Monday, June 6, 2016

Whatever is Lovely

Here's another CBS devotional from a bit ago for your enjoyment!  

As many of you know, my husband returned from a 3-month deployment a few weeks ago.  As much as I would love to make deployments simply disappear forever, I do have to admit that God has always used these tough times to teach me important things about myself, Himself, and my relationship with Him.  

One thing I’ve found to be helpful during the 8 deployments we’ve made it through so far, is to pray before Ryan leaves that God would point me to a specific song, verse, or passage in the Bible to claim as my own and cling to during each deployment.  

This time around the verse I felt drawn to was Philippians 4:7-9, which says, 

“Finally brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.” 

These verses really appealed to me, because I do often struggle to control my thoughts while Ryan is gone.  As many friends have reminded me, worry is a sin, and this passage gives us a list of positive things to dwell on instead of worrying.  

What I did over the course of the deployment was choose a new concept from this list to purposefully and intentionally think about for a week.  While God showed me so much through this exercise, there’s one thing on this list that I really had to wrestle with and even adjust my thinking on.  

About half-way through the list, Paul and Timothy tell us to think about whatever is lovely.  I don’t know about you, but this adjective sticks out to me as not really fitting in with the others.  There are some pretty deep and complex concepts on this list: truth, honor, justice, purity… and loveliness?  Think about pretty things?  Don’t get me wrong-- I’m a typical girl-- I love pretty things, but to be told by scripture that thinking about beauty was a positive endeavor struck me as wrong at first.  

In all honestly, I really didn’t like that it was on this list at all.  All of negative things the Bible has to say about beauty started popping into my head:

Proverbs 31:30 says: 

“Charm is deceitful and beauty is vain, but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised” 

I remember having to memorize this one in junior high, and it’s absolutely true: our relationship with God is what makes us praise-worthy, not anything about our physical appearance.  

I also thought of 1 Peter 3:3-4, which says:

“Do not let our adorning be external—the braiding of hair and putting on of gold jewelry, or the clothing you wear—but let your adorning be the hidden person of the heart with the imperishable beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit.”

Again, this is absolutely true: the things we wear on the outside are nothing compared to what God sees on the inside.  

But as I thought, prayed, and read more about the subject of beauty in the Bible, I decided that my initial reaction--that thinking about any type of beauty is a frivolous or even sinful waste of time-- is just as un-biblical as saying outward beauty is the only thing we should think about.  

I eventually came to three conclusions:

God made beautiful things, and reveals Himself through them 

For His invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. 
(Romans 1:20)

The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims His handiwork. 
(Psalm 19:1)

We, as human beings, were made to appreciate the beautiful things God has created  

In its most basic interpretation, Song of Solomon is essentially an entire book of the Bible dedicated to a bride and bridegroom appreciating and praising the beauty they see in each other.  Admittedly, it gets a little weird... 

Your hair is like a flock of goats leaping down the slopes of Gilead.  Your teeth are like a flock of shorn ewes that have come up from the washing...
(Song of Solomon 4:1-2)

I have to assume this was a great compliment 3000 years ago.  Or maybe it just sounds nicer in Hebrew?  But the fact remains: we have been created to appreciate physical beauty, and there are 8 solid chapters of scripture that do just that.   

 Finally, as believers, when we recognize and appreciate the lovely things God has made, we are worshiping Him

“When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place, what is man that you are mindful of him, and the son of man that you care for him?... O Lord, our lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth!” (Psalm 8)

I can attest to the fact that as I made myself intentionally think about and praise God for the lovely things around me, I was continually led to worship.   

Like the Psalmist, when you see a sunrise or a sky full of stars, how can you fail to stand in awe of the One powerful and creative enough to make them?  

Or like Solomon, when I look into the beautiful faces of my husband and children, how can I not praise God for giving them to me?  How can I not marvel when I see my husband's and my features perfectly blended together, then knit inside me to form two precious little boys?

God made beautiful things, He uses them to reveal Himself to us, and for us to appreciate and praise Him in response.  Therefore, if we aren’t thinking about whatever is lovely (along with whatever is true, honorable, just, and pure) we are missing out on a chance to worship God.  

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