It is hard for us to admit we have a sin nature because we live in this system of checks and balances. If we get caught, we will be punished. But that doesn't make us good people; it only makes us subdued. Just think about the Congress and Senate and even the president. The genius of the American system is not freedom; the genius of the American system is checks and balances. Nobody gets all the power. Everybody is watching everybody else. It is as if the founding fathers knew, intrinsically, that the soul of man, unwatched, is perverse.
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I think we can provide better stories through providing mentors, and certainly part of my story is providing mentors to kids growing up without dads. I think positive male role models go a long way in terms of rescuing kids from a life of trouble.I think positive male role models go a long way in terms of rescuing kids from a life of trouble.
When I walked into the Christian section of a bookstore, the message was clear: Faith is something you do alone. Rick does not have much tolerance for people living alone. He's like Bill Clinton in that he feels everyone's pain. If Rick thinks somebody is lonely, he can't sleep at night. He wants us all to live with each other and play nice so he can get some rest. Tortured soul.
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The most often repeated commandment in the Bible is 'Do not fear.' It's in there over two hundred times. That means a couple of things, if you think about it. It means we are going to be afraid, and it means we shouldn't let fear boss us around. Before I realized we were supposed to fight fear, I thought of fear as a subtle suggestion in our subconscious designed to keep us safe, or more important, keep us from getting humiliated. And I guess it serves that purpose. But fear isn't only a guide to keep us safe; it's also a manipulative emotion that can trick us into living a boring life.
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In an age in which we can project an image and score that image based on immediate Facebook and Twitter feedback, thus making a video game of life and a false-reality composed of lies, what gets lost is a joyful obsession with the work we create from the purest of motives, a sheer joy in the act of creation itself that causes us to lose ourselves in something else, and in a way die to ourselves over the absolute love of a thing we are breathing into life.
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I am early in my story, but I believe I will stretch out into eternity, and in heaven I will reflect upon these early days, these days when it seemed God was down a dirt road, walking toward me. Years ago He was a swinging speck in the distance; now He is close enough I can hear His singing. Soon I will see the lines on His face.
I don't wonder anymore what I'll tell God when I go to heaven when we sit in the chairs under the tree, outside the city........I'll tell these things to God, and he'll laugh, I think and he'll remind me of the parts I forgot, the parts that were his favorite. We'll sit and remember my story together, and then he'll stand and put his arms around me and say, "well done," and that he liked my story. And my soul won't be thirsty anymore. Finally he'll turn and we'll walk toward the city, a city he will have spoken into existence a city built in a place where once there'd been nothing.
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There is a time when every person who encounters Jesus, who believes Jesus is the Son of God, decides that they will spend their life following Him. Some people, like the Apostle Paul, make this decision the minute they meet Him, the minute they become a Christian. Others, like the Apostle Peter, endure years of half-hearted commitment and spiritual confusion before leaping in with all their passion. Still others may enjoy some benefits of God's love and grace without entering into the true joy of a marriage with their maker.
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The truth is there are a million steps, and we don't even know what the steps are, and worse, at any given moment we may not be willing or even able to take them; and still worse, they are different for you and they are always changing. I have come to believe the sooner we will fall in love with the God who keeps shaking things up, keeps changing the path, keeps rocking the boat to test our faith in Him, teaching us to not rely on easy answers, bullet points, magic mantras, or genies in lamps, but rather in His guidance, His existence, His mercy, and His love.
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I've wondered, though, if one of the reasons we fail to acknowledge the brilliance of life is because we don't want the responsibility inherent in the acknowledgment. We don't want to be characters in a story because characters have to move and breathe and face conflict with courage. And if life isn't remarkable, then we don't have to do any of that; we can be unwilling victims instead of grateful participants.
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If the point of life is the same as the point of a story, the point of life is character transformation. If I got any comfort as I set out on my first story, it was that in nearly every story, the protagonist is transformed. He's a jerk at the beginning and nice at the end, or a coward at the beginning and brave at the end. If the character doesn't change, the story hasn't happened yet. And if story is derived from real life, if story is just condensed version of life then life itself may be designed to change us so that we evolve from one kind of person to another.
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When you live on your own for a long time, however, your personality changes because you go so much into yourself you lose the ability to be social, to understand what is and isn't normal behavior. There is an entire world inside yourself, and if you let yourself, you can get so deep inside it you will forget the way to the surface. Other people keep our souls alive, just like food and water does with our body.
Earthly love... is temporal and slight so that is has to be given again and again in order for us to feel any sense of security; but God's love, God's voice and presence, would instill our souls with such affirmation we would need nothing more and would cause us to love other people so much we would be willing to die for them.
And through a dark night of the soul, I came to realize that salvation happens through a mysterious, indefinable, relational interaction with Jesus in which we become one with Him. I realized Christian conversion worked more like falling in love than understanding a series of concepts of ideas. This is not to say there are no true ideas, it is only to say there is something else, something beyond.
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What I believe is not what I say I believe; what I believe is what I do. I used to say that I believed it was important to tell people about Jesus, but I never did. A friend kindly explained that if I do not introduce people to Jesus, then I don't believe Jesus is an important person. It doesn't matter what I say. We live for what we believe.
The real issue in the Christian community was that it was conditional. You were loved, but if you had questions, questions about whether the Bible was true or whether America was a good country or whether last week's sermon was good, you were not so loved. You were loved in word, but there was, without question, a social commodity that was being withheld from you until you shaped up.
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I wanted tolerance. I wanted everybody to leave everybody else alone, regardless of their religious beliefs, regardless of their political affiliation. I wanted people to like each other. Hatred seemed, to me, the product of ignorance. I was tired of biblical ethic being used as a tool with which to judge people rather than heal them. I was tired of Christian leaders using biblical principles to protect their power, to draw a line in the sand separating the good army from the bad one. The truth is I had met the enemy in the woods and discovered they were not the enemy. I wondered whether any human being could be an enemy of God.
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The person who believes the sum of his morality involves gay marriage and abortion alone, and neglects health care and world trade and the environment and loving his neighbor and feeding the poor is, by definition, a theological liberal, because he takes what he wants from Scripture and ignores the rest.
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All our time spent making lists would be better spent painting, or writing, Or singing, or learning to speak stories. Sometimes I feel as though the Church has a kind of pity for Scripture, Always having to come behind it and explain everything, put everything into actionable steps, acronyms and hidden secrets, as though the original writers, and for that matter the Holy Spirit Who worked in the lives of the original writers, were a bunch of you literate hillbillies. I think the methodology God used to explain His Truth is quite superior. My life is a story, more than a list. I don't feel that a list could ever explain the complexity of all this beauty.
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