Written by our daughter, Mrs. Esther Phillips
Philippians 4:8 “Finally brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are noble,whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely,whatsoever things are of good report, if there is any virtue, and if there is anythingpraiseworthy, meditate on these things.”
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Now, there seems to be some kind of mental conditioning which considers, without much thought, that certain things are “beyond” or “above” us, too “intellectual” for us and only for the “brainy” professors at University.
I want to try to show you that if these things are true, noble, pure, and lovely, they must have their label of “intellectual” removed, because God is their Author. If God is the Author of all that is beautiful, noble, and lovely, and He made everyone able to appreciate His Good Work, He wants us to enjoy it. We discredit His creating us in His own Image if we don’t think we are capable of such enjoyment and appreciation.
You know, the Lord has such riches, such bounty for us to enjoy, and yet we often go for the poor and shallow substitutes that don’t feed us in Him at all. I want to show you that labels of “intellectual” and “brainy” which put things off-limits for us are false, but because we have believed them we have almost trained ourselves to be undernourished. It does not require a high I.Q. to do what God made us able to do. It does not require a Degree to enjoy beauty and loveliness. Nobility, loveliness, praiseworthiness are not optional extras for a Christian. The Bible says these are the things we should think on,these are the things of God which should be a part of our whole lives because God’s very nature is within all these good things.
Let’s have some examples then. How many of us have woken up early and heard the dawn chorus? Or listened to the babbling of a brook, or the thundering of a waterfall? Do you like it? If we stop and re-orientate our starved minds and hearts we cannot help but say, “It is wonderful, beautiful, lovely, pure,” or words to that effect. God created this world to “declare His glory”. It is a witness to Him, a reflection, and we were made to enjoy all that is good, all that He has made. We short-change ourselves when we lose the ability to appreciate these things because it means we have lost the ability to truly appreciate God Himself, the Author of these things. The Lord longs for us to grow in our capacity to receive Him and His riches. We cannot truly enjoy anything else because we were not made to be able to enjoy anything else.
So the music of the Universe is beautiful, amazing. Does the man-made music also reflect the mind of the Creator? If we can appreciate the birds, why not Bach? Bach isn’t “intellectual stuff” any more than is a babbling brook. We’ve just been conditioned to think so. Yes, we might need to re-learn the ability to enjoy Bach when we’ve been used to something sodifferent, but that doesn’t require brains any more than learning to stop and listen to a robin singing. Both just require patience, and the desire to glorify God in our lives. In fact, once you start re-training your ear to appreciate beauty, the other stuff pales into insignificance. But like junk food to our bodies, our ears have adapted to the cheap and nasty so that it can take time to find we can digest God’s best in the true and pure and lovely.
Another example is a little easier. How many of you have seen a sunset beautiful beyond description? Or watched thewaves crash against rocks, or looked at the view from a hill-top? Do you like it? Again, if we stop we find the Lord has gone to great lengths to provide us with a wonderful world to live in . He has done it for us and so often we don’t take time to appreciate what He has done for us for our enjoyment and uplift. But it doesn’t require a PhD to enter into that delight, to think on these things. Likewise, when the Lord’s own artistic nature is reflected in Art as well as Music, we can enjoy it to the glory of God. Again, it can take time to re-orientate our tastes to what we were made for, but it doesn’t require academic powers, it requires a simple love of God in all His richness. Anyone can appreciate that from a child watching an ant to a grandmother stroking a cat.
You know, our hearts and minds are fully capable of receiving so much, all the time, and yet we have crowded out God in life because we do not realise that He is interested in everything, and wants to be a part of everything. A child naturally embraces life, is interested, curious, and delights in all these little wonderful things, feeling sand between the toes on thebeach , following a crab and laughing at its funny walk, chasing a butterfly around the garden, creeping up on a bird having a dust bath, holding his breath so as not to frighten it away. But do we allow our children the time and environment to enjoy what they naturally enjoy, or do we start training them young to crowd out God with noise and T.V?
What a child is naturally, we can again discover. A misconception is that paddling in the sea and chasing the waves is not as important to God, or is less “Christian” than being in Church. This is not true. Picking flowers and smelling their fragrance is as “Christian” as praying. Going for a walk is as “Christian” as fellowship meetings. Digging a vegetable garden is as “Christian” as reading the Bible. Enjoying a good swim is as “Christian” as preaching the Gospel. Playing a fun game of volleyball is as “Christian” as singing hymns. Learning that 2 + 2 = 4 is as “Christian” as reading about Noah’s Ark. Enjoying a good meal is as “Christian” as the Communion service, or Breaking Bread together. There is no distinction, for all truth is God’s, all beauty is His, all loveliness, all purity, all nobility, and all that is praiseworthy. He enjoys us finding Him in the exertion and satisfaction of a hard job well done as much as in our worship in Church, for both are worship. He delights in us as we gaze in awe at the stars on a cold, clear winter’s night as much as when we pray, for both are prayer.
As in the minute-by-minute passage of our lives, our thoughts and activities should be towards the best, the richest in God, in beauty and nobility, (which of course includes sacrifice and doing right in the fire of trials), so also should our formal church activities be founded in all that is true, good and lovely because we need both. We need a good walk in the country in springtime, dwelling on the evidences of new growth, the varied colours, the busy-ness of the birds building their nests, as much as we need to pray. We need to feed our minds and hearts with good, noble, beautiful books as much as we need to read the Bible. We need to be exhilarated by a sunrise as much as we need to worship God in fellowship. We need to be able to appreciate and delight in Vivaldi’s “Four Seasons” as we need to meet in fellowship.
So in everything let us reach for the highest God is offering us. Let us think, meditate, and dwell on, in every area of our lives, that which is godly, that which we were made to enjoy, to understand, to be uplifted by, to be challenged by, to live by. Let us in our music, in our reading matter, in our TV and Video viewing, in all our activities, in our church, in our dress, in our eating, our conversation, our standing up and sitting down, live in the fullness of God’s bounty, so that whatsoever things are true, noble, just, pure, lovely, of good report, virtuous, and praiseworthy, inasmuch as they are part of God’s nature, let the Lord fill every area of our lives and let us enjoy it to the full!