Category Archives: Evening Thoughts

Evening Thoughts (Dealing With Loss)

Author’s Note: My apologies for not putting out writings over the last several months. My spare time has been filled with an effort to put together a hymnbook for use among our people. That work has reached its initial conclusion as we went to print last week. Lord willing, the hymnal will be available for purchase at the end of the year. For those interested, the book will be called “Worship the King: An Old School Baptist Hymnal” and further information can be found at wtkhymnal.org.

Dealing With Loss

One of the oldest clich├ęs about our existence is, “Death is a part of life.” We all understand this on a conceptual level, but when the “rubber meets the road,” it affects us in different ways at different times. During this time of the year with holidays, family time, etc. death and loss seems to invade even seasons such as this. Many families – while joyous of the holiday season – recall to mind those that they have lost: either due to losing them at this time of year or in seeing certain family seats empty that once were filled. So, for a time and season that is generally filled with thanksgiving and rejoicing, how do we deal with our loss in a fashion that pleases God and strengthens our inner man?

The human mind can be a fragile thing as we build up tendencies, notions, prejudices, and fancies that many times are not really rooted in fact but rather opinion. When an older person passes away, it might seem natural to think, “Well, they lived a good life, and though we’ll miss them, it’s understandable.” When a young person passes away, it might seem natural to think, “What a tragedy! Such a loss with so much life left!” Again, this is natural to think like this, but is it really fact? Some of my deepest losses have not been the young that I’ve lost but rather the old. When those sage old vessels of wisdom depart these shores, it can leave me with a void that seems like a canyon. When lifelong encouragers are stripped from us, we feel the grief that their shining countenance and cheerful disposition will be absent from our days here.

So, if a loss can be deeply felt – regardless of the circumstance of the person – we should look for a common answer. Yes, the Bible reader can point to heaven itself. Yes, the faithful kingdom soldier can point to the love and grace of God that has overcome death so that we might have hope while we continue our pilgrimage. Recently, during this season of thanksgiving, I came to a realization that of all the things I was thankful for, I had left something glaringly out. Has that ever happened to you kind reader? Have you had the “palm smack the forehead” moment that made you feel very tiny in your thoughts and understanding?

Sometimes if we look hard enough, we can find blessings in curses and curses in blessings. They come in all forms. Wealth and goods can be a great blessing and a great curse. Good things bestowed can turn the heart to covetousness or idolatry. None of us are immune. Many times, we are thankful for the deliverances from death. Salvation from its effects. Deliverance from its end. However, I am now thankful for death itself. Yes, there is a great curse in death. It is the penalty for sin. Yet, the blessing in death is that it separates the child of God from the curses, strains, and toils of this existence.

Many years ago, I lost a 1st cousin at the ripe old age of 22. A few years later, we lost my father at the elderly age of 49. Both situations brought a multitude of statements and condolences about what a great loss it was and the tragedy of so much potential cut short. A few years ago, we lost my great uncle and my father in the ministry who were both in their 80s. In both cases, people talked about the good soldier laying his armor down. However, all those cases – though varied in many ways – are still felt to some degree by me today. My 1st cousin was one of the nicest young men I had the pleasure of knowing, my father was a great instructor with much of what I know today to his credit, my great uncle was the meekest man I ever knew, and my father in the ministry was one of the kindest and wisest men I ever had the pleasure of being around. What was common to their cases?

Some had cancer, some had heart conditions, some showed the rapid advance of age in all its ugliness. Death relieved each of them from those burdens. The pain of cancer is gone. The burden of a sin cursed existence is forever removed. Job declared that infants that never see the light of day are in a place where the “wicked cease from troubling” and the “weary be at rest.” (Job 3:15) Consider what we think is the tragedy of the death of a child. Job declares that a child in such a case cannot be troubled by the wickedness that we daily endure, and the weary soul and longing heart is in complete rest.

Years ago, a rock band posited the question, “Who wants to live forever?” Seen in the context of this life, who would? Would you want to live forever with cancer wracking your body with pain? How about a ticker that keeps you weary, out of breath, and light-headed? More importantly, would you want a perpetual life where evil thoughts and wicked desires rise up in your heart and prey on your mind? No friends, though the curse and sting of death can be bitter for us in this old world, I’m thankful for death. It is the vehicle that separates us from all these curses that we see and endure.

When God placed the flaming sword in the Garden of Eden to keep the way to the tree of life, that was a curse that man had brought upon himself. His right to that tree was banned. Yet, even that curse had a silver lining. God knew that man would attempt to eat it and live forever, so He prevented that from happening. Why? So we would not live forever down here. We will not live with these problems and deal with strife forever. Sometimes – like all I suppose – I think about what it would be like to chat with one of those sage minds once again or listen to the encouragement and kindness of those that have been so good to me. And yet, I’m glad that they aren’t plagued with cancer, bent over in a wheelchair where they can’t walk, or suffering the ravages of a stroke, senility, etc. Forever they are at rest and peace at home.

What are you thankful for? I’m supremely thankful most of all for the Almighty and what He has done for us. One of the things I’m now thankful for is that we have the deliverance that death brings. The Psalmist declared that the death of the Lord’s saints was “precious” in His sight. (Psalm 116:15) May this be precious to us as well in that while we miss the fellowship of our loved ones, we love the deliverance that has fully and mightily come unto them. A fellow minister told me one time, “I’ve gotten to the point where I have more friends up there than down here. Sometimes I feel sorry for myself that I’m still around, but I remember His grace and await the day that death knocks on my door. When it does, I’ll not only see my friends again, I’ll see Him with the perfect understanding that just doesn’t belong in a place like this.”

In Hope,
Bro Philip

Evening Thoughts (What About Those Hypocrites?)

What About Those Hypocrites?

Today’s cynical society and culture presents a myriad of problems. One of the many problems comes into focus whenever a diligent disciple tries to do their duty in inviting someone to “Come and see” how we worship and observe the house of the Master’s brethren. “Oh yeah? I don’t want to go be around a bunch of hypocrites.” Depending on my mood, I may say something like, “We’ve got room for one more.” But, I readily admit that this is not an ideal reply to such a statement. But, it does remain a problem. So, what is to be done? Something? Nothing? Doubtless, many of us have experienced frustrations when trying to do our duty with the joy it deserves.

The word “hypocrite” is an interesting word, but its application is probably slung about today by some too broadly. Without going into a long etymology of the word, it comes from a word associated in its past to describe stage actors and thespians. When someone pretended to be something they weren’t, this word came into play. When Christ condemned the Pharisees, scribes, and others repeatedly in Matthew 23, He employed this word multiple times. Those religious leaders were pretending to be many things they were not by not doing things that they commanded others to do. I also submit that they had no intention of doing those things from the start. Enjoyment was had by them in commanding others, but they themselves felt free to do as they pleased.

Thinking about this word, are churches full of hypocrites today? While I would not discount the fact that actors of various kinds have inhabited houses of worship down through the centuries, observation seems to indicate that this word is wielded from the hip like a six shooter to fire at any stumbling that people see. For example, I know that church members have struggled at times with various sins that others see. Perhaps it is letting the mouth get loose. Perhaps it is an overindulgence of the bottle. Whatever the case, they may not be “acting” and “playing church” as much as showing that they are still sinners with problems.

The Bible is replete with examples of different types of sinners. Generally, they can be put in two groups: penitent and impenitent. You could make a case that the two groups are willful and ignorant. However, even if someone is ignorant, they will be either penitent or impenitent when knowledge is gained of their stumbling. So, what do we make of these two groups? In Luke 7 Jesus encounters both kinds. He is dining in the house of Simon the Pharisee when a woman of ill repute comes in and washes His feet with her tears. Simon is shocked that Jesus – reputed to be a great teacher and prophet – would allow such a tramp to touch Him. Jesus instructs Him through a lesson about debtors. Simon’s problem was that – even though just as bankrupt in the sight of God as the woman – felt less need than the woman did. In this lesson, Simon was impenitent about his sins, while the woman felt the weight and guilt over hers. Doubtless, she was seen as worse in the eyes of society, while Simon’s standing was likely very high. But, Jesus points out that Simon’s behavior was hypocritical, while the woman exhibited faith that delivered her from the guilt and sting that she experienced.

With this example before us, do church members stumble? Certainly, and the weight of that stumbling should cause a sting within us. Does our stumbling make us hypocritical? I suggest that it does not. However, if we willfully continue in our stubborn path thinking that we are doing ok, then our stumbling has led to a road that would be termed hypocritical. Consider the life of Jesus. He was accused of being a sinner repeatedly, and yet people still came to Him. Why? His life contradicted the reputation. Reputations don’t go away immediately, but people kept seeing a manner of life that dictated that the report was not true. When the blind man was given sight by Christ in John 9, the religious rulers tried to convince him that Jesus was a sinner. The man simply stated that he knew not whether Jesus was a sinner, but what he knew was simple and clear: I used to be blind, now I see. What you’re telling me about this man is of less importance than what I know for sure.

Translated to today, we have the awesome responsibility and service of love as the church of God to live in ways that contradict the reputation that people may have of our home church or religion in general. Sadly, our stumbling sometimes confirms for those observing that they are justified in their own mind to think the way they do. Yet, what power and impact can be had when they see us actively trying to do better than we have done in the past. Paul said in I Corinthians 13 that children act, speak, and think a certain way. When people that knew me as a child saw me speak and walk, they saw the manner of life of a child. Hopefully, they don’t still see me as a child, because enough “grown up” action has been observed that I am no longer in that category. People may have seen what they deemed hypocritical behavior coming from churches, but may they see in us something that defies everything they have ever thought about the matter before.

Actors have the tall task of making people believe they are someone they are really not. Sadly, our stumbling causes people to believe we are something we are not. While perhaps not our active intent, it is an unfortunate side effect. You and I – friends – are children of the King! He has given us rich garments to wear, and adornments richer than any earthly magistrate has ever known or owned. Yes, we still have pauper’s rags in our closet too. When we adorn these tattered ruins handed down through the ages from father Adam, we may play the part of the beggar. But, let us who are of the day, put on the garments of the day along with the breastplate of faith and love coupled with the helmet of salvation. (I Thessalonians 5:6-8)

“Oh yeah? I don’t want to go be around a bunch of hypocrites?” Yes, we are sinners, regrettably so. However, we’re trying as much as we know how to do better than we’ve ever done before. No, our church isn’t perfect, but she has a perfect Ruler. We don’t get everything right, but He gave us perfect rules to follow. Come and see friend. Come and see. We’re trying. Come try with us.

In Hope,
Bro Philip