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Monthly Archives: April 2013

Life in the Vanishing City

Phantom TollboothIn Norton Juster’s The Phantom Tollbooth—a classic children’s story for all ages—the boy Milo unwittingly takes a journey into a world of fantasy, where he discovers that his own world is far from the boring place he considered it to be.

During one of several encounters with the creatures and people of this fantasy world, Milo learns about the tragedy of living an unexamined life:

“Many years ago, on this very spot, there was a beautiful city of fine houses and inviting spaces, and no one who lived here was ever in a hurry.  The streets were full of wonderful things to see and the people would often stop to look at them.”

“Didn’t they have any place to go?” asked Milo.

“To be sure,” continued Alec; “but, as you know, the most important reason for going from one place to another is to see what’s in between, and they took great pleasure in doing just that.  Then one day someone discovered that if you walked as fast as possible and looked at nothing but your shoes you would arrive at your destination much more quickly.  Soon everyone was doing it.  They all rushed down the avenues and hurried along the boulevards seeing nothing of the wonders and beauties of their city as they went.”

Milo remembered the many times he’d done the very same thing; and, as hard as he tried, there were even things on his own street that he couldn’t remember.

In the Vanishing City“No one paid any attention to how things looked, and as they moved faster and faster everything grew uglier and dirtier, and as everything grew uglier and dirtier they moved faster and faster; and at last a very strange thing began to happen.  Because nobody cared, the city slowly began to disappear.  Day by day the buildings grew fainter and fainter, and the streets faded away, until at last it was entirely invisible.  There was nothing to see at all.

“What did they do?” the Humbug inquired, suddenly taking an interest in things.

“Nothing at all,” continued Alec.  “They went right on living here just as they’d always done, in the houses they could no longer see and on the streets which had vanished, because nobody had noticed a thing.  And that’s the way they have lived to this very day.”

“Hasn’t anyone told them?” asked Milo.

“It doesn’t do any good,” Alec replied, “for they can never see what they’re in too much of a hurry to look for.” (pp. 117-18)

Look up.  Look around.  Seek wisdom.  See beauty.

My son, if you receive my words and treasure up my commandments with you, making your ear attentive to wisdom and inclining your heart to understanding, if you seek it like silver and search for it as for hidden treasures, then you will understand the fear of the Lord and find the knowledge of God.  For the Lord gives wisdom; from his mouth come knowledge and understanding.—Proverbs 2:1-6

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Posted by on April 22, 2013 in Book Comments, Knowledge

 

A Slender Cord in the Hands of a Great God

Charles Spurgeon on faith and works . . . two passages on the merits of one and inadequacy of the other:

I am told that years ago a boat was upset above the falls of Niagara, and two men were being carried down the current, when persons on the shore managed to float a rope out to them, which rope was seized by them both.  One of them held fast to it and was safely drawn to the bank; but the other, seeing a great log come floating by, unwisely let go the rope and clung to the log, for it was the bigger thing of the two, and apparently better to cling to.  Alas!  The log with the man on it went right over the vast abyss, because there was no union between the log and the shore.  The size of the log was no benefit to him who grasped it; it needed a connection with the shore to produce safety.  So when a man trusts to his works, or to sacraments, or to anything of that sort, he will not be saved, because there is no junction between him and Christ; but faith, though it may seem to be like a slender cord, is in the hands of the great God on the shore side; infinite power pulls in the connecting line, and thus draws the man from destruction. (All of Grace, pp. 45-46)

And another:

Those who hope to be saved by trying to do their best know nothing of that glowing fervor, that hallowed warmth, that devout joy in God, which come with salvation freely given according to the grace of God.  The slavish spirit of self-salvation is no match for the joyous spirit of adoption.  There is more real virtue in the least emotion of faith than in all the tuggings of legal bond-slaves, or all the weary machinery of devotees who would climb to Heaven by rounds of ceremonies.  Faith is spiritual, and God who is a spirit delights in it for that reason.  Years of prayer-saying, and church-going, or chapel-going, and ceremonies, and performances, may only be an abomination in the sight of Jehovah; but a glance from the eye of true faith is spiritual and it is therefore dear to Him. (All of Grace, p. 99)

 
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Posted by on April 16, 2013 in Book Comments, Charles Spurgeon, Faith

 

Rejoicing in the Resurrection

In Miracles, C. S. Lewis explains how the resurrection of Christ ushered in a kind of “new creation” and changed everything:

The Resurrection was not regarded simply or chiefly as evidence for the immortality of the soul. . . . On such a view Christ would simply have done what all men do when they die:  the only novelty would have been that in His case we were allowed to see it happening.  But there is not in Scripture the faintest suggestion that the Resurrection was new evidence for something that had in fact been always happening.  The New Testament writers speak as if Christ’s achievement in rising from the dead was the first event of its kind in the whole history of the universe.  He is the “first fruits,” the “pioneer of life.”  He has forced open a door that has been locked since the death of the first man.  He has met, fought, and beaten the King of Death.  Everything is different because He has done so.  This is the beginning of the New Creation:  a new chapter in cosmic history has opened. (pp. 236-37)

In a broad sense, this “new chapter” is the age in which we live.  And it is reason for rejoicing . . . the crescendo of this song of hope we sing.  I am tempted to say it’s the “light of a new dawn” and leave it at that, but Sinclair Ferguson offers the same sentiment without seeming nearly as trite.

For what took place in the Elder Brother [Jesus] will one day take place in the lives of all the children [of God].  Not only so, but already, through fellowship with him in our regeneration, through “new birth,” we experience the first rays of that glorious morning.  The light of the world to come has already crept over the horizon of our lives and is shining into the death-darkened days in which we live. (Children of the Living God, p. 19)

Rejoice!

“‘Why do you seek the living among the dead?  He is not here, but has risen.  Remember how he told you . . . that the Son of Man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men and be crucified and on the third day rise.’  And they remembered his words.”—Luke 24:5-8