Golden Moments

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Reading: Psalm 89
(Verses 5-13)
The heavens praise your wonders, LORD,
your faithfulness too, in the assembly of the holy ones.
For who in the skies above can compare with the L
ORD?
Who is like the L
ORD among the heavenly beings?
In the council of the holy ones God is greatly feared;
he is more awesome than all who surround him.
Who is like you, L
ORD God Almighty?
You, L
ORD, are mighty, and your faithfulness surrounds you.
You rule over the surging sea;
when its waves mount up, you still them.
You crushed Rahab like one of the slain;
with your strong arm you scattered your enemies.
The heavens are yours, and yours also the earth;
you founded the world and all that is in it.
You created the north and the south;
Tabor and Hermon sing for joy at your name.
Your arm is endowed with power;
your hand is strong, your right hand exalted
(NIV).

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Golden moments on Silver Lake, ON — photo by David Kitz

Reflection
At this point we are one year away from the Tokyo Olympics.  We can talk ourselves into believing that those golden podium moments will last forever, but they don’t. They are highlights in athletic achievement and well worth celebrating. In some events world records have been set, but in due time they will be broken. It seems they always are.

How do we determine gold medal performances? By comparison of course. That’s what Olympic competition is all about. The results of a team or athlete are compared with others in their field. Though many compete on the local, national and world stage, only the very best bring home Olympic gold.

That’s how winners are determined on the human level—the world level. But what about the heavenly level—the spiritual level? How are the best and most powerful determined there? In our reading from Psalm 89, the psalmist attempts to come up with an answer.

For who in the skies above can compare with the LORD? Who is like the LORD among the heavenly beings? In the council of the holy ones God is greatly feared; he is more awesome than all who surround him.
Who is like you, L
ORD God Almighty? 

The truth is obvious. There is no point in comparison. The LORD God Almighty is incomparable.  He wins every race since He is enthroned beyond time. As the Creator, He is the source—the starting point—of all power in heaven and on earth. His wisdom is so beyond the best human mind. He is incomparable!

Response: LORD God, I marvel at your wisdom and power. But most of all I marvel at your love—love that encompasses all—even me. Help me to excel at pleasing you. Thank you, LORD! Amen.

Your Turn: Do you enjoy watching the Olympics? Is there value in competition?

Keep me as the Apple of Your Eye

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I will praise Him!

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I call on you, my God, for you will answer me;
    turn your ear to me and hear my prayer.
Show me the wonders of your great love,
    you who save by your right hand
    those who take refuge in you from their foes.
Keep me as the apple of your eye;
    hide me in the shadow of your wings
from the wicked who are out to destroy me,
    from my mortal enemies who surround me.

(Psalm 17:6-9, NIV)

I Will Love You Forever

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Reading: Psalm 89
maskil of Ethan the Ezrahite.
(Verses 1-4)
I will sing of the LORD’s great love forever;
with my mouth I will make your faithfulness known
through all generations.
I will declare that your love stands firm forever,
that you have established your faithfulness in heaven itself.
You said, “I have made a covenant with my chosen one,
I have sworn to David my servant,
‘I will establish your line forever
and make your throne firm through all generations’”
(NIV).

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The cover of “Love You Forever” by Robert Munsch, Illustrated by Sheila McGraw

Reflection
The opening stanzas of Psalm 89 remind me of a little rhyme found in a children’s book. It goes like this:

“I’ll love you forever,
I’ll like you for always,
as long as I’m living
my baby you’ll be.”

The lines of that little song were first sung by children’s author, Robert Munsch, as he held his stillborn baby in his arms. Imagine the grief he felt when for a second time his wife gave birth to another stillborn child. Again he took that little baby in his arms and he rocked it back and forth and sang,

“I’ll love you forever,
I’ll like you for always,
as long as I’m living
my baby you’ll be.”

The bestselling children’s book Love You Forever was birthed from that heart-wrenching experience. If you are a parent or a grandparent, this little picture book should come with a warning label: Impossible to read without tearing up.

There’s an element of forever in the bond between a parent and a child. I am a father forever to my two sons, Timothy and Joshua. My love for those two boys hasn’t diminished as they have grown into young men. Though they have moved out of our home, they will be forever loved and we will be forever linked by love and faithfulness. God’s love for us is that kind of love. It’s a forever love just as the psalmist declares. I will sing of the LORD’s great love forever; with my mouth I will make your faithfulness known through all generations. 

Love and faithfulness are what marriage is all about. It’s one of those forever things along with parenthood. When God is at the center, these things last forever because they don’t end at the grave. I’m so glad we have the promise that they will continue on.

Response: LORD God, I am so glad that I’m your child forever. You have loved me and welcomed me into your eternaL family. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you! Amen.

Your Turn: Will you sing of the LORD’s great love forever? Now is a great time to get started.

The Darkest Times

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Reading: Psalm 88
(Verses 9-18)
I call to you, LORD, every day;
I spread out my hands to you.
Do you show your wonders to the dead?
Do their spirits rise up and praise you?
Is your love declared in the grave,
your faithfulness in Destruction?
Are your wonders known in the place of darkness,
or your righteous deeds in the land of oblivion?
But I cry to you for help, LORD;
in the morning my prayer comes before you.
Why, L
ORD, do you reject me and hide your face from me?
From my youth I have suffered and been close to death;
I have borne your terrors and am in despair.
Your wrath has swept over me;
your terrors have destroyed me.
All day long they surround me like a flood;
they have completely engulfed me.
You have taken from me friend and neighbor—
darkness is my closest friend
(NIV).

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Storm clouds approaching — photo by David Kitz

Reflection
Psalm 88 is the darkest of all the psalms. Many of the psalms are bright and cheery, filled with joy and praise. If I were to assign a color to them, I would paint them bright yellow, dappled with hues of orange and red. On the other hand, Psalm 88 draws from a much darker palette of black, grey and brown. This psalm is colored by loss, rejection and sorrow.

Many psalms spring from a place of grief, trouble and distress. This is only fitting since every life has such moments. Usually the psalmist pours out his troubles and his complaint before God, but he ends on a positive note—a note of hope. But Psalm 88 does not follow this pattern. It ends on a downer. You have taken from me friend and neighbor—darkness is my closest friend.

What are we to make of this ending? The sad reality is that not every book has a happy ending. Not every personal story has the Hollywood ending that we would like. Tragedy is real. Tragedy can strike anyone. We can live in a pretend world that says it isn’t so, but we are fooling only ourselves. This psalm adds a dark note of real-life integrity to the Book of Psalms.

But in the middle of it all—in the middle of his dark night of the soul—the psalmist takes his stand. But I cry to you for help, LORD; in the morning my prayer comes before you.

Sometimes we don’t have answers. Sometimes all we have is prayer.

Response: LORD God, when I am down, I cry to you for help. You are my hope when all hope is gone. Come to me in the dark times of my life. At such times I need you the most. Amen.

Your Turn: Are you going through a dark time? Do you find help in prayer?

In the Darkest Depths

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Reading: Psalm 88
A song. A psalm of the Sons of Korah. For the director of music.
According to mahalath leannoth. maskil of Heman the Ezrahite.
LORD, you are the God who saves me;
day and night I cry out to you.
May my prayer come before you;
turn your ear to my cry.
I am overwhelmed with troubles
and my life draws near to death.
I am counted among those who go down to the pit;
I am like one without strength.
I am set apart with the dead, like the slain who lie in the grave,
whom you remember no more, who are cut off from your care.
You have put me in the lowest pit, in the darkest depths.
Your wrath lies heavily on me;
you have overwhelmed me with all your waves.
You have taken from me my closest friends
and have made me repulsive to them.
I am confined and cannot escape; my eyes are dim with grief
(NIV).

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Lone tree overlooking Lake Ontario, Stony Creek, ON — photo by David Kitz

Reflection
There are 150 psalms in the Book of Psalms and one of the most remarkable things about them is their emotional span. They range from giddy heights of joy and praise to great depths of depression and sorrow. The full array of human emotion and experience is on display. Whatever state you find yourself in, there’s a psalm for that—a psalm for every situation and human need. If you are in desperate straits, there’s a psalm for that. If you are soaring in the presence of God, there’s a psalm for that too. They reflect our need for God and our desire to connect with Him in all of life’s experiences. 

Psalm 88 is a cry for help from the deepest pit of human need. Hear the psalmist’s cry of anguish: I am overwhelmed with troubles and my life draws near to death. I am counted among those who go down to the pit; I am like one without strength. I am confined and cannot escape; my eyes are dim with grief. 

For reasons that we are not told, the psalmist feels trapped in the worst of circumstances. At times I think we all have been there—feeling alone with no one to turn to. In such times, there is no one to turn to but the LORD. In our time of despair He does not reject us or turn us away. He is a God who comforts us, even as Paul, the apostle declares, “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God” (2 Corinthians 1:3-4).

If you are in the depths of depression or despair follow the example of Heman, the psalmist. Call out to God. He is listening. He reaches to the lowest pit.

Response: LORD God, I need your comfort. Hear my prayer and answer me. In this time of sorrow show me a sign of your love and favor, Lord. Amen.

Your Turn: Are you currently facing a time of trouble or sorrow? Are others praying for you?

Is God Living in your City?

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Reading: Psalm 87
Of the Sons of Korah. A psalm. A song.
He has founded his city on the holy mountain.
The L
ORD loves the gates of Zion
more than all the other dwellings of Jacob.
Glorious things are said of you,
city of God:
“I will record Rahab and Babylon
among those who acknowledge me—
Philistia too, and Tyre, along with Cush—
and will say, ‘This one was born in Zion.’”
Indeed, of Zion it will be said,
“This one and that one were born in her,
and the Most High himself will establish her.”
The L
ORD will write in the register of the peoples:
“This one was born in Zion.”
As they make music they will sing,
“All my fountains are in you”
(NIV).

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The Rideau Falls drop into the Ottawa River — photo by David Kitz

Reflection
Do you love your hometown? I hope you do. I certainly love my hometown, or to be more accurate, my home city. I live in Ottawa, Canada’s capital city. Though I wasn’t born or raised in Ottawa, I chose to live here. There’s a lot to love about Ottawa. Like any major world capital, there are plenty of grand museums, galleries, historic buildings and monuments. But I think it’s their situation or setting that makes the city so attractive. 

Ottawa is situated at the juncture point of three rivers. The scenic Rideau River winds its way through the city from the south before it plunges into the Ottawa River at the Rideau Falls. On the north shore of the Ottawa River the Gatineau River makes its entry after passing through the rugged Gatineau Hills. With three scenic rivers there’s an abundance of city parks and green space.

According to the psalmist, the LORD loves his hometown too. The LORD loves the gates of Zion more than all the other dwellings of Jacob. Glorious things are said of you, city of God.

During the Old Testament era the LORD chose to dwell in Zion the citadel within Jerusalem. It was David who first brought the Ark of the Covenant to Zion after one of his successful military campaigns. (See 2 Samuel 6.) From that time forward Jerusalem has been called the city of God. It became the city of God because God dwelt there. In due course, His temple was built there.

What about your city or town? Does God dwell there? What truly makes a place remarkable or special is the One who lives there. The presence of God can turn a hut or a humble stable into the portal to heaven. If Jesus is enthroned in your heart then God is truly with you. He is in your city.

Response: LORD God, my body is a temple of the Holy Spirit. Thank you for being so personal—so intimate with me. I want to honor and serve you in my community. Be present and active here. Amen.

Your Turn: What do you like most about your community/city? Is God active in your community?

Your Picture of God

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Reading: Psalm 86
(Verses 14-17)
Arrogant foes are attacking me, O God;
ruthless people are trying to kill me—
they have no regard for you.
But you, Lord, are a compassionate and gracious God,
slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness.
Turn to me and have mercy on me;
show your strength in behalf of your servant;
save me, because I serve you
just as my mother did.
Give me a sign of your goodness,
that my enemies may see it and be put to shame,
for you, L
ORD, have helped me and comforted me (NIV).

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Late evening sun on Lake Ontario — photo by David Kitz

Reflection
Living or working with an angry person can be extremely difficult. You can never tell what might trigger an angry reaction. You can be going about your normal routine and suddenly something will set them off. Next thing you know you are getting the full brunt of their fury for something done in complete innocence or for which you bear no responsibility. Life is full of stress. No one likes being around someone who gives full vent to their unchecked anger.

Unfortunately, many Christians live their lives as though God has anger management issues. They are convinced that at any moment God may smite them for some minor misstep or indiscretion. The truth is God is far more patient and compassionate than we realize. Here in Psalm 86 David reminds us that the LORD is slow to anger. But you, Lord, are a compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness.

If you want a short one sentence description of God, here it is. It is well worth repeating. But you, Lord, are a compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness.

Take that sentence and memorize it, repeat it and meditate on it. This is the essence of God. He oozes compassion for the broken and hurting. The LORD is gracious. He shows favor—undeserved grace—to His people. He is slow to anger. He is more than patient with us. He knows that all too often we are slow to learn the ways of God. But despite that, He abounds in love. There is an ocean full of God’s love, when we imagine there’s only a thimble full. Finally, the LORD is faithful. He sticks with us through thick and thin. In a changing world, God and His faithfulness remain constant.

Does your picture of God need to change? It may be time to switch that picture of an angry God for a picture of the God of compassion and grace—compassion and grace for yourself and for others. His love is bigger than our shortcomings.

Response: LORD God, I want to see you as you are, full of compassion and grace. Help me to show compassion and mercy to others. I want to meditate on your word so that I can know you as you truly are. Amen.

Your Turn: Do you believe God is angry with you? What characteristic of God do you love most?

You Probe my Heart

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I will praise Him!

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Wild irises, Petrie Island — photo by David Kitz

A prayer of David.

Hear me, LORD, my plea is just;
    listen to my cry.
Hear my prayer—
    it does not rise from deceitful lips.
Let my vindication come from you;
    may your eyes see what is right.

Though you probe my heart,
    though you examine me at night and test me,
you will find that I have planned no evil;
    my mouth has not transgressed.
Though people tried to bribe me,
    I have kept myself from the ways of the violent
    through what your lips have commanded.
My steps have held to your paths;
    my feet have not stumbled.

(Psalm 17:1-5, NIV)

Joy in Your Presence

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I will praise Him!

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I have a delightful inheritance — photo courtesy of Liz Kranz

LORD, you alone are my portion and my cup;
    you make my lot secure.
The boundary lines have fallen for me in pleasant places;
    surely I have a delightful inheritance.
I will praise the LORD, who counsels me;
    even at night my heart instructs me.
I keep my eyes always on the LORD.
    With him at my right hand, I will not be shaken.

Therefore my heart is glad and my tongue rejoices;
    my body also will rest secure,
because you will not abandon me to the realm of the dead,
    nor will you let your faithful one see decay.
You make known to me the path of life;
    you will fill me with joy in your presence,
    with eternal pleasures at your right hand.

(Psalm 16:5-11, NIV)