One Thing I Ask

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I will praise Him!

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The beauty of the LORD — Gatineau Park, Quebec — photo by David Kitz

One thing I ask from the LORD,
    this only do I seek:
that I may dwell in the house of the LORD
    all the days of my life,
to gaze on the beauty of the LORD
    and to seek him in his temple.
For in the day of trouble
    he will keep me safe in his dwelling;
he will hide me in the shelter of his sacred tent
    and set me high upon a rock.

Then my head will be exalted
    above the enemies who surround me;
at his sacred tent I will sacrifice with shouts of joy;
    I will sing and make music to the LORD.

  (Psalm 27:4-6, NIV)

Fearless!

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I will praise Him!

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Autumn maples — photo by David Kitz

Of David.

The LORD is my light and my salvation—
    whom shall I fear?
The LORD is the stronghold of my life—
    of whom shall I be afraid?

When the wicked advance against me
    to devour me,
it is my enemies and my foes
    who will stumble and fall.
Though an army besiege me,
    my heart will not fear;
though war break out against me,
    even then I will be confident.

  (Psalm 27:1-3, NIV)

The Starting Point for Wisdom

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Reading: Psalm 111
Praise the LORD!
I will give thanks to the L
ORD with my whole heart,
in the company of the upright, in the congregation.
Great are the works of the L
ORD, studied by all who delight in them.
Full of honor and majesty is his work,
and his righteousness endures forever.
He has gained renown by his wonderful deeds;
the L
ORD is gracious and merciful.
He provides food for those who fear him; he is ever mindful of his covenant.
He has shown his people the power of his works,
in giving them the heritage of the nations.
The works of his hands are faithful and just; all his precepts are trustworthy.
They are established forever and ever,
to be performed with faithfulness and uprightness.
He sent redemption to his people; he has commanded his covenant forever.
Holy and awesome is his name.
The fear of the L
ORD is the beginning of wisdom;
all those who practice it have a good understanding.
His praise endures forever
(NIV).

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Rockcliffe Park, Ottawa, ON — photo by David Kitz

Reflection
If the beginning of wisdom is the fear of the LORD, what is the end point or objective of this inducement to wisdom? I have often heard it argued that the fear of the LORD, which is frequently extolled in the Old Testament, has little to do with the common meaning for fear. We are to reverence or be in awe of the LORD, not be afraid of Him. To an extent this is true; however, I suspect that we often push this fearless approach to God too far. The Lion of the Tribe of Judah is not toothless. He has fangs and claws.

A healthy dose of godly fear can prevent a massive case of sin enslavement and heartache.

The reaction of God’s people when the Ten Commandments were given at Mount Sinai is well worth noting. When the people saw the thunder and lightning and heard the trumpet and saw the mountain in smoke, they trembled with fear. They stayed at a distance and said to Moses, “Speak to us yourself and we will listen. But do not have God speak to us or we will die” (Exodus 22:18-19).

The very human fear expressed in this Exodus passage went well beyond a sense of awe and wonder. This was knee-buckling, heart-racing fear—the kind of fear that makes us dread doing anything that might offend this all-knowing, all-seeing, holy God. That’s a healthy fear—a fear that helps us to live and walk straight. Why would God want to induce this kind of fear?

God wants us to fear Him because He loves us. He wants to spare us from the agony of the terrible consequences of sin. A healthy fear of God leads us to an awe-induced love for Him. Now that’s wisdom.

Response: Father God, help me see your love for me in your commandments. In love, you correct me when I stray. Grant me understanding that comes through a healthy fear and love for you. Amen.

Your Turn: What does fearing God mean to you? Is God your chum, your friend or your master?

My Messiah

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Reading: Psalm 110
Of David. A psalm.
The LORD says to my Lord:
“Sit at my right hand until I make your enemies a footstool for your feet.”
The LORD will extend your mighty scepter from Zion, saying,
“Rule in the midst of your enemies!”
Your troops will be willing on your day of battle.
Arrayed in holy splendor,
your young men will come to you
like dew from the morning’s womb.
The LORD has sworn and will not change his mind:
“You are a priest forever, in the order of Melchizedek.”
The Lord is at your right hand;
he will crush kings on the day of his wrath.
He will judge the nations, heaping up the dead
and crushing the rulers of the whole earth.
He will drink from a brook along the way,
and so he will lift his head high
(NIV).

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Grey Nuns Park, Orleans. ON — photo by David Kitz

Reflection
Psalm 110 is perhaps the most messianic psalm in the entire psalter. Jesus made a direct reference to the opening line of this psalm in a discussion he had with the Pharisees in the temple courts during the week of his crucifixion. See Matthew 22:41-46 and Luke 20:41-44.

Jesus asks, “What do you think about the Messiah? Whose son is he?” In response the Pharisees answer, “The son of David.”

But Jesus refutes their answer by quoting from Psalm 110. His answer does not carry the same punch in the English language quote we see in Matthew, because we fail to see the distinction between the first ‘LORD’ and the second ‘Lord’. We see these words as synonymous, but in the original Hebrew they most certainly are not. The first LORD is Yahweh (Jehovah), but the second Lord is Adonai, the Messiah.

Speaking prophetically by the Spirit, David was referring to his Adonai—his Messiah. By quoting this scripture Jesus was affirming his designation by God as the Messiah that the Jewish nation had longed to see. The long wait was over. Jesus the Messiah was standing directly in front of Pharisees who were blind to his presence and his deity.

This Lord or Adonai is also the divinely designated priest who will present his own body as a sacrifice on the cross. The LORD has sworn and will not change his mind: “You are a priest forever, in the order of Melchizedek.” The writer of the Book of Hebrews has a great deal to say about the priesthood of Melchizedek. See Hebrews chapters 6-8. Jesus is our heaven-sent, born-in-a-stable prophet, priest and king.   

Response: Father God, thank you for sending Jesus into the world to be my personal Messiah. Jesus, you suffered and died for me. Now extend your reign as conquering king over me and through me. Amen.

Your Turn: Have you bowed your knee before the Messiah King?

The Wounded Warrior

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Reading: Psalm 109  
(Verses 21-31)
But you, Sovereign LORD, help me for your name’s sake;
    out of the goodness of your love, deliver me.
For I am poor and needy, and my heart is wounded within me.
 I fade away like an evening shadow;
    I am shaken off like a locust.
My knees give way from fasting; my body is thin and gaunt.
I am an object of scorn to my accusers;
    when they see me, they shake their heads.
Help me, LORD my God; save me according to your unfailing love.
Let them know that it is your hand, that you, LORD, have done it.
While they curse, may you bless;
    may those who attack me be put to shame,
    but may your servant rejoice.
May my accusers be clothed with disgrace
    and wrapped in shame as in a cloak.
With my mouth I will greatly extol the LORD;
    in the great throng of worshipers I will praise him.
For he stands at the right hand of the needy,
to save their lives from those who would condemn them (NIV).

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Étienne Brûlé Lookout, Gatineau Park, QC — photo by David Kitz

Reflection
Post-traumatic stress disorder—PTSD—its effects are real. Soldiers are returning from theaters of war looking fit and healthy, but in reality they are deeply wounded by what they have seen or participated in. Of course one does not need to go to the battle field to experience the devastating effects of PTSD. First responders and witnesses to horrific events here at home can also become wounded and scarred.

In this concluding portion of Psalm 109, David makes this confession: I am poor and needy, and my heart is wounded within me. 

Our world is full of wounded people. Keep this in mind the next time you see someone in a fit of rage or self-medicating with a bottle of booze or pills or a hypodermic needle. The wounds are real. The way back to social and emotional health is often long, difficult and fraught with pain. Set backs are not uncommon.

David, the wounded warrior, does two things that are vital for anyone who wants to recover from PTSD or any form of spiritual wounding. He admits his need. Rather than remain silent and tough it out, he confesses that he is in a desperate state. I am poor and needy, and my heart is wounded within me.

Secondly, David called out to the LORD. Help me, LORD my God; save me according to your unfailing love. The LORD’s ears are always open to that kind of prayer—the prayer of the wounded. 

Response: LORD, I confess events in my life have left me wounded. Heal me on the inside. Today I turn to you. I can’t do this by myself. Help me, LORD my God; save me according to your unfailing love. Amen.

Your Turn: Are there wounded people in your life? Have you been wounded?

Tightfisted or Generous

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Reading: Psalm 109
(Verses 16-20)
For he never thought of doing a kindness,
but hounded to death the poor
and the needy and the brokenhearted.
He loved to pronounce a curse—
may it come back on him.
He found no pleasure in blessing—
may it be far from him.
He wore cursing as his garment;
it entered into his body like water,
into his bones like oil.
May it be like a cloak wrapped about him,
like a belt tied forever around him.
May this be the LORD’s payment to my accusers,
to those who speak evil of me
(NIV).

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Champlain Lookout toward the Ottawa River — photo by David Kitz

Reflection
In just a few months we will be entered the giving season. I am of course referring to the pre-Christmas shopping binge, when gifts are purchased, wrapped and hidden away for the big celebration. Many rail against this tradition, but in reality the scriptures are filled with admonitions that encourage us to be generous and bless others. Christmas and year-end provide us with wonderful opportunities to do just that. A generous person will prosper; whoever refreshes others will be refreshed (Proverbs 11:25).

If we find no pleasure in giving, we may be suffering from more than a simple case of Scrooge-like stinginess. Soul sucking self-centeredness destroys us from within. It defaces the image of God that is stamped upon us from birth. God our heavenly Father is the picture of generosity. He gave His only Son for us. In light of this sacrifice, there’s something terribly wrong if we can’t spare a dime or a kind word for the less fortunate. Generosity is never out of season.

Today’s reading provides us with a negative contrast to the generosity of God. The individual being described withheld his blessing. He loved to pronounce a curse—may it come back on him. He found no pleasure in blessing—may it be far from him. 

How generous am I with words of blessing? How generous am I with this world’s goods that have been lavished on me by a gracious Father? Now and in pre-Christmas season I need to check my heart and my bank account, but above all my heart. Remember this: Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously (2 Corinthians 9:6).

Am I generous with words of praise and thanks for those around me—with the clerk at the shopping mall or the life partner who shares my bed? Am I reflecting or defacing the image of God? 

Response: Father God, today I want to be a blessing and pronounce a blessing on those around me. Over the years others have blessed me. I am thankful for them, and the generosity of your love, forgiveness and grace. It’s far more than I deserve. Amen.

Your Turn: Are you too tightfisted or too lavish with your giving?

What is an Imprecatory Psalm?

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Reading: Psalm 109
(Verses 6-15)
Appoint someone evil to oppose my enemy;
let an accuser stand at his right hand.
When he is tried, let him be found guilty,
and may his prayers condemn him.
May his days be few;
may another take his place of leadership.
May his children be fatherless and his wife a widow.
May his children be wandering beggars;
may they be driven from their ruined homes.
May a creditor seize all he has;
may strangers plunder the fruits of his labor.
May no one extend kindness to him
or take pity on his fatherless children.
May his descendants be cut off,
their names blotted out from the next generation.
May the iniquity of his fathers be remembered before the L
ORD;
may the sin of his mother never be blotted out.
May their sins always remain before the L
ORD,
that he may blot out their name from the earth
(NIV).

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The view from the Champlain lookout — photo by David Kitz

Reflection
This portion of Psalm 109 contains fourteen mays of condemnation. After reading this long list of curses spoken against this unnamed individual, it becomes abundantly clear that David, the author of this psalm, was not affectionately inclined toward this man of treachery. This man, who earlier was identified as a friend, had turned against David. In the verse just prior to today’s reading, David laments, “They repay me evil for good, and hatred for my friendship” (Psalm 109:5).

Psalm 109 is called an imprecatory psalm. The word imprecatory simply is a fancy term for cursing. I am sure many Christians are unaware that there is cursing in the Bible—cursing coming from the man who penned Psalm 23—the LORD is my shepherd.

Many find the imprecatory psalms deeply troubling. I include myself in that number. Does God condone calling down curses on our enemies? What about the words of Jesus? “You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that?” (Matthew 5:43-46).

I remain convinced that Jesus calls us to live on a higher plane—the plane where he dwells.

Response: Father God, I need your help. I find it easy to lash out at those who have hurt me. When I want to go for the jugular help me reach out for the wisdom and compassion of Jesus instead. I want to be more like you, Jesus. Amen.

Your Turn: Is there a place for the imprecatory psalms in the Bible? What purpose might they serve?

Happy Thanksgiving Day to all my Canadian readers!

Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good;
    his love endures forever.
(Psalm 107:1, NIV)

 

The Place Where Your Glory Dwells

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I will praise Him!

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

LORD, I love the house where you live,
    the place where your glory dwells.
Do not take away my soul along with sinners,

    my life with those who are bloodthirsty,
in whose hands are wicked schemes,
    whose right hands are full of bribes.
I lead a blameless life;
    deliver me and be merciful to me.

My feet stand on level ground;
    in the great congregation I will praise the LORD.

  (Psalm 26:8-12, NIV)

Relieve the Troubles of my Heart

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I will praise Him!

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A place of peace — photo by David Kitz

Turn to me and be gracious to me,
    for I am lonely and afflicted.
Relieve the troubles of my heart
    and free me from my anguish.
Look on my affliction and my distress
    and take away all my sins.
See how numerous are my enemies
    and how fiercely they hate me!

Guard my life and rescue me;
    do not let me be put to shame,
    for I take refuge in you.
May integrity and uprightness protect me,
    because my hope, LORD, is in you.

Deliver Israel, O God,
    from all their troubles!

  (Psalm 25:16-22, NIV)

The Bible and Bullying

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Reading: Psalm 109
For the director of music. Of David. A psalm.
(Verses 1-5)
My God, whom I praise,
do not remain silent,
for people who are wicked and deceitful
have opened their mouths against me;
they have spoken against me with lying tongues.
With words of hatred they surround me;
they attack me without cause.
In return for my friendship they accuse me,
but I am a man of prayer.
They repay me evil for good,
and hatred for my friendship
(NIV).

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Georgian Bay memories — photo by David Kitz

Reflection
Words have enormous power. The tongue has the power of life and death, and those who love it will eat its fruit (Proverbs 18:21).

Words of hatred can be devastating. This is especially true when those words come from those we believe to be our friends. This is the situation the psalmist finds himself in. Hear the psalmist’s lament: With words of hatred they surround me; they attack me without cause. In return for my friendship they accuse me, but I am a man of prayer. They repay me evil for good, and hatred for my friendship.

There is a deep sense of betrayal in the psalmist’s words. The beginning of this psalm smacks of the Judas kiss. Jesus suffered the hatred and attacks described here. But millions of others have experienced betrayal, false accusations and words of hatred. Daily, children and teens are bullied and harassed at school and online. All too often Tweets and Facebook comments are nothing more than fountains of hate. Mob mentality rules as attacks and insults pile high.

All this reminds me of farm life and the behavior of chickens. Chickens are highly social creatures and early on in their young lives, these birds establish a pecking order. I’m not speaking figuratively. This really happens. The lead bird pecks first at their food and will aggressively exclude others. Those who transgress the established order will find themselves under vicious attack by the leader and other members of the flock. This means exclusion from the food source, but in the worst instances the aggressive chicks will peck the victim to death. Only human intervention can save them.

It’s truly remarkable how human behavior so closely resembles the behavior of chickens. Our classrooms are full of chickens—aggressive chickens establishing their pecking order—and God help the poor child who falls out of favor! As a teacher I have often been a front-seat witness to the bullying that goes on. Intervention is essential or in the worst cases death may result.

Response: Father God, today I pray for all those who are on the receiving end of personal betrayal and words of hatred. Show them your love, protection, comfort and mercy. Let compassion reign. Help me to be an instrument of help and encouragement. Amen.

Your Turn: Have you been a victim of bullying? How did you overcome?