An Anchor for the Soul

[This article was originally featured in our hometown newspaper, The Seymour Tribune].

What does God promise his children?  Help for today?  Eternal life for the future? Healing from disease? A boat for the lake?

How we answer these questions will determine how we approach life and God. Our prayers, our plans, and our personal finances will reflect our answer, or non-answer, to this question: What does God promise those who believe in him?

Hebrews 6:19 gives one answer.  In a sermonic letter given to first century Jews, the author of Hebrews states, “We have this as a sure and steadfast anchor of the soul, a hope that enters into the inner place behind the curtain.”  Using imagery from the Old Testament, this statement conveys an idea of security and access that God gives to those who continue to trust in Christ.

Notice a couple things.  First, the anchor is sure and steadfast.  Unlike the insurance plans or storm shelters we buy for our protection, this anchor comes without any riders or restrictions.  Indeed, it is not a thing which might break; it is a divine person whose pierced hands hold those who believe on him (John 10:29-30).

Second, the anchor is connected behind the curtain.  This curtain refers to the temple veil that hid the presence of God from the Jewish priests in first century Jerusalem.  Thus, while Jesus was fully human, the fact that he could freely pass behind the veil speaks of his eternal deity.

Indeed, Jesus was not merely a spiritual person who had a special access to God.  He was God in the flesh, which means that as the anchor of the Christian’s soul, his grip on humanity was secure as he was human, and his hold on heaven was as strong as he was divine.  In short, Jesus will stop being human or cease being God before his anchor fails.

Third, the anchor tethers the soul—not the body—to an eternal hope.  This is critical because it seems that sometimes God lets, even brings, storms into our calm waters.  In these moments, we are tempted to re-read the fine print to find out what we have done wrong.  We forget that God is forging an eternal soul with temporary means.

In fact, nowhere in God’s agreement does he promise placid seas.  Just the opposite: “Through many tribulations will you enter the kingdom of God” (Acts 14:22).  He tells his followers that it will be hard (John 16:33), but he also promises that he will anchor our souls.

This is the promise that he makes to those who believe in him.  He promises his presence today and resurrection tomorrow.  Even when the ships in your fleet are sinking, he promises to be the anchor of your soul.   This is the kind of promise he makes to believers, and he never breaks his word.

 

What is Good About Good Friday?

[This article was originally featured in our hometown newspaper, The Seymour Tribune].

What makes Good Friday good?

What is good about illegal arrests, puppet trials, executing the innocent, and setting free the guilty?  Nothing.  And everything.   For centuries, Christians have deemed the Friday of Jesus’ death “Good Friday.”  But why?  How?  When the day centers on death and defeat, what makes it good?

How we answer that question says so much about what we believe about God, the gospel, and our own lives.  In a word, the event that makes Good Friday “good” is what happened on three days later.

When the sun went down on that fateful Friday, the disciples hid themselves from the world.  On the Sabbath (Saturday), they did not move.  But on the first day of the week, they awoke before dawn, walked to the place where Jesus was.  And what happened next changed everything!  The tomb was empty.  The Lord was risen.  His promises were true, and what the disciples would discover is that the worst day in history has now become the best day in history.

This historical reality has and will changed the world, and has the power to change every person who believes in it.  Consider: Paul says that in comparison to the eternal weight of glory, today’s sufferings are light and momentary.  While the pangs of death do not feel light and momentary, the power of the resurrection reinterprets our current pain, loss, and heartache, even as it reinterpreted Christ’s cruciform execution.

Even better, the resurrection is not just a palliative for temporary relief.  It is not a best-selling strategy to make you feel better about yourself.  No, the resurrection goes deeper.  It tells us that life exists on the other side of death. Our best life is not now.  It is later.

This is the gospel message: Jesus died on a rugged cross so that from the grave, he could raise the dead.  Jesus does not help us find a way in the wilderness of life.  Resurrection is not just a spiritual experience; it is a reviving flesh and blood.  The broken bodies of believers buried in the ground will be raised to new life on the last day, and the goodness of Good Friday will be experienced for eternity. This is what makes Good Friday good.

This week as you prepare for Good Friday and Resurrection Sunday, remember that the resurrection of Christ has the power to overturn the horrors and heartbreaks of life.  Even more, the cross and resurrection of Christ secure the promise of abundant life.  For all who call on the Lord will find the goodness of Good Friday to overwhelm the badness of any other day.  Resurrection life is what Christ offers, and that is what is makes Good Friday good.

Gossip More: Because Gossiping Less Never Works

[This article was originally featured in our hometown newspaper, The Seymour Tribune].

Gossip.  It is a common disease—easily contracted, hard to cure.  Yet, the surprising solution is not to gossip less.  Just the opposite: You need to gossip more.

Let me explain.

You were made to gossip.  God gave you speech and a heart curiously intrigued by other people.  How else could talk radio, talk shows, and talking heads be so popular?  They scratch a human itch—the desire to be in the know and to talk with Gnostic wisdom about someone or something.

There is a kind of pleasure that comes from hearing something known to a select few.  We love secrets, and gossip is the pipeline for passing them, though every carbon copy erodes the secret.  Therefore, we want more.

Now, in steps the religious professional who says: The Bible condemns idle talk and God hates gossip.  Therefore, stop!  His premises are right.  God does condemn idle talk and hates any speech that tears down another.  However, knowing the law never changed anyone.

No, pernicious gossip that plagues the human race does not need to reduced or discontinued; it needs to be converted!  It needs a new object, a new secret to keep and then divulge.

Enter the gospel of grace. Nothing is more hidden and revealing than God.  No person is more intriguing than Jesus.  No secret is more fascinating than the news that sinners condemned to death have been declared innocent, set free, and rewarded because another has volunteered to take their place on the electric chair.

Indeed, evangelism is simply gossip about Jesus.  This is what happened in Samaria (John 4).  Jesus, a man of marriageable age, conversed with the town’s loosest woman at the local watering hole.  Talk about gossip!  This conversation surely evoked a few whispers.  Even more, when the woman raced off to tell her town about the man Jesus Christ, she participated in God-ordained gossip.

The result was amazing.  The whole curious town lined up to hear Jesus.  And many were saved.

Here is the point:  If you want to stop gossiping about things that will pollute your mind and shrink your soul, start gossiping about Jesus and the scandalous grace that he offers.  This will mean that you need to know him, but that is what he loves to share with all those who come curious about his secrets.

This week, don’t gossip less.  Gossip more about the only one worthy of such gossip!

What do you do on Thursday evenings?

[This article was originally featured in our hometown newspaper, The Seymour Tribune under the title “Mother’s Lessons Key in Founding of Church.”  For clarification: This article is for parents and especially mothers, encouraging them to redeem the time wisely and to invest their lives in eternal things.  Its main point is not meant to be about the founding of the Methodist Church, even though that is an important point.]

In the eighteenth-century, Susanna Wesley, a mother of ten, spent Thursday evenings with her son, John. As she did with all her children, she spent time reading the Bible, praying, and introducing John to the gospel of Jesus Christ. What must have seemed at times like a mundane routine would, in time, have global significance and eternal impact.

You see, John Wesley grew to become the fiery evangelist and founder of the Methodist Church. Converted as an adult, Wesley’s heart was “strangely warmed” when the kindling of God’s word, which Susanna had stockpiled into his heart on Thursday nights, was set ablaze by the Holy Spirit. Under God, Susanna’s commitment to planting seeds each week was rewarded with an everlasting orchard.

So what are you doing this Thursday evening? Will you spend your time in something as significant as Susanna Wesley? Or will it just be another evening of work, play, or online chatting?

Considering Susanna’s model makes us think differently about how we spend our time.

First, Susanna was a Christian who made it her business to work with the most valuable (and eternal) commodities in the world—namely God’s Word and the souls of men and women. Second, as a mother, Susanna spent ample time with her children—shaping their character, interpreting life from a Christian worldview, and speaking grace into their lives. Third, she established a weekly pattern to discuss the gospel of Jesus Christ with her children. Not knowing the results of her labors, but praying and persisting, she relentlessly kept Christ in front of her children, believing that God would honor her evangelistic efforts.

The result?

At 35, John Wesley was converted, and from there this evangelist led countless souls to Christ, men and women who will give eternal praise to God for the fact that Susanna Wesley took Thursday nights to meet with her son.

May we consider Susanna’s life and imitate her faithfulness.

Soli Deo Gloria, dss