A Trouble Free Life?

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Reading:                                     Psalm 34

(Verses 19-22)
The righteous person may have many troubles,
but the L
ORD delivers him from them all;
he protects all his bones,
not one of them will be broken.
Evil will slay the wicked;
the foes of the righteous will be condemned.
The L
ORD will rescue his servants;
no one who takes refuge in him will be condemned
(NIV).

Reflection
This final portion of Psalm 34 reflects David’s faith in a God who saves. He began this psalm with praise because he experienced the saving power of God. Now David states that the LORD delivers, protects and rescues. But for these words to be meaningful, the LORD must deliver, protect and rescue from various forms of trouble and adversity. There is no rescue if there is no danger. There is no deliverance if there is no oppression.

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Sunset photo courtesy of Liz Kranz

If you choose to follow the LORD, you are not guaranteed a trouble-free life. Jesus told his disciples, “In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world” (John 16:33).

Many of us believe that if we do our best to lead a good life, following the commandments as found in the Bible, God will exempt us from hardship and trouble. But Jesus, the sinless Son of God, did not have a trouble-free life. Why should we expect our lives to be trouble free? God has not promised me a trouble-free life; He has promised to be with me when trouble and adversity comes.

About three years ago a close friend of mine suffered a debilitating stroke. He lost his position as a teacher, his finances took a hit and he struggled mightily to get his mobility back. In an instant every movement became much more difficult for him—every step a monumental effort. Last week he made a startling confession. He said, “If I had it to do over, I wouldn’t go back. I wouldn’t return to my pre-stroke days. God has drawn me so much closer to Himself through this. I wouldn’t wish this on any man. But God has changed me and used me in new ways that wouldn’t have been possible unless this happened.”

All of us desperately try to avoid the furnace of affliction. It’s too hard—too unpleasant—full of things we cannot bear. But God meets us there. He bears us up on eagle’s wings. When our resources and abilities run out, He takes over. He becomes our help and our deliverer in ways we cannot fathom. God is present in times of trouble.

His promises are tried, tested and true: The LORD will rescue his servants; no one who takes refuge in him will be condemned.

Response: Heavenly Father, I can’t always see what is genuinely in my best interest, especially when that involves adversity. Be my sure help and protection in troubled times. May your unfailing love be with us, LORD, even as we put our hope in you. In Jesus’ name, we pray. Amen.

Your Turn: Has God met with you in a time of trouble? Do you know Him as your strength and rescuer in times of hardship and difficulty?

Worship the LORD with Gladness

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I will praise Him!

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Enter his gates with thanksgiving — photo by David Kitz

Shout for joy to the LORD, all the earth.
Worship the LORD with gladness;
    come before him with joyful songs.
Know that the LORD is God.
    It is he who made us, and we are his;
    we are his people, the sheep of his pasture.

Enter his gates with thanksgiving
    and his courts with praise;
    give thanks to him and praise his name.
For the LORD is good and his love endures forever;
    his faithfulness continues through all generations.

(Psalm 100, NIV)

The God of the City

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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 L
ORD 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, Canada. 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.

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Autumn sunset near MacNutt, Saskatchewan — photo by 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 ancient 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 Calgary, 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?

Our 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 L
ORD 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. Yesterday’s psalm reading seemed particularly appropriate as we reflected on the events of Good Friday. This Today’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.

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He is coming in the clouds — photo by David Kitz near Johnson, Vermont

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 the 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! He is my forerunner. I will live and reign through Him, because of His resurrection. Amen.

Your Turn: The resurrection means the dead in Christ will be raised. Who will you want to greet first?

Becoming 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
I originally wrote this post during 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 me: Come and see what the LORD has done.

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Landestreu sunrise — photo courtesy of Donald Adam

 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; arms 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 our love for God, but God’s love for man. 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 on by. 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 the 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—love that I don’t deserve—that I have not earned. But Jesus, you offered yourself freely. Thank you. Amen.

Your Turn: Has your life been altered by the cross?

Our Confidence—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).

Reflection
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.

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Manitoba sunrise — photo by David Kitz

If we have no relationship with someone, how can we trust them? How can we have confidence in them or their actions if we don’t know them?

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 simply 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. Our confidence grows as we 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 because you are with me. You are my Savior and my God. Amen.

Your Turn: Has your confidence been shaken recently? Where have you turned for help?

My Gallant Lover

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Reading:                                      Psalm 45

(Verses 10-17)
Listen, daughter, and pay careful attention:
Forget your people and your father’s house.
Let the king be enthralled by your beauty;
honor him, for he is your lord.
The city of Tyre will come with a gift,
people of wealth will seek your favor.
All glorious is the princess within her chamber;
her gown is interwoven with gold.
In embroidered garments she is led to the king;
her virgin companions follow her—
those brought to be with her.
Led in with joy and gladness,
they enter the palace of the king.
Your sons will take the place of your fathers;
you will make them princes throughout the land.
I will perpetuate your memory through all generations;
therefore the nations will praise you for ever and ever (NIV).

Reflection
If we interpret Psalm 45 as a messianic psalm, as most Bible scholars do, then it logically follows that Jesus is the royal bridegroom and the church is his chosen bride. For reasons we cannot fathom, the King has fallen in love with us. Now this would make sense if we possessed some godly characteristic or showed some inclination to holiness. But the scripture declares that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us (Romans 5:8).

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Morning rays on the Lamoille River, Fairfax, Vermont — photo by David Kitz

I am reminded of some romance novel, where the gallant lover takes off his coat and lays it in the mud so that his lady love can step across a puddle without soiling her shoes. Jesus is that gallant lover. But he did more than lay down his coat. He lay down his life that we might cross from death to life. Now that’s true romance! Jesus has romanced us into his kingdom, and I for one, am forever grateful.

Listen to the psalmist’s advice, “Listen, daughter, and pay careful attention: Forget your people and your father’s house. Let the king be enthralled by your beauty; honor him, for he is your lord. 

If you have bowed your knees at the foot of the cross, He is your Lord. Be beautiful for Him; you are his betrothed.  The apostle Paul reminds us of this truth with these words of admonition:  I am jealous for you with a godly jealousy. I promised you to one husband, to Christ, so that I might present you as a pure virgin to him (2 Corinthians 11:2).

Having been redeemed by Christ, it’s now time to make yourself presentable before Him, the eternal Lover of your soul.

Response: LORD God, I want to be beautiful for Jesus. I make it my aim to please you today in all I say, think and do. I am forever grateful for your love. Amen.

Your Turn: In what ways can you make yourself beautiful for the King?

Among His Priests

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I will praise Him!

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Foggy morning sunrise on Petrie Island — photo by David Kitz

Moses and Aaron were among his priests,
    Samuel was among those who called on his name;
they called on the LORD
    and he answered them.
He spoke to them from the pillar of cloud;
    they kept his statutes and the decrees he gave them.

LORD our God,
    you answered them;
you were to Israel a forgiving God,
    though you punished their misdeeds.
Exalt the LORD our God
    and worship at his holy mountain,
    for the LORD our God is holy.

(Psalm 99:1-5, NIV)

The LORD Reigns

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I will praise Him!

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The Ruins, Mackenzie King Estate, Gatineau Park, QC — photo by David Kitz

The LORD reigns,
    let the nations tremble;
he sits enthroned between the cherubim,
    let the earth shake.
Great is the LORD in Zion;
    he is exalted over all the nations.
Let them praise your great and awesome name—
    he is holy.

The King is mighty, he loves justice—
    you have established equity;
in Jacob you have done
    what is just and right.
Exalt the LORD our God
    and worship at his footstool;
    he is holy.

(Psalm 99:1-5, NIV)

The Oil of Joy

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Reading:                                       Psalm 45

For the director of music. To the tune of “Lilies.” Of the Sons of Korah. A maskil. A wedding song.
(Verses 1-9)
My heart is stirred by a noble theme as I recite my verses for the king;
my tongue is the pen of a skillful writer.
You are the most excellent of men and your lips have been anointed with grace,
since God has blessed you forever.
Gird your sword on your side, you mighty one;
clothe yourself with splendor and majesty.
In your majesty ride forth victoriously
in the cause of truth, humility and justice;
let your right hand achieve awesome deeds.
Let your sharp arrows pierce the hearts of the king’s enemies;
let the nations fall beneath your feet.
Your throne, O God, will last for ever and ever;
a scepter of justice will be the scepter of your kingdom.
You love righteousness and hate wickedness;
therefore God, your God, has set you above your companions
by anointing you with the oil of joy.
All your robes are fragrant with myrrh and aloes and cassia;
from palaces adorned with ivory the music of the strings makes you glad.
Daughters of kings are among your honored women;
at your right hand is the royal bride in gold of Ophir
(NIV).

Reflection
The introductory words of Psalm 45 describe it as a wedding song, but it is not merely depicting the wedding of a commoner. This is the wedding of a king. No, this is not just a king; He is the King—the King of kings and Lord of lords. There is none like Him in heaven or on earth.

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Misty morning sunrise on Petrie Island, Orleans, ON — photo by David Kitz

The New Testament writer of the Book of Hebrews quotes directly from this psalm: But about the Son he says, “Your throne, O God, will last for ever and ever; a scepter of justice will be the scepter of your kingdom. You have loved righteousness and hated wickedness; therefore God, your God, has set you above your companions by anointing you with the oil of joy” (Hebrews 1:8-9).

Of course, Jesus is the Son that the writer of Hebrews is referring to. The throne of Christ will last for ever and ever; His kingdom reign will never end. But how did Jesus come to occupy this exalted position? Though conceived by the Holy Spirit, He was nevertheless fully human. He was subject to the same frailties and temptations that we face.

This psalm tells us that Jesus was elevated to the highest throne because He loved righteousness and hated wickedness. Can the same be said about you and me? Do we love righteousness? Do we hate what is evil? The same oil of joy is available to those who follow in the footsteps of our Lord.

Response: LORD God, help me to love what you love and hate what you hate. Anoint me with your joy as I seek to follow you in every aspect of my life. I pray in Jesus’ name. Amen.

Your Turn: What do you love? What do you hate? Do some of these things need to change?

Pouring Out Your Complaint

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Reading:                                      Psalm 44

 (Verses 17-26)
All this came upon us, though we had not forgotten you;
we had not been false to your covenant.
Our hearts had not turned back;
our feet had not strayed from your path.
But you crushed us and made us a haunt for jackals;
you covered us over with deep darkness.
If we had forgotten the name of our God
or spread out our hands to a foreign god,
would not God have discovered it,
since he knows the secrets of the heart?
Yet for your sake we face death all day long;
we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.
Awake, LORD! Why do you sleep?
Rouse yourself! Do not reject us forever.
Why do you hide your face and forget our misery and oppression?
We are brought down to the dust;
our bodies cling to the ground.
Rise up and help us; rescue us because of your unfailing love
(NIV).

Reflection
As previously noted, Psalm 44 begins in a very positive fashion as the psalmist recalls the goodness of the LORD and the great victories Israel has won because of the LORD’s help. But that is not the present reality. The present reality is filled with defeat, death and destruction. The psalmist moves from rejoicing over past victories to lamenting over present-day tribulations. Hear his words of anguish: Yet for your sake we face death all day long; we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.

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Mist rising from the Fairfax Falls on the Lamoille River, Fairfax, Vermont — photo by David Kitz

What do you do in the midst of defeat? Do you put on a brave face and pretend all is going well? There may be occasions when putting on a brave face is warranted, even necessary—but inside, when we are alone with our thoughts we question why God would allow such things. Why would God allow a child to die? Why would He allow a natural disaster like an earthquake to claim countless innocent lives? Normally, these life-shattering matters don’t come with pat answers in tow. We are left in a state of grief and bewilderment.

Often believers see such events as retribution for sins committed against a holy God. But note the psalmist’s complaint: All this came upon us, though we had not forgotten you; we had not been false to your covenant. Our hearts had not turned back; our feet had not strayed from your path. 

The brutal truth is bad things happen to good people. Sometimes Christians are martyred on a beach in Libya. Sometimes a cruel disease hems us in on every side and there is no escape, aside from death and heaven’s door. Sometimes all we can do is pour out our complaint before a God of unfailing love.

Response: LORD God, when life is hard, help me to remember to bring my complaints and travails to you. You are bigger than any agony or grief I may face. I call out to you, my Savior and my God. Amen.

Your Turn: In your opinion has God been unfair to you? How do you respond?