Better Than Life

Psalm 63:3, God's love, TruthToday I want to go back to a verse of scripture that I have written about before.  Sometimes God reveals new truths to us through verses we have read many times before, and that is the case here with Psalm 63:3.

Psalm 63:3 is a wonderful statement of praise written by King David when he was wandering in the wilderness of Judah.  David makes a statement of intent to praise God because of his love, and although it is unwritten, despite his circumstances.  David recognizes God’s love and care as being absolute and unshakable and instead of worrying about what tomorrow might bring, he chooses to praise God instead.  And so should we all!

Because Your lovingkindness is better than life,
My lips will praise You. Psalm 63:3 (NASB)

God brought to my mind recently the first phrase of this verse, “your lovingkindness is better than life”, and an amazing truth came out of it.  Taking a look at life, we are prone to letting our current circumstances and our current location become our foundation.  We get comfortable with where we are living, the things we have and the people we spend time with.  In general, we cling to what we know and shun uncertainty.

But if we are to take God’s word as truth, and we should, then Psalm 63:3 tells me that God’s care and God’s love is better than any of those things and indeed, better than all of them put together!  In other words, whatever God has for me, be it life or death, will be better than anything that I call “mine” here on this earth.

While it is true that we are called to be good stewards of the resources that God has provided for us, we do wrong when they begin to define us.  They, like us, are temporary and secondary to that which God has for us and His work on earth.  Sometimes, we need to “loosen our fingers” and allow God to direct us without worry or care about the things we own or the money we make.  God is faithful and will always provide what we need.

Going back to our verse of scripture, we are assured that His lovingkindess is better than life and because of that we can be confident that whatever we give up for the sake of God will be far, far less than that which God gives us in return.  Let us be reassured that God’s way is the best way and be comforted by His Word and the truth therein.

 Author’s note – On a personal level, I find this truth and this verse of scripture to be extremely liberating when I apply it to my life.  My affection for “stuff” weakens and my love for God grows in response.  How amazing is that?

From A Certain Point Of View

truth, The Bible, teaching, instructionThere’s a movie quote that is relatively famous among folks from my generation.  It’s from the movie “Star Wars” and when Luke Skywalker accuses Obi-wan Kenobi of lying to him about the death of his father (who has become Darth Vader) Obi-Wan responds (and I’m paraphrasing here) “your father ceased to be Anakin Skywalker when he turned to the dark side and took the name Darth Vader.  So what I told you was true, from a certain point of view”.

Far be it from me to teach that truth is relative to our own point of view.  That would be the opposite of what the Bible tells us about truth (that it is absolute and resides in God alone).  However, I believe it is accurate to say that our point of view can be an obstruction in our search for truth and that without the proper perspective we will never attain that which is God’s best for us.

In our example above, Obi-wan chooses to practice deception and because Luke trusts him, he believes the lie that Obi-wan tells him about his father.  While this is an example from fiction, it has relevance to reality.  In life, without proper instruction and guidance we too can very easily trust in the wrong people and the wrong things.  Some of us were simply never taught the truth and are therefore in ignorance.  Others have been taught to believe in lies and actively practice evil because of it.  Regardless of the cause, the effect is the same; lives lived in opposition to the truth of God’s Word.

Even among believers this is a common practice.  I think of the many well-meaning parents out there who love their kids and teens but nevertheless allow them to see movies and television shows that teach a morality that is anything but Godly and to listen to music that encourages rebellion and selfishness.  The message that these young folks are getting is often times much louder and stronger from the worldly side than it is from the little bit of Bible instruction that most believers are giving their kids these days.

Ultimately, we are responsible for those that we influence.  And if we know and have been given the truth then we have a duty and a privilege to first live it and to secondly teach it to those around us.  When we fail in this task the entire body of Christ suffers, and when we succeed the body of Christ is built up in unity.

What then is our answer?  How can we, wherever we are in our walk with the Lord, make sure that our point of view is in agreement with God’s?  The first step would be to pray early and pray often.  Take it to the Lord, always!  The second step is to make sure that we study and get to know God’s Word, the Bible.  We need to read it, we need to pray over it, we need to listen to those who teach it and we need to actively seek out those who would encourage us to learn it.

The fact is, God wants us to know Him and His truth.  He does not desire to hide Himself or the truth of His word from anyone.  But until we are ready to receive His truth and agree with His point of view we will never have His best for us.  We need to pray and ask God to help us to know Him better and for the courage and strength to live by faith according to His Word and the truth contained therein.

The Great Untruth

truth,lies,doctrine,errorEvery one of us, at some point in our lives, buy into one or more fundamental untruths.  I call them fundamental untruths because they shape how we live our life and what we are basing our reality on.  Satan is called the father of lies and it is his intention that we never seek the truth, never discover how badly we have been deceived and never realize the damage that is being done by believing his lie.

Fundamental Untruth 1.  There is no God.

Millions upon millions of human beings on this planet believe this lie.  “For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made, so that they are without excuse.” (Romans 1:20 NASB)  God’s word tells us that His attributes, eternal power and divine nature are built in to His creation so that anyone who is honest with themselves cannot help but see and believe in Him.  Nevertheless, we humans are easily distracted and easily convinced of that which is untrue and those who believe this lie will spend eternity separated from their loving Creator.

Fundamental Untruth 2.  I can come to God on my own terms.

There are many variations to this untruth but they all boil down to one underlying deception.   Jesus said, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me.” (John 14:6 NASB)  The Bible makes it very clear that unless we accept our sinful condition and our absolute powerlessness to fix ourselves and put our faith in Jesus Christ then we cannot come to the Father.  It is only by God’s grace that we are given the opportunity for salvation.  Any attempt on our part to come to God apart from the saving work of Jesus Christ will be met with failure.

This lie shows up in religions that stress works as a path to God or to enlightenment; it shows up in cultures that stress individual achievement and acclimation over Godly humility; it shows up in human pride when we refuse to admit our sinful condition.  But it all leads to the same place: separation and damnation.

Fundamental Untruth 3.  I’m saved, that’s enough.

Salvation is the first step in our journey.  It is not the destination and it is not a place to stop and rest.  If the evil one cannot keep us from being born again then the next best option for him is to keep us from ever discovering God’s call to good works for our lives.  Satan wants to keep us distracted, beaten down and ignorant; any way and any thing he can use to detour us from living in harmony with our creator he will bring against us.  “Be of sober spirit, be on the alert. Your adversary, the devil, prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.” (1 Peter 5:8 NASB)

This untruth is an easy one to fall into because unless we are discipled properly after accepting Jesus and we get the training we need from wiser and more mature believers we will always be easy prey for the  father of lies.  An untrained, undiscipled believer is like a soldier who has never been to bootcamp or given a weapon suddenly being called on to go to a battlefield and fight.  Either way, injury and defeat are likely.

Fundamental Untruth 4.  Going to church is a waste of time.

Going to a church where the Bible is not taught and Jesus Christ is not made the focus will actually be a waste of time.  Assembling together with a body of believers who are born again, serious about their relationship to Jesus and about Bible study is absolutely vital.  “not forsaking our own assembling together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another; and all the more as you see the day drawing near.”  (Hebrews 10:25 NASB)  The Bible specifically warns against not assembling together; i.e. not going to church.  This does not necessarily mean that you have to physically go to a church building; in some parts of the world and in the early days of Christianity, “church” was held in someone’s house.  It isn’t where you go that’s important.  What is important is why you go, who you meet with, and what you do with your time while there.  God knows we need the encouragement and support of our fellow believers and we are designed to work together.

If you find yourself currently believing one of these fundamental untruths, then I pray that you would seek the truth by first seeking the author of truth.  The best cure for not falling into deception is to know the truth by knowing Jesus Christ and reading His book, God’s word.  If you once believed one of these fundamental untruths, as I once did, and have since found or been shown the truth, then thank God for His grace and mercy, as I do.  “I have no greater joy than this, to hear of my children walking in the truth.” (3 John 1:4 NASB)

 

 

Hidden Wisdom from 1987

wisdom,truth,advice

Thanks, Dad!

During a recent visit by my parents, my Dad handed me a small piece of paper.  He found this piece of paper while cleaning out his Bible recently and the date on the top of one side said “January 28, 1987”.  On the back side are sermon notes from that night’s message.

Dad said he remembered taking these notes and deciding to keep them.  They obviously meant something to him and reading the list he made I can see why.  I doubt he had me in mind while he was taking these notes but I am grateful that he thought about me when he rediscovered them.  Isn’t it amazing how God can use something we do to bless and encourage someone else even 26 years later?

Here is what Dad wrote all those years ago.

1. Love others just the way they are.

2. Love yourself just the way God made you.

3. Forgive yourself and free yourself from guilt.

4. Forgive any and every person that has wronged you.

5. Take the initiative in solving problems.

6. Seek to learn valuable lessons from conflict.

7. Develop a healthy sense of humor.

8. Refuse to accept defeat.

9. Set a limit on down time.

10. Be thankful, always.

11. Turn lemon frustration into lemonade opportunities.

12. Refuse to let little things ruin your day.

This is a list to live by.  Reading it now, in 2013, just goes to show that wisdom and truth do not change with the times.  What was true for God’s people then is still true for God’s people now; we just need to continue putting that truth into practice.

I hope that reading Dad’s list has blessed and encouraged you the same way that it blessed and encouraged me.  Let’s continue to gain wisdom and understanding together and commit to living a life that pleases God.

Are you currently practicing all of the items on Dad’s list?

How Do You Give Light to Your House?

Jesus Christ is the Light of the World - I want to be a lightWhat does it mean to you to “give light to your house”?  That phrase is the key thought for Matthew515.com and comes directly from the verse Matthew 5:15.

For me, it means I must live a life that promotes the Truth, practices encouragement and prioritizes generosity.

God is truth.  I recognize Him as the author of all truth, the creator and sustainer of all life and the author of the Bible by inspiration of His Holy Spirit.  Without Him nothing exists and my existence is based solely on His grace and His generosity.  I am saved out of a life of spiritual death into a new life in Jesus Christ by His grace through my faith in Him.

This is the truth that I must promote.  I must say it and I must show it with my actions.  I am not perfect; far from it.  I have a long way to go in my knowledge and maturity as a Christian but I believe that God is faithful and will provide that which I need to do His work.  I am a work in progress.

I want to be an encouragement to those I come in contact with.  I want to, with smiles, kind words, handshakes, friendly hugs, pats on the back and a humble heart, encourage and build up not only my brothers and sisters in Christ but also those who are lost and in need.

This is not easy but it is worth it and I take it seriously.  There is so much need for encouragement in our world today.  My hope and prayer is that by being one who encourages others a brother or sister in Christ may be strengthened in their faith and a lost person may see the love of God in me.  This is a worthy cause and blesses me as much, or more, than it blesses the one who is receiving the encouragement.

I am learning to prioritize generosity.  In this, my wife is a great example.  She is a natural gift giver and spends much of her time doing things for others.  She inspires and encourages me by her actions and I love her for it.

This does not come as easily to me as it does to her.  I am more likely to be found with my nose in a book (or on the computer, truth be told) and can be rather oblivious at times.  I am training myself to try and notice the needs of the people around me and to be a cheerful giver of my time and resources.

I truly believe that one of the reasons that God has so blessed Vicki and I is because of her faithfulness in being a cheerful giver.  She is the holder of the checkbook in my house and has over the course of the last 14 years of marriage, with limited resources, always given above and beyond the tithe while keeping us in the black each month.  It has not always been easy but  we have always had the money to meet any needs that came our way.

I praise the Lord for my wife and for how He has worked in my family over the years and I want to follow in the example of my generous (and wise) spouse.

To give light to those I come in contact with I must continue to promote the truth, practice encouragement and prioritize generosity.  This is the practical application of the light spoken of in Matthew 5:15 as I see it.

How are you applying Matthew 5:15 in your life?  What does it mean to you to “give light to your house?”  As always, I welcome your comments and would love to hear what God is doing in your life.