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Our world today cries out for a theology of spiritual growth that has been proven to work in the midst of the harsh realities of daily life. Sadly, many have simply given up on the possibility of growth in character formation.

Vast numbers of well-intended folk have exhausted themselves in church work and discovered that this did not substantively change their lives. They found that they were just as impatient and egocentric and fearful as when they began lifting the heavy load of church work. Maybe more so.

Others have immersed themselves in multiple social-service projects. But while the glow of helping others lingered for a time, they soon realized that all their herculean efforts left little lasting imprint on the inner life. Indeed, it often made them much worse inwardly: frustrated and angry and bitter.

Still others have a practical theology that will not allow for spiritual growth. Indeed, they just might see it as a bad thing. Having been saved by grace, these people have become paralyzed by it. To attempt any progress in the spiritual life smacks of "works righteousness" to them. Their liturgies tell them they sin in word, thought, and deed daily, so they conclude that this is their fate until they die. Heaven is their only release from this world of sin and rebellion. Hence, these well-meaning folk will sit in their pews year after year without realizing any movement forward in their life with God.

Finally, a general cultural malaise touches us all to one extent or another. I am referring to how completely we have become accustomed to the normality of dysfunction. The constant media stream of scandals and broken lives and mayhem of every sort elicits from us hardly more than a yawn. We have come to expect little else, ...

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January 2009

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