Teach me Your Way, LORD

Reading: Psalm 119
ה He
(Verses 33-40)
Teach me, LORD, the way of your decrees,
that I may follow it to the end.
Give me understanding, so that I may keep your law
and obey it with all my heart.
Direct me in the path of your commands,
for there I find delight.
Turn my heart toward your statutes
and not toward selfish gain.
Turn my eyes away from worthless things;
preserve my life according to your word.
 Fulfill your promise to your servant,
so that you may be feared.
 Take away the disgrace I dread,
for your laws are good.
How I long for your precepts!
In your righteousness preserve my life
(NIV).

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Take to higher ground, LORD — Banff National Park — photo by David Kitz

Reflection
How do you learn? We live in an era when education and learning are highly valued, so this is an important question. In recent years psychologists have discovered what good teachers have recognized intuitively. Not everyone learns in the same way.

We all learn by taking in information through our senses, but that’s where individual differences begin to emerge. Some of us are primarily auditory learners. We learn best by listening. Others are primarily tactile or kinesthetic learners; they learn through touch and physical activity. Some learn best by reading. Visual learners grasp concepts best by engaging with pictures, maps or diagrams. Personally, visual learning is one of my strong suits.

The psalmist begins today’s reading from Psalm 119 by expressing his desire to learn from the LORD: Teach me, LORD, the way of your decrees, that I may follow it to the end. Give me understanding, so that I may keep your law and obey it with all my heart.

Now that’s a noble request. We all need to pray that prayer. But how exactly do we learn from God? The psalmist goes on to provide some answers. Turn my heart toward your statutes and not toward selfish gain. Turn my eyes away from worthless things; preserve my life according to your word.

It all begins with turning our hearts—our affections—toward the LORD. You can’t expect to learn much if you turn your back on the Teacher. And that requires a repentant heart. What are your eyes taking in? Is it worthless things, or the glory of God in nature, or in the face of Jesus Christ?  

Response: Father God, I want to see you. Open my eyes to your wonders around me. Teach me your ways in practical life altering steps that draw me close to you. Open your word to me. Amen.

Your Turn: What kind of learner are you? Are you learning from the LORD?

Broaden my Understanding

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Reading: Psalm 119
ד Daleth
(Verses 25-32)
I am laid low in the dust;
preserve my life according to your word.
I gave an account of my ways and you answered me;
teach me your decrees.
Cause me to understand the way of your precepts,
that I may meditate on your wonderful deeds.
My soul is weary with sorrow;
strengthen me according to your word.
Keep me from deceitful ways;
be gracious to me and teach me your law.
I have chosen the way of faithfulness;
I have set my heart on your laws.
I hold fast to your statutes, L
ORD;
do not let me be put to shame.
 I run in the path of your commands,
for you have broadened my understanding
(NIV).

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Calm reflection brings truth to light — photo by David Kitz

Reflection
Humility is not a character quality that is natural to man; on the contrary, a proud and haughty spirit is all too common. We may do our best to disguise our pride, but often it’s there just below the surface. Usually we are blind to our conceit and arrogance. We flatter ourselves too much to see our own faults. There are a number of scriptures that say just that. The rich are wise in their own eyes; one who is poor and discerning sees how deluded they are (Proverbs 28:11).

We smarten up when we are laid low. The psalmist begins today’s reading from the lowest point—from the dust. Why does he begin from such a low point? We are given a clue in the second verse of this psalm portion: I gave an account of my ways and you answered me; teach me your decrees. 

When we are called to account, we like to put on a brave face and set our best foot forward. This may work well in human circles, but it’s not the best strategy when we are called to account before God. The positive spin we put on our sins and shortcomings doesn’t impress God in the least.

God sees us as we truly are. We are always naked—morally naked before Him. We can hide nothing from the LORD. When God answers us, we are brought low; we are laid low in the dust. We were taken from the dust and God formed us into who we are. Any success we have had is due to Him—entirely due to Him. That problem-solving mind was formed by Him. That pretty/handsome face was shaped by Him. That strength and athletic talent came from God. My talents are gifts from God.

We get a right understanding—the best understanding from our knees—the laid low position. 

Response: Father God, you are right to call me to account. I humble myself before you. Keep me from deceitful ways; be gracious to me and teach me your law. I want to please you. Amen.

Your Turn: Are you putting a positive spin on your relationship with God or has humility triumphed?

Male Pattern Blindness

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Reading: Psalm 119
ג Gimel
(Verses 17-24)
Be good to your servant while I live,
that I may obey your word.
Open my eyes that I may see
wonderful things in your law.
I am a stranger on earth;
do not hide your commands from me.
My soul is consumed with longing
for your laws at all times.
You rebuke the arrogant, who are accursed,
those who stray from your commands.
Remove from me their scorn and contempt,
for I keep your statutes.
Though rulers sit together and slander me,
your servant will meditate on your decrees.
Your statutes are my delight;
they are my counselors
(NIV).

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Chateau Lake Louise — photo by David Kitz

Reflection
My wife knows all about my blindness. Actually, it’s a condition that afflicts many men. You see I have difficulty seeing what is right in front of me. She will tell me to get a certain item from the next room, but can I find it? Of course not. Eventually, my longsuffering wife will arrive to point out the obvious. To which I will respond with, “Now, why couldn’t I see that?”

She will then reply with, “Because you’re blind.”

I’m sure domestic scenes like this are repeated in homes all over the world. But something very similar happens when we open our Bibles. We read a passage and though we take it in with our eyes, it seems the words go nowhere. The thoughts expressed by those words do not register on our minds or in our spirits. I’m ashamed to admit there are times when I have read a chapter from the Bible and walked away completely unaware of what I have read. Nothing has registered. The psalmist’s prayer in today’s reading needs to become my own: Open my eyes that I may see wonderful things in your law.

Unless God opens our eyes when we read His word, we are engaging in an exercise in futility. The Holy Spirit inspired the apostles and prophets to write the Bible, and we urgently need the same Holy Spirit to bring those words alive for us as we read. The god of this world has blinded our eyes. Often God’s truths are veiled. We need the Holy Spirit to remove that veil. Something marvelous happens when that occurs. And we all, who with unveiled faces contemplate the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his image with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit (2 Corinthians 3: 18).  

Response: Father God, open my eyes and my heart to the truths of your glorious word. Day by day I want to grow in my knowledge and love for you. I need to be transformed by your Spirit. Remove the veil from my eyes. Amen.

Your Turn: Do you regularly read God’s word? Do you sometimes suffer from Bible blindness?

Your Compassion, LORD, is Great

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I will praise Him!

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Lilac blossoms — photo by David Kitz

ר Resh

Look on my suffering and deliver me,
    for I have not forgotten your law.
Defend my cause and redeem me;
    preserve my life according to your promise.
Salvation is far from the wicked,
    for they do not seek out your decrees.
Your compassion, LORD, is great;

    preserve my life according to your laws.
Many are the foes who persecute me,
    but I have not turned from your statutes.
I look on the faithless with loathing,
    for they do not obey your word.
See how I love your precepts;
    preserve my life, LORD, in accordance with your love.
All your words are true;
    all your righteous laws are eternal.

(Psalm 119:153-160, NIV)

You are near, LORD

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I will praise Him!

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The blossoms of early spring — photo by David Kitz

ק Qoph

I call with all my heart; answer me, LORD,
    and I will obey your decrees.
I call out to you; save me
    and I will keep your statutes.
I rise before dawn and cry for help;
    I have put my hope in your word.
My eyes stay open through the watches of the night,
    that I may meditate on your promises.
Hear my voice in accordance with your love;
    preserve my life, LORD, according to your laws.
Those who devise wicked schemes are near,
    but they are far from your law.
Yet you are near, LORD,
    and all your commands are true.
Long ago I learned from your statutes
    that you established them to last forever.

(Psalm 119:145-152, NIV)

Walking the Path of Purity

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Reading: Psalm 119
ב Beth
(Verses 9-16)
How can a young person stay on the path of purity?
    By living according to your word.
I seek you with all my heart;
    do not let me stray from your commands.
 I have hidden your word in my heart
    that I might not sin against you.
Praise be to you, LORD;
    teach me your decrees.
With my lips I recount
    all the laws that come from your mouth.
I rejoice in following your statutes
    as one rejoices in great riches.
I meditate on your precepts
    and consider your ways.
I delight in your decrees;
    I will not neglect your word (NIV).

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Are you walking the path of purity? — photo by David Kitz

Reflection
In the age of the internet and one-click-away pornographic websites, the opening question in today’s reading from Psalm 119 has never been more salient. How can a young person stay on the path of purity?

Why would a young man want to keep his way pure? Why not chase every skirt in town? Why not have some fun? Why not eat, drink and be merry? We only pass through this life once. Why not live it up?

But if the God of the universe has called men and women into relationship with Him, then purity and holiness are at the very core of that relationship. If we are called to be with God—to dwell in harmony with Him—then we must embrace holiness. To embrace God is to embrace holiness. Those filthy sin spots have got to go. If we are to walk with God, we must willingly walk away from mind and soul-fouling sin.

The writer of the Book of Hebrews urges on the young faith runners with these words: Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God (Hebrews 12:1-2, NIV).

In a world awash in pornography, we all need fixed eyes—eyes fixed on Jesus—eyes that see the cross— eyes that see the blood-drenched cross. Purity comes at a price. It cost the heavenly Father the life of His very own Son. A young man named Jesus—in flesh like my own—in skin like my own—poured out his life’s blood to make me pure. Fix your eyes on Him!

 Response: LORD, I want to live my life according to your word. I seek you with all my heart; do not let me stray from your commands. I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you. Amen.

Your Turn: Do you struggle with impure thoughts? Are you neglecting God’s word?

Blameless Ways Result from Following His Ways

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Reading: Psalm 119
א Aleph
(Verses 1-8)
Blessed are those whose ways are blameless,
    who walk according to the law of the LORD.
Blessed are those who keep his statutes
    and seek him with all their heart—
they do no wrong
    but follow his ways.
You have laid down precepts
    that are to be fully obeyed.
Oh, that my ways were steadfast
    in obeying your decrees!
Then I would not be put to shame
    when I consider all your commands.
 I will praise you with an upright heart
    as I learn your righteous laws.
I will obey your decrees;
    do not utterly forsake me (NIV).

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Lake Louise — photo by David Kitz

Reflection
We are about to start a twenty-two day journey through Psalm 119, the longest Psalm in the Bible. This is also an acrostic poem, which in this case means each stanza of this poetic psalm begins with a different letter of the Hebrew alphabet. The section above for instance, begins with the letter Aleph, which roughly corresponds to our letter A. Also, within each alphabetic stanza are eight verses, which all begin with the same Hebrew letter. In this way the psalm’s composer works his way through the entire twenty-two letters of the Hebrew alphabet. This psalm is a truly remarkable literary composition, which was originally structured to be memorized, like the alphabet. Alas, for the English reader, much of the elaborate, intricate beauty of this psalm is lost the moment it is translated from its original tongue.

The theme of this psalm is consistent throughout. It is a poetic testimony in praise of God’s holy, unchanging word. Here we find the alpha and omega of the psalms—a literary tribute to the A to Z wonder of God’s word. Every letter trumpets the salutary goodness of God’s written word.

From the beginning of this poetic masterpiece the author recognizes his need. His life needs to be governed by the law of the LORD. His goal and heart’s desire is to lead a blameless life. God’s blessing comes to such a person. Blessed are those whose ways are blameless, who walk according to the law of the LORD. Blessed are those who keep his statutes and seek him with all their heart—they do no wrong but follow his ways. 

In a world of injustice and moral rot the words of Psalm 119 pierce like a steel-tipped bullet to the heart. The need for all humanity to follow his ways, rather than our own selfish ways has never been greater.

Response: LORD God, like the psalmist I want to fall in love with your word. Here is the purpose to my desire. I want to live a blameless life that brings honor to my Maker because you are good. Amen.

Your Turn: Is holy living one of your goals? Do you see value in leading a blameless life before God?

The Ottawa Christian Writers’ Conference

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On April 7th, the Ottawa chapter of the Word Guild hosted the fourth annual Ottawa Christian Writers’ Conference with about 60 writers in attendance. The conference featured two plenary speakers, Faith Todaysenior editor, Karen Stiller, and former west coast member of parliament, John Weston. Both speakers stoked our passion for writing while providing a host of practical tips and real life experiences that can prove invaluable.

In addition, conference attendees had a choice of six workshops taught by experts on a broad range of topics from poetry to editing.

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Denyse O’Leary teaching her workshop

There is something almost magical that happens when Christian writers come together. We find ourselves on common ground, with common interests that rest on the redemptive work of Jesus Christ. Though the genres we labour in may differ, our faith underpins our work.

This year’s conference took place on the seventh floor of the Cardus building in downtown Ottawa. The beautiful location, delicious meal, and amenities added significantly to the enjoyment of this event. Thanks goes to Word Guild board member, Peter Stockland for acting as our host at Cardus.

Please take a moment to check out this highlights video. Who knew that being a Canadian Christian writer could be so much fun?

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Cathy Goddard leading worship

You know you are meeting a need when participants are eager for more. A number of events are planned for the coming months, including the 5th annual Ottawa Christian Writer’s Conference on April 6th, 2019.

David Kitz is the author of a number of books, including The Soldier Who Killed a King and Psalms Alive! David is the founder and chair of the Ottawa Christian Writers’ Fellowship and serves on the board of the Word Guild.

The Rejected Rock

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Reading: Psalm 118
(Verses 22-29)
The stone the builders rejected
has become the cornerstone;
the L
ORD has done this,
and it is marvelous in our eyes.
 The L
ORD has done it this very day;
let us rejoice today and be glad.
LORD, save us! LORD, grant us success!
Blessed is he who comes in the name of the LORD.
From the house of the L
ORD we bless you.
The L
ORD is God,
and he has made his light shine on us.
With boughs in hand, join in the festal procession
up to the horns of the altar.
You are my God, and I will praise you;
you are my God, and I will exalt you.
Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good;
his love endures forever
(NIV).

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Banff townsite as viewed from the top of Sulphur Mountain — photo by David Kitz

Reflection
This final reading from Psalm 118 contains one of the most profound messianic prophecies of the Old Testament. The opening sentence carries great significance: The stone the builders rejected has become the cornerstone; the LORD has done this, and it is marvelous in our eyes. 

The apostle Peter identifies Jesus as the stone the builders rejected. He adds that this rejection was due to disobedience and unbelief and he quotes Isaiah 8:14 to prove his point. “[Jesus is] A stone that causes people to stumble and a rock that makes them fall.” They stumble because they disobey the message—which is also what they were destined for. But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light (1 Peter 2:8-9).

In reality our reading from Psalm 118 paints a metaphoric picture of Christ’s Passion Week. When Jesus arrived triumphant in Jerusalem on Palm Sunday he was greeted by the crowds chanting this line from Psalm 118: “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!” (Matthew 21:9). But later, Jesus, the rock of our salvation, was rejected by the religious leadership. Metaphorically, he was taken up to the horns of the altar and there on a cruel wooden cross, the Lamb of God became our sacrificial offering.

But… but praise be to God! The stone the builders rejected has become the cornerstone. This same Jesus was raised from the dead on the third day, and now he offers forgiveness and salvation for all those who put their faith in him. He is our living rock—the rock that accompanied Israel through the wilderness. See 1 Corinthians 10:1-5. Jesus is the rock on which you can build your life—your cornerstone.

Response: Father God, I thank you for your prophetic word because it points to Jesus. Lord Jesus, you are the rock solid foundation of my life. I give thanks to the LORD, for he is good! Amen.

Your Turn: Are you building on the Rock, which is Christ?

The Right Hand of God

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Reading: Psalm 118
(Verses 15-21)
Shouts of joy and victory
resound in the tents of the righteous:
“The L
ORD’s right hand has done mighty things!
The L
ORD’s right hand is lifted high;
the L
ORD’s right hand has done mighty things!”
I will not die but live,
and will proclaim what the L
ORD has done.
The L
ORD has chastened me severely,
but he has not given me over to death.
Open for me the gates of the righteous;
I will enter and give thanks to the L
ORD.
This is the gate of the L
ORD
through which the righteous may enter.
I will give you thanks, for you answered me;
you have become my salvation
(NIV).

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Flood your people with your grace mercy and peace, LORD — photo by David Kitz

Reflection
Are you left handed? Today in western cultures being left handed presents some challenges since many devices are designed with right-handed people in mind. Try finding left-handed scissors next time you’re at a store. Good luck with that! Oh, and if you find them, expect to pay three times the price of a right-handed model. Often lefties don’t have it so good.

Even today in Middle Eastern cultures being born left handed presents an enormous challenge. The right hand is used for eating food; the left hand is used for personal hygiene—bottom wiping. You dare not reverse that assigned role. Toddlers are strictly trained in this cultural practice. Usually left-handed children are forced to switch so they conform to the social norm. Making this switch plays havoc with the developing brain and often results in speech impediments such as stuttering, since this transition requires a complete rewiring of the child’s brain.

The Bible was written by Holy Spirit inspired authors, but like authors today they were not blank slates. They wrote from their cultural perspective to the people of their time. As a result, readers today can easily miss or misunderstand concepts that were readily understood in their original context.

The significance of the right hand is one of those culturally important concepts that we often pass over with little thought. The Bible is replete with references to the right hand or specifically God’s right hand. So what’s the big deal, we think to ourselves. But in Middle Eastern culture the right hand holds great significance. This is the hand of righteousness, honor and blessing. Thus, there is immense significance in this statement: “The LORD’s right hand has done mighty things! The LORD’s right hand is lifted high; the LORD’s right hand has done mighty things!”

Response: Father God, extend your right hand of blessing over me. Work on my behalf. Show me your mercy, your power and glory. Again and again I will give you thanks, for you answered me. Amen.

Your Turn: Are you like the psalmist? Has the LORD spared your life for a purpose? Has God lifted His right hand to save and bless you?