Friday, September 25, 2020

The Power of Prayer

The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective.” – James 5:16

Back in the 1950s and ’60s, Dr. Helen Roseveare served as a missionary to The Congo, Africa. She told this true story. "A mother at our mission station died after giving birth to a premature baby. We tried to improvise an incubator to keep the infant alive, but the only hot water bottle we had was beyond repair. So, we asked the children to pray for the baby and for her sister.

“One of the girls responded. 'Dear God, please send a hot water bottle today. Tomorrow will be too late because by then the baby will be dead. And dear Lord, send a doll for the sister so she won't feel so lonely.' That afternoon a large package arrived from England. The children watched eagerly as we opened it. Much to their surprise, under some clothing was a hot water bottle! Immediately the girl who had prayed so boldly started to dig deeper, exclaiming, 'If God sent that, I'm sure He also sent a doll!' And she was right! The heavenly Father knew in advance of that child's sincere requests, and five months earlier He had led a ladies' group to include both of those specific articles.

Our God hears and answers prayer. As the Book of James tells us in chapter 5, “Is anyone among you in trouble? He should pray” (v. 13). From the very beginning of his message to Christians, James made it clear that much of our spiritual growth comes through trials. In the first chapter, he wrote: “Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything” (James 1:2-4). Now, as he closes his letter, James once again shines the spotlight on our trials.

James doesn’t tell us what kinds of trials and hardships he has in mind. It really doesn’t matter, because this principle applies to all troubles and all hardships that Christians face. Regardless of what trouble comes our way, we need to pray. If your marriage is falling apart, you need to pray. If your kids are driving your crazy, you need to pray. If your boss or coworkers are acting like jerks, you need to pray. If your bills are due and you have no money, you REALLY need to pray. If your doctor says he doesn’t like the results of your blood work, you need to pray. If you are a believer and follower of Jesus Christ, when you are in trouble—no matter what kind of trouble you are in—you should pray.

Now, you may have heard that God answers our prayers in one of three ways: He answers with a “Yes,” a “No” or a “Wait.” But when does God give us each of these three answers? Pastor Pastor Bill Hybels answers that question this way: If the request is wrong, God says, "No." If the timing is wrong, God says, "Slow." If you are wrong, God says, "Grow." But if the request is right, the timing is right and you are right, God says, "Go!"

At the end of verse 16, we read these life-changing words: “The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective.” It goes without saying that this verse doesn’t just apply to men. After all, most of us have known God-fearing women whose prayers were powerful and effective. James points to Elijah in verses 17-18 as an example of a godly man whose prayers were powerful and effective. He prayed that it wouldn’t rain in Northern Israel, and it didn’t rain. Three and a half years later, he prayed for rain, and guess what happened? Surprise, surprise! It started raining again.

Can prayer be just as powerful and effective today? Your answer to that question will largely determine whether or not your own prayers will be powerful and effective. We’re told in Hebrews 11:6 that without faith it is impossible to please God. That being the case, without faith it is impossible for your prayers to be powerful and effective. But with faith…the prayers of a righteous man or woman, or teenager or child, are powerful and effective.

James ends his message to Christians with this final thought in verses 19-20: “My brothers, if one of you should wander from the truth and someone should bring him back, remember this: Whoever turns a sinner from the error of his way will save him from death and cover over a multitude of sins.” When we lead a backsliding Christian back to Christ, it could literally save their life here on earth. And when we lead a nonChristian to Christ, it will literally save their life in eternity.

The greatest mission ever given to men by God was our mission to lead lost and dying sinners to Christ. But James reminds us that it’s not just about winning the lost. God also calls us to win the saved. There are millions of backsliding Christians out there who need to return to Christ. If you’re one of them, I urge you to return to Christ with your whole heart. Or, if you have a backsliding Christian in your life, God is calling you to urge him or her to return to Christ with their whole heart.

It’s been over six months since the start of the COVID-19 stay-at-home order. So, don’t you agree that—one way or another—it’s time to get back to church? This Sunday at Impact Christian Church, we’re celebrating Back to Church Sunday. So, it’s the perfect time for you and your family and friends to return to the house of the Lord. Join us for our Live Outdoor Service at 9 a.m., or for our Online Service at 10 a.m. If my prayer for you is “powerful and effective,” I’ll see you at church Sunday.

Dane Davis is the Pastor of Impact Christian Church. Please join us for our live outdoor worship service this week, on Back to Church Sunday, at 9 a.m. at 17746 George Blvd. in Victorville. Or, join us online at 10 a.m. on our YouTube channel (Impact Christian Church) or on Facebook.

Friday, September 18, 2020

The Patience That Can Run

 “Be patient and stand firm, because the Lord’s coming is near.” – James 5:8

Two things are for certain: #1: Patience is a virtue, and #2: You and I don’t have enough of it.

There’s an old Hebrew story that goes like this: One evening the great patriarch Abraham was sitting outside his tent when he saw an old man slowly walking toward him. This traveler was obviously weary from his age and his long journey. Abraham rushed out, greeted him and invited him into his tent. He washed the old man's feet and gave him food and something to drink. The old man immediately began eating without saying any prayer or blessing. So, Abraham asked him, "Don't you worship God?” The old traveler replied, "No. I only worship fire. I don’t pay attention to any other god." 

When he heard this, Abraham was furious. He grabbed the old man by the shoulders and threw him out of his tent into the cold night air. After the man staggered into the darkness, God called to Abraham and asked where the stranger was. The patriarch replied, "I kicked him out because he didn’t worship you." God calmly responded, "Abraham, this man has rejected Me and dishonored Me his entire life. For 80 long years I have patiently put up with him. Couldn’t you endure him for one night?"

Great question! It’s a shame that Father Abraham didn’t have the Book of James, because it could have done him a whole lot of good. In chapter 5, James addresses two different kinds of patience that God is grooming inside every Christian: patience with people (also called “long-suffering) and patience with crummy circumstances (also called “endurance”).

Let’s focus on the first of these critical kinds of patience: patience with people. In verses 7-9, James shines the spotlight on a very patient role model—the farmer. James writes, “See how the farmer waits for the land to yield its valuable crop and how patient he is for the autumn and spring rains” (v. 7). Honestly, some of us would never make it as farmers. A farmer has to wait for the right time to plant. Then he has to wait for the little seedlings to sprout. Then he has to wait for the sprouts to mature. Then he has to wait for the right time to harvest. That’s too much waiting for some of us. Shoot…some of us can hardly stand to wait at a red light for more than 30 seconds!

There’s no denying: Farmers exhibit a lot of patience. But so too do men and women in many other professions. So, why did James choose to single out farmers? Because their patience is active, not idle. Think about it. Farmers don’t sit on their hands while they’re waiting for harvest time. They’re always working: up before the crack of dawn, routinely laboring 10-12 hour days, constantly preparing for the harvest even if it’s months away.

George Matheson, a Scottish pastor who lived in the late 1800s, was blind most of his life, but God taught him patience in the midst of his trials. Matheson wrote: "We commonly associate patience with lying down….Yet there is a patience that I believe to be harder -- the patience that can run. To lie down in the time of grief… implies a great strength; but I know of something that implies a strength greater still: it is the power to work under stress; to have a great weight at your heart and still run; to have a deep anguish in your spirit and still perform the daily tasks.”

What an amazing insight! When your neighbor is trying your patience, what should you do? You shouldn’t just sit in your house and patiently wait for him to put his house up for sale. Instead, you should patiently keep working--doing what God has called you to do: Be kind to him; pray for him, and love your neighbor as yourself. When you’ve asked your boss for a raise, and your boss keeps dragging his feet and not giving it to you, you shouldn’t slack off in retaliation. You should keep doing your best work, because you are really working for the Lord, not for man.

So, Christians, Jesus calls you and me to live out this greater kind of patience. Don’t settle for PASSIVE patience. Like the farmer, practice ACTIVE patience.

And do you want to know something remarkable? The lessons God teaches us while we’re patiently waiting are, oftentimes, more valuable than the blessings we’re waiting for.  While you’re patiently waiting for your neighbor to change, God is changing you. While you’re patiently praying for your spouse to be transformed, God is transforming you. While you’re waiting for your boss to realize your true worth, God is helping your to live out your true worth.

Ultimately, God is more concerned with your CHARACTER than He is with your COMFORT. He is more focused on your growth than He is on your gold medals. He is more focused on your BECOMING than He is on your ARRIVING.

I believe that Jesus Christ wants us to enter Patience Boot Camp this week. Here are two training exercises that we need to participate in. TRAINING EXERCISE #1: Read Hebrews 11-12. Every day we are surrounded by impatient people. But as we read and meditate on Hebrews 11-12, we’ll be influenced and inspired by these good, patient followers of God. TRAINING EXERCISE #2: Instead of grumbling about annoying people, pray and work for their good. Grumbling doesn’t help us or anyone else. Like the farmer, you and I must patiently work for the good of those who get on our last nerve. It won’t be easy, but it will be well worth the effort. After all, Jesus is coming soon, and he WILL reward you for your active patience.

Dane Davis is the Pastor of Impact Christian Church. Please join us for our live outdoor worship service Sundays at 9 a.m. at 17746 George Blvd. in Victorville. Or, join us online at 10 a.m. on our YouTube channel (Impact Christian Church) or on Facebook. And we hope you’ll join us next Sunday, September 27th, for Back to Church Sunday.

Friday, September 11, 2020

What Will Your Money Say on Judgment Day?

“The love of money is a root of all kinds of evil.” - 1 Timothy 6:10

Have you ever heard the expression, “Money talks”? Its roots go back over 2,400 years ago to the Greek playwright and poet Euripedes. He spoke of the power money has to influence and sway people. Money can talk people into changing their opinions. And money can convince people to do things that they wouldn’t otherwise do. Think about criminal defense attorneys. Think about abortionists. Think about politicians. Make no mistake about it: Money talks.

 In James 5:1-4, God’s word shines the spotlight on a future day when our money is going to be talking louder than ever before. And what it says about you and me will echo throughout all eternity. James starts right off by warning wealthy landowners of his day: “Listen, you rich people, weep and wail because of the misery that is coming on you” (James 5:1).

Now, first of all, remember: 1 Timothy 6:10 teaches that “the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil.” Contrary to popular belief, the Bible doesn’t say that money is evil. Riches are not evil.  Riches are neutral. They can be used for good, or they can be used for evil. What the Bible teaches us is that the LOVE of money is evil. As a wise man once said, “It is good to have money in your hand as long as you don’t have money in your heart.”

But as these rich guys in James’ time lived for the almighty dollar, they committed four sins that would result in God’s judgment:

Sin #1: They hoarded their wealth (v. 3). Yes, hoarding is a sin. Here on earth we are managers, not owners, of the stuff that’s in our possession. It all belongs to God. And the real owner of all our stuff commands us to hold it with a very loose grip. He commands us to use what we have in our possession for the good of others and the glory of God. If we keep accumulating stuff and hold tightly to all our stuff, our hearts will be all wrapped up in that stuff. And that’s idol worship. Our hearts are supposed to be all wrapped up in God. Further, hoarding deprives others of their needs. The rich landowners James was condemning were hoarding food that could have fed the poor, clothing that could have clothed the poor, and gold that could have been used to care for the poor.

Sin #2: They defrauded their workers (v. 4). The rich landowners had ripped off their poor workers. They promised to pay them a certain wage, but after the workers did their work, the landowners didn’t pay them. God gives us this command in Romans 13:8: “Let no debt remain outstanding except the continuing debt to love one another.” This verse doesn’t just apply to borrowers who need to pay back a loan. It also applies to employers who need to pay their employees and suppliers what they owe them. So, if you’ve borrowed money from someone, pay him back. If you’ve borrowed a tool from someone, give it back. And when you make a commitment to pay people for their services, pay them what you owe them.

Sin #3: They lived lives of selfish excess while people around them starved (v. 5). It’s clear from verse 5 that the rich people James condemned were hedonists who lived “in luxury self-indulgence.” They lived for not just for pleasure, but for extravagant pleasure. And all the while, they turned a blind eye to those around them who would have been blessed with even the scraps from their table. It’s not a sin to be rich and to have nice things. But it IS a sin to have more than you need while turning a blind eye to your neighbor who God has called you to help

Sin #4: They had condemned and ruined the lives of innocent men (v. 6). The rich landowners, in most cases, had not pulled the trigger that ended someone’s life. The word translated as “condemned” is a legal term. James is indicating that the landowners had a nasty habit of dragging innocent people into court and doing whatever it took, no matter how crooked it was, to see them condemned and out of the picture.

Never forget: One day our lives on earth will end. We will stand before Almighty God and be judged for the lives that we lived. James asks us to look ahead—because for some of us, there will be Hell to pay if we don’t start making some big changes in our lives right now. In 1 Cor. 3:10-15, Paul teaches us that on Judgment Day, our life’s work will be fed through the flames of testing. If our work has been shallow and self-serving, it will be like wood, hay or straw in the fire: It will be burned up. But if our work has been done for the good of others and for the glory of Jesus Christ, it will be like gold or silver or precious stones. It will pass through the flames of testing—no problem. And it will be transformed into precious eternal treasure in heaven.

I would make the case that on Judgment Day, your money and possessions will also be fed through the flames of testing, resulting in heavenly reward …or lack thereof. And as your material stuff is fed through the flames, I believe it will speak. Your money will talk. Your car and your house will talk. Your electronic devices, your tools and toys and investments will ALL talk. And when they talk, what will they say about you?

Will they say that you selfishly hoarded them, and therefore deserve to be punished? Or will they say that you should be blessed with an eternal reward because you used them for the good of others and the glory of God? When your stuff lets the cat out of the bag, what will it say about you?

Dane Davis is the Pastor of Impact Christian Church. Please join us for our live outdoor worship service tomorrow at 9 a.m. at 17746 George Blvd. in Victorville. Or, join us online at 10 a.m. on our YouTube channel (Impact Christian Church) or on Facebook.


Wednesday, September 9, 2020

Embrace Your True Identity

 “By faith Moses, when he had grown up, refused to be known as the son of Pharoah’s daughter.” 
- Hebrews 11:24

Last year, back when seeing movies in theaters was still a thing, I took my family to see “Harriet.” The film tells the life story of Harriet Tubman, the most famous leader of the underground railroad in the years leading up to the Civil War. Harriet Tubman was born into slavery in rural Maryland in the 1820s. By the age of 25, she made up her mind to escape slavery by fleeing to Pennsylvania. Her brothers were too scared to run away with her. So, with God’s help she did the impossible. Even though she was just five feet tall and had never traveled more than a few miles from her home, in 1849 she ran, walked and crawled her way to Pennsylvania… 100 miles away.

Harriet felt like she was in heaven. As she crossed the Pennsylvania state line, she said that the sun looked like gold coming through the trees. But once she was free, she was still restless. She said she felt like “a stranger in a strange land.” Her parents, her brothers, and friends were still slaves in Maryland. So, with very little support, she took the dangerous journey back to Maryland to rescue her family. Between 1850 and 1860, Harriet Tubman returned to Maryland 13 times & helped around 70 African Americans escape slavery—including four of her brothers, her parents and a niece. And during the Civil War she led a battalion of soldiers that secured the freedom of an additional 750 men, women and children.

Harriet Tubman was, without a doubt, an American hero. And as the film depicts so well: She was a strong believer and follower of Jesus Christ. She had a very deep faith in God, and she trusted Him to guide her steps and give her the courage to obediently do what He called her to do. And God never let her down.

One of the heroes of our faith who inspired Harriet Tubman to lead hundreds of slaves to freedom was Moses, who led his own people out of slavery. But first he had to successfully pass through three milestones of faith, which are outlined in Hebrews 11.

Faith Milestone #1: By faith, Moses refused to be known as the son of Pharaoh’s daughter.  For the first 40 years of his life, Moses had it made in the shade. He was adopted by the princess of Egypt. He was raised in the palace and lived the life of king. But as we read in verse 24, Moses in faith accepted the truth—that his true identity was that of a God-worshiping Hebrew slave, not as a Pharaoh-worshiping prince of Egypt. So, at the age of 40, Moses said, “Enough!” He refused to be known as the son of Pharaoh’s daughter.

Faith Milestone #2: By faith, Moses endured rejection by the people of Egypt. When Moses refused to be known as the prince of Egypt, it didn’t go over so well. He “chose to be mistreated along with the people of God rather than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a short time” (vs. 25). Moses chose to identify with God’s people, the Jews, who Moses knew would one day give birth to the Christ.

Faith Milestone #3: Moses received the reward of faith. As a reward for his obedience to God, Moses’ firstborn son wasn’t killed on the night of the Passover. And as a reward for his faithful obedience to God, Moses and his people were delivered through the Red Sea. And we know also that as a reward for his faithful obedience to God, Moses received a great reward in heaven.

Like Moses, Harriet Tubman didn’t allow the sinful culture around her to define who she was. For the first 25 years of her life, Harriet was told over and over again that she was someone’s property, just like a “pig.” And she was called the “n” word on a daily basis. She was told these things thousands of times, but she refused to believe it. She refused to accept it. She knew that she was a precious child of God, and she believed in her heart—like Moses—that God created her and her people to be free.

Let’s take our lesson from these two heroes of the faith. When the world around them tried to force them into its mold, they refused to be conformed to the pattern of this world. When the sinful culture around them tried to tell them what their identity was, they rejected that culture’s labels. Their identity was in Christ. And ours should be as well.

So, if Jesus Christ is your Savior and Lord, you are not who the world says you are. Forget about society’s labels. You are not a “white, heterosexual male” or a “Black, middle-class female” or a “Hispanic, divorced Baby Boomer.” If Jesus Christ is your Savior and Lord, your identity is not grounded in the temporary, shallow things of earth. Your true identity is found in Christ. You are a child of God; you are a follower of Jesus Christ. And you are a loved member of a forever family. So, if someone asks, tell them: That’s who you are!

Dane Davis is the Pastor of Impact Christian Church. Please join us for our live outdoor worship service Sundays at 9 a.m. at 17746 George Blvd. in Victorville. Or, join us online at 10 a.m. on our YouTube channel (Impact Christian Church) or on Facebook.

Monday, August 31, 2020

Who's in Charge?

“You ought to say, ‘If it is the Lord’s will, we will live and do this or that.’ As it is, you boast in your arrogant schemes.”  – James 4:15-16

In August 1994, a Korean Air commercial airliner had a rough landing—to say the least. The plane overshot the runway, crashed into a safety barricade, and burst into flames. Thankfully, all 160 passengers and crew on board escaped safely. But what was the cause of the accident? According to news reports, the pilot and the co-pilot had gotten into a fist fight…over who was in charge of the landing controls. Now, you’d have thought they’d have figured that out before they left the ground. Over 150 people almost died, and a multi-million dollar airliner was completely destroyed, all because these two grown men weren’t on the same page about who was in charge.

This is nothing new. In James 4, James levels criticism at some wealthy Christians who weren’t clear on who should be in charge. These rich merchants traveled around the Roman Empire, buying and selling goods, and they thought they had their 12-month plans all figured out: “Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money” (v. 13). Now, for those of us who are thoughtful planners, this sounds like good planning. So, is James telling Christian businessmen that they shouldn’t make plans? I don’t think so. The problem James had with these Christian businessmen was twofold.

PROBLEM #1: First off, these Christian merchants were boasting and bragging about their grand plans. As James puts it, “You boast in your arrogant schemes. All such boasting is evil” (v. 16).

Theologian Warren Wiersbe puts it very well: “Man cannot control future events. He has neither the wisdom to see the future nor the power to control the future. For him to boast is sin; it is making himself God.” That’s an eye-opening perspective, isn’t it? When we boast and brag about what we’re going to do tomorrow or next week or next year, we’re foolishly acting as if we can actually see the future or control the future. But we can’t! Only God can.

PROBLEM #2: Their plans were missing one key ingredient: God. The merchants claimed to be believers and followers of Jesus Christ, but God was nowhere to be found in their plans. They weren’t praying for God’s guidance as they set their schedules. They weren’t studying God’s word to make sure that their priorities lined up with God’s. They weren’t even considering the possibility that God’s plans might be a whole lot different than their own plans. And their plans didn’t stem from a desire to bring God pleasure or to glorify Him. Instead, they were motivated by a desire to bring themselves pleasure and make themselves look good. As Pastor John MacArthur explains, “James does not condemn wise business planning, but rather planning that leaves out God. The people so depicted are practical atheists, living their lives and making their plans as if God did not exist.”

Think about this interesting term: practical atheists. An atheist is someone who doesn’t believe that God exists. John MacArthur makes the case that the greedy, ego-driven merchants in James 4 are practical atheists. They are saved, but they live as if they’re not saved. They call themselves “Christians,” but their plans and priorities are more like an atheist’s plans and priorities. Their motives are more like an atheist’s motives. And their lifestyles and spending habits are more like an atheist’s lifestyle and spending habits. These Christians are both “in the world” AND “of the world.” They could attend an atheists’ convention and blend in—no problem.

Let me ask you: Are you a practical atheist? If you’re a Christian, you have believed in Jesus Christ and have confessed him as your Savior and Lord. But is there evidence of your Christianity in your daily life? Sure, you lift up some token prayers before meals and go to church once in a while. But many atheists do those same things. I’m talking about hard evidence. If you were put on trial for being a Christian, would there be enough evidence to convict you? If not, then you are likely a practical atheist. Like the merchants in James 4, you identify as a Christian, but you live as if God didn’t exist.

In verse 14, James reminds these merchants: “Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow.” We don’t know what our health will be like tomorrow. We don’t know what family challenges we’re going to face tomorrow. We don’t even know for sure if we’re going to wake up tomorrow! On New Year’s Day 2020, just about 7 ½ months ago, we had NO CLUE that COVID was coming. We never would have imagined that we’d be dealing with a stay-at-home order; that our schools, churches and favorite restaurants would close; and even Disneyland and Dodger Stadium would close. Likewise, we were clueless about the social unrest that would grip our nation.

Only God knows the future, so only God knows which plans we make today will lead to our greatest good and His greatest glory tomorrow. So, it is foolish for Christians to brag about the future or to leave God out of our plans. As a wise man once said, “If you want to make God laugh, tell Him your plans.” God’s word tells us to get rid of our boasting and place Him in the very center of our plans. It’s okay to make plans—provided we keep in mind that all of our plans here on earth are tentative.

One of the most important questions you’ll ever answer is this: Who’s in charge of your life? And it’s a question you won’t answer with words. You’ll answer it with your humble obedience …or lack of it. If the day ever comes when you and I are on trial, accused of being obedient servants of Jesus Christ, I hope and pray that there is enough evidence to convict us.

Dane Davis is the Pastor of Impact Christian Church. Please join us for our live outdoor worship service Sundays at 9 a.m. at 17746 George Blvd. in Victorville. Or, join us online at 10 a.m. on our YouTube channel (Impact Christian Church) or on Facebook.

Monday, August 24, 2020

I'm Driving Myself Crazy!

 “What causes fights and quarrels among you? Don't they come from the desires that battle within you?" - James 4:1

Last week I came across a blog by best-selling author Marc Chernoff: “8 Ways You’re Driving Yourself Crazy.” Marc wrote, “I sat there in her living room staring at her through teary eyes. ‘I feel crazy,’ I said. ‘I don’t know what’s wrong with me.’  ‘Why do you feel crazy?’ she asked. ‘Because I’m neurotic and self-conscious and regretful, and so much more all at once,’ I said. ‘And you don’t think everyone feels like this at times?’ she asked. ‘Not like this,’ I replied under my breath.

“‘Well, you’re wrong,’ she said. ‘If you think you know someone who never feels a bit crazy and off-center, you just don’t know enough about them.  Every one of us contains a measure of ‘crazy’ that moves us in strange, often perplexing ways.’ I sat silently for a moment.  My eyes gazed from her eyes to the ground and back to her eyes again…. We shared another moment of silence, then my lips curled up slightly and I cracked a smile. ‘Thank you, Grandma,’ I said.”

If you sometimes feel neurotic, self-conscious and regretful—you’re not alone! In last week’s column, I shared some advice from God’s word about how to eliminate harmful battles in our relationships. But if we dig deeper, we find that the source of the battles in our relationships isn’t on the outside—it’s on the inside. We might point a finger at someone else and scream, “You’re driving me crazy!” But the truth is, we’re driving ourselves crazy. We were crazy before that “annoying” person ever came into our lives. That person is just a convenient scapegoat to keep us from taking a long, hard look in the mirror.

In James 4, James opens verse 1 with a question: “What causes fights and quarrels among you?” And in the second half of that verse, he answers with another question. “Don’t they come from your desires that battle within you?” That word, “desires,” is a translation of the Greek word “Hedone,” which is where we get our English word “hedonism.” Hedone means “pleasure,” but it implies “sinful, self-indulgent pleasure.” Other Bible translations translate this word as “passions” (ESV), “cravings” (HCSB), and “lusts” (KJV).

So, verse 1 boils down to this: “When you’re battling with another person, the reason you give for why you’re fighting isn’t the real reason why you’re fighting. The other person isn’t the problem. YOU ARE. The other person isn’t the one who needs fixing. YOU ARE. You have selfish, evil cravings and desires that need to be confessed and dealt with. So, until you deal with that root sin in your own heart, you’ll never have true peace in your relationships.”

James continues, “You want something but don’t get it. You kill and covet, but you cannot have what you want. You quarrel and fight. You do not have because you do not ask God” (v. 2). Notice these four words: “kill,” “covet,” “quarrel” and “fight.” Every one of these relationship-busting actions stems from our selfish pursuit of pleasure. Every one of us can be a selfish pleasure seeker. And that’s because we all have selfish, sinful desires that battle within us.

The Apostle Peter says, “Dear friends, I urge you, as aliens and strangers in the world, to abstain from sinful desires, which war against your soul” (1 Peter 2:11). Peter reminds us that as followers of Jesus Christ, Planet Earth is not our home. Our true citizenship is in heaven. So our priorities should be heaven’s priorities, and our desires should be God’s desires. God has cleansed our souls by the blood of Christ, and He has given us a new nature that is godly and moral. The problem is, we’ve still got our old sinful nature living inside us with its selfish desires. Every day, you live with these two very different natures inside you, and they battle against each other. YOU decide which nature will win the battle for your soul.

Your old nature is selfish, arrogant, rebellious and lazy. It lives for pleasure—and there are far too many days in the month when you and I allow it to win. We argue at church because we’re selfish. We argue at home because we have sinful desires. We argue about politics on social media, not because of a deep love for God and country, but because we want to convince the world we’re right. And along the way, it causes a lot of collateral damage. When your old nature wins, you end up battling with people around you and battling with God in heaven. As a result, your relationships with God and people suffer. Ironically, you end up unhappy. Isn’t that a curious thing? If you want to be unhappy, just chase after pleasure.

Bible teacher and commentator Warren Wierbe put it this way: “People who are at war with themselves because of selfish desires are always unhappy people. They never enjoy life. Instead of being thankful for the blessings they do have, they complain about the blessings they don’t have. They cannot get along with other people because they are always envying others for what they have and do. They are always looking for that ‘magic something’ that will change their lives, when the real problem is within their own hearts.”

Remember those wise words. Selfish people are always unhappy people. If you want to be unhappy, just chase after pleasure. On the flipside, there are so many benefits to allowing your godly nature to win the battle for your soul. If you love and serve God and others, it will greatly improve your relationships at home, at church, at work, and in our community. But as an added bonus, living for God and others will bring you a whole lot of happiness. Selfish people are unhappy people … but selfless followers of Jesus Christ are blessed with both happiness and true joy.

Dane Davis is the Pastor of Impact Christian Church. Please join us for our live outdoor worship service Sundays at 9 a.m. at 17746 George Blvd. in Victorville. Or, join us online at 10 a.m. on our YouTube channel (Impact Christian Church) or on Facebook.

Friday, August 14, 2020

You’re Driving Me Crazy!

 “Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.” – Ephesians 4:29

Let’s be honest with each other: Sometimes our family members drive us up the wall. I love my wife and kids, but at times the stay-at-home order really tested my patience. If you ask me, I’ll tell you that I’m an easy guy to live with. But lately—for some reason—my wife has thought about joining a convent and my kids want to move in with Brandma. Perhaps I’m not as easy to live with as I thought.

According to James 1:4, God sends His followers trials in order to help us become more mature and complete. And one of the trials He gives us every day is the “relationship trial.” Relationships at home, church, work, and school are incubators for growth. And the fact is: We will never become spiritually mature until we learn how to maintain our sanity in our relationships.

Consider this: When you say, “So-and-so is driving me crazy!” that statement says more about your immaturity than it does about the other person. Why? Because without your permission, your “annoying” family member couldn’t drive you anywhere. But when you and I are immature, we allow family, friends and even perfect strangers to drive us from zero to crazy in five seconds or less. 

The more immature you are, the more you’ll be annoyed by others around you. So, one of the secrets to maintaining your sanity in your relationships is to grow up—becoming more and more like Jesus. To whatever extent you become more like Christ in your relationships, to that same extent you’ll be at peace in your relationships.

About five years ago, Thom Rainier, a popular and respected church leader and consultant, posted a survey on Twitter. He asked church leaders to share some of the silly things that Christians in their churches had argued about. In the days that followed, he was blown away by the number of responses. One church’s leaders argued about the “appropriate length” of the worship leader’s beard. Another group of Christians fussed over what type of green beans should be served at church events. Yet another church argued about whether or not it’s a sin to serve “deviled” eggs at church, while two other churches argued about whether or not to switch coffee brands. (Believe it or not, some Christians left one of the churches because they didn’t like the coffee that was chosen.)

We laugh about some of these stupid, childish arguments that took place in actual churches. But, actually, we should cry! After all, the Church of Jesus Christ proclaims the Living God and the message of salvation to a lost and dying world. But far too often our petty squabbles push people away from the Church and bring shame to God. Do you think for a moment that any of these church battles mentioned above drew people closer to Christ? Do you think that non-Christians flocked to the church when they learned that its leaders were arguing about deviled eggs? Do you think that Jesus was glorified by the battles fought over green beans and coffee? Hardly!

We have to remember that the world is watching us and making judgments about the Church and Christ based on our how we treat each other. So, whether we are at home, church, work or school, we must be careful to treat each other in a way that honors God and draws people to Christ. Husbands and wives, never forget that people hear how you speak to each other in public, and they take note that you are Christians. Parents, non-Christians listen to how you speak to your kids and grandkids at WinCo and take note that you are followers of Christ. The world is watching and listening.

God’s word tells us in Ephesians 4:29: “Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.” The word “unwholesome” is a translation of a Greek term that was used in Jesus’ day to describe stinky, rotting fish. Isn’t that a powerful word picture? Jesus Christ tells his followers—you and me—“You should never have stinky, rotting fish come out of your mouths. Your harsh, silly, immature arguments are like stinky fish to God. Your criticism is like stinky fish to God. And your grumbling and complaining are like stinky fish to God.”

Would you agree that there’s far too much stinky fish in our churches? In our workplaces? On social media? In our political campaigns? And in our homes? One of the reasons our family members are driving us crazy during COVID is because there is too much stinky fish in our homes. Our homes should be a consistent contrast to the petty arguments, criticism and judgment that are so prevalent outside our four walls. Our homes should be a place where we build each other up according to each family member’s needs. Our homes should be a place where our words benefit those who listen.

Perhaps God is leading you to have a heart-to-heart with your family today. If so, I encourage you to humble yourself before you family—sharing Ephesians 4:29 with them and confessing that you yourself have been guilty of speaking words that have torn down instead of built up. Ask your family to join you in drawing a line in the sand today: committing to eliminate silly arguments, harsh criticism and judgment from your home. Make a commitment to encourage each other, build each other up according to each person’s needs and speak words that benefit those who listen. If you and your family commit to living out Ephesians 4:29 every day, is there any doubt that you’ll be saying far less often, “You’re driving me crazy!”?

Dane Davis is the Pastor of Impact Christian Church. Please join us for our live outdoor worship service Sundays at 9 a.m. at 17746 George Blvd. in Victorville. Or, join us online at 10 a.m. on our YouTube channel (Impact Christian Church) or on Facebook.