Correction!

Tags

, , ,

Reading: Psalm 141
(Verses 5)
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 (NIV).*

img_20191222_1457299-1

Racette Park, Orleans, ON — photo by David Kitz

Reflection
I don’t like being proven wrong. I like to think I have this world figured out. I am wise in my own eyes. A proud heart tells me I am right. Isn’t that so?

Am I the only one who suffers from this affliction—this deceptive pride that blinds me to my errors? Of course not. Human pride puts blinders over our eyes. We have trouble seeing our own faults. We often need others to gently, or sharply bring them to our attention. Better is open rebuke than hidden love (Proverbs 27:5).

Here in Psalm 141, David confesses his need for correction: Let a righteous man strike me—that is a kindness; let him rebuke me—that is oil on my head.

Do we see sharp correction as a kindness? Do we see a rebuke as a blessing like oil poured on our head? In today’s culture the thought of oil being poured on someone’s head has little appeal. But that was not the case in ancient times. Olive oil was a high-value commodity. Using it for personal grooming was considered a luxury. Only the wealthy would lavish themselves with such extravagance.

For David these words would bring back the memory of the occasion when the prophet Samuel anointed him to be king over Israel in place of King Saul. So Samuel took the horn of oil and anointed him in the presence of his brothers, and from that day on the Spirit of the LORD came powerfully upon David (1 Samuel 16:13).

Earlier, Samuel had rebuked Saul for his disobedience. See 1 Samuel 13. Saul did not receive that rebuke well. There was no repentance on his part. On the other hand years later when Nathan, the prophet, rebuked David for his sin with Bathsheba, David repented and sought the LORD with prayer and fasting. See 2 Samuel 12. The contrast between Saul’s response and David’s response to corrective rebuke is striking. David, the man after God’s own heart, received forgiveness and the mercy of God, while Saul became embittered and ultimately descended into witchcraft.

How we handle correction will determine the rise or fall of our career, our marriage, and ultimately our life with God. David learned to love rebuke. For him and for us, it can result in a course correction of eternal worth.

Response: LORD God, please correct me when I err. When others point out my faults, help me to receive that correction with grace and not anger. Lord Jesus, you alone are faultless. Forgive me. Amen.

Your Turn: Is it difficult for you to receive correction? What can make receiving correction easier?

*Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica

Prayer Like Incense Before the LORD

Tags

, , , ,

Reading: Psalm 141
A psalm of David.
(Verses 1-4)
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 (NIV).*

img_20191224_0730557-effects

Winter sunrise — photo by David Kitz

Reflection
Like so many of the psalms, Psalm 41 is a conversation with God—a prayer to the LORD—the Holy One. Prayer should be part of our daily routine, as routine as getting out of bed in the morning, and as regular as our evening meal. David, the psalmist, expresses this thought with these words: May my prayer be set before you like incense; may the lifting up of my hands be like the evening sacrifice.

In his revelation of the throne room of God, John saw our prayers being offered as incense before Jesus, the Lamb of God. And when he had taken it [the scroll], the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb. Each one had a harp and they were holding golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of God’s people (Revelations 5:8).

I find it fascinating to view our prayers being offered up in a tangible way as incense—a pleasing aroma to the LORD. See Numbers 15:1-15.

David continues his prayer with this petition: Set a guard over my mouth, LORD; keep watch over the door of my lips.

Often my mouth gets me in trouble. I say I’ll do something, and then don’t follow through. I let others down. In frustration I blurt out words that I later regret. James, the brother of Jesus, provides us with this advice. My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, because human anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires (James 1:19-20).

I need a guard over my mouth. This is true in my daily conversation with others, but it’s also true of my conversations with God. I think we often pray rash prayers—prayers that in His mercy God does not answer. I think I know what is best for me only to discover after the fact, that what I thought would be a blessing is a huge detriment. My prayers can be mixed with the stench of human flesh.

Response: LORD, I want my prayers to be like sweet incense to you. Help me to pray according to your will. That means listening for your voice before I blurt out my requests. Guide my thoughts. Speak to me and through me as I pray in Jesus’ name. Amen.

Your Turn: How careful are you with your prayers? Can we be too cautious in prayer?

*Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica

Civil War by Peter Ackroyd

Tags

, , ,

I very much enjoyed this book. With that said, I enjoy most history books. I wasn’t sure if I would find this to my liking because of a certain distaste I have for English monarchs. What I found fascinating is the enormous struggle that went on between the forces of parliamentary democracy and the absolute authority of the Stuart Kings. In “Civil War” Peter Ackroyd lays out this bloody struggle in lucid detail. Of course this includes the English civil war and the emergence and fall of the republic under Oliver Cromwell.

In many respects this is a book about personal and religious freedom, and those whoCivil War try to enforce their will and conformity through a top down dictatorial approach to governing. There is a deeper message here that is particularly relevant at the current time on both sides of the Atlantic.

There are some striking similarities between seventeenth century Britain and present day America. Particularly this includes the kind of polarization that can lead to armed clashes and civil war. Fortunately, this book ends with the victory of the people as they assert their collective will. Parliament ultimately triumphs over the reign of absolute monarchs and a military dictatorship. That’s an outcome worth celebrating, and for those who love history this is a book worth reading.

Warning: Contains some foul language and numerous instances of beheading and other forms of violence.

Upholding the Cause of the Needy

Tags

, , , ,

Reading: Psalm 140:9-13
(Verses 9-13)
Those who surround me proudly rear their heads;
may the mischief of their lips engulf them.
May burning coals fall on them;
may they be thrown into the fire,
into miry pits, never to rise.
May slanderers not be established in the land;
may disaster hunt down the violent.
I know that the LORD secures justice for the poor
and upholds the cause of the needy.
Surely the righteous will praise your name,
and the upright will live in your presence (NIV).

img_20191225_1437415

River ice — photo by David Kitz

Reflection
Here is an observation I have made as a result of visiting and speaking at a wide variety of churches across this continent. Christians and Christian churches in North America appear to fall into two broad camps: Those that are primarily concerned about personal salvation, and those that are concerned mainly about social justice.

There’s often a considerable amount of tension between these two camps. Both are convinced they are doing the will of God as revealed in the scriptures, and they can quote chapter and verse to back up their particular perspective. So which position is correct?

The short answer is they are both right. The eternal destination of your soul is of primary importance, but love and compassion for others is central to the entire mission of Jesus, and the full scope of the scriptures. Today’s reading from Psalm 140 reminds that issues of justice and fairness rank high with the LORD. I know that the LORD secures justice for the poor and upholds the cause of the needy.

John, the apostle, gives us this perspective: This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters. If anyone has material possessions and sees a brother or sister in need but has no pity on them, how can the love of God be in that person? Dear children, let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth (1 John 3:16-18).

It got very messy when Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. A lot of blood was spilled. It was brutal beyond measure—humiliation and suffering beyond measure. Our personal salvation was messy—in every way a high cost affair. Are we willing to do the same for others? That’s what John is saying when he writes and we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters. Now there’s a high calling. Do you want to change the world? It starts with a change in your heart. Jesus is in the heart changing business. I need an appointment with him. What about you?

Response: LORD God, I am selfish by nature. It’s not natural for me to think of others first. Help me to change. I want to genuinely care about others. Show me what I can do to help because Jesus cares. Amen.

Your Turn: Should the church be involved in social justice issues or just stick to the salvation message? Should it be doing both?

Vindication

Tags

, , ,

I will praise the LORD!

img_20191215_1213365

May all who gloat over my distress
    be put to shame and confusion;
may all who exalt themselves over me
    be clothed with shame and disgrace.
May those who delight in my vindication
    shout for joy and gladness;
may they always say, “The LORD be exalted,
    who delights in the well-being of his servant.”

My tongue will proclaim your righteousness,
    your praises all day long.

  (Psalm 35:26-28, NIV)

No Condemnation

Tags

, , ,

I will praise the LORD!

20190211_0726473-EFFECTS

Icy winter glory — photo by David Kitz

The righteous person may have many troubles,
    but the LORD delivers him from them all;
he protects all his bones,
    not one of them will be broken.

Evil will slay the wicked;
    the foes of the righteous will be condemned.
The LORD will rescue his servants;
    no one who takes refuge in him will be condemned.

  (Psalm 34:19-22, NIV)

Head Protection

Tags

, , ,

Reading: Psalm 140
(Verses 6-8)
I say to the LORD, “You are my God.”
Hear, LORD, my cry for mercy.
Sovereign LORD, my strong deliverer,
you shield my head in the day of battle.
Do not grant the wicked their desires, LORD;
do not let their plans succeed (NIV).

pexels-photo-203555.jpeg

Photo by Markus Spiske temporausch.com on Pexels.com

Reflection
On a beautiful spring evening almost twenty years ago, I went for a bicycle ride with my fourteen-year-old son, Josh. At that time, there were some wonderful mountain bike trails on a forest-covered escarpment above our home. After exploring these trails for a while the time came for us to return home.

We crossed to the opposite side of the paved road and began our descent down the hill. Of course our bikes began to pick up speed—no pedaling needed. There was a traffic light at the bottom of the hill where we needed to make a right turn down our street. Soon Josh was well ahead of me. He went sailing around that corner at top speed and launched himself and his bike onto the sidewalk. What Josh could not see due to a tall hedge was the minivan pulling into the intersection directly ahead.

Boom! His bike collided with the back wheel and side of the minivan. Next, I see Josh’s body flying over the roof of the van. I expect to find him dead or disabled on the other side of the vehicle. Not so. Miraculously, not so! He was shaken but conscious. We rushed him to a hospital to have him checked. No signs of concussion were detected. Answered prayer, and his bicycle helmet saved him. The minivan owner was not so fortunate. Josh’s head dented the rear roof column. Body shop repairs cost $1,600.

David voices this prayer in today’s reading from Psalm 140: Sovereign LORD, my strong deliverer, you shield my head in the day of battle. 

Is your head shielded? It’s your body’s most crucial asset. You can lose a limb—several limbs—and survive. But your head is essential. A lot of Christians are losing the battle for their heads these days. By that I mean we are filling our minds with the philosophical garbage and filth of this world. Many of the most active sites on the World Wide Web are porn sites. Christian men are particularly vulnerable.

Paul, the apostle, admonishes us: Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes (Ephesians 6:11). One of the most important elements of that armor is the helmet of salvation. Are you certain of your salvation? Our salvation is as certain as the blood of Christ. It’s as certain as the empty tomb. But if we do not guard our minds and our eyes, which are the gateway to the mind, we can quickly find ourselves vulnerable. We need self-control and God’s help—His shielding. It doesn’t take long to pick up speed when your mind starts rolling downhill. Is your helmet on?

Response: Sovereign LORD, my strong deliverer, you shield my head in the day of battle. Do not grant the wicked their desires, LORD; do not let their plans succeed. I put on the helmet of salvation. I commit my thoughts and ways to you. Amen.

Your Turn: How vulnerable are you to attacks from the enemy? Are you holding your ground?

Barnes & Noble Book Review

Tags

, , ,

Today I came upon this 5 star book review on the Barnes & Noble website. What follows is a duplicate of that post:

I received a copy of THE SOLDIER WHO KILLED A KING: A TRUE RETELLING OF THE PASSION by David Kitz from Kregel Publications in exchange for an honest review. This is a standalone book.

This book…wow. Subject matter aside, it blew me away. The writing is superb. It feels as ifSoldier book you are watching a movie, but a 4D movie. (This would make a great Broadway play.) It puts you in the scene. You taste and feel and smell. You are transported back in time. You get to really know the characters as if they were people living on your block. You travel back in time to the first-century world and experience it all.

Now for the subject matter. According to the blurb: A stunning story of Holy Week through the eyes of a Roman centurion. The centurion is Marcus Longinus.

This story shows the events leading up to the Passion Week. This is a new take on a story that has been told many times. I admit to thinking it might “just be another one.” If you hesitate because of that, you’re missing out. This is historical Christian fiction at its finest. I highly recommend it for your collection.        — Anonymous

To purchase though Christianbook.com click here.

Protect me From the Violent

Tags

, , , ,

Reading: Psalm 140
For the director of music. A psalm of David.
(Verses 1-5)
Rescue me, LORD, from evildoers;
protect me from the violent,
who devise evil plans in their hearts
and stir up war every day.
They make their tongues as sharp as a serpent’s;
the poison of vipers is on their lips.
Keep me safe, LORD, from the hands of the wicked;
protect me from the violent,
who devise ways to trip my feet.
The arrogant have hidden a snare for me;
they have spread out the cords of their net
and have set traps for me along my path
(NIV).

img_20191222_1459339

Snow covered spruce bough — photo by David Kitz

Reflection
Psalm 140 is attributed to David. Our reading today is really a prayer for personal safety. David lived during a very violent time in the history of Israel and the entire eastern Mediterranean region. It was a period of technological transition from the Bronze Age to the Iron Age. Historic transitions are never smooth sailing. They are often accompanied by intense warfare, and economic and social collapse. Rival forces vie for power. Out of the ashes new leadership emerges.

That was the world that David, the shepherd boy was born into. The Philistines were the first to adopt the new iron tools, and they used their technological superiority to dominate and subjugate Israel. See 1 Samuel 13:19-22. What followed were several decades of fierce struggle, as Israel under Saul resisted the Philistines and fought back. Eventually, under David’s leadership Israel emerged triumphant. But none of this was a foregone conclusion. It was a massive struggle with much bloodshed.

David not only had foreign enemies; he also had to watch out for sedition within his own ranks. All too often the responsibilities of leadership mean walking around with a giant bulls-eye painted on your back. If anything goes wrong, you are the first one to be attacked by your own people. In David’s time, being the king was a high risk occupation. Assassination and revolt were common.

On a personal level, we too are in a struggle—a spiritual struggle for survival and dominion. Will the Spirit of Christ reign in us, or will we succumb to the spirit of this age? Will we take up the full armor of God and fight the good fight of faith, or will we believe the lies of the enemy and fall into a cesspool of sin and deception? Are we vigilant and constant in prayer like David, or do we lack the self-discipline that is essential for victory over the enemy of our soul?

David’s prayer should be our prayer too. Keep me safe, LORD, from the hands of the wicked; protect me from the snares that have been set to entangle me.

Response: LORD God, keep me alert. A spiritual battle is raging around me. I want to be a warrior who knows and hears his Commander. Jesus, your blood was shed to secure my victory. Thank you. Amen.

Your Turn: Are you aware of the snares that trip you up? Are you hearing the Commander’s voice?

Test Me

Tags

, , , ,

Reading: Psalm 139
(Verses 23-24)
Search me, God, and know my heart;
test me and know my anxious thoughts.
See if there is any offensive way in me,
and lead me in the way everlasting (NIV).

effects-2

Winter sunset — photo by David Kitz

Reflection
In my opinion, Psalm 139 rates in the top ten of the 150 psalms in the Bible. Many find deep comfort and encouragement in it. It is arguably the most intimate or personal psalm. Take a minute to read the entire psalm and you will see for yourself why I draw these conclusions.

The Psalm begins by pointing out the futility of fleeing from God. We can’t hide from Him though we may try. The prophet Jonah discovered this truth the hard way. In Jonah’s case, it took three days and three nights in the belly of a huge fish to come around to right perspective. See Jonah 1 & 2. How long does it take for us to realize how foolish it is to run from God? I dare say some of us sink below sea-level before the wisdom of Psalm 139 takes hold.

Though the psalmist begins by discussing the futility of hiding from God, he concludes by asking for God to search his heart. He willingly comes before the LORD and asks to be tested. That takes humility and courage—more humility and courage than many of us can muster.

Search me, God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. This appears to be a very straightforward request, but there are intricacies to this statement that deserve some careful consideration.

Does God need to search my heart? Does He need to search for anything? Not really. He already knows everything that’s there. I’m the one who doesn’t know what is in my own heart. I’m the one who is surprised when some emotion is triggered, or I react in an unpredictable or irrational way. Do I understand my heart? Do I know what is lurking down there? My knowledge is partial at best. Self-flattery and subtle forms of self-deception can blind me to what is really in my heart.

When we are asking God to search us and test us, we are really asking to begin a process of self-discovery. We are exposing our soul to God, so He can point out what is there. Then you and I can repent and turn our heart-hidden sins over to God. I cannot trust myself to see and acknowledge what is there. I need God’s help. By nature I am a hider. Jesus is the Great Seeker. Remember he came to seek and save the lost. See Luke 19:10.

Jesus is the one who can see if there is any offensive way in me. He is the Good Shepherd, the one who will lead me in the way everlasting. When I freely confess my need for him, his blood cleanses me from the darkest sins. Real freedom for us begins with exposure—exposure to the penetrating searchlight of God.

Response: LORD God, you know my heart. You know what triggers my wrong responses. Search me and show me what needs to change and how to make those changes. Lead me in the way everlasting. Amen.

Your Turn: How well do you know your heart?