Confidence in Times of Adversity

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Reading:                                           Psalm 3

A psalm of David. When he fled from his son Absalom.

LORD, how many are my foes!
How many rise up against me!
Many are saying of me,
“God will not deliver him.”

But you, LORD, are a shield around me,
my glory, the One who lifts my head high.
I call out to the L
ORD,
and he answers me from his holy mountain.

I lie down and sleep;
I wake again, because the L
ORD sustains me.
I will not fear though tens of thousands assail me on every side.

Arise, LORD! Deliver me, my God!
Strike all my enemies on the jaw;
break the teeth of the wicked.

From the LORD comes deliverance.
May your blessing be on your people
(NIV).

Reflection

When do you most need God?

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An Abandoned Prairie Home— photo courtesy of Donald Adam

The answer to that question is easy—when I’m in deep trouble. It’s natural to call out to God when I’m in some great or urgent need. A returning veteran from the First World War said it best, “There are no atheists in the trenches. When the artillery shells start exploding to the right and left even unbelievers discover how to pray.”

The context of Psalm 3 is of great significance. David finds himself in the midst of a life threatening tragedy. He is fleeing from his palace in the nation’s capital, because his son is conspiring to murder him and seize the kingdom from his hands. Here is the great delta—the extreme low point in David’s life.

How does David respond? With utter confidence in God! Yes, he calls out to the LORD for deliverance, but he does so with complete assurance that God will answer. There isn’t the slightest hint of doubtful desperation in his voice. Having prayed to the LORD, he boasts in his ability to sleep, because he knows God will answer.

How could David be so confident—so self-assured? Actually, David’s assurance rested entirely on the LORD, not on himself. David had a wealth of experience with God. In his mind, the LORD was tried, tested, and true through the ups and downs of life.

He knew something we need to know. God will come through. He will bring salvation and deliverance!

Response: LORD God, save me from all my troubles. I put my confidence in you. You reach down to me at the low points in my life. You have never abandoned me. Amen.

Your Turn: Take a moment to reflect on the goodness of the LORD. Has He saved you from deep trouble in the past?

Kissing the Son

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Reading:                                              Psalm 2

Why do the nations conspire and the peoples plot in vain?
The kings of the earth rise up and the rulers band together
against the L
ORD and against his anointed, saying,
“Let us break their chains and throw off their shackles.”

The One enthroned in heaven laughs; the Lord scoffs at them.
He rebukes them in his anger and terrifies them in his wrath, saying,
“I have installed my king on Zion, my holy mountain.”

I will proclaim the LORD’s decree:
He said to me, “You are my son; today I have become your father.
Ask me, and I will make the nations your inheritance,
the ends of the earth your possession.
You will break them with a rod of;
you will dash them to pieces like pottery.”

Therefore, you kings, be wise; be warned, you rulers of the earth.
Serve the L
ORD with fear and celebrate his rule with trembling.
Kiss his son, or he will be angry and your way will lead to your destruction,
for his wrath can flare up in a moment.
                               Blessed are all who take refuge in him (NIV).                            

Reflection

Kisses are so close-up and personal, so intimate. I don’t know about you, but I don’t kiss everyone I meet. Kisses are reserved for those special people in my life—people I know and trust—people I love.

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Butchart Gardens, Victoria, BC — photo by David Kitz

Here in Psalm 2, kings and rulers are commanded to kiss the Son of God. What an odd command? What is the significance of this? The kiss in this case signals full submission to the supreme potentate. Kings and rulers are to submit to the overarching rule of Christ over themselves, their affairs and their entire domain.

Psalm 2 is the first of several messianic psalms scattered throughout the Book of Psalms. There is nothing subtle about the messianic message found here. The LORD has installed His anointed as king in Zion and furthermore this anointed one is identified as the Son of God. The term the LORD’s “anointed” is frequently translated as Messiah or Christ.

In the Book of Acts, we see the apostles viewed this psalm as the prophetic fulfillment of Christ’s mission during his last days in Jerusalem. The anointed Son of God was rejected by Herod and Pilate, the rulers of that time. They refused to kiss the Son. See Acts 4:23-31.

But what about me? Have I kissed the Son? Have I submitted to his will for my life? In my own small way, I too am a monarch, a ruler of my own domain. Today, will I allow him to rule over me, my conduct, my activities and my financial affairs?

Response: Dear Lord Jesus, thank you for your unconditional love. You want only the best for me. I yield to you. Help me to embrace your will and purpose for my life. I trust in you. I love you, Lord. With my lips I kiss the Son. Amen.

Your Turn: Have you kissed the Son? How can you show your love and loyalty to Jesus today?

The Tree of Eternal Life

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Reading:                                            Psalm 1

Blessed is the one
who does not walk in step with the wicked
or stand in the way that sinners take
or sit in the company of mockers,
but whose delight is in the law of the L
ORD,
and who meditates on his law day and night.
That person is like a tree planted by streams of water,
which yields its fruit in season
and whose leaf does not wither—
whatever they do prospers.

Not so the wicked!
They are like chaff that the wind blows away.
Therefore the wicked will not stand in the judgment,
nor sinners in the assembly of the righteous.

 For the LORD watches over the way of the righteous,
but the way of the wicked leads to destruction
(NIV).

Reflection

Have you ever noticed the prominent role that trees play in the Bible? The creation account in Genesis begins with God planting two very special trees in the Garden of Eden: the Tree of Life and the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil. After our first parent’s disobedience, we were banned from access the Tree of Life. But the amazing, good news of the Bible is that at the end of the book, in the last chapter of the Book of Revelation, God restores our access to the Tree of Life (Revelations 22:1-5).

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The fresh green leaves of spring — photo by David Kitz

In a very real sense the Bible is a story about trees.

Here in the very first Psalm, the life of the righteous is compared to a fruit-bearing tree, flourishing by streams of water. The psalmist presents a picture of tranquil beauty. Is that a picture of my life? Sometimes I feel more like windblown chaff—rather worthless and lacking a sense of direction.

But that’s where the other tree at the heart of the Bible comes into play. It stands on a hill called Calvary. There my Savior bled and died. There he showed me my true worth. There my sins were washed away, never to be remembered again. That’s where I became righteous, not by works that I had done, but by the grace and forgiveness of Christ.

What a beautiful tree! The tree on Mount Calvary isn’t beautiful because of its leaves. It’s beautiful because of its fruit—the fruit of redemption purchased by the blood of Jesus. My righteousness is solely due to him.

Response: Dear Lord Jesus, thank you for your sacrifice. Help me to always remember that you are the true source of my righteousness. At your prompting help me to rid myself of the worthless chaff in my life. Wind of God, blow on me. Water of life, refresh my soul. May I be fruitful, Lord, for you. Amen.

Your Turn: Have you knelt before the tree on Mount Calvary?

The Soldier Who Killed a King

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A stunning story of Holy Week through the eyes of a Roman centurion

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New from David Kitz and Kregel Publishing — now available for preorder

Watch the triumphal entry of the donkey-riding king through the eyes of Marcus Longinus, the centurion charged with keeping the streets from erupting into open rebellion.

Look behind the scenes at the political plotting of King Herod, known as the scheming Fox for his ruthless shrewdness.

Get a front-row seat to the confrontation between the Jewish high priest Caiaphas and the Roman governor Pontius Pilate.

Understand as never before the horror of the decision to save a brutal terrorist in order to condemn the peaceful Jew to death.

If you’ve heard the story of Passion Week so often it’s become stale, now is the time to rediscover the terrible events leading from Jesus’s humble ride into the city to his crucifixion. The Soldier Who Killed a King will stun you afresh with how completely Christ’s resurrection changed history, one life at a time.

To pre-order directly from the publisher click on the link below:

http://www.kregel.com/fiction/the-soldier-who-killed-a-king/

Psalms Alive! Connecting Heaven and Earth

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The Psalms Speak to our Deepest needs!

Within the Psalms we hear the deepest longings of the human heart. Here we find the full range of human experience—an experience that brings us face to face with God. Our joys and triumphs are reflected here. Our spirits soar to the heavens, but we also plumb the depths of tragic despair. Is it any wonder then, that throughout the ages men and women have found refuge in the Psalms.

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237 pages, trade paperback

In the Psalms we find the wellspring of praise. This has been the churches’ fount of worship, from ancient hymns, to stately concertos, to modern praise choruses, they all find their source in the Psalms.

“David Kitz paints pictures with words, taking lessons from Scripture and nature to offer us a three-dimensional, multi-sensory relationship with God.” — Robert L. Briggs, Executive Vice President, American Bible Society

Yes, my devotional study, Psalms Alive! Connecting Heaven and Earth is available for purchase. Click on the link below for reviews and more details.

http://www.davidkitz.ca/bookcart/index.php?route=product/product&product_id=62&search=psalms

 

Everything That Has Breath

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Reading:                                        Psalm 150

Praise the LORD.
Praise God in his sanctuary;
praise him in his mighty heavens.
Praise him for his acts of power;
praise him for his surpassing greatness.
Praise him with the sounding of the trumpet,
praise him with the harp and lyre,
praise him with timbrel and dancing,
praise him with the strings and pipe,
praise him with the clash of cymbals,
praise him with resounding cymbals.
Let everything that has breath praise the LORD.
Praise the LORD (NIV).

Reflection

We have reached the crescendo—the conclusion and the high point of the Book of Psalms. Hallelujah and praise the LORD!

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Petrie Island, Orleans, ON — photo by David Kitz

The word praise appears thirteen times in this final psalm. The number thirteen is suggestive of Jesus and his apostles. He is at the core—the very center of God ordained worship.

Eight forms or instruments of praise are listed in this psalm. Eight is the number of new beginnings. Seven suggests completeness, so we see that God rested on the seventh day. But eight signals a new start. In the same way, these eight means or instruments of praise do not represent a complete list. They simply suggest the varied ways in which we can express our praise to the LORD. We have only just begun to discover and explore the many ways in which we can show our gratitude to our Creator.

No one—no living being—is excluded from this call to praise. Let everything that has breath praise the LORD.

This call for all the breathing to praise the LORD is truly fitting. We received our original breath from the LORD. Then the LORD God formed a man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being (Genesis 2:7). Now with our breath—our God-given breath—let us praise our Maker.

In the same way after his resurrection Jesus breathed on his disciples.  Again Jesus said, “Peace be with you! As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.” And with that he breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit” (John 20:21-22).

We need the breath of God in us—the breath of the Holy Spirit in us to live—to truly live in the overcoming power and joy of the psalms. For the Holy Spirit’s presence I will praise the LORD!

Response: LORD God, I praise you. You are my strength and my song. Help me to discover new ways to praise you because you are good. Let my entire life reflect your redemptive presence in me. Amen.

Your Turn: Why are you breathing? Is praising God an integral part of your purpose?

A Double-Edged Sword

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Reading:                                          Psalm 149

(Verses 1-5)
May the praise of God be in their mouths
and a double-edged sword in their hands,
to inflict vengeance on the nations
and punishment on the peoples,
to bind their kings with fetters,
their nobles with shackles of iron,
to carry out the sentence written against them—
this is the glory of all his faithful people.
Praise the LORD (NIV).

Reflection

In society today there are moves afoot to rewrite history. Old monuments are being torn down or neglected. Places and buildings are being renamed because past victories or policies are now seen as oppressive or unjust. Many of the heroes of the past have lost their luster. In many cases there is sound reasoning that goes into justifying this change. Let’s face it; not every conquest was undertaken with pure motives. Not every government policy in the past was without racial or gender bias.

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Statue of King David, the shepherd king, Jerusalem — photo by Lois Morrow

But are we wise when we judge people from a different era with the moral positions and perspectives of today? Do we carry our own set of biases that color our view of history? Of course we do.

We encounter the same issues when we look back at Old Testament history. It’s difficult for New Testament believers to justify Old Testament vengeance, genocide and slaughter. And yes, there’s plenty of that recorded in our Bibles. Today’s reading from Psalm 149 touches on this very point. The psalmist urges the infliction of vengeance on the nations and punishment on the peoples, to bind their kings with fetters, their nobles with shackles of iron. As followers of a gentle Jesus, who taught us to love our enemies, how are we to interpret and apply this call to action?

First, let’s realize that we are living under a new and better covenant with Jesus as our Lord and Savior. When he was arrested, Jesus told Peter to put away his sword. We do well when we heed that advice. The eager warmongers among us often need to take a chill pill. Jesus showed no tendencies to war.

But we do have a battle to fight, and we urgently need a double-edged sword. St. Paul calls it the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God (Ephesians 6:17b). How effective are you in handling the word of God? How effective are you in battling the spiritual forces and daily temptations that are arrayed against you? With the praises of God in your mouth, and the sword of the Spirit in your hand, are you propelling your way to victory in the daily grind of life? Are the joy and peace of God reigning in your life?

Blessed is the one who perseveres under trial because, having stood the test, that person will receive the crown of life that the Lord has promised to those who love him (James 1:12).

Response: LORD God, I want to grow in my love for your word. Help me to use it wisely and deftly to the advance of your Kingdom. Lord Jesus, help me gain victory over spiritual forces that oppose me. Amen.

Your Turn: Are you developing competence in using the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God?

His Faithful People Rejoice

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Reading:                                         Psalm 149

(Verses 1-5)
Praise the LORD.
Sing to the LORD a new song,
his praise in the assembly of his faithful people.
Let Israel rejoice in their Maker;
let the people of Zion be glad in their King.
Let them praise his name with dancing
and make music to him with timbrel and harp.
For the LORD takes delight in his people;
he crowns the humble with victory.
Let his faithful people rejoice in this honor
and sing for joy on their beds (NIV).

Reflection

I previously wrote that as we draw to the end of the Book of Psalms, we are slowly building to a crescendo of praise to the LORD. Today’s reading from Psalm 149 expands and amps up the level of praise.

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Praise from this earth, Grey Nuns Park, Orleans, ON — photo by David Kitz

For some praise to the LORD is one dimensional. It involves singing a hymn or worship chorus to the LORD in a place of worship at a designated time. Usually this simply means in church on a Sunday morning. But praise that is birthed by the Spirit of God can be much more than just that. Psalm 149 calls for a wide range of praise. It begins by calling for a new song. Sing to the LORD a new song, his praise in the assembly of his faithful people.

It would seem that the Creator would like to hear something fresh and creative. That’s so much like Him. After all, His mercies are new every morning. See Lamentations 3:22-23. Now don’t get me wrong. There is a place for the tried and true, and the old and familiar. But genuine praise is like fresh homemade bread. It’s best served warm from the oven. Stale worship invigorates no one.

Secondly, our praise for the LORD can take a variety of forms. Let Israel rejoice in their Maker; let the people of Zion be glad in their King. Let them praise his name with dancing and make music to him with timbrel and harp.

Just yesterday I watched a couple do a beautiful dance to a popular worship chorus. The words, the music, and their expressive movements, added heartfelt meaning to their praise. God was glorified in their dance. We were created to move and our posture and movements can reflect an expressive exuberance for God. 

Finally, Spirit initiated praise knows no bounds. It refuses to be confined to a church building. It is after all an outward expression of a thankful heart. There is a place for praise, wherever we find ourselves, whether it’s from our bed, on a park bench, a subway car, or as we stroll down the grocery aisle. Praise the LORD!

Response: LORD God, renew in me a heart of praise. I want to lose my self-consciousness as I praise you. This is all about you. True worship is not about me. I want to praise you with my whole being. Amen.

Your Turn: Is it possible to be God focussed when we are self-focussed or self-conscious?

I Miss Hallelujah!

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Reading:                                         Psalm 148

(Verses 13-14)
Let them praise the name of the LORD,
for his name alone is exalted;
his splendor is above the earth and the heavens.
And he has raised up for his people a horn,
the praise of all his faithful servants,
of Israel, the people close to his heart.
Praise the LORD (NIV).

Reflection

Broadly speaking I like modern translations of the Bible over the traditional King James Version, but… But sometimes the old King James just sounds better, or more familiar. Here at the close of Psalm 148 we have a case in point.

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Orleans woods in spring — photo by David Kitz

The New International Version ends the psalm with these words: Praise the LORD. The King James Version ends the psalm with Praise ye the LORD. But a more literal translation or transliteration of this final phrase is Hallelujah! The footnotes to the New American Standard Bible point out that Hallelu means praise, while JAH is the abbreviated Hebrew name for God, which is often translated Jehovah or more accurately Yahweh.

Whenever you see the phrase praise the LORD, you are actually looking at a translation of the Hebrew word hallelujah!

Hallelujah is entirely absent from the New International Version of the Bible. It has also been scrubbed from most of the other modern translations. To put it bluntly, I miss hallelujah. It has an uplifting ring to it. Hallelujah skips off the tongue like a shooting star. It bursts forth from a thankful heart like fireworks on a summer night. 

For the Christian believer Christmas is the great Hallelujah! God has come to the earth and been born as a baby like you and me. This is the beginning of the great redemption story.

The resurrection is the second great Hallelujah! The Son of God was vindicated. His death was not in vain. He conquered death, our greatest foe, and now Jesus reigns on high forever. That calls for a hallelujah! And for good measure, let’s add praise the LORD too!

The one who at his birth was laid in a manger is the King of kings and the Lord of lords. As Handel’s Messiah proclaims, “He shall reign forever and ever. Hallelujah!” Let the hallelujahs resound from the earth to the heavens as we join in the song of the angels—the song of the ages.

Let them praise the name of the LORD, for his name alone is exalted; his splendor is above the earth and the heavens.

Response: LORD God, I praise you for sending Jesus. I praise you for your great plan of redemption. Jesus, I thank you for carrying my sins to Calvary. I rejoice in your resurrection victory. Hallelujah! Amen.

Your Turn: Do you enjoy Handel’s Hallelujah Chorus? What is your favorite expression of praise to God?

Praises from the Earth

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Reading:                                        Psalm 148

(Verses 7-12)
Praise the LORD from the earth,
you great sea creatures and all ocean depths,
lightning and hail, snow and clouds,
stormy winds that do his bidding,
you mountains and all hills,
fruit trees and all cedars,
wild animals and all cattle,
small creatures and flying birds,
kings of the earth and all nations,
you princes and all rulers on earth,
young men and women,
old men and children (NIV).

Reflection

Psalm 148 began with a call for praise for the LORD from the angels, who are heaven’s messengers, from the heavenly hosts and all the heavenly bodies. In today’s reading, the psalmist expands this call for praise to all the creatures of the earth, the elements of nature, wind, cloud and ocean depths, and finally to all humanity.

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Azaleas in bloom, Victoria, BC — photo by David Kitz

There is a logical progression in this call for thunderous praise. The call begins with what is distant, the galaxies and the heavenly beings, and then it descends to the earth, and finally it touches humanity. It becomes personal. We are called to praise God. Will you join the swelling chorus?

John, the beloved, gives us a picture of what heaven’s praise party looks like.

Then I looked and heard the voice of many angels, numbering thousands upon thousands, and ten thousand times ten thousand. They encircled the throne and the living creatures and the elders. In a loud voice they were saying:

“Worthy is the Lamb, who was slain,
to receive power and wealth and wisdom and strength
and honor and glory and praise!” (Revelation 5:11-12).

Our Lord taught us to pray, “Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven” (Matthew 6:9b-10).

Surely, it is the will of God that He be praised and worshipped on earth just as He is around His throne in heaven. The purpose of God’s Kingdom—the Kingdom that Jesus came to establish—is to bring heaven to earth. God did not remain distant. In the person of Jesus, He came to dwell among us. He brought and is presently bringing the will of God to the earth through the Holy Spirit. For that Jesus is to be praised. Let all of creation praise Him—praise Him from the earth, because from it we were formed. Let the praise for our Lord ascend from you and me.

Response: LORD God, let your Holy Spirit be active among us. Help us to love and serve you and those around us. Help me to bring a little bit of heaven—a little bit of your will to the earth today. Amen.

Your Turn: How do you picture heaven? What does a little bit of heaven on earth look like to you?