When I was in second grade I spent my recesses searching the playground’s pea gravel for agates. These rocks were precious finds but not so uncommon that I didn’t often travel home with weighted coat pockets. I collected rocks at the beach and occasionally at a souvenir shop. I had a clear jar of interesting river rocks filled with water to keep the rocks colorful. It fascinated me that dry rocks looked dull until the magic of water brought their colors to life.
I remember specific rocks from my childhood collection, though I don’t have it anymore: the hotdog-shaped rock broken in two, the chair-like one with a perfectly rounded seat as if a ball were sitting on it when it was formed, a ball-like one that fit perfectly in the “chair”, a purple polished one from a friend, two that came from a neighbor girl, one green and one orange from a souvenir shop, a cube that had a streak of white across its black face that reminded me of seagull poop along the sides of an ocean cliff, the small slab of obsidian that I’d cut my finger on. Each one had its own exquisite beauty.
That’s what lovely meant when I looked up the dictionary definition – exquisite beauty.
This Yeah, Whatever series is all about Philippians 4:8: Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.
The intent is to think of concrete examples for each so the command does not stay abstract. (Click the bold words to read prior posts.)
This is why I’ve designed a note card for each word so that you can take a minute to jot down an example or thought for each word and keep them in a place that will encourage you when you see them. (Or add to them as you think about it.) Click the note card below to download the .pdf. It’s formatted to fit a 4×6 card.
By thinking of specific examples, we are fulfilling the command of the verse in the present and we are helping ourselves in the future. The sunflower is in the background because it is Look Up Sometimes’ logo. Sunflower sounds a lot like Son-follower and like a sunflower looks up and follows the sun, we want to look up and follow God’s Son, Jesus.
Also, if you’re already a subscriber, you have access to the free printable I created “8 Anxiety Busters Worksheet” which is the entire Philippians 4:8 verse with a line for each of the words for you to fill in. Mine is hanging in a cheap frame in my bathroom with a dry erase marker on top. If you’re not already a subscriber, look on the right side bar and subscribe under the photo of the printable you’ll receive (along with other free printables I’ve created for you!)
Exquisite beauty sounded like newborn babies, flowers, and sunsets to me. And while those things are all great, it felt like I was just making stuff up. (That writing got round-filed.) Did it really matter that I didn’t entirely understand one of the words? There were seven others… (Tell me I’m not the only one who thinks like that.) Except then what would I share with you??
My husband handed me Young’s Analytical Concordance to the Bible. I’ll spare you the details, but the highlights are noteworthy. For example, this is what lovely in the context of Philippians 4:8 does not mean:
- Desirability. As in all the “lovely” references to queens or in Song of Solomon. *Ahem* (No further explanation needed.)
- Loved. There’s a reference to King Saul and his son Jonathan being lovely in 2 Samuel 1:23 (KJV) that basically meant they were greatly loved by the people. Popular royalty.
- Doting. This was the hardest to wrap my head around, but God tells a prophet, Ezekiel, in Ezekiel 33:32 (KJV) that the people who hear his God-given messages are enthralled with his delivery, like listening to a lovely singer or instrument player, but they’re totally ignoring the message.
What’s the point?
I think it’s that God wants us to train our thoughts to rise higher than the transience of desirability, popularity, and even skillful, doting acts of obedience. Each of the three examples above were described as “lovely” in the KJV, and each of the three examples focused on the qualities or achievements of humans. God cares too much about our mental health to want us to train our thoughts to settle on things that are fickle or fade.
The word “lovely” as it’s used in Philippians 4:13 only occurs once in the New Testament (KJV) and means: acceptable or pleasing. I think it’s safe to say that means those things which are acceptable or pleasing to God.
To do what is right and just is more acceptable to the Lord than sacrifice. Proverbs 21:3
May these words of my mouth and this meditation of my heart be pleasing in your sight, Lord, my Rock and my Redeemer. Psalm 19:14
It’s clear God is after our obedience. And we’ve all shot that opportunity to pieces somewhere along the way. Which makes the loveliness of Jesus Christ all the more magical.
God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. 2 Corinthians 5:21
If you’ve never accepted God’s free gift to you – His Son, Jesus Christ – all you do is ask. And then let Him be in charge of your life. You’ll never regret it.
But the same helplessness we have to save ourselves is the same helplessness we have to make ourselves obedient after we’re saved. We never cease needing Jesus, our solid Rock.
From the end of the earth will I cry unto thee, when my heart is overwhelmed: lead me to the rock that is higher than I. Psalm 61:2
Does Jesus feel dull or dry to you? He did to me for a long time. I mean, I tried to be the good Sunday school girl, but in college when the good influences were few, I made a royal mess of my life. Then I started reading the Bible for myself. Suddenly parts of it felt highlighted as though they were written just for me.
That’s the power of the Holy Spirit – the Living Water. He can splash living water over the solid Rock and enliven whatever feels dry or dull into something magical.
He is the Rock, his works are perfect, and all his ways are just. A faithful God who does no wrong, upright and just is he. Deuteronomy 32:4
The Lord is my rock, my fortress and my deliverer; my God is my rock, in whom I take refuge, my shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold. Psalm 18:2
“Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock.” Matthew 7:24-25
Incidentally, my favorite hymn is Christ the Solid Rock. Did you know the author Edward Mote originally titled it “The Immutable Basis for a Sinner’s Hope”? I much prefer the original title! I struggled with my salvation for a season after making that royal mess and this song embodies loveliness to me. I didn’t know the original title then, but this song helped me hang on at my lowest point.
Truly lovely helps the lowly.
How will you meditate on Christ’s loveliness this week? Do you enjoy collecting rocks? Or painting them or photographing them or climbing them? Maybe you enjoy listening to music and want to listen to On Christ the Solid Rock? (Here’s my favorite version by Arlen Salte https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=c6Bjoz2HdXU) Who do you know who needs a reminder or an explanation of why Jesus is so exquisitely lovely? Where in your own life do you need to ask the Holy Spirit to come and splash His Living Water on that which seems dull or dry so you can see the beauty of God in a new or renewed way?