Daily Devotions

THE MONASTERY MENTALITY (Part 2)

Contrary to popular opinion, darkness doesn’t overcome light, but light overcomes darkness. According to the Apostle John, when “the light shines in the darkness the darkness [cannot] overcome it” (John 1:5). Think about it; all of the darkness in the universe cannot overcome the least little perceptible light.

Why are we, the light of the world, on the run in these dark days? We shouldn’t be cowering in today’s world; neither should we be retreating from it. Instead, we should be charging into it! We shouldn’t be on the defensive, with a monastery mentality, but on the offensive, with an attack mentality. After all, “we are more than conquerors through him that loved us” (Romans 8:37).

In Matthew 16:18, Jesus promised us that “the gates of hell” could “not prevail against” His church. Many misinterpret these words of our Lord as defensive rather than offensive. They believe that the church will survive in the end by the hair of its “chinny chin chin.” In other words, if we’ll only hunker down and hold on, the forces of hell will not prevail against us, no matter how much they pummel us.

Ask yourself this question: “Have you ever seen gates jump off their hinges and attack anyone?” Gates don’t attack you; you attack them. Christ’s words in Matthew 16:18 are not defensive, but offensive. The church is not being pictured as under attack, but as on the attack. It is not pictured as under siege by Satan, but as storming the gates of hell itself. Furthermore, Christ promises that His charging church cannot be held back, not even by the gates of hell. Christ’s church is promised to prevail!

“Some want to live within the sound of church or chapel bell; I want to run a rescue shop within a yard of hell.” (C. T. Studd)

THE MONASTERY MENTALITY (Part 1)

Unfortunately, biblical morality is viewed in these politically correct times as little more than the avoidance of so-called evils. God’s saints are seen as spiritual shrinking violets cowering in church corners from the pollution of today’s profane culture. We are supposedly party-poopers threatened by revelry. We are terrified at the thought of rock music blaring in our ears and tobacco smoke blown in our faces. Therefore, we continuously constrict ourselves in order to avoid all worldly corruption.

When our faith is viewed as a religion of rigidity and we as religionists obsessed with whittling down life to ever smaller but safer spheres, the church appears to the world as a diminutive place and we as a rather dwarfish people. Why should others desire to step out of the whole wide world into the midst of cloistered congregates in some closeted church? This perception of modern-day saints being so scared of sin that we fence ourselves off from all that is untoward is counterproductive to our winning of converts. It makes us appear to a sin-loving world as those who are always in frantic flight from vivacity.

If we are to be effective evangelists in our present-day world, we must convince others that our avoidance of sin is not a matter of cowardice, but of preference. Far from being frightened, we are fearlessly living our lives to the full. We are not living apprehensively, but abundantly! In Christ, we have found over and above all that we have ever hoped for or dreamed of. Emptying our arms to embrace Him was merely ridding ourselves of temporal rubbish and gaining for ourselves incomprehensible and eternal riches!

TRIVIAL PURSUIT

How is Christianity perceived by a world concerned about such things as world peace and ending world hunger, when the church is preoccupied with things like whether or not we should read the lyrics to our songs from a hymn book or off of a screen hanging on the sanctuary wall? Is our spirituality not shriveled in the eyes of the world when they see us arguing over which translation of the Bible to read? In this day of splitting atoms, are we not seen as silly over splitting hairs?

The story is told of a small church whose pastor always wore a hat. An observant deacon noticed that the church had nowhere for the pastor’s hat to be hung. Thus, he put a peg in the foyer wall. Afterward, some other men in the congregation became offended. Why shouldn’t they also have pegs to hang their hats on? In the end, the church split over the issue. Till this day, the first thing all visitors to churches in that vicinity are asked is: “Are you peg or anti-peg?”

In forty years of ministry, I can scarcely remember a church conflict fought over anything of eternal consequence. It always seems to be over something insignificant and inconsequential, never over anything that really matters. As a result, it drains our witness of its potency and leaves us looking colorless in our community. Why would anyone want to come to such a drab place where the people have become persnickety over mere trivialities?

That the church has shrunk in the eyes of contemporary culture is undeniable. However, the reasons for its diminishing stature is debatable. In that debate, one cannot disregard the church’s shrinkage into spiritual nitpicking. Although we may not want to admit it, our voice has certainly been diminished by the fact that we often use it in such a spiritually dumb downed fashion. Rather than raising our voices to call men to Christ, we often raise them in church conflicts over the most mundane things.

When I surrendered to God’s call to preach the Gospel, my pastor told me something I have never forgotten. He said, “Son, you’re now entering into the business of life!” It was not just this temporal life of which he spoke, but also of the eternal life to come. I’ve never been able to get away from those haunting words.

Today, men’s immortal souls hang in the balance. We, the church, have been entrusted with the Gospel message, which is man’s only hope of salvation. Time is running out on a lost and dying world. Consequently, we have no time for trivialities!

PAINTING A SERMON RATHER THAN PREACHING ONE

While doing campus ministry, Becky Pippert met a student named Bill on a college campus in Portland, Oregon. Bill was a brilliant young man who always looked like he was pondering something deep. He had long messy hair and was always barefoot. During the entire time Becky knew him, she never saw him wear a pair of shoes. Rain, sleet, or snow, Bill was always barefoot.

One Sunday morning Bill took Becky up on her invitation to church. He crossed the street from the college campus to the traditional middle-class church that Becky was attending. He walked in with his long messy hair, wearing blue jeans and a T-shirt. Of course, he was also wearing no shoes. Although the people in the pews looked a bit uncomfortable, no one said anything to Bill.

Bill began walking down the aisle looking for a seat. Finding the church crowded and no seats available, Bill, much to Becky’s chagrin, sat down on the carpet in the front of the church. The figure of Bill sitting in the floor in front of the church’s pulpit was a little unnerving for a buttoned-down church congregation. The tension in the air was so thick you could cut it with a knife. Suddenly, an elderly man dressed in a three-piece suit, began walking down the aisle toward Bill. As he approached Bill, the church grew silent. You could have heard a pin drop. All eyes were focused on what they perceived to be an inevitable confrontation between the church’s head usher and this uncouth visitor to the church’s Sunday morning service.

As the head usher neared Bill, he slowed down. Then, with no little difficulty, he lowered himself to the floor. He and Bill worshipped together that Sunday morning seated on the carpet. There wasn’t a dry eye in the house. At the conclusion of the service, the preacher remarked, “You will soon forget the sermon you have heard this morning, but you will never forget the one that you have seen!”

Why not paint a sermon today?

COLORING CHRISTIANITY

I’m not a big moviegoer, but occasionally a family member drags me to the theater. A few years ago my daughter talked me into going to see a film with her. I don’t remember much about the movie, but one scene has stuck with me ever since. A young woman and her suitor are standing in a gray stone church building. As they look at a stained-glass window, she remarks, “I love the stained-glass. It is a riot of color in a dreary gray world.”

As someone called by God to a black and white ministry—speaking God’s truth to end time lies—I understand how others may see the church as a dreary gray world. Christians must often appear to others to be against everything and for nothing. For this reason, we must be careful to color our Christianity.

While we cannot avoid the black and white; that is, what is right and wrong or true and false, but must address it, there are other colors—brilliant, bright, and beautiful—on our palette as well. These dazzling colors, along with the gray hue of blended black and white, must be boldly painted in van Gogh fashion if we hope to attract the world to our faith.

Though we must speak of a hell to shun, we must never fail to tell of a heaven to gain. Though men must be warned of the consequences of sin, they must also be pointed to the Savior who came. Though it is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of an angry God, it is a most wonderful thing to fall by faith into the arms of infinite love. Though God’s judgment is inescapable, His mercy is everlasting.

WHY WE SHOULD PRAY FOR AMERICA

1. So that we will continue to have a free society within which the Gospel can be publicly proclaimed and openly professed by all who come to the knowledge of the truth. (1 Timothy 2:1-4)

2. Because righteousness alone exalts a nation and sin will ultimately prove to be a reproach to any people. (Proverbs 14:34)

3. Because revival is now a matter of national survival. As President Ronald Reagan once put it: “If we ever forget that we are a nation under God, then we will be a nation gone under.”  (Psalm 9:17)

4. Because once the foundations are destroyed there is nothing that the righteous can do; the destruction of our nation will have become an inevitability. (Psalm 11:3)

5. Because only the nation whose God is the Lord will be divinely blessed and favored. (Psalm 33:12)

6. Because people rejoice under the government of the righteous, but always morn when the wicked are in power. (Proverbs 29:2)

A SAMPLE PRAYER FOR AMERICA

O Lord God of heaven, we have sinned against you. We have corrupted ourselves and failed to keep your commandments. Therefore, help us to rend our hearts and not our garments, so that we may turn from our sins against you with broken hearts and return to you with all of our hearts. Spare us and pity us, I pray, so that our country will not become a reproach to you and a byword among the nations.

Restore us now to yourself, O Lord, that we may return to you. Renew our days as of old and once again make your face to shine upon us. In the midst of your wrath against us remember mercy and in the midst of America’s years revive and renew her so that we, the American people, may once again rejoice in you.

Prayer is based on: Nehemiah 1:4-11; Joel 2:12-17; Psalm 80:3, 19; Lamentations 5:21; Habakkuk 3:2; Psalm 85:6. 

DAY 30

“Why are we sitting here until we die?” (2 Kings 7:3 NKJV)

In light of the 9/11 terrorist attack upon our nation, an argument can be made that if we had sent more missionaries and given more money to missions we would not now be sending troops and paying more in taxes. To be honest, however, history is replete with such arguments due to Christian inaction down through the ages. The painful truth is, the day of opportunity has often come and gone while the church just sat there.

In the text cited above, four lepers are sitting at the gate of Samaria, which happens to be surrounded by the Syrians. They are forbidden from entering the city because of their leprosy and they are afraid to venture out and surrender to the enemy. So, they sit there in their complacency waiting for the inevitable, namely, their death.

Notice, it is a question that jolts these four lepers out of their complacency. They ask themselves, “Why are we sitting here until we die?” The only chance they had was to get up and go out to the enemy in surrender. If the enemy killed them, what had they lost; they were going to die anyway? So they got up and did the only thing they could. As a result, they not only saved themselves, but the starving people of Samaria as well.

The complacent church in America today needs to ask itself, “Why are we sitting here until we die?” Our country is imploding and God’s judgment is impending. Yet, the church is just sitting! It’s high time for us to get up and do something, not only for our own survival, but also for the sakes of the spiritually starving in our land.

What can we do? We can pray! Now, prayer is not the only thing that we can do. For instance, like the four lepers in our story, we too can declare to the perishing “the day of good news” (2 Kings 7:9). Still, nothing is more important than prayer. As A. J. Gordon said, “You can do more than pray after you have prayed, but you cannot do more than pray until you have prayed.”

Don’t just sit there, pray something!

 

Pray that the American church will be jolted out of its complacency and begin bombarding Heaven with its prayers, as well as preaching throughout this land the “day of good news.”

 

DAY 29

“He cried also in mine ears with a loud voice, saying, Cause them that have charge over the city to draw near, even every man with his destroying weapon in his hand. And, behold, six men came from the way of the higher gate, which lieth toward the north, and every man a slaughter weapon in his hand; and one man among them was clothed with linen, with a writer’s inkhorn by his side: and they went in, and stood beside the brasen altar. And the glory of the God of Israel was gone up from the cherub, whereupon he was, to the threshold of the house. And he called to the man clothed with linen, which had the writer’s inkhorn by his side; And the LORD said unto him, Go through the midst of the city, through the midst of Jerusalem, and set a mark upon the foreheads of the men that sigh and that cry for all the abominations that be done in the midst thereof. And to the others he said in mine hearing, Go ye after him through the city, and smite: let not your eye spare, neither have ye pity: Slay utterly old and young, both maids, and little children, and women: but come not near any man upon whom is the mark; and begin at my sanctuary. Then they began at the ancient men which were before the house.” (Ezekiel 9:1-6)

Too many Christians today misinterpret our faith as a mere means to their happiness. C. S. Lewis was a man who certainly saw through such shallow sentiment. He once said, “I didn’t go to religion to make me happy. I always knew a bottle of Port would do that. If you want a religion to make you feel really comfortable, I certainly don’t recommend Christianity.”

During His earthly sojourn, our Savior was described by Scripture as “a man of sorrows” who was well “acquainted with grief” (Isaiah 53:3). How could He have possibly been otherwise in a fallen world that both “despised and rejected” Him? According to the Apostle Paul, to truly know Christ you and I must join with Him in “the fellowship of His sufferings” (Philippians 3:10).

The “skip to My Lou” saint cannot possibly know true intimacy with Christ. Any Christian today who is turning cartwheels in America’s current Christ-forsaking, politically correct culture is clueless to the dire and desperate spiritual straits of our nation. If they had any idea of our country’s present precarious condition, they would stop skipping and cartwheeling and start sighing and crying over all the abominations being done in our midst.

In Ezekiel 9:4, God marks the foreheads of all who share His grief over the sorry spiritual condition of the land. Those marked are cohorts of God in that they share the concerns of His heart. Are you willing to carry such a mark? Are you willing to bear such a burden. Are you willing to “stand in the gap before [God] for the land” (Ezekiel 22:30)? Or are you going to skip and turn cartwheels until the judgment of God falls on America?

Pray that many will step forward to share the concerns of God’s heart and to stand in the gap as intercessors for our country. 

 

DAY 28

“Now in the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar, Pontius Pilate being governor of Judaea, and Herod being tetrarch of Galilee, and his brother Philip tetrarch of Ituraea and of the region of Trachonitis, and Lysanias the tetrarch of Abilene, Annas and Caiaphas being the high priests, the word of God came unto John the son of Zacharias in the wilderness. And he came into all the country about Jordan, preaching the baptism of repentance for the remission of sins; As it is written in the book of the words of Esaias the prophet, saying, The voice of one crying in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make his paths straight. Every valley shall be filled, and every mountain and hill shall be brought low; and the crooked shall be made straight, and the rough ways shall be made smooth; And all flesh shall see the salvation of God.” (Luke 3:1-6)

John the Baptist was the forerunner of Christ. He was called by God to prepare the way for Christ to come. He did so by “preaching the baptism of repentance.” It was the people’s repentance that made (1) the crooked “paths straight” (2) “filled” the “valleys” (3) “brought” down “every mountain” (4) made “the rough ways…smooth,” and (5) prepared the way for Jesus to come.

According to Stephen Olford, “Revival is that strange and sovereign work of God in which He visits His own people—restoring, reanimating, and releasing them into the fullness of His blessing.” Indeed, revival has been simply defined as a “divine visitation.” But what is it that prepares the way for Christ to visit us in revival. It is repentance!

Contrary to popular opinion, repentance is not something that we can work up within ourselves. Instead, it is something that God must give us (Acts 5:31; 11:18; 2 Timothy 2:25-26). As Charles Spurgeon once said, “Repentance is too choice a flower to grow in nature’s garden.”

What we need in the church today only God can grant us. We need a “godly sorrow” over our sins that leads to a repentance “not to be repented of” (2 Corinthians 7:10). We need, as Oswald Chambers put it, “the panging pains of repentance,” those “agonies” of heart that “the Holy Spirit [alone] produces.” Until the church is this heartbroken over our sin, we need not expect revival to breakout in our country.

 Pray that God will break our hearts over our sins with a godly sorrow that will lead us to a repentance not to be repented of.

 

 

DAY 27

“Now, therefore,” says the LORD, “Turn to Me with all your heart, With fasting, with weeping, and with mourning.” So rend your heart, and not your garments; Return to the LORD your God, For He is gracious and merciful, Slow to anger, and of great kindness; And He relents from doing harm. Who knows if He will turn and relent, And leave a blessing behind Him—A grain offering and a drink offering For the LORD your God?  Blow the trumpet in Zion, Consecrate a fast, Call a sacred assembly; Gather the people, Sanctify the congregation, Assemble the elders, Gather the children and nursing babes; Let the bridegroom go out from his chamber, And the bride from her dressing room. Let the priests, who minister to the LORD, Weep between the porch and the altar; Let them say, “Spare Your people, O LORD, And do not give Your heritage to reproach, That the nations should rule over them. Why should they say among the peoples, ‘Where is their God?’”  (Joel 2:14-17 NKJV)

Here, in Joel 2:14-17, we have God’s call for repentance. According to the Prophet Joel, if we will repent and return to God, God might relent from His impending judgment and mercifully spare our nation. Instead of annihilation there might be salvation. Of course, all of this is contingent upon our repentance.

This explains the prophet’s call for a solemn or sacred assembly. Sacred assemblies are called for when God’s people realize their need to come together and collectively fall upon their knees in hopes of persuading God to relent from His impending judgment upon their land.

Notice, the PARTICIPANTS in a solemn assembly are the people of God. The PLACE for a solemn assembly is the house of God. And the PURPOSE of a solemn assembly is for you to truly repent and not just go through the motions, as the prophet makes abundantly clear—“So rend your heart, and not your garments.”

As we’ve pointed out repeatedly this month, revival in America must begin with personal repentance in individual hearts. Solemn assemblies are really not about: (1) what’s wrong with our country (2) what’s wrong in Washington D.C. (3) what’s wrong in Tallahassee (4) what’s wrong in our church, or (5) what’s wrong with other people. Instead, a solemn assembly is really about what’s wrong with me. Until we get right that which is wrong in our own hearts nothing will change in America!

Pray the prayer of the Psalmist: “Search me, O God, and know my heart: try me, and know my thoughts: And see if there be any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting” (Psalm 139:23-24).