A Great Victory

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Reading:                                      Psalm 68

For the director of music. Of David. A psalm. A song.
(Verses 1-6)
May God arise, may his enemies be scattered;
may his foes flee before him.
May you blow them away like smoke—
as wax melts before the fire,
may the wicked perish before God.
But may the righteous be glad
and rejoice before God;
may they be happy and joyful.
|Sing to God, sing in praise of his name,
extol him who rides on the clouds;
rejoice before him—his name is the LORD.
A father to the fatherless, a defender of widows,
is God in his holy dwelling.
God sets the lonely in families,
he leads out the prisoners with singing;
but the rebellious live in a sun-scorched land
(NIV).

Reflection
Anyone who has read through the Book of Psalms will readily admit there is a great deal of variety from psalm to psalm. Some psalms are filled with joyous praise, while others are personal or even national laments. Some are filled with humble contrition, while others call for retribution against one’s foes. Each psalm is reflective of the state the psalmist finds himself in. In this respect the psalms act as a Spirit-inspired mirror of the human condition. The highs and lows of life are reflected there.

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Blue skies of victory — photo by David Kitz

Psalm 68 is a hymn of triumph—national triumph. Think of it as a triumphant processional song. The enemies have been vanquished and God’s army has returned victorious. May God arise, may his enemies be scattered; may his foes flee before him.

Because God has won the victory, His people can rejoice before Him. Sing to God, sing in praise of his name, extol him who rides on the clouds; rejoice before him—his name is the LORD. 

In his lifetime David experienced many victories over his foes, but he did not take credit for his successes. He knew that his triumphs came from the LORD. God was his personal defender—but God was and is also the defender of the fatherless and the widow.

We too have experienced a great victory. It was won for us on Mount Calvary. Satan and the power of sin and death were defeated there. Jesus triumphed over hell and the grave through his resurrection. Now that victory is ours by faith. Rejoice before him—his name is the LORD!

Response: LORD God, I thank you for the victory Jesus won on my behalf at the cross. I praise you for your unconditional love. Help me walk triumphantly in life today because of you, Lord Jesus. Amen.

Your Turn: Are you experiencing victory today? Allow the eternal significance of Christ’s victory permeate your heart and mind.

An Evangelical Psalm

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Reading:                                      Psalm 67

For the director of music. With stringed instruments. A psalm. A song.
May God be gracious to us and bless us
and make his face shine on us—
so that your ways may be known on earth,
your salvation among all nations.
May the peoples praise you, God;
may all the peoples praise you.
May the nations be glad and sing for joy,
for you rule the peoples with equity
and guide the nations of the earth.
May the peoples praise you, God;
may all the peoples praise you.
The land yields its harvest;
God, our God, blesses us.
May God bless us still,
so that all the ends of the earth will fear him
(NIV).

Reflection
This is perhaps the most evangelical of all the psalms. By that I mean there is good news in this psalm, and the good news of God’s loving-kindness, which is found here, is not to be kept to oneself. It is to be taken to the whole world. Twice within this short psalm the psalmist declares, “May the peoples praise you, God; may all the peoples praise you.”

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A field of harvest-ready oats near MacNutt, SK — photo by David Kitz

Like any loving parent, God draws pleasure from blessing his children. But is there a divine motivation that extends beyond the family of God. As the opening verse of this psalm makes clear, God desires to bless us, so that his ways and his salvation may be known all over this world.

So then, Psalm 67 should be our prayer, not only for us, but for the world. That includes the world that does not know Jesus. May God be gracious to us and bless us and make his face shine upon us, that your ways may be known on earth, your salvation among all nations.

In other words, God’s blessing is not to be selfishly hoarded. It is to extend around the world and beyond the family of God. Is God in fact, blessing us abundantly, so that we may in turn bless others? Is he blessing us, so that we may make his salvation known among all nations? That certainly would appear to be the plan according to Psalm 67.

There is a great harvest day that is still coming on the earth. It is not a harvest of wheat, corn or rice, but a harvest of souls that will be swept into the Kingdom of God. If this psalm is to be believed, it is a harvest that is propelled and swelled by our joyous praise.

Is your thanksgiving for God’s blessing extending beyond the borders of your family?

Response: LORD God, I thank you for all the blessings you have showered on my life. Most of all I thank you for my salvation through Jesus Christ. Show me how I can extend your blessing to others. Amen.

Your Turn: Have you taken the message of God’s salvation across international borders? How?

Prayers from the Heart

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Reading:                                      Psalm 66

(Verses 13-20)
I will come to your temple with burnt offerings
and fulfill my vows to you—
vows my lips promised and my mouth spoke
when I was in trouble.
I will sacrifice fat animals to you
and an offering of rams;
I will offer bulls and goats
Come and hear, all you who fear God;
let me tell you what he has done for me.
I cried out to him with my mouth;
his praise was on my tongue.
If I had cherished sin in my heart,
the Lord would not have listened;
but God has surely listened
and has heard my prayer.
 Praise be to God,
who has not rejected my prayer
or withheld his love from me!
(NIV)

Reflection
I grew up in a family that prayed. But that statement might give you the wrong impression. It might be more accurate to say, “I grew up in a family that religiously recited prayers.”

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Forest glade in spring, Gatineau Park, QC — photo by David Kitz

We recited a common table prayer before every meal and the Lord’s Prayer before breakfast. My mother taught me a very scary bedtime prayer: Now I lay me down to sleep; I pray the Lord my soul to keep. If I should die before I wake, I pray the Lord my soul to take. Amen.

To a six-year-old, that’s a scary prayer. It’s enough to keep you awake lest your soul be carried off in the night, while you’re off in la-la land.

I don’t think I really prayed—prayed from the heart—until the end of my grade four school year. The memory is still fresh in my mind. The little one-room country school I attended was closing. In September I would be bussed to the big school in town. This change was frightening. The familiar was being taken away and in its place was something big, strange and intimidating. Could I survive there? Could I thrive there? These thoughts troubled me.

On my last walk home from my country school, I left the country road and walked into a grove of poplars. That’s where I prayed—not a meaningless recited prayer—but a prayer from my heart to God. I asked for wisdom, strength and God’s favour for the challenging year ahead. God answered. After all these years I can say, Praise be to God, who has not rejected my prayer or withheld his love from me!”

Response: LORD God, thank you for answering prayer—not once but thousands of times. Again and again you have proven your love for me. You are the God who hears me. Amen.

Your Turn: When did you learn to pray from the heart? Do you remember the occasion?

God’s Testing

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Reading:                                      Psalm 66

For the director of music. A song. A psalm.
(Verses 1-12)
Shout for joy to God, all the earth!
Sing the glory of his name; make his praise glorious.
Say to God, “How awesome are your deeds!
So great is your power that your enemies cringe before you.
All the earth bows down to you;
they sing praise to you, they sing the praises of your name.”
Come and see what God has done,
his awesome deeds for mankind!
He turned the sea into dry land,
they passed through the waters on foot—
come, let us rejoice in him.
He rules forever by his power,
his eyes watch the nations—
let not the rebellious rise up against him.
Praise our God, all peoples, let the sound of his praise be heard;
he has preserved our lives and kept our feet from slipping.
For you, God, tested us; you refined us like silver.
You brought us into prison and laid burdens on our backs.
You let people ride over our heads;
we went through fire and water,
but you brought us to a place of abundance
(NIV).

Reflection
I can’t answer for you, but I for one did not enjoy writing tests at school. It’s not that I did poorly on tests, the exception being high school math. But let’s not go there. I haven’t used algebraic equations for the last forty years and have suffered no ill effects.

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Mirrored sky and mist, Fairfax, VT — photo by David Kitz

Simply put, tests are stressful. No matter how well you know the material, you can’t be sure of the outcome. Will there be a trick question? Will you experience a momentary brain burp? Have you studied the right subject matter?

Despite my aversion to tests and major exams as a student, I quite enjoyed administering them after I became a teacher. They provided so much information. They let me see into a student’s head and heart. Was learning happening behind those big brown eyes or were they only going through the motions?

But why would God test us, since He knows the outcome in advance? For you, God, tested us; you refined us like silver. God tests us to bring out the very best in us. When we are tested we discover for ourselves what lies below the surface. In the furnace of affliction God removes the dross from our lives so His glory can shine through. Only then can we properly reflect His glory.

Response: LORD God, help me appreciate the tests you bring into my life. I praise you in advance because you are working to perfect me through the hardships I face. Change me for the better. Amen.

Your Turn: Has the Lord brought you near to Him in difficult times?

You Send Your Spirit

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I will praise Him!

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How many are your works, Lord! — photo by David Kitz

How many are your works, LORD!
    In wisdom you made them all;
    the earth is full of your creatures.
There is the sea, vast and spacious,
    teeming with creatures beyond number—
    living things both large and small.
There the ships go to and fro,
    and Leviathan, which you formed to frolic there.

All creatures look to you
    to give them their food at the proper time.
When you give it to them, they gather it up;
when you open your hand,
    they are satisfied with good things.
When you hide your face,
    they are terrified;
when you take away their breath,
    they die and return to the dust.
When you send your Spirit, they are created,
    and you renew the face of the ground.

(Psalm 104:24-30, NIV)

Marking the Seasons

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I will praise Him!

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Beyond the moon, Landestreu Church, SK — photo courtesy of Donald Adam.

He made the moon to mark the seasons,
    and the sun knows when to go down.
You bring darkness, it becomes night,
    and all the beasts of the forest prowl.
The lions roar for their prey
    and seek their food from God.
The sun rises, and they steal away;
    they return and lie down in their dens.
Then people go out to their work,
    to their labor until evening.

(Psalm 104:19-23, NIV)

Overflowing Abundance

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Reading:                                      Psalm 65

(Verses 9-13)
You care for the land and water it;
you enrich it abundantly.
The streams of God are filled with water
to provide the people with grain,
for so you have ordained it.
You drench its furrows and level its ridges;
you soften it with showers and bless its crops.
You crown the year with your bounty,
and your carts overflow with abundance.
The grasslands of the wilderness overflow;
the hills are clothed with gladness.
The meadows are covered with flocks
and the valleys are mantled with grain;
they shout for joy and sing
(NIV).

Reflection
I can’t read this psalm without picturing an overflowing cornucopia. This is the psalmist’s horn of plenty. Speaking of the LORD, David declares, “You crown the year with your bounty, and your carts overflow with abundance.”

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Purple stars bring backyard joy — photo by David Kitz

My farm boy’s heart delights in this psalm. I delight in the land and the soil. Being on the land and cultivating the rich earth nurtures my soul. I am invigorated by it. The soil where I grew up in Saskatchewan was black and fertile. It’s the best kind of soil for crops. In the summer the fields were mantled with grain—a vast sea of wheat billowing in the breeze.

But I’m not alone in my love for the earth. David assures us that God has that same affection for the soil. You care for the land and water it; you enrich it abundantly. You drench its furrows and level its ridges; you soften it with showers and bless its crops.

Now in practical terms my love for the soil is confined to a small backyard suburban garden. I tend my vegetable garden with care and God above does His part. He softens the earth with showers and blesses its crops. This morning, my wife and I rooted out a grape vine in preparation for spring planting. It was a pleasure to work with her and my heavenly partner, the LORD God Almighty.

Before the snow flies in the fall we will pull out the last of the carrots and parsnips. To everything there is a season, a time for every purpose under heaven (Ecclesiastes 3:1 NKJV).

In our toil we are not alone. There is something sacred about work. God ordained it. He planted a Garden for Adam and Eve to tend. Whether we are rooting out weeds, extracting teeth or rooting out unproductive habits, God is present in our work. Welcome Him as your partner.

Response: LORD God, I am thankful for my calling and the work you have set before me. You are my partner in it and my provider. I give myself to you to your service today. Amen.

Your Turn: Do you see yourself as God’s partner in your vocation?

Coloring Outside the Lines

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This book review of The Soldier Who Killed a King caught my eye for a number of reasons. Sabrina Wade captured the spirit and the essence of this book. Here is her five star review:

At first, the beginning of this novel took my mind back to the movie Risen. As I kept reading, the novel blossomed into so much more.

Kitz, did an excellent job staying super close to the biblical accounts4485 SHARABLE-1 surrounding the death, burial, and resurrection of my Lord Jesus Christ. The fictional details of the ”what ifs” concerning not only the centurion, but also the many bystanders held me captivated. Those scenes were like coloring outside the lines. They gave the reader an additional piece of art without tampering with the original.

If hearing the truth about Jesus Christ through Bible study, around Easter, or from a neighbor isn’t appealing or worth believing PICK UP A COPY. Kitz will have your heart in his hand from the beginning until the end. He will make you question why you are still in denial. And for others he will lovingly remind you why Grace is sooooooooooo AmAzINg!

For more details visit Interviews and Reviews.

 

 

 

Songs of Joy

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Reading:                                      Psalm 65

For the director of music. A psalm of David. A song.
(Verses 1-8)
Praise awaits you, our God, in Zion;
to you our vows will be fulfilled.
You who answer prayer,
to you all people will come.
When we were overwhelmed by sins,
you forgave our transgressions.
Blessed are those you choose and bring near to live in your courts!
We are filled with the good things of your house,
of your holy temple.
You answer us with awesome and righteous deeds,
God our Savior, the hope of all the ends of the earth
and of the farthest seas,
who formed the mountains by your power,
having armed yourself with strength,
who stilled the roaring of the seas,
the roaring of their waves, and the turmoil of the nations.
The whole earth is filled with awe at your wonders;
where morning dawns, where evening fades,
you call forth songs of joy
(NIV).

Reflection
There is a joyful exuberance found in Psalm 65. In some ways this psalm reminds me of a Broadway musical in that there’s an eagerness—a readiness—to burst into song. It could happen at any moment. The opening line expresses this joyous exuberance well: Praise awaits you, our God, in Zion!

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Manitoba sunrise — photo by David Kitz

 What about you and me? Is there an eagerness and enthusiasm to praise God as we walk through our day? Is there a song in our hearts just aching for the moment of release? Is your heart filled with gratitude to God? If you can answer, “Yes!” then you have captured the spirit of Psalm 65.

David penned this psalm and it reflects an attitude of gratitude that is present in many of David’s psalms. David provides several reasons for his jubilant praise. First of all, our God answers prayer. He hears when we call out to Him. Over many years, on countless occasions, God has answered my prayers, sometimes in miraculous ways. Like David of old, I can’t help but be grateful.

Secondly, David was thankful for the forgiveness of his sins. There is no better feeling than knowing you have been washed clean from the inside out by the cleansing blood of the Lamb of God. And now you are accepted—welcomed with open arms into God’s family. Oh, hallelujah! I’ve been redeemed.

Finally, all of God’s creation declares his glory. Mountains, prairie, sea and sky shout out His praise!

Response: LORD God, I thank you for hearing my prayers, for forgiving my many sins, and surrounding me with the beauty of your creation. I praise the name of Jesus. Amen.

Your Turn: What blessing from God are you most thankful for?

Cruel Words

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Reading:                                         Psalm 64

For the director of music. A psalm of David.
Hear me, my God, as I voice my complaint;
protect my life from the threat of the enemy.
Hide me from the conspiracy of the wicked,
from the plots of evildoers.
They sharpen their tongues like swords
and aim cruel words like deadly arrows.
They shoot from ambush at the innocent;
they shoot suddenly, without fear.
They encourage each other in evil plans,
they talk about hiding their snares; they say, “Who will see it?”
They plot injustice and say, “We have devised a perfect plan!”
Surely the human mind and heart are cunning.
But God will shoot them with his arrows;
they will suddenly be struck down.
He will turn their own tongues against them
and bring them to ruin;
all who see them will shake their heads in scorn.
All people will fear; they will proclaim the works of God
and ponder what he has done.
The righteous will rejoice in the LORD and take refuge in him;
all the upright in heart will glory in him!
(NIV)

Reflection
I originally wrote this post in the final days of an election campaign here in Canada. In the context of an election, the words of this psalm have a peculiar resonance. Politicians’ tongues have been sharpened like swords. Cruel words have been aimed at opponents like deadly arrows. The airwaves are saturated with lies, propaganda and half-truths coming from all sides.

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A late November morning — photo courtesy of Liz Kranz

Rest easy, dear reader, I’m not about to take sides in a political debate. But Psalm 64 contains some important truths that we would be wise to heed.

First, our tongues have deadly power. The poison of vipers is in the tongue. (See Psalm 140:3.) Many young people have taken their own lives because of the taunting of others. Social media has only worsened the situation, since one can now mount an attack from a distance. The venom that is often spewed in website comment boxes is beyond disgusting. The cruelty and depravity of the human heart are on full display. As the psalmist, David says, Surely the human mind and heart are cunning.” 

So then guard the thoughts of your heart and mind. Take care what you put into print. It can have a profound effect for good or evil. Cruel words can be as deadly as a missile strike. The LORD is our refuge from cruel taunts, but He also is our judge, when we launch a verbal or written attack.

Response: LORD God, help me to use wisdom and discretion in all I say, write or post. You are the judge of every idle word. Holy Spirit, guard my heart and my mind. Amen.

Your Turn: Have you been the victim of social media attacks? How did you respond?