Friday, January 29, 2010

lifeline

I am officially DONE with the GRE. 

After 6 weeks of cramming obscure words in my head and trying to bend my mind around mathmatical equations, it's over.  Preparation was a bit of a roller-coaster.  I took at least 6 full-length practice exams (created by various companies) at home and my scores were all over the map.  I honestly had no idea how I'd do on the real thing, but I felt like I had put all the study time I could afford into it. 

The real thing felt just plain awful.  The math was HARD and I didn't finish that section in time. (Argh!) The verbal section seemed way too easy (which can be a bad thing on the GRE ... it might mean that you've answered questions incorrectly so the computer has bumped you into a lower bracket).  I was so spent by the end.  I had this awful feeling that it had been a disaster. But when the scores came up on the screen I just sat there stunned ... and the tears started flowing.  Happy tears!

We are just delighted with how well it went.  God's tender mercies were so evident this week.  I had such peace about taking the test (in spite of a number of low-scoring practice runs), and I felt so surrounded by love and prayers.  I'm afraid when the testing company finds out how many friends were praying for me they will revoke my scores and say there was supernatural interference. :)  They have no idea what a lifeline I had!

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

good news and bad news

I'll start with the bad news.  I was folding laundry today in the living room (that's not the bad part yet).  When the laundry basket was just about empty I became aware of a noise.  After a moment I decided it was the dryer running.  I paused for a moment, puzzled, because I couldn't recall having washed a load that needed drying.  Furthermore, I was the only adult home.  Another moment passed as I mentally replayed the unloading of the dryer ... the emptying of the lint screen ... the closing of the door ... and (ack!) starting the (empty) dryer.  I jumped up to turn it off.  Now that's scary.  Am I losing my mind?

But here's the good news.  Later this afternoon I was in the kitchen making dinner (no, that's not the good news).  Suddenly I heard a noise.  I decided it was the the vacuum cleaner.  I paused for a moment, puzzled, because I was the only adult home.  Then it hit me.  Eliana is doing her chores, and I didn't even ask her to!!!  Now that's encouraging.  It means that by the time I've completely lost my mind my children will be able to take care of me!

Sunday, January 24, 2010

a big day on Friday

This Friday morning I'm scheduled to take the GRE.  I would appreciate prayers for a calm heart and clear thinking.  (At $160 a pop, I'm hoping this will be my first and last GRE!)  Thank you!

Friday, January 22, 2010

a good book about an even better book!

I just finished reading this excellent book by Greg Beale, entitled The Temple and the Church's Mission: A biblical theology of the dwelling place of God.  It is quite profound and spans the whole Bible from Genesis to Revelation.  I highly recommend it if you want to get the big picture of the message of Scripture. 

This book has been so helpful in giving me an overall framework for understanding Scripture and explaining it to the JW's who are meeting with me. I wanted to give you a taste of what I've learned in the book.  We serve an indescribable God and His Word is just amazing!

As the title suggests, Beale focuses on the concept of the temple, or dwelling place of God.  God was first present to Adam and Eve in Eden, but Beale demonstrates that God intended for Adam and Eve to extend the boundaries of the garden paradise until His presence filled the whole earth.  (A world-wide garden of Eden!) Because they failed to do this, they lost their role as 'priests' in the garden temple.  Later, God chose to make his presence most tangible in the tabernacle, and then the temple, which was also intended to grow until it filled Jerusalem and then the whole earth (see Isaiah 4:5-6; 65:17-18 and Jeremiah 3:16-17).  Israel failed at her mandate to mediate God's presence to the world.  They were exiled and the temple destroyed.  When they returned home to rebuild, they were deeply disappointed with the results.  It was not glorious, and we're never told that God's glory descended to fill it.  But John tells us that Jesus came and "tabernacled among us, and we beheld His glory" (John 1:14).  He announces that He is the new temple (Matt 12:6; John 2:19-22).  And by faith in Him we become part of the temple, the place where God's glory dwells (Eph 2:19-22; 1 Pet 2:4-10).  The grand finale is found in Rev 21-22 where all of creation becomes a temple, and there is no place where God's glory is not tangible.  Have you ever wondered why the New Jerusalem in Rev 21 is cubic?  The only other structure in the Bible which is said to have a cubic shape is the Holy of Holies, the most sacred part of the temple where God's glory dwells.  Only the high priest is allowed inside, and only once a year to make intercession for God's people.  But in John's vision the "new heavens and new earth" (i.e. the entire new creation) is a cubic garden-city where God is fully present.  The veil has been torn and now all believers live in the light of God's unhindered presence.  The Holy of Holies is all there is!

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Easton Daniel


Buddy is growing up!  Tomorrow he will be 19 months old.  It's a joy to spend my days with him.  He is such a happy kid and loves to tag along and explore whatever he can reach.  Today he decided that he needed to reach higher in life, so he lifted a plastic kid chair on top of the kid table and was in the process of climbing up to stand on the chair when we found him!  The JW's who come on Thursdays always rave about what a sweet boy he is.  And I quite agree.  Today I shared with them the meaning of his name:  Daniel in the Bible is someone who lived in the East (in exile) and remained faithful to worship God and make a difference in the society where he lived.  We pray that Easton Daniel will do the same!

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

i had no idea ...

... that studying vocabulary for the GRE would help me with motherhood.  This week I was reading one of Beatrix Potter's stories to Emma, when one of my new 25-cent words nearly jumped off the page.  The flopsy bunnies discovered the soporific effects of lettuce, and it almost landed them in Mr. McGregor's stew!  In case you are as unenlightened as I was just 6 weeks ago (before I learned this most useful word), soporific  means 'sleep-inducing.'  (Think "turkey dinner" or "warm milk.")  The bunnies ate too much lettuce and it made them fall asleep so they were captured by Mr. McGregor.  Thankfully, they were rescued just in time.

If you want to learn other useful words such as this one, click on the 'Free Rice' icon below and to the right.  You'll be a smarter parent in no time! :)

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

umlauts and bananacotti

Kids say the cutest things!  I cooked manicotti for dinner, which was a first for the kids.  When I told Emma (age 4) what they were made of she announced, "I'm gonna like bananacotti!"

Easton (18 months) still isn't talking, but he keeps us laughing just the same.  Today at lunch I realized (too late) that if I give Easton a new food to try I should watch him eat it rather than researching how to type an umlaut.* I promise that I wasn't staring at the computer screen very long at all, but when I turned to check on him there was cottage cheese in his hair, his ear, all over his face, shirt and pants, with spoonfuls plopped all over the floor around him.  He knows better, but apparently he was testing if the rules are still in effect when mom is on the internet??

*An umlaut is a set of two little dots above certain vowels in German words ... like naive in English.  I would type one for you but I don't know how because just when I was about to try the instructions I noticed Easton... 

Friday, January 8, 2010

heaven and earth

Yesterday's post may have left the impression that I believe I am sealed by the Holy Spirit because I feel like I am, and Ephesians ought to have been written for me because I like it so much.  But there is much firmer ground for the idea that we are sealed by the Holy Spirit and will reign with Christ.

What I noticed yesterday is that wherever the words "heaven" and "earth" occur together in the Bible, Jehovah's Witnesses read them as two distinct places - one for the elite, anointed ones and one for the average Christian.  (Or, ironically, one as symbolic for earthly governments and the other for society).  But this is a misunderstanding of the way these words work in the Bible!  And I think it's the root of a number of their false beliefs.  The fancy word for this figure of speech is merism, which is where two words are meant to represent everything in between.  We use merism in English when we say "she was wet from head to toe."  Do we mean that her head was wet and her toe was, too?  Are we giving special emphasis to her head and toe over other body parts?  No.  We simply mean that her whole body was wet.

Genesis 1:1 tells us that "In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth."  The Hebrew word for "heavens" functions just like the Greek word for "heavens" and the English one, too (I suppose because of the Bible's influence).  It can mean the sky, or it can refer to the place where God dwells.  Context tells us  which meaning is in view.  Was God, in Genesis 1, making a place for Himself to live as well as for us?  I don't think so.  "Heavens and earth" is a figurative way of talking about ALL OF CREATION.  If you go on to read the rest of the chapter, you'll see that God creates the sky and the land (and everything else).

In many places after that the Bible speaks of the "heavens and the earth."  Take, for example, Isaiah 1:2, "Hear, O heavens! Listen, O earth! For the LORD has spoken."  Is God here addressing two locations - one spiritual and one physical?  No!  He is calling all of creation as His witnesses in the court case that He is about to bring against Israel.  They have rebelled against Him and creation is ready to testify.  At the end of Isaiah he declares, "Behold, I will create new heavens and a new earth" (Isa 65:17).  Are these two new places God will make?  He clarifies in the following verse what he means: "I will create Jerusalem...".  That's it.  One place.  A new Jerusalem.

Fast forward to Revelation 21:1.  John announces, "Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away."  Does he then go on to see TWO places?  One for the anointed, and one for the rest of us?  No!  He sees ONE place: "the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God."  (This should ring a bell).  John sees the new creation, pictured as a garden-city-temple where God will at last dwell with us as He intended from the start.  Those who are welcome to enter this paradise are "those who wash their robes" (22:14).  Is that referring to a set number of individuals (144,000 to be exact) who have been given special passes?  My JW friends would say so.  But look at Revelation 7:9ff.  There we see a "great multitude that no one could count ... wearing white robes."  These are the ones from all over the globe who will enter into the new creation and eat from the tree of life.  That's you and me! 

They carry this idea to many other places in the Bible.  Look at the beatitudes in Matthew 5.  Instead of taking this as a list of counter-cultural attributes which should characterize all the people of God, they read verse 3 and verse 5 as talking about two distinct groups of people!  One (the poor in spirit) will go to "heaven," and the other (the meek) will stay on "earth."  They are not recognizing that Matthew consistently uses "kingdom of heaven" as a label for God's Kingdom, not a place in the sky where only some will end up.  I would be very hesitant to draw a line between items 1 and 3 on a list of 9 attributes that should characterize all believers.

It all boils down to a misunderstanding of a Hebrew figure of speech.  In their desire to take the Bible "literally," JW's have excluded themselves (most of them anyway) from some of the most precious promises of Scripture.  I, for one, am looking forward to walking through those pearly gates!

Thursday, January 7, 2010

blessed assurance?

I've asked myself more than once if it is worth my time to meet with "my" Jehovah's Witnesses each week for a Bible study. They are obviously convinced of their point of view, as I am of mine. So what's the point? I've decided that hearing them explain their doctrine is a fabulous motivator for me to learn how to better articulate my own. Today is a case in point.

We got a bit hung up on the 144,000 in Revelation 7. I'm not a big end-times prophecy expert and I don't claim to have a solid handle on the book of Revelation. But their interpretation of this jumped out at me as quite unusual. In short, they believe that the 144,000 are a select group of faithful believers who will rule the earth from heaven with God. They have assured me that they are not part of that group and are quite content to live here on earth. So is this just a minor difference? Better to just 'agree to disagree' and move on? I thought maybe so until we wandered into another topic and I realized just how huge the implications are.

JW's believe that regular believers (like you and me, probably, unless you are one of the few) are NOT the bride of Christ. Only the 144,000 qualify. And when I took them to Ephesians 5 (where Christ is said to give himself for the church and make her radiant - v25-26) and asked them how that squares with their theology I got the shocking answer: Ephesians wasn't written for us. It was for the 1st century church in Ephesus, and they were part of the select, anointed group of individuals who will reign with Christ. We will not. Back up to Ephesians chapter one. Remember all the spiritual blessings we thought we had in Christ? adoption as sons, forgiveness of sins, the seal of the Holy Spirit, etc. Apparently those blessings are only for the elite.

I know that my JW friends believe they are saved through faith in Christ. I have found that we do have much in common. But their two-tiered version of Christianity strips the good news out of the gospel! Ephesians was written for the church in Ephesus, but by the grace of God we, too, are members of that same, ever-expanding body of Christ. We are offered the wonderful assurance of the Holy Spirit reminding us that we belong to God (Eph 1:13-14). When I told them that I was confident that I was part of the bride of Christ and would reign with him in the new creation it was their turn to be shocked. While they couldn't argue with that (because it's based on my own 'inner witness'), they have no such hope.

A pastor friend of ours has written a wonderful response to the JW doctrine of the 144,000 which shows that the number is used as a symbolic representation of all believers in Jesus. Here is the link if you're interested in exploring this for yourself:

http://gsdisciple.blogspot.com/2008/06/numb3rs-144000.html
http://gsdisciple.blogspot.com/search?q=144%2C000

All this reminds me why it is so important for us to diligently study God's Word and continue to question our own presuppositions so that we can be receptive to the truth. I have conceeded a few things over these weeks that I think the church at large has gotten wrong. But today was not one of those days. I'm hangin' on to this one!

Monday, January 4, 2010

joy overflowing

You know that feeling you get when you wake up in the morning, still groggy, and then you suddenly remember that it's a very special day, maybe your birthday?  Or you're plodding along through your day and then you remember some very good news that you had forgotten for a few moments, like a new baby on the way?  Don't you just love that warm, tingly, joyous feeling that floods your soul?

We were traipsing through the mall yesterday, attempting to kill several birds with one stone.  It was too cold for a family bike ride, or anything else outdoors, so we were getting exercise, spending time together and shopping for a teapot.  Malls exhaust me.  We had already made the entire loop once, and visited 4 department stores with no luck finding a teapot.  Then we made a spontaneous decision to buy a treat ... at the OTHER end of the mall.  My feet hurt.  And I was wondering why we didn't buy our treat when we were over on that end the first time.  There is so little about a mall that grabs me.  In point of fact it was our first family trip - ever - to the mall (aside from getting our pictures taken last year).  Just as discouragement was setting in like a thick fog a beacon of hope came piercing through me and lit up my countenance.  At that moment I remembered: I'm in school!  Tomorrow there will be no trip to the mall.  I get to study!

And that, my friends, should confirm what you have suspected for some time now.  I'm NOT normal!  (If any high school friends are reading this they will concur: I haven't changed a bit.)  But I'm doing what I was made to do.  And there is such deep joy in knowing that.

Saturday, January 2, 2010

switching gears

When was the last time you were asked to calculate the slope of a line perpendicular to a line whose equation is y = 5x + 9?  If you're like me, it's been at least 14 years!  But in order to score well on the GRE such skills must be retrieved from the forgotten back corners of the closet, dusted off, and put to good use again.  And all the math review I've had in the past two weeks should serve me well in coming years as Eliana moves past simple multiplication to algebra and geometry.  Bring it on!

Don't worry.  We did bake cookies, make gingerbread houses, attend a Christmas Eve service, go on a family vacation, wrap and deliver presents to the neighbors, bake cinnamon rolls, open presents at home, play games, watch movies, and have a birthday party for Jesus (not in that order).  I've had plenty of time to play.  I even worked on our family scrapbook and got it caught up! 

But it's time to switch gears again - to order books, plan the semester and take lots of deep breaths.  This will be a full one, and as usual I'm in syllabus shock.  We'll just have to take it one page at a time!

(By the way, in case your wheels are still turning ... the slope of a perpendicular line is the negative reciprocal of the first line, so in this case the answer is -1/5.  Now isn't that inspiring?!)