Zeal. Do you have it?

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Reading:                                      Psalm 69

(Verses 6-12)
Lord, the LORD Almighty,
may those who hope in you
not be disgraced because of me;
God of Israel,
may those who seek you
not be put to shame because of me.
For I endure scorn for your sake,
and shame covers my face.
I am a foreigner to my own family,
a stranger to my own mother’s children;
for zeal for your house consumes me,
and the insults of those who insult you fall on me.
When I weep and fast, I must endure scorn;
when I put on sackcloth, people make sport of me.
Those who sit at the gate mock me,
and I am the song of the drunkards.
(NIV).

Reflection
The end of a year is a time when many of us set goals and consider our progress over the past year. Our personal goals spring from those things we value and hold dear. So what did David, the author of this psalm, value and hold dear? According to his own words, David was motivated by his zeal for the house of God. He longed to be in God’s presence and to seek His face. He placed his love for God ahead of his love for even his family.

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Winter stream — photo courtesy of Liz Kranz

I am a foreigner to my own family, a stranger to my own mother’s children; for zeal for your house consumes me… 

Many of us would call that misplaced zeal, even fanaticism. But Jesus called for precisely this kind zeal from his disciples. He calls for a radical transformation in the lives of his followers. Are you a disciple, or are you following at a distance? His words are an open challenge everyone.

“Anyone who loves their father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; anyone who loves their son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. Whoever does not take up their cross and follow me is not worthy of me. Whoever finds their life will lose it, and whoever loses their life for my sake will find it” (Matthew 10:37-39).

After Jesus cleansed the temple, his disciples recalled the words from this psalm. His disciples remembered that it is written: “Zeal for your house will consume me” (John 2:17).

Response: LORD God, give me a zeal for your house and your presence. As the months and years roll by, I want my values to be reflected in my actions and my passion for you. Replace my lukewarm heart with a burning desire to know and love you. Amen.

Your Turn: Where does the house of God rate on your zeal meter? Do you value the community of faith to which you belong?

Neck Deep and Beyond

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Reading:                                       Psalm 69

For the director of music. To the tune of “Lilies.” Of David.
(Verses 1-5)
Save me, O God,
for the waters have come up to my neck.
I sink in the miry depths,
where there is no foothold.
I have come into the deep waters;
the floods engulf me.
I am worn out calling for help;
my throat is parched.
My eyes fail, looking for my God.
Those who hate me without reason
outnumber the hairs of my head;
many are my enemies without cause,
those who seek to destroy me.
I am forced to restore
what I did not steal.
You, God, know my folly;
my guilt is not hidden from you
(NIV).

Reflection
Above all else Psalm 69 is a plea for help. Save me, O God, for the waters have come up to my neck.

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Snowy morning glory, Grey Nuns Park, Orleans, ON — photo by David Kitz

Have you ever been neck deep in trouble? I’ve been there and it’s not an entirely pleasant experience. I recall hanging upside down in my car, which was sitting on its roof in a snow-covered ditch. My wife was suspended upside down in the driver’s seat beside me.

Suddenly finding yourself upside down after a high-speed-icy skid can be unsettling. I recall unfastening my seatbelt so I could reverse my position and sit upright on the interior of the car roof. Opening the car doors was impossible due to the snow jammed up on the outside. There we sat, trapped, car tires in the air, as the sun began to set.

We had two life lines: a mobile phone and a direct line to Jesus. Both worked flawlessly. Within minutes a young couple stopped and helped us out of the car. Later that evening we drove our flipped car back into the city undamaged. There was nothing to indicate we were in a rollover, not even a scratch on the car body.

This true account serves as a reminder to me that God hears us when we pray. When we are in over our head—when we are neck deep and beyond—we can call out to God.

God did not save us because we are faultless. As the psalmist says, You, God, know my folly; my guilt is not hidden from you.” God saves us because of His great mercy.

Response: LORD God, thank you for showing us mercy when we don’t deserve it. Thank you for coming to rescue the likes of me. For this mercy and a thousand more, I give you thanks. Amen.

Your Turn: Has the Lord helped you when you were neck deep in trouble?

Psalms Alive! (review)

I was delighted to read this five star review of my book by Violet Nesdoly.

Violet Nesdoly

Psalms Alive!Psalms Alive! by David Kitz

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

In Psalms Alive! author, pastor, and dramatist David Kitz takes us on a journey through thirteen selected psalms. In the Preface Kitz explains why he wrote the book:

“For the past number of years I have been bringing the Psalms to life for audiences through the medium of live drama. Here now in book form, from a dramatist’s perspective I provide a glimpse into the prayers and praise of the psalmists” 18.

Each of the book’s 26 chapters begins with the quoted scripture passage under discussion. This is followed by Kitz expanding on it in a variety of ways that include personal stories, explanations of biblical customs and settings, devotional inspiration, and challenges to apply the scripture’s advice to life. Each chapter ends with a “Bringing Life to the Psalms” section consisting of three to four discussion and personal…

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Singing to God

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Reading:                                      Psalm 68

(Verses 32-35)
Sing to God,
you kingdoms of the earth,
sing praise to the Lord,
to him who rides across the highest heavens,
the ancient heavens,
who thunders with mighty voice.
Proclaim the power of God,
whose majesty is over Israel,
whose power is in the heavens.
You, God, are awesome in your sanctuary;
the God of Israel gives power
and strength to his people.
Praise be to God! (NIV).

Reflection
Psalm 68 ends with a call for us to sing. Sing to God, you kingdoms of the earth, sing praise to the Lord, to him who rides across the highest heavens, the ancient heavens, who thunders with mighty voice.

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Winter cabin in the woods — photo by Liz Kranz

Have you noticed how important singing and music are to our celebration of Christ’s birth? Take music and song out of Christmas and there is little left. In many ways carols define the season and add sparkle and joy. And so it should be. Heaven saw fit to announce the Saviour’s birth through song. Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests” (Luke 2:13-14).

God sent an angel choir to celebrate the birth of His only begotten Son. And earlier during her pregnancy, at the home of Elizabeth, Mary burst out with what is commonly called the Magnificat or Mary’s Song. See Luke 1: 46-56. Yes, in the darkest month of  the year we can rejoice with the songs of Christ’s birth.

So yes we should sing praise to the Lord, to him who rides across the highest heavens. He sent his star to guide the way for the magi. One glorious night the heavens joined in to declare the glory of heaven’s Son, who had come to earth to be born among men—men and animals.

What a grand descent! From the highest heavens to a lowly stable. That’s the glory of Christmas. God transferred His sanctuary—His dwelling place—from heaven to earth—from heaven’s throne room to a stable. Now we can join with the psalmist and the shepherds with these words of praise:

You, God, are awesome in your sanctuary;
the God of Israel gives power
and strength to his people.
Praise be to God!

Response: LORD God, thank you for sending Jesus. Thank you for coming in frail human flesh—flesh like our own. Thank you because now we can know you as one of us—God with us. Amen.

Your Turn: How important are music and song to you? Do they lead to heartfelt worship?

A Review of “Psalms Alive!”

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By Janis Cox

Nothing could have prepared me for the amazing revelations that came from readingSample Cover and studying this book. The combination of reading the assigned scriptures and reading each chapter opened many doors for thoughts and creativity. As I look back over what I have studied I know that God has made many inroads into my spirit.

psalms alive!” is spirit-filled. With humour, some tongue-in-cheek, godly insight and sharing of life experiences, David Kitz brings the psalms to life.

I hope David considers writing “More Psalms Alive”.

Trade paperback — 240 pages with built in study questions, available from the author and through multiple online sources.

The Conquering King

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Reading:                                      Psalm 68

(Verses 24-31)
Your procession, God, has come into view,
the procession of my God and King into the sanctuary.
In front are the singers, after them the musicians;
with them are the young women playing the timbrels.
Praise God in the great congregation;
praise the L
ORD in the assembly of Israel.
There is the little tribe of Benjamin, leading them,
there the great throng of Judah’s princes,
and there the princes of Zebulun and of Naphtali.
Summon your power, God;
show us your strength, our God, as you have done before.
Because of your temple at Jerusalem
kings will bring you gifts.
Rebuke the beast among the reeds,
the herd of bulls among the calves of the nations.
Humbled, may the beast bring bars of silver.
Scatter the nations who delight in war.
Envoys will come from Egypt;
Cush will submit herself to God
(NIV).

Reflection
All of Psalm 68 is a hymn of triumph—national triumph. In today’s reading it is apparent that this psalm is a triumphant processional song penned by David. The enemies of Israel have been vanquished and God’s army has returned victorious.

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Via-Dolorosa in Jerusalem — photo courtesy of Lois Morrow

For Christians today, does this psalm hold a deeper significance? Does it signify more than a celebration after a military conquest?

The King we serve—the one born in a stable—didn’t come to establish an earthly kingdom by means of guns and war. In his defence before Pilate Jesus said, “My kingdom is not of this world. If it were, my servants would fight to prevent my arrest by the Jewish leaders. But now my kingdom is from another place” (John 18:36).

Make no mistake; Jesus calls us to be citizens in his heavenly Kingdom. It is a Kingdom that is headquartered in heaven, but its address on the earth is the human heart—your heart—my heart. Furthermore, that Kingdom grows in power and influence as we yield our will to God and joyfully become more like His son, Jesus. For followers of Jesus, battles are won as we submit our will to God.

There are nations—Egypt and Cush (the upper Nile region) are mentioned here—that will submit themselves to God. But for us today, submission must first come from our own stubborn heart.

Response: LORD God, I yield my will to you. Conquer my heart with your love. Through Jesus sacrifice on the cross I am yours. Help me to joyfully live as a productive citizen of your Kingdom on earth. Amen.

Your Turn: Have you been conquered by the love of God? Where is your primary citizenship?

A Foolish God?

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Reading:                                      Psalm 68

(Verses 15-23)
Mount Bashan, majestic mountain,
Mount Bashan, rugged mountain,
why gaze in envy, you rugged mountain,
at the mountain where God chooses to reign,
where the L
ORD himself will dwell forever?
The chariots of God are tens of thousands
and thousands of thousands;
the Lord has come from Sinai into his sanctuary.
When you ascended on high, you took many captives;
you received gifts from people, even from the rebellious—
that you, L
ORD God, might dwell there.
Praise be to the Lord, to God our Savior,
who daily bears our burdens.
Our God is a God who saves;
from the Sovereign L
ORD comes escape from death.
Surely God will crush the heads of his enemies,
the hairy crowns of those who go on in their sins.
The Lord says, “I will bring them from Bashan;
I will bring them from the depths of the sea,
that your feet may wade in the blood of your foes,
while the tongues of your dogs have their share”
(NIV).

Reflection
There is one thought from today’s psalm reading that jumps out at me and here it is: Praise be to the Lord, to God our Savior, who daily bears our burdens.

Booth Lake, Algonkuin Liz Kranz

Booth Lake, Algonquin Park, photo courtesy of Liz Kranz

Why would or should God our Savior bear our burdens? He sits enthroned in heaven above the fray. Why should He entangle Himself in the affairs of humanity? But apparently He does. Jesus our Savior gives us this invitation, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light” (Matthew 11:28-30).

Jesus is inviting us to step into the harness with him. Then he assures us that he will do the heavy lifting and pulling. I’m not sure that was a wise offer for Jesus to make. Did he really know the extent of my burden? Did he know all that burden bearing would lead him directly to the cross? He must have known, but he did it anyway. What a foolish man! What a foolish God!

Some Saviors will do anything for love.

Response: LORD God, thank you for being foolish enough to love me. Thank you, Jesus for bearing my burdens to the cross and beyond. My hope rests in you. Our God is a God who saves;  from the Sovereign LORD comes escape from death. Amen.

Your Turn: Has the Lord lifted some of your burdens recently? Have you stepped into the harness with Him?

Look to the LORD 

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I will praise Him!

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Shine your light on me, Grey Nuns Park, Orleans, ON — photo by David Kitz

Give praise to the LORD, proclaim his name;
    make known among the nations what he has done.
Sing to him, sing praise to him;
    tell of all his wonderful acts.
Glory in his holy name;
    let the hearts of those who seek the LORD rejoice.
Look to the LORD and his strength;
    seek his face always.

(Psalm 105:1-4, NIV)

I Rejoice in the LORD

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I will praise Him!

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Bamboo grove, Korankei, Japan — photo by David Kitz

May the glory of the LORD endure forever;
    may the LORD rejoice in his works—
he who looks at the earth, and it trembles,
    who touches the mountains, and they smoke.

I will sing to the LORD all my life;
    I will sing praise to my God as long as I live.
May my meditation be pleasing to him,
    as I rejoice in the LORD.
But may sinners vanish from the earth
    and the wicked be no more.

Praise the LORD, my soul.

Praise the LORD!

(Psalm 104:31-35, NIV)

God on Your Side

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Reading:                                      Psalm 68

(Verses 7-14)
When you, God, went out before your people,
when you marched through the wilderness,
the earth shook, the heavens poured down rain,
before God, the One of Sinai,
before God, the God of Israel.
You gave abundant showers, O God;
you refreshed your weary inheritance.
Your people settled in it,
and from your bounty, God, you provided for the poor.
The Lord announces the word,
and the women who proclaim it are a mighty throng:
“Kings and armies flee in haste;
the women at home divide the plunder.
Even while you sleep among the sheep pens,
the wings of my dove are sheathed with silver,
its feathers with shining gold.”
When the Almighty scattered the kings in the land,
it was like snow fallen on Mount Zalmon
(NIV).

Reflection
Are you about to start some grand enterprise? Are you embarking on a great journey? Are you beginning a new endeavour? Maybe you are doing none of these things. Perhaps for you it’s just a regular day. There’s nothing special or grand about it at all.

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December Sunrise — photo by David Kitz

But just for a moment, let’s suppose you were setting out on a magnificent, but somewhat risky adventure. What are the conditions you would like to see in place before you step out of your comfort zone and take on the very real challenges and obstacles that lie ahead?

This portion of Psalm 68 gives us a biblical answer to that question. If you are taking on the world and all it can throw at you, it’s best to have God on your side. It’s best to have the LORD going before you. He is the One who prepares the way for victory and success.

In a dry and thirst place God is our faithful provider. You gave abundant showers, O God; you refreshed your weary inheritance. Your people settled in it, and from your bounty, God, you provided for the poor.

When we step out in His will, God is at work. He has gone before us even as we sleep. He sets our enemies to flight. “Even while you sleep among the sheep pens, the wings of my dove are sheathed with silver, its feathers with shining gold.” 

The dove so beautifully described here is the Holy Spirit. He circles over His people preparing the way.

Response: LORD God, as I go about my day, please go before me. Today help me to see you at work. I walk in confidence and faith because your Holy Spirit is at work even as I sleep. Thank you, Lord. Amen.

Your Turn: Can you recall times when it was apparent that God had gone before you?