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31 Days of Purity
March 24, 2014

Through the month of March, I am inviting you to 31 Days of Purity—thirty-one days of thinking about and praying for sexual purity. Each day features a short passage of Scripture, a reflection on that passage, and a brief prayer. Here is day twenty-four:

Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.  (Philippians 3:13-14)

In 1954 Roger Bannister and John Landy squared off in a monumental race. Both men had recently accomplished the unthinkable by running a mile in under 4 minutes. Landy led for most of the race, even building a lead of 10 yards at one point. But on the last leg of the race he made the mistake that runners should never make—he looked back. Bannister raced past him and never again gave up the lead.

In our battle for purity that which is behind us (our past) can steal our gaze. We can fall into the trap of thinking too much of our past successes or we can run slower because of the weight of our past failures. Here Paul is not calling us to simply forget our past as if it doesn’t exist. Instead, he is calling us to trust the Lord with our past (both success and failure) and keep our eyes fixed on Jesus Christ.

If you’ve fallen trust the provision of a gracious Savior. If you’ve won a battle trust that it was the provision of a transforming Lord. Then keep running.

Father, I thank you that you are not only the Lord of my present and future but also my past. You know every time that I have failed and you know every time that I will fail. You know ever victory of grace that will happen in my life. And all of these you knew before the foundation of the world. Help me to trust you with my past. Whether it is the wounds left by others, my own failures, or even the times when I have triumphed in obedience, I entrust them to you. 

What Now? Consider joining our 31 Days of Purity Facebook group. It is optional, but you will find it a good place to go for discussion and encouragement. (Note: that Facebook group is for men only; here is one for Women Supporting Men).

Todays devotional was prepared by Mike Leake. Mike is associate pastor of First Baptist Church of Jasper, IN. He and his wife, Nikki have 2 children (Isaiah and Hannah). Mike is the author of Torn to Heal and regularly blogs at mikeleake.net.

The False Teachers
March 23, 2014

A few weeks ago I set out on a new series of articles through which I intend to scan the history of the church—from its earliest days all the way to the present time—to examine some of Christianity’s most notorious false teachers. Along the way we will visit such figures as Arius, Pelagius, Fosdick, and even a few you might find on television today. We continue this morning with a false teacher whose name has been nearly forgotten even though his followers regularly knock on your door. He is Charles Taze Russell, founder of the Jehovah’s Witnesses.

Charles Taze Russell was born on February 16, 1852 in Allegheny, Pennsylvania, the second of five children born to Joseph and Ann Russell. Charles grew up in a devout home and his parents were respected members of the Presbyterian church. When he was young, his family moved to Pittsburgh, where his father came to own a number of haberdashery stores. In his early teens Charles became a partner in this business and soon owned several of the locations.

As a boy Charles had a great deal of religious enthusiasm, and while still only a teenager left his Presbyterian congregation to attend a Congregational church. As a form of evangelism he would often go to public locations and use chalk to write out Bible verses related to sin and damnation. But then, at the age of sixteen, he engaged in a debate with a friend that led him to question the reliability of the Bible and the validity of the Christian faith. He embarked on a period of religious searching and dabbled in many Eastern religions before determining that they, too, were empty and unsatisfying.

Charles Taze RussellWhen Charles was eighteen he encountered Adventist preaching and began to regularly attend a Bible study. It was not long before he determined that he could not reconcile an eternal hell with a merciful God. Over the next two years he came to question many other historic Christian doctrines and became convicted that the historic creeds betrayed true Christianity. At the same time he adopted Adventist teachings: that the end times had begun in 1799, that Christ had returned invisibly in 1874 and been crowned King of Heaven four years later, that all Christians who had already died would be resurrected before the end of 1878, and that 1914 would mark the end of a harvest period and usher in Armageddon. He sold his five clothing stores, an act that generated a substantial amount of money (today’s equivalent of several million dollars), and committed his life to writing, publishing and funding the propagation of the message of Christ’s imminent return. He did this at first through a partnership with Nelson H. Barbour and his Adventist periodical Herald of the Morning.

When 1878 came and went without any of the predicted events, he was forced to re-examine his beliefs and to distance himself from some of his Adventist peers, including Barbour. He founded his own periodical which he titled Zion’s Watch Tower and Herald of Christ’s Presence. At this time he also married Maria Frances Ackley in an apparently celibate union that would last until 1897 before ending in an acrimonious divorce.

In 1881 Russell founded the Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society which grew to a substantial publishing venture, and there were soon some 16 million of his books and booklets in print. His ministry and his opportunities to preach grew exponentially and Pastor Russell, as he became known, soon had followers all over the Northern and Eastern states. He preached and wrote constantly, his sermons were printed in several thousand newspapers around the globe, and he became one of the most famous preachers in the world. He eventually moved the headquarters of the Watch Tower Society to Brooklyn, New York, where they remain today.

31 Days of Purity
March 23, 2014

Through the month of March, I am inviting you to 31 Days of Purity—thirty-one days of thinking about and praying for sexual purity. Each day features a short passage of Scripture, a reflection on that passage, and a brief prayer. Here is day twenty-three:

I will restore to you the years that the swarming locust has eaten, the hopper, the destroyer, and the cutter, my great army, which I sent among you. (Joel 2:25, ESV)

31 Days of Purity
March 22, 2014

Through the month of March, I am inviting you to 31 Days of Purity—thirty-one days of thinking about and praying for sexual purity. Each day features a short passage of Scripture, a reflection on that passage, and a brief prayer. Here is day twenty-two:

And now, O sons, listen to me,
and do not depart from the words of my mouth.
Keep your way far from her,
and do not go near the door of her house,
lest you give your honor to others
and your years to the merciless,
lest strangers take their fill of your strength,
and your labors go to the house of a foreigner,
and at the end of your life you groan,
when your flesh and body are consumed,
and you say, “How I hated discipline,
and my heart despised reproof!
I did not listen to the voice of my teachers
or incline my ear to my instructors.
I am at the brink of utter ruin
in the assembled congregation.” (Proverbs 5:7-14)

These words were written thousands of years before anyone had even dreamed of a computer. They were written millennia before cameras and screens and iPads and so many of the media that transport today’s sexual temptations. And yet they are as applicable to us as they were to Solomon, all those years ago. Here the wise father writes to his son and warns him to stay far away from the house of the harlot, from that place of sexual temptation and sexual sin. He knows that if his son walks along the edge of the cliff, he will inevitably fall into the chasm.

A few days ago we prayed that God would give us a willingness to gouge out and cut off whatever it is that causes us to sin. Have you done that? Now Solomon warns us that we need to stay far, far from any area of temptation. We cannot tiptoe along the cliff’s edge and expect to remain steady on our feet. What path do you walk that leads you to sexual sin? What pattern do you follow before you fall into sexual sin? Is it mindlessly browsing Facebook? Is it staying up too late? It is driving past the house of the prostitute? Read Solomon’s warning, pray for God’s wisdom, and beware your steps.

Father, I ask that you would show me the patterns I follow that lead me to sexual sin. I don’t want to go near the door of the prostitute. I don’t want to go near the porn site. I don’t want to go to any place where my eyes and mind are prone to wander into impurity. I don’t want to walk along the cliff and expect that this time I won’t fall in. Thank you for your kind warning, given through Solomon. Now give me your wisdom, give me your strength, give me your protection. Let me do, and let me long to do, only what is right.


What Now? Consider joining our 31 Days of Purity Facebook group. It is optional, but you will find it a good place to go for discussion and encouragement. (Note: that Facebook group is for men only; here is one for Women Supporting Men).

March 21, 2014

Through the month of March, I am inviting you to 31 Days of Purity—thirty-one days of thinking about and praying for sexual purity. Each day features a short passage of Scripture, a reflection on that passage, and a brief prayer. Here is day twenty-one:

For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need. (Hebrews 4:15-16) 

March 20, 2014

For some time now we have been exploring the history of Christianity through a collection of objects. Each of these objects helpfully signifies or encompasses a person, an event, or a period of history crucial to the growth and development of the Christian church. These are objects, historical relics, you can see and touch and experience. You can stand in The Braccio Nuovo at the Vatican Museum and see Augustus of Prima Porta, standing today as he has for nearly 2,000 years. You can visit the Basilica of Bom in Goa, India, and see Francis Xavier’s forearm, enshrined there. You can visit the Angus Library of Regent’s Park College in Oxford, England, and sit upon William Carey’s couch. As we come to the twenty-fifth and final object, it is fitting, I think, that it is not an object at all. It is a virtual object that exists only in bits and bytes, and one that can be infinitely duplicated and freely distributed. As we complete this series on the history of Christianity, we turn to LifeChurch.tv’s YouVersion Bible App.

Craig Groeschel founded LifeChurch.tv in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma in 1996. He and a handful of congregants began to meet in a small double-car garage lit with nothing more than a pair of $20 construction lights. Very quickly, though, the little church experienced explosive growth and was forced to move to a larger location. Today, eighteen years later, LifeChurch.tv is a multi-site church that reaches tens of thousands of people every weekend through their eighteen physical locations and their online church. Collectively they are considered the second largest church in America. 

In 2006, Groeschel and his team developed the idea for YouVersion, an online Bible for a new, digital world. At this time YouTube was becoming a household name, Twitter was in its early days, and Facebook had just opened its doors to the public, having previously been reserved for college students. The people at LifeChurch.tv realized that the world was rapidly changing and that the church would be forced to adapt. They found themselves thinking back to the days of the printing press when, for the first time in history, the Bible suddenly became widely available. They understood that another revolution was underway and they began to consider how they could take advantage of this digital explosion to carry the distribution of the world’s most popular book.

They dreamed big. They dreamed of more than merely distributing the Bible in digital form. They dreamed of allowing readers to have access to the Bible in every possible language, to interact with it, to annotate it, to share it, to form a global community of Bible-readers and Bible-lovers. Though such interactivity is common and expected today, this was still a new idea in 2006.

Bible AppThe team at LifeChurch.tv developed YouVersion.com and, having secured relationships with various Bible publishers, launched the site in September of 2007. They waited in anticipation, but were surprised to see that the response was muted. There was little interest. Though Groeschel and his team were tempted to give up, they first wanted to attempt one more thing: to create a mobile version of the site. They saw that people were migrating from desktop computers to mobile devices—iPods and smartphones—and wondered about the possibilities. Apple’s new iTunes app store provided the perfect means of distribution, so LifeChurch.tv rapidly developed a Bible App and chose to give it away for free. They anticipated they might see 100,000 downloads in the first year, but achieved 80,000 in the first three days alone. Even better, they found that people were not only downloading and installing the app, but actually using it. They were reading the Bible, looking up passages, and sharing what they learned with their friends.

Very quickly the developers began to add new languages, new translations, and new features. And the rest, as they say, is history.

31 Days of Purity
March 20, 2014

Through the month of March, I am inviting you to 31 Days of Purity—thirty-one days of thinking about and praying for sexual purity. Each day features a short passage of Scripture, a reflection on that passage, and a brief prayer. Here is day twenty:

It happened, late one afternoon, when David arose from his couch and was walking on the roof of the king’s house, that he saw from the roof a woman bathing; and the woman was very beautiful. (1 Samuel 11:2) 

A king walking on the roof and gazing over his kingdom is not an unusual scenario. It is not even unusual that he might catch a glimpse of something that he should not be seeing. But what is unusual in this story is given to us in verse 1. David is leisurely strolling across his roof and gazing across his kingdom during “the time when kings go out to battle”. It is the season for battle but David is having his own season of leisure. As the text says, “David remained at Jerusalem”.

You can likely relate to David’s story. Some of our greatest sins take place in times of boredom and inactivity. What Spurgeon once said is demonstrably true, “Idle people tempt the devil to tempt them.” One of the antidotes to a life given to impurity is the grace of meaningful work. It is difficult to be consumed with sexual impurity when you are consumed with gospel work. Let us pray that the Lord would help us “approve what is vital” and give our energies to that which is eternal.

Father, thank you for your gift of work. Thank you for involving us in your purpose to fill the world with passionate worshippers. I confess that far too often my mind and heart are focused on much smaller things. At times my heart is driven towards comfort and ease. When my brothers and sisters are “doing battle” I’m “remaining at Jerusalem”. Stir up in my heart a passion to pursue the vital things in life. Keep me from flitting away my time on fleeting pleasure and to pursue your eternal kingdom. Amen. 


What Now? Consider joining our 31 Days of Purity Facebook group. It is optional, but you will find it a good place to go for discussion and encouragement. (Note: that Facebook group is for men only; here is one for Women Supporting Men).

Todays devotional was prepared by Mike Leake. Mike is associate pastor of First Baptist Church of Jasper, IN. He and his wife, Nikki have 2 children (Isaiah and Hannah). Mike is the author of Torn to Heal and regularly blogs at mikeleake.net.

Outrage Porn
March 19, 2014

Outrage sells. It’s plain as day. If eyeballs on articles are the currency of new media, there are few things that attract those eyeballs more effectively than outrage. In the wider cultural context of new media there is always lots to work with: Alec Baldwin’s homophobia, Steve Martin’s racism, Patton Oswalt’s insensitivity. It goes on and on. There is always someone saying something dumb or unwise, and new media’s response is immediate, fiery indignation.

We as Christians are also easily outraged. Sometimes we seem to forget that we are sinful people living in a sin-stained world and that sinners—even saved ones—will behave like sinners. Sometimes we appear to hold the people we admire (or admired) to the impossible standard of perfection. We don’t mind if our historical heroes are deeply flawed, but we can barely tolerate the slightest imperfection in our contemporary heroes. When they fail, or even when they falter, we respond with, you guessed it: outrage. For a few days we light the torches and lift the pitchforks in our empty protests. And then we move on.

[Aside: I wrote this article last week, so don’t think that any event that happened this week was the catalyst.]

A new term is entering the lexicon to describe this phenomenon. They call it outrage porn. Like pornography, this kind of outrage is ultimately self-centered and self-gratifying. One person calls it “self-gratification through feigned indignation.” Even when it isn’t feigned, there is still that element of selfishness, of self-pleasure, in it. The outrage isn’t for them, it’s for us. We feel better for having done it, for having participated in it. It is expiating in a sick sense. With the outrage behind me, I am satisfied that I have done my bit, and now I can move on to the next thing. Expressing outrage is almost a kind of brand loyalty—we are outraged together in this common cause.

I know it because I’ve done it. I know it because, as a blogger, I am especially prone to it. If we really are in an attention economy in which eyeballs on articles are our primary currency, then I, as the proprietor of a web site, will find myself tempted to do whatever it takes to attract those eyeballs. I’ve done it and it has worked. It works because I, as the writer, want it, and it works because you, as the reader, want it. We’re in this together.

Now don’t get me wrong. There are times for controlled outrage and indignation. Absolutely there are. Jesus walked into the temple and was full of the most righteous indignation as he turned over tables and scattered coins. His outrage was pure and holy and good and purposeful. When Jesus saw the disciples turning away children, denying them a blessing, he was “indignant and said to them, ‘Let the children come to me; do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of God’ ” (Mark 10:14). Here it would have been a sin for him to not be outraged.

There are times for outrage. There are times to turn away from leaders who have proven themselves unworthy or unfaithful. There are times to expose the charlatan or the unfaithful and to make a fuss and to raise an outcry for the sake of distancing ourselves and protecting others. But it’s not every time. It’s not all the time.

31 Days of Purity
March 19, 2014

Through the month of March, I am inviting you to 31 Days of Purity—thirty-one days of thinking about and praying for sexual purity. Each day features a short passage of Scripture, a reflection on that passage, and a brief prayer. Here is day nineteen:

You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart. If your right eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body be thrown into hell. And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body go into hell. (Matthew 5:27-30)

In the context of sexual purity, Jesus lays down the challenge of radical action. “If your right eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away.” We understand that Jesus may not be speaking literally, but this does not indicate that he is suggesting something ridiculous. When we accuse him of exaggeration, we minimize the force of his words, and perhaps give ourselves an out. But Jesus is asking a serious question in this text: Do you love your sexual sin enough to go to hell for it? 

If you are committed to battling sin, you need to be committed to getting rid of those things that lead you to sin. Don’t toy with sin when you should be running fast and far from it. If your iPhone causes you to sin, cut it off; if your computer causes you to sin, gouge it out. As an integral part of your commitment to sexual purity, as a means of gaining victory, take radical action against your sin. What is God telling you to cut off or gouge out?

Father, I pray that I would have the courage and integrity to take radical action. Don’t let me toy with sin. Don’t let me continue to taste of sin and act surprised when I soon feast on it. Keep me from ever thinking lightly of the very sins that required the suffering and death of Jesus Christ. Show me where my patterns of sin are so deeply ingrained that I will need to cut something off or gouge something out for my good and your glory.


What Now? Consider joining our 31 Days of Purity Facebook group. It is optional, but you will find it a good place to go for discussion and encouragement. (Note: that Facebook group is for men only; here is one for Women Supporting Men).

31 Days of Purity
March 18, 2014

Through the month of March, I am inviting you to 31 Days of Purity—thirty-one days of thinking about and praying for sexual purity. Each day features a short passage of Scripture, a reflection on that passage, and a brief prayer. Here is day eighteen, which comes courtesy of a guest and friend: Dave Harvey.

But because of the temptation to sexual immorality, each man should have his own wife and each woman her own husband. (1 Corinthians 7:2)

We hear it all the time, practice “protected sex”! But for the Christian man, protected sex means something much more significant and wonderful than birth control. Enjoying your wife sexually (and inviting her to enjoy you!) is a God-installed sentry for guarding your heart in the fight for purity. Think of it as one of your first lines of defense. God says, “because of the temptation to sexual immorality,” I’m giving you protection—it’s called your spouse. Rather than squandering your sexual desire in pornography and lust, fulfill it by having wonderful, God-honoring sex with your wife. Love her sacrificially and enjoy her often!

And to the unmarried man – “God’s divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness” (2 Peter 1:3), including the power to overcome “the temptation to sexual immorality.” You have not been left without ammunition in the fight! God’s divine power includes the grace to wait patiently for her arrival. Isn’t it just like God to create something we savor and then use it as a shield!

Lord, your ways are magnificent! You gave us marriage to display your character and your care. [For the married man: You gave me a bride so she could be well-loved. You gave me a wife because you care about my weakness. Help me, O God, to cherish this gift and enjoy it often, even today! Not simply because sex protects me, but because the purity of your people glorifies you.] [For the unmarried man: I may not understand why you have given me a sexual appetite without giving me a wife, but I do trust that your power has granted to me all I need for life and godliness. I trust that this includes the powerful to overcome the temptation to sexual immorality. So until the day I can enjoy sex with the wife you provide, I ask that I would be pure.] Amen!


What Now? Consider joining our 31 Days of Purity Facebook group. It is optional, but you will find it a good place to go for discussion and encouragement. (Note: that Facebook group is for men only; here is one for Women Supporting Men).

Todays devotional was prepared by Dave Harvey. Dave serves as Pastor of Preaching at Four Oaks Church in Tallahassee, Florida. He is the author of Am I Called? The Summons to Pastoral Ministry, Rescuing Ambition, and When Sinners Say “I Do”: Discovering the Power of the Gospel for Marriage.

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