Why does the soul matter?

I wrote a piece recently (see previous article) challenging the reader to inquire of someone regarding the condition of their soul. If we want meaningful conversation that tells the other person we really care about them, and if indeed we do care, the most important thing we should care about would be the condition of their souls. We commonly understand our souls to be much as the 1913 Webster Dictionary defined it as, “That spiritual, rational, and immortal part in man … that is, the seat of life …” It is our innermost being, the essence of who we are as God-created humans, distinct from the animal kingdom. God formed man from the dust of the earth and breathed life into Him. It was with this breath of God that Adam was given a soul, that would be immortal. Depending on the choices we make on this earth, the immortality of the soul can be glorious or a literal hell. It was the very breath of God that made man into His likeness. It is with the first man, Adam, that God walked in the Garden of Eden and had a relationship with Him. God did not have the same relationship with the animals. Man had a soul and was an eternal likeness of God.

Image result for human soul what does a soul look like

It was at the soul level that Adam and Eve had relationship with their Creator. Christ told us in Matt 10:28 that we should not fear those who are able to kill the body because they won’t be able to touch our souls. The soul is a part of us reserved for God alone. He will be the final judge of the destiny of our souls. Our souls know about our eternal nature. Ecclesiastes 3:11 tells us that “He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the hearts of men; yet they cannot fathom what God has done from beginning to end.” That sense of the eternal is in our souls.

So, when we consider our soul and its condition, we must consider its relationship with God, the One who will finally assign our eternal destiny. Have I placed my trust in Him alone? With the never-ending 3-ring circus that is constantly going on in our world, am I spending my time stewing and fretting about all the potential outcomes, or is my house built on the solid rock and can withstand any storm this world can throw my way?

Can you confidently say that it is well with your soul? In his third letter to the Church, the Apostle John wrote, ” Beloved, I pray that all may go well with you and that you may be in good health, as it goes well with your soul.” (3Jn 1:2) The songwriter Horatio Spafford penned these words,

“When peace like a river attendeth my way.
When sorrows like sea billows roll.
Whatever my lot, thou hast taught me to know,
it is well, it is well with my soul.”

The Apostle Paul was led by the Holy Spirit to write these words in his letters to young churches: “I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want.” (Php 4:12) and speaking of an affliction that Paul longed to rid himself of, he wrote to the church in Corinth, “Three different times I begged the Lord to take it away. Each time he said, “My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.” So now I am glad to boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ can work through me. That’s why I take pleasure in my weaknesses, and in the insults, hardships, persecutions, and troubles that I suffer for Christ. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” (2 Cor 12:8-10)

In other words, Paul had learned to say that it was well with his soul regardless of his circumstances, or what he saw going on in the world around him. Still, he acknowledged difficulty in life. If we don’t acknowledge our pain(s), how then are we to carry one another’s burdens? Paul wrote about living in plenty and in want, in weakness and persecution, and his letters to the churches were written to address issues facing these churches. But when all is said and done, if we remain in the faith (abide in Him), we have this confidence in Christ that assures us of the salvation of our souls. 1 John 2:28 tells us, “And now, little children, abide in him, so that when he appears we may have confidence and not shrink from him in shame at his coming.”

Our souls are the essence of who we are. Abiding in Christ gives us a healthy soul. Our perspective on life, love and our own soul health is bolstered by abiding in Christ and His love letter to us in the Scriptures. I hope and pray that you can say, it is well with my soul. But if you can’t say that, I hope and pray that God surrounds you with people who will help guide you to a path of well-being at the soul level.

Prayer is Air!

My friend Mitch has done it again with his gift of storytelling. How is your air supply? Are you willing to acknowledge that you weren’t made for this world? This is not our natural environment. The Bible says we are aliens and strangers in this world. We need the breath and indwelling of the Holy Spirit to have a proper worldview. Indeed we need to acknowledge the world for which we were made. Eph 2:19 tells us about our world, the one that holds our citizenship as believers. 1 Peter 2:11 begins to tell us how we should then live in this world, including some things we’re prone to complain and chafe over. God bless as you read Mitch’s story about the air we breathe.

Mitch Teemley

deep_sea_diver__by_tolyanmy-d6bbj0v“Deep Sea Diver” by TolyanMy

Connecting With God

While I was working my way through college, my buddy Dean was hitchhiking his way up Pacific Coast Highway. A few years later, I had a shiny new bachelor’s degree and was selling encyclopedias for minimum wage. And Dean was making massive amounts of money. Wait–what?

How?

Deep sea diving! I pictured him battling giant squids. The reality was slightly less exotic, but still pretty cool: he was salvaging lost cargo. “Why so much money?” I asked.

“Because it’s dangerous. You can’t wear scuba gear ‘cause it’s too deep and you’re down there too long. And if anything cuts off your air…”

Gasp!

“Exactly. That’s why you can’t do it alone. One guy goes down while the other one stays up top monitoring the air flow. You gotta have enough pressure or the ocean will crush you. And all the time…

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How is your soul?

A common greeting among people is a question posed, “How are you?” Interestingly, we anticipate and most often receive the

corresponding response, “I’m fine!” or “I’m doing great.” We have a fabulous pastor who’s standard response is “Never better!” The intended inference being that we’re one day closer to heaven so we’ve never been in better position. While well intentioned, the traditional greeting is an attempt to show concern for those we meet, while hoping the other person doesn’t burden us with the cares of their life.

But what if you greeted a friend with our title question one day? How is your soul? Woah! That brings a whole new element to the relationship! One that has not likely been introduced in the past. What would that say about your level of concern for your friend? It is a question that will require thought before responding.

I’d like to have us ponder this for a moment. I believe that we have lost the art of meaningful conversation. If you were to be honest with yourself by naming the one thing that really matters in this life, what would you say that would be? Wisdom? Being a good person? Making a contribution to our world? Saving the planet? Financial security? Providing for your family? What would be your answer?

When all is said and done and your days are over the proverb tells us that “Evil people get rich for the moment, but the reward of the godly will last.” (Prov 11:18) The book of Daniel tells us that God’s Kingdom will last forever. Christ challenged his disciples to go out and produce fruit that will last. God’s word tells us that heaven and earth will pass away. So all we are doing to be good people here in our world, to love people and leave the world a better place will one day just pass away. Where is the meaning in that? Now I’m not suggesting that we shouldn’t love our neighbors, because that is the second great commandment. Nor am I suggesting that we shouldn’t be good caretakers of our world and environment. God made us the gardeners of His creation.

But, at the end of the day, what is that thing that really matters, not only in this life but also the next? I maintain that it is my relationship with my creator. It is He who formed me for His purpose. It is to Him that I will answer when I leave this world through death’s door. His instructions to us early on implore us to search for Him with all our heart and soul. (Deut 4:29) The powers and forces of this world can kill your body, but they can’t touch your soul, Jesus said. (Matt 10:28) He also told us that the greatest commandment was that we must love the Lord our God with all our heart, all our soul, all our mind, and all our strength. (Mk 12:30) In closing his letter to the church at Thessalonica, Paul wrote, “Now may the God of peace make you holy in every way, and may your whole spirit and soul and body be kept blameless until that day when our Lord Jesus Christ comes again.” (1 Thess 5:23)

It is important that our spirits, souls, and bodies be kept in a right relationship with God. Often the state our spirits and bodies can be observed. What can’t be observed is the condition of our soul. So when we ask the question, “How is your soul?” we’re asking a very different question than “How are you?” We’re being intentional about the thing that should really matter to you because it matters to me.

I once had a longtime family friend greet me after not seeing one another for many years, “Well, Bill … how are things between you and God?” I must admit that I was both caught off guard and drawn immediately into conversation with him. No one had ever asked me a question that so begged an answer of eternal significance. At the same time, I knew instantly that he asked the question out of a genuine concern for me and my eternal well-being.

Asking about the condition of one’s soul will hopefully prompt a thoughtful response and generate some truly meaningful conversation that causes you both to open the Scriptures to find out what God says about our relationship with Him. It’s important that we talk about such things. The prophet Malachi wrote, “Those who feared the Lord spoke with one another. The Lord paid attention and heard them, and a book of remembrance was written before him of those who feared the Lord and esteemed his name. In Hebrews 10:24 Paul writes that we should not forsake the gathering together of the believers. We need to get together and talk about matters of eternal significance, encouraging one another and learning from each other.

When we die, our bodies are laid to rest in the ground, for the time being. At the moment of our death, our souls will move to our eternal destinies. There are two options for our eternal souls that are determined by the choices we make here in this world. The condition of our soul will determine what choices we make in this life. Did we place our faith in Jesus or did we put that choice off preferring to rather pursue the temporary pleasures of this world. What is important to you?

How is your soul? One of my favorite quotes comes from A. W. Tozer a pastor of decades ago. He opened his book, “Knowledge of the Holy” with this observation, “What comes into your mind when you think about God is the most important thing about you.” Indeed, what comes into your mind when you think about God will determine how you care for your soul.

There is much more to be said on this topic. For this moment it is important to acknowledge the critical nature of caring for one another’s souls through conversation and at a minimum beginning the conversation.

Are You Having a Good Day?

The sister of a friend of mine recently posted the following thoughts regarding our perspective on how we’re doing in life. The reason I am posting here is that Ann Schmidt’s comments and observations point us to God and Him being the focus of our lives. I couldn’t agree with her more. Her observation follows:

Today was a good day. I have been in the habit, since going through some health issues a few years ago, of saying, when asked if I had a good day, “Every day is a good day; some are just better than others.” But today I was struck with what seems to me to be a truer thought: Every day God gives me is a good day; I just live some days better than others.

One of the tasks of my job is to provide information and instruction to callers. Some callers are pleasant or upset, angry or appreciative, quick on the uptake or needing extra patience. One of my calls today was from an elderly man who wanted to be sure he was doing what was needed to resolve an issue. He had a pleasant manner and was grateful for the help. His questions were somewhat repetitive, however, and I found myself on the verge of becoming impatient. At that moment, a memory of my dad flashed into my mind.

In his later years, Parkinson’s disease slowed my dad down considerably. But he fought to retain his independence and conduct his business himself. I came home from work one day, and he said, “I called my investment company today because I wasn’t sure what I needed to do. The nicest young lady helped me and was so patient with me.” It really made his day.

That memory made me realize, in my impatience, that I want to be that “nice young lady” to those I encounter. My attitude righted itself. On the way out to the car, my “Every day is a good day” saying was modified. I hope that I lived God’s gift of today a little bit better for the memory of my dad.

As we go into a Happy New Day and approach the day’s tasks, let us consider Colossians 3:23-24: “Whatever you do, do your work heartily, as for the Lord rather than for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the reward of the inheritance. It is the Lord Christ whom you serve.” And let’s live the day a little bit better. Peace be with you.

May God give us the grace to lives our lives well. Thanks, Ann, for your insightful words.

What is Truth?

At the Golden Globes this past year, Oprah Winfrey is credited with saying, “What I know for sure is that speaking your truth is the most powerful tool we all Image result for truthhave.” (Italics mine) Her comments were widely applauded as a bold statement of values by which we all must live. On the surface, this would seem to be an empowering statement, but the underlying premise is that there is no real truth. We have your truth and my truth, but there is no arbiter of real truth.  As Blaise Pascal says in the graphic we hardly recognize the truth. 

We have come to the point in our world that truth belongs to those carrying the loudest voice. If you say something loud enough, in the right circles, or have it accepted by enough people, it becomes accepted as truth. This is very much like the values in our society. In the absence of real values or truth, the body of public opinion becomes the ethic, value or truth of the day. We are shown examples every day of how values and truths have changed over the years. Indeed, Scripture itself is viewed as being outdated and not relevant to the world in which we live.

The contention by many churches that the Bible is authoritative only as the church determines is becoming an increasingly broadly accepted tenet of the faith. Our mainline denominations today, in addition to the Roman Catholic church and the Mormon church, place the Scriptures in a posture of being subject to the decision of the church regarding its authority and validity. 

But what does God say about truth and how His people treat the Scriptures? Psalm 119:160 tells us “The sum of your word is truth, and every one of your righteous rules endures forever.” So to maintain that God’s word is outdated or written for another time goes specifically against what God has to say.

Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth and the life, no one comes to the Father except through me.” (John 14:6) In his prayer recorded in John 17, Jesus asked the Father to, “Sanctify them (we his people) by the truth, your word is truth.” Here he was affirming with the Father that Scripture, being God’s word, is truth. 

Since God is unchanging, he is the same yesterday, today and tomorrow, God’s truth is unchanging. Hebrews 13:8 confirms that “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.” God’s word is as relevant today as it was in the days of Abraham, Moses, David, Elijah, Paul and all the other warriors of the faith.

Today’s society is declaring almost a new truth a day, often conflicting with the previous truth. Just one example would be that illegal immigrants are welcome and protected in “sanctuary cities” but then suddenly any attempts to place them in these locales is defined as evil personified. Even Christians are being drawn into this spur of the moment ethics definition. That is but one example. I’m sure together we could come up with a lengthy list. 

As Christians, we must hold fast to that one unchanging foundation of truth which is God’s word to our world. God will one day judge the world and it will not be by the standards that we choose for our society for today. It will be by his eternal word contained in the collection of books we know as the Bible. 

Keep God’s word in your heart and you will have a firm foundation upon which you can build a life that honors God and have a guide that will help you navigate the ever-changing winds of truth proposed by the inteligencia of our world today.

Blessings

What’s important?

My grandson, Matt, just put together a little piece that is worth sharing. I love it when God gives him word pictures and Matt expresses the purpose so clearly. Matt has recently added painting planks of wood and strips of metal to his hobby of making fine writing instruments and pocket knives. Thus his painting on the piece of wood.

This is from Matt today:

Love this piece because it just reminds me of the way bison live. A simple life.

I was watching some bison the other day close to campus and God just really spoke. There’s this one albino bison in the herd and he’s often left alone by the others. But it didn’t bother him. It’s almost as if he didn’t care. But it wasn’t that he didn’t care – he just didn’t care about worthless things, he cared about what mattered. He was focused on food. He was focused on his own walking and running.

How often do I care about worldly things that just simply don’t matter and desire to be in the herd over everything else? What matters is the food. Your daily bread from God’s word. What matters is my own walk. MY relationship with the Lord. Sure, I can look at others’ walks with the Lord, but what good does that do me?

Focus on your own walk today, focus on the food, and don’t be discouraged if you’re left out of the herd at times. Live the life of the albino bison.

What happens to infants who die? The need for an answer

I found this post and the following two posts as a trilogy designed to answer an often asked question. As the father of a daughter who died in infancy, I’ve had peace about this matter because of the Scriptures that the Holy Spirit led me to in my search for answers. Still, Jesse Johnson provides a comprehensive discussion on this issue for which answers seem elusive. As Jesse has observed in his discussion, I would encourage you take into consideration the weight of the entirety of the discussion rather than pick on one passage or another.

I believe that you will be encouraged when considering the heart of God through the various passages and accompanying discussion by Jesse.

Jesse’s first article on this topic is below:

My wife and I were camping when we got a phone call that a friend’s infant child was in a hospital nearby, and was not likely to live. We came out of the mountains and rushed to the hospital, where…

Source: What happens to infants who die? The need for an answer

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