Monday, November 27, 2017

Jonah and the God of the Second Chance

“When God saw … how they turned from their evil ways, He had compassion and did not bring upon them the destruction He had threatened.”  – Jonah 3:10

The early 20th century British pastor George H. Morrison used to say, “The victorious Christian life is a series of new beginnings.” Isn’t that true? When we fall down, Satan tries to convince us that we can’t get back up. He tries to convince us that once we’ve failed God, God won’t take us back, God won’t forgive us, and God certainly won’t everunder any circumstances—allow us to serve Him again in any useful way.

The first time God gave Jonah an opportunity to serve Him, Jonah disobeyed and ran away. But God is the God of the second chance. After rescuing Jonah from the storm and helping him survive his stay in the belly of a big fish, God gave Jonah another chance as He lovingly said, “Go to the great city of Ninevah and proclaim to it the message I give you” (Jonah 3:2).

God had already chosen not to put Jonah to death for his sins--that’s mercy. But here, God chooses to wipe the slate clean and give him a second chance to do what He had asked Jonah to do a week earlier—that’s grace. That’s undeserved favor. Isn’t God awesome? Not only does He offer to spare us the punishment that we deserve; He also offers us a clean slate, a fresh start, a new beginning to live for Him and do His great work. And this time, after being showered by God’s mercy and grace, Jonah “obeyed the word of the LORD and went to Nineveh” (Jonah 3:3).

Then, in verse 4, the Bible gives us the gist of Jonah’s message when he gets to town: “Forty more days and Nineveh will be overturned.” Surprisingly, that’s it. In the original Hebrew language Jonah’s message is only five words. That’s a pretty short sermon, don’t you think? Now, it’s likely that this is just a small sample of his message. Certainly, he pointed out their wickedness and violence. In all likelihood, he proclaimed God as holy and righteous. But I think it’s safe to say that Jonah’s message was short and sweet.

Yet, amazingly, verses 5-10 make it clear that the people of Nineveh did repent. They fasted. They put on sackcloth. Their king took off his robes, donned some sackcloth of his own, and sat in ashes.

Now, if the people of Nineveh had simply fasted and sat in ashes, would God have forgiven them? The most likely answer is—no. Because in Isaiah 58, God tells us He’s not impressed with fasting that does not include a sincere change in behavior. The Bible says that fasting is a wonderful spiritual discipline—when it is accompanied by sincere prayer and a sincere change in our behavior. And from what we read in Jonah 3, it’s clear that the Ninevites’ prayers and repentance were sincere. Notice what the king commands the people to do in verse 8b: “Let everyone call urgently on God. Let them give up their evil ways and their violence.”

The king knew there weren’t any guarantees that God would spare Nineveh the destruction He had threatened. He told his subjects in verse 9, “Who knows? God may yet relent and with compassion turn from His fierce anger so that we will not perish.” And that’s exactly what the God of the second chance did: “When God saw what they did and how they turned from their evil ways, He had compassion and did not bring upon them the destruction He had threatened” (verse 10).

Twice at the end of the chapter we find this wonderful word, “compassion.” As Jonah says to God in the next chapter, “You are a gracious and compassionate God, slow to anger and abounding in love, a God who relents from sending calamity” (Jonah 4:2). On the heels of showering Jonah with undeserved mercy and grace, God showered the wicked people of Nineveh with grace as well.

You see, neither Jonah nor the people of Nineveh were too far gone to be reached by God’s mercy and grace. And neither are you. We need to pay attention to Jonah’s example. When God gives you a second chance, take it. So, you blew it the first time. There’s nothing you can do about that now. But don’t blow it this time. Despite how much you disobeyed Him yesterday, receive His mercy and grace and obey Him today. Like Jonah, you can do it by God’s grace.

Dane Davis is the Lead Pastor of First Christian Church in Victorville. For more information, visit  and join us for worship tomorrow at 10 a.m.

Thursday, November 16, 2017

Running TO God

“In my distress I called to the LORD, and He answered me. From the depths of the grave I called for help, and You listened to my cry.” – Jonah 2:2

Have you ever been in a place in your life where you feel helpless? It’s like you’ve been swept away in a strong, swirling current, with no control over what happens to you. You don’t know which way to turn. Then, when you feel like you’re going down for the last time, you realize there’s nowhere for you to look but … up. And that’s when you find God has been there waiting for you the whole time.

That’s pretty much the situation the prophet Jonah found himself in. He’d been rebelling against God’s marching orders for the whole first chapter of the Book of Jonah. Finally, in chapter 2—after he was thrown off the ship he’d hitched a ride on to escape God’s will—Jonah came to his senses and cried out to God in prayer. And it’s clear that Jonah didn’t wait until he was being digested by some big fish to start praying. He started crying out to God before the fish ever swallowed him. When he was thrown overboard, the waters engulfed him and seaweed wrapped around his head as he sank. He was going down, down, down until, in desperation, he looked up and cried out to God for deliverance.

And what did God do? Did He say, “Forget you, Jonah! You’re getting what’s coming to you! Good riddance, you worthless piece of fish food!” Thankfully, no. As Jonah sank down into his watery tomb, God broke through. God prepared a great fish and instructed the fish to swallow Jonah. And we all know what happened next. Unlike Jonah, the fish obeyed God’s instructions.

Now, we could talk about what kind of fish or whale might have swallowed Jonah—a whale shark? A sperm whale? A blue whale?—or how Jonah got by for three days in that creature’s digestive tract. But we’ve got bigger fish to fry. (Sorry, I couldn’t resist.) Because as Jonah turned back to God in prayer, there are two very powerful words in verses 8 and 9 that I don’t want us to miss: grace and salvation.

Let’s start with grace. As Jonah prays to God from inside the belly of the great fish, he says in verse 8: “Those who cling to worthless idols forfeit the grace that could be theirs.” This is such a great verse. As a prophet of God, Jonah had a pretty solid understanding of God’s judgment and God’s grace. He didn’t always agree with how God chose to apportion that judgment and grace, but Jonah understood it pretty well. He knew that if anyone stubbornly refused to give up all the stuff in his life that he considered to be more important than God, that person—to His own peril—was forfeiting the grace of God that could have been his.

Chances are, a lot of people reading this are running from God in some way or another. If you are, believe what Jonah is saying here: You are forfeiting the grace, mercy and faithful love of God that could be yours. Or if you’re putting Him on the back burner—you’ve got all sorts of people and things in your life that are higher priorities to you than God—once again, you are forfeiting the grace, mercy and faithful love that could be yours.

It’s time to stop running from God. It’s time to stop putting other things and people ahead of God. It’s time to take hold of the grace, mercy and faithful love that He offers to you when you humbly call out to Him and start obeying His commands.

As Jonah ran to God, he ran to God’s grace. But it’s clear that he also ran to God’s salvation. As Jonah is praying to God from inside the belly of the great fish, he says in verse 9, “But I, with a song of thanksgiving, will sacrifice to you. What I have vowed I will make good. Salvation comes from the LORD.”

This is so cool. Guess what the Hebrew word is that is translated “salvation” in this verse. It’s … wait for it …“yeshua”—Jesus’ name in Hebrew. Jesus (yeshua) means “salvation, deliverance, aid, victory.” Salvation comes form the LORD, Yahweh. Or if we do a quick substitution, Jesus comes from the Yahweh. Isn’t that the truth!

Some of us have made promises to God that we aren’t fulfilling. Like Jonah, we’ve made promises to God that we haven’t kept, and we’ve run from God’s marching orders. I believe God is telling you today to make good on your promises. Some of us still desperately need God’s salvation from our hopeless circumstances. I believe God is telling you today to turn to the only one who can throw you a life preserver--Jesus Christ. Jesus is salvation.

Dane Davis is the Lead Pastor of First Christian Church in Victorville. For more information, visit  and join us for worship Sundays at 10 a.m.

Running from God

“I knew that you are a gracious and compassionate God, slow to anger and abounding in love, a God who relents from sending calamity.” – Jonah 4:2b

You’ve heard the story—probably since you were a kid. After all, it’s one of the Old Testament’s greatest hits, right up there with Noah and the Ark and David and Goliath. Yes, the story of Jonah is one of the best-known stories in the Bible, but a closer look reveals that it’s much more than a kids’ story. It’s an eye-opening book that urges those of us who follow Christ to take a long look in the mirror.

How do we get that from a story about a guy who was swallowed by a big fish? You see, familiar as the story is, it’s easy to miss the heart of the book. As the book opens, Jonah had been prophesying in Northern Israel. He had heard, loud and clear, God’s prophetic word that judgment was coming on Israel—and that judgment would come through the swords of the Assyrians, a cruel and bloody nation that took pride in their ability not just to kill their enemies, but to creatively torture and dismember them. So God ordered Jonah into the heart of Assyria, the capital city of Ninevah, “because its wickedness has come up before me” (Jonah 1:2).

Jonah’s reaction? He high-tailed it in the other direction. Instead of heading 500 miles northeast of Israel to Ninevah, he took a boat headed 2,000 miles west, toward the city of Tarshish in Spain. We’re plainly told in verses 3 and 4 that he was fleeing from the Lord. Why? Well, there’s no kind way to put it: Jonah was afraid that if he preached to the people of Ninevah, they would repent, and God would spare them His judgment. And Jonah didn’t want that. He wanted Assyria to continue sinning so that God would judge them. He wanted them to be slaughtered. Given the choice, he much preferred a dead and condemned Assyrian to a live and forgiven Assyrian. Jonah was consumed by hatred, resentment and revenge. By contrast, throughout the story, God shows Himself to be consumed by compassion and love.

When Jonah runs from God in verses 2 and 3, we get the impression in verse 4 that he didn’t make it very far. After his boat set sail, God sent a “great wind” and a “violent storm” that engulfed the ship. The captain and crew were convinced that if there wasn’t some miraculous improvement in their situation, they would all die. But as all the sailors were crying out to their pagan gods, Jonah was snoozing below decks, oblivious. So, the captain slapped Jonah upside the head and said, “Get up and call on your God! Maybe He will take notice of us, and we will not perish.”

Isn’t it sad that the pagan captain was more concerned about the life of one of God’s followers than God’s follower was about the lives of all the lost and dying sailors aboard that ship? It’s a sad indictment on Christ’s followers when nonChristians show more compassion, patience and love than we do.

The sailors were convinced that the storm was somebody’s fault—that someone on the ship had ticked off one of the gods. And in this case, they were right. So when they cast lots to find out who was responsible for the calamity, it’s not surprising that Jonah drew the oddball lot. But even when he admitted that he was the one who’d angered his Lord, and told his shipmates that if they threw him overboard, the sea would calm, they didn’t want to do it. They tried instead to row back to land. Only when that failed did they do what Jonah suggested and throw threw him overboard. Instantly the waters grew calm, and the sailors were blown away. In verse 16, we’re told that “The men greatly feared the Lord and made vows to Him. “

If only Jonah had feared and respected God as much! Even though he believed in God, his correct theology didn’t keep him in the center of God’s will. And unlike the pagan sailors who hesitated to throw him overboard, he didn’t want to show compassion and mercy to the wicked Ninevites who waited for him. Simply put, even though he believed right, he didn’t obey right.

How different are we from Jonah? Think of your least favorite politician. How often do you pray for him or her? Think about a family member you’ve written off, or an ex-friend who’s stabbed you in the back. How often do you think about them with compassion and love? Not very often, right?

You see, the book of Jonah matters today because YOU are Jonah. I am Jonah. All of us have, at one time or another, run from God’s marching orders. And our friends and family who don’t know Christ are citizens of Ninevah, who need to be warned about God’s coming judgment. And God desires for us—unlike Jonah—to have a heart like His, a heart of compassion and mercy. Like our Lord, we need to be “gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and abounding in love.”

Dane Davis is the Lead Pastor of First Christian Church in Victorville. For more information, visit  and join us for worship Sundays at 10 a.m.

Monday, November 6, 2017

Have a Better Marriage than Your Parents

However, each one of you also must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband.– Ephesians 5:33

Last week, I read a blog written by a woman who had nothing but bad memories of her parents’ marriage. She wrote, “My parents hated each other, and I mean that as in plates flying, cops turning up and thousands of memories as a child of their fighting.” She shared memories of punches, drunkenness, and a repeated cycle of breakups and failed reunions.

Even more sadly, she went on to say, “I can not help [but] feel that some of their bad habits [in] their marriage not only are still with me but will affect my marriage.” And her concern is valid. Experts tell us that most couples, without even realizing it, model their own marriage after their parents’ marriage—for better or for worse.

You may not have grown up in a household with flying plates, but if you’re like me, you had parents whose marriage wasn’t bad … but it wasn’t great either. We don’t want to make the same mistakes they made. And God’s word has the answers. It offers a major tune-up for any broken-down marriage.

In Ephesians 5:22-24, Paul offers an implied command to husbands to “lead” their wives under the authority of Jesus Christ. And wives are commanded to submit to that God-given leadership. Now, in this fallen world of ours, there is no shortage of selfish, arrogant husbands. We’ve heard husbands get onto a high horse and demand that their wives submit to them. And these husbands were—for the most part—lousy husbands.

But in the context of a godly marriage, both husband and wife are following Ephesians 5:21, which says, “Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.” And just a few verses later, Paul gives this instruction: "Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her” (Ephesians 5:25). In that context, a wife’s submission comes much easier.

Now, with that in mind, let’s take a look at the commands given to husbands and wives in verse 33: “However, each one of you also must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband.” For years I’ve found this verse to be so interesting. Notice that wives are not commanded here to “love” their husbands. And husbands are not commanded to “respect” their wives. Why not?

First, I believe it’s because it’s easy for most wives to love their husbands, and it’s easy for most husbands to respect their wives. Now, there are exceptions to the rule. But as a rule of thumb, even when a marriage is falling apart, a wife still loves her husband. And similarly, as a rule of thumb, even when a marriage is falling apart, a husband still respects his wife. But when a marriage is falling apart, more times than not the wife does not respect her husband, and the husband does not love his wife.

Second, by the same token, wives have a deeper need to be loved, and husbands have a deeper need to be respected. Even though so-called “experts” in gender studies keep on trying to deny it, the fact is, God has wired men and women differently. When conflict happens in a marriage, it’s common for husbands and wives to say things in anger that they later regret having said. When those harsh words are being spoken, a wife usually interprets her husband’s harsh words as unloving. And a husband usually interprets his wife’s harsh words as disrespectful.

And what can easily happen is this: If a wife feels unloved, she will withhold respect from her husband. And if a husband feels disrespected, he will withhold love from his wife. His unloving words feed off of her disrespect. And her disrespect feeds off of his unloving words. And thus begins a vicious cycle of withholding love and respect within the marriage. Now, here’s some good news: It takes two spouses to START this crazy cycle, but it only takes one spouse to STOP it. And the healing begins with one spouse drawing a line in the sand and refusing to pretend that God’s unconditional command is conditional.

Remember, we don’t follow the wisdom of this world. We follow Jesus Christ. Men, aren’t your grateful that Jesus loved you when you were completely unlovable? Women, aren’t you grateful that Jesus showed you enough respect to die on the cross for you even when you said and did plenty of things that were completely disrespectful?

We need to follow in his footsteps. Husbands are commanded to love their wives even their wives are disrespectful. And wives are commanded to respect their husbands even when their husbands are unloving. You and I are commanded to love and respect our spouses UNCONDITIONALLY. And when we do, living out Ephesians 5:33, your marriage could be the very best marriage your family has ever seen.

Dane Davis is the Lead Pastor of First Christian Church in Victorville. For more information, visit  and join us for worship Sundays at 10 a.m.