an excerpt from chapter 2
The Soul Anchor
They say the body is about a pound lighter after death, and that that is the weight of the soul.
This is not news to me, nor to you – the part about the soul being a part of the man or woman. The physical weight though we’ll leave up to the coroners.
So…there are a lot of ways we can go with the idea of something that anchors our souls (or not?). What I want to talk about is what God’s revealed word to us in the Biblical letter to the Hebrew people, says about a “soul anchor”.
It must be said: I have the tattoo of an anchor on my arm, maybe to draw attention to my maybe being in the Navy? But also, to remember the anchor as one of the main symbols early Christians, persecuted ferociously by emperor Nero, used to unite each other. A prisoner might draw the sign of an anchor on a prison wall to encourage a future prisoner, that there IS an anchor for our souls, found in the Savior of the world, Jesus Christ.
But the Bible gets more exact about the soul anchor – the book of Hebrews says it is Hope! Specifically it is the hope of the good news in the. Bible, about the Messiah, and His people’s deliverance. But I like to think the anchor for the soul is also in a broader sense, hope in itself.
We see it all the time, everywhere…”Attitude is Everything!” Could this be a hope declaration? A negativist practically wears their disbelief in hope on their sleeve. “Down with Trump!…No new taxes!…Hell no we won’t go!” Ad nauseam. Not so much…”Keep it up Donald!…I love my current tax rate!…Thanks for the offer, but we’ll stay WHERE WE’RE AT!”
A good attitude can only come from someone who is grounded, in something to hopeful for. But even if the situation looks bleak, hope is a necessary tool in the belt. We all would give false hope to our family if it meant life or death. “Hold on, the ambulance is almost here!”
Hope is found in trust. And some like to find comfortable hope, by joining an affiliation, like a fraternity, taking a stance, like Democrat or Republican? The country song says pessimistically, “you gotta stand for something or you’ll fall for anything.” I disagree.
I believe Hope is connected to a time in human history.
Furthermore, I believe Hope is a person, a spirit, that resides in our very being, a seal stamped onto our minds and hearts by God himself (the Alpha and Omega – beginning and end), guiding us, comforting us, and pointing us back to Jesus as a man, to the hall of faith members in Hebrews 11 who cheer US on…and forward, to eternity spent with God himself.
You can’t say hope isn’t real when you talk to Corrie Ten Boom or Anne Frank. You can’t say there was mere happenstance or a good attitude keeping the Christians in the first century churches going. Say the same for Chinese Christians, meeting underground with shared smuggled Bibles or for Muslim converts to Christ, fearing rejection by their families, and fearing for their lives.
What keeps the fire stoked, to persevere under such duress? Is it a well educated attitude, toughness inspired by great leadership? Gut conviction? Protection of familial community?
I would say Hope has such qualities as its fingers. It has the universal body of believers as its branches.
At its core, it must be a living being…
How is God good?
From there, everything else looks good – Jesus, prophets, hall of faith in Hebrews 11 which shows the value of faith by what all it accomplished in various believers, apostles and early Christians willing to risk all to ensure the survival of the gospel
Then from faith springs so much more goodness- miracles, provision, creation and it’s value for unbelievers, the value of repentance, of community, of love, etc
Distrust is founded on the past not the future
My friend Levi put a face to my unwillingness to trust today. I saw in his face, “too much pain. Overwhelming. No way can I or you expect me to be able to trust in a good future.” What about Joseph? He had to dig into the distant past. God had given him a vision of the way Joseph knew things were to be. Where did he get the resilience for that to be enough all those years in prison? God. Do you have a better suggestion? Maybe the frustrations come once again in blowing up the image of the gift so as to block out the sun of the giver. After all, when the days drag on and on…and no sign of the gift…what’s left to focus on? My pain? That attitude may make me feel like I’m sticking it to the man for all of 2 seconds but it’s just gonna add fuel to the hamster wheel. What else is left? The giver. But how to appreciate the source when the gift is still a hope, a promise, a dream? Well surely there must be the sustenance that keeps the hope of the gift alive? Where does that come from? Furthermore, we should know by now selfishness ain’t the way to success. Why not say thanks and love? Who knows if the giver is allowing the enduring hope of the promise to tell you more about the giver? Be encouraged and thankful. I imagine you’ll need the gift and the giver when they’re yours to have and to hold.
My work is stressful. Raise your hands! Mine is borderline psychotic, but mostly bc it’s a neglected field that now feels to new to be real…or fair.
As we know, fair isn’t the best word to tell us whether we should go to work in the morning or not. Still, it crosses all our minds…. What about James Bond? His work looks darn cool, but fair? For us maybe. I think the road meets the rubber as it were when creative control begins to be bemoaned, wishing to trade back in for a boss that just asked you to repeat after him.
Still, it’s an honor. Yes, even with the nature of the job basically causing me to run for the hills on a daily basis. It’s an honor bc it’s my father’s business.
So I’m not a planner, other than planning to fail I guess. I am reactive, struggling with anger bc I think the job needs to be done a certain way, one that is hyper stressful. Planning to me would allow for the moment to develop and be isolated, so as not to let the moment take over everything. That is, looking at the whole of the job as one moment to be harnessed. It’s kinda like saddling up a team of horses to be ridden all at once, by me.
So we’ve got the logic done. Trial and error right?
This is the goal, the model, the path. It has been laid out for us.
I have been reading on thebibleproject.com about the Royal priesthood in the Bible. It starts all the way back with Adam and Eve’s role to tend the garden of Eden and those therein, and culminates in the king of Heaven, Christ, the High Priest.
“A kingdom of priests” is what God called and calls his people to, a people that can approach boldly “the throne of grace” to help in their time of need, and those of others. It is interesting to note here, the lineage of Jesus in talking about a kingdom of priests. Because Jesus was from the tribe of Judah, not Israel, where all the other priests came from. Jesus’ lineage was a kingly one, descended from King David and Solomon. Yet, he is our High Priest, the one who offers “better sacrifices” to God in His presence.
So, the wonderful thing is, we, aka Adam, which is Hebrew for ‘humanity’, are to be a conglomerate of Jesus’ lineage and Israel’s in that we are under the King, yet we are called to be priests, as were the descendants of Aaron priests, to offer sacrifices for ourselves and for others. But of course, no further sacrifice is required since Jesus offered his own body to be an everlasting sacrifice, for the actual forgiveness of sins.
Anyway…when Moses went up the mountain to receive the tablets of the 10 commandments, his face shined from God’s presence, was still shining when he came back down the mountain. When Jesus was transfigured, aka revealed his divinity to 2 of his disciples, He shined with brilliant white light. The priestly garments shined white as they were instructed to, as they were to point back to Moses’ and Jesus’ experiences, and forward to the Hebrew nation’s and our, as followers of Christ calling to shine as lights to the world.
What does all this mean? What’s the importance? Why do we need to shine to the world? Well, there is the remembrance…Jesus spoke of his last meal with his students as something to “do in remembrance of me”. Looking to the past to understand now and to come is important…
So how does all this lead into what’s to come? SHIMMERING! In the new heavens and new Earth, the New Jerusalem, when what we know as civilization is replaced by God’s heavenly one on Earth, we the people of Christ will reach our culmination of shining, our reward, our fulfillment. We are to shimmer as the stars in the sky, adorned as will be the city with the jewels that the Old Testament priests wore.
So you might say, pretty wonderful but is it motivating enough to “carry a cross”?…on a daily basis? I am asking myself as I ask you. My only answer is when God is called the King of Glory, it refers not so much as to a King who is worthy of honor and praise, as to His position, the King of the realm of Glory. Where no sun nor light is needed bc of Jesus, where the healing of the nations is offered in the leaves of the tree of life, where the martyrs are exalted, where we not only dwell but rule, where we receive new bodies! I could go on. Put your thoughts of harps on clouds to the side. We were not made for this trying life. We were made, ultimately, to shimmer!
I grew up in an evangelical church and it was very important to me. It in part gave me an introduction to God and His word in the Bible.
At this point in my adult life I am more concerned about relationships, with Jesus and others, than I am with attending a physical church.
But I wonder, am I wrong to think this way, or is it just bc I haven’t found a church to call home?
In the book of Nehemiah, it was important to the returned exiled Jews to restore the temple as it was to rebuild the wall to protect their city.
David longed to build God a temple, and Solomon put a lot of ornate work into it. And the tabernacle in the desert was where God dwelled with His people.
But things just look different now. There are more types of churches than you can shake a stick at and there is a vast amount of corruption in certain churches, including at least nominally believing church leaders.
David said in the Psalms he was glad when they said to him, “ let us go to the house of the Lord”. Hebrews admonishes us not to give up meeting together “all the more as the day approaches”.
But there are also those deeply wounded by a church. They feel bitter. That’s not me. I just haven’t found a place that seems to give God the glory He’s due.
But I do visit for fellowship.
So Jesus was rooted in the Hebrew background in the Old Testament, so you can imagine he had a lot of beef with the religious establishment of his day and what it had become.
He was a visionary, training pupils to establish a better church, a new and LIVING way. The early church even called themselves “the way”.
Scripture speaks of Jesus as the cornerstone…that the builders rejected (Pharisees). So his model appeared to be humility, serving and sacrificing for each other that would define the true church.
So was He anti-religion? Guess it depends on how you define it. Those who worship in “spirit and truth” were closer to true religion than the legalism of his day.
“True religion is this, to look after the orphan and the widow and to keep oneself unstained by the world.” – James
Brutal cross training work out today. I lagged behind, trying my best just to finish, or try to. Push ups on knees, trotting the sprinting portion, and splitting my assigned number of jumping jacks, etc with fellow gracious worker bees.
Our leader read from the book of Hebrews, ch. 12, where it speaks of endurance and running the race with a “cloud of witnesses” in the forefront of your mind. Made me remember how I’ve heard ch. 11, which is called the hall of faith, is a catalogue of the cloud of witnesses. It’s a list of all the giants of the faith, i.e., Moses, Abraham, Abel, Joseph, etc and their accomplishments of faith, not of things they did, but things they did in working out their faith.
I recently spoke with my uncle who is a former pastor about his comment that the Bible talking about working out your salvation with “fear and trembling” is not what we as Christians should be selling to the lost sheep in the world. He thinks “love wins” is what wins, and thus should be preached above all. Tough love, is what he left out, that which Jesus exemplified in dying in our place. But also that suffering, although painful, breeds the peace of righteousness, and it allows us to share our savior’s suffering which purified him for all that He did.
So we have a cloud (dense number) of folks who not only witnessed firsthand God’s glory through their faith, but we also have our Lord Jesus, who is still in human form btw, praying for us to the Father God. He is our high priest, who did not pass through a curtain to the Holy of Holies, but through the heavens to get straight to God’s throne to intercede. Bc only He could do that, not just bc of who He is, but bc of who He became, and more importantly what He did, by faith, working out OUR salvation through fear and trembling…and a lot of prayer. 🙂
St. Augustine, a Catholic bishop, actually associated with the Protestant Reformation, was caught up in the notion of “sovereign joy”. He was convinced the whole of the Christian’s life was to be sold out to the pursuit of holiness, and the pursuit of joy in God alone.
The Bible states that “without holiness no one shall see the Lord”. So what is so important about holiness and what is it? Israel from Biblical times was a nation that God chose to be different, called out, set apart from pagan nations. In our case, that’s the world. The key is GOD CHOSE. Israel originated from Jacob, a tricksy character whom God called anyway, most likely to show that this Christian existence is not about our (man’s) merit based on deeds, but on God who shows mercy. So holiness is being different than our surroundings, and it’s important because God is not of the world. He created it. Furthermore, Paul’s letter to the Ephesian church tells us the Christian is “seated in the heavenlies, where Christ is”, even while we walk as sojourners on this planet. For the follower of Christ, we have already crossed over!
So I’ve been thinking about Augustine’s thoughts about “the whole of the Christian’s purpose”. I indeed can identify with this, but as a part of my life, not the whole. My pursuit of God and holiness, even my interest in such, waxes and wanes. At this point, the best way I can see purpose as a Christian is in maintenance. Putting in the work, both by us and by God, to keep the spiritual motor purring.
It’s true we are not justified by our deeds, but work IS required. And our deeds ARE important. In the grander scheme of things, they are only filthy rags. That’s how God values them. But, He has put in place certain deeds for us to accomplish that He has designed ahead of time for our benefit. In the end, what He wants is our heart. But this, at least in part, requires identification with His son, the man of sorrows. Because it’s through suffering that we gain character, and perseverance, and joy. And joy does not disappoint.