Built by the LORD

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Zion was built by the LORD
    on the holy mountain,
 and he loves that city
    more than any other place
    in all of Israel (Psalm 87:1-2, CEV).

Bleeding Hearts

Bleeding hearts – photo by David Kitz

Reflection

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

A simple definition of a city is a large built up area inhabited by people and the enterprises they operate. Just as ants build anthills, people build cities. But today’s verse from the Psalms tells us that the LORD built a city.

Zion was built by the LORD on the holy mountain, and he loves that city more than any other place in all of Israel (Psalm 87:1-2, CEV).

Did King David build Zion and make it his capital, or did the LORD build the city? Elsewhere in  Psalms we read: Unless the LORD builds the house, the builders labor in vain. Unless the LORD watches over the city, the guards stand watch in vain (Psalm 127:1, NIV).

It would seem that the LORD wants to be involved in human society and He is the driving force behind everything good that we do. He is the Creator, the Builder and the Savior of the city.

Response: LORD God, open my eyes to see how you are building the city in which I live. Help me play an effective role in what you are doing. Jesus, you are Lord of all. Amen.

Your Turn: How is the God working in your city or community? What is He building?

The City Where He Lives

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The LORD God is wonderful! He deserves all praise in the city where he lives.
His holy mountain, beautiful and majestic,
    brings joy to all on earth (Psalm 48:1-2, CEV).

Apple Blossoms

City park crabapple blossoms — photo by Karen Kitz

Reflection

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

Where does God live? That’s a simple question, but answers are many and varied. The most common answer is that God lives in heaven. But many say that Jesus lives in their heart. Today’s verse from Psalms declares that the LORD lives in the city, specifically on Mount Zion in the heart of Jerusalem.

The LORD God is wonderful! He deserves all praise in the city where he lives. His holy mountain, beautiful and majestic, brings joy to all on earth (Psalm 48:1-2, CEV).

So does God still live in Jerusalem or was this verse only true during the Old Testament period? Does the LORD live in your city?

Paul, the apostle, has this to say on the topic:  You surely know that your body is a temple where the Holy Spirit lives. The Spirit is in you and is a gift from God. You are no longer your own (1 Corinthians 6:19).

If you are inhabited by God through the presence of the Holy Spirit, then you bring that presence to the city where you live. What an awesome privilege and responsibility!

Response: LORD God, I want the fullness of your presence to dwell in me. Let me bring the joy of the Lord to a city that is weary and searching for meaning. Amen.

Your Turn: Are you conscious of God’s presence in your life?

I Will Remember Your Miracles

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Reading:                                      Psalm 77

Verses 9-15

Then I thought, “To this I will appeal:
the years when the Most High stretched out his right hand.
I will remember the deeds of the L
ORD;
yes, I will remember your miracles of long ago.
I will consider all your works
and meditate on all your mighty deeds.”

Your ways, God, are holy.
What god is as great as our God?
You are the God who performs miracles;
you display your power among the peoples.
With your mighty arm you redeemed your people,
the descendants of Jacob and Joseph
(NIV).

Reflection

Psalm 77 began with the psalmist in a state of anguish approaching despair. He was filled with questions for the LORD—questions but no answers. This brings us to our reading for today. After pouring out his complaint, the psalmist recalls the mighty works of the LORD.

“To this I will appeal: the years when the Most High stretched out his right hand. I will remember the deeds of the LORD; yes, I will remember your miracles of long ago. I will consider all your works and meditate on all your mighty deeds.”

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Garden peony — photo by David Kitz

When in doubt, remember. In a time of suffering, remember. When troubles assail from every side, remember. What should we remember? Remember the God who performs miracles. Remember that He is your personal redeemer. The blood Jesus shed was for you. The resurrection he accomplished was for you. The forgiveness he offers is for you.

During trying times, I will consider all your works and meditate on all your mighty deeds.

Our faith isn’t tested and purified in the good times while the choir sings sweetly in the background. Faith is tested and purified in the furnace of affliction. There’s no lineup of volunteers signing up for affliction. The gospel that is often presented today is branded as affliction-free. But Jesus gave no such promise. He promised persecution to those who leave all to follow him (Mark 10:29-31).

Paul, the apostle, makes this assertion: We also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us (Romans 5:3-5).

As you face difficult times, reflect on the ever-present miracle working power of God.

Response: LORD God, you are at work on my behalf even when I can’t see it. I believe in you, the miracle-working God. May my meditation center on you and your word, because your word brings light. Amen.

Your Turn: Does God have your attention when you are in trouble or pain?

A Fortress of Praise

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With praises from children and from tiny infants, you have built a fortress. It makes your enemies silent, and all who turn against you are left speechless (Psalm 8:2, CEV).

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Prairie Moon — photo courtesy of Donald Adam

Reflection

This week’s I Love the Psalms theme is the word fortress.

The idea of building a fortress with praise seems completely illogical. How can praises build a fortress? But that’s what today’s verse from the Psalms states:

With praises from children and from tiny infants, you have built a fortress. It makes your enemies silent, and all who turn against you are left speechless (Psalm 8:2, CEV).

Furthermore, this fortress is not built with the praises of men, but rather with the praises of children and infants. The simple innocence and wisdom of children often confounds the philosophers and experts of the day. It was children who hailed Jesus as the messianic Son of David, while the chief priests and teachers of the Law scoffed at him (Matthew 21:14-16).

Praising the Lord fortifies our spirit against the attacks of the enemy. And it doesn’t take a genius to apply that truth.

Response: LORD God, I want to build a fortress of praise. There is no one as holy, loving and powerful as you. I give this day, my life and my praise to you. Amen.

Your Turn: Why do children often grasp the truths of God more easily than adults?

You Love Me!

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I will sing your praises! You are my mighty fortress, and you love me (Psalm 59:7, CEV).

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The delicate dance of grass at sunset — photo courtesy of Donald Adam

Reflection

This week’s I Love the Psalms theme is the word fortress.

The most reassuring aspect of knowing that the LORD is our fortress is living in the knowledge that we are loved by God. The LORD is our fortress because He loves us. We can run to Him because He wants the best for us.

Today’s verse from the Psalms says just that:

I will sing your praises! You are my mighty fortress, and you love me (Psalm 59:7, CEV).

Rather than running from God, our heavenly Father calls us to run to Him and find our shelter and a place of rest in Him. David, the warrior king and author of many of the psalms, discovered that the LORD was his fortress. The fortress that David retreated to was built on the bedrock of God’s love for him.

The LORD who loves you, even as He loved David, welcomes you into His Fortress built on love.

Response: LORD God, I can’t thank you enough for loving me. You demonstrated that love by sending Jesus to die on a cross in my place. You are my fortress in the storms of life. Amen.

Your Turn: Do you sometimes doubt God’s love for you? How are you reassured of God’s continual love even when times are difficult?

Run to Him for Safety

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The LORD Most High is your fortress.
Run to him for safety,
and no terrible disasters will strike you
    or your home (Psalm 91:9-10, CEV).

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Lone Tree — photo courtesy of Donald Adam

Reflection

This week’s I Love the Psalms theme is the word fortress.

Much of Canada has been caught up in the drama of the mass evacuation of Fort McMurray, Alberta. More than 80,000 people were forced to flee as a forest fire swept into the city destroying thousands of homes.

For many of us our home is our fortress—our place of safety and renewal. When that safe zone is destroyed, what can we do? Today’s verse from the Psalms provides an answer.

The LORD Most High is your fortress. Run to him for safety, and no terrible disasters will strike you or your home (Psalm 91:9-10, CEV).

But for many in Fort McMurray, a terrible disaster did strike their home. What can these people do?

The truth of God’s word still stands firm though external forces rage. When we lose all our material wealth, what remains? Faith remains. The Word of God remains. We can run to Him. The LORD is that fortress that will never be destroyed. Run to Him for safety.

Response: LORD God, the day will come when all will be taken from me. In that day let me be found safe within your fortress. I put my faith in you. You stand firm forever. Amen.

Your Turn: Do you have a fortress to which you can run?

My Fortress

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You are my mighty rock, my fortress, my protector, the rock where I am safe, my shield, my powerful weapon, and my place of shelter (Psalm 18:2, CEV).

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Mount Fuji — The LORD is our Fortress — photo by David Kitz

Reflection

This week’s I Love the Psalms theme is the word fortress.

There are two kinds of strength, passive strength and aggressive strength. A fortress represents a form of passive strength. A fortress is defensive in nature. Its purpose is to project strength by deterring and if necessary repelling attacks from an external enemy.

Today’s verse from the Psalms is all about how the LORD acts as our strong fortress.

You are my mighty rock, my fortress, my protector, the rock where I am safe, my shield, my powerful weapon, and my place of shelter (Psalm 18:2, CEV).

But why do we need a fortress? The answer is obvious. We have an active enemy who is determined to destroy us. Jesus said, A thief comes only to rob, kill, and destroy. I came so that everyone would have life, and have it in its fullest.  I am the good shepherd, and the good shepherd gives up his life for his sheep” (John 10:10-11).

The Lord Jesus is our fortress and protector against the enemy of our souls. I am safe when I am found in Him.

Response: LORD God, I thank you for Jesus, my shepherd and protector. I am safe when I find shelter within the walls of your fortress. You gave up your life to keep me safe. Praise be to your name. Amen.

Your Turn: Are you active or passive when you take shelter in the Lord?

More Questions than Answers

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Reading:                                           Psalm 77

For the director of music. For Jeduthun. Of Asaph. A psalm.

Verses 1-9

I cried out to God for help;
I cried out to God to hear me.
When I was in distress, I sought the Lord;
at night I stretched out untiring hands,
and I would not be comforted.

 I remembered you, God, and I groaned;
I meditated, and my spirit grew faint.
You kept my eyes from closing;
I was too troubled to speak.
I thought about the former days,
the years of long ago;
I remembered my songs in the night.
My heart meditated and my spirit asked:

 “Will the Lord reject forever?
Will he never show his favor again?
Has his unfailing love vanished forever?
Has his promise failed for all time?
Has God forgotten to be merciful?
Has he in anger withheld his compassion?”
(NIV).

Reflection

Sometimes in our walk of faith, we go through dark days. Answers to our prayers do not come quickly. We are left wondering if God even hears or cares. The opening verses of Psalm 77 reflect the psalmist’s mood of desolation, which approaches despair. The psalmist has more questions than the Lord has answers. At least that’s how it appears. “Will the Lord reject forever? Will he never show his favor again? Has his unfailing love vanished forever? Has his promise failed for all time? Has God forgotten to be merciful? Has he in anger withheld his compassion?”  

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Wisteria in Victoria, BC – photo by David Kitz

Last Friday morning, I was on a pleasant spring walk through a quiet residential neighborhood with my sister. Suddenly without warning, I was struck by a car backing out of a driveway. In an instant, pleasure was replaced by searing pain. My right knee was skinned and bleeding. Ligaments in my left ankle were torn. Now I hobble about on crutches. Surgery may be needed.

Like the psalmist, my week since the accident has been filled with questions. Questions by police officers. Questions by family members and friends. Questions by insurance claim specialists. Questions by doctors. And in my quiet moments, I have had a few questions for the Lord, “Why did you allow this to happen? What should my response be? How long will this pain last? When will I be able to walk normally again? Did I do something wrong to bring on this pain?”

Response: LORD God, I don’t have the answers. You do. Your word tells me to “give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus” (1Thessalonians 5:18). Help me to do just that in these circumstances. You are always worthy of praise even when I don’t understand. Amen.

Your Turn: Do you have questions for God when life seems to go off the rails?

Victory for the Humble

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The LORD is pleased with his people, and he gives victory to those who are humble (Psalm 149:4, CEV).

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Sunset shores — photo courtesy of Donald Adam

Reflection

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

Do you hang on to promises? A promise of help from a friend can give you hope in the midst of dark days.

Today’s verse from the Psalms is a promise from the LORD.

The LORD is pleased with his people, and he gives victory to those who are humble (Psalm 149:4, CEV).

Like many promises, this promise from the LORD is not open-ended. It has certain limitations. It is limited to the people of God—His children born of the Spirit. The second limiting factor is humility. The humble can claim this promise as their own. The proud need not apply.

Are you a humble child of God? Then hold on, victory will come. You have solid grounds for hope. The LORD will be true to His promises.

Response: LORD God, thank you for your promise of help and victory for the humble. Help me to maintain a posture of humility before you. I am your child by faith. Amen.

Your Turn: Do you hang on to God’s promises? Has He come through for you?

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