Burst into Jubilant Song

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I will praise Him!

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Late afternoon sun on the Ottawa River — photo by David Kitz

Shout for joy to the LORD, all the earth,
    burst into jubilant song with music;
make music to the LORD with the harp,
    with the harp and the sound of singing,
with trumpets and the blast of the ram’s horn—
    shout for joy before the LORD, the King.

(Psalm 98:4-6, NIV)

The Downcast Soul

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Reading:                                      Psalm 42

(Verses 6-11)
My soul is downcast within me;
therefore I will remember you from the land of the Jordan,
the heights of Hermon—from Mount Mizar.
Deep calls to deep in the roar of your waterfalls;
all your waves and breakers have swept over me.
By day the LORD directs his love,
at night his song is with me—
a prayer to the God of my life.
I say to God my Rock,
“Why have you forgotten me?
Why must I go about mourning,
oppressed by the enemy?”
My bones suffer mortal agony as my foes taunt me,
saying to me all day long, “Where is your God?”
Why, my soul, are you downcast?
Why so disturbed within me?
Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him,
my Savior and my God
(NIV).

Reflection
Let’s face the truth. We all go through times when we are downcast. A few minutes ago my wife asked me, “Are you grumpy today?”

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Just after sunrise on Petrie Island — photo by David Kitz

I was surprised she noticed. I thought I had been hiding my downcast state quite well. After reflecting a moment I answered, “I guess I am.” Then I began to justify my grumpy mood. “It’s cold, windy and raining. Again! And my face feels numb and puffy from my visit to the dentist.”

What I didn’t say was that I was discouraged about my writing career. My literary agent may drop me as a client. Every news report I read seems to be filled with gloom and dire predictions. I have a backache, probably from stooping over a computer screen. And did I mention that this dreary weather feels interminable? Along with the psalmist, David, I can say, “My soul is downcast within me.”

But David didn’t stay wallowing in his pity party. He rallied through songs of worship and prayer. Hear his words, “By day the LORD directs his love, at night his song is with me—a prayer to the God of my life.”

When I am discouraged—when you are discouraged—we can both do the same. We can turn to the LORD in song. I can pray to the God of my life—the God who knew me in my mother’s womb—the God who left His throne to rescue me. Why should I be downcast when Jesus cast himself down on my behalf? He was cast down so that through faith in him, I will be lifted up. 

Response: LORD God, I thank you for Jesus. I am thankful that he willingly laid down his life so that I could be forgiven and experience new life. I put my hope in my Savior and my God. Hallelujah! Amen.

Your Turn: What do you do when times of discouragement come? Do you turn to the Lord or from the Lord?

Thirsty for the LORD

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Reading:                                      Psalm 42

For the director of music. A maskil of the Sons of Korah.
(Verses 1-5)
As the deer pants for streams of water,
so my soul pants for you, my God.
My soul thirsts for God, for the living God.
When can I go and meet with God?
My tears have been my food day and night,
while people say to me all day long,
“Where is your God?”
These things I remember as I pour out my soul:
how I used to go to the house of God
under the protection of the Mighty One
with shouts of joy and praise
among the festive throng.
Why, my soul, are you downcast?
Why so disturbed within me?
Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him,
my Savior and my God
(NIV).

Reflection
Thirst is one of our most basic cravings. Our need for water far exceeds our need for food. The human body can go 60 days or more without food, but only about ten days without water. Your body needs water because it is water. About two thirds, (2/3) of your body weight is water.

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Ottawa River paddle boarder — photo by David Kitz

But you are more than skin filled with bones and water. Paul, the apostle, closes his first letter to the Thessalonians with this prayer, “May God himself, the God of peace, sanctify you through and through. May your whole spirit, soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ (Thessalonians 5:23).

As Paul states, we are spirit, soul and body. By nature—by God’s design—you are two thirds, (2/3) spiritual. You are more than a collection of molecules. You are a living soul with a spirit that was designed and intended to commune with God. Therefore, just as our physical body thirsts for water, so our spiritual man thirsts for God.

This should be our constant prayer, “As the deer pants for streams of water, so my soul pants for you, my God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. When can I go and meet with God?” 

Are you thirsting for God? The truth is we all thirst for God. Some of us know how to mask our thirst or we substitute other things for the true living water. But the thirst remains. We need to heed Jesus’ invitation. On the last and greatest day of the festival, Jesus stood and said in a loud voice, “Let anyone who is thirsty come to me and drink” (John 7:37).

Response: LORD God, I thank you for Jesus. I am thankful that you are the true water of life and when we drink of your Spirit, springs of water flow from us. Hallelujah! Amen.

Your Turn: Have you tasted the life-changing, life-invigorating water of Christ?

Betrayal to Triumph

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Reading:                                      Psalm 41

(Verses 7-13)
All my enemies whisper together against me;
they imagine the worst for me, saying,
“A vile disease has afflicted him;
he will never get up from the place where he lies.”
Even my close friend, someone I trusted,
one who shared my bread,
has turned against me.
But may you have mercy on me, LORD;
raise me up, that I may repay them.
I know that you are pleased with me,
for my enemy does not triumph over me.
 Because of my integrity you uphold me
and set me in your presence forever.
Praise be to the LORD, the God of Israel,
from everlasting to everlasting.
Amen and Amen
(NIV).

Reflection
This concluding portion of Psalm 41 comes with a prophetic twist. You need not take my word for it. As he sat with his disciples at the Last Supper, Jesus himself said he was fulfilling the words of this psalm.

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Petrie Island sunrise — photo by David Kitz

“I am not referring to all of you; I know those I have chosen. But this is to fulfill this passage of Scripture: ‘He who shared my bread has turned against me.’ I am telling you now before it happens, so that when it does happen you will believe that I am who I am. Very truly I tell you, whoever accepts anyone I send accepts me; and whoever accepts me accepts the one who sent me.”

After he had said this, Jesus was troubled in spirit and testified, “Very truly I tell you, one of you is going to betray me” (John 13:18-21).

The psalmist, David experienced the heartbreak of betrayal. It was betrayal of the worst kind. Not only did David’s friends turn on him, but his own son, Absalom, sought to snatch the throne in a bloody coup—an act of open rebellion. See 2 Samuel 15-18.

David was betrayed by his son, Absalom; Jesus was betrayed by his friend and disciple, Judas Iscariot. But Jesus stayed loyal to his heavenly Father. He willingly went to the cross when he could have resisted arrest. He rebuked Peter for using his sword. “Put your sword back in its place,” Jesus said to him, “for all who draw the sword will die by the sword. Do you think I cannot call on my Father, and he will at once put at my disposal more than twelve legions of angels?” (Matthew 26:52-53).

Jesus experienced the resurrection truth of David’s words. Because of my integrity you uphold me and set me in your presence forever. Praise be to the LORD, the God of Israel, from everlasting to everlasting. Amen and Amen.

Response: LORD, I thank you for Jesus. Through Jesus I can overcome all things, even betrayal. Amen.

Your Turn: Have you experienced betrayal? Has the LORD upheld your cause?

Compassion for the Weak

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Reading:                                      Psalm 41

For the director of music. A psalm of David.
(Verses 1-6)
Blessed are those who have regard for the weak;
  the LORD delivers them in times of trouble.
The L
ORD protects and preserves them—
they are counted among the blessed in the land—
he does not give them over to the desire of their foes.
The LORD sustains them on their sickbed
and restores them from their bed of illness.
I said, “Have mercy on me, LORD;
heal me, for I have sinned against you.”
My enemies say of me in malice,
“When will he die and his name perish?”
When one of them comes to see me,
he speaks falsely, while his heart gathers slander;
then he goes out and spreads it around
(NIV).

Reflection
Psalm 41 reminds us that compassion and empathy are at the core of what it means to be a follower of the LORD. David begins this psalm with this declaration, “Blessed are those who have regard for the weak.”

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Petrie Island sunrise — photo by David Kitz

Social justice and care for the poor are not small matters in eyes of LORD. Ancient Israel was destroyed and went into exile because of their disregard for the poor. The LORD enters into judgment against the elders and leaders of his people: “It is you who have ruined my vineyard; the plunder from the poor is in your houses. What do you mean by crushing my people and grinding the faces of the poor?” declares the LORD, the LORD Almighty (Isaiah 3:14-15).

Why is regard for the weak so pivotal in having a right relationship with God? Lack of care or empathy for the needy is based on a kind of self-deception. In arrogance we see ourselves as better than those who are weak or needy. Yet if we examine ourselves, we have all gone through times when we were weak and needy. Sometimes we may need a reminder that our current state of self-sufficiency can come to an end in a moment.

This morning I very nearly hit a pedestrian as she rushed across the street. I sounded my horn thinking she was in error. A quick glance showed she was crossing with the walk light. I was the one in error. I had completely missed a red light. I was the one in need of correction and forgiveness.

Are you doing well now? Praise God. The day will come when you need His help and protection. Do you see someone in need? Help as you are able. The day will come when you will need forgiveness and the help that you have offered others.

Response: LORD God, forgive me when I have looked down on others in need. Open my eyes to someone I may help today. In Jesus name I pray. Amen.

Your Turn: How do you keep yourself from the deception of pride?

Grace for the Days Ahead

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Reading:                                      Psalm 40

 (Verses 11-17)
Do not withhold your mercy from me, LORD;
may your love and faithfulness always protect me.
For troubles without number surround me;
my sins have overtaken me, and I cannot see.
They are more than the hairs of my head,
and my heart fails within me.
Be pleased to save me, L
ORD;
come quickly, L
ORD, to help me.
May all who want to take my life
be put to shame and confusion;
may all who desire my ruin be turned back in disgrace.
May those who say to me, “Aha! Aha!”
be appalled at their own shame.
 But may all who seek you rejoice and be glad in you;
may those who long for your saving help always say,
“The L
ORD is great!”
But as for me, I am poor and needy; may the LORD think of me.
You are my help and my deliverer; you are my God, do not delay
(NIV).

Reflection
David begins Psalm 40 by praising the LORD for rescuing him from the slimy pit of the past. But David ends this psalm with a fresh appeal for God’s mercy. Do not withhold your mercy from me, LORD may your love and faithfulness always protect me.

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Paddle boarder on the Ottawa River — photo by David Kitz

As we move forward, it is only fitting that we take time to praise God for what He has done for us in the past. Let us never forget that the LORD’s faithfulness has brought us to this point. We are not where we are today because of our own cleverness, effort or ability. Every talent we have is a gift from God; every breath we take is a gift from the Giver of Life.

Yet again David appeals for God’s salvation. Be pleased to save me, LORD; come quickly, LORD, to help me.

By the grace of God I have experienced an initial point of salvation, just like David, but my salvation needs to be renewed from time to time. We all need to experience fresh surges of God’s grace and love. Grace (charis) in the full New Testament sense means much more than just unmerited favor. It means we are recipients of God’s providential gifting and power to live a maximized life under His caring guidance. There’s something supernatural about grace. It goes beyond human ability or ingenuity because it comes from the LORD, the Maker of heaven and earth. When we call out to God as David did, we are tapping into an ocean full of help, strength and possibilities beyond fathoming.

May that grace, that charis of God, be with you and upon you in the days ahead.

Response: LORD God, I need you as I face the days ahead. Equip me with divine grace and ability for each day through the love and power of Jesus. Amen.

Your Turn: Have you experienced God’s grace in the past week—the past year?

Sing to the LORD a New Song

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I will praise Him!

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A cluster of wild purple asters — photo by David Kitz

Sing to the LORD a new song,
    for he has done marvelous things;
his right hand and his holy arm
    have worked salvation for him.
The LORD has made his salvation known
    and revealed his righteousness to the nations.
He has remembered his love
    and his faithfulness to Israel;
all the ends of the earth have seen
    the salvation of our God.

(Psalm 98:1-3, NIV)

Light Shines on the Righteous

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I will praise Him!

2017-09-11

Petrie Island sunrise — photo by David Kitz

Zion hears and rejoices
    and the villages of Judah are glad
    because of your judgments, LORD.
For you, LORD, are the Most High over all the earth;
    you are exalted far above all gods.
Let those who love the LORD hate evil,
    for he guards the lives of his faithful ones
    and delivers them from the hand of the wicked.
Light shines on the righteous
    and joy on the upright in heart.
Rejoice in the LORD, you who are righteous,
    and praise his holy name.

(Psalm 97:8-12, NIV)

Ears That Are Open

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Reading:                                      Psalm 40

 (Verses 6-10)
Sacrifice and offering you did not desire—
but my ears you have opened—
burnt offerings and sin offerings you did not require.
Then I said, “Here I am, I have come—
it is written about me in the scroll.
I desire to do your will, my God;
your law is within my heart.”
I proclaim your saving acts in the great assembly;
I do not seal my lips, L
ORD, as you know.
I do not hide your righteousness in my heart;
I speak of your faithfulness and your saving help.
I do not conceal your love and your faithfulness
from the great assembly
(NIV).

Reflection
The first half of today’s psalm reading is quoted directly in Hebrews 10:5-7. The writer of the Book of Hebrews saw Jesus as the prophetic fulfillment of this passage. Jesus became the necessary sacrifice for the sins of the world. When God came to earth in bodily form as the babe of Bethlehem, He came clothed in humanity. Jesus came with his ears wide open to the voice of his heavenly Father. He came to do His Father’s will. For Jesus the Father’s will meant going to the whipping post and climbing the hill of Golgotha to die in agony on the cross. That was the sacrifice the Father desired.

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Marsh-side flower stalks — photo by David Kitz

Has God opened your ears to His voice? Have you loved God until it hurt? It hurt Jesus to do His Father’s will. If we are Jesus’ disciples, should we expect better treatment than our Master? Often what we hear preached is a sugar-coated gospel that asks little of us. Jesus asked his disciples for their lives. He said, “Anyone who loves their father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; anyone who loves their son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. Whoever does not take up their cross and follow me is not worthy of me. Whoever finds their life will lose it, and whoever loses their life for my sake will find it” (Matthew 10:37-39).

Have you lost your life for the sake of Jesus? Now, that’s a high calling with a steep price attached.

Are your ears open to God’s calling? There are times when I don’t want to hear God’s voice. That’s why I don’t seek Him in prayer. He may tell me something I don’t want to hear. All too often, I am His reluctant servant. I would rather do my will than His will. He must change my desires. My desires must become His desires. Only then can I serve with joy. Jesus’ desire was always to do his Father’s will. From an early age he was about his Father’s business, fulfilling His Father’s plan for His life.

Whose plan are you following?

Response: LORD God, help me to truly hear and obey your voice. I want to be your disciple, Lord Jesus. Thank you for your great sacrifice by which you purchased my redemption. Amen.

Your Turn: Have you heard God’s voice and walked away? He doesn’t give up easily. He remains faithful. He renews His call.

The Rescue Mission

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Reading:                                     Psalm 40

For the director of music. Of David. A psalm.
(Verses 1-5)
I waited patiently for the LORD;
he turned to me and heard my cry.
He lifted me out of the slimy pit, out of the mud and mire;
he set my feet on a rock and gave me a firm place to stand.
He put a new song in my mouth,
a hymn of praise to our God.
Many will see and fear the L
ORD
and put their trust in him.
Blessed is the one who trusts in the LORD,
who does not look to the proud,
to those who turn aside to false gods.
Many, L
ORD my God, are the wonders you have done,
the things you planned for us.
None can compare with you;
were I to speak and tell of your deeds,
they would be too many to declare
(NIV).

Reflection
Psalm 40 begins as a testimony of David. We do not know at which point in his life David penned this psalm, but it is clear that David was speaking from personal experience. Many times this shepherd of Israel waited patiently for the LORD; on numerous occasions he cried out to the LORD. The remarkable truth is that despite all his troubles, David can testify the LORD “turned to me and heard my cry.”

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He leads me in green pastures, Bruce Peninsula — photo by David Kitz 

Is that your testimony too? Have you been rescued by the LORD? Has He heard your cry and lifted you out of the slimy pit, out of the mud and mire? I am continually amazed at how the LORD stoops down to the level of humanity. The high and lofty LORD of Hosts, seated in the heavens stoops down to rescue the likes of me.

And it’s not as though I deserve to be rescued. In most instances, the mud and the mire in which I am stuck is mud and mire that I have produced. All too often I fall into the slimy pit that I have dug. Why should God rescue me? By my own devices I have gotten myself into this mess. But when I call to Him, the LORD hears my voice and stoops to rescue me. God did it for David three thousand years ago and He is still doing it today. Two thousand years ago, God came to the city of David. He stepped into the mud and the mire of a Bethlehem stable. He came on a rescue mission that extends to you and me. Jesus was born to lift us from the dung into heights of heaven.

With David I can testify, “Many, LORD my God, are the wonders you have done, the things you planned for us. None can compare with you; were I to speak and tell of your deeds, they would be too many to declare.

Response: LORD God, I thank you for Jesus. I am thankful that I can put my complete trust in you. I am rescued by your amazing grace not by my effort. When I fall, you lift me up. Hallelujah! Amen.

Your Turn: Has the God who stoops down rescued you?