Your City Skyline

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Reading: Psalm 48
(Verses 9-14)
Within your temple, O God,
we meditate on your unfailing love.
Like your name, O God,
your praise reaches to the ends of the earth;
your right hand is filled with righteousness.
Mount Zion rejoices,
the villages of Judah are glad
because of your judgments.
Walk about Zion, go around her,
count her towers,
consider well her ramparts,
view her citadels,
that you may tell of them
to the next generation.
For this God is our God for ever and ever;
he will be our guide even to the end (NIV).

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The Manhattan skyline New York — photo by David Kitz

Reflection
Have you watched a television newscast recently? Invariably at some point during that telecast you will see a cityscape—a grand view of the city skyline in all its glory. If experts from Montreal, Vancouver or Chicago are being interviewed, they will appear against the backdrop of a large photo of their city. Routinely, sports telecasts feature brief live shots of the arena and the host city’s downtown.   

Why do broadcasters go to the trouble of filming these cityscapes and providing these skyline backdrops? A good part of the answer is identification. We identify a city by its skyline and by its landmark buildings and towers. Washington, D.C. is intimately linked to pictures of the Capitol, Paris with the Eiffel Tower and Toronto with the CN Tower. When the twin towers of the World Trade Center were destroyed, New York mourned not only the loss of lives, but also the loss of an element of its identity—the twin icons of its identity.

Psalm 48 is the Bible’s version of a cityscape telecast. Read the psalmist’s call: Walk about Zion, go around her, count her towers, consider well her ramparts, view her citadels that you may tell of them to the next generation.

What is the psalmist asking us to do? He is asking us to identify with the city of God. What makes Zion unique in the earth is the presence of God within her. The psalmist clearly stated, “God is in her citadels.” Is God within you? Is He reigning in your heart and mind? Is He the master of your affections? Have you had landmark experiences with God that changed the course of your life? Have you climbed towers of prayer? Have you stood guard on the ramparts of your mind? Then with conviction you can say with the psalmist, “For this God is our God forever and ever; he will be our guide even to the end.”

Response: LORD God, reign in me. Establish your capital in my heart. Govern my ways, now and forever more. I commit my thoughts and intellect to your service. Stir my heart and my affections. Amen.

Your Turn: Has Jesus come to rule your heart? Is the Lord enthroned there?

Reading 14 for Lent from The Soldier Who Killed a King

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A journey to the cross is a journey to repentance. It’s a journey to deep personal change. Will you take this journey with me?

In today’s reading, Marcus is in conversation with his nephew, the young soldier Claudius. Claudius is reporting on the activities and the message of Jesus of Nazareth on Tuesday of Holy Week.

Claudius went on. “One thing I do know for sure: those fancy-robed religious leaders don’t like him much. Jesus had taught for a while this morning, when all of a sudden the high priest, along with maybe ten other officials, came marching in. They demanded to

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A Roman centurion

know by what authority he was doing these things. He didn’t answer them, but instead he asked them a question. He asked them, ‘By what authority did John baptize?’ They talked it over and then said, ‘We don’t know.’ So he said he wouldn’t answer their question either. They just turned around and left in a holy huff. You could really tell the crowd around Jesus just loved the way he handled these high and mighty holy types.” Claudius abruptly turned to me and asked, “Who was this John anyway?”
“A few years back he caused quite a stir. Thousands of people went out to the Jordan River to hear him. He insisted that people repent, turn from their sins, and then he would baptize them in the river. Even some of my own men went out to hear him. In the end, Herod the tetrarch had him beheaded.”
After reflecting a moment on the day’s events, I caustically commented, “That bloody old Fox hasn’t changed much.”
“Anyway,” Claudius continued, “from then on Jesus would teach for a while, and then some new high-powered delegation would arrive to question him. They weren’t sincere in their questions. It was like they were trying to trap him into saying something they could later use against him. That’s all I think they were after. But in the end Jesus always turned the tables on them. He exposed their real motives. He saw right through them.”
I felt a certain remembered discomfort when Claudius said those words. After all, Jesus’s eyes had shone a light on the darkness of my own soul. I don’t know why I felt so naked, so transparent before this man.
“But, Claudius, what makes you so sure he’s not here to kick out the Romans?”
“It was the way he answered one of those fancy-robed delegations. They asked him if it was lawful to pay taxes to Caesar. He called them hypocrites right to their faces. He accused them of trying to trap him. Then he asked for a coin. He demanded to know biblical-fiction-award-2017_origwhose portrait and inscription were on it. When they answered, ‘Caesar’s,’ he jumped on them—like a cat onto a nest of mice. ‘So give back to Caesar what is Caesar’s, and to God what is God’s,’ he told them. Even at a distance, I could see their mouths drop and their ears catch fire. They left like cowering dogs with their tails between their legs.”
Claudius became even more animated as he said, “The crowd—the crowd loved it. You could really tell the people loved seeing those phony religious officials get a taste of a little humility. I’m sure they haven’t tasted it for a good long while.”
Then to conclude, he said, “That’s why I don’t think he’s a threat to us. He’s not opposed to paying taxes. Nothing he said all day makes me think he’s got a quarrel with Rome. But he’s sure got the religious leaders worried and bothered. Later in the day he went after them full force. Called them hypocrites, blind guides, a brood of vipers!”
“Ooo! I’m sure they were pleased,” I said sarcastically.
This assessment confirmed what Renaldo and I had been thinking. I had heard the same thing reflected back to me by Flavio. This latest evidence on taxes lent considerable weight to the conclusion Claudius had drawn. But I still felt uneasy. Jesus simply struck me as such a huge, larger-than-life figure—the kind of person you don’t dismiss lightly, no matter what others say. I somehow felt that all we had done thus far was scratch the surface. I’m not sure I really understood him at all. How could I begin to fathom what he was trying to accomplish?

To download a free study guide for this high-impact, bible-based novel visit: https://www.davidkitz.ca/centurion.php/free study guide PDF

For book purchases of The Soldier Who Killed a King try Amazon or https://www.christianbook.com

God in the City

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Reading: Psalm 48
A song. A psalm of the Sons of Korah.
(Verses 1-8)
Great is the LORD, and most worthy of praise,
in the city of our God, his holy mountain.
Beautiful in its loftiness, the joy of the whole earth,
like the heights of Zaphon is Mount Zion,
the city of the Great King.
God is in her citadels;
he has shown himself to be her fortress.
When the kings joined forces,
when they advanced together,
they saw her and were astounded;
they fled in terror.
Trembling seized them there,
pain like that of a woman in labor.
You destroyed them like ships of Tarshish
shattered by an east wind.
As we have heard, so we have seen
in the city of the L
ORD Almighty,
in the city of our God:
God makes her secure forever
(NIV).

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Looking south from the War Memorial in Downtown Ottawa — photo by David Kitz

Reflection
I grew up on a farm in wide open rural Saskatchewan, Canada. It was a cross-country mile to the nearest neighbour, but if you stood at the right spot in our farmyard, you could see our neighbour’s house. I loved growing up on the farm and I still love visiting. Who wouldn’t? I was living in God’s country surrounded by the wild beauty of nature in all its varied, changing forms.

But I have spent the last forty years living in the city—actually three rather large cities with populations of more than a million. Is the God of the open country the God of the city too? The psalmist seemed to think so. He begins Psalm 48 with this declaration: Great is the LORD, and most worthy of praise, in the city of our God, his holy mountain.

Of course the sons of Korah were referring to biblical Jerusalem, more specifically Mount Zion, the fortified citadel within the walls of ancient Israel’s capital. God was within her. During the reign of David the Ark of the Covenant—the seat of the LORD’s rule—was housed in the sacred tabernacle on Mount Zion. This was where God dwelt.

Where does God dwell today? As partakers of the new covenant, through the blood of Christ we are the temples of God. Paul, the apostle, asks, “Don’t you know that you yourselves are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in your midst?” (1 Corinthians 3:16). God dwells in the city too—your city. Whether it’s Calgary, Ottawa, New York, Helsinki or Tokyo, God is within her because His redeemed people live there.

Response: LORD, I thank you because you live within us! Help me to let my light shine in my city. Amen.

Your Turn: How would you characterize your city? How is God revealing His presence there?

Reading 13 for Lent from The Soldier Who Killed a King

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A journey to the cross is a journey to repentance. It’s a journey to deep personal change. Will you take this journey with me?

In today’s reading, Marcus is among the detail of soldiers assigned to welcome Herod the Tetrarch to Jerusalem. As the royal procession is about to enter the city a disturbing incident takes place that reveals the character of the man that Jesus called a fox.

Suddenly, just ahead, among the bowing throng, a small copper bowl flashed in the sun. I sucked in a shallow breath and hoped it had gone unnoticed.
Herod’s hand shot out from the left side of the litter, just a few feet above and ahead of my horse’s ears.
“There! There!” he yelled. “Stop the litter!”
Flavio bellowed, “Halt!”
“Bring the boy over.” Herod gestured to the bodyguard next to me.
The guard beckoned with his hand, and the once crippled Lucas stepped forward. He wore a shy smile, but there was an eager glint in his eye.
“Is that a beggar’s bowl in your hand?” the king inquired.
“Yes, sir.”
“I didn’t come to feed beggars,” Herod said coldly. “Now, teach this boy not to beg from a king.” Herod again gestured to the guard.
With one hand the guard grabbed the boy’s free hand. With the other hand he raised his gleaming sword above his head.

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Photo credit Jean Levac, Ottawa Citizen

With sudden terror in his eyes, Lucas instinctively yanked back.
The blade flashed down.
The boy fell back into the crowd as the guard triumphantly raised the severed, dripping hand above his head.
“Well done, Cestas!” Herod cheered. “Well done!”
I saw Lucas flee, white- faced and stumbling, clutching tight the bleeding stump.
“There are no beggars in Galilee,” the Fox announced to the crowd. “And if I ruled here, there would be none in Jerusalem.”
The onlookers were stunned—riveted to the spot. Herod paused, and after a brief search he pulled out the flimsy purple robe from among the cushions behind him. He made a great show of folding it carefully several times.
“Bring me your trophy.”
Biblical fiction winner 2017Cestas came forward and placed the small, severed hand in the folds of the purple robe, bowing graciously to his monarch.
“Ah, tribute for the governor.” Herod laughed coarsely. “Let’s be off!”
The remainder of the processional was uneventful. Following the trumpeters’ fanfare, Pontius Pilate and his wife, Claudia Procula, received the tetrarch graciously, with considerable pomp. The Roman governor politely inquired about the journey and made flattering comments about Herodias and her attire.

To download a free study guide for this high-impact, bible-based novel visit: https://www.davidkitz.ca/centurion.php/free study guide PDF

For book purchases of The Soldier Who Killed a King try Amazon or https://www.christianbook.com

A Psalm of Resurrection

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Reading: Psalm 47
For the director of music. Of the Sons of Korah. A psalm.
Clap your hands, all you nations;
shout to God with cries of joy.
For the LORD Most High is awesome,
the great King over all the earth.
He subdued nations under us,
peoples under our feet.
He chose our inheritance for us,
the pride of Jacob, whom he loved.
God has ascended amid shouts of joy,
the L
ORD amid the sounding of trumpets.
Sing praises to God, sing praises;
sing praises to our King, sing praises.
For God is the King of all the earth;
sing to him a psalm of praise.
God reigns over the nations;
God is seated on his holy throne.
The nobles of the nations assemble
as the people of the God of Abraham,
for the kings of the earth belong to God;
he is greatly exalted (NIV).

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Bonnechere River — photo courtesy of Liz Kranz

Reflection
I appreciate God’s timing; it brings a smile to my face. Yesterday’s psalm reading seemed particularly appropriate as we reflected on the events of Good Friday. Today’s psalm posting is fitting as we rejoice in the triumph of the resurrection. I can’t help but think of the risen Christ as I read these words: God has ascended amid shouts of joy, the LORD amid the sounding of trumpets.

Psalm 47 calls forth a spontaneous joy. It is a song of celebration to the LORD for the victories of the LORD. He has conquered! What has He conquered? The LORD has conquered the nations. Sing praises to God, sing praises; sing praises to our King, sing praises. For God is the King of all the earth; sing to him a psalm of praise. God reigns over the nations; God is seated on his holy throne.

In its original context, Psalm 47 celebrated the victory of Israel over the surrounding nations. But that is a feeble victory compared to Christ the King’s triumph over death, hell and the power of the grave. Hallelujah! The King is alive. He arose from the dead. The power of sin and Satan are defeated, and because He lives and reigns we too will live and reign with Him through eternity. For if, while we were God’s enemies, we were reconciled to him through the death of his Son, how much more, having been reconciled, shall we be saved through his life! (Romans 5:10).

In the resurrection of Jesus we have the ultimate cause for celebration. Shout to God with cries of joy!

Response: LORD God, I thank you for the victory of Jesus! He is my forerunner. I will live and reign through Him. Amen.

Your Turn: The resurrection means the dead in Christ will be raised. Who will you want to greet first?

Reading 12 for Lent from The Soldier Who Killed a King

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A journey to the cross is a journey to repentance. It’s a journey to deep personal change. Will you take this journey with me?

In today’s reading, Marcus meets with his fellow centurion and friend, Renaldo. Renaldo has just seen the young boy Lucas who was healed in the temple courts on the previous day by Jesus of Nazareth.

“Marcus! Marcus!”
I spun around to see Renaldo emerging from the gateway stairway.
“Hey, Marcus! You were right. That boy really was healed.”
He voiced the words with such bald enthusiasm that I was completely disarmed.
“I just saw him. He was here—here at the gate.” He gestured down the gateway parapet4485 SHARABLE-2 to a point below us. “I saw him. I examined his leg. It’s completely healed. Just like the other one. It’s incredible!” he enthused. “He can jump! And run!”
“I told you. I told you, Renaldo,” I said while shaking my head.
“Yeah, but you don’t expect it,” he said as he justified his unbelief. “I mean, this kid’s been like this from birth. You see him the same way, day after day. And then one day . . . Boom! He’s completely different.”
“I told you. You didn’t believe me?” I uttered the words with a certain smug satisfaction.
“Well, you don’t expect it,” he repeated. “I mean, it’s one thing to hear it, but it’s quite something else to see it for yourself.”
“That’s exactly what I was trying to tell you. I said you’ve got to see this for yourself to understand.”
I sighed. Now I was beginning to realize why I wasn’t getting through.
“So it was Lucas,” I stated.
“It was Lucas!” Renaldo confirmed, shaking his head in a state of incredulous wonderment.
I changed the topic.
“Look, Renaldo, I would like to talk with you more about this, but we’ve both got some work to do. Word has just come in to Flavio. Herod has accepted Pilate’s invitation. He’ll be going directly to the Praetorium. Arriving at four. The Fish Gate route needs to be cleared. You know those temple traders have set up shop in there, and you’ve got to get them out. And the sooner, the better. Flavio says that’s your sector, so you’re on.” Renaldo took all this in stride. “Sure, Marcus. I’ll get right on it.”
I turned from him, but he called after me.
“Marcus. We need to talk more about this Jesus—this Jesus of Nazareth.”

To download a free study guide for this high-impact, bible-based novel visit: https://www.davidkitz.ca/centurion.php/free study guide PDF

For book purchases of The Soldier Who Killed a King try Amazon or https://www.christianbook.com

The Open Hand of God

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I will praise Him!

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Bumble bee visits rose blossom — photo by David Kitz

The LORD is trustworthy in all he promises
    and faithful in all he does.
The LORD upholds all who fall
    and lifts up all who are bowed down.
The eyes of all look to you,
    and you give them their food at the proper time.
You open your hand
    and satisfy the desires of every living thing.

(Psalm 145:13b-16, NIV)

 

Reading 11 for Lent from “The Soldier Who Killed a King”

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A journey to the cross is a journey to repentance. It’s a journey to deep personal change. Will you take this journey with me?

In today’s reading, Marcus the centurion meets with Flavio, the Roman tribune, who is his commanding officer. He lays out his concerns about a Galilean prophet that he sees as a dangerous threat—Jesus of Nazareth.

“Sometimes I think you worry too much, Marcus.”
“I worry because it’s my job to worry,” I shot back. “Barabbas is in prison because I worry.”
Flavio appeared to consider my reply as he swallowed another stringy morsel. “So what do you know about this prophet?”
“A lot of people think he’s the Messiah.”
“May all the gods help us! Another Roman-killing messiah!” Flavio jeered.
“This one just might be the real thing,” I said.
Centur. Sw“Ha!” he scoffed. “Bring him on!” He reached for his flagon. Finding it empty, he bellowed, “Where’s my wine?”
“Bloody incompetent servants,” he muttered. Then turning to me, he asked, “Does he have weapons?”
“No, not that I’ve seen.”
“Has he threatened us?”
“Not exactly.”
“Assaulted the tax collectors?”
“No.”
“Then leave the Jewish dog alone.”
The servant arrived with a bowl of hot, sticky cheese and placed it before me, along with two small barley loaves.
“Wine! Where’s the ruddy wine?” Flavio demanded of his harried attendant.
“He is preaching about a kingdom—the kingdom of God,” I countered.
“So let him preach.”
“Who do you think will be the king of this kingdom?” I reasoned. When Flavio remained silent, I answered my own question. “I’m sure it will be none other than Jesus of Nazareth. I don’t think there’s room for two kings in this town, and a Roman governor too.”
“I see your point,” Flavio said. He wiped a greasy hand across his mouth and thenbiblical-fiction-award-2017_orig rubbed the three days of stubble on his chin. “So he talks about a kingdom?”
“The coming kingdom,” I clarified. “It’s the whole point—the core of his message. So I’m told.”
The servant arrived with the wine. Flavio helped himself. Drank two- thirds of it in a massive gulp, then poured himself some more.
“And he has followers?” Flavio continued.
“Most of the Galilean pilgrims are firmly in his camp.”
“Galilee?” Flavio questioned. “He’s Herod’s man.” He paused to rub the tip of his nose. “I wonder what the Fox thinks of this Messiah.”

To download a free study guide for this high-impact, bible-based novel visit: https://www.davidkitz.ca/centurion.php/free study guide PDF

For book purchases of The Soldier Who Killed a King try Amazon or https://www.christianbook.com

Rich in Love

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I will praise Him!

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It is you who watch over my way — photo by David Kitz

The LORD is gracious and compassionate,
    slow to anger and rich in love.

The LORD is good to all;
    he has compassion on all he has made.
All your works praise you, LORD;
    your faithful people extol you.
They tell of the glory of your kingdom
    and speak of your might,
so that all people may know of your mighty acts
    and the glorious splendor of your kingdom.
Your kingdom is an everlasting kingdom,
    and your dominion endures through all generations.

(Psalm 145:8-13, NIV)

Reading 10 for Lent from The Soldier Who Killed a King

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A journey to the cross is a journey to repentance. It’s a journey to deep personal change. Will you take this journey with me?

In today’s reading, Marcus recruits his nephew, the young soldier Claudius, to spy on the activities of a man he sees as a dangerous threat—Jesus of Nazareth.

“Look, Claudius. We need to keep an eye on this man. I mean what I’m saying. All our lives could be in jeopardy.
“You’re a natural choice,” I reasoned. “Like I said, you’re a new face around here. You speak Aramaic very well—better than I do. And you’ve got a brain in your head. Right now, you’re the best man I have for the job.”
I could see he was thinking.
“Couldn’t we just get some paid informants or something?”

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“Ha! In a case like this, paid informants will tell you whatever you want to hear and collect afterward. How do you think I managed to nail Barabbas? It wasn’t with paid informants!” I scoffed at the idea. “No, he’ll feel the spikes on Friday because I went out and got the facts on him—myself.”
Determined to press home my point, I continued, “Look, there are times in this business when you’ve got to put your own life on the line. You got to dirty your own fingers. When good men like Hermes and Andreas go down, you don’t sit and polish your brass. You get out there and sniff out the stinking truth for yourself. You owe it to your men.”
I drew a deep breath and plunged on. “As for Barabbas, he’s a tin-pot hooligan. A brainless bloody terrorist!” I spat the words out. “Now Jesus . . . Jesus, on the other hand, there’s a different dog on the prowl. He’s got followers. He’s got a crowd around him. He’s got heaven on his side. You don’t let Jewish messiahs strut around under your nose and just ignore them.”

To download a free study guide for this high-impact, bible-based novel visit: https://www.davidkitz.ca/centurion.php/free study guide PDF

For book purchases of The Soldier Who Killed a King try Amazon or https://www.christianbook.com