Reading: Psalm 31
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, LORD,
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).
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.
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.
I will praise Him!
Guard my life, for I am faithful to you;
save your servant who trusts in you.
You are my God; have mercy on me, Lord,
for I call to you all day long.
Bring joy to your servant, Lord,
for I put my trust in you.
(Psalm 86:2-4, NIV)
Reading: Psalm 146
Praise the LORD.
Praise the LORD, my soul.
I will praise the LORD all my life;
I will sing praise to my God as long as I live.
Do not put your trust in princes,
in human beings, who cannot save.
When their spirit departs, they return to the ground;
on that very day their plans come to nothing.
Blessed are those whose help is the God of Jacob,
whose hope is in the LORD their God (NIV).
Last week I had a delightful telephone conversation with my mom. She was pleased to report that her last and final round of cataract surgery had gone very well. Her vision has greatly improved. Speaking of her follow-up exam, she said, “The most excited person in the room was the doctor. He was thrilled that the surgery turned out so well. I was the oldest patient he had ever operated on.”
My mom is ninety-four, but she doesn’t let a minor thing like that slow her down. After all, age is just a number. She still keeps a busy schedule and out works many women half her age. Who else but my mother would annually sew a hundred quilts and donate them to Lutheran World Relief?
But she knows, just as we all know that her life here on this earth will come to an end. We best make the most of it while we have this precious gift. Time marches on, and time will eventually march us off to the grave as surely as the sun will rise tomorrow on a new day.
In today’s reading from Psalm 146, the psalmist makes a lifelong commitment. He commits himself to praise the LORD. Praise the LORD, my soul. I will praise the LORD all my life; I will sing praise to my God as long as I live.
This is not an insignificant commitment. We were made to worship and we all do it, even the atheists among us. Some worship their money; others worship the pleasures of this world. Perhaps the greatest god of the current age is the god of self. Monuments to personal vanity have been erected all around us. I have been known to set up a few of these myself.
Genuine praise for the LORD tears down personal idols. It establishes His lordship over our lives. It acknowledges that He is in control. I have so little power. I can’t turn a white hair to black, at least not in the true sense. But the LORD knows the number of hair on my head and the number of my days. Ultimately, my life is in His hands. My life here is temporary. That’s why I need to put my hope and my trust in God—the eternal One. The psalmist’s words ring true. Blessed are those whose help is the God of Jacob, whose hope is in the LORD their God. And that blessing holds true for ninety-four-year-olds too.
Response: LORD God, I thank and praise you for the gift of life. You are worthy of worship. I commit to worshipping you every day for the rest of my life. Thank you for eternal life through Jesus. Amen.
Your Turn: Will you praise the LORD for all of your life? Are you ready to make that commitment?
I will praise Him!
I have seen you in the sanctuary
and beheld your power and your glory.
Because your love is better than life,
my lips will glorify you.
I will praise you as long as I live,
and in your name I will lift up my hands.
I will be fully satisfied as with the richest of foods;
with singing lips my mouth will praise you.
(Psalm 63:2-5, NIV)
Later this year, Kregel Publishing will be releasing my Passion of Christ novel entitled “The Soldier Who Killed a King.” Due to an editing deadline on this book, I am unable to do my regular, full-length posts. I hope to resume my devotional posts soon. — David Kitz
Reading: Psalm 104
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.
May the glory of the LORD endure forever;
may the LORD rejoice in his works—
he who looks at the earth, and it trembles,
who touches the mountains, and they smoke.
I will sing to the LORD all my life;
I will sing praise to my God as long as I live.
May my meditation be pleasing to him,
as I rejoice in the LORD.
But may sinners vanish from the earth
and the wicked be no more.
Praise the LORD, my soul. Praise the LORD (NIV).
Yesterday, my wife and I attended the funeral of my brother-in-law, Victor. He was a man of deep faith, who was always active in the church. At no point was he ashamed to call himself a follower of his Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Victor loved his Savior and I am sure his spirit rejoiced to see Jesus face to face.
There is a line from today’s reading from Psalm 104 which is particularly relevant as we think about life and death: 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.
In context of this psalm, the author was speaking of all creatures, in other words the animal kingdom, but these words apply to all that breathes the breath of life, including humans. For Victor, who struggled for every breath during the last years of his life, the words of this psalm had true meaning. But the second part of this psalm reading is also pertinent in the context of a funeral: When you send your Spirit, they are created.
I believe in the resurrection of the dead. The grave is not the final end for those who have placed their faith in Christ. A great re-creation will happen. The grave could not hold Jesus, and a day is coming when it will not hold Victor or any who have died in the faith. For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first (1 Thessalonians 4:16).
Response: Father God, send your reviving Spirit. Come, Lord Jesus. I long for your return. Amen.
Your Turn: Do you believe in the resurrection of the dead?
Reading: Psalm 90
A prayer of Moses the man of God.
Lord, you have been our dwelling place
throughout all generations.
Before the mountains were born
or you brought forth the whole world,
from everlasting to everlasting you are God.
You turn people back to dust,
saying, “Return to dust, you mortals.”
A thousand years in your sight
are like a day that has just gone by,
or like a watch in the night.
Yet you sweep people away in the sleep of death—
they are like the new grass of the morning:
In the morning it springs up new,
but by evening it is dry and withered (NIV).
In case you have not noticed, your life on this earth is temporal. It won’t last forever. In fact, there is very little on this earth that fits into the “lasts forever category.” My car fits well into this rusty, temporal category. My physical body will suffer a similar fate. My morning aches and pains remind me of this outcome. In this psalm Moses states the obvious when he makes this declaration: You turn people back to dust, saying, “Return to dust, you mortals.”
James, the brother of our Lord, makes a similar observation: You should know better than to say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to the city. We will do business there for a year and make a lot of money!” What do you know about tomorrow? How can you be so sure about your life? It is nothing more than mist that appears for only a little while before it disappears (James 4:13-14).
Only God stands apart, above and beyond this temporal world. He is the ageless One, untouched by time. This assertion holds true. A thousand years in your sight are like a day that has just gone by, or like a watch in the night.
The entire book of Ecclesiastes addresses the topic of the temporal nature of human life. Glenn Fobert has written an excellent book that explains the true meaning of that puzzling book: Everything Is Mist: Ecclesiastes on Life in a Puzzling and Troubled Temporary World
Life is not meaningless or vanity. According to Fobert, scholars have mistranslated the Hebrew word for mist in Ecclesiastes. Life is like a morning fog that lifts and it is gone. Where has it gone? It goes to the eternal One, the Creator of all life. How then should we live? Ecclesiastes gives us the answer. Simply live in full reverence and praise to your Maker.
Response: LORD God, I thank you for being the author of this wonderful thing called life. Today I want to live in humble thanksgiving and praise to you. Let my work, words and conduct honor you. Amen.
Your Turn: Is the Lord your dwelling place? Are you at home with Him?
I have said,
“Only you are my Lord!
Every good thing I have
is a gift from you” (Psalm 16:2, CEV).
This week’s I Love the Psalms theme is goodness.
Today’s verse from the Psalms fills me with gratitude. I have said, “Only you are my Lord! Every good thing I have is a gift from you”(Psalms 16:2, CEV).
If you haven’t said these words, you probably have thought them.
Every good thing I have is a gift from the Lord—every ability, every talent, every joy. Chief among those good things is the gift of life itself. After the resurrection, Peter called Jesus the author of life (Acts 3:15, NIV).
Now with the psalmist we can say, “Only you are my Lord!”
Response: LORD God, thank you for all the gifts you have given me. You are good and you have been good to me. Most of all I thank you for Jesus, the author of life. Amen.
Your Turn: What gifts are you thankful for today?
Reading: Psalm 62
Surely the lowborn are but a breath,
the highborn are but a lie.
If weighed on a balance, they are nothing;
together they are only a breath.
Do not trust in extortion
or put vain hope in stolen goods;
though your riches increase,
do not set your heart on them.
One thing God has spoken,
two things I have heard:
“Power belongs to you, God,
and with you, Lord, is unfailing love”;
and, “You reward everyone
according to what they have done” (NIV).
In this life that we have been given, what things are solid? What things are sure? Not much according to the psalmist, David.
Our station in life is just a fabricated lie. At heart, the highborn are no different from the street pauper. We breathe the same air, suffer the indignities of aging, and our bodies are fated for death and decay. In his epistle, James makes our fate quite clear. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes (James 4:14b).
As for this world’s wealth, it has no lasting value. Here is sound advice—advice you won’t get from a financial planner: though your riches increase, do not set your heart on them.
What then should we do? How should we live? Live in the light and knowledge of eternity and the One who holds eternity in His hands. David reminds us God will…“reward everyone according to what they have done.”
In other words, how we live matters. It matters for now and eternity. That knowledge should inform and give shape to all that we say and do. But there are two additional truths that should bring meaning to our lives. One thing God has spoken, two things I have heard: “Power belongs to you, God, and with you, Lord, is unfailing love.”
God alone has the power of life, death and resurrection. And in Jesus, He demonstrated his unfailing power and love for every man, woman and child on this planet. On the cross Jesus showed his unfailing love. Other loves—human loves—may fail us, but God’s love stands firm and unwavering.
Response: LORD God, thank you for the unfailing love of Jesus. You love me even when I have failed and despite my shortcomings. Help me live my life in the light of eternity. Amen.
Your Turn: Is God’s love a motivator for you to change your ways?