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)

Are You Wholehearted or Divided?

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Reading: Psalm 86
(Verses 8-13)
Among the gods there is none like you, Lord;
no deeds can compare with yours.
All the nations you have made
will come and worship before you, Lord;
they will bring glory to your name.
For you are great and do marvelous deeds;
you alone are God.
Teach me your way, LORD,
that I may rely on your faithfulness;
give me an undivided heart,
that I may fear your name.
I will praise you, Lord my God, with all my heart;
I will glorify your name forever.
For great is your love toward me;
you have delivered me from the depths,
from the realm of the dead
(NIV).

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Riverside sunset — photo by David Kitz

Reflection
Today’s reading from Psalm 86 begins with this prophetic declaration. All the nations you have made will come and worship before you, Lord; they will bring glory to your name.

Psalm 86 is a prayer of David, but within this prayer David makes this prophetic statement about all nations worshipping the Lord. By the Spirit of God, David saw and declared what is to come. In the pantheistic world of his time, David saw that the God he served was not a local or national god. He saw that Yahweh, the LORD was, is and will be the Lord over all. How could David know that the God of Israel would come to be worshipped in every nation on the earth?

David grasped the big picture. Or a better explanation might be that the God of the big picture grasped David and revealed this truth to him. Through David’s line would come a Savior—a Savior named Jesus—a Jewish Savior for the whole world.

Why was David able to receive such a profound revelation? We are given a clue in the words of his prayer. Teach me your way, LORD, that I may rely on your faithfulness; give me an undivided heart, that I may fear your name.

The answer may lie in David’s heart. He had an undivided heart. In other words he was wholehearted in his love for the Lord. He had a single-minded focus on God. He says just that in the next line of his prayer. I will praise you, Lord my God, with all my heart; I will glorify your name forever.

Are you wholehearted in your love and praise for the Lord?

Response: LORD God, unite my heart to praise your name. I don’t want to be distracted by the pursuits of this world. I set my affection on you. Thank you for loving me as your child. Amen.

Your Turn: What are some of the things that distract you from loving and fearing God?

Our Posture in Prayer

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Reading: Psalm 86
A prayer of David.
(Verses 1-7)
Hear me, LORD, and answer me,
for I am poor and needy.
Guard my life, for I am faithful to you;
save your servant who trusts in you.
You are my God; have mercy on me, Lord,
for I call to you all day long.
Bring joy to your servant, Lord,
for I put my trust in you.
You, Lord, are forgiving and good,
abounding in love to all who call to you.
Hear my prayer, L
ORD;
listen to my cry for mercy.
When I am in distress, I call to you,
because you answer me
(NIV).

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Early summer rose — photo by David Kitz

Reflection
What posture or position do you take when you pray? Do you kneel, stand or lie prostrate? Do you bow your head, or raise your head and look heavenward? Do you fold your hands or raise them to God?

The Bible describes people taking various positions or postures in prayer. We cannot be certain of the physical position that David took when he prayed the words of Psalm 86. But we can be sure of this. In his heart David assumed a position of humility. His opening statement reveals a man with a humble heart. Hear me, LORD, and answer me, for I am poor and needy.

David spent about forty years as the King of Israel. Though his early years were a struggle for survival against the murderous schemes of King Saul, David’s later years were blessed by victory and prosperity. But here in this psalm David calls himself poor and needy. He exemplifies for us the first of Jesus’ Beatitudes. “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 5:3).

In God’s eyes we are always poor and needy. Though I may have billions of dollars, what is my piddling prosperity in the sight of the owner and Creator of the universe? Can that money buy me an hour in heaven? Can it buy me immortality? Of course it can’t. Despite his vast wealth, Apple founder Steve Jobs was unable to buy a longer life. In the end, like King David, Jobs found he was helpless, poor and needy.

In light of this truth—in the light of eternity—let us come—poor beggars that we are to the mercy seat of God. There we can lay our burdens down. There we can humbly bring our petitions. There we can meet with Jesus.  For you know that it was not with perishable things such as silver or gold that you were redeemed from the empty way of life handed down to you from your ancestors, but with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect ( 1 Peter 1:18-19).

Response: LORD God, I confess I am poor and needy. My future, my whole life is in your hands. I do not own my next breath. When I am in distress, I call to you, because you answer me. Amen.

Your Turn: Pride and prayer don’t fit well together. What positions do you take when you pray?

He Promises Peace to His People

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Reading: Psalm 85
(Verses 8-13)
I will listen to what God the LORD says;
he promises peace to his people, his faithful servants—
but let them not turn to folly.
Surely his salvation is near those who fear him,
that his glory may dwell in our land.
Love and faithfulness meet together;
righteousness and peace kiss each other.
Faithfulness springs forth from the earth,
and righteousness looks down from heaven.
 The L
ORD will indeed give what is good,
and our land will yield its harvest.
Righteousness goes before him
and prepares the way for his steps
(NIV).

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Petrie Island beach — photo by David Kitz

Reflection
Psalm 85 began with the psalmist reflecting on a wonderful time of God’s favor and forgiveness. God’s grace had been abundant and a source of great joy. But that is not the present reality. It would seem that for some reason God’s hand of blessing has been lifted and the psalmist finds himself crying out for mercy and revival. Will you not revive us again, that your people may rejoice in you? Show us your unfailing love, LORD, and grant us your salvation.

Times of hardship and personal setbacks can leave us wondering if God has abandoned us. Have we sinned? Has God withdrawn His blessing from our lives? Will He shows us His kindness once again? In difficult times these questions often flood our minds.

After pleading for restoration and pouring out his troubles before God the psalmist makes this statement, I will listen to what God the LORD says.”

Now that’s sound advice. Listening to what God says is always a good idea. It resolves inner conflict and brings peace of mind. And what does God the LORD say? “He promises peace to his people, his faithful servants—but let them not turn to folly.”

Often we feel that when things aren’t going right in our lives, we must be at fault. Perhaps we are and we should repent. But there are other times when the hardships we face are not due to sin or error on our part. Troubles and difficulties come to all of us. On such occasions the LORD promises us peace. He assures us that we are walking in His will and He is right there with us in the midst of life’s storms. Here is His promise for you: The LORD will indeed give what is good, and our land will yield its harvest. Righteousness goes before him and prepares the way for his steps.

Hang onto the righteousness of God. He is about to step into your life in a beautiful way.

Response: LORD God, I turn to you in the middle of my difficulties. Open my ears to hear your voice speaking to me. I trust you to lead me. Come and step into my life. Amen.

Your Turn: Can you recall occasions when God has stepped into your life? What did that look like?

The Roots of Grace

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Reading: Psalm 85
For the director of music. Of the Sons of Korah. A psalm.
(Verses 1-7)
You, LORD, showed favor to your land;
you restored the fortunes of Jacob.
You forgave the iniquity of your people
and covered all their sins.
You set aside all your wrath
and turned from your fierce anger.
Restore us again, God our Savior,
and put away your displeasure toward us.
Will you be angry with us forever?
Will you prolong your anger through all generations?
 Will you not revive us again,
that your people may rejoice in you?
Show us your unfailing love, L
ORD,
and grant us your salvation
(NIV).

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Round Lake, Ontario — photo courtesy of Liz Kranz

Reflection
Psalm 85 begins on a high note as the psalmist reflects on God’s goodness in the past. You, LORD, showed favor to your land; you restored the fortunes of Jacob. 

God’s favor is not something we earn; it is undeserved. God’s favor is synonymous with God’s grace. We may attempt to explain God’s grace, but in reality there’s no accounting for it. God showers His grace upon us, but why on us and not someone else? There is an aspect of Divine grace that we may never fully comprehend. We simply need to receive it and rejoice in God’s favor when it comes our way.

Make no mistake. God’s grace and His favor are rooted in forgiveness. Note the words of the psalmist: You forgave the iniquity of your people and covered all their sins. You set aside all your wrath and turned from your fierce anger.

Because of our sins and disobedience, we deserve God’s wrath and anger, but instead He has shown us favor and forgiveness. How awesome is that! There is something over-the-moon wonderful about the love of God. When we experience its fullness, it puts a smile on our face and a wellspring of joy in our hearts.

But… But there is a point of transition in this psalm. The wonderful sense of nearness to God has been lost. About midway through the passage above the psalmist cries out in anguish. Restore us again, God our Savior, and put away your displeasure toward us. Will you be angry with us forever?

We are not told what has caused this sense of separation from God. Is it sin? Is it unforeseen hardships or calamities of various kinds? Whatever the cause, the psalmist pleads for revival and a return to joy.

Response: LORD God, revive my love for you. I want to sense you near to me again—smiling down on me. Show me your favor and your unfailing love. Let me know your grace. Amen.

Your Turn: Have you lost a sense of nearness to God? What can you do to restore it?

Love is at the Core

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Reading: Psalm 84
(Verses 8-12)
Hear my prayer, LORD God Almighty;
listen to me, God of Jacob.
Look on our shield, O God;
look with favor on your anointed one.
Better is one day in your courts
than a thousand elsewhere;
I would rather be a doorkeeper
in the house of my God
than dwell in the tents of the wicked.
For the L
ORD God is a sun and shield;
the L
ORD bestows favor and honor;
no good thing does he withhold
from those whose walk is blameless.
LORD Almighty,
blessed is the one who trusts in you
(NIV).

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Wild irises, Petrie Island — photo by David Kitz

Reflection
All of Psalm 84 is written in praise of a special day—a day spent in God’s presence. Throughout this Psalm there is a longing to be with God—a desire to be close to him. So we hear the Psalmist declare, “Better is one day in your courts than a thousand elsewhere.

If you were to plan for the best day in your life, what would that day include? What would it look like? How and where would you spend your best day? Would the LORD be at the center of it all?

Love is at the core of every special day. Think back to some of the best days of your life—days marked by joy and excitement. If you scratch beneath the surface of those days, you will find love at the core. We are in fact love starved people. We need it as much as the air we breathe. Experiments have shown that the unloved, un-caressed, unspoken to baby will die, even though all its physical needs are met. So when love comes to us, we celebrate it, frolic in it, and throw a party to announce it.

We need love. We need to receive it. We need to give it.

It was love that brought the psalmist to the House of God. It drew him like a magnet, pulled at his heart, tugged at his sleeve, and finally ushered him through the door. Love set him on this pilgrimage. It kept his weary feet moving mile after dreary mile. When he finally reached his goal—the object of his love—in wonder, we hear him exclaim, “How lovely is your dwelling place, O LORD Almighty! My soul yearns, even faints, for the courts of the LORD; my heart and flesh cry out for the living God.”

The psalmist was pursuing love with the one he loved—the LORD Almighty. Have you spent time pursuing him lately? Is a day spent with him, something you yearn for?

Response: LORD God, I love you. I know that you love me because Jesus showed the extent of your love. He reaches out to me with nail-scarred hands. I want to spend my day with you. Amen.

Your Turn: Is a day spent with Jesus, something you yearn for?

Apart from You I Have no Good Thing

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I will praise Him!

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Painted daisies — photo by David Kitz

A miktam of David.

Keep me safe, my God,
    for in you I take refuge.

I say to the LORD, “You are my Lord;
    apart from you I have no good thing.”
I say of the holy people who are in the land,
    “They are the noble ones in whom is all my delight.”
Those who run after other gods will suffer more and more.
    I will not pour out libations of blood to such gods
    or take up their names on my lips.

(Psalm 16:1-4, NIV)

Who May Live on Your Holy Mountain?

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I will praise Him!

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

A psalm of David.

LORD, who may dwell in your sacred tent?
    Who may live on your holy mountain?

The one whose walk is blameless,
    who does what is righteous,
    who speaks the truth from their heart;
whose tongue utters no slander,
    who does no wrong to a neighbor,
    and casts no slur on others;
who despises a vile person
    but honors those who fear the LORD;
who keeps an oath even when it hurts,
    and does not change their mind;
who lends money to the poor without interest;
    who does not accept a bribe against the innocent.

Whoever does these things
    will never be shaken.

(Psalm 15:1-5, NIV)

Nature is God’s Domain

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Reading: Psalm 84
For the director of music. According to gittith. Of the Sons of Korah. A psalm.
(Verses 1-7)
How lovely is your dwelling place, LORD Almighty!
My soul yearns, even faints,
for the courts of the L
ORD;
my heart and my flesh cry out for the living God.
Even the sparrow has found a home,
and the swallow a nest for herself,
where she may have her young—
a place near your altar,
L
ORD Almighty, my King and my God.
Blessed are those who dwell in your house;
they are ever praising you.
Blessed are those whose strength is in you,
whose hearts are set on pilgrimage.
As they pass through the Valley of Baka,
they make it a place of springs;
the autumn rains also cover it with pools.
They go from strength to strength,
till each appears before God in Zion
(NIV).

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Blessed are those whose strength is in you — photo by David Kitz

Reflection
Where does God live? If you were going to pay God a visit where would you go? Some of us would head off to a church. The psalmist speaks of travelling to the temple in Jerusalem. Psalm 84 was often used by pilgrims as they made the long journey to the holy city to be near to God in His temple.

When I read the phrase, “How lovely is your dwelling place, O LORD Almighty!” my mind instantly flashes to pictures of nature. I see God there, in the dazzling sunset, in the mountain grandeur, in the forest depths, in expansive prairie vistas, in the wind whipped ocean breakers, and by the sunlit babbling stream. God is there. This is His dwelling place. It is just as David declared, “The earth is the LORD‘s, and everything in it, the world, and all who live in it” (Psalm 24:1).

Nature is God’s domain. He formed it, planned it, spoke it into existence. It is his dwelling place. Our attempts to create a dwelling place for him are feeble at best. After overseeing the construction of one of the seven wonders of the ancient world, King Solomon, that master temple builder of the Old Testament declared, “There is not enough room in heaven for you, LORD God. How can you possibly live on earth in this temple I have built?” (1 Kings 8:27).

But here in Psalm 84 the psalmist marvels that nature has invaded the temple. Swallows have built their nest in the temple, close by the altar of God. He exclaims, Blessed are those who dwell in your house; they are ever praising you.” Indeed, there is no better place to be than near to the heart of God.

Response: LORD God, I want to be near to you today. I want to dwell where you are. Please come and stay with me. Be as close to me as my next breath. Amen.

Your Turn: Where are you closest to God? Do you long to be near Him?

Some Thoughts Have no Place in our Lives.  

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Reading: Psalm 83
(Verses 9-18)
Do to them as you did to Midian,
as you did to Sisera and Jabin at the river Kishon,
who perished at Endor and became like dung on the ground.
Make their nobles like Oreb and Zeeb,
all their princes like Zebah and Zalmunna,
who said, “Let us take possession of the pasturelands of God.”
Make them like tumbleweed, my God,
like chaff before the wind.
As fire consumes the forest
or a flame sets the mountains ablaze,
so pursue them with your tempest
and terrify them with your storm.
Cover their faces with shame, L
ORD,
so that they will seek your name.
May they ever be ashamed and dismayed;
may they perish in disgrace.
Let them know that you, whose name is the L
ORD
that you alone are the Most High over all the earth
(NIV).

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Ottawa River wetlands — photo by David Kitz

Reflection
Bible scholars believe the psalms that comprise the Book of Psalms were written over a period of about seven hundred years between 1000 BC and 300 BC. One of the challenges of writing something daily about the Psalms is discovering something personally relevant about each scripture portion. What could these ancient writings mean for me today? Is there something in there for me—something relevant for my walk with the LORD?

Today’s reading illustrates this point. The psalmist is calling for the destruction of Israel’s enemies who have invaded the land and brought death and devastation. In his appeal for God’s help, the psalmist recalls the great victories the LORD wrought in the past. He prays against Israel’s enemies, Make them like tumbleweed, my God, like chaff before the wind.”

In our daily walk through life do we face enemies? Of course we do. Their names are not Sisera and Jabin or Oreb and Zeeb, but nevertheless we face enemies. They come with names like Discouragement and Depression or Complacency and Apathy. Occasionally, I run into Disappointment and Bitterness. Now those are two tough characters. If you let them take hold, they can pin you down and leave you defeated in no time.

The negative thoughts that we permit can devastate our lives as effectively as any marauding army. That’s why Asaph, the psalmist, calls on the wind of God’s Spirit to blow such enemies away. There is no value in chaff or tumbleweed. Similarly, some thoughts simply should have no place in our lives.

Response: LORD God, today I choose to think thoughts that lift me up and bring me closer to you. With your help I reject those thoughts that bring me down. Holy Spirit blow through my life. Amen.

Your Turn: What thoughts bring you down? What thoughts bring you joy and victory?

Happy Independence Day to my American readers.