Christian Living

A Wholly, Holy Motivation

Extrinsic motivators are continually at work in our lives, shaping our choices and lending direction. These motivators, both those made by man and those designed by God, represent an important ingredient that adds order and structure to our lives. They serve purpose that cannot and should not be denied. Effective employers, teachers, and parents all understand how to wisely and properly use external motivation in order to move others toward established goals.
Discussions centering on the proper use of external motivators continually draw a wide range of viewpoints and opinions, for the responses these motivators draw are as diverse as the individuals represented. The same motivator that stirs one person to action has the ability to frustrate another. For example, we have all witnessed our share of energetic debates over institutional rules that generate more heat than light. These debates continually remind me of how much time we can waste seeking to find common ground when it is not possible or even necessary to be found. Apart from the mandates of God’s Word and from those whom the Lord has placed at the decision tables, is it necessary for us to find agreement with an institution’s code of student conduct before we embrace any biblical admonishment to withhold negative judgment and criticism?

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Do You Have the Power of God?

In The Nick of Time“Do you have the power of God?” The Great Man bellowed this question in a mock-Texas accent. With popping veins and a hoarse voice, he bawled out a second time, “I said, do you have the POWER of GOD!?” Clearly, he thought that the impressionable youngsters to whom he was speaking did not have that power. He went on to tell them what a bunch of failures most of them would likely become (not at all like him). God’s power, after all, was something reserved for the few. It came only to the spiritual equivalents of Abraham Lincoln and Douglas MacArthur. It had come to him, and he regaled his audience with tales of the revivals that he had wrought. Now he led a school, the whole purpose of which was to prepare the few; other students would be treated as so much chaff before the wind. Then he dropped his voice to something between a sob and a whisper for his closing question. “Do you have the power of God?”

Whether screamed or sobbed, the question seemed imposing as it dropped from the Great Man’s mouth. It was the kind of question that could send vulnerable adolescents to their dormitory basement to weep and yowl in the hope that God would maybe—just maybe—pour out His power upon them. Oh, to have the power of God!

Who among us would have the effrontery actually to claim to have God’s power? For anyone but the Great Man, would not such a claim smack of arrogance, perhaps even of megalomania?

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The Garden of Sanctification

Imagine you are walking through a garden. Some areas are lush and filled with beautiful fruit. Then you take a few more steps and notice huge patches of dry ground where plants are bent over, withered, and brown. That dry patch will eventually produce dryness in the rest of the garden.crackedsoil

Our fundamental churches are like that garden. Wonderful aspects of our ministries are flourishing, and the perfectly green trees there give shade and encouragement. In the midst of the lush areas, however, are areas of discipleship and counseling where the soil of many of our fundamental churches is cracking and dangerously dry.

The First Layer of Dryness: The Lack of Discipleship

The first layer of dryness is the realm of discipleship. We are commanded in several passages of Scripture to build each other up in the faith. In his list of gifts in Ephesians 4, Paul clarifies the purpose of the gifts as …

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Fundamentalists and Theater: Act Five, Curtain Call

Act 1 l Act 2 l Act 3 l Act 4
In The Nick of TimeOur most important duty is to love the Lord our God with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength. Our second most important duty is to love our neighbors as ourselves. Love of God, love of neighbor: the center of the Christian life is a matter of emotion, or, more properly, of affection.

Therefore, anything that shapes the affections must be of primary concern for the believer. We can love much, or we can love little. We can love well, or we can love poorly. We can love rightly, or we can love wrongly. We can love the things we ought or the things we ought not. We can love from the right motives or from the wrong ones. Our affections can be ordinate, or they can be inordinate.

To object to inordinate love is not to object to love. To point out disordered emotions is not to denigrate emotions. In fact, those who care most about emotion are likely to be most concerned that emotions be of the proper kind, to the proper degree, and directed toward the proper object.

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The “Forgotten” Qualification

I love the ministry. That, of course, is not to say that parts of it are not exceedingly difficult. It can be exhausting and challenging. At certain times, we all have probably been about two steps away from throwing in the proverbial towel. But I have angryguy.jpgto pinch myself about every other week. I get to spend hour upon hour every week in the deep study of the Scriptures. I have the opportunity to exhort and encourage and equip the children of God, both corporately and individually. I have the wonderful privilege of seeing firsthand the Lord birthing a new local church. A challenge—yes; a blessing—absolutely. I cannot imagine doing anything else.

Therefore, one of my greatest fears is to be disqualified from the ministry. My heart breaks every time I hear about the moral failure of another pastor. My mind goes to the damage that it has caused the name of Christ in the eyes of a watching world. I ache for the families and churches of those pastors. My heart goes out to the pastors themselves who are now unable to fulfill the role to which they had been called by God. I cannot look down on them, for I realize that, were it not for the grace of God, I would be in their shoes at this very moment or in the near future. Therefore, all of us who are in the God-given position of pastor should take the qualifications for that position found in 1 Timothy 3:2-7 and Titus 1:6-9 seriously. We are to be above reproach in many different areas.

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Fundamentalists and Theater: Act Four, Says Who?

Act 1 l Act 2 l Act 3

In The Nick of Time

Dave (not his real name) was a missionary in Eastern Europe. One Sunday, he was preaching to a church full of nationals. Not yet experienced with the language, Dave unknowingly uttered an obscenity from the pulpit. It was not an ordinary, garden-variety obscenity. No, it was about the worst thing that anyone could say in that language. Then, seeing the audience wince, he assumed that they were under conviction and repeated what he had just said. At last, he went on with his sermon, never guessing that the congregation didn’t hear another word.

After the service, the pastor explained the problem to Dave. Of course, Dave was mortified. He was still embarrassed when he told me about the episode years later. He said, “The problem is that nobody tells you about the bad words until after you say them.” The pastor also told me about it—separately—and then added, “I was praying that the Lord would kill him before he could say it again.”

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A New Year Wish

As another year comes to a close, we are again faced with how we, as believers, should view the changing of the years. The Chinese may have started this practice with special dishes symbolic of good luck and prosperity along with fireworks to attract the attention of benevolent gods and to frighten away evil spirits. Today there is a celebration of the close of another year, and we welcome the prospect of a better year with noise, bubbly, and New Year resolutions. But what should believers wish each other for the New Year? Perhaps Paul’s words in his final farewell to the Corinthians might be applicable here.

May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all.”2 Corinthians 13:14

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