The People Close to His Heart

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I will praise Him!

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Spring splendor, Tsawwassen, BC — photo by David Kitz

Let them praise the name of the LORD,
    for his name alone is exalted;
    his splendor is above the earth and the heavens.
And he has raised up for his people a horn,
    the praise of all his faithful servants,
    of Israel, the people close to his heart.

Praise the LORD.

(Psalm 148:13-14, NIV)

Thirsting for God

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Reading: Psalm 63
A psalm of David. When he was in the Desert of Judah.
(Verses 1-5)
You, God, are my God, earnestly I seek you;
I thirst for you, my whole being longs for you,
in a dry and parched land
where there is no water.
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
(NIV).

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Spring blossoms, Tsawwassen, BC — photo by David Kitz

Reflection
A healthy human body can go as much as ninety days without food, but only about ten days without water. Water is life. Without it we perish.

A few years ago with great fanfare, it was announced that liquid water had been discovered on the surface of Mars. This opens the possibility of microbial life on or just beneath the Martian surface. What is more important, human life can be sustained on Mars for long periods if water is present.

The introductory note to Psalm 63 informs us that David composed this psalm, when he was in the Desert of Judah. But there is something quite startling about this psalm. David is not crying out for water as we might expect. Instead, David is crying out for God. He’s not seeking for water; he is earnestly seeking for God.

Hear David’s desperate plea, I thirst for you, my whole being longs for you, in a dry and parched land where there is no water.” 

When was the last time you thirsted for God like a man trekking in the heat of the desert? I must confess I’m better at ignoring God than seeking Him. But that was not David’s mindset. David recognized his need for God. He was thirsty for Him.

Our thirst for God should be a constant in our lives. As I write this, I pause for sips of my morning coffee. It’s a thirst I have—a longing that prompts me to pick up my cup. At various times throughout the day do I thirst for God in the same way? Do I long for His Spirit and the thrill of His presence near me?

Are you spending your days in a spiritual desert? Are you yearning for intimacy with God? Oh that we might thirst for God as David did!

Response: LORD God, I want more of you in my life. Help me to sing and praise your name, and draw my satisfaction from you. You are the true source of life and joy. All my springs of joy are in you. Amen.

Your Turn: How can we cultivate a personal thirst for God?

Unchanging Values and Unfailing Love

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Reading: Psalm 62
(Verses 9-12)
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).

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Sunset on the Ottawa River — photo by David Kitz

Reflection
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 than 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 from this psalm that 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. In a changing world of eroding values our LORD remains firm and immovable.

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, since He never changes?

He Will See the Light of Life

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I will praise Him!

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Joy comes in the morning — photo by David Kitz

Yet it was the LORD’s will to crush him and cause him to suffer,
    and though the LORD makes his life an offering for sin,
he will see his offspring and prolong his days,
    and the will of the LORD will prosper in his hand.
After he has suffered,
    he will see the light of life and be satisfied;
by his knowledge my righteous servant will justify many,
    and he will bear their iniquities.
Therefore I will give him a portion among the great,
    and he will divide the spoils with the strong,
because he poured out his life unto death,
    and was numbered with the transgressors.
For he bore the sin of many,
    and made intercession for the transgressors.

(Isaiah 53:10-12, NIV)

He Was Assigned a Grave with the Wicked

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I will praise Him!

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Landestreu sunrise — photo courtesy of Donald Adam

By oppression and judgment he was taken away.
    Yet who of his generation protested?
For he was cut off from the land of the living;
    for the transgression of my people he was punished. 
He was assigned a grave with the wicked,
    and with the rich in his death,
though he had done no violence,
    nor was any deceit in his mouth.

(Isaiah 53:8-9, NIV)

Built on our Redemptive Rock

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Reading: Psalm 62
For the director of music. For Jeduthun. A psalm of David.
(Verses 1-8)
Truly my soul finds rest in God;
my salvation comes from him.
Truly he is my rock and my salvation;
he is my fortress, I will never be shaken.
How long will you assault me?
Would all of you throw me down—
this leaning wall, this tottering fence?
Surely they intend to topple me from my lofty place;
they take delight in lies.
With their mouths they bless,
but in their hearts they curse.
Yes, my soul, find rest in God; my hope comes from him.
Truly he is my rock and my salvation;
he is my fortress, I will not be shaken.
My salvation and my honor depend on God;
he is my mighty rock, my refuge.
Trust in him at all times, you people;
pour out your hearts to him, for God is our refuge
(NIV).

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We find rest in the redemptive suffering and death of Jesus.

Reflection
Jesus concluded his Sermon on the Mount by telling the parable of the wise and foolish builders (Matthew 7:24-29). One man built his house on sand, while the other built his home on the rock. Only the house built on the rock was able to withstand the floods and storms of life. Having Jesus and his teaching at the very foundation of your life will help you withstand all the hardship and temptation the world and the devil can throw at you.

Did Jesus use Psalm 62 as his story prompter as he told the parable of the wise and foolish builders? Until we pass over to eternity and can question Jesus personally, we cannot know the answer with absolute certainty; nevertheless, there is a striking parallel between Jesus’ built-on-a-rock parable and Psalm 62.

According to this psalm, David found his rest in God. God was his rock. His life rested secure on that eternal foundation. Here is David’s confession: Yes, my soul, find rest in God; my hope comes from him. Truly he is my rock and my salvation; he is my fortress, I will not be shaken.

To David’s declaration of allegiance to the Rock, Jesus adds this thought. Our connection to the Rock is established as we put his words—Jesus’ words—into practice. What is your life resting on? 

Response: LORD God, you are my mighty rock, my refuge. In a troubled world you are a sure foundation. My soul finds rest in you. Help me put into practice the words of life—the words of Jesus. Amen.

Your Turn: In a changing world has the LORD become your rock of stability? Are you heeding this admonition from James, the brother of our Lord? Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says (James 1:22).

This Good Friday may you find your rest in the redemptive work of Christ on the cross.

West Coast Drama Takes Us Back 2,000 Years

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This evening is a final rehearsal for “The Centurion’s Report” at South Delta Baptist Church. I am here on the west coast, 2,000 miles from home to bring the story of Christ’s passion to life, as seen through the eyes a Roman centurion.
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In addition to the Easter morning presentation sited in the news article above, I’ll be doing the same drama at the Kingsway Foursquare Church at 6:00pm on Good Friday.

Have you been to the foot of the cross recently?

Discover the drama; enjoy the book.
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Crying Out from the Ends of the Earth

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Reading: Psalm 61
For the director of music. With stringed instruments. Of David.
Hear my cry, O God;
listen to my prayer.
From the ends of the earth I call to you,
I call as my heart grows faint;
lead me to the rock that is higher than I.
For you have been my refuge,
a strong tower against the foe.
I long to dwell in your tent forever
and take refuge in the shelter of your wings.
For you, God, have heard my vows;
you have given me the heritage of those who fear your name.
Increase the days of the king’s life,
his years for many generations.
May he be enthroned in God’s presence forever;
appoint your love and faithfulness to protect him.
Then I will ever sing in praise of your name
and fulfill my vows day after day
(NIV).

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Roadside flowers from the ends of the earth, Nagoya, Japan — photo by David Kitz

Reflection
When I reflect on Psalm 61, it’s about distance—distance to God. There’s an old saying that goes like this, “If at one time you were close to God, but now He is far away, who is the one who moved?”

As is so often the case, this psalm begins with David crying out to God. It would seem David is not at home. He is calling out from the ends of the earth. From biblical history we know that David was not a world traveller. He never ventured beyond the traditional territory of Israel, so in this psalm where exactly are the ends of the earth?

If I have offended my wife and the issue has not been resolved, we can be sleeping in the same bed, but there is a distance between us. Though she is physically present there is a gulf between us. Spiritually and emotionally we are on opposite sides of the planet. For that night I’m on the other end of the earth.

The same can be true of our relationship with God. God, the LORD, the Creator of the ends of the earth is always close at hand. He is present and evident in His creation. But beyond that He has promised to dwell within every believer. We have Jesus’ promise on this. “The Spirit will show you what is true. The people of this world cannot accept the Spirit, because they don’t see or know him. But you know the Spirit, who is with you and will keep on living in you” (John 14:17 CEV).

That means we can call out to God with confidence. He is more than nearby; He is within us helping to form the words of our prayers. We can draw close. David reminds us that we can take refuge in the shelter of your wings.

Response: LORD God, help me to draw near to you. Thank you for the indwelling Holy Spirit. You have been my refuge, a strong tower against the foe. Amen.

Your Turn: What creates distance between you and God? What draws you close?

Enemies of Our Soul

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Reading: Psalm 60
For the director of music. To the tune of “The Lily of the Covenant.”
A miktam of David.
For teaching.
When he fought Aram Naharaim and Aram Zobah,
and when Joab returned
and struck down twelve thousand Edomites in the Valley of Salt.
You have rejected us, God, and burst upon us;
you have been angry—now restore us!
You have shaken the land and torn it open;
mend its fractures, for it is quaking.
You have shown your people desperate times;
you have given us wine that makes us stagger.
But for those who fear you, you have raised a banner
to be unfurled against the bow.
Save us and help us with your right hand,
that those you love may be delivered.
God has spoken from his sanctuary:
“In triumph I will parcel out Shechem
and measure off the Valley of Sukkoth.
Gilead is mine, and Manasseh is mine;
Ephraim is my helmet, Judah is my scepter.
Moab is my washbasin, on Edom I toss my sandal;
over Philistia I shout in triumph.”
Who will bring me to the fortified city?
Who will lead me to Edom?
Is it not you, God, you who have now rejected us
and no longer go out with our armies?
Give us aid against the enemy, for human help is worthless.
With God we will gain the victory,
and he will trample down our enemies
(NIV).

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April morning fresh snow, Racette Park, Orleans, ON — photo by David Kitz

Reflection
David was Israel’s great warrior king. Through conquest he expanded and secured the nation’s territory against enemies who for generations had ravaged the land. His success as a warrior is fully reflected in the words of Psalm 60. Conquerors often boast of their accomplishments, but David does not take the credit for his victories. He attributes his success to God. He asserts, “With God we will gain the victory, and he will trample down our enemies.”

On a personal level, we too have enemies who ravage and sabotage the excellent plan God has for our lives. Many a Christian is fighting a personal war with lust and pornography, pride, greed and envy. These are enemies of the soul that rob us of spiritual vitality, leaving us bereft of the fruits of the Spirit. The battle is real. We are in desperate need of victory, but many lack even the will to fight. Over you God speaks from His sanctuary. Victory is available. Hear and believe these words: With God we will gain the victory, and he will trample down our enemies.

Response: LORD God, help me to put on the armor of God and voice the battle cry. You are my strength. Victory is mine in my personal battle through the all-powerful name of Jesus. Jesus, on my behalf you conquered death and the powers of darkness. Amen.

Your Turn: Have you identified the personal enemies of your soul? Have you taken up the battle cry?

 In the Morning I Will Sing of Your Love

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Reading: Psalm 59
(Verses 10-17)
God will go before me
and will let me gloat over those who slander me.
But do not kill them, Lord our shield,
or my people will forget.
In your might uproot them and bring them down.
For the sins of their mouths, for the words of their lips,
let them be caught in their pride.
For the curses and lies they utter,
consume them in your wrath,
consume them till they are no more.
Then it will be known to the ends of the earth
that God rules over Jacob.
They return at evening, snarling like dogs,
and prowl about the city.
They wander about for food
and howl if not satisfied.
But I will sing of your strength,
in the morning I will sing of your love;
for you are my fortress, my refuge in times of trouble.
You are my strength, I sing praise to you;
you, God, are my fortress, my God on whom I can rely
(NIV).

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April snow in Rachette Park, Orleans, ON — photo by David Kitz

Reflection
David began Psalm 59 in great distress, fleeing for his life, and calling out for God’s deliverance. But as is often the case in the Psalms, there is a transition point. What began with desperate pleading on David’s part, ends with confident faith and praise to God for His unfailing help. Apparently, David met with God. The LORD heard his cry and answered him. David makes this assertion, “God will go before me…”

Can you make that assertion too? Have you met with God in prayer? Have you poured out your heart before Him? What is more important, has God answered you? Above all, true prayer is a two-way communication. Have you taken time to listen for His voice? Is He going before you?

There are many who assert that prayer is the answer. That’s nonsense! Prayer is not the answer. God is the answer. What we need is God. We need to hear the Holy Spirit speaking into our spirits when we pray. Prayer is simply a means to connect with God. Prayer is part of the divine equation. But it’s God whom we seek. He is the solution—the eternal amen—the reward at the end of the quest.

David learned how to seek God through prayer, praise and worship. He was taught by God. God will teach us too, if we will take the time to seek Him with all our heart. Then we can say, “You are my strength, I sing praise to you; you, God, are my fortress, my God on whom I can rely.”

Response: LORD God, teach me to pray like David prayed. Give me ears to hear your voice when I come before you. Direct my thoughts into the path you have chosen for me. Amen.

Your Turn: Has God spoken to you at various times?