise,
and the survivors of your wrath are restrained.

 Make vows to the LORD your God and fulfill them;
let all the neighboring lands bring gifts to the One to be feared.
He breaks the spirit of rulers; he is feared by the kings of the earth
(NIV).

Reflection

Has the church abandoned the fear of God? Has our messaging focused so exclusively on the God of love and forgiveness that the very idea of experiencing fear before God is a completely foreign to us? In more general terms is fear a bad thing—an emotion we should always avoid? Is there something wrong with our relationship with God if we fear Him?

Ruth Waring

Kingfisher Bay on Stoney Lake, ON — photo courtesy of Ruth Waring

First we need to acknowledge that fear can have both good and bad consequences. A healthy fear of a sharp blade will keep me from sticking my hands under the deck of a running lawnmower. There is wisdom and there is safety in that kind of fear. But the constant fear of a violent, abusive spouse can be devastating to a person’s health and happiness. In brief, fear is essential for self-preservation, but too much of it has terrible consequences.

A complete lack of fear can have terrible consequences too. I still have both my hands because of a healthy fear of whirling blades. We all need a healthy fear of God. The psalmist states, It is you alone who are to be feared.”

Jesus essentially said the same thing. “Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather, be afraid of the One who can destroy both soul and body in hell” (Matthew 10:28).  

Response: LORD God, you are the One I need to fear. Give me a healthy dose of fear. I want to love and fear you, so that I will walk in obedience to your commands. Amen.

Your Turn: Is there a place for both love and fear in your relationship with God?

Like Sheep with our Shepherd

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We are like sheep with you as our shepherd, and all generations will hear us praise you (Psalm 79:13, CEV).

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Violets in green pastures — photo by David Kitz

Reflection

This week’s I Love the Psalms theme is shepherding.

Often when people think of the Psalms, their thoughts immediately turn to images of David, the young harpist, on the green hills of Judea surrounded by his flock of sheep. It’s a beautiful idyllic image that is frequently combined with these words, “The LORD is my shepherd.”

That idyllic image stirs our hearts because of our deep longing for peace—the shalom of God pronounced over our lives.

We are like sheep with you as our shepherd, and all generations will hear us praise you (Psalm 79:13, CEV).

We want to know and fully experience the peace of God in our lives. Of course that peace and enduring love only come through companionship with the shepherd—Jesus, the Good Shepherd. But following Him means setting aside our own agenda and walking in the path that He has chosen for us.

He is our shepherd when we allow Him to lead.

Response: LORD God, I want your shalom—your blessed peace to fill my life. Give me ears that are quick to hear and follow the Shepherd’s voice. I want to be your constant  companion. Amen.

Your Turn: Are there times when you find it difficult to hear or follow the shepherd’s voice? 

Shout Triumphantly!

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Shout triumphantly to the LORD, all the earth! Be happy! Rejoice out loud! Sing your praises!(Psalm 98:4, CEV).

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Streaming sunshine sings its praises — photo by David Kitz

Reflection

This week’s I Love the Psalms theme is victory.

Who brings victory over death, hell and the grave? His name is Jesus. Who leads people in triumph over temptation, sin and addiction? His name is Jesus. Who defeated the devil and the hordes of hell? His name is Jesus!

Shout triumphantly to the LORD, all the earth! Be happy! Rejoice out loud! Sing your praises!(Psalm 98:4, CEV).

We have ten thousand reasons to thank and praise the LORD. Let’s not be shy about letting Him know that we love Him. We appreciate His marvelous creation. We rejoice in our redemption through Jesus shed blood. We are amazed that He would personally choose us and welcome us into His family.

What a wonderful God! He loves even me!

Response: LORD God, I am overwhelmed with gratitude. You send your undeserved love and grace streaming into my life. I praise you with uplifted hands. Amen.

Your Turn: Has the LORD brought joy and victory into your life? Do you praise Him even in difficult times?

We Will Triumph

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With God we will triumph; he’s the one who will trample our adversaries (Psalm 60:10, CEV).

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Early spring cycling triumph — photo by David Kitz

Reflection

This week’s I Love the Psalms theme is victory.

Who are my adversaries? I think that’s a very important question to ask before I head off to battle. If I don’t know who or what I am fighting, how can I properly prepare? How can I advance against my enemies, when I know nothing about them? I might meet up with my foes and join their side by mistake.

I think many Christian believers find themselves in this situation. In many cases our enemies are not physical humans, but temptations, ideas and philosophies that draw us away from God. The first enemy that must be defeated often resides within. Wrong thinking and crippling habits keep us from achieving God’s will.

Our first concern needs to be our relationship with the Lord.

With God we will triumph; he’s the one who will trample our adversaries (Psalm 60:10, CEV).

The first fight we must win is against the enemy within. When we give the Lord Jesus full control, victory is sure to follow. He’s the one who will trample our adversaries. 

Response: LORD God, help me to identify the adversaries that war against my soul. I want to live in the victory you already won for me through the cross and the resurrection. Amen.

Your Turn: Are there thoughts and habits you need to overcome? Have you taken them to the Lord?

A New Song, a New Victory

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Sing to the LORD a new song because he has done wonderful things! His own strong hand and his own holy arm have won the victory! (Psalm 98:1, CEV).

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First Crocus — a sign of spring’s victory over winter — photo by David Kitz

Reflection

This week’s I Love the Psalms theme is victory.

If the resurrection of new life in spring is viewed as a victory over the cruelty of winter, then in this season we can see reasons to rejoice and sing all around us. The blooming crocus can be seen as a symbol of victory over death and decay.

The psalmist and nature itself call us to praise:

Sing to the LORD a new song because he has done wonderful things! His own strong hand and his own holy arm have won the victory! (Psalm 98:1, CEV).

New victories call forth new songs of praise. But let’s never forget the source of those victories. If it appears that our talents and intelligence have brought us success, we need to remember the One who gave us those talents and quickened our mind.

My life—your life—is found in God. As the apostle Paul states, In God we live, move, and exist” (Acts 17:28, CEV). Our victory—our resurrection comes from Him. His own strong hand and his own holy arm have won the victory!

Response: LORD God, I sing my praise to you. Every personal joy and triumph comes from you. Put a new song in my heart today, because you have done wonderful things. Amen.

Your Turn: Has God given you new songs of praise to sing?

Your Name is near

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Reading:                                       Psalm 75

For the director of music. To the tune of “Do Not Destroy.” A psalm of Asaph. A song.

We praise you, God, we praise you, for your Name is near;
people tell of your wonderful deeds.

You say, “I choose the appointed time;
it is I who judge with equity.
When the earth and all its people quake,
it is I who hold its pillars firm.
To the arrogant I say, ‘Boast no more,’
and to the wicked, ‘Do not lift up your horns.
Do not lift your horns against heaven;
do not speak so defiantly.’”

No one from the east or the west
or from the desert can exalt themselves.
It is God who judges: He brings one down, he exalts another.
In the hand of the Lord is a cup
full of foaming wine mixed with spices;
he pours it out, and all the wicked of the earth
drink it down to its very dregs.

As for me, I will declare this forever;
I will sing praise to the God of Jacob,
who says, “I will cut off the horns of all the wicked,
but the horns of the righteous will be lifted up”
(NIV).

Reflection

I find the opening verse of this psalm to be very thought-provoking. Let’s take a moment to consider it: We praise you, God, we praise you, for your Name is near; people tell of your wonderful deeds.

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In Praise of His Name — photo by David Kitz

Ask yourself how many, “Oh my G*ds!” do you hear in a day? How many “OMGs” do you see posted on Facebook? I dare say quite a few. Are these exclamations expressed in praise to God? Of course not. They are meaningless expressions of surprise—or are they?

They are meaningless expressions to those that believe this command from the LORD is a meaningless expression. “You shall not misuse the name of the LORD your God, for the LORD will not hold anyone guiltless who misuses his name” (Exodus 20:7, NIV).

The Common English Bible translates this command with these words, “Do not use the LORD your God’s name as if it were of no significance; the LORD won’t forgive anyone who uses his name that way” (Exodus 20:7, CEB).

God’s commands are not meaningless expressions. There is power in the name of the LORD. Perhaps we need this reminder. It is God who judges: He brings one down, he exalts another.

Response: LORD God, I want to treat your Name with the respect and honor it deserves. Please forgive me if I have misused your name in any way. I pray in the powerful name of Jesus. Amen.

Your Turn: Why do you think the LORD makes a big deal about His name? Why is it important?

A Bad Bet for Victory

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A warhorse is a bad bet for victory;
    it can’t save despite its great strength.
But look here: the LORD’s eyes watch all who honor him,
    all who wait for his faithful love (Psalm 33:17-18, CEV).

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River Marsh in Early Spring — photo by David Kitz

Reflection

This week’s I Love the Psalms theme is victory.

There is something very puzzling, very uncertain, about victory. Victory doesn’t always go to the strongest man, the largest army, or the fastest runner. Sometimes victory goes to the least expected; it goes to the underdog.

Today’s verse from the Psalms draws attention to the uncertainty of victory.

A warhorse is a bad bet for victory; it can’t save despite its great strength.
But look here: the LORD’s eyes watch all who honor him, all who wait for his faithful love (Psalm 33:17-18, CEV).

Victory does not come solely from man’s ingenuity, talent or strength. Ultimately, victory comes from the LORD. The outcome of every race, every battle, every sporting event is determined by the LORD. He foreknew the outcome before there was time. Such knowledge is too wonderful for me.

My only response to such an awesome God is to honor Him, to yield my will and my very life to Him.

Response: LORD God, I wait for your faithful love. My personal struggles and victories are known to you. Your eyes are always on me. Help me to live responsibly in that knowledge. Amen.

Your Turn: Is it a comfort or a constraint to know that God is watching you?

Remembering Your Words

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I will take pleasure in your laws and remember your words (Psalm 119:16, CEV).

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Ottawa River Sunset – photo by David Kitz

Reflection

This week’s I Love the Psalms theme is remembering.

It seems that Bible memorization is a thing of the past. There was a time when both children and adults routinely committed large portions of the scriptures to memory. For the most part this practice has gone into decline. Memorization has fallen out of favor in the educational realm as well. There is so much information so readily available through handheld devices, why bother memorizing anything?

Today’s verse from the Psalms reminds us that memorization is an important skill.

I will take pleasure in your laws and remember your words (Psalm 119:16, CEV).

Remembering God’s word should be more than a skill. It should be a pleasure—a pleasure because God’s word has transformative power. It changes our thinking and our lives.

Joshua, the great conqueror, succeeded because he meditated on God’s word. It’s hard to meditate on something you haven’t committed to memory. Joshua conquered God’s word as he conquered the Promised Land. Perhaps we should follow his example.

Response: LORD God, I want to know your word far better. Help me to memorize and meditate on your precious word. You have the words of life. Amen.

Your Turn: Have you memorized portions of God’s word?

Forgetting and Remembering

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Forget each wrong I did when I was young. Show how truly kind you are and remember me (Psalm 25:7, CEV).

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Treed Flood Plain, Ottawa River — photo by David Kitz

Reflection

This week’s I Love the Psalms theme is remembering.

How can God forget? He knows everything. He knows everything I have done and everything I will do, before it has even entered my mind. The petition prayed here in Psalm 25 must be doomed to fail.

Forget each wrong I did when I was young. Show how truly kind you are and remember me (Psalm 25:7, CEV).

Strange as it may seem God can be forgetful. When we repent of our sins, He chooses to forget that those sins ever happened. But don’t take my word on this topic. The prophet Jeremiah declares this word from the LORD, “I will forgive their sins and forget the evil things they have done” (Jeremiah 31:34, CEV).

That’s an amazing promise. If God can forget our sins, maybe we should do the same. We should not allow the guilt of them torment us any longer. Our sins are forgiven and forgotten when we confess them to our gracious heavenly Father.

Response: LORD God, I am so glad that you choose to remember me and forget my sins. You love like no one else can. Thank you for the forgiveness that is available because of the shed blood of Jesus. Amen.

Your Turn: Do you spend too much time remembering sins that the Lord has forgiven and forgotten?

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