The Source of Salvation

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Reading: Psalm 37
(Verses 35-40)
I have seen a wicked and ruthless man
flourishing like a luxuriant native tree,
but he soon passed away and was no more;
though I looked for him, he could not be found.
Consider the blameless, observe the upright;
a future awaits those who seek peace.
But all sinners will be destroyed;
there will be no future for the wicked.
The salvation of the righteous comes from the LORD;
he is their stronghold in time of trouble.
The L
ORD helps them and delivers them;
he delivers them from the wicked and saves them,
because they take refuge in him
(NIV).

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Park path to the setting sun — photo by David Kitz

Reflection
Today’s reading is the concluding portion of Psalm 37. As noted previously, this entire psalm contrasts the life of the righteous person with the individual who pursues a life of sin and illicit gain. The righteous will receive their reward and the man who does evil will be destroyed.

We all reap what we sow. If we sow seeds of selfishness, hate and discord, we will reap a harvest of ruin. Paul, the apostle, gives us this warning, “Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows. Whoever sows to please their flesh, from the flesh will reap destruction; whoever sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life” (Galatians 6:7-8).

We can readily conclude that the good man will live because of his goodness. In other words the righteous person will be saved because of his righteous deeds. But that’s not what this psalm teaches. In fact, the idea that one is saved because of one’s righteousness runs contrary to the message of this psalm and the entire counsel of Holy Scripture. The psalmist clearly states, “The salvation of the righteous comes from the LORD.”

We are not saved by our righteousness. We are saved by the LORD. It is because of His great mercy that we are saved. This aligns with New Testament teaching as Paul declares, “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast” (Ephesians 2:8-9).

Yes, we are called to live righteous lives and to do good works, but let’s not deceive ourselves into thinking that by these means we will earn our way to heaven. Jesus is the way to heaven. Our feeble efforts won’t take us very far. We need His forgiveness and the power of His redeeming blood. We are saved because we take refuge in Him.  

Response: LORD God, I thank you for Jesus. I am thankful that I can put my complete trust in you. I am saved by your amazing grace not by my effort. Hallelujah! Lord Jesus, you are the way, the truth and the life (John 14:6). Amen.

Your Turn: Have you relied on your righteousness rather than God’s grace?

What is my Motivation?

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Reading: Psalm 37
(Verses 30-34)
The mouths of the righteous utter wisdom,
and their tongues speak what is just.
The law of their God is in their hearts;
their feet do not slip.
The wicked lie in wait for the righteous,
intent on putting them to death;
but the LORD will not leave them in the power of the wicked
or let them be condemned when brought to trial.
Hope in the LORD and keep his way.
He will exalt you to inherit the land;
when the wicked are destroyed, you will see it
(NIV).

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Shine down on your people, LORD — photo by David Kitz

Reflection
A few years ago, here in Canada’s capital we saw aspects of this psalm play out in real time. David, the psalmist states, “The wicked lie in wait for the righteous, intent on putting them to death.” A terrorist, with planned intent gunned down Corporal Nathan Cirillo, while he stood guard before the National War Memorial. This cowardly act highlights the contempt of those who celebrate evil, for those who stand for righteousness, truth and justice. The contrast between those who love peace and those who revel in violence is stark indeed.

The mouths of the righteous utter wisdom, and their tongues speak what is just. The law of their God is in their hearts; their feet do not slip. 

When evil raises its brutal head, we need not be intimidated. We need to take heart. When we stand on the side of truth, justice and love, we do not stand alone. God is with us. He is on our side. He has our back. As the psalmist declares, we need to, “Hope in the LORD and keep his way.” 

The way of the LORD is the way of love. Jesus said to his disciples, “No one has greater love than this—that one lays down his life for his friends” (John 15:13 NET). Jesus then went on to demonstrate that supreme love by laying down his life on the cross for our redemption.

The question we need to continually ask ourselves is what is my motivation? Am I motivated by love or am I driven by hate? Am I drawing close to the God of love and hope? Is my life a demonstration of God’s redeeming love, or am I only concerned about my selfish interests?

Corporal Nathan Cirillo laid down his life in the service of his country. Which god will you serve? Will you serve the god of self, or the selfless God—the God whose hands were pierced for you? The choice is yours.

Response: LORD God, we live in a very troubled world. When evil rises, we put our trust in you. Help me to walk in the way of love. Surround me with your peace. Keep those who serve their country safe. I pray in Jesus name. Amen.

Your Turn: How can you honor those who lay down their lives in the service of their country? What makes their sacrifice special for you?

Delighting in God

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Reading: Psalm 37
(Verses 23-29)
The LORD makes firm the steps
of the one who delights in him;
though he may stumble, he will not fall,
for the L
ORD upholds him with his hand.
I was young and now I am old,
yet I have never seen the righteous forsaken
or their children begging bread.
They are always generous and lend freely;
their children will be a blessing.
Turn from evil and do good;
then you will dwell in the land forever.
For the L
ORD loves the just
and will not forsake his faithful ones.
Wrongdoers will be completely destroyed;
the offspring of the wicked will perish.
The righteous will inherit the land
and dwell in it forever
(NIV).

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A winter wonderland, Racette Park, Orleans, ON — photo by David Kitz

Reflection
According to Psalm 37 there is a string of blessings that is bequeathed to the righteous. We are kept safe—held secure in the palm of God’s hand. Furthermore these blessings are intergenerational. The children of the righteous are blessed, so they can be a blessing to their parents and others.

As parents and grandparents can attest, children can be a great blessing, or if they are corrupted by rebellion and disobedience they can become a curse, making life difficult for all around them.

Much of the trouble in the world today is self-inflicted. By choosing the path of anger, selfishness and resentment, we heap sorrow on our own head. Conversely, if we choose to follow the LORD along the path of love, generosity and forgiveness, we set ourselves up to receive blessings from our heavenly Father.

Down through the ages, David’s admonition rings true: Turn from evil and do good; then you will dwell in the land forever.

But God’s blessings rest on a premise, and here it is: The LORD makes firm the steps of the one who delights in him.

The question we need to continually ask ourselves is “Am I delighting myself in the LORD? Is He my chief joy in life? Do I hunger for His word and His presence in my life? Do I long for times of sweet communion with Him?

Response: LORD God, help me to delight myself in you. May I love what you love. Help me to position myself to receive your blessings. I pray in Jesus name. Amen.

Your Turn: Are you living proof of God’s intergenerational blessing on those who delight in Him?

Takers Versus Givers

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Reading:  Psalm 37
(Verses 18-22)
The blameless spend their days under the LORD’s care,
and their inheritance will endure forever.
In times of disaster they will not wither;
in days of famine they will enjoy plenty.
But the wicked will perish:
Though the L
ORD’s enemies are like the flowers of the field,
they will be consumed, they will go up in smoke.
The wicked borrow and do not repay,
but the righteous give generously;
those the L
ORD blesses will inherit the land,
but those he curses will be destroyed
(NIV).

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Snowy arch — photo by David Kitz

Reflection
I have heard it said that there are two kinds of people in the world—givers and takers. Notice I didn’t say givers and receivers. We all are receivers from the first breath we take, as we receive love and nourishment from our mothers. But there is a subtle but important difference between receiving and taking. The receiver takes what is freely offered. The taker takes regardless if it is offered or not.

Takers feel the world owes them something. Givers owe a debt of love and make regular payments on that debt. The apostle Paul urges us, “Owe no one anything except to love one another, for he who loves another has fulfilled the law” (Romans 13:8 NKJV).

Here in Psalm 37 David declares: The wicked borrow and do not repay, but the righteous give generously. There is something counterintuitive about generosity. Generosity breeds prosperity, whereas hoarding leads to poverty. One person gives freely, yet gains even more; another withholds unduly, but comes to poverty. A generous person will prosper; whoever refreshes others will be refreshed. One person gives freely, yet gains even more; another withholds unduly, but comes to poverty (Proverbs 11:24-25 NIV).

Why is this the case? Job gives us this nugget of wisdom, “Anyone who withholds kindness from a friend forsakes the fear of the Almighty (Job 6:14). The Almighty oversees our lives. He sees when we withhold kindness from a friend and He sees when we give generously. He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him (Hebrews 11:6 NKJV).

A generous spirit reflects the Spirit of God, who freely gives us all things, including His Son. His Son generously gave his life for our redemption, and for the forgiveness of our sins. Forgiveness is freely offered. It’s free for the taking from a lavishly generous God. Have you received what He offers?

Our amazing God turns takers into givers. Saul of Tarsus was a taker, but when he encountered Jesus on the road to Damascus, he became a giver—a forgiven giver. Saul became Paul. Hate turned to love. Taking from the world turned to giving.

Response: LORD God, turn me around. Help me to be generous with those in need. You gave so much to me. Now help me be a giver—a reflection of you in the world. I pray in Jesus name. Amen.

Your Turn: Can we give without receiving? Which comes first?

The Power of the Wicked Will be Broken

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Reading: Psalm 37
(Verses 12-17)
The wicked plot against the righteous
and gnash their teeth at them;
but the L
ORD laughs at the wicked,
for he knows their day is coming.
The wicked draw the sword
and bend the bow
to bring down the poor and needy,
to slay those whose ways are upright.
But their swords will pierce their own hearts,
and their bows will be broken.
Better the little that the righteous have
than the wealth of many wicked;
for the power of the wicked will be broken,
but the L
ORD upholds the righteous (NIV).

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Petrie Island wetlands — photo by David Kitz

Reflection
As stated in my first post on Psalm 37, this psalm is a stark night and day comparison of the life of the evil person with the life of the individual who does right in God’s eyes. The contrast is profound.

I cannot read the passage above without thinking of the evil that is loose in the world today. Here in Canada in recent years, we had the trial of Luka Magnotta for his slaying of Jun Lin, a Chinese born university student. Magnotta posted his killing of Lin with an icepick on YouTube. After dismembering his body Magnotta mailed various body parts to schools and political party headquarters.

In Iraq and Syria, ISIS militants defiantly beheaded journalists and international aid workers in a cowardly display of their depravity. Any who hold different religious views have been executed, their women raped, their children enslaved. It appears we live in a wicked world where hatred and evil are trumpeted as worthy pursuits—pursuits that attract adoring young fanatics.

The opening line of this psalm posting is as true today as when it was written three thousand years ago. The wicked plot against the righteous and gnash their teeth at them… The wicked draw the sword and bend the bow to bring down the poor and needy, to slay those whose ways are upright.

The sin process is still at work in the hearts of men.  When tempted, no one should say, “God is tempting me.” For God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does he tempt anyone; but each person is tempted when they are dragged away by their own evil desire and enticed. Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death (James 1:13-15).

But thanks be to God! We have this promise: for the power of the wicked will be broken, but the LORD upholds the righteous. God will uphold us as we put our trust in Him.

Response: LORD God, you are my upholder—my help in evil times, in times of trouble. I put my trust in you. Hold me in the palm of your hand. I pray in Jesus’ name. Amen.

Your Turn: How do you fight evil? Where does it start? We must examine our hearts.

My Eyes Are Fixed on You, Sovereign LORD

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I will praise Him!

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The angel and the cross on Parliament Hill, Ottawa, ON

Let a righteous man strike me—that is a kindness;
    let him rebuke me—that is oil on my head.
My head will not refuse it,
    for my prayer will still be against the deeds of evildoers.

Their rulers will be thrown down from the cliffs,
    and the wicked will learn that my words were well spoken.
They will say, “As one plows and breaks up the earth,
    so our bones have been scattered at the mouth of the grave.”

But my eyes are fixed on you, Sovereign LORD;
    in you I take refuge—do not give me over to death.
Keep me safe from the traps set by evildoers,
    from the snares they have laid for me.
Let the wicked fall into their own nets,
    while I pass by in safety.

(Psalm 141:5-10, NIV)

Prayer Like Incense

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I will praise Him!

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Winter path in Grey Nuns Park, Ottawa, ON — photo by David Kitz

A psalm of David.

I call to you, LORD, come quickly to me;
    hear me when I call to you.
May my prayer be set before you like incense;
    may the lifting up of my hands be like the evening sacrifice.

Set a guard over my mouth, LORD;
    keep watch over the door of my lips.
Do not let my heart be drawn to what is evil
    so that I take part in wicked deeds
along with those who are evildoers;
    do not let me eat their delicacies.

(Psalm 141:1-4, NIV)

Waiting for God

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Reading: Psalm 37
(Verses 7-11)
Be still before the LORD
and wait patiently for him;
do not fret when people succeed in their ways,
when they carry out their wicked schemes.
Refrain from anger and turn from wrath;
do not fret—it leads only to evil.
For those who are evil will be destroyed,
but those who hope in the L
ORD will inherit the land.
A little while, and the wicked will be no more;
though you look for them, they will not be found.
But the meek will inherit the land
and enjoy peace and prosperity
(NIV).

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Quiet beauty, Round Lake, Ontario — photo courtesy of Liz Kranz

Reflection
When I consider this passage from Psalm 37, two thoughts stand out: Be still before the LORD and wait patiently for him and do not fret—it leads only to evil.

My natural tendency is not to wait or be still. I tend to fret and worry and then charge ahead simultaneously in different directions. Trust me; it’s hard to go in different directions at the same time. The end result is usually a bad case of self-inflicted paralysis, which often results in—you guessed it—a renewed bout of fret and worry. When will I learn? When will we learn?

Being still before the LORD requires practice. It is a learned response, not a natural reaction. When we wait for the LORD we show that we trust Him. We know that He has not forgotten us or the problems we face. In every situation He has our best interests in mind, even if we don’t understand the reasons, causes or solutions to our difficulties.

By being still and waiting before the LORD we demonstrate that we don’t have the answer within in ourselves. The answer—the solution—lies in Him. If we wait patiently, He will show us the way. And having waited patiently for Him, we can move forward with confidence when He gives us the green light.

It is quite likely that Jesus had the words of this psalm in mind when he gave these instructions in his Sermon on the Mount:  “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?” Matthew 6:25-27.

We are to live in quiet confidence. In this psalm we read this promise, “But the meek will inherit the land and enjoy peace and prosperity.” We can put our trust in the God who stands behind that promise.

Response: LORD God, help me to trust you today. Give me a peaceful heart that I may wait patiently for you even when the storms of life descend. I pray in Jesus’ name. Amen.

Your Turn: Do you tend to fret? Does quiet prayer still your worries?

Take Delight in the LORD

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Reading: Psalm 37
Of David
(Verses 1-6)
Do not fret because of those who are evil
or be envious of those who do wrong;
for like the grass they will soon wither,
like green plants they will soon die away.
Trust in the LORD and do good;
dwell in the land and enjoy safe pasture.
Take delight in the L
ORD,
and he will give you the desires of your heart.
Commit your way to the LORD;
trust in him and he will do this:
He will make your righteous reward shine like the dawn,
your vindication like the noonday sun
(NIV).

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Take delight in the LORD — photo by David Kitz

Reflection
What are the desires of your heart? What do you want more than anything else? Wealth? Fame? Power and influence? Is this what you want? We all have desires. Some are noble some are not. How we manage and direct our desires fundamentally determines the direction of our lives.

Here in Psalm 37, David compares and contrasts the life of the evil person with the life of the individual who does right in God’s eyes. The differences are stark; this is a night and day comparison. But at its core, everything in life centers on the desires of our heart and how we handle them.

There is a promise embedded in this psalm: Take delight in the LORD, and he will give you the desires of your heart. It’s a promise that is well worth pondering.

Will the LORD grant us our desires if our desires are evil? Most certainly not! In Psalm 34 we read, “The face of the LORD is against those who do evil, to blot out their name from the earth” (Psalm 34:16).

God’s promises are conditional. There is something required of us before the promise can take effect. In this case we are to “Take delight in the LORD.” What does that really mean?

If I take delight in someone, my wife for example, I enjoy being around her. It’s a delight to spend time with her. I take pleasure in the sound of her voice. I pay careful attention to her wishes and desires. Ah, there’s that word again, desires. If I take delight in the LORD, then my desires will align themselves with the LORD’s desires. I’ll be concerned about what He wants. My selfish desires will be tempered by my love for Him. He in turn will grant the desires of my heart because I love Him and want the best for Him and His eternal Kingdom.

It’s easy to get the desires of your heart, if your desires are His desires.

Response: LORD God, help me to delight myself in you. May I love what you love. Help me to recognize when my desires are right and wholesome, and when they are misdirected. I pray in Jesus name. Amen.

Your Turn: How do you keep your desires in check and in line with God?

The Price is Right

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With the Lent/Easter season approaching, it’s gratifying to see my passion of Christ novel on sale at a very reasonable price on both sides of the border.

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Author David Kitz at Indigo book signing — photo courtesy of Nancy Grove

Selling out of books at a bookstore signing event, during a major snowstorm is also a cause for celebration. That’s exactly what happened at my local Indigo store in Orleans, Ontario this past Saturday.

And while speaking of the price being right, check out this free 22 page study guide for The Soldier Who Killed a KingThis guide is ideal for small group discussions, adult Sunday School classes or home meetings.
https://davidkitz.ca/resources/SWKK%20Study%20Guide.pdf

For American readers here is the Amazon link: https://www.amazon.com/Soldier-Who-Killed-King-Retelling/dp/0825444853/ref=tmm_pap_swatch_0?_encoding=UTF8&qid=&sr=

For Canadian readers, here is the Chapters/Indigo link: https://www.chapters.indigo.ca/en-ca/books/the-soldier-who-killed-a/9780825444852-item.html?ikwid=David+Kitz&ikwsec=Home&ikwidx=0