In a culture where the possibility of wealth and the acquisition of things is so defining of success, we end up pursuing things that, even if we are successful, can never deliver what we envisioned they would. The reason riches become such a snare is because we end up evaluating life in mercenary terms and being seen by others in such terms, and life is just not so.
Christian faith is exclusivistic. Christian faith lays claim upon our lives. The sanctity of life, what we do with a life, is very definitive in the Christian faith, what we do with sexuality, what we do with marriage, all of the fundamental questions of life have points of reference for answers, and people just have an aversion for that. That I think is the biggest reason they feel hostile towards the Christian faith.
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Marriage means handing over yourself, your body, your future, your keeping to the one whom you dearly love, although this person may, in many ways, remain a stranger. This tremendous act of faith is something that can unlock in each lover powers of compassion, generosity, joy, passion, fidelity and hope that no one guessed was even there. That is why the confidence of young lovers is not foolish or arrogant, but an expression of a basic fact in human experience that the greatest of human gifts are set to work only when people are prepared to risk everything and first you risk it before God.
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The assurance of Heaven is never given to the person. And that's why at the core of the Christian faith is the grace of God. If there's one word I would grab from all of that, it's forgiveness - that you can be forgiven. I can be forgiven, and it is of the grace of God. But once you understand that, I think the ramifications are worldwide.
We do not live so that we can eat, nor do we just eat so that we can live. Life is worth living in and of itself. Life cannot be satisfied when it is lived out as a consuming entity. When it is filled by that which satisfies a hunger that is both physical and spiritual in a mutuality that sustains both without violation of either, only then can life be truly fulfilling.
I do not believe that one can earnestly seek and find the priceless treasure of God's call without a devout prayer life. That is where God speaks. The purpose of prayer and of God's call in your life is not to make you number one in the world's eyes, but to make him number one in your life. We must be willing to be outshone while shining for God. We hear very little about being smaller in our own self-estimate.
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It is a mindless philosophy that assumes that one's private beliefs have nothing to do with public office. Does it make sense to entrust those who are immoral in private with the power to determine the nation's moral issues and, indeed, its destiny? One of the most dangerous and terrifying trends in America today is the disregard for character as a central necessity in a leader's credentials. The duplicitous soul of a leader can only make a nation more sophisticated in evil.
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We are living in a time when sensitivities are at the surface, often vented with cutting words. Philosophically, you can believe anything so as you do not claim it a better way. Religiously, you can hold to anything, so long as you do not bring Jesus Christ into it. If a spiritual idea is eastern, it is granted critical immunity; if western, it is thoroughly criticized. Thus, a journalist can walk into a church and mock its carryings on, but he or she dare not do the same if the ceremony is from eastern fold. Such is the mood at the end of the twentieth century. A mood can be a dangerous state of mind, because it can crush reason under the weight of feeling. But that is precisely what I believe postmodernism best represents - a mood.
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To consume the best for yourself and give the crumbs to God is blasphemy. A heart that truly worships is a heart that gives its best to God in time and substance. A heart that truly worships God gives generously to the causes of God-causes that God cares deeply about. I have to wonder whether someday we may wake up to discover that all our incestous spending on ourselves and our frantic construction of excessively luxurious places of worship-even as we ignore, for the most part, the hurting and the deprived of the world-filled God's heart with pain.
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Love is a commitment that will be tested in the most vulnerable areas of spirituality, a commitment that will force you to make some very difficult choices. It is a commitment that demands that you deal with your lust, your greed, your pride, your power, your desire to control, your temper, your patience, and every area of temptation that the Bible clearly talks about. It demands the quality of commitment that Jesus demonstrates in His relationship to us.
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If you notice, the moral law in the other legal codes separates people (the Laws of Manu, the caste system, the Code of Hammurabi with the slave/owner distinction). In Islam, the violator is inferior to the obedient one. By contrast, in the Hebrew-Christian tradition, the law unifies people. No one is made righteous before God by keeping the law. It is only following redemption that we can truly understand the moral law for what it is-a mirror that indicts and calls the heart to seek God's help. This makes moral reasoning the fruit of spiritual understanding and not the cause of it.
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Thankfully, our disappointments matter to God, and He has a way of taking even some of the bitterest moments we go through and making them into something of great significance in our life. It's hard to understand it at the time. Not one of us wants that thread when it is being woven in. Not one of us says, 'I can hardly wait to see where this is going to fit.' We all say at that moment, 'This is not the pattern I want.
We are his temple. We do not turn in a certain directlon to pray. We are not bound by having to go into a building so that we can commune with God. There are no unique postures and times and limitations that restrict our access to God. My relationship with God is intimate and personal. The Christian does not go to the temple to worship. The Christian takes the temple with him or her. Jesus lifts us beyond the building and pays the human body the highest compliment by making it His dwelling place, the place where He meets with us. Even today He would overturn the tables of those who make it a marketplace for their own lust, greed, and wealth.
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There are no unique postures and times and limitations that restrict our access to God. My relationship with God is intimate and personal. The Christian does not go to the temple to worship. The Christian takes the temple with him or her. Jesus lifts us beyond the building and pays the human body the highest compliment by making it His dwelling place, the place where He meets with us. Even today He would overturn the tables of those who make it a marketplace for their own lust, greed and wealth.
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When God is our Holy Father, sovereignty, holiness, omniscience, and immutability do not terrify us; they leave us full of awe and gratitude. Sovereignty is only tyrannical if it is unbounded by goodness; holiness is only terrifying if it is untempered by grace; omniscience is only taunting if it is unaccompanied by mercy; and immutability is only torturous if there is no guarantee of goodwill.
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The character of Jesus has not only been the highest pattern of virtue, but the strongest incentive in its practice, and has exerted so deep an influence, that it may be truly said that the simple record of three years of active life has done more to regenerate and to soften mankind than all the disquisitions of philosophers and all the exhortations of moralists.
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Years ago I was asked this question: Do terrorists fear anything? I said, 'I suspect they would fear a morally strong America.' They would know that a morally strong America would not be dislodged. You can always appeal to a point of vulnerability which would break a people up. [Terrorists] don't fear so much the weaponry as the moral courage, and I think a morally strong America would be intimidating to them.
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Capturing the beauty of the conversion of the water into wine, the poet Alexander Pope said, "The conscious water saw its Master and blushed." That sublime description could be reworked to explain each one of these miracles. Was it any different in principle for a broken body to mend at the command of its Maker? Was it far-fetched for the Creator of the universe, who fashioned matter out of nothing, to multiply bread for the crowd? Was it not within the power of the One who called all the molecules into existence to interlock them that they might bear His footsteps?
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The cross stands as a mystery because it is foreign to everything we exalt- self over principle, power over meekness, the quick fix over the long haul, cover-up over confession, escapism over confrontation, conform over sacrifice, feeling over commitment, legality over justice, the body over the spirit, anger over forgiveness, man over God.
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The longer I am in this work, the more I realize that intellectual struggles are merely the hazardous waste of life, blocking the heart from truth. The task of apologetics is to carefully remove that hazardous material and keep it from igniting into a destructive fire. Once that is done, the way to the heart is always through the way of the Cross, God's love for each and every one of us.
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There can be no reproach to pain unless we assume human dignity, there is no reason for restraints on pleasure unless we assume human worth, there is no legitimacy to monotony unless we assume a greater purpose to life, there is no purpose to life unless we assume design, death has no significance unless we seek what is everlasting.
The Samaritan woman grasped what He said with fervor that came from an awareness of her real need. The transaction was fascinating. She has come with a buket. He sent her back with a spring of living water. She had come as a reject. He sent her back being accepted by God Himself. She came wounded. He sent her back whole. She came laden with questions. He sent her back as a source for answers. She came living a life of quiet desperation. She ran back overflowing with hope. The disciples missed it all. It was lunchtime for them.
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When a plane crashes and some die while others live, a skeptic calls into question God's moral character, saying that he has chosen some to live and others to die on a whim; yet you say it is your moral right to choose whether the child within you should live or die. Does that not sound odd to you? When God decides who should live or die, he is immoral. When you decide who should live or die, it's your moral right.
The Christian faith, simply stated, reminds us that our fundamental problem is not moral; rather, our fundamental problem is spiritual. It is not just that we are immoral, but that a moral life alone cannot bridge what separates us from God. Herein lies the cardinal difference between the moralizing religions and Jesus' offer to us. Jesus does not offer to make bad people good but to make dead people alive.
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Let us remember that every worldview-not just Christianity's-must give an explanation or an answer for evil and suffering...this is not just a problem distinctive to Christianity. It will not do for the challenger just to raise the question. This problem of evil is one to which we all must offer an answer, regardless of the belief system to which we subscribe.
When you say there's too much evil in this world you assume there's good. When you assume there's good, you assume there's such a thing as a moral law on the basis of which to differentiate between good and evil. But if you assume a moral law, you must posit a moral Law Giver, but that's Who you're trying to disprove and not prove. Because if there's no moral Law Giver, there's no moral law. If there's no moral law, there's no good. If there's no good, there's no evil. What is your question?
Attempting to satisfy the passions that rage inside us and the longings that motivate us, we invent spirituality, lean on political solutions, create new villains, turn our backs on Jesus, and blame a thousand tyrannies- but we never come to terms with the source of the problem deep within the heart and inclination of every human being.
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The laughter in response to my question unmasked the double standard our deconstructionists espouse. And that is precisely the double standard of atheism! It is possible to dress up and romanticize our bizarre experiments in social restructuring while disavowing truth or absolutes. But one dares not play such deadly games with the foundations of good thinking.
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None of us like the concept of law because none of us like the restraints it puts on us. But when we understand that God has given us his law to aid us in guarding our souls, we see that the law is for our fulfillment, not for our limitation. The law reminds us that some things, some experiences, some relationships are sacred. When everything has been profaned, it is not just my freedom that has been lost- the loss is everyone's. God gave us the law to remind us of the sacredness of life, and our created legal systems only serve to remind us of the profane judgments we make.
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