Anchored

It’s been a stormy summer.

And I don’t just mean the weather, although we’ve had our share of those storms too. One early summer storm was so severe it spawned tornados and spewed hail the size of baseballs, leaving shattered windshields and shredded roofs in its wake! We’re still repairing the damage.

We’ve also endured medical storms. A late-night ER visit. MRIs. Shoulder surgery. Physical therapy. A root canal. We’ve weathered emotional storms–challenging situations both personally and professionally. (And did I mention the water well line leak that bubbled up in our backyard and required a backhoe to fix?)

None of these were more than tiny blips on the radar when the summer began. We charted our course, expecting smooth sailing. But storm clouds gathered and our plans scattered.

So what do you do when you find yourself tossed by waves in the middle of an unforeseen gale?

You anchor up.

I know this from watching “Deadliest Catch.” If you’re not familiar with this reality TV show, it chronicles the dangerous work of crab fishermen on the Bering Sea. In a recent episode, the fleet was warned of an approaching hurricane. Most of the captains quickly sought shelter in the nearest harbor, where they anchored to safely ride out the storm.

During our recent storms, I took refuge in the word of God. One verse in particular helped to steady me:

We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure. (Hebrews 6:19a, NIV)

An anchor’s function is pretty obvious. But for those of us non-nautical types, here’s a basic definition just in case:

An anchor is a device, normally made of metal, used to connect a vessel to the bed of a body of water to prevent the craft from drifting due to wind or current. The word derives…from the Greek ankura.” (Wikipedia)

In Hebrews 6:19 the anchor is a metaphor “…for that which supports or keeps one steadfast in the time of trial or of doubt. It is an emblem of hope.” (Easton’s Bible Dictionary) W.E. Vine writes that “what an anchor is to a vessel in its tossings, so the hope is to us in our times of trial, difficulty and stress.”

I was fascinated to learn that the most common early Christian symbol was, in fact, not the cross (or the fish), but the anchor. Inscriptions on first century believers’ tombs often depicted anchors along with messages of hope.* In Roman catacombs, the ancient hiding places for persecuted Christians, one symbol appeared more often than any other: the anchor.** Some scholars believe the anchor was a word play in the Greek, noting the similarity between ankura and en kurio, or “in the Lord.”*

I found comfort in the two adjectives found in Hebrews 6:19. The Greek word for “firm” is asphales, which literally means “that which cannot be thrown down, tripped up, tottered or overthrown.” Bebaios is the Greek word for “secure,” and “speaks of something that does not break down under the weight of something that steps on it.***

I liked this summary from the Hebrews Commentary:

This hope which the believing soul has in the Lord Jesus is an anchor of the soul which cannot be made to totter nor break down when put under stress and strain.”

This anchor holds. It will not slip or snap under pressure. It can support the heaviest weight and withstand the strongest current.

And indelibly etched on this trustworthy anchor is a name: Hope. An unshakeable hope. Firmly embedded in a secure salvation.

The certain hope of our future salvation is an anchor to steady our souls while we wait on God in present storms.” (Stephen J. Cole)

We can hang on because Heaven is coming! On the other side of this storm called Life is a glorious future. One so amazing the Bible says we can’t begin to imagine it (1 Corinthians 2:9) and our present sufferings are not worthy to be compared with it! (Romans 8:18)

But God not only promises a future salvation, but also a present help. He’s with us in the storms! We never face them alone.

No matter how turbulent the seas get, He won’t let go. No matter how fiercely the winds blow, He will hold onto us. We won’t drift into the rocks. We will not be destroyed.

Yes, it’s been a rough ride this summer. Wave after wave have rocked our little boat. But He’s sustained us through them all.

We’re still afloat. We’re anchored by Hope.

 

When the storms of life come, the wicked are whirled away, but the godly have a lasting foundation. (Proverbs 10:25, NLT)

 

This song has become an anthem for me in the storms. Let Hope be your anchor!

Notes:

*From an article in Christianity Today.

**Jon Courson’s Application Commentary.

***Wuest’s Word Studies from the Greek New Testament.

–The above painting is called “Ships in a Gale” by Dutch painter Willem van de Velde.

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Hope Deferred

Sad-Little-Girl-Broncos-300x220Yesterday should have been a banner day.  A promotion ceremony was scheduled for my husband at 2pm. We hoped to follow that up with an exciting Broncos Super Bowl victory.

We got neither.  The ceremony was delayed due to a paperwork glitch.  And, well, you know what happened to the Broncos.

Our banner day became a bummer day.

Hope deferred makes the heart sick… (Proverbs 13:12a, NLT)

True, that.

It’s been 15 years since the Broncos’ last trip to the Super Bowl.  Chris has been working towards this promotion for the better part of two years.  The stars had finally aligned.  We were thrilled.  It was “our” turn.

Whoosh.  (That was the sound of the rug being pulled out from under foot.)

…but a dream fulfilled is a tree of life.  (Proverbs 13:12b, NLT)

Sure, a Super Bowl win would have been nice.  (There’s always next year, right?  Hope springs eternal.)  The promotion will still happen, Lord willing.  And we’ll celebrate.

But I’m realizing that even when dreams do come true and we’re off to Disneyworld, as exciting as that may be, the happiness will eventually fade.  Before we know it, another season will begin, with new challenges, obstacles and unfulfilled longings.  The cycle repeats.

To have true and lasting joy in life, my hope must be tied to something sturdier than just securing a desired victory or receiving a long-awaited answer to prayer.  God has graciously given us wonderful promises to hold onto in His Word.  But our ultimate hope comes not from clinging to a prayer, or even to a promise, but to a person.  HIM!

And this hope will not lead to disappointment. For we know how dearly God loves us, because he has given us the Holy Spirit to fill our hearts with his love. (Romans 5:5, NLT)

At the end of the day, regardless of what has or has not happened, I can be confident that He still loves me.  Putting my hope and trust in His unfailing love will not leave me disappointed.  He is solid.  I am secure.

I love the Broncos and will remain a loyal fan.  And of course I love my husband and am proud of him, regardless of his title or salary.  But I also love the Lord and will choose to place my HOPE in HIM.  HE is the real Champion, the One who always loves and never disappoints.

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Come, Spring!

Happy First Day of Spring!

(Are you sure it’s not April Fool’s Day? Because you could’ve fooled me.)

Around here the First Day of Spring is just a date on a calendar. No daffodil or robin sightings in these parts yet. The hills are still clothed in muted shades of brown and the branches hang as bare as empty closet rods. The First Day of Spring could be more aptly named The 91st Day of Winter.

I must be a skeptic at heart, because every year about this time I catch myself wondering if spring will really come. Everything just looks so dead, dry, lifeless. How is it possible to transform this barren landscape into something vibrant and alive?

When spring tarries, doubt multiplies.

I’m like this in life too. I scan the horizon and see bleak situations. Cold hearts. Lifeless marriages.  And I wonder.

How? Is it even possible, Lord?

Then a bud appears. And another. The grand green carpet is rolled out once again. Spring shows up, surprising us, delighting us.

Miracles do happen. I’ve seen circumstances reversed. Prodigals returned. Health restored.  Marriages revived. God shows up, surprising us, delighting us.

So why do I doubt when He tarries?

“Oh, that we might know the Lord!  Let us press on to know him.  He will respond to us as surely as the arrival of dawn or the coming of rains in early spring.”

(Hosea 6:3, NLT)

What if we really knew this great God of ours and what He is capable of? What if we truly believed that He is faithful and His Word is sure?

I bet we’d hold on. Press on. Hope on.

For winter never lasts forever. Spring will come!

And so will He!

*If you could use a touch of spring today, check out Steven Curtis Chapman’s beautiful song “Spring is Coming”:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fj3DMk3NB-8

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The Graduation Verse

“For I know the plans I have for you,” says the Lord. “They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.” (Jeremiah 29:11)

It must be graduation season, because this verse keeps popping up everywhere.  I see it on key chains, picture frames and cards.  It could easily be called “The Graduation Verse.”  And rightly so, as it gives confidence to those newly minted graduates venturing out into an unknown future.  I decided to do a little digging into this well-known verse to see if I might unearth some lesser-known insights.  As usual, God and His Word did not disappoint.

God has a plan.  “God loves you and has a wonderful plan for your life.”  Anyone familiar with the little booklet “The Four Spiritual Laws” knows this.  In my years on the staff of Campus Crusade for Christ,  I heard this phrase repeated so many times it began to sound cliche.  Yet Jeremiah 29:11 reminds us that God does indeed have a plan for our lives.

The word for “plans” can be translated designs, intentions, purposes and thoughts.  The King James renders the first part of the verse this way:  “I know the thoughts that I think toward you…”  The fact that God has a purpose for our lives is certainly reassuring.  But the fact that the God of the Universe would spend time…thinking…of us?  What an incredible thought!

His plan is good.  When I looked up the word “good,” the familiar Hebrew word shalom greeted me!  We most often associate “peace” with this word.  Shalom also carries with it the idea of completeness, soundness and welfare.  The “good” God has planned goes beyond superficial and fleeting happiness based upon material or circumstantial blessings.  His greatest desire is that we experience lasting, inner peace and well-being as we are made whole in Him.

His heart is good.   He does not will disaster upon us.  If we insert all of the other words the Bible uses for the Hebrew word for disaster, it looks like a veritable thesaurus and reads something like this:

“My plans for you are not for adversity, affliction, calamity, disaster, discomfort, distress, evil, harm, hurt, ill, injury, misery, misfortune, pain, sorrow, trouble, woe, wretchedness, or wrongdoing.”

Staying close to Christ will undoubtedly protect us from much heartache in this life.  We are not, however, promised that we will be completely insulated from sorrow and pain.  Life in a fallen world means we WILL experience difficulty.  But we do have the promise that Jesus will be our Shalom in the midst of it (John 16:33) and that God will take “bad” things and use them for our ultimate good (Romans 8:28).  I liked the way Matthew Henry summed it up in his commentary on this verse:  “We often do not know our own minds, but the Lord is never at an uncertainty.  We are sometimes ready to fear that God’s designs are all against us; but as to His own people, even that which seems evil, is for good.”

It ends well.  The word for “future” means posterity, end.  Look at how the King James version translates it:  “I know the thoughts that I think toward you, saith the Lord, thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give you an expected end.”  Matthew Henry continues, “He will give them, not the expectations of their fears, or the expectations of their fancies, but the expectations of their faith; the end he has promised, which will be the best for them.”  Our story has a happy ending.

Jesus is our hope.  When I looked up the word for “hope,” I was intrigued to find the Hebrew word tiqvah, which literally means “a cord.”  The only other place this exact word is used is in Joshua 2, when the spies offered to save Rahab because of her kindness and faith.  A scarlet cord (tiqvah) placed in her window marked her dwelling and spared her and her family from destruction.

I love this description from Scofield’s Reference Notes: “The scarlet line of Rahab speaks, by its color, of safety through sacrifice.” (Emphasis mine.)  Matthew Henry also elaborates on the significance of the tiqvah:  “The scarlet cord, like the blood upon the doorpost at the Passover, recalls to remembrance the sinner’s security under the atoning blood of Christ…”

It always comes back to HIM!  He is our hope, our tiqvah.  As Christians we are marked by a scarlet cord, the blood of Jesus, the precious Passover Lamb.  And We Are Safe.

This morning as I lay in bed, pondering this idea of the tiqvah, I happened to glance over at the window and noticed the tassels of the curtain tie-backs dangling down.  I had a mental picture of a scarlet cord hanging in my own window as a sign for Jesus to see when He comes back for us.  It’s a symbol that calls out,   “I am Yours, Lord.  You are my Future and my Hope.”

God has a plan for your life.  His plan and His heart towards you are good.  Your story ends well.  So tie your hope to Him!  Whether you are graduating, going through difficulty or facing uncertain times, Jeremiah 29:11 reminds us all that “the future is as bright as the promises of God.”  (William Carey)

Amen!

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