We cannot find God without God. We cannot reach God without God. We cannot satisfy God without God - which is another way of saying that all our seeking will fall short unless God starts and finishes the search. The decisive part of our seeking is not our human ascent to God, but His descent to us. Without God's descent there is no human ascent. The secret of the quest lies not in our brilliance but in His grace.
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In practice it undermines the transformation of faith. When Christians concentrate their time and energy on their own separate spheres and their own institutions-whether all-absorbing megachurches, Christian yellow-page businesses, or womb-to-tomb Christian cultural ghettoes-they lose the outward thrusting, transforming power that is at the heart of the gospel. Instead of being 'salt' and 'light' -images of a permeating and penetrating action-Christians and Christian institutions become soft and vulnerable to corruption from within.
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As soon as we ask what faith is and what sort of mistreatment of faith causes doubt, we are led to the first major misconception about doubt-the idea that doubt is always wrong because it is the opposite of faith and the same thing as unbelief. What this error leads to is a view of faith that is unrealistic and a view of doubt that is unfair.
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Friedrich Nietzsche predicted that secular people, losing touch with transcendence, would eventually lose a reference point from which to look down and judge themselves. In the end they would lose even the capacity to despise themselves. Thus, because of the 'death of God', they would confuse heaven with happiness, and happiness with health.
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Interestingly, God's remedy for Elijah's depression was not a refresher course in theology but food and sleep... Before God spoke to him at all, Elijah was fed twice and given a good chance to sleep. Only then, and very gently, did God confront him with his error. This is always God's way. Having made us as human beings, He respects our humanness and treats us with integrity. That is, He treats us true to the truth of who we are. It is human beings and not God who have made spirituality impractical.
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The question the doubter does not ask is whether faith was really useless or simply not used. What would you think of a boy who gave up learning to ride a bicycle, complaining that he hurt himself because his bicycle stopped moving so he had no choice but to fall off? If he wanted to sit comfortably while remaining stationary, he should not have chosen a bicycle but a chair. Similarly faith must be put to use, or it will become useless.
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What has happened to create this doubt is that a problem (such as a deep conflict or a bad experience) has been allowed to usurp God's place and become the controlling principle of life. Instead of viewing the problem from the vantage point of faith, the doubter views faith from the vantage point of the problem. Instead of faith sizing up the problem, the situation ends with the problem scaling down faith. The world of faith is upside down, and in the topsy-turvy reality of doubt, a problem has become god and God has become a problem.
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We are not wise enough, pure enough, or strong enough to aim and sustain such a single motive over a lifetime. That way lies fanaticism or failure. But if the single motive is the master motivation of God's calling, the answer is yes. In any and all situations, both today and tomorrow's tomorrow, God's call to us is the unchanging and ultimate whence, what, why, and whither of our lives. Calling is a 'yes' to God that carries a 'no' to the chaos of modern demands. Calling is the key to tracing the story line of our lives and unriddling the meaning of our existence in a chaotic world.
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To come to faith on the basis of experience alone is unwise, though not so foolish as to reject faith altogether because of lack of experience... the quality of a Christian's experience depends on the quality of his faith, just as the quality of his faith depends in turn on the quality of his understanding of God's truth.
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Calling resists privatization by insisting on the totality of faith. Calling resists politicization by demanding a tension with every human allegiance and association. Calling resists polarization by requiring an attitude toward, and action in, society that is inevitably transforming because it is constantly engaged. Grand Christian movements will rise and fall. Grand campaigns will be mounted and grand coalitions assembled. But all together such coordinated efforts will never match the influence of untold numbers of followers of Christ living out their callings faithfully across the vastness and complexity of modern society.
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