All posts by Philip

Evening Thoughts (Do Nothing?)

“Do Nothing?”

All my life, I have been blessed to live in the church: being brought as a babe, a member for 30 years, and a minister for the last 15. There likely has never been a greater charge leveled at the Lord’s bride in my lifetime – or perhaps ever – than, “If I believed what you believed, I wouldn’t do anything” or “I’d just live any old way that I wanted to.” Paul dealt with a similar mentality. (Romans 3:1-8) When someone is faithful in their belief to the doctrines of grace, the sovereignty of God, and the utter inability of man by nature to please God, this seems to be the natural and common reaction from people in general. In years past when I was younger and hotter-headed, I would try to draw and quarter my opponent with verbal arguments. As I got older and wiser, I tried to hone and shape my points and illustrations that made easy to follow corollaries. As I have gotten even older – perhaps wiser but certainly more tired – I have generally smiled and said something to the effect, “I am living like I want to.” I do wish I had the silver bullet that would answer this charge and cure this thinking.

Scripture reveals several points that we might think of as doing nothing. Sometimes it talks of rest, other times of being still, and yet others at waiting. In nature, stillness might indicate nothing’s happening. In life, rest and waiting could yield periods of zero activity. However, looking at the rich foundation that we have through His amazing grace, each of these seemingly do nothing “actions” actually tends to great and directed behavior.

Rest in Scripture bespeaks less of sleep but rather in stopping an activity because of its completion or fulfillment. God rested the 7th day from His labours not because He needed sleep or was weary but because the work of creation was complete. We are told that He will rest in His love. (Zephaniah 3:17) As a Being who rests Himself, He also affords us opportunities to rest as well. Questions. When God rested from creation, did He do nothing? When He rests in His love, does He do nothing? The creation remains because He still upholds it by the word of His power. With His love abiding, He rests in the perfection of it that is still ongoing. Simply put, God’s rest is not a license of no activity but a rich example of how rest is put in proper practice.

You and I need rest in ways that do not affect the Almighty. The rest we can take helps clear the mind, uplift the soul, and revive the spirit. When Satan and the world unceasingly assault our minds and hearts, we need to rest in the same things that God has and does. Does God love us? Will He always love us? Yes and yes. (Jeremiah 31:3) When all around goes off kilter, the anchoring point centers around an unchanging attribute of God that abides continually. As the poet said, “When change and decay in all around I see, O Thou who changest not, abide with me.” We can rest like this when we stand as we should and walk as we should. (Jeremiah 6:16) This rest is found rather than just given, and we have been afforded multitudes of opportunity to rest in God’s abiding steadfastness to us that we can actually find more and more.

Living in this hurry-scurry world, waiting is something that none of us enjoy doing. We hate long lines, and evidences of patience in this world seem to wan in so many ways. Through the years, I get tickled when I watch my children look out the windows waiting for company when they are expected. It reminds me of us as children. After what seems like forever for them, they plead, “When will they be here? It’s taking forever!” Silly me used to encourage them to read a book or something to take their mind off it! Distractions abounded, and it backfired on me. So, I tried a different tact. I started asking them questions about what they thought we would do when the company arrived. With eyes that lit and words that soared, they described in detail what they hoped to do with company. In this way, their wait was filled with thoughts of coming happiness and “speeding” it along till it happened.

Scripture encourages us to wait on the Lord amongst other things. (Isaiah 40:31) This waiting time is not a “thumb twiddling” session as many think when picturing waiting – such as the doctor’s office. It is also not a free opportunity to indulge in the distractions of the world. Rather patient waiting is an act of faith that what God has promised, He is able also to perform. Rather than tap our foot mumbling, “Where in the world is He?”, we simply put our minds and hearts into the gear of what we expect to do when with Him. If we are looking to meet Him in His courts of worship, what kind of time will we have? If we are seeing our own mortality and nearing our end, what kind of time will we have in His home? If we are about to face some serious difficulties, temptations, and strife, what kind of battle will we fight side-by-side? Waiting upon Him is not waiting “for” Him. Some have the idea that waiting upon the Lord is like waiting for someone to get back from town. We are with Him, in Him, and on Him right now. We move because He moves, and we stop because He stops. That is truly waiting “upon” Him.

Stillness is perhaps the hardest of these three areas since even people “doing nothing” are rarely doing nothing. Minds can race, hearts can melt, and bodies in motion tend to stay in motion. My ears still hurt today when I think about thumpings they took for not being still in church. The Psalmist told us to “be still” and Moses told the congregation to “stand still.” (Psalm 46:10, Exodus 14:13) In both cases, the stillness was not for no purpose. It was to derive benefit from something that could not be attained otherwise. Had the children of Israel tried to flee from the banks of the Red Sea – even though there was nowhere to go – beholding the great sight would have been out of view. The command to stand still was for the benefit to see this great sight. When we aren’t still in our spirits, we can forget that He is God like we will when we are still. Stillness in this case instructs us to remember how great and mighty He truly is. No matter the mountain in front of you, He’s higher. No matter the demon battling you, He is stronger. And no matter the unfaithfulness of our own core, He is faithful in all things to the end.

In rest, waiting, and stillness, we are not invited nor encouraged to do nothing. Rather, we are “taking a pause” from the rat race of life in all her courses to engage in something fruitful and profitable. Rest for our souls is found in standing in the ways to see and asking for the old paths. Waiting upon the Lord tends to renewed strength to continue on in this slalom. Being still, helps remind us of what is important and where our benefits truly come from. Take a pause friends. Contemplate on His goodness and recall to mind His salvation. Breathe slowly and listen to the beats of your own heart and reflect that our times are in His hand. In Him we live, move, and have our being. When dark clouds come and temptations arise, center the mind on things of light, and the darkness will flee from it.

Friends, we have the best thing in the world to rest in. We have the greatest strength to wait upon, and we have the highest thoughts to contemplate during stillness. I sometimes wonder how I would do if I had means. It’s something I don’t ponder often or for too long as I don’t expect to ever live it. However, what would someone call you if you had means, money, and opportunity and yet lived like a pauper? Would they call you a miser? Scrooge? Covetous? We may not have silver and gold beloved, but what we have is the greatest treasure this side of heaven. We have the knowledge of eternal life, how we got it, and place to fervently worship Him because of it. When I put on the beggar’s clothes of this world, I really am doing nothing: nothing of real value and consequence. When I feel sorry for myself or incessantly accuse myself, I am doing nothing that amounts to a whole lot in the end. However, when my rest, waiting, and stillness centers on His unshakeable character, His boundless love, and His steadfast promises, I feel like a rich babe making a withdrawal from an ocean of funds. As another poet said about our reaction to the glorious work He performed for us and to us, “Then give all the glory to His holy name, to Him all the glory belongs. Be yours the high joy to sound forth His great fame, and crown Him in each of your songs.

In Hope,
Bro Philip

Evening Thoughts (Saved From Death = Boundless Mercy)

Saved From Death = Boundless Mercy

No doubt many of my kind readers read the title and thought something along the lines of, “Well this will be a PB 101 writing on God’s sovereign grace and salvation of sinners from hell to heaven’s pure world.” While we rejoice to know that the Bible teaches that God did indeed redeem His family from the curse of sin, death, hell, and the grave to an eternity of majesty and excellence, this writing is not about that. Rather, my mind has become fascinated with a thought that proves to me just how little I know about the depths of God’s mercy. We know they’re new every morning. Right? Right! (Lamentations 3:22-23) We know His love never ends. Right? Right! (Jeremiah 31:3) So with knowledge of a never-ending love with a constant refreshing of mercy, how do we shortchange it? We may understand – in concept – the breadth and length of it, but I have failed time and again to give anything close to an accurate depth of it. So, kind reader, will you take a plunge with me?

Starting at the top, we understand that every sin of every child of God was laid upon the lovely head of our Saviour when He hung on Calvary’s cruel cross. (I Peter 2:24) Just typing that sentence is hard to bear, and the scope of it is completely incomprehensible to me. Yet, it is true that an innumerable host of sins from an innumerable host of people was borne by One some 2,000 years ago. Yes, that is mercy beyond compare, and grace far more abounding over sin! Because of that, we shall live with Him in glory some sweet day. “Wait! Wait! You said this was not going to be a PB 101 writing, right?” Right! Consider this groundwork. Because all of our sins were laid upon Him, He has already paid for things we have not yet done. Our future transgressions are already covered since He has the foresight to understand all that needed to be paid for. (Hebrews 4:13)

So, let’s lay some more groundwork to get to the thought that has fascinated and itched all along our brain. Sometimes as we age, we can look back and see ways that the Lord blessed us, spared us, etc. that we may not have known at the time. The only way I am alive today and made through my “dicey years” is by the grace of God. Like Paul, I continue to this very hour by that help. (Acts 26:22) Could we possibly know how many times our lives have been spared from natural death by God’s grace and providence? David said there was but a step between him and death. Every moment, breath, and heartbeat could be the last. On the highways and byways of life, jeopardy is on every hand. Yet, God’s mercy is seen daily when we live to rise for the day and lay down to close a day.

During my teenage years, I did a lot of really foolish things. The Lord spared me. By sparing me, the following has happened. Hopefully, I’ve learned from those years, but since my teenage years, I’ve done more foolish things. None of those foolish things would have happened had my life ended years ago. By sparing my life, the Lord took on more debit in my life because my sins have continued as well. Careless, idle words, wicked passions, hurtful actions, and the like have mounted over the years. All of those would be non-existent if my life had ceased! The Lord spared my life knowing full well how many more sins would come forth! He did it anyway, and further still, His Son died for them all those years ago!

Consider when King Hezekiah was told he would die. (Isaiah 38) Through prayer and supplication, the Lord turned the sickness and added 15 years to his life. The great sin that Hezekiah committed in the very next chapter (Isaiah 39) would not have happened. The son that reigned after him (Manasseh) was very wicked. This son reigned for 55 years (the longest in Judah’s history). How old was he when he took the throne? 12! Had Hezekiah’s life ended, Manasseh’s would never have happened! Therefore, the debit of not only Hezekiah’s future sins but also all of Manasseh’s wicked reign were taken on by God by sparing Hezekiah’s life. What depths of mercy and heights of love!

When the Apostle Peter was sinking in the waves of the sea, he cried out for the Lord to save him (Matthew 14). The Lord did. If he had not spared Peter, there would not have been 3 denials from Peter in the night of Jesus’s betrayal. All of Peter’s future thoughtless words would not have happened. The Omniscient One knew all this would come, and yet He spared Peter regardless. The times that the Apostles were in jeopardy in the book of Acts and received a natural deliverance is a testament to God’s boundless mercy. Yet, that mercy came with the knowledge of multiplied transgressions held in future days.

More examples could be given, but kind reader how deep are these depths? The songwriter once said of God’s love, “Could we with ink the ocean fill, and were the skies of parchment made, to write the love of God above would drain the ocean dry, nor could the scroll contain the whole though stretched from sky to sky.” Another songwriter wrote, “This Cornerstone, this Solid Ground, Firm through the fiercest drought and storm. What heights of love, what depths of peace, When fears are stilled, when strivings cease.” I have stood amazed at the mercy of God for quite some time now. However, the more I learn of it, the more I wonder how much of it I really understand or even comprehend.

If you knew what someone would do to you – good and bad – for the rest of your life, it would likely affect your present actions towards them. Right? Right! If you knew that someone’s life could be better off by passing from the scene before they torched their own memory and good legacy, you might pray for such a deliverance. Right? Right! Yet, God knowing all these things and more, continually takes on the extra debit every moment of time He spares our life, breath, and being. What a boundless storehouse of mercy and love. To know the fulness of things like this in heaven with be grounds for ceaseless and perfect praise, which we will spend an eternity giving Him. May we begin anew to thank Him for kindnesses even today that exceed anything we could possibly comprehend. As another songwriter said, “Hallelujah! What a Saviour!”

In Hope,
Bro Philip