The Kiss of Peace

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I will praise Him!

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Monarch Butterfly — David Kitz

Love and faithfulness meet together;
    righteousness and peace kiss each other.
Faithfulness springs forth from the earth,
    and righteousness looks down from heaven.
The LORD will indeed give what is good,
    and our land will yield its harvest.
Righteousness goes before him
    and prepares the way for his steps.

(Psalm 85:10-13, NIV)

Listening to the LORD

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I will praise Him!

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May His glory dwell in our land – photo courtesy of Donald Adam

I will listen to what God the LORD says;
    he promises peace to his people, his faithful servants—but let them not turn to folly.
Surely his salvation is near those who fear him,
    that his glory may dwell in our land.

(Psalm 85:8-9, NIV)

How Do We See God?

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Reading:                                           Psalm 18

Verses 25-29

To the faithful you show yourself faithful,
to the blameless you show yourself blameless,
to the pure you show yourself pure,
but to the devious you show yourself shrewd.
You save the humble
but bring low those whose eyes are haughty.
You, L
ORD, keep my lamp burning;
my God turns my darkness into light.
 With your help I can advance against a troop;
with my God I can scale a wall
(NIV).

Reflection
How do you see God? How do you perceive Him to be? The opening lines of today’s psalm reading tell us plainly that the state of our heart determines our perception of God. God reveals Himself to us according to the condition of our soul. Therefore, David makes this observation: To the faithful you show yourself faithful, to the blameless you show yourself blameless, to the pure you show yourself pure, but to the devious you show yourself shrewd.

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A celebration in the sky — photo courtesy of Donald Adam

The truth expressed in this straightforward observation has enormous implications for every human on the planet. Our relationship with God is shaped by our perception of Him, and our perception of Him is reflective of the state of our heart. For example, one person goes through a period of hardship and loss and becomes bitter and angry toward others and God. Another person goes through a similar period of hardship and loss, but emerges passionately in love with his Creator. How can this be?

The answer can be found in David’s observation: To the faithful you show yourself faithful, to the blameless you show yourself blameless, to the pure you show yourself pure, but to the devious you show yourself shrewd. The blameless assign no blame to God, but the sin-darkened soul blames Him for even the slightest adversity.

Jesus said, “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God” (Matthew 5:8). Do you want to see God at work in your life? Then ask the Lord Jesus to give you a pure heart. God shows Himself—becomes visible—to those with a pure heart. The pure in heart see God in the glory of the sunset, in the face of a child, in kindness of a stranger. The sin-polluted soul can view the same scene—experience the same events—and sees God in none of it. He is blind to God.

Our eyes open the moment we humble ourselves before God. David’s words ring true today. You save the humble but bring low those whose eyes are haughty. You, LORD, keep my lamp burning; my God turns my darkness into light.

Response: Heavenly Father, give me a pure heart. I want to see you. I want to see you, Lord Jesus, alive and active all around me today. Give me eyes that see beyond the natural and into the realm of the spirit where you are at work. Amen.

Your Turn: Did you see God today? How did He show Himself to you?

Clean Hands

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Reading:                                          Psalm 18

Verses 16-24

He reached down from on high and took hold of me;
he drew me out of deep waters.
He rescued me from my powerful enemy,
from my foes, who were too strong for me.
They confronted me in the day of my disaster,
but the L
ORD was my support.
He brought me out into a spacious place;
he rescued me because he delighted in me.

The LORD has dealt with me according to my righteousness;
according to the cleanness of my hands he has rewarded me.
For I have kept the ways of the L
ORD;
I am not guilty of turning from my God.
All his laws are before me;
I have not turned away from his decrees.
I have been blameless before him and have kept myself from sin.
The L
ORD has rewarded me according to my righteousness,
according to the cleanness of my hands in his sight
(NIV).

Reflection
In the previous reading, David depicted the LORD as riding the wings of the wind on a thunderstorm to rescue him from his enemies. In this portion of Psalm 18, the enemy is routed and David is rescued. In triumph David declares, “They confronted me in the day of my disaster, but the LORD was my support. He brought me out into a spacious place; he rescued me because he delighted in me.”

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He brought me to a spacious place, Kapuskasing, ON — photo by David Kitz

David then goes on to assert the reason why he believes the LORD did not allow him to perish at the hands of his mortal enemies. Twice he makes this claim, “The LORD has rewarded me according to my righteousness, according to the cleanness of my hands in his sight.”

Why were clean hands so important in David’s ultimate victory? Why are clean hands so important to the LORD? Twice when David had the opportunity to cut down his enemies—the enemies who were in pursuit to kill him—David kept his hands clean. When the opportunity arose, David refused to kill jealous King Saul despite the urging of the men who were with him. He attempted reconciliation with the enemy who sought his life. See 1 Samuel 24. That takes courage and conviction.

Sometimes it takes more courage to hold your fire than press your advantage. It takes a godly conviction that God is keeping score, and He will reward the man with a clean heart and clean hands. That takes faith—faith in the unseen hand of God at work in the affairs of men. David had that kind of faith.

How about you? Are your hands clean? Are you trusting in the LORD or settling accounts your way? Faith in God calls us to a higher standard.

Response: LORD, I want clean hands and a pure heart before you. I put my trust in you. You reward those who diligently seek you. Jesus, wash me clean. I put my faith in you. Amen.

Your Turn: Does God always reward those with clean hands? How do you keep your hands clean?

The LORD Thunders from Heaven

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Reading:                                          Psalm 18

Verses 6-15

In my distress I called to the LORD; I cried to my God for help.
From his temple he heard my voice; my cry came before him, into his ears.
The earth trembled and quaked, and the foundations of the mountains shook;
they trembled because he was angry.
Smoke rose from his nostrils; consuming fire came from his mouth,
burning coals blazed out of it.
He parted the heavens and came down; dark clouds were under his feet.
He mounted the cherubim and flew; he soared on the wings of the wind.
He made darkness his covering, his canopy around him—
the dark rain clouds of the sky.
Out of the brightness of his presence clouds advanced,
with hailstones and bolts of lightning.
The L
ORD thundered from heaven; the voice of the Most High resounded.
He shot his arrows and scattered the enemy, with great bolts of lightning he routed them.
The valleys of the sea were exposed
and the foundations of the earth laid bare at your rebuke, L
ORD,
at the blast of breath from your nostrils
(NIV).

Reflection
Maybe you are like me? I love thunderstorms. But watching a thunderstorm in a city is like watching a Christmas light display in broad daylight. There’s something missing. There’s no sense of broad expanse or sweeping grandeur.

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A passing evening shower — photo by David Kitz

I grew up on the prairies and for sheer awe there’s nothing quite like viewing a thunderstorm slowly building in the western sky. There you are on a slow moving tractor working a field. There’s you, there’s miles of flat land, and there’s the sky. And the most active thing is the sky. Sometimes the storm clouds can hang there boiling and brooding for hours—lightning flashing in the distance. Then suddenly the air changes, the wind picks up, and look out! Lightning! Thunder! Fierce gusts of wind. Rain. Hail. It all comes at you—comes at you with a vengeance.

I love a thunderstorm. It puts me in my place. It lets me see who I am. I am a small man in a big world—a world I cannot control. I’m a man at the mercy of God. I’m always at the mercy of God whether I see the storm clouds building or not.

In this psalm, David pictures the LORD riding the wings of the wind, thundering from heaven, not to harm him, but storming in to rescue him in response to his cry for help. That’s my God. That’s the picture of God that I need etched onto my mind. He is the God who hears and answers, the God who helps in times of need. In a vast world, He hears the cry of little, insignificant me. I love a thunderstorm. It lets me see the LORD’s love and grace.

Response: Heavenly Father, may I always see you as my helper. Ride to my rescue when times are tough and I am in need. You are my help and defender. You are worthy of my praise. Amen.

Your Turn: Do the storms of life help you see God at work around you?

Our Rock

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Reading:                                            Psalm 18

For the director of music. Of David the servant of the LORD.
He sang to the LORD the words of this song
when the LORD delivered him from the hand of all his enemies
and from the hand of Saul. He said:
Verses 1-5

I love you, LORD, my strength.
 The LORD is my rock, my fortress and my deliverer;
my God is my rock, in whom I take refuge,
my shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold.
I called to the L
ORD, who is worthy of praise,
and I have been saved from my enemies.
The cords of death entangled me;
the torrents of destruction overwhelmed me.
 The cords of the grave coiled around me;
the snares of death confronted me
(NIV).

Reflection

Psalm 18 is one of the longer psalms in the Book of Psalms. Step by step, day by day we will glean wisdom from the psalmist, David, as we make our way through this psalm.

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Early morning Petrie Island reflections — photo by David Kitz

In many respects Psalm 18 is a psalm of culmination. The introductory note tells us that David composed and sang this psalm when the LORD delivered him from the hand of all his enemies and from the hand of Saul. For many long years David had been fleeing for his life from his master King Saul. At long last, after repeatedly calling on God in great distress, David has triumphed. And now through the words of this psalm, he gives all the credit and all the glory to God.

Notice the list of attributes that David ascribes to the LORD: my strength, my rock, my fortress, my deliverer, my God, my rock, my shield, my salvation and my stronghold. To David the LORD had proven Himself repeatedly during years of hard times to be the embodiment of each of those attributes. If you call on Him, the LORD can be all of those things for you as well.

Did you notice that my rock is the only attribute that is repeated in this list? Why repeat the phrase my rock? In the prophetic realm, during all those years of severe testing, Christ was the rock on which David took his stand. David did not build his life on the shifting sands of public opinion or popularity. He built his life on Christ. A thousand years in advance, David was putting into practice the words of Jesus, “Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock.  The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock” (Matthew 7:24-25).

Now that’s wisdom—applied wisdom for the ages!

Response: Heavenly Father, help me daily to build my life on the rock, Christ Jesus. Lord Jesus, you are my fortress, my salvation and my stronghold. I put my full trust in you. Amen.

Your Turn: How is God like a rock in your life? Has He sustained you during difficult times? Is He helping you through tough times right now, or has He already turned the tide in your favor?

Our God’s Counterattack

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Reading:                                           Psalm 17

Verses 10-15
They close up their callous hearts,
and their mouths speak with arrogance.
They have tracked me down; they now surround me,
with eyes alert, to throw me to the ground.
They are like a lion hungry for prey,
like a fierce lion crouching in cover.
Rise up, L
ORD, confront them, bring them down;
with your sword rescue me from the wicked.
By your hand save me from such people, L
ORD,
from those of this world whose reward is in this life.
May what you have stored up for the wicked fill their bellies;
may their children gorge themselves on it,
and may there be leftovers for their little ones.
As for me, I will be vindicated and will see your face;
when I awake, I will be satisfied with seeing your likeness
(NIV).

Reflection
In this world there are those who have a callous heart—a heart that is indifferent to our pain, and the suffering of others. Here in Psalm 17, David finds himself surrounded by such people—people who were ready and willing to tear him down. This is a very difficult place to find yourself. This is why David cries out to the LORD for vindication. Earlier in this Psalm he pleads, Let my vindication come from you; may your eyes see what is right.

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I will be satisfied with seeing your likeness — photo by David Kitz

David’s response in this very trying situation is highly instructive. He does not try to defend himself. He does not plan a personal counterattack. He has no personal plan for revenge. What tactic does he use? He calls out to the LORD, “Rise up, LORD, confront them, bring them down; with your sword rescue me from the wicked.”

David, the mighty warrior, refuses to use his own sword. Instead he calls on the LORD to draw His sword and rise to his defence. That takes a lot of faith and a lot of trust in God. When surrounded and attacked my natural response is to rise up in hostile indignation. I’m inclined to counterattack with all guns blazing. But David held his peace. He did not rely on his abilities. He fled to God. There he lay out his complaint and asked God to intervene. When King Saul maliciously attacked him, David did not seek revenge. He allowed the LORD to take up his cause and deal with Saul. See 1 Samuel 26.

David’s confidence was fully in the LORD. Finally in this psalm, he declares his confidence with these words: As for me, I will be vindicated and will see your face; when I awake, I will be satisfied with seeing your likeness.

How confident are you in God’s saving intervention on your behalf?

Response: Heavenly Father, help me to seek vindication from you. Help me put my troubles in your hands. Rise up and come to my defense. Today, I trust in you to act on my behalf. Amen.

Your Turn: Do you seek revenge when others have hurt you? Have you asked God to intervene?

The One Who Trusts in You

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I will praise Him!

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Petrie Island sunset — photo by David Kitz

Better is one day in your courts
    than a thousand elsewhere;
I would rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God
    than dwell in the tents of the wicked.
For the LORD God is a sun and shield;
    the LORD bestows favor and honor;
no good thing does he withhold
    from those whose walk is blameless.

LORD Almighty,
    blessed is the one who trusts in you.

(Psalm 84:10-12, NIV)

Heart Exams

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Reading:                                          Psalm 17

A prayer of David.
Verses 1-9

Hear me, LORD, my plea is just; listen to my cry.
Hear my prayer—it does not rise from deceitful lips.
Let my vindication come from you; may your eyes see what is right.

Though you probe my heart, though you examine me at night and test me,
you will find that I have planned no evil; my mouth has not transgressed.
Though people tried to bribe me,
I have kept myself from the ways of the violent
through what your lips have commanded.
My steps have held to your paths; my feet have not stumbled.

I call on you, my God, for you will answer me;
turn your ear to me and hear my prayer.
Show me the wonders of your great love,
you who save by your right hand those who take refuge in you from their foes.
Keep me as the apple of your eye;
hide me in the shadow of your wings
from the wicked who are out to destroy me,
from my mortal enemies who surround me
(NIV).

Reflection

“Are you up for the test? The exam schedule has been posted. Have you prepared? Are you ready for it?” Words like those can produce feelings of dread or anxious thoughts, especially for high school or university students. If you have studied and prepared yourself well, you can have a measure of confidence. But some uncertainty always remains.

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Petrie Island morning — photo by David Kitz

In today’s psalm, David welcomes God’s examination. He states, Though you probe my heart, though you examine me at night and test me, you will find that I have planned no evil; my mouth has not transgressed.”

David had nothing to hide. His conscience was clear; therefore he did not dread God’s probing. He knew that an examination of his heart would result in vindication. He would be proven right and just before his Maker. Do you and I have the same confidence?

Check your heart. Better yet, allow God to check it regularly. Be open and transparent before Him. It’s the only way I know to keep a clean heart and a right mind before God and others. The LORD is the best heart doctor available, and He does home visits if we invite Him in.

Only when our hearts and minds are open and right before God can we freely pray, “Keep me as the apple of your eye; hide me in the shadow of your wings.

Response: Heavenly Father, probe my heart so that I can repent of anything that displeases you. I want to bring only joy and pleasure to the heart of my Father. Amen.

Your Turn: Why do we resist allowing God to examine our heart issues? Are we afraid of what He may find?