Thursday, December 29, 2016

Rockin’ Righteous Resolutions

“For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain. 
If I am to go on living in the body, this will mean fruitful labor for me.”
– Philippians 1:21-22a

This is the time of year when millions of Americans around the country are talking about New Year’s resolutions. Possibly you’ve made one yourself. Maybe you’ve made a resolution to stop smoking, lose weight, start working out or get a better job. Interestingly, one of the most popular New Year’s resolutions over the past few years has been to “unplug” from technology. Many Americans have faced the reality that they are addicted to their smart phones and in response are jumping on the bandwagon to join “the digital detox.”

Well, I have a few thoughts that I’d like you to consider. For starters, most New Year’s resolutions are me-focused. They tend to focus on me, myself and I. I want to start doing this. I want to stop doing that. I want to be happy. 2017 is going to be my year.

Another thought that comes to mind is that most New Year’s resolutions don’t have a clear point. Think about it: Many Americans have made a resolution to lose weight, but what’s the point of losing weight? To look better? To feel better? To buy a new wardrobe? Okay. But what’s the point of looking better, feeling better and buying a new wardrobe? And while we’re talking about the point of resolutions, what’s the point of ditching the cigarettes, working out, or turning off the smart phone?

I hope you can see what I’m getting at here. Most New Year’s resolutions are not bad, just self-absorbed and rather pointless. As you probably know, most New Year’s resolutions fail within a few short weeks. And they tend to fail for two reasons. They fail because they do not have an intense, powerful motivation. And they fail because they don’t have a point—a clearly defined purpose. They don’t have something that a person can sink his/her teeth into and get fired up about. For example: If I carry out this resolution my marriage will be saved. If I carry out this resolution I’ll be able to afford to send my kids to college. If I carry out this resolution I will have a 75% better chance of beating cancer.

So, how do we make resolutions and set goals that are not self-absorbed or pointless? Great question! I’m convinced that the greatest resolutions in life are those that are grounded in Scripture, motivated by our love for Christ and carried out for the glory of God. One of the best ways to ensure that our resolutions are not shallow or pointless is to feed them through this three-part filter. Start by asking yourself, “Is my resolution solidly grounded in the Bible?” If so, great! Move on to question number two: “Is my love for Christ my motivation for making this resolution?” If so, fantastic, because Christ’s love that led him to the cross for you and me is the greatest motivator of all! 

Next, ask question number three: “Am I going to carry out this resolution for my own glory or for the glory of God?” The glory of God should be the end goal of everything that we do, because the glory of God is the purpose of our existence in the first place.

So, is it bad to make a resolution to lose twenty pounds or start eating healthier or start working out or take a trip somewhere? Maybe. Feed your resolution through the three-question filter and find out. Is your resolution biblically-grounded? Is your resolution motivated by Christ’s love for you and your love for Him? Will the carrying out of your resolution bring glory to God or just bring glory to yourself? If your resolution passes through the filter, great! Go for it, and let me know if I can help.

But regardless of whether or not you’ve already made a New Year’s resolution this year, I encourage you to give some serious thought and prayer to what Jesus Christ would like your life to be about in 2017. It’s often been said that if you aim for nothing, you will hit it every time. That’s some great food for thought!  All of us need goals to shoot for and resolutions to define our path. And when our goals and resolutions survive the three-question filter, they pave the way for the greatest adventures of faith.

Dane Davis is the lead pastor of First Christian Church in Victorville.
Start the New Year right by joining us for worship tomorrow at 10 a.m.

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Christmas at the Movies: The Nativity Story

“But the angel said to her, ‘Do not be afraid, Mary, you have found favor with God. You will be with child and give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus.’”
 – Luke 1:30-31

Over the years there have been many Bible-based movies that depict the birth of Christ 2,000 years ago. And I think the 2006 film The Nativity Story is one of the best. For starters, the actors who play Joseph and Mary are believable. The producer and director didn’t place supermodels or famous personalities in the lead roles. There was no attempt to boost box office ticket sales by casting Johnny Depp as Joseph or Carrie Underwood as Mary. And the movie doesn’t display award-winning cinematography or dazzling special effects. It just tells the simple, powerful story of Jesus’ birth.

We read in Luke 1:26-27 that God sent one of his premier messenger angels, Gabriel, to deliver a life-changing message to Mary. Gabriel had announced John the Baptist’s expected birth to John’s father, Zechariah, some six months earlier. And now Gabriel was ready to deliver some good news to Mary. She too would experience a miraculous pregnancy. Though she was a virgin, she would give birth to the Son of God.

Like Matthew, Luke declares that Mary was a virgin. In First Century Jewish culture, the term “virgin” usually referred to an unmarried Jewish girl who was fourteen years of age or younger. So, Mary was likely twelve or thirteen years old when the angel knocked her socks off with his groundbreaking announcement. And she had virtually no social status in Israel. Wealthy Jews held a higher social status than poor Jews, and Mary wasn’t wealthy. Jewish men were higher in the pecking order than Jewish women. And among women, married women held a higher social order than young maidens.

So without a doubt Mary—a poor, unmarried Jewish girl from the lowly town of Nazareth—was virtually at the bottom of the social pecking order. No wonder she was shocked when the angel suddenly appeared and greeted her with the words: “Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you.”

Now, it’s important to take a closer look at the angel’s greeting to Mary in Matthew 1:28, because many Christians and Christian leaders have completely misinterpreted the angel’s words. To put it bluntly, the angel’s greeting—traditionally translated into English as “Hail, full of grace”— in no way indicates that Mary is someone Divine or worthy of worship. In fact, the word translated as “greetings” or “hail” is the Greek word “chairo,” which is a variation of the word “charis”: one of the most important words in the New Testament. Charis means “grace.” And grace is defined as “undeserved favor” or as the acronym “G-R-A-C-E—God’s Riches At Christ’s Expense.”

Long story short: Gabriel greeted Mary with a word of grace. And when he followed that greeting with the words “you who are highly favored” or “full of grace,” the angel reiterated that Mary had received undeserved favor from God. Clearly the angel’s greeting in no way identifies Mary as a dispenser of God’s grace. She is merely a recipient of God’s grace. Grace was given to Mary by God. In no way had she earned it, and she didn’t have the ability to manufacture it. To claim otherwise is to distort the clear teaching of God’s word while heading down a slippery slope of false teaching.

Mary understood that she was a lowly human being, a sinner undeserving of God’s amazing grace. And she serves as a bright example of a humble servant who believed the word of the Lord and walked in obedience to His commands. Mary should be respected and her faith and obedience should be emulated. But she should never be lifted up on a Divine pedestal. Jesus alone is to be high and lifted up in our minds and hearts.

With that in mind, here are two marvelous lessons that we can learn from Mary. First, when the Lord offers you grace, receive it. Without a doubt, the people of Nazareth would have looked down on Mary once they discovered that she was pregnant before her wedding night. Her miraculous pregnancy did her no favors in the eyes of her neighbors and friends. But despite the social stigma that accompanied her faithful obedience to the Lord’s commands, she gladly received God’s grace anyway. In much the same way, God’s grace and our culture’s scorn await you as you faithfully obey God’s commands. I guarantee you that God has grace in store for you as you study His word, pray and live for Him each day. Yet at the same time, there are plenty of your acquaintances who will consider these priorities to be a complete waste of your time and energy. Will you obey God and pursue His grace anyway?

Second, when the Lord gives you a ministry opportunity, embrace it. Mary was blessed with an amazing ministry opportunity, the privilege of giving birth to Jesus Christ—God in flesh and Savior of the world. And Mary embraced it!  So too should you embrace ministry opportunities when the Lord opens the door for you to serve Him and His Church in meaningful ways. The Lord’s open doors should never be ignored, even on Christmas day. So, as you celebrate Christmas this weekend with church family, will you be looking for God’s open door? And once you see it, will you do what Mary did: Walk through it? I hope so. 

Merry Christmas from all of us at First Christian Church! We hope you’ll join us
for our Christmas Morning Worship Service Sunday at 10 a.m.
For more information, visit

Thursday, December 15, 2016

Christmas at the Movies: A Christmas Carol

“When King Herod heard this he was disturbed, and all Jerusalem with him.”
– Matthew 2:3

Since it was first published in 1843, Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol has been adapted into dozens of different movies, TV specials, stage plays and musicals. Even the Muppets and Mickey Mouse have their own versions of the Christmas classic. As you may remember, the tale begins on a cold Christmas Eve in London, England exactly seven years after the death of Jacob Marley, Ebenezer Scrooge’s business partner. Scrooge is a grumpy, penny-pinching old codger who is described by Charles Dickens as “a squeezing, wrenching, grasping, scraping, clutching, covetous old sinner.”

Scrooge hates Christmas. But at home that night, Scrooge is visited by Jacob Marley’s ghost, who is forever cursed to wander the earth dragging a load of chains, forged during a lifetime of greed and selfishness. Marley tells Scrooge that he has one chance to avoid the same fate. During the night he will be visited by three spirits. He must listen to them or be cursed to carry chains of his own that are much heavier than Marley’s. And just as Marley warned him, one-by-one Scrooge is visited by the Ghost of Christmas Past, the Ghost of Christmas Present and the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come. And as Scrooge is given a bird’s eye view of his past, present and future Christmases, his whole world is rattled.

King Herod’s world was rattled in much the same way shortly after Jesus’ birth—the very first Christmas—2,000 years ago. In Matthew 2, we are introduced to Herod the Great, who ruled Israel for thirty-three years before the birth of Christ. And we learn much about King Herod from the writings of two First Century historians, Tacitus and Josephus. For example, they tell us that Herod was a very accomplished yet violent leader. He poured liberal amounts of time and money into rebuilding the Jewish temple in Jerusalem. And he undertook other awe-inspiring building projects in and around Israel.

Yet at the same time Herod was a vindictive, murderous thug. He was insanely jealous of anyone who might threaten his reign or rule, including his own family members. Herod murdered his favorite wife and three of his sons whom he suspected of threatening his rule. At one point Herod murdered 45 Jewish noblemen, and on another occasion, he ordered his soldiers to drown the high priest Aristobolus III in one of Herod’s swimming pools.

So, when the wise men strolled into town with their entourage and enthusiastically asked, “Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews?” you’d better believe that Herod was disturbed. He was shaken; he was rattled. King Herod’s insecurities and fears and jealousy and paranoia were suddenly stirred up as the Magi innocently asked their question about Jesus. And the citizens of Jerusalem were also disturbed. They had learned over the years that when King Herod was disturbed, heads would roll.

After leaving Jerusalem, the Magi followed the star to the house where Jesus (by now several months old) was. The Magi worshiped the Christ child and gave him three gifts: gold, incense and myrrh. Sadly, King Herod was so insanely jealous and his heart was so hard that he ordered the extermination of every baby boy in and around Bethlehem. He issued this order in the futile attempt to kill Jesus. But by the time Herod’s orders were carried out, Jesus, Joseph and Mary were already several miles outside of town.

There are many lessons that we can learn from King Herod about what not to do at Christmas. I’ll highlight three. First, don’t be rattled at Christmas. Without a doubt, many of us do get rattled at Christmas. With only a matter of days until Christmas, we’re troubled by the number of things that we still have left to do. We have the unsettling feeling that we won’t get it all done. Our nerves are shaken and our fears are stirred. I believe God is telling us, “Stop it!” Each of us needs to stop and smell the Rose—the one, single Rose at the heart of Christmas—Jesus Christ, born to save the world. Most everything else is just clutter.

Second, don’t be outwitted this Christmas. The wisest, most intelligent thing we can do this Christmas season is to pursue and worship Christ. But our sinful nature and godless culture try to dumb down our Christmas celebration at every turn. Just about every Christmas TV commercial, Christmas movie and public school Christmas program tries to convince us that Christmas is just fine without Christ. Christmas is about trees and lights and mistletoe. Christmas is about presents and food and egg nog. But we as Christians know that Christmas is about so much more. Christmas is about Jesus Christ—born to save the world. Therefore, we should never allow ourselves to be outwitted by our culture’s lie that Jesus is expendable at Christmas. Make no mistake about it: Without Christ, there is no Christmas.

Finally, don’t be blinded by your anger this Christmas. Many of us dread the thought of sitting around the Christmas dinner table with Aunt Martha or Uncle Sid. They drive us up the wall and grate on our last nerve. This being the case, many of us lug around resentment and anger at Christmas. And when we do we are blinded to peace on earth and good will toward men. But just like Ebenezer Scrooge, we need to repent of our sin and surrender our anger to Christ at Christmas. And like Scrooge we must celebrate Christmas well by keeping Christ at the very heart of Christmas and celebrating him each day of the season. If we do, Tiny Tim’s words will come to pass. God will “bless us, every one.”

Dane Davis is the Pastor of First Christian Church in Victorville. For more information,
visit  and join us this Christmas season—Sundays at 10 am.

Sunday, December 11, 2016

Christmas at the Movies: It’s a Wonderful Life!

“When Joseph woke up, he did what the angel of the Lord had commanded him and took Mary home as his wife.” - Matthew 1:24

In the Christmas classic “It’s a Wonderful Life,” George Bailey is a young dreamer who lives in the sleepy little town of Bedford Falls. He oversees a small building and loan that his father founded. George hates the building and loan business, but after his father dies and his younger brother moves out of the area, he feels obligated to put his personal dreams on hold to keep the family business running. He eventually marries a beautiful girl named Mary, and they have four cute kids: two boys and two girls. Despite his unexpected change of course, George is on top of the world. But suddenly his world comes crashing down one day when his coworker misplaces $8,000, and a warrant is issued for George’s arrest.

All seems hopeless for George—just as it must have seemed hopeless for Joseph of Nazareth in the first chapter of Matthew. We read in Matthew 1:18 that Mary and Joseph were pledged to be married. More specifically, they were betrothed. That means they were legally “husband and wife,” but Mary still lived with her parents and hadn’t consummated her marriage with Joseph. Although Nazareth was a podunk town located in the dull region of Galilee, Joseph must have been on top of the world. The wedding ceremony was at hand, and he would soon walk into his own home hand-in-hand with the prettiest girl in town.

But suddenly his world came crashing down when he discovered that his beautiful Mary was pregnant. God’s word doesn’t tell us how Joseph learned of Mary’s pregnancy. Perhaps she told him right away, or perhaps her bulging waistline revealed her secret. But regardless of how he learned of Mary’s pregnancy, it’s clear from Matthew 1:19 that Joseph had made up his mind: He was going to divorce Mary. The only logical explanation for her pregnancy was that she had committed adultery. Although Joseph was devastated, he had decided that divorcing her quietly was the most loving and honorable thing for him to do.

But a visit from an angel turned Joseph’s world upside down, just as it did for George Bailey. According to Matthew 1:20-21, “An angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, ‘Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.’”

Can you imagine how thunderstruck Joseph must have been by the angel’s words? What the angel said was crazy. It defied all logic. Virgins don’t get pregnant. Teenage girls don’t give birth to “God with us.” And it made no sense that he—a blue collar, living paycheck-to-paycheck carpenter—would be the earthly father of the promised Messiah.

But Joseph believed the word of the Lord and obeyed God anyway. After the dream ended, he got up and did what the angel had commanded him to do. He “took Mary home as his wife,” but he didn’t consummate the marriage until after Jesus was born. Righteous man that he was, Joseph put God’s needs, Mary’s needs and his miraculously-conceived son’s needs above his own personal needs. Despite the hardships to come and the stigma that he would certainly bear for having married a pregnant woman, Joseph obeyed the word of the Lord.

As I consider the wonderful example of Joseph, three life lessons come to mind. For starters, Lesson #1: Good things can come out of Victorville. In Jesus’ day, Nazareth had a bad reputation. Even one of Jesus’ apostles asked the question, “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” Similarly, many people ask, “Can anything good come out of Victorville? Can anything good come out of Adelanto? Can anything good come out of Apple Valley?” And God answers, “Absolutely!” Just as good things came out of Nazareth when God was involved, good things can come out of the Victor Valley when we, like Joseph, walk in humble obedience to the Lord’s commands.

Lesson #2: Maintaining a good reputation with God takes precedence over maintaining a good reputation with man. God has called us to live lives of integrity and, as much as possible, to do what is right in the eyes of everyone. But there are times when choosing to obey God will tarnish our reputation with people. So be it! Just like Joseph, we must always choose to do what is right in God’s eyes. We must obey God, not man. Ultimately, our highest aim as Christians is to be God-pleasers, not man-pleasers.

Lesson #3: Live and celebrate the wonderful life that God created you to live—a life of loving, trusting and obeying Him. The bridge is a pivotal place in the movie “It’s a Wonderful Life.” The first time George stands on the bridge, he is at the end of his rope, feeling completely hopeless. At the end of the movie, he’s back on the bridge but has a new lease on life. What changed? He is still $8,000 in the hole. He still has a warrant out for his arrest. His car is still smashed against a tree. So what changed? His perspective changed. God opened George’s eyes to see the glorious truth that—despite his hardships and difficulties--God had blessed him with a wonderful life. The same was true of Joseph, and the same is true of you. My friends, despite your problems, ask God to open your eyes so that you can see what He sees: Your God-given life is, in a word, “wonderful.”

Dane Davis is the Pastor of First Christian Church in Victorville. For more information,
visit  and join us this Christmas season—Sundays at 10am.