Slighted but Sincere

“Better is the one who is slighted but has a servant, than he who honors himself but lacks bread” (Proverbs 12:9). It is better to be slighted, ignored, or a nobody and yet have a servant than to pretend to be a somebody and have nothing to eat. This is a sobering warning about pride and pretentiousness. You can only live on this razor’s edge so long; eventually, you will end up impoverished.

My wife was a bank teller in an affluent township in the San Francisco Bay Area. When customers came through the doors, she often noticed the difference between those who had money and those who didn’t. Customers pulled into the bank parking lot with expensive vehicles, came through the door in designer clothing, and shuffled money around to meet debt obligations. They were barely making it.

Some customers drove into the lot with older vehicles that were still well maintained. They entered with clothing that was clean but not ostentatious. Some even took advantage of the free coffee or mints in the lobby. They came to deposit money in accounts that were burgeoning with millions of dollars.

The former group was pretentious; the latter impoverished. May the Lord help us to understand the difference.

Resort to Refuge

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Photo Credit: Sue Oesterwind

Be my strong refuge, to which I may resort continually (Psalm 71.3).

God’s Resort: A Mark of Mercy and a Manifestation of Comfort

God’s strong refuge is both a mark of His mercy and a manifestation of His comfort. I don’t deserve the privilege of the amazing access to the Father that I now have. When I find my way to
Him, I find comfort. The comfort is unsurpassable. Sometimes we don’t find such comfort because we are too busy building our own places of refuge. We hide in the shanties of pleasure or popularity. God is the only worthy refuge to whom I may resort continually. Why is He the right choice for us?

God’s Refuge: A Wise Choice

First, it’s the smart thing to do; it’s the wise choice. When you think of just the little things that consume Christians in our country, it is frightening to think of a future filled with real and persistent persecution. As a church, we must be taught to fail in our own strength. It is the most merciful thing God can do in order to teach us to resort to Him continually.

When God is our refuge, there is always hope even in the most miserable situations here on earth. Believers who resort to God during these times find that out. They are truly wise. We must conclude that it is the height of foolishness to ignore the refuge we’ve been given in God. Let us go to Him continually. Let us rely upon His omnipotent arm instead of our feeble attempts to deliver ourselves. Jeremiah wrote, “Cursed is the man who trusts in man and makes flesh his strength, whose heart departs from the LORD …Blessed is the man who trusts in the LORD, and whose hope is the LORD” (Jeremiah 17.5, 7).

It really is a no-brainer as they say. Fire and brimstone (and disease) are already coming upon the face of Sodom. It’s time to flee to our strong refuge; to resort in Him continually.

God’s Refuge: A Loyal Choice

Second, it’s the loyal thing to do. Loyalty matters to God. When you look for a refuge in anyone or anything else, God will not put up with it for long. He is a jealous God …He has perfect jealousy. The psalmist was loyal to God because he experienced the all-sufficiency of God in his weakness.

Only God has the power to protect you. Only God loves you enough to provide you with what you need instead of what you want. If we don’t read and study verses like Psalm 71.3, it would never occur to us to pray as the psalmist did. You discover who God is and what He wants to do for you by studying the Psalms. Until you know God’s character, you’ll never really understand why people are willing to forsake everything and everyone else in order to serve Him.

The wonderful thing about God’s character is that as we discover Him together, we will conclude that He indeed is our refuge through all generations (Psalm 90.1). When we flee to Him, we find comfort and security even in the midst of great chaos.

Resort to Refuge

We ought to have great pity upon those who still struggle to find a strong Refuge to whom they may resort. If they think that their troubles are burdensome now, just think of the terror that awaits them in Hell after they die! People who fight against God will one day find that they fight against the Creator of all. But if they pursue a relationship with God, they will have a peace that protects and keep their hearts for this life and the life to come.

Yet I hasten to add that those of us who have made the LORD a refuge and dwelling place may be assured that “no evil shall befall” us (Psalm 91.9-10). “The name of the LORD is a strong tower; the righteous run to it and are safe” (Proverbs 18.10). When we pray, let us ask that God be a strong refuge, to which we may resort continually (Psalm 71.3).

Seek the LORD!

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Photo Credit: Sue Oesterwind

Why do we seek the LORD and desire His deliverance in difficult times such as these? It is literally our constitution to do so. Our disposition is one of joy and gladness. When circumstances continue to spiral down into chaos, believers still find joy in reconciliation with God, secured by the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ (see 1 Peter 1.8; Philippians 4.4; 1 Thessalonians 5.16).

Our inner disposition is not only joyful but grateful. Our hope is in the LORD. He is eternal. Therefore, our hope is never ending. There is coming a day when we will truly be lost in wonder and in praise as we look into the light of His glorious grace. Yet the present inner disposition of each believer is filled with joy and gratitude. This is why we say, “Let God be magnified” (Psalm 70.4; 40.16).

Many believers are miserable and seem so distant, far from magnifying the LORD. What needs to happen in our lives when this is true? We need a flame of joy and gratitude, always burning within, rekindled.

“I am poor and needy; make haste to me, O God! You are my help and my deliverer; O LORD, do not delay.”

  1. Recognize that you are still poor and needy. The LORD delights in those who have a broken and contrite spirit. Is not His presence worthy anything we might go through in this life?
  2. Recognize that your need for a joy-filled, grateful heart. Ask God for it. Make haste in your asking. Don’t pray for deliverance from the circumstance; pray for deliverance from your wrong inner disposition.
  3. Recognize that only God is your help and deliverer. Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding. Too often, we want relief from someone or something.

Be Sound

A man is not established by wickedness, but the root of the righteous cannot be moved. An excellent wife is the crown of her husband, but she who causes shame is like rottenness in his bones (Proverbs 12:3–4).

Steadfastness. A man who is rooted and unmovable is so because righteousness. Soundness. A woman who is the crown of her husband is not undermining rot in his bones. These pictures are vivid.

Why does a woman love her husband or a man his wife? Roger Zerbe suffered from early onset Alzheimer’s disease. His wife, Becky, remembers a journal entry he left for her after a particularly troubling bout of forgetfulness. “I picked up the journal on my pillow and read:

Honey,

Today fear is taking over. The day is coming when all my memories of this life we share will be gone. In fact, you and the boys will be gone from me. I will lose you even as I am surrounded by you and your love. I don’t want to leave you. I want to grow old in the warmth of memories. Forgive me for leaving so slowly and painfully.

Blinking back tears, I picked up my pen and wrote:

My sweet husband,

What will happen when we get to the point where you no longer know me? I will continue to go on loving you and caring for you—not because you know me or remember our life, but because I remember you. I will remember the man who proposed to me and told me he loved me, the look on his face when his children were born, the father he was, the way he loved our extended family. I’ll recall his love for riding, hiking, and reading; his tears at sentimental movies; the unexpected witty remarks; and how he held my hand while he prayed. I cherish the pleasure, obligation, commitment, and opportunity to care for you because I REMEMBER YOU!”

That’s what it is to be the crown of your husband.

 

Becky Zerbe, “Penning a Marriage,” Marriage Partnership (Spring 2006), p. 22; submitted by Kevin Miller, Wheaton, Illinois

The Deep Mire of Suffering

Save me, O God! For the waters have come up to my neck. I sink in deep mire, where there is no standing; I have come into deep waters, where the floods overflow me. I am weary with my crying; my throat is dry; my eyes fail while I wait for my God. Those who hate me without a cause are more than the hairs of my head; they are mighty who would destroy me, being my enemies wrongfully; though I have stolen nothing, I still must restore it. (Psalm 69.1-4)

Prayer is emotional and raw. It is pouring out one’s soul before God. Jesus taught us to pray by example in this way. He is the One “who, in the days of His flesh, when He had offered up prayers and supplications with vehement cries and tears to [the Father] who was able to save Him from death, and was heard because of His godly fear, though He was a Son, yet He learned obedience by the things which He suffered” (Hebrews 5.7-8).

Jesus was not cut off for His own sins but for our sins. What does this tell us about our own relationship with God and with others when it comes to sin and suffering?

  1. Make sure our faith is in Jesus not ourselves.
  2. Make sure our love for the Father is motivated by the sacrifice of His Son (see 2 Corinthians 8.9).
  3. Make sure you are willing to be conformed to Christ by entering into His sufferings.

First, the suffering …then, the glory!

 

A Missionary’s Heart

Israel was a privileged nation, ruled by God Himself. Those who trusted in God within that nation once enjoyed His blessing. His face shone upon them (Psalm 67.1). God had promised Abram that he would be blessed and be made a blessing. The psalmist prays for God’s blessing upon Israel so that other nations would learn of His favor, trust Him as well, and experience salvation. Recognition of the blessings of God promotes fear and worship of God. It also gives us an eye for yet future, richer blessings under the reign of Messiah (v. 2).

When Psalm 67 was penned, the Gentiles were mostly in the darkness. They were living without God and enslaved to the god of this world. The psalmist looked forward to the first coming of the Lord Jesus Christ. He desired that the Lord’s glory be seen among His own peculiar people – both Jew and Gentile. He prayed for material and spiritual blessings. He prayed for the earth to yield her increase and all the ends of the earth fearing God. While this may come to pass to some degree in the age in which we live, it will fully come to pass when the Lord Jesus returns to commence His millennial reign.

Verses 6-7 are future tense. The same confident expectation that kept the Jewish people expecting the coming of their Messiah now belongs to both Jewish and Gentile Christians who await the second coming of the Lord Jesus Christ. It seems so difficult for us to break through the clouds of the temporal and know that the shining glory of God awaits us at any moment. Our confidence is in the glorious hope of our coming King.

Psalm 67 opens up the missionary heart of God. People who love God reach out to the lost in every age. God has always had an evangelistic remnant and He always will. “Since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse” (Romans 1.20).

If we are dedicated to Him, then we will rescue the perishing. Actually, God will rescue them through us. Compassion governs the heart of God. If we see people in temporal or physical need and it moves us, how much more so when we see their eternal, spiritual need.

God desires that we have a missionary heart. He is not willing that any unbeliever perish, but is so patient, merciful, and longsuffering that He wants all to come to repentance. Psalm 67 gives us hope that all of the nations will be governed by the One who judges righteously. It seems impossible that this would ever happen; the world is so set against God. But with God all things are indeed possible.

The fields were, are, and shall be white for harvest. The problem is want for laborers. So many people need to hear, but they will not hear without a preacher. What they hear will fall to the ground if it is not the Word of God empowered by the Spirit of God.

Our Lord Jesus teaches us, “Do you not say, ‘There are still four months and then comes the harvest’? Behold, I say to you, lift up your eyes and look at the fields, for they are already white for harvest! And he who reaps receives wages, and gathers fruit for eternal life, that both he who sows and he who reaps may rejoice together. For in this the saying is true: ‘One sows and another reaps.’ I sent you to reap that for which you have not labored; others have labored, and you have entered into their labors (John 4.35-38).

Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven (Matthew 5.16).

Soft with Showers

God answers my prayers. He is merciful to me as I truly depend upon Him. Iniquities prevail against me, but God provided atonement for those iniquities. I praise God that my sins are gone. Psalm 65 is evidence of God’s mercy and goodness in providing good things for me. Certainly I do not deserve them, but that’s what makes it grace. God sees beforehand. He knows what I need and daily provides. Sometimes His provision unfolds in expected ways; often in unexpected ways. It is always “soft with showers” (Psalm 65.10).

You make the wilderness to bloom and in the desert sand,

Provide the gentle, soaking rain, refreshing thirsty land.

You send the warming of the sun, the fragile snowflake too.

We bow in gratitude, O Lord, there is none like You.

-Craig Courtney