Look to the LORD and his strength

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Reading: Psalm 105 
(Verses 1-7)
Give praise to the LORD, proclaim his name;
make known among the nations what he has done.
Sing to him, sing praise to him;
tell of all his wonderful acts.
Glory in his holy name;
let the hearts of those who seek the L
ORD rejoice.
Look to the L
ORD and his strength;
seek his face always.
Remember the wonders he has done,
his miracles, and the judgments he pronounced,
you his servants, the descendants of Abraham,
his chosen ones, the children of Jacob.
He is the L
ORD our God;
his judgments are in all the earth
(NIV).

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Algonquin Park — photo courtesy of Liz Kranz

Reflection
This past Sunday during the children’s church time the pastor led the children in a rousing chorus of “Jesus Loves Me.” In case you need a quick refresher, here is the first verse of that much loved children’s hymn: Jesus loves me! This I know, For the Bible tells me so; Little ones to Him belong; They are weak, but He is strong.

I remember singing this song with much gusto as a young tyke at Vacation Bible School. I took special comfort from this line: Little ones to Him belong; They are weak, but He is strong.

As a child I was well aware that I needed the strength of Jesus, since I had so little strength of my own. As we grow up and mature into adulthood we can forget to depend on the Lord’s strength. We have plenty of our own strength. Soon we can find ourselves relying on our own intellect and resources to solve problems as they come our way. Who needs Jesus when we can make our own way in life? Maybe we don’t consciously say that, but our actions reflect that line of reasoning. 

The children’s song “Jesus Loves Me” might have been inspired by a line from Psalm 105 where we read, Look to the LORD and his strength; seek his face always. 

The plain truth is that I need the LORD and His strength at every stage of my life. My strength on every level is minuscule in the sight of God. That’s why I need to seek his face continually. His wisdom surpasses my limited understanding. I have so little strength on my own, but His power is all surpassing. How foolish we are to rely on our abilities, when the Lord offers to walk through this life right beside us. Jesus said, “Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls” (Matthew 11:29).

Response: Lord Jesus, you are strong—strong enough to carry the cross on my behalf—strong enough to purchase my redemption. I look to you for strength and salvation. Always guide my steps. I confess that I need you at every stage of my life. Amen.

Your Turn: Did you find it easier to trust in Jesus as a child than as an adult?

A Great Re-Creation Will Happen

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             Reading: Psalm 104              
(Verses 27-35)
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).

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Catching that train to glory — Melville, SK — photo courtesy of Timothy Kitz

Reflection
Recently, 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 breathe 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? Who do you long to greet on the other side?

The Rhythm of Life

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Reading: Psalm 104
(Verses 19-26)
He made the moon to mark the seasons,
and the sun knows when to go down.
You bring darkness, it becomes night,
and all the beasts of the forest prowl.
The lions roar for their prey
and seek their food from God.
The sun rises, and they steal away;
they return and lie down in their dens.
Then people go out to their work,
to their labor until evening.
How many are your works, LORD!
In wisdom you made them all;
the earth is full of your creatures.
There is the sea, vast and spacious,
teeming with creatures beyond number—
living things both large and small.
There the ships go to and fro,
and Leviathan, which you formed to frolic there
(NIV).

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Prairie sunset — photo courtesy of Timothy Kitz

Reflection
There is something to be said for routine and regularity. By that I mean the whole vast rhythm of life. Today’s reading from Psalm 104 eloquently reflects the rhythm of life from sunrise to sunset and the return to sunrise once again.

Yesterday, my wife and I collected beautiful ripe tomatoes from our garden. But I expect in another month a hard frost will be on its way. By the end of October we will be digging out the potatoes and root vegetables and putting them into storage. The seasons are changing. They always have. In this part of the world, all we can do is prepare for the transition; we can’t prevent it from happening.

In reality, transitions are about rest and renewal. The setting sun lets us know that it’s time to stop our labor and get the rest that is essential for our well-being. In the same way as winter approaches trees and vegetation go dormant, but after a season of rest the great spring renewal will surely come. It always has, and so it will continue until the end of time.

In the same way there is a renewal promised to us at the end this life. Resurrection happens every spring and it will happen to this old clod of earth as well. That’s the great hope we have because of Christ. The word of God has been planted in our hearts and it will bear fruit now and in eternity, which has been promised to those who believe. Do you believe? Do you have faith in the changing seasons? Do you have faith in the One who created the seasons?

Response: Father God, thank you for designing the days, months and seasons. I want to draw near to you in every season of life. How many are your works, LORD! You are worthy of all praise. Renew and refresh me in the seasons of my life.  Amen.

Your Turn: What is your favorite season? Why?

Psalm 23 (continued)

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I will praise Him!

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My cup overflows — Rideau Falls, Ottawa, ON — photo by David Kitz

You prepare a table before me
    in the presence of my enemies.
You anoint my head with oil;
    my cup overflows.
Surely your goodness and love will follow me
    all the days of my life,
and I will dwell in the house of the LORD
    forever.

  (Psalm 23:5-6, NIV)

Psalm 23

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I will praise Him!

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He leads me beside quiet waters — photo by David Kitz

A psalm of David.

The LORD is my shepherd, I lack nothing.
He makes me lie down in green pastures,
he leads me beside quiet waters,
he refreshes my soul.
He guides me along the right paths
    for his name’s sake.
Even though I walk
    through the darkest valley,
I will fear no evil,
    for you are with me;
your rod and your staff,
    they comfort me.

  (Psalm 23:1-4, NIV)

An Ode to God’s Creation (continued)

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Reading: Psalm 104
(Verses 10-18)
He makes springs pour water into the ravines;
it flows between the mountains.
They give water to all the beasts of the field;
the wild donkeys quench their thirst.
The birds of the sky nest by the waters;
they sing among the branches.
He waters the mountains from his upper chambers;
the land is satisfied by the fruit of his work.
He makes grass grow for the cattle,
and plants for people to cultivate—
bringing forth food from the earth:
wine that gladdens human hearts,
oil to make their faces shine,
and bread that sustains their hearts.
The trees of the L
ORD are well watered,
the cedars of Lebanon that he planted.
There the birds make their nests;
the stork has its home in the junipers.
The high mountains belong to the wild goats;
the crags are a refuge for the hyrax
(NIV).

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He makes grass grow for the cattle — photo by David Kitz

Reflection
Psalm 104 is a poetic ode in praise of God’s creation. In yesterday’s reading, God lay down the foundations of the earth, and set the boundaries of the oceans. Today we see how He waters the land and covers it with vegetation. He populates it with a vast variety of animals and birds.

He makes grass grow for the cattle, and plants for people to cultivate—bringing forth food from the earth: wine that gladdens human hearts, oil to make their faces shine, and bread that sustains their hearts. 

In this psalm we see a God of teeming abundance. He is an extravagant God of infinite variety. Consider for a moment the various kinds of birds from the soaring eagle to the tiny hummingbird. Our God cares for them all. Jesus gives us these words of assurance concerning the humble sparrow, “not one of them will fall to the ground outside your Father’s care” (Matthew 10:29). In reality, all of today’s reading is about the Father’s care and His rich provision for all His creatures.

Have your eyes been opened to the LORD’s rich provision for you? He’s not a stingy God. Those who call on Him will have their needs met. Perhaps David said it best: The LORD is my shepherd, I lack nothing (Psalm 23:1).

Response: Father God, you created such a wonderful world! I marvel at your handiwork. I thank you for the great variety of lifeforms on this planet—the plants, the birds, the animals. Help us appreciate and safeguard your creation. Amen.

Your Turn: How can we go beyond words of thanks and demonstrate our thanks for God’s creation?

A New Review of “Psalms Alive!”

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A book review by Tina Williams

Psalms Alive! Connecting Heaven and Earth by David Kitz explores the Psalms through personal vignettes of the author’s reflections on various Psalms. As I read I felt that the author was sitting across from me in a comfy chair sharing the great goodness of God from the heart of a shepherd. The author includes discussion questions at the end of each chapter which helps the reader connect heaven and earth by spending some time meditating on scripture and driving those truths deeper into our hearts so that we are not merely readers or hearers, but also actors in God’s great drama of life!

At times, a sentence or two seems out of place, when the author laments the current state of affairs with our culture, but the main points are brought home in pointing us to the character of God.

One of my favorite quotes which encourages all believers, like athletes, to be engaged with scripture is found in the chapter, From Strength to Strength. “The busy, world-engaged laity is far too often content to coast on the second-hand faith of church leadership. In reality, our own faith muscles need development and regular exercise. If regular spiritual conditioning isn’t taking place, we become weak in our faith. We are fit for the couch, not the pilgrim’s route. We stumble when others question our beliefs. Temptations overwhelm us. Doubts drain us of our spiritual vitality. We conform to the thinking of this world. We are not reaching the world with the message of Christ; the world is reaching us, and pressing us into its mold.”

This book will encourage and inspire the reader to dig deep into the Psalms as the author draws from personal object lessons which help further understand and connect the word to the heart.

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An Ode to God’s Creation

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Reading: Psalm 104
(Verses 1-9)
Praise the LORD, my soul.
LORD my God, you are very great;
you are clothed with splendor and majesty.
The LORD wraps himself in light as with a garment;
he stretches out the heavens like a tent
and lays the beams of his upper chambers on their waters.
He makes the clouds his chariot
and rides on the wings of the wind.
He makes winds his messengers, flames of fire his servants.
He set the earth on its foundations; it can never be moved.
You covered it with the watery depths as with a garment;
the waters stood above the mountains.
But at your rebuke the waters fled,
at the sound of your thunder they took to flight;
they flowed over the mountains,
they went down into the valleys,
to the place you assigned for them.
You set a boundary they cannot cross;
never again will they cover the earth
(NIV).

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He stretches out the heavens like a tent — photo courtesy of Liz Kranz

Reflection
All of Psalm 104 is a poetic ode in praise of God’s creation. Like the previous psalm it begins and ends by calling us to praise the LORD.

The psalmist begins his description of creation at the beginning. By that I mean he begins with the LORD in the heavens. He is the source point. It’s a very fitting start since the LORD called into being all of creation—all that we can see, hear and examine. In the creation account we read, “the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters” (Genesis 1:2). But here we read a more detailed—a more poetic description: The LORD wraps himself in light as with a garment; he stretches out the heavens like a tent and lays the beams of his upper chambers on their waters. 

The God of the heavens separates the waters of sky and earth. He establishes the boundaries of the oceans. These are the events of the second and third day in the Genesis account, but here they are portrayed as a seamless whole. In all this, the LORD is the actor, the mover, the sole performer. He makes winds his messengers, flames of fire his servants. He set the earth on its foundations; it can never be moved. 

And what a performance this is! It has no equal and no precedent. Land, sky and sea are His handiwork and do His bidding. They respond to the Master Builder, and so should we.

Response: LORD God, you are very great! I kneel before you, my awesome God! I praise you for your creation. It is magnificent because you are more than magnificent. All praise belongs to you. Amen.

Your Turn: Is there a particular aspect of creation that you are drawn to or enjoy, for example the stars, the oceans or the animal kingdom?

Who’s in charge here?

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Reading: Psalm 103
(Verses 19-22)
The LORD has established his throne in heaven,
and his kingdom rules over all.
Praise the LORD, you his angels,
you mighty ones who do his bidding,
who obey his word.
Praise the L
ORD, all his heavenly hosts,
you his servants who do his will.
Praise the L
ORD, all his works
everywhere in his dominion.
Praise the LORD, my soul (NIV).

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Swift flowing river, Algonquin Park — photo courtesy of Liz Kranz

Reflection
Have you ever found yourself in a chaotic situation where you immediately ask this question, “Who’s in charge here?” Sometimes I have walked into an unruly classroom where that question is very pertinent. The teacher may be nowhere in sight, or is absorbed with one or two students while bedlam reigns all around. It takes very little to lose control of thirty twelve-year-olds. Trust me on this point: It takes a range of skills to get a class of youngsters motivated and moving in the same direction.

Today’s reading from the psalms gives us an answer to that age old question, “Who’s in charge here?” The LORD has established his throne in heaven, and his kingdom rules over all. 

So there is your answer. The LORD is in charge here. He’s in charge of everything—the orderly and the controlled, and the seemingly random. Above this world and its mixture of order, routine, bedlam and chaos, the LORD sits enthroned as ruler over all.

Often the LORD is blamed for the bedlam and the chaos, but is that a fair assessment? Yes, He could control everything—every detail, but then there would be no humans on this planet—no free moral agents. To be human is to have the ability to choose both good and evil. If God sovereignly decided that we could only do good, then we would be robotic humanoids—not true humans at all.

Can there be true love, if love is enforced from on high rather than freely chosen? Can there be genuine worship, if this divine privilege is induced by the Creator rather than willingly offered by the created? No, the LORD calls for our worship, but He forces it on no one. The God I serve is not a spiritual rapist; He is a true lover.

So I will freely join with all creation to praise Him. I will join the angels, the heavenly hosts and all his works everywhere in his dominion. I will join in praising my Creator and my Redeemer, who was born in a stable and raised high to suffer on a cross, but now His throne is established in heaven and His kingdom rules over all. He is the One I will praise. How about you?

Response: Father God, I appreciate the free will that you have given me. I choose to worship you. You are the lover of my soul. Thank you for the world you created, and all you have done. I owe my life to Lord Jesus. Amen.

Your Turn: Do we choose God or does He choose us, or are both answers correct?

God is completely mind-boggling!

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Reading: Psalm 103
(Verses 13-18)
As a father has compassion on his children,
so the L
ORD has compassion on those who fear him;
for he knows how we are formed,
he remembers that we are dust.
The life of mortals is like grass,
they flourish like a flower of the field;
the wind blows over it and it is gone,
and its place remembers it no more.
But from everlasting to everlasting
the L
ORD’s love is with those who fear him,
and his righteousness with their children’s children—
with those who keep his covenant
and remember to obey his precepts
(NIV).

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Photo by Jeff Nissen on Pexels.com

Reflection
Last week I heard a news report that stated that new research has led astronomers to realize that there are ten times more stars in the universe than they previously estimated. A minor miscalculation you may assume. Not really!

Our own Milky Way galaxy contains about 400 billion stars of varying sizes. The most recent astronomical estimate counts 170 billion galaxies in the observable universe. To do a rough calculation of the total number of stars in the universe, you multiply 400 billion stars X 170 billion galaxies and get a number with twenty-five zeroes tacked on the end. Now that’s astronomical!

So how does that ginormous number connect with today’s reading from Psalm 103? It tells us the LORD’s care for us is nothing short of astounding. The God who created all that vast array of stars cares even for you and me. As a father has compassion on his children, so the LORD has compassion on those who fear him; for he knows how we are formed, he remembers that we are dust. 

Dust… We are nothing more than dust. From dust we were formed and to dust we will return. (See Genesis 3:19.) Yet despite our humble origin and our body’s grave fate, we have a God who has the compassion of a father for his children. Furthermore, this care and compassion is not fleeting; it’s eternal. Our time on earth may be transitory, but God’s love for us persists. But from everlasting to everlasting the LORD’s love is with those who fear him, and his righteousness with their children’s children—with those who keep his covenant and remember to obey his precepts.

Why would a God of such infinite capacity commit Himself to a creature of such minuscule significance? The LORD is mind-boggling; God is completely mind-boggling! You can see it in the stars. You can count it in the grains of dust—dust that the LORD loves!

Response: Father God, you are matchless. There is none like you. Your compassion is astonishing. Your grandeur is beyond my ability to even imagine. I love you, LORD. I bow in awe before your everlasting majesty. Amen.

Your Turn: How big is your God? How tiny are you before this awesome God?