It is Fitting for the Upright to Praise Him.

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Reading: Psalm 33
(Verses 1-5)
Sing joyfully to the LORD, you righteous;
it is fitting for the upright to praise him.
Praise the L
ORD with the harp;
make music to him on the ten-stringed lyre.
Sing to him a new song;
play skillfully, and shout for joy.
For the word of the LORD is right and true;
he is faithful in all he does.
The L
ORD loves righteousness and justice;
the earth is full of his unfailing love
(NIV).

Sally Meadows

All His works will sing His praise, Bohemian waxwing — photo courtesy of Sally Meadows

Reflection
It’s a good to wake up with a song of praise to the LORD on your lips. How do I know that’s true? I listen to birds. Their joyous songs are new every morning. If they have cause to sing praise to the LORD, surely I do as well.

Jesus said, “Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground outside your Father’s care. And even the very hairs of your head are all numbered. So don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows” (Matthew 10:29:31).

If a sparrow has grounds for praising the LORD each and every day, surely we have more. His constant care sustains us moment by moment. If the Father keeps count of my hair, He must be concerned about even the tiny details of my life. His loving mercy is new every morning; therefore, it is fitting for the upright to praise him.

Here in Psalm 33 we are instructed to: Praise the LORD with the harp; make music to him on the ten-stringed lyre. 

Forgive me, LORD. I’m an instrumental disaster. Playing skillfully is nigh unto impossible. But with my voice I will praise you. I can’t compete with robins and cardinals, but I will sing my praise. For the word of the LORD is right and true; he is faithful in all he does.

The steadfast love of the LORD is unchanging. My praise for Him should be just as steadfast—unaffected by my current circumstances. I have heard the birds break into song at sunrise even on a gray rainy morning. At the very least my praise for God should be as constant. Paul and Silas sang praises to God after being severely flogged and imprisoned in Philippi. See Acts chapter 16. Their worship was unaffected by their circumstances. They were obedient to the LORD’s command: Sing joyfully to the LORD, you righteous; it is fitting for the upright to praise him.

Response: Thank you, LORD God, for each day you set before me. Give me a heart of praise for you. You sustain me. Today give me a new song to praise you, O LORD. It’s always good, right and fitting to sing my praise to you. Amen.

Your Turn: Do you love to praise God? Does it lift your spirit when you do? Are there times when the Lord given you a new song to sing?

Hearing the Voice of God

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Reading: Psalm 32
(Verses 8-11)
I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go;
I will counsel you and watch over you.
Do not be like the horse or the mule,
which have no understanding
but must be controlled by bit and bridle
or they will not come to you.
Many are the woes of the wicked,
but the L
ORD’s unfailing love
surrounds the one who trusts in him.
Rejoice in the LORD and be glad, you righteous;
sing, all you who are upright in heart!
(NIV)

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Reflected clouds, Orleans, ON — photo by David Kitz

Reflection
In Psalm 32 God speaks back. David begins this psalm and we clearly can hear his voice addressing us, as he tells how wonderful it is to be forgiven. He then goes on to speak of his own struggle with unconfessed sin. Finally, he tells us of the great relief he experienced as he is pardoned and restored to a place of close fellowship with the LORD. But then abruptly in verse eight, we hear a different voice. God is speaking. The LORD responds to what David has said. Through this psalm David is modelling true prayer. This psalm is two-way communication.

We have heard David’s words; let’s hear God’s words now. I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will counsel you and watch over you. 

Clearly this is not the voice of David. David is not going to counsel and watch over us. This is the work of the LORD. The LORD will teach and guide us. It is His role to shepherd the flock of His pasture.

These words, from verse eight to the end of this psalm are coming from the LORD. David has heard God speak, and now he is passing on this message from the LORD directly to us. In this respect David is fulfilling the role of a prophet. He is acting as God’s spokesperson. In fact in Acts 2:30, Peter asserts that David was a prophet. And what is a prophet? In the simplest terms, it is someone who hears God, and then passes on God’s message to others.

Do you hear God? This is no idle, rhetorical question. It is essential to our Christian faith that we as believers hear the voice of God. I would go so far as to say, that you cannot experience salvation unless you first hear God. Jesus said, “My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish” John 10:27-28a (NIV).

In short, we must be able to hear Jesus in order to follow Him, and it is in following Him that we receive eternal life. Hearing God’s voice is of paramount importance.

Response: LORD God, give me ears to hear what you have to say to me. Please instruct me and teach me in the way I should go. Then give me grace to obey. I put my trust in you, O LORD. Amen.

Your Turn: Do you hear God’s voice? How does He speak to you? Have you heard the Lord’s voice recently? How do you distinguish God’s voice from all the other voices that you hear?

Do Not Abandon the Works of Your Hands

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I will praise Him!

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Big sky country in the Red Deer River Valley, Alberta — photo by David Kitz

May all the kings of the earth praise you, LORD,
    when they hear what you have decreed.
May they sing of the ways of the LORD,
    for the glory of the LORD is great.

Though the LORD is exalted, he looks kindly on the lowly;
    though lofty, he sees them from afar.
Though I walk in the midst of trouble,
    you preserve my life.
You stretch out your hand against the anger of my foes;
    with your right hand you save me.
The LORD will vindicate me;
    your love, LORD, endures forever—
    do not abandon the works of your hands.

(Psalm 138:4-8, NIV)

You Answered Me

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I will praise Him!

christmas cold frost glass

Frost crystals — photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Of David.

I will praise you, LORD, with all my heart;
    before the “gods” I will sing your praise.
I will bow down toward your holy temple
    and will praise your name
    for your unfailing love and your faithfulness,
for you have so exalted your solemn decree
    that it surpasses your fame.
When I called, you answered me;
    you greatly emboldened me.

(Psalm 138:1-3, NIV)

Finding God

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Reading: Psalm 32
(Verses 6-7)
Therefore let everyone who is godly pray to you,
while you may be found;
surely when the mighty waters rise,
they will not reach him.
You are my hiding place;
you will protect me from trouble
and surround me with songs of deliverance
(NIV).

brown clustered flowers during day time

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Reflection
In the previous stanza of this psalm, David received the amazing dam-busting forgiveness of God. He has just experienced a wonderful release from a load of guilt. But now in his next breath he has some advice for us, and here it is. Therefore let everyone who is godly pray to you, while you may be found.

We are to pray to God while He may be found. This raises some interesting questions. Is God unavailable at times? If God cannot be found, is He hiding? Furthermore, if God is hiding, where does He hide?

At this point I feel like jumping to my feet, like a lawyer pleading a case in the court of reason, and shouting out, “I object! All that David has told us about God so far would lead us to believe that God is always close at hand. Didn’t David testify to this earlier in Psalm twenty-three? He said the following words about the LORD his shepherd: Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me. And now it seems David is telling us that there are times when God cannot be found. Which is it David? It can’t be both.”

Ah, but it is both. This is one of those great divine paradoxes. The God, who is near, even in my heart, can also be distant—light years away, both in time and space. There exists a perceived distance between us that can vary according to the state of my heart—according to the state of my relationship with God. 

The fact remains that we cannot see God though we see evidence of His handiwork all around us. Our infinitely complex human bodies and finely tuned senses are themselves proof of His existence, yet Him we cannot see. He is a hidden God, and when we walk beside Him, we walk by faith and not by sight.

Repeatedly in the scriptures we are commanded to seek after the LORD. I find this to be a rather curious expression. We cannot see God, and yet we are commanded to seek Him, as though He might suddenly appear over the next hill, or around the next bend in the road. Suddenly, in unexpected ways, we may encounter God. In reality the Psalms are all about encounters with God. Psalm nineteen began that way. Suddenly the starry hosts began talking to David about God, declaring His glory. We may pick up the Bible, and suddenly it speaks to our deepest need—the need of the moment, and we know that this is the voice of God with a word specifically for us today. Even the ungodly people of this world recognize that people encounter God. They use expressions like, “He found God,” to describe someone’s conversion to faith in Christ. The LORD invites us to play the most amazing game: Hide ‘n’ seek with God.

Response: LORD God, I want to seek after you. Show yourself to me today in this grand adventure called life. I want to have an encounter with you. I want to know what it means to be found by you. Amen.

Your Turn: Have you had a recent encounter with God? Do you sense His nearness or distance?

Confession Breaks the Dam

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Reading: Psalm 32
Of David. A maskil.
(Verses 1-5)
Blessed is the one
whose transgressions are forgiven,
whose sins are covered.
Blessed is the one
whose sin the L
ORD does not count against them
and in whose spirit is no deceit.
When I kept silent,
my bones wasted away through my groaning all day long.
For day and night your hand was heavy on me;
my strength was sapped as in the heat of summer.
Then I acknowledged my sin to you
and did not cover up my iniquity.
I said, “I will confess my transgressions to the L
ORD.”
And you forgave the guilt of my sin
(NIV).|

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Along Policeman Creek, Canmore, Alberta — photo by David Kitz

Reflection
A right relationship with God is like a flowing stream. In such a relationship there is a natural giving to God that includes prayer, worship, time spent in His word, and periods of quiet communion. In turn, God by the Holy Spirit pours His peace, love and joy into our lives. And just as trees naturally line a river bank, there is a verdant fruitfulness that comes to the believer as that refreshing current is allowed to flow.

Sin acts like a boulder hindering the flow of God’s Spirit in our lives. As more and more un-repented sin piles up, a dam is formed. Suddenly prayer stops. Worship and thanksgiving that once cascaded so freely from our lips comes to a halt. The word of God becomes boring, and we find other interests. Times of quiet communion with our Maker are replaced by a search for other things like constant entertainment.

This is the state of David’s soul at the start of this psalm. The flow has stopped. Where was the overflowing cup experience of Psalm twenty-three? At this point David’s cup—his soul—is sitting stagnant. And in the natural realm any liquid left unstirred becomes foul as time goes by. David’s spiritual life was turning into a swamp because of unconfessed sin.

But there was a turning point for David: Then I acknowledged my sin to you and did not cover up my iniquity. I said, “I will confess my transgressions to the LORD.”

Confession breaks the dam. David verbally brought his sin out in the open before God. He acknowledged what God knew all along. You see David’s sin and my sin are never hidden from God. Our sin is always in plain sight of the LORD. But praise God! He forgives the guilt of our sin when we break the spiritual dam through confession. Repentance restores the flow.

Response: LORD God, have mercy on me. I acknowledge my sin to you and do not cover up my iniquity. I need your forgiveness. I put my trust in the redeeming sacrifice of your Son, Jesus. Amen.

Your Turn: Has unconfessed sin dammed up the flow of prayer and worship in your life?

Life in a City under Siege

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Reading: Psalm 31
(Verses 21-24)
Praise be to the LORD,
for he showed me the wonders of his love
when I was in a city under siege.
In my alarm I said,
“I am cut off from your sight!”
Yet you heard my cry for mercy
when I called to you for help.
Love the LORD, all his faithful people!
The L
ORD preserves those who are true to him,
but the proud he pays back in full.
Be strong and take heart,
all you who hope in the L
ORD (NIV).

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Photo courtesy of Liz Kranz

Reflection
David ends Psalm 31 with a testimony to God’s great love and mercy. Hear his declaration: Praise be to the LORD, for he showed me the wonders of his love when I was in a city under siege. In my alarm I said, “I am cut off from your sight!” Yet you heard my cry for mercy when I called to you for help.

Are you living in a city under siege? My quick and simple answer is no. My city is not surrounded by enemy troops who are lobbing artillery shells down on my neighborhood.

While in the physical sense that may be true, in the spiritual realm my city is caught up in active warfare. Demonic forces are firing their missiles into my city. The airwaves and social media feeds are filled with smut and pornography. In the public square Christian faith is routinely mocked and under attack. Atheists trumpet their cause with bestselling books and spew venom on any who dare to embrace the faith.

Meanwhile, pop culture plunges headlong into the deep end of gothic horror, vampire blood lust and zombie self-identification. Then we stand back in amazement when those same young people lash out in murderous deranged madness as happened when five young people were stabbed to death in Calgary or in my hometown when an eighteen-year-old killed his mother.

When you shun God and bed down with the devil, many are going end up hurt. My city is under siege, but with the help and grace of God, I will not succumb to the enemies attack. I will emerge triumphant. David did. And here is his advice for you and me: Love the LORD, all his faithful people!

David’s advice is counterintuitive. Take your eyes off the enemy. Don’t be mesmerized by the devil’s devices and machinations. Your salvation comes from the LORD. Set your heart and your affections on Him. The LORD preserves those who are true to him, but the proud he pays back in full. Be strong and take heart, all you who hope in the LORD.

Response: LORD God, have mercy on me. I love you, LORD. Preserve me through the unfailing love of your Son, Jesus. I will be strong and take heart because I set my hope on you. Amen.

Your Turn: Do you feel that your faith is under attack? How do you respond? Do you cower or advance?

The Soldier Who Killed a King — Free Study Guide

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Introduction

biblical-fiction-award-2017_origWhat sets this book apart is perspective. We view the events of Passion Week—from Palm Sunday through to the resurrection—through the eyes of the Roman centurion, who at the foot of the cross made this startling confession, “Surely he was the Son of God!” See Matthew 27:54.

Many may view a work of biblical fiction as an inferior vehicle with which to look at these events. But in his ministry, Jesus regularly used stories to convey truth. Stories such as the Prodigal Son or the Good Samaritan are prime examples of this.

Award-winning author, David Kitz, has gone to great lengths to maintain biblical accuracy. This includes the direct integration of more than a hundred biblical quotes into the story text. The endnotes at the back of the book attest to this thorough integration. This study guide provides you with a complete chapter by chapter list of these references.

Study Guide Opportunities

Whether through an online study group, or a church or home-based study group, here is an opportunity to explore the biblical depth of this topic with a free 7 week study guide. This study is ideal during the Lent and Easter season, but the message of the cross and the resurrection is appropriate at any time of the year.

Study guide information is listed below. In regards to the study group experience, your feedback and comments are welcome.

For a free PDF of the study guide visit: https://www.davidkitz.ca/centurion.php/free study guide PDF

For book purchases from the author visit: https://www.davidkitz.ca/bookcart/index.php?route=product/product&product_id=50

For book purchases from other sources try Amazon or https://www.christianbook.com

Is Your God Generous?

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Reading: Psalm 31
(Verses 19-20)
How abundant are the good things
that you have stored up for those who fear you,
that you bestow in the sight of all,
on those who take refuge in you.
In the shelter of your presence you hide them
from all human intrigues;
you keep them safe in your dwelling
from accusing tongues
(NIV).

brown tree covered by snow

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Reflection
Our view of God is of crucial importance. It will greatly influence how we live our lives on planet earth. Is He a divine ogre waiting to pounce on us for the slightest transgression? Is He aloof, hard of hearing, out of touch and out of reach? Does He stand opposed to your wishes and dreams—the nagging heavenly parent who frowns at your ambitions?

That’s not David’s view of God. He saw a caring LORD of heaven and earth, who was only too eager to bless those who sought refuge in Him. That’s why David exclaims, “How abundant are the good things that you have stored up for those who fear you that you bestow in the sight of all, on those who take refuge in you.” 

Think of it for a moment: God has a storehouse of good things just waiting for you. He has prepared a whole series of blessings that He will lavish on those who fear Him. Furthermore, the LORD will bestow those blessings in the sight of all—on all who seek shelter in the shadow of His wings. Now that’s a picture of an amazing God.

What might some of those good things be? First and foremost the LORD has an abundance of mercy set aside just for you. In the midst of unparalleled disaster, as a witness to the destruction of Jerusalem, the prophet Jeremiah rightly discerned the heart of the LORD. Through the LORD’s mercies we are not consumed, because His compassions fail not. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness (Lamentations 3:22-23). For Jeremiah God was good all the time, even in disaster.

God has an abundance of love, peace and joy set aside just for you. Tap into it; drink deep of it. It’s there for you. For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking, but of righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit, because anyone who serves Christ in this way is pleasing to God and receives human approval (Romans 14:17-18).

We serve a generous God—a God of grace who extends unmerited favor to us. In your mind, stop limiting His blessings. They are abundant, they are stored up for you and they will manifest in the lives of those who love and fear Him.

Response: LORD God, thank you for all the good things you have stored up for me, both temporal and spiritual. I rejoice in you! You are a generous God lavishing mercy on me through your son, Jesus. Amen.

Your Turn: How do you see God? Do you have the right perspective of Him? Is He opposed to your wishes and dreams?

Our Times Are in His Hands

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Reading: Psalm 31
(Verses 14-18)
But I trust in you, LORD;
I say, “You are my God.”
My times are in your hands;
deliver me from the hands of my enemies,
from those who pursue me.
Let your face shine on your servant;
save me in your unfailing love.
 Let me not be put to shame, L
ORD,
for I have cried out to you;
but let the wicked be put to shame
and be silent in the realm of the dead.
Let their lying lips be silenced,
for with pride and contempt
they speak arrogantly against the righteous
(NIV).

nature photography of river near trees

Photo by Michiel Alleman on Pexels.com

Reflection (I wrote this post several years ago, but the truth it contains is just as relevant today.)
Yesterday, I made a trip to the hospital to visit a neighbor from down my street who is dying due to a brain tumor. Today, I just returned from visiting another neighbor who is dying due to heart failure. About ten years ago this medical missionary had a heart transplant. Now that heart is being rejected, and she has less than a year to live. Making matters more dire, she has a thirteen-year-old son and a ten-year-old daughter.

David spoke the truth when he declared, “My times are in your hands.” We have no idea—no certainty about what tomorrow will bring. Will it bring life or death, joy or sorrow, pain or ecstasy, excitement or boredom? Our times are in His hands. We devise our plans, but ultimately the LORD determines the outcome. Many are the plans in a person’s heart, but it is the LORD’s purpose that prevails (Proverbs 19:21).

As if to prove my point, as I went on line to search for the Proverbs passage quoted above, I discovered that Canada’s former finance minister, Jim Flaherty, had suddenly died of a heart attack. While to non-Canadian readers the name Jim Flaherty may mean nothing, to those who live in the true north strong and free Mr. Flaherty was a well-known and well-respected leader who piloted Canada through the Great Recession with consummate skill. He retired just one month before his sudden passing. Mr. Flaherty’s times were in His—that is God’s hands.

But we can easily forget that our times are in God’s hands. It is God who judges: He brings one down, he exalts another (Psalm 75:7). He determines the length of our days. That’s why the opening words of this psalm portion are so important. David asserts, “But I trust in you, LORD; I say, ‘You are my God.'”

In life and in death He is Lord. Put your trust in Him for today, for tomorrow and for all eternity.

Response: LORD God, I do not know what the future holds for me, but like David, I put my trust in you. Guide me in your ways. My life is in your hands. Amen.

Your Turn: How long do you think you have on this earth? Are you ready for eternity?