Blessed is the One You Discipline


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Reading:                                      Psalm 94

(Verses 8-15)
Take notice, you senseless ones among the people;
you fools, when will you become wise?
Does he who fashioned the ear not hear?
Does he who formed the eye not see?
Does he who disciplines nations not punish?
Does he who teaches mankind lack knowledge?
 The L
ORD knows all human plans;
he knows that they are futile.
Blessed is the one you discipline, LORD,
the one you teach from your law;
you grant them relief from days of trouble,
till a pit is dug for the wicked.
For the L
ORD will not reject his people;
he will never forsake his inheritance.
Judgment will again be founded on righteousness,
and all the upright in heart will follow it

Do I like discipline? Hardly. Do I like self-discipline? Not really. Discipline sounds difficult or unpleasant. Self-discipline and self-denial are twin brothers. I don’t like either of them. They are two tough customers that demand that I change, but I don’t like change. My flesh—my stubborn sinful nature—resists change.


Splendor and majesty are before Him — photo by David Kitz

On the other hand, do I like the fruits of self-discipline? Absolutely. Self-discipline pays huge dividends. In any field of endeavor, in due time self-discipline will bring rewards. Athletes succeed because of self-discipline. Fortunes are accumulated through self-discipline. But those same fortunes can be frittered away through a lack of discipline. Strength of character does not develop naturally; it develops through adversity and self-discipline.

Discipline comes in two forms, internally or externally. Both are needed if we are to become people of the cross.  Son though he was, he [Jesus] learned obedience from what he suffered and, once made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation for all who obey him (Hebrews 5:8-9). If Jesus learned obedience through the discipline of suffering, should we not expect to experience the same?

Here in Psalm 94 we learn that the LORD disciplines nations. The following admonition reminds us of the vital role that discipline plays in the life of the believer: “My son, do not make light of the Lord’s discipline, and do not lose heart when he rebukes you, because the Lord disciplines the one he loves, and he chastens everyone he accepts as his son.” Endure hardship as discipline; God is treating you as his children. For what children are not disciplined by their father? If you are not disciplined—and everyone undergoes discipline—then you are not legitimate, not true sons and daughters at all (Hebrews 12:5-8).

Response: LORD God, I confess that I need your discipline. I want to become like your Son, Jesus. Help me to learn from the difficult experiences of life. I want to live my life as your obedient child. Amen.

Your Turn: Do you appreciate God’s discipline? Are you enjoying the fruit of self-discipline?

A Thank Offering


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I will praise Him!


Light dawns on a snowy morning — photo by David Kitz

Precious in the sight of the LORD
    is the death of his faithful servants.
Truly I am your servant, LORD;
    I serve you just as my mother did;
    you have freed me from my chains.

I will sacrifice a thank offering to you
    and call on the name of the LORD.
I will fulfill my vows to the LORD
    in the presence of all his people,
in the courts of the house of the LORD
    in your midst, Jerusalem.

Praise the LORD.

(Psalm 116:15-19, NIV)

Excerpt 20 for Lent from The Soldier Who Killed a King


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A journey to the cross is a journey to repentance. It’s a journey to deep personal change. Will you take this journey with me?

Date: Mid afternoon on Thursday, April 6th, 30 A.D.
In today’s reading, Governor Pontius Pilate gives a brief speech formally welcoming Herod the tetrarch to Jerusalem.

At last the two mounted commanders arrived before Pilate’s chariot. They were motioned to take their position on either side. After a brief confusion of feet, the royal litter managed to turn sideways so the royal couple could face the governor as he stood upon his imperial chariot. The trumpeters sounded the fanfare. When the last note had echoed off the marble wall, Pilate unrolled the parchment handed to him by an attendant. He cleared his throat and began his oration.
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“It was under the rule of the great and wise Emperor Caesar Augustus that this magnificent temple behind us began to take shape. He recognized the desire of the Jewish people for a central place to worship. It was Herod the great Idumean king who oversaw the construction of this masterpiece of the empire, and today it stands as a symbol of Roman respect for the unity and diversity of all the peoples of the empire. It is only fitting today that I, as the emperor’s representative, welcome the son of this master builder, Herod Antipas, the tetrarch of Galilee and Perea.”
With a wave of his hand, Pilate signaled the sounding of a second trumpet fanfare. As the first note was sounded, he stepped off the chariot and then graciously lent a hand to his wife. Thus accompanied by his mate, he swaggered over to the royal litter to personally greet Herod and Herodias, who both stood to meet them.
Greetings were exchanged, none of which I could discern from a distance. After a brief discussion Claudia joined Herodias in the royal litter. Herod barked out some orders. The litter bearers stood to their feet and headed off in the direction of the governor’s residence. Apparently the ladies would have their own time together.
At a leisurely pace Pilate escorted Herod over to where the priestly delegation waited.Soldier book
It was an unusual sight, these three hostile, inflated men exchanging greetings and meaningless pleasantries. Herod Antipas, Pontius Pilate, and Joseph Caiaphas; the Fox, the Badger, and the Weasel. All three were kings in their own right, within their own jurisdiction. All three craved more power, absolute power, while fiercely holding one another in check.
Pilate turned to me and gave a quick, tight nod. I signaled up to Claudius, and the great Golden Gate, the Messiah Gate, was hoisted, granting entrance to the three competing kings.
Only the fourth king, the people’s king—the donkey king—only he was absent.

American readers click this link to purchase The Soldier Who Killed a King.

Canadian readers click this link to purchase The Soldier Who Killed a King directly from the author.


Rise up, Judge of the Earth


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Reading:                                      Psalm 94

(Verses 1-7)
The LORD is a God who avenges.
O God who avenges, shine forth.
Rise up, Judge of the earth;
pay back to the proud what they deserve.
How long, L
ORD, will the wicked,
how long will the wicked be jubilant?
They pour out arrogant words;
all the evildoers are full of boasting.
They crush your people, L
they oppress your inheritance.
They slay the widow and the foreigner;
they murder the fatherless.
They say, “The L
ORD does not see;
the God of Jacob takes no notice”

As I gather my thoughts to write this post there are fresh reports that a ceasefire in the Syrian conflict has come to an end. Aid convoys have been bombed. Recriminations fly back and forth between the warring parties; each blames the other. Meanwhile, war rages on. People starve. Refugees flee. Bombs fall from the sky and children are killed and injured. 


Saskatchewan sunrise — photo courtesy of Donald Adam

There is a present-day relevance to Psalm 94. Its words are an ongoing reality in war-torn Syria. How long, LORD, will the wicked, how long will the wicked be jubilant? They pour out arrogant words; all the evildoers are full of boasting. They crush your people, LORD; they oppress your inheritance. They slay the widow and the foreigner; they murder the fatherless. 

The Syrian conflict is now into its seventh year with no end in sight and many people are asking, “How long, LORD?”

There is so much evil in the world. Evil expresses itself most graphically during war. There are those who would like to blame God for war, but that makes no sense. Human pride, greed and cunning lead to war. Human intransigence keeps it going. We can and should pray for God to show mercy and bring peace, but ultimately human hearts must change to bring an end to war.

We are right to pray for an end to murderous regimes. Essentially that is what the psalmist is praying. Is there more we can do? Emergency aid to war-torn regions is always needed. We can open our hearts and our wallets to provide some help. When an entire nation falls into the hands of murderous thieves are there a few good Samaritans who are willing to help?

Sometimes there are no easy answers in this difficult world. Rise up, Judge of the earth!
O God who avenges, shine forth.

Response: LORD God, thank you for the peace and security I enjoy. I don’t want to take my peace and prosperity for granted. Show me how I can be of help in this troubled world. Amen.

Your Turn: Should we be concerned about foreign conflicts or only pay attention to things at home?

Excerpt 19 for Lent from The Soldier Who Killed a King


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A journey to the cross is a journey to repentance. It’s a journey to deep personal change. Will you take this journey with me?

In today’s reading, the rivalry and tension between the Governor Pontius Pilate, and Joseph Caiaphas, the high priest are on full display. The two leaders are waiting for the official arrival of Herod the tetrarch. Date: Mid afternoon on Thursday, April 6th, 30 A.D.

When all were in position, I called for the lowering of the heavy, grated iron gate. From now on, the Passover celebrants would be forced to use an alternate entrance or exit.
In short order the toga-clad governor, Pontius Pilate, arrived on his gold-ornamented chariot. The gate was raised. By the governor’s side stood Claudia Procula lavishly dressed in full-length scarlet. Her bejeweled opulence contrasted sharply with the poverty common to most women of this province. The chariot took a position allowing the ruling couple to look out to the Mount of Olives, in readiness for the approaching king.
The only missing player was Caiaphas. In due time his delegation arrived, and the enormous gate was hauled up once more on creaking chains, only to be lowered again when the priestly party had exited.
Pilate had been gazing down the road stretched out before him when Caiaphas arrived, and it was only the coarse rattle coming from the gate chains behind him that alerted him to the approach of the high priest and his delegation. He turned, stepped down from the chariot, and briskly strode over to the dumbfounded cleric. The expression on Caiaphas’s face said it all. He clearly did not expect to see Pilate here. He had intended this to be a discreet, private tour and consultation.
“You’re expecting someone?” Pilate brusquely inquired.
An uncomfortable pause followed. Caiaphas cast a hasty glance at those accompanying him, adjusted the folds in his robe, cleared his rusty throat, and replied, “Yes, King Herod requested a tour of the great temple.”
“Did he now?” There was a coldness in Pilate’s voice that betrayed the utter contempt he felt toward this Jewish leader. “Ahh!” He gestured grandly. “There is no king in these parts. I know of no king.” Then spotting me on horseback nearby, the governor turned and in mock sincerity called out, “Centurion. Is there a king around here?”
“We have no king here but Caesar,” I answered, joining in the sport.
“The centurion says there is no king but Caesar. Do you have some other king I’m unaware of? Perhaps I should meet this king.”
By now the high priest was well beyond flustered. He had stepped into a trap. Surrounded by Roman troops and cut off from the safety of the temple’s hallowed sanctum, he was now being hectored by his chief political rival. It seemed more than he could endure. He began to tremble uncontrollably, whether from fear or anger I could not tell.
“Your Excellency”—he swallowed hard—“I was referring to the . . . te-tetrarch of Galilee.” 
“The te-tetrarch?” Pilate mimicked not only the high priest’s tremulous stammer, but also the rusty-gate scratch of his voice. “Is that so? Well, the tetrarch is no king. And he certainly isn’t your king.” Then with slow, icy deliberation, Pilate said, “There is no king here but Caesar. Did you hear that?”
This was no rhetorical question. “Yes, Your Excellency. I heard.”Biblical fiction winner 2017
“Do you, any of you”—he scanned the delegation—“have any other king?”
The cowering dogs dutifully answered, “No, we have no other king.”
Caiaphas, however, was silent. A fact well noted by the governor.
Then Pilate took a step closer to the trembling priest, pointed a bony finger in his face, and hissed, “Now don’t forget that, you old goat, or your blood will be running down the Kidron! Did you hear that?”
“I . . . I am your servant, Your Excellency,” Caiaphas rasped.
“Ha!” Pilate laughed an icy laugh in a show of disdain for that remark. Then he turned on his heels and marched back to his chariot, where once more he joined his wife.
For a full minute there was stunned silence from the religious delegation, and then suddenly they all began to speak at once in a huddle of hushed tones like schoolboys after a tongue-lashing from the headmaster.
But there was murder in the high priest’s eye. Nothing childish there. From my vantage point I could see that. He didn’t have the means, but he most certainly had the intent.
I am sure that if the gate had been open, the delegation would have returned to the safety of the sanctuary to plot their revenge, but that option was not open to them. They were trapped in this pocket, surrounded by hated foreign troops, subject to the whim and ridicule of their enemy, awaiting the arrival of their pretentious savior king.
Long, awkward moments passed. But they were saved from this interminable purgatory by Herod’s arrival.

American readers click this link to purchase The Soldier Who Killed a King.

Canadian readers click this link to purchase The Soldier Who Killed a King directly from the author.



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Reading:                                     Psalm 93

The LORD reigns, he is robed in majesty;
the L
ORD is robed in majesty and armed with strength;
indeed, the world is established, firm and secure.
Your throne was established long ago;
you are from all eternity.
The seas have lifted up, LORD,
the seas have lifted up their voice;
the seas have lifted up their pounding waves.
Mightier than the thunder of the great waters,
mightier than the breakers of the sea—
the L
ORD on high is mighty.
Your statutes, LORD, stand firm;
holiness adorns your house
for endless days

What things in this world are majestic? As I write this post, I’m looking out across my front lawn where a squirrel is cavorting about. Are squirrels majestic? Certainly not in my opinion. In the animal kingdom perhaps lions or stallions are majestic in their bearing. Snow-covered mountain peaks may be majestic, but squirrels not so much.


Sunset photo courtesy of Liz Kranz

 Here in Psalm 93 the psalmist is trying to capture in words the might and majesty of the LORD. Surely, this is an impossible task, but the psalmist makes a valiant effort. His thoughts turn to the vast power of the sea. Mightier than the thunder of the great waters, mightier than the breakers of the sea—the LORD on high is mighty. 

Of course the might of the LORD is incomparable. How can the power of the sea be compared to the power of the One who created the sea? The comparison breaks down; it is not valid. We grasp at straws when we try to capture the majesty and glory of the LORD.

According to the psalmist two things stand firm and secure, the world and the statutes of the LORD. How firm are the laws of the LORD established in your mind? In a world where moral relativism rules the day, absolutes are shunned. What may be deemed right and good today may be judged as unacceptable or reprehensible tomorrow. In our society it seems the opinion of the fickle masses determines what is good. God’s opinion—His statutes matter little.

But in reality—in this thing called eternity—there are things that never change. There are absolutes. On the day we die, ready or not, we will know and experience the absolutes of God. The unchanging God has not thrown out His moral law with yesterday’s garbage. The psalmist declares, “Your statutes, LORD, stand firm; holiness adorns your house for endless days.”

Response: LORD God, I want your holiness to adorn my house and my heart. Help me to conform to your will and your ways, rather than the other way around. You are my Lord. Reign on sovereign LORD. Reign in glorious majesty. Amen.

Your Turn: What does God’s majesty mean to you?

Excerpt 18 for Lent from The Soldier Who Killed a King


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A journey to the cross is a journey to repentance. It’s a journey to deep personal change. Will you take this journey with me?

In today’s reading, Marcus, the centurion, rides back into Jerusalem on horseback. As he rides his mind turns over his thoughts about Jesus of Nazareth. Date: Near noon on Thursday, April 6th, 30 A.D.

We continued on to the fortress, but my mind was on the Northern Messiah. His penetrating eyes haunted my thoughts. There was a power there that I had no ability to fathom. I was reminded of Ruth’s words. Ruth was one of our household servants, a Jewish girl. When at the supper table I had told Zelda about Jesus and his miraculous powers, Ruth’s eyes brightened. I asked her if she knew anything about this man.
biblical-fiction-award-2017_orig“Oh, yes,” she’d said. “Almost a year ago he healed a blind beggar from the Lower City. Jesus made some mud, put it on the beggar’s eyes, and sent him to wash in the Pool of Siloam. When he washed, he could see. It was a miracle. I’ve seen this man myself. I know it’s true,” she earnestly avowed.
When I’d asked her about this power Jesus had and where it came from, she bowed her head and answered, “From God.”
But she seemed somehow uncomfortable with her answer. She added, “It must be from God. He does good things. But our leaders aren’t sure. They think it may be demon power. But demons don’t heal the sick.”
Maybe the religious leaders were right. Maybe it was demonic power that made the blind see. It seemed preposterous. But why had I heard this voice? Why did this man trouble me so? Thinking of him seemed to stir up nothing but torment within me, and I didn’t even know why. I felt strangely attracted to him, yet at the same time repelled.
Then there was this talk about the kingdom of God. Maybe Timaeus was right about this prophet. The words of the wealthy merchant came back to me: “You don’t talk about a kingdom in this place and get away with it. Rome will see to that!”
Maybe we would see to it. Maybe we should see to it soon. But Jesus’s enemies were the same pompous, self-serving leaders I despised. He had aligned himself with the common man, with the poor, the oppressed, the sick and suffering. And he didn’t just champion their cause for personal benefit like some crass politician lobbying for the emperor’s favor. No, he healed them. He fed them. He walked with them, ate with them. He was one of them. He was their king, whether he wore a crown or not. I saw that clearly when he entered on the donkey. He was the donkey king. A horse would have put him above the crowd. A horse would have meant elevating himself like all the other egotistical men who led in this upside-down world.
In his case others would have to do the elevating.
The meaning of his entry on Sunday came clear to me now. It was a perspective gained from my comfortable perch on the back of my own noble steed.
By the time I reached the fortress for the second time in the week, I resolved to shut this Messiah out of my mind. He didn’t fit any of my categories for human behavior or religious thought. He was beyond understanding, an unwelcome intruder into my city and my thought life.

American readers click this link to purchase The Soldier Who Killed a King.

Canadian readers click this link to purchase The Soldier Who Killed a King directly from the author.



Flourishing in the Courts of our God


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Reading:                                      Psalm 92

(Verses 9-15)
For surely your enemies, LORD,
surely your enemies will perish;
all evildoers will be scattered.
You have exalted my horn like that of a wild ox;
fine oils have been poured on me.
My eyes have seen the defeat of my adversaries;
my ears have heard the rout of my wicked foes.
The righteous will flourish like a palm tree,
they will grow like a cedar of Lebanon;
planted in the house of the L
they will flourish in the courts of our God.
They will still bear fruit in old age,
they will stay fresh and green,
proclaiming, “The L
ORD is upright;
he is my Rock, and there is no wickedness in him”

God’s people have been called or compared to many things. Often we are likened to sheep—the sheep of the LORD’s pasture. But here in Psalm 92 we are likened to trees, the palm tree, the cedar and various fruit trees.


Growing like a cedar of Lebanon — photo by David Kitz

There is a striking parallel between the tree analogy found in this psalm and a similar analogy found in Psalm 1. In both cases the righteous are compared to trees. That person [the righteous] is like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither—whatever they do prospers (Psalm 1:3).

By its very nature, there is something very settled about a tree. Unlike a sheep, a tree is not prone to wander. Trees flourish or perish where they have taken root. Have you been planted in the house of the LORD? Are you staying fresh and green and flourishing in the courts of our God?

Fruitfulness begins with flowering. Is your relationship with God in the flowering stage? Have you fallen in love with Him—so in love that you radiate beauty? Are you and the message you bear attractive? Have you made yourself attractive because of your love for the Lord?

What about fruit? Are the fruits of the Spirit beginning to appear on your branches? But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law (Galatians 5:22-23).

I can’t speak for you, but I would rather be a flourishing, fruit-bearing tree in the courts of the LORD than a wayward sheep.

Response: LORD God, daily I want to grow more in love with you. Grant me a settled heart. I want my life to bear fruit that will bring honor to you. Help me to radiate your goodness and beauty. Amen.

Your Turn: How attractive is the message you bear? What signals are you sending out into the world?

Excerpt 17 for Lent from The Soldier Who Killed a King


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A journey to the cross is a journey to repentance. It’s a journey to deep personal change. Will you take this journey with me?

In today’s reading, Marcus, the centurion, meets with Jonas the tax collector. They discuss the news of the week, namely the huge stir that Jesus has caused in Jerusalem since his triumphal entry into the city. Date: Early morning April 6th, 30 A.D.

As I descended the stairs of the gate, I caught sight of Jonas and his son, unoccupied at the customs booth. With a quick wave of my hand, I signaled my intention to speak with him, and after taking the salute of the sentinels at the gate, I headed straight to the booth. “Good morning, you old goat!” I called out as I approached.
“Well, if it isn’t the top dog himself,” he shot back.
“It’s always good to see a man standing around doing nothing. It sets me at ease,” I said. “Ease?” His eyebrows shot up. “Oh yeah.” He nodded emphatically. “It’s been a week of ease all right. I’ve had my feet up all week.”
Of course, just the opposite was true, and it was true for both of us.
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“Do you think we could have a short word?” With a jerk of my head, I motioned in the direction of the road leading down the Kidron Valley.
“Sure,” he answered, and then with a glance and a nod to his son, he transferred responsibility to him. A light mist still hung over the lowest reaches of the valley, but the early-morning sun was promising to burn it off. The swallows nesting along the crevices in the city wall were engaged in a full-throated competition with the songbirds in the trees along the brook. Traffic to and from the city was just beginning to stir.
When we had gone a few paces beyond the gate, I spoke. “I just wanted to say thanks for the help with the Barabbas case.”
“Oh, don’t mention it.” There was relief in his voice. “I thought you were going to warn me about some new plot.”
“No, there’s no new plot.” I hesitated. “Let me rephrase that. There’s no new plot that I know about. You never can be sure what’s being hatched in this crazy city.”
“Yeah, you’re right about that. I guess we learned that with Barabbas.” Jonas nervously bit on the corner whiskers of his mustache, and then continued. “Now, that Galilean prophet? I’ve been losing sleep over him all week.”
“Harmless as a dove,” I said. “Harmless as a dove.”
“How do you know?”
“I checked him out myself on Monday, right back there in the temple courts.” I made a quick double-pump motion with my upraised thumb aimed over my shoulder. “Then on Tuesday I had Claudius in there with the prophet.”
“You Romans have more nerve than brains.” He kicked a loose pebble off the pathway, looked up at me with a quizzical grin, and then with an incredulous shake of his head, he repeated, “More nerve than brains, that’s all I can say.”
“If we didn’t have nerve, we wouldn’t be running this place. Or any other place for that matter.”
He shrugged, furrowed his brow, and then cocked his head to one side. It was his way of reluctantly conceding my point.
“So he’s harmless?”
“Harmless to us.” With my index finger, I pointed first at myself, then at Jonas, and then back again. “Caiaphas, on the other hand”—I paused for effect—“now there’s a man who I’m sure hasn’t slept well all week.”
“So you think the old rusty gate has lost some sleep? Over what?”
“Money. Money and prestige. It can’t look too good having some roving up-country rabbi come in and take over your temple at the religious high point of the year.”
“I suppose not,” Jonas said. But then he added, “You know this prophet, Jesus of Nazareth, he’s been here before. He kicked out the money changers a few years back. Caused quite a stir then. But nothing like this. He’s got the temple guards running scared. That’s what my uncle told me.”
James Tht“Your uncle’s right. I saw that firsthand on Monday. So what else do you know about this Galilean?”
“My wife tells me he’s a friend of tax collectors and sinners. She told me one of his disciples was a tax collector before he met the prophet.”
“Ah, tax collectors and sinners?” I responded with a wink and a nod. “Maybe there is hope for the two of us yet.”
Jonas smiled back at me. “So, Marcus, where is this all headed? Some people think he’s the Messiah. You know that, don’t you?”
“Yes, we’re well aware of that. But he doesn’t oppose paying taxes to Caesar.” I gave my tax collector a supportive thumbs-up signal. “And he hasn’t spoken a word against Rome since he’s been here.”
“That’s not a surprise. He knows better. You and your boys would have him nailed up on Golgotha the moment he did.”
“You’re right about that,” I agreed. “But I honestly don’t think he’s got a quarrel with us. He’s going after the parading hypocrites in long, flowing robes, those killjoy Pharisees and teachers of the law. You know the ones—the religious police who run this place.”

American readers click this link to purchase The Soldier Who Killed a King.

Canadian readers click this link to purchase The Soldier Who Killed a King directly from the author.