Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Reformation Day

Last year I broached the topic of Halloween and Reformation Day, and we had quite a lively discussion on the subject. It was quite fun, in fact :). As most of you know (or can easily guess), I'm not a proponent of celebrating Halloween. But I've also questioned in retrospect if my tone last fall was genuine concern or self-righteousness - perhaps a combination? This year I'm trying a more positive approach to this day, and instead of explaining the reasons I hate Halloween, instead I'll just encourage everyone to take a bit of time today to remember the men who have come before us.

On October 31st, 1517, Martin Luther nailed his infamous Ninety-Five Theses to the door of the Castle Church of Wittenberg, thus sparking a flame of reform that would spread throughout Europe and alter Christendom forever. Our forefathers in the faith overcame unsurmountable odds over the centuries, especially in the time of the Protestant Reformation, to preserve and rediscover (not invent) the Gospel of Grace. We truly owe them a debt of gratitude as we stand on their shoulders. Their example and their writings still inspire us today as we seek to live life here on earth to God's glory.

I could attempt to write a stirring post on the Protestant Reformation, or I could glance at the clock, realize I still have planning to do, followed by tutoring, and then realize that it's not really a responsible option. So instead, I'll direct you to this retelling of Luther's Here I Stand speech. Ligioner has uploaded Max McClean's retelling to their site, in honor of Reformation Day. It's 26 minutes long, but worth every second of it.

HT: Tim Challies

Monday, October 30, 2006

I can *so* relate. . .

Ah, yes, the joys (?) of being the middle child.


Mom was amused at how much I laughed over this comic, but I way empathize with the poor kid (not about the Halloween part ;-D)! She said I'm going to have a huge therapy bill someday, but I can't send it to her ;). Hehe.

Sunday, October 29, 2006

On Causation (and law and grace)

I've decided that a basic tutorial in causation should be included in any complete theological education. And this isn't just a ploy to work logic and geometry into religion, although certainly those two subjects are void of meaning without theology. But theology also requires causation to be properly understood. Logic requires a God of order behind it, but the study of the God of order also requires logic, specifically causation.

More particularly, I'm thinking of the relationship between law and grace, as outlined in the scriptures. The law has three purposes: (1) through the magistrate, the law works to restrain sin; (2) as a mirror, the law shows us our sin and need of a Savior; (3) finally, the law guides believers in holy living. (If anyone comes up with an "m" term for the third purpose, let me know. . . )

Notice that none of the three purposes is to save us from our sin. The law does not save; rather, it condemns. The second purpose is to drive us to salvation, yes, but it is not our actual salvation. It is to show us that we can't save ourselves through works. The message of the law and all of scripture is that man cannot save himself through his works.

But then, I would also submit that faith, without works (of the law), is dead. Heretic! one might scream. Legalistic, works-oriented salvationist, Phariseeical - pick your favorite adjective. I could also be accused of abandoning three of the five solas of the reformation, namely that we are saved by grace alone, by Christ's work alone, by faith alone.

But of course, no one is going to actually call me a heretic for saying that faith without works is dead, because I carefully chose an exact quote of scripture, as most (or all) of you probably noticed :-). And yes, I know that a text without a context is a pretext, so really I have shown nothing with one little scripture reference. So take a look at the verse in context. First look at the surrounding verses, then the whole chapter (James 2), then all of the Epistle of James. One can easily see that this little statement "faith without works is dead" is far from an isolated statement. Hmm.

We are graciously saved by faith alone - just to reiterate Sola Gratia and Sola Fide :). For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith - not by works that any man can boast. But now I'm going to make a statement that is strange. We are saved through works. Yep, that's right. I'm advocating a works-oriented salvation. But, I quickly clarify, those works are not our own. Our salvation is accomplished by Christ's work on the cross, and we are given righteousness based on the perfect life that He lived on earth. So we are saved Solus Christus - by Christ's works alone. I hope that clarifies my standing (and more importantly, scripture's standing) on those three solas :).

But I would still submit that faith without works is dead. The key to understanding how the above three solas mesh with James' statement is to first understand causation.

For example, eating 10 chocolate bars in one sitting will cause a stomache ache. To put symbolically, let E = eating 10 chocolate bars, and S = stomache ache. Simply, E ==> S, or read as "E implies S." In other words, if someone eats 10 chocolate bars in one sitting, they will necessarily get a stomachache.

Let's say Mary ate 10 chocolate bars in one sitting. Well, then we can conclude that she got a stomache ache. This is called Modus Ponens, and is the most basic of logical arguments.

E ==> S
E.
Therefore S.

But let's say that George has a stomache ache. Do we know for certain that he ate 10 chocolate bars in one sitting? No, certainly not. He may have eaten 10 ice cream bars in one sitting, or perhaps he is just feeling ill for no dietary reason. The arrow in the symbolic statement E ==> S shows us that E implies S, and not necessarily vice-versa.

But what if Susie does not have a stomach ache? Can we make any conclusions. Well, yes, actually. If Susie had eaten 10 chocolate bars in one sitting, she would have had a stomache ache, so the fact that she does not have a stomache ache shows that she did not just eat 10 chocolate bars in one sitting. This is known as Modus Tollens.

E ==> S
Not S.
Therefore, not E.

How does this relate to theology, law and grace, and faith and works? Well, look at the following causal relationship:

faith ==> works

True faith results in good works, as is outlined in scripture. See James 1:27 or I John 2:3 or all of Romans 6, for just a few examples. When our salvation is accomplished in Christ, we die to sin and are made alive in Christ. We become slaves of righteousness. Our faith, if it is true faith, will produce good works.

Now, let's look at a Modus Tollens rendering of the above causal relationship:

faith ==> works
No works.
Therefore, no faith.

Aha! Notice the above does not say that works causes faith or works causes salvation. Rather, it says that faith (by which we are saved) produces works, and since works are absent, so is faith.

Therefore, law and grace are intertwined in that the Gospel of Grace, when rightly received, transforms our wills as we want to do works of the law. The works do not save us, but are a consequence of our salvation. Therefore, it now makes sense to say that faith without works is dead, for true faith does not exist without works.

A quote by Luther (who, of all people, certainly wrestled with this issue!) seems appropriate here: We are not saved by works; but if there be no works, there must be something amiss with faith.

A certain cure for insomnia would be to read my past writings on law, grace, and works:

Under Grace
Under Grace, Part II
Under Grace, Part III
Reflections on Sanctification
The Balance Beam
A Good Quote on the Law
The Middle Way, Age Segregation, and A Bit of Irony
Dirty Hands
The Gospel of Grace

Saturday, October 28, 2006

Exciting News!

I'm so happy for Crystal (and Jesse and Kathrynne)! It took me about three times reading her (very short) post, but then it finally sunk in. I'm slow ;). Anyway, go read the exciting news!

Thursday, October 26, 2006

In Shock

You know that feeling when you find out that one of your heroes really has feet of clay, or you find out that Santa Claus does not exist (not that I'd know about that feeling. . . ), or you realize that the grass really isn't greener "over there"? Or how about the realization that Anne Shirley is a fictional character and never did live and breathe?

I'm having one of those feelings right now.

I just found out that Judah Ben-Hur wasn't really number forty-one. He was number sixty.

*dejected look*

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Forgiveness

I really appreciated this post on forgiveness that Ashley wrote over at Onward and Upward. Here are two good snippets:

The biggest thing of all: anything that Tina had done to me, had been done to
Christ. And Christ not only forgave but He paid the price for those sins. How
could I not do the simple act of turning around and forgiving her? It wasn't
easy, I don't think - is it ever? But a necessary step.


What I always love is how God brought things full circle. He took the girl who
used to torment me, and seven years later He used her to draw me closer to
Him.To me, that is the beauty of forgiveness.

Make sure to read the whole post!

Monday, October 23, 2006

I'm Still Here

So, I was scrolling back through my recent posts, and I realize that I haven't posted anything of substance for 18 days. Yai! I've copied and pasted a few things, but that's about it. I am just having a hard time finding time to write a significant post. Sometimes I feel like I'm on a treadmill, if you know what I mean. This weekend was supposed to provide some time to catch my breath. Ha!

Then I think about mothers of small children, and I decide that my schedule is easy in comparison :).

Maybe I'll get something of substance posted in the next few days, maybe not. For now, though, I'm going to go get a few more things knocked off my to-do list before my next tutoring student. Ta-ta!

Friday, October 20, 2006

Recent Comments

Yay! I think I just installed a "recent comment" hack successfully. You can now scroll down my sidebar and see the 10 most recent comments posted to my blog. If you want this nice feature, go here and follow the directions exactly.

HT: Lane

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Strange

In lieu of posting anything of real substance, due to time shortage, I give you a rather strange anecdote. At UGA (my alma mater and Hannah's current school) the religion department is rather small, and there are not a whole lot of religion classes for the graduate students to take. Hannah is in an undergraduate religion class (a whole other interesting post. . . ) for an elective, and her graduate student instructor was telling the class that graduate religion students have essentially infinite flexibility of options when choosing a concentration for their religion major, due to the shortage of grad classes offered. Here are two rather bizarre emphases:

One grad student has chosen a religion major with an emphasis on religious rites of passage that involve tatooing.

Another grad student has chosen a religion major with a focus on television depictions of religious rituals that involve the smashing of pumpkins.

Yep, and they're actually getting letters after their names for that! Ah, the great bastion that is our public higher education system. . .

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Creation Museum - Donations Needed

I know many of my blog readers are familiar with Answers in Genesis, a ministry that focuses on origin apologetics from a young earth, 6-day creationist view. Many of you also probably know that for a few years now AIG has been building a Creation Museum in Northern Kentucky, scheduled to open this coming spring. They have purposed to build this project debt free, only building as funds are donated, and some of the museum has been built with gifts-in-kind (donated displays, labor, supplies, etc.).

With a target opening date near in sight, they are down to the wire on the final stages of building, but they are in need of funds to complete the project. Ken Ham has posted a 2-minute message on AIG's site, asking for financial and prayer support in these final months of construction. I encourage you to visit Answers in Genesis and click on his message under "news" on the left sidebar. My family is certainly looking forward to visiting the museum when it opens, hopefully next year!

Saturday, October 14, 2006

Laughing At Our Differences. . .

. . . or distinctions as any good Presbyterian would call them ;).

I've had this post drafted for a few months, but I kept forgetting to post it.

I love light-hearted jabs that are directed either towards my own type or others. I'm also fond of a good, civil debate, mind you, but sometimes I like to kick back and just laugh at differences, rather than debate them :). A while back I did a few internet searches for denominational humor and was thoroughly amused. I'm cutting and pasting and revising and adding to the "best of" for all to enjoy, and listing various websites as references at the end. Please keep in mind that these are intended as humor, not as an attack, and I'm laughing at my own kind as I'm laughing at yours :).

You might be a Presbyterian if. . .

1. When the spirit comes upon you in power, you don't raise your hands and shout Hallelujuah, rather you scratch your chin, turn to your neighbor and whisper "hmmm, . . . that was a good point."
2. You think fencing has something to do with the Lord's Supper instead of swords.
3. When someone asks you a question about the Bible, you answer, "Well, the confession says . . . " or "the catechism says . . . "
4. They aren't "catholics," or even "Roman Catholics." They're "Romanists," or "Papists."
5. You secretly suspect that John Calvin was a liberal because of his compromise on the Sabbath issue.
6. You know the meaning of most or all of the following - PCA, PCUS, PCUSA, PC(USA), PC(U.S.A.), PCUSA(NS), PCUSA(OS), RPCES, RPCNA-GS, RPCNA, RPCGA, RPCUS, EPC, OPC, ARP, NAPARC, CRC, RCA, BPC, BPC-Collingswood, BPC-Columbus, CPC, GA, TE, RE, WCF, WLC, WSC, BCO, UPC, UPCNA, UPCUSA, NPC. . .
7. 4. You first quote the Westminster Confession and then say, "Oh yeah, the Bible says this somewhere, too."
8. A "Reformed Baptist" and a "square circle" are equally as difficult for you to imagine.
9. You think the phrase "chosen frozen" is a compliment.
10. ___________ (bonus for someone who comes up with an original #10)

More generally, you might be Reformed if. . .

1. While officially affirming the "priesthood of all believers," the only people you really trust to interpret Scripture are Calvin and yourself, and you only trust yourself on Thursdays before noon.
2. You secretly believe that you have to believe in election to be saved.
3. You think Puritans are really, really, really, REALLY cool.
4. 7. You know (or think you know) the difference between "calvinist" and "reformed."
5. ____________ (bonus for the creator of an original #5)

You might be a Baptist if. . .

1. When someone asks you what you would be if you weren't a Baptist, you say "I'd be ashamed!!!"
2. You have never sung the third verse to any hymn in the hymnal.
3. You think sword drills have something to do with the Bible and not with fencing.
4. You are very sure that the so-called "wine" in the Bible was unfermented grape juice.
5. You think there are really only two "true" first names in the world - "brother" or "sister."
6. Yours is the oldest and most Biblical denomination of all. After all, it was founded by John the Baptist.
7. You believe that the Marriage Supper of the Lamb will be potluck.
8. You're never in doubt.
9. You know all Fifty-seven verses of Just As I Am by heart.
10. _______________ (bonus points to the creator of an original #10)

You might be a Dispensationalist if. . .

1. You’ve only been a Christian for one year and your Pastor has preached through the book of Revelation more than two times.
2. You get excited when you see a sentence with a parenthesis.
3. You've ruined more than five records trying to find backward messages.
4. There are more underlined sentences in your copy of “Late Great Planet Earth” than in your Bible.
5. You think the four millennial positions are: Pre-Trib, Mid-Trib, Post-Trib and Liberal.
6. You know the location of the European Central Bank.
7. When you’re driving home at night and see a bright light in the sky, you unfasten your seat belt and “get ready.”
8. You call Israel "the Holy Land."
9. When you speak of your future plans, you always clarify "If I haven't been raptured yet."
10. _________________ (bonus points to the creator of an original #10)

You might be an Evangelical if. . .

(note: being "an evangelical" is different than being "evangelical")
1. Your mental image of Jesus includes any of the following: blue eyes, long, flowing, perfectly-conditioned hair, plucked eyebrows, or any piece of clothing with an American flag on it.
2. You think the best place to buy quality artwork for your living room is a Christian “bookstore."
3. Someone says "guitar", and you automatically think "worship."
4. You see a Gold’s Gym t-shirt and then think that a “God’s Gym” t-shirt would be really cool.
5. You think the song “Lean on Me” is worldly when played on secular radio, but worship when played on a Christian station.
6. You say the word “just” more frequently than the word “Jesus” when you pray.
7. When quoting from Calvin, it's accompanied by cartoon slides of a stuffed tiger and a 5-year-old boy.
8. You don't have a problem serving the Sacrament using grape Kool-Aid and poptarts.
9. You don't know any church songs or hymns written before 1982.
10. _________________ (bonus points to the creator of an original #10)

Note: All submissions for bonus must be in good taste. Realize we are describing our brothers and sisters in Christ, so please create any additions with a view of brotherly love :).

Here are the various sites from which I pulled the above. Enjoy and smile :).

Friday, October 13, 2006

It's a Girl!

I'm so excited for Becky, who delivered Katherine Anne Miller into the world yesterday :). And she did it naturally, brave woman. Congratulations to Becky and Matthew, who are now first-time parents! Now, if only someone would post some pictures :).

EDIT: I found a picture of Katherine, via the proud papa's Xanga :). She's a cutie, and she has a lot of hair!

Thursday, October 12, 2006

The Gospel of Grace

My pastor, Charles Garland, is gifted in preaching the Gospel of Grace like few men I have ever heard. His sermons leave me feeling utterly sinful and convicted, yet completely loved and accepted by God. That's a hard balance to strike, and this past Sunday's sermon was no exception. I'm so blessed to sit under such teaching each week.

Christianity is a pretty decent, attractive religion except the stumbling block that the cross represents. Christianity has community, ethics, morality, service, spiritual connectivity, all good things. . . but the cross introduces a new dimension, that brings discomfort into a nice, tidy religion. It's easy to accept the fact that we need some help from God, but it's very hard (impossible, in fact, without a change of heart) for man to accept that the kind of help he needs doesn't just require God as a cheerleader or a helpful friend; the kind of help man needs requires God to send His own Son to die for him. It's hard to admit that we need help that bad.

The text of the sermon last week was from Mark 14, specifically a look at Peter the night before the crucifixion. Peter was a close associate of Mark, and likely the Gospel of Mark was written largely from Peter's own viewpoint. What is therefore interesting is just how imperfect Peter is depicted in the Gospel of Mark. There is no attempt to brush up the portrait of Peter; instead he is shown for just how fallible, pompous, and self-reliant he truly is. . . until he is broken. With his denial of Christ, Peter's pride and self-reliance is shattered, and he finally truly comprehends his need for grace. Far from making Peter useless, his failure makes him more useful in Christ's kingdom, for when he is weak, Christ is strong.

That is the Gospel, not that we come to God with a resume for our accomplishments that show our usefulness for His kingom, but that we come empty-handed, broken, and dirty, and in need of a Savior. Only then, when we come knowing we have nothing, can God begin to use us for His purposes. That is the Gospel of Grace. That we are utterly sinful (not just sort of sinful), but that God will completely accept all those who turn to Him in faith. Utterly sinful and completely accepted. What a paradox, a stumbling block! - but what a beautiful truth. God's mercy is great. His grace is abundant.

Nothing in my hand I bring,
Simply to Thy cross I cling.
Naked, come to Thee for dress;
Helpless, look to Thee for grace;
Foul, I to the fountain fly;
Wash me, Savior, or I die.

If you are interested, last week's sermon by my pastor can be found here. Choose "sermons" from the left taskbar, and then choose "Peter and Judas" from October 8th. I especially thought the comparison of Peter and Judas was interesting.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Find the Roots

Here is a fun problem. It was in the Pre-Calculus book that the local highschool uses, so my dad teaches from the book and I tutor from it. It was in a calculator-use section that asked for an estimation of roots only, not an algebraic solution, but just for fun, why not solve it algebraically? :-D I admit that Father Dear discovered the key to solving it, though I carried it through and found the ghastly solutions :-P.

Find all roots of the equation x^3 - 3*x^2 + 3*x + 2 = 0.

You must use high school mathematics concepts only. In other words, don't use the cubic formula!!!

It doesn't take a licensed child psychiatrist. . .

This CNN article states the obvious:

What children really need for healthy development is more good, old-fashioned playtime. . . enrichment tools and organized activities can be beneficial but should not be viewed as a requirement for creating successful children. Above all, they must be balanced with plenty of free play time, the report says.

It's sad that it takes a statement from the American Academy of Pediatrics to highlight this issue. Of course children need good, old-fashioned playtime! I honestly feel sorry for the over-scheduled kids that are being raised in this day and age :(. Activities, good; plethora of activities, bad.

Jennifer Gervasio has a 5-year-old son and 3-year-old daughter involved in preschool three mornings weekly, plus T-ball and ballet for each one day a week. That's a light schedule compared with her kids' friends, and Gervasio said her son in particular has trouble finding buddies who are free to come over and just play.

"There's just such a huge variety of things you can do for your kids if you have the resources, you almost feel why not," said Gervasio, of Wilmette, Ill. "There is a part of me that would worry if I don't sign my son up for some of these things, will he not be on par with the other kids."

For now, she says, she resists the pressure, instead allowing her kids plenty of time for looking for bugs, romping at the beach and other play activities they love to do. "I truly believe that they're better off when they can just do their own thing," Gervasio said.

Most activities are good in and of themselves: sports develop teamwork and physical fitness, ballet and music lessons develop grace and an appreciation for the fine arts, etc. But too much of a good thing is a bad thing. If a child is involved in every possible "good" activity, than all those good things become a bad thing. This generation of children is the most scheduled, yet the most unfulfilled, that our nation has ever seen. And that certainly isn't only true for children.

Our entire society (especially my area!) is caught up in this great ratrace of activity-after-activity, in an attempt to "have it all." We'll find fulfillment if we can only participate in this one more activity, or if we can just master this one more skill. Our children won't have a "normal" (whatever that means) childhood if they aren't involved in 7 activities per week like their friends. We need the right social groups, the church with the best programs, the schools with the best sports teams. We're searching for meaning in all the wrong places, of course.

A fulfilled life isn't a matter of having the right social groups or being involved in the best activities. A fulfilled life is simply finding joy and meaning in God, rejoicing in the toil He has set before us. Echoes of Ecclesiastes, to be sure :). We can rejoice in good, wholesome activities and in the toil God has given us, but the meaning and joy comes from Him, and these pursuits only have lasting worth as much as they are seen in that light and used for His glory.

Make sure to read the whole article :).

HT: Ashley

Monday, October 09, 2006

Tea Pictures

Blogger is now uploading pictures :).

Below we have our lovely table spread and all but one of our party visible. Mrs. Zeglen was kind enough to take this picture, but in the process was omitted from the photo shoot :(. Aren't all the hats lovely? Most came from my collection of thrift store finds, and Mary and Susie also brought a few to add to the selection. From the top going clockwise: Susie, Sarah, Mother Dear, Kathy, Hannah, Mary, Yours Truly.


Here is Mary studying the selection of teas offered. There were oodles of choices! We tried Earl Grey, Chocolate Rose, and French Vanilla, and Strawberry Kiwi (I passed on that one!).


Kathy poses for her Dear Mother. She is wearing an India dress that my aunt gave Hannah ages ago. It's still well-loved :).


Here are Susie and Sarah. Susie is wearing yet another India outfit from my aunt, that continues to serve our dress-up needs. Sarah enjoyed creating a completely black-and-white outfit from my collection of scarves, petticoats, and hats. She brought pearl beads to complete the look.


Sisters (music strikes up), sisters, there were never such devoted sisters, sisters. The problem is, every time I start singing that song, instead of seeing the lovely devoted sisters in their costumes, I visualize Danny Kay and Bing Crosby with feathery fans and hair pieces. Hehe.


Here we are out in front of the tea room, with the sign beside us.

A Dignified Declaration

Our Dear Friends the Zeglens came to visit us this weekend. The pinnacle of our time with them was a visit to a tea room in Atlanta. We'd been talking of visiting a tea room with the Z's for sometime, but we never had gone before, though we've hosted many tea parties with them in our own house :). We made reservations for The Faded Rose Tea Room (what a pretty name!) late Saturday morning.

Friday night I was doing the dishes after the evening meal, and I could hear peals of laughter from the next room, where Hannah, Sarah, Mary, and Susie were gathered 'round the computer, typing something rather secretively. *ahem* I was rather suspicious and therefore not at all surprised when I was later handed an official-looking, sealed letter. Below I have transcribed what was enclosed, as insisted upon by the responsible parties ;).

Our dignified declaration:

We the undersigned hereby declare our resolution to petition the subsequent female being (saying that she be called Susan Elizabeth Garrison) whereby that she, having had no previous pretitious propriety, will therefore array herself in the robe, that which she sported with eloquence in the nuptials held and attended therein erstwhile in the 3rd month of George W. Bush's reign, 2006. We furthermore with much erstwhile deliberation and aforethought to the request that we make and demand with much riquithor. We entreat, nay require with the knowledge of imminent disasters forthwith therein after that fact if no steps are made toward matrimony, that this aforementioned robe will be displayed by the same one aforementioned female being. We require that this all be fulfilled the morn, 7th of the 10th month of 2006, reign of the honorable George W. Bush.

In simpleton terms, you need to wear your
bridesmaid dress to tea tomorrow!!!

Sincerely, cordially, affectionately yours,

With much mirth,

Miss Sarah

Miss Mary
Miss Susie
Miss Hannah

Now, with such a brilliant (? - er, at least creative) entreatee like that, how could I say no? And, as the dress was hemmed for those ghastly heels that complete the outfit, yep, that's right, I wore high-heels again this weekend :-P. The heels put me at six-foot mind you, so I really feel like the queen of Charn walking around in them. . . and the ghostly complexion doesn't help with the Jadis image ;). But a fun time was had by all! Unfortunately, Blogger is not being fun, or I would post pictures.

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Death - Curse or Blessing?

In the movie Tuck Everlasting, a family of four drinks from a veritable Fountain of Youth unknowingly, and they find that they have become immune to death and disease. The main plot of Tuck Everlasting takes place decades after the Tucks first drink from the spring, and even the youngest is now over 100 years old, although still perpetually 17. Winnie, a 15-year-old girl confined by her strict Victorian life, runs away from home and stumbles upon the Tucks, who live deep in the woods near her house. As she spends time with the Tucks, she eventually discovers the long-kept secret of their immortality. Not surprisingly, she also desires the immortality they possess, but as the story unfolds she realizes that immortality is more of a curse than a blessing to the Tucks. Particularly memorable is a conversation she has with Angus Tuck, the patriarch of the family:

Look around you, it's life. The flowers, and trees, and frogs, it's all part of the wheel. It's always changing. It's always growing. Like you, Winnie, your life is never the same. You were once a child, now you are about to become a woman. One day you'll grow up. You'll do something important. You'll have children maybe, and then one day you'll go out. Just like the flame of a candle. You'll make way for new life as a certainty. It's the natural way of things. And then, there's us. What we Tucks have, you can't call it living. We just are. We're like rocks stuck at the side of the stream. . . . There's one thing I've learned about people: many people will do anything, anything not to die. And they'll do anything to keep from living their life. Do you want to stay stuck as you are right now, forever?
How does this contrast with the Bible's view of eternal life? Throughout scripture, especially the New Testament, eternal life is seen as a reward. Just one example:

For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whosoever believeth in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.
Is Tuck Everlasting, therefore, directly opposing scripture in its view of death and immortality? I don't think so. In fact, I think Tuck Everlasting fits very well with the scriptural view of death and immortality. Let me explain.

When Adam and Eve died spiritually, the creation was also corrupted, as sin, suffering, and physical death entered the world. The whole creation is now groaning under the curse of sin and death. I would submit, though, that spiritual death was the primary curse to Adam and Eve, and that physical death was at least partially an act of mercy by God. Once could consider the Tucks' spring (which flowed from a tree) to be a picture of the tree of life. Just as the cherubim guarded the tree of life that Adam and Eve would not live forever in this sin-cursed world, so the Tucks guarded their spring, that others would not drink of it and meet their fate. The curse of immortality that the Tucks had was not eternal life, but eternal life in a fallen world.

Think about it. Adam and Eve had lived in a perfect world without sin or suffering, so living there forever, in close communion with God, would have been a literal paradise. Once they were corrupted by sin and subject to suffering, though, the notion of a physical death and an end to physical suffering was a blessing in disguise. They did not have to live in a state of suffering and sinfulness forever! Since they had been promised a seed (Jesus Christ!) that would crush the serpent's head, they had the sure hope of deliverance after death.

So is death a curse or a blessing? I would say a little of both. The spiritual death that each human is conceived with is a curse. The corruption of the creation is a curse, a punishment for sin. Is physical death a curse? It depends on your standing before God.

Are you justified in the Lord's sight and clothed with Christ's righteousness? Then for you, death is a blessing. When you die you will leave this sinful world and more importantly your sinful nature, and you will be made perfect and placed in Christ's presence. For you, you will taste pleasures forevermore, as you sit at Christ's right hand. Precious in the Lord's sight is the death of His saints.

But perhaps you are not clothed with Christ's righteousness. Perhaps you are trusting in your own good works to earn a place in heaven, or perhaps you think heaven and hell are fairytales. If you have not placed your trust in Christ for eternal life, then I must tell you that for you, death is a curse. As painful as life is here on earth, no circumstance can compare with the agony of eternal judgment. Heaven and hell are both very real, and no one but the righteous can stand before the presence of God. All others are eternally separated from Him, to eternal punishment.

But there is hope. God is a just God and must punish the sins of the unrighteous, but He is also a merciful God. He sent His only Son to die for all those who would believe on Him for eternal life. Jesus took upon Himself the guilt and punishment of the wicked, and bore the wrath of God. Do you see your need of a Savior? Do you recognize that you are utterly corrupt and unable to cleanse yourself of your sins? Do you rest on Christ's work on the cross as sufficient to cover even the worst of your sins?

Turn to Christ, and He will clothe you in His righteousness. The curse of death can instead become a blessing.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Shadows of the Past. . .

. . . A nameless fear.

Sorry. *snaps out of Lord of the Rings mood* :)

You know, I was rereading some of my archives from last fall, in conjunction with a post I was drafting, and two things stood out to me: (1) how insanely long most of my posts were, and (2) how downright bitterly-sarcastic and holier-than-thou I sounded at times. *cringe* I'm not planning on deleting any of my past posts, but I would definitely say that some of my posts from last fall were not written in love.

So, I would like to make a disclaimer that I do not ringingly endorse my tone in all of my past blog entries. In general I still agree with the content, though there are likely a few exceptions. My prayer is that my posts in the last several months (since God slapped me awake) have had a spirit of humility and broken-heartedness, quite different from some of my posts last fall. I am but a broken Pharisee, not someone who "has it all together." I am a broken vessel that the Lord chooses to use, and it is through my brokenness that God's grace so often shines.

My blog anniversary is bringing to mind many of my old posts - the good, the bad, the ugly. I think I subconsciously started this blog with the intention of broadcasting my correct, conservative opinions to the world, in the hopes of finding cookie-cutter replicas of myself (since the general rabble weren't good enough for me) and in the hopes of setting other people straight on just how wrong they are.

Many of my past posts give hints of that, though I hid it pretty well, even from myself. I was in self-denial that I had legalist tendencies, especially since these tendencies were literally years in the making. My motives were to forward my own good reputation, not primarily to glorify God. And I had even tricked myself. Legalism is one of the most blinding of sins.

If I could summarize these past 9 months, it would undoubtedly be "the grace of God." I have walked through so much this past year, as God has answered my prayers in ways I would not have guessed, yet ways I would not trade for anything. He had to break me to mold me. He had to shame me to begin to exalt me. He had to reprimand me to love me. And He had to sacrifice His own son to forgive my own sinful pride.

That is love.

Monday, October 02, 2006

Anniversaries

Today marks two anniversaries:

I. Two years ago today my family left my childhood home of 16+ years and moved 40 minutes farther north, from Snellville to Buford. It's interesting, but as I've mentioned earlier, I never had much trouble thinking of our new house as "home," and even memorizing our new phone number (which conveniently has some sort of a mathematical pattern :-D) and address wasn't an issue. But today, while at a local store purchasing shoes *groan*, I reverted back to my old address when asked for my zip code. Ironic, since today was the two year anniversary of our move.

II. One year ago today I posted my first blog entry. Since then I've posted 216 entries (including this one), which is neat since 216 is 6^3, and 6 is the first perfect number. Also 216 is the product of 8 and 27, and 8 and 27 are the first two (nontrivial) perfect cubes. And no I didn't plan that :-D. But in all serious, I'm thankful for this past year of blogging, the many friends the Lord has sent my way, and the many, many lessons He has taught me. I don't know just how long this season of blogging will continue, but I'm enjoying it while it is upon me :). Thank you to all my blogging friends for being such an encouragement and challenge to me this past year!

Sunday, October 01, 2006

Our Dearest Idol

Here is a pithy quote from Charles Bridges' commentary on Ecclesiastes 4:4 :

God's work must be done. But we must be the doers of it. The thought is intolerable, that another and more honourable than ourselves should have the praise. We must throw something into the balance to depreciate his fair name, and to preserve the glory of our dearest idol - self. "How contrary a state" - as Bp. Taylor beautifully observes - "to the felicities and actions of heaven, where every star increases the light of the other, and the multitude of guests at the supper of the Lamb make the eternal meal more festival!" . . . The true power of the Gospel can alone root out this hateful principle. If there be a living union with Christ, will not his honour be our joy, by whomsoever it be advanced?