Living in a City Under Siege

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Reading:                                     Psalm 31

(Verses 21-24)
Praise be to the LORD,
for he showed me the wonders of his love
when I was in a city under siege.
In my alarm I said,
“I am cut off from your sight!”
Yet you heard my cry for mercy
when I called to you for help.
Love the LORD, all his faithful people!
The L
ORD preserves those who are true to him,
but the proud he pays back in full.
Be strong and take heart,
all you who hope in the L
ORD (NIV).

Reflection
David ends Psalm 31 with a testimony to God’s great love and mercy. Hear his declaration: Praise be to the LORD, for he showed me the wonders of his love when I was in a city under siege. In my alarm I said, “I am cut off from your sight!” Yet you heard my cry for mercy when I called to you for help.

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The Rideau Canal in downtown Ottawa — photo by David Kitz

Are you living in a city under siege? My quick and simple answer is no. My city is not surrounded by enemy troops who are lobbing artillery shells down on my neighbourhood.

While in the physical sense that may be true, in the spiritual realm my city is caught up in active warfare. Demonic forces are firing their missiles into my city. The airwaves and social media feeds are filled with smut and pornography. In the public square Christian faith is routinely mocked and under attack. Atheists trumpet their cause with bestselling books and spew venom on any who dare to embrace the faith.

Meanwhile, pop culture plunges headlong into the deep end of gothic horror, vampire blood lust and zombie self-identification. Then we stand back in amazement when those same young people lash out in murderous deranged madness as happened when five young people were stabbed to death in Calgary or in my hometown when an eighteen-year-old killed his mother.

When you shun God and bed down with the devil, many are going end up hurt. My city is under siege, but with the help and grace of God, I will not succumb to the enemies attack. I will emerge triumphant. David did. And here is his advice for you and me: Love the LORD, all his faithful people!

David’s advice is counterintuitive. Take your eyes off the enemy. Don’t be mesmerized by the devil’s devices and machinations. Your salvation comes from the LORD. Set your heart and your affections on Him. The LORD preserves those who are true to him, but the proud he pays back in full. Be strong and take heart, all you who hope in the LORD.

Response: LORD God, have mercy on me. I love you, LORD. Preserve me through the unfailing love of your Son, Jesus. I will be strong and take heart because I set my hope on you. Amen.

Your Turn: Do you feel that your faith is under attack? How do you respond? Do you cower or advance?

Because He Loves Me

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I will praise Him!

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Backyard iris — photo by David Kitz

“Because he loves me,” says the LORD, “I will rescue him;
    I will protect him, for he acknowledges my name.
He will call on me, and I will answer him;
    I will be with him in trouble,
    I will deliver him and honor him.
With long life I will satisfy him
    and show him my salvation.”

(Psalm 91:14-16, NIV)

How generous is God?

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Reading:                                      Psalm 31

Verses 19-20

How abundant are the good things
that you have stored up for those who fear you,
that you bestow in the sight of all,
on those who take refuge in you.
In the shelter of your presence you hide them
from all human intrigues;
you keep them safe in your dwelling
from accusing tongues
(NIV).

Reflection
Our view of God is of crucial importance. It will greatly influence how we live our lives on planet earth. Is He a divine ogre waiting to pounce on us for the slightest transgression? Is He aloof, hard of hearing, out of touch and out of reach? Does He stand opposed to your wishes and dreams—the nagging heavenly parent who frowns at your ambitions?

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Bilberry Creek, Orleans, Ontario — photo by David Kitz

That’s not David’s view of God. He saw a caring LORD of heaven and earth, who was only too eager to bless those who sought refuge in Him. That’s why David exclaims, “How abundant are the good things that you have stored up for those who fear you that you bestow in the sight of all, on those who take refuge in you.” 

Think of it for a moment: God has a storehouse of good things just waiting for you. He has prepared a whole series of blessings that He will lavish on those who fear Him. Furthermore, the LORD will bestow those blessings in the sight of all—on all who seek shelter in the shadow of His wings. Now that’s a picture of an amazing God.

What might some of those good things be? First and foremost the LORD has an abundance of mercy set aside just for you. In the midst of unparalleled disaster, as a witness to the destruction of Jerusalem, the prophet Jeremiah rightly discerned the heart of the LORD. Through the LORD’s mercies we are not consumed, because His compassions fail not. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness (Lamentations 3:22-23). For Jeremiah God was good all the time, even in disaster.

God has an abundance of love, peace and joy set aside just for you. Tap into it; drink deep of it. It’s there for you. For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking, but of righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit, because anyone who serves Christ in this way is pleasing to God and receives human approval (Romans 14:17-18).

We serve a generous God—a God of grace who extends unmerited favor to us. In your mind, stop limiting His blessings. They are abundant, they are stored up for you and they will manifest in the lives of those who love and fear Him.

Response: LORD God, thank you for all the good things you have stored up for me, both temporal and spiritual. I rejoice in you! You are a generous God lavishing mercy on me through your son, Jesus. Amen.

Your Turn: How do you see God? Do you have the right perspective of Him? Is He opposed to your wishes and dreams?

My Times Are in Your Hands

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Reading:                                     Psalm 31

(Verses 14-18)

But I trust in you, LORD;
I say, “You are my God.”
My times are in your hands;
deliver me from the hands of my enemies,
from those who pursue me.
Let your face shine on your servant;
save me in your unfailing love.
 Let me not be put to shame, L
ORD,
for I have cried out to you;
but let the wicked be put to shame
and be silent in the realm of the dead.
Let their lying lips be silenced,
for with pride and contempt
they speak arrogantly against the righteous
(NIV).

Reflection

Yesterday I made a trip to the hospital to visit a neighbor from down my street who is dying due to a brain tumor. Today, I just returned from visiting another neighbor who is dying due to heart failure. About ten years ago this medical missionary had a heart transplant. Now that heart is being rejected, and she has less than a year to live. Making matters more dire, she has a thirteen-year-old son and a ten-year-old daughter.

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Landestreu sunrise — photo courtesy of Donald Adam

David spoke the truth when he declared, “My times are in your hands.” We have no idea—no certainty about what tomorrow will bring. Will it bring life or death, joy or sorrow, pain or ecstasy, excitement or boredom? Our times are in His hands. We devise our plans, but ultimately the LORD determines the outcome. Many are the plans in a person’s heart, but it is the LORD’s purpose that prevails (Proverbs 19:21).

As if to prove my point, as I went on line to search for the Proverbs passage quoted above, I discovered that Canada’s former finance minister, Jim Flaherty, had suddenly died of a heart attack. While to non-Canadian readers the name Jim Flaherty may mean nothing, to those who live in the true north strong and free Mr. Flaherty was a well-known and well-respected leader who piloted Canada through the Great Recession with consummate skill. He retired just one month before his sudden passing. Mr. Flaherty’s times were in His—that is God’s hands.

But we can easily forget that our times are in God’s hands. It is God who judges: He brings one down, he exalts another (Psalm 75:7). He determines the length of our days. That’s why the opening words of this psalm portion are so important. David asserts, “But I trust in you, LORD; I say, ‘You are my God.'”

In life and in death He is Lord. Put your trust in Him for today, for tomorrow and for all eternity.

Response: LORD God, I do not know what the future holds for me, but like David, I put my trust in you. Guide me in your ways. My life is in your hands. Amen.

Your Turn: How long do you think you have on this earth? Are you ready for eternity?

Postscript: This post was originally written three years ago. Both neighbors to whom I referred have passed away. The cancer patient died a few months later, but the heart transplant recipient survived until this spring.

Stuck in a Dry Well

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Reading:                                     Psalm 31

(Verses 9-13)

Be merciful to me, LORD, for I am in distress;
my eyes grow weak with sorrow,
my soul and body with grief.
My life is consumed by anguish
and my years by groaning;
my strength fails because of my affliction,
and my bones grow weak.
Because of all my enemies,
I am the utter contempt of my neighbors
and an object of dread to my closest friends—
those who see me on the street flee from me.
I am forgotten as though I were dead;
I have become like broken pottery.
For I hear many whispering,
“Terror on every side!”
They conspire against me
and plot to take my life
(NIV).

Reflection
How often do you find yourself crying out for mercy as David does at the start of this psalm portion? I confess daily I need God’s mercy. Be merciful to me, LORD, for I am in distress; my eyes grow weak with sorrow, my soul and body with grief.

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Are you in narrow place or a wide open space? — photo by David KItz

The desperate cry for help is a recurring theme throughout the psalms. While there is plenty of rejoicing and we find ample helpings of praise for the LORD throughout the Book of Psalms, we also find time after time David and the other writers of the psalms calling out to God for mercy. It is as though David has stumbled into a dry well and has no one to rescue him. Only God can help. Only God will listen.

Is that where you find yourself? In this psalm portion we can see that David is experiencing a deep sense of abandonment. He feels he is alone with none to help. He laments, “I am forgotten as though I were dead.”

Is that where you find yourself? But David’s sense of abandonment plums even greater depths. Not only does David feel the sting of rejection, he also feels totally worthless. In his despair he cries, “I have become like broken pottery.” It appears as though he has lost all sense of meaning and purpose to his life. He is abandoned, useless and worthless.

Is that where you find yourself? Then do as David did. Pour out your complaint to God. Call out to Him. He is listening. He cares and He answers. The LORD has not changed.

Response: LORD God, have mercy on me. Come to my aid. When I stumble and fall into the dry well of despair, please come to my rescue. Help me see Jesus peering down at me. Loving Jesus, extend your hand of help. Amen.

Your Turn: Reflect on how God has helped you in the past. Has he pulled you out of a pit?

A Recent Book Review by Don Hutchinson

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Every now and then you get to read a book before they make the movie. In such a book, the characters are vivid, with rounded personalities, and the plot carries you with it as it develops and progresses. David Kitz’s ‘The Soldier Who Killed a King’ is just such a book.

Soldier bookI have no idea whether there will be a movie, but the book is written in a way easily suited to the transition. This first person storytelling, by the centurion who initially saw Jesus during the commotion of His triumphal donkey-riding Palm Sunday entry into Jerusalem and was days later ordered to drive the spikes into Christ’s outstretched palms, effortlessly created in my mind’s eye, images of Marcus Longinus, his family and both friends and foes encountered in this particularly demanding week of his Roman military service in the Judean outpost of Jerusalem. Kitz’s vibrant words breathed life into fictional and non-fictional names in this re-telling of the Holy Week story.

‘The Soldier Who Killed a King’ fleshes out the factual description found in the four gospels with period accurate settings and contemporary language, complete with endnotes for historic and biblical references. I thoroughly enjoyed reading this book, and plan to do so again, one day at a time during Holy Week.

Don Hutchinson is the author of Under Siege: Religious Freedom and the Church in Canada at 150 (1867-2017). Don is a strategic thinker and planner who has been a member of the Law Society of Upper Canada since 1990. Not coincidentally, he is also a long time member and former board chair of Canada’s Christian Legal Fellowship.

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Set in a Spacious Place

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Reading:                                      Psalm 31

(Verses 6-8)

I hate those who cling to worthless idols;
as for me, I trust in the L
ORD.
I will be glad and rejoice in your love,
for you saw my affliction
and knew the anguish of my soul.
You have not given me into the hands of the enemy
but have set my feet in a spacious place
(NIV).

Reflection
David clearly lacked a sense of political correctness. The opening line of this psalm portion makes me want to cringe. I hate those who cling to worthless idols. What an inflammatory remark! Hate has no place in our expression of Christian faith. Didn’t David know that we are to hate the sin, but love the sinner? Perhaps we should send David off to a course in sensitivity training.

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Waves lapping on the shoreline, Ottawa River — photo by David Kitz

Somehow biblical David got away with making such a statement, and here we have it recorded in the pages of Holy Scripture for all to read. Hate is a less than desirable emotion. But is it warranted in certain instances? My Christian love for murdering rapists grows mighty thin at times, and I speak from a distance. If my life was directly impacted by an idolatrous, murdering rapist, I am not sure how I would respond. Christ-centred forgiveness is the right response, but gut-wrenching hate might well spring to life. My capacity for forgiveness in severe circumstances remains untested. I dare not boast in my theoretical ability to forgive.

The second part of David’s opening remark is of crucial importance. I hate those who cling to worthless idols; as for me, I trust in the LORD.

Only trust in the LORD can break the crippling bondage of sin and hate. Vengeance belongs to the LORD, not to the seething heart tortured and taunted by anger. Secular author Malcolm Gladwell explores the extraordinary power of forgiveness in his most recent book, David and Goliath. Gladwell’s thoughts and research on the topic make for an insightful read. He concludes that forgiveness has the power to turn the world upside down. That’s the power we find in the gospel. Rather than be caught in the trap of ruinous hate, through the power of Christ we have the ability to step into the liberty of forgiveness.

By the gracious Holy Spirit we have the ability to choose love over hate. David’s confession can then become our own, “I will be glad and rejoice in your love, for you saw my affliction and knew the anguish of my soul.”

When we choose love over hate, forgiveness over vengeance, trust in God over reliance on our own ability, we defeat Satan, the true enemy of our soul. Then the LORD sets us at liberty in a spacious place. With David we can declare, “You have not given me into the hands of the enemy but have set my feet in a spacious place.”

Response: LORD God, thank you for your forgiveness. Help me to practice it daily. Give me a forgiving spirit like your Son, Jesus, who forgave those who crucified him (Luke 23:34). Amen.

Your Turn: Is there someone you need to forgive? Do it today.

A Place of Refuge

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Reading:                                      Psalm 31

For the director of music. A psalm of David.
(Verses 1-5)

In you, LORD, I have taken refuge;
let me never be put to shame;
deliver me in your righteousness.
Turn your ear to me,
come quickly to my rescue;
be my rock of refuge,
a strong fortress to save me.
Since you are my rock and my fortress,
for the sake of your name lead and guide me.
Keep me free from the trap that is set for me,
for you are my refuge.
Into your hands I commit my spirit;
deliver me, L
ORD, my faithful God (NIV).

Reflection
We all need a place of refuge. Here as David begins Psalm 31, he pleads with God to hear him, and become a rock of refuge for him. Turn your ear to me, come quickly to my rescue; be my rock of refuge, a strong fortress to save me.

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My rock of refuge, Percé, Quebec – photo by David Kitz

David spent many of his early years fleeing from King Saul. At other times the Philistines were a threat. There were many occasions in which David needed a fortress—a rock of refuge from his enemies. Often he found himself calling out for the LORD to rescue him.

Are we any different? We may not have physical enemies who are seeking to kill us, but in the spiritual realm the demonic forces of hell are constantly seeking opportunities to trip us up, so that they can launch their vicious assault. Trouble and affliction comes to every human life. We are not immune simply because we have put our faith in Christ. We too need a safe place—a rock of refuge.

But the rock to which we flee is not an inanimate object, fixed and unmoving. No, we come to the living rock which is Christ. He travels with us on this earthly pilgrimage. The apostle, Paul reminds us that even the people of Israel wandering in the wilderness were not alone. They all ate the same spiritual food and drank the same spiritual drink; for they drank from the spiritual rock that accompanied them, and that rock was Christ (1 Corinthians 10:3-4).   

The veins of that rock were opened wide for us. Jesus bled and died so that we could experience new life and complete forgiveness. As he hung dying, Jesus called out to his Father with the words of this psalm, “Into your hands I commit my spirit.” Now daily that living rock accompanies you. He is the fount of forgiveness and a sure refuge in a time of need. Have you put your trust in him for your salvation now and in eternity?

Response: LORD God, I thank you for Jesus. You alone are my rock and my eternal fortress. Guide my spirit into the right path today. Keep me safe from the traps of the enemy. I trust in you. Amen.

Your Turn: Is Jesus your living rock? Why is the analogy of Jesus as a rock a comfort to you?

The LORD Is My Refuge

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I will praise Him!

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God’s goodness in nature — photo by David Kitz

If you say, “The LORD is my refuge,”
    and you make the Most High your dwelling,
no harm will overtake you,
    no disaster will come near your tent.
For he will command his angels concerning you
    to guard you in all your ways;
they will lift you up in their hands,
    so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.
You will tread on the lion and the cobra;
    you will trample the great lion and the serpent.

(Psalm 91:9-13, NIV)