Monday, October 29, 2018

A Couple of Fish Stories

Master, we’ve worked hard all night and haven’t caught anything.
But because you say so, I will let down the nets. - Luke 5:5

The story goes that when President Grover Cleveland’s second child was born, no scales could be found to weigh the baby. Finally, someone went down to the cellar and found the scales that President Cleveland used to weigh the fish he caught on his trips. And to everyone’s surprise, Grover Cleveland was the father of a 25-pound baby.

Evidently, President Cleveland liked to rig his scales a little bit in order to make his fishing stories more exciting. But Jesus never had that problem, as we discover in the fifth chapter of Luke.

Jesus had boarded Simon Peter’s fishing boat in order to teach a crowd that was filling the beach. This allowed more room for families to spread out across the shoreline, and the offshore breeze and slope of the beach would make the acoustics really good. Jesus asked Simon to “put out a little from the shore,” and Simon obeyed, dropping anchor a few yards from the growing crowd. After Jesus finished teaching from his improvised pulpit, he gave Simon Peter one more simple command: “Put out into deep water, and let down the nets for a catch” (Luke 5:4). Simon Peter responded, “Master, we’ve worded hard all night and haven’t caught anything” (vs. 5a).

From what I’ve read, it was common for Galilean fishermen to fish at night, when the fish tended to come up from the depths and swim closer to the surface, making them easier to catch in the fishermen’s nets. But Simon and his buddies had fished all night long, and they hadn’t caught bupkis. Undoubtedly they were frustrated and exhausted. So, when Jesus told the weary fishermen to try one more time, that was definitely NOT what Simon Peter wanted to hear. He must have been thinking, “Jesus, with all due respect, you’re a carpenter and I’m a fisherman. If the fish weren’t biting during the cool of the night, they’re certainly not going to be biting during the heat of the morning. And you want us to sail all the way out to deep water? Do you realize that’s, like, a mile away?”

But before Simon Peter said all that, something changed. He probably realized it was best not to argue with Jesus as he added, “But because you say so, I will let down the nets” (vs. 5b). You know what happened next, right? “They caught such a large number of fish that their nets began to break. So they signaled their partners in the other boat to come and help them, and they came and filled both boats so full that they began to sink” (vs. 6-7).

To say that Simon Peter was blown away would be an understatement. He fell to his knees and cried, “Go away from me, Lord; I am a sinful man!” (vs. 8). There on his own fishing boat, holding his own fishing nets, Simon Peter experienced a small taste of the power and glory of Jesus Christ. He felt like a sinful wretch, unworthy to be in the presence of his holy Lord and Savior. But Jesus wasn’t about to “go away.” Instead, he said, “Don’t be afraid; from now on you will catch men” (vs. 10). And with that, Simon Peter, Andrew and his fishing partners James and John began to follow Jesus full-time. Not a bad day’s fishing, wouldn’t you say?

There are two important lessons we can learn from this life-changing fishing trip:

1) Regardless of how tired, hungry or uninspired we feel, we must obey Christ’s commands … because Jesus said so. Simon Peter’s tired body didn’t WANT to trust and obey Jesus. His tired body didn’t FEEL like trusting and obeying Jesus. But he chose to trust and obey him anyway. Why? Because Jesus said so! So often, we as Christians make Christianity so complicated. We pick and choose when to obey Christ’s commands and when to disobey them. And when we do obey them, we often don’t obey them completely. Or we procrastinate and don’t obey them until later. But in reality, Christianity is not complicated. It’s quite simple. Following Christ boils down to three simple steps: Trust him. Love him. Obey him.

2) Good intentions and hard work are not enough. Only Jesus can make an otherwise ineffective life productive. Never forget that Peter was the professional fisherman, not Jesus. Peter was the man with all the right equipment—the right kind of boat, the right kind of nets, the right kind of sinkers and floats—not Jesus. Peter had all the necessary training and experience—not Jesus. But before Jesus got involved, Simon Peter’s wonderful equipment and expertise and training got him a whole lot of nothing.

The same goes for you and me. At times in life we may have all the right stuff: the right kind of clothes, the right kind of car, the right kind of home, the right kind of job, the right kind of relationships. Then we step back, look at it all, and realize we’re going nowhere fast. We’re hitting a wall, and what’s worked in the past no longer works. We need something else, and that “something” else is “someone” else. That someone is Jesus. Good intentions and hard work are not enough. Only Jesus can make an otherwise ineffective life productive.

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

Monday, October 22, 2018

4 Pillars of Christian Ministry

“All the people were amazed and said to each other, “’What words these are! With authority and power he gives orders to impure spirits and they come out!’” - Luke 4:24

After leaving his hometown of Nazareth, Jesus never established a new home address. That’s why Jesus would later say that he “has no place to lay his head.” But Capernaum—the hometown of Peter, Andrew, James and John—was where Jesus spent more time than anywhere else. After speaking at a synagogue in Nazareth and nearly getting pushed off a cliff, he went to Capernaum, where he again spoke at a synagogue on the Sabbath. This time, he got a much warmer reception, and the results of his ministry were nothing short of amazing.

During this visit to Capernaum, Jesus modeled what we could call “The Four Pillars of Christian Ministry”: 1) Teach truth; 2) Confront evil; 3) Show compassion; and 4) Spend time alone with God. I’d like to take a quick look at each of these, starting with Jesus’ visit to the synagogue.

1) Teach truth. When Jesus was given the opportunity of teach God’s word, he taught. And in Luke 4:32, we see that “They were amazed at his teaching, because his message had authority.” What does that mean? It means that Jesus didn’t teach the way all the other rabbis taught. When other rabbis gave an exposition on a passage of scripture, they would quote another rabbi, then give the opinion of other rabbis who disagreed with him. In other words, the rabbis leaned on other rabbis’ authority when teaching a passage of scripture. They couldn’t lean on their own authority, because they didn’t have much. Even the great prophets of the Old Testament wouldn’t lean on their own authority; they would routinely say, “Thus saith the Lord” when sharing a truth of scripture.

But Jesus was different. He didn’t quote Rabbi So-and-So. He didn’t say, “Thus saith the Lord.” Jesus would just say it as if it was God saying it. And that fact blew the sandals off those who were listening as Jesus taught in the Capernaum synagogue.

2) Confront evil. In verse 33, while Jesus was still in the synagogue, he encountered a man who was “possessed by a demon, an evil spirit.” This demon called out the Son of God in plain view of the people Jesus had been winning over: “Hah! What do you want with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are—the Holy One of God!” (verse 34). The demon knew full well that he was no match for Jesus in a head-to-head matchup. But he must have figured that if he was loud enough and gutsy enough to call Jesus out by name, Jesus would back down. But instead, Jesus told him sternly, “Be quiet! Come out of him!” And with that, the demon threw the man down and came out without injuring him (verse 35).

When the demon threw the man down on the floor of the temple, the onlookers must have thought that the demon had seriously injured him. But Jesus wasn’t about to let that happen. Jesus made sure that the man was not harmed by the demon. As theologian Matthew Henry wrote: “Whom Satan cannot destroy, he will do all that he can to; but … he can harm them no further than Christ permits; nay, he shall not do them any real harm.” You see, everything that God allows to come our way has to pass through the filter of His love for us. Therefore, whenever Satan harms us, it’s not “real” harm. It’s really only temporary and brings a blessing at the end of it.

3) Show compassion. In Luke 38-40, Jesus went to the home of Peter’s mother-in-law and destroyed the miserable fever that caused her to suffer. Then, one by one, people brought their miserably sick relatives and friends to Jesus, and Jesus healed every one of them. As William Barclay points out in his commentary, “Always Jesus was ready to help; his followers must be the same. Jesus did not need a crowd to work a miracle. Many a man will put out an effort in a crowd that he will not make among his own private circle.” But not Jesus. Whether he was in the synagogue, in a crowd, or behind closed doors in Peter’s home, he was the same compassionate Jesus.

Remember, it’s not just so-called “faith healers” who do their best work when the spotlights are on and the cameras are rolling. You and I so often can let down our guard when we’re at home behind closed doors. You and I should be the same compassionate Christians at home as we are at church, at school and at work.

4) Spend time alone with God. Luke tells us in verse 43, “At daybreak Jesus went out to a solitary place.” Mark records this as well, but Mark clarifies the purpose of Jesus going off by himself: He did it to pray. When we focus on Jesus’ powerful ministry, we tend to gravitate to his miracles, signs and wonders. He opened the eyes of the blind and cleansed the lepers and raised the dead and calmed the storm and walked on water. We love these parts of Jesus’ ministry … and well we should. The miracles were certainly a pillar of Jesus’ ministries. But so was Jesus’ prayer life—the hours and hours that Jesus spent alone in prayer with the father. They were vital to his life and ministry. And they will be vital to yours as well.

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

Tuesday, October 16, 2018

A Real Cliffhanger

“Truly I tell you … no prophet is accepted in his hometown.- Luke 4:24

Jesus’ ministry was off to a tremendous start. Within a few months of being baptized and facing down the temptations of Satan, Jesus chose at least four of his twelve disciples. He performed his first miracle—turning water into wine at a wedding in Cana of Galilee. He also shared with Nicodemus the most important verse in the whole Bible—John 3:16.

Suffice it to say: Before he ever rolled into his hometown of Nazareth, Jesus was doing a whole lot of life-changing ministry. When he went to Galilee, news about him spread quickly “through the whole countryside” (Luke 4:14). Luke tells us in verse15 that Jesus taught in the Jewish synagogues and “everyone praised him.” Jesus had reached a ministry sweet spot where most people loved him and cheered for him. His fans were many and his critics were few. But that would all change quickly as he returned home.

Word quickly spread through Nazareth that Jesus had returned, and his new-found reputation as a powerful teacher and miracle worker had preceded him. So, as Jesus entered the synagogue, he must have been approached by one of the religious leaders and asked if he’d like to read a Scripture and offer the exposition on that Scripture. When the attendant handed Jesus the scroll of Isaiah, Jesus stood and opened it to Isaiah 61:1-2, reading its words with just some minor variations: “The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because He has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to release the oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”

After reading those words, Jesus rolled up the scroll, returned it the attendant and sat down. Everyone understood this to be a nonverbal cue that Jesus was about to begin his teaching. But none of them could have anticipated what he said next: “Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing” (v. 21). At first the crowd was supportive. They knew that this passage referred to the coming Messiah, who would preach good news to the poor, release prisoners and open the eyes of the blind. In verse 22, “all spoke well of him and were amazed at the gracious words that came from his lips.”

But after a few seconds, the reality of what Jesus was saying must have sunk in. Jesus said the prophecy was being fulfilled right here and now…in this synagogue…in this very room. So, their reaction shifted: “The Carpenter Boy that we’ve known for 30 years is actually saying that HE is the fulfillment of Scripture. He is actually saying that HE is the promised Messiah!” The crowd in the synagogue quickly went from being amazed to being offended.

And then they went from being offended to being furious when Jesus made his bottom-line statement in verse 24: “I tell you the truth, no prophet is accepted in his hometown.” Jesus offered two quick illustrations of this truth. The prophet Elijah was sent by God to a Gentile widow in Zarephath instead of to a Jewish widow in Israel. And of all the lepers in Israel, God didn’t send any of them to Elisha to be healed. God only sent him a Gentile leper. By the time Jesus finished giving these examples of strangers who were more receptive to God’s blessings than the Israelites, the Jews in the synagogue were fuming. It was bad enough that Jesus was claiming to himself be the fulfillment of Scripture. But talking about Gentiles winning God’s favor before the chosen Jews…that was unacceptable!

St. Augustine offers this insightful reflection: “They love truth when it ENLIGHTENS them, but hate truth when it ACCUSES them.” Similarly, Christians today love to hear sermons filled with gracious words. But many of us quickly attack and reject sermons that speak a truth that hits too close to home. And in this case, the crowd attacked Jesus literally: “They got up, drove him out of the town, and took him to the brow of the hill on which the town was built, in order to throw him down the cliff” (v. 29). What a bunch of sweethearts!

Interestingly, Jesus’ hometown neighbors were basically repeating Satan’s third temptation in the desert, when he took Jesus to the pinnacle of the temple and tried to tempt him to glorify himself by doing a 150-foot swan dive to the pavement below. But once again, Jesus resisted the urge to make a flashy escape.

We know that Jesus had the power to defy the laws of physics. In Matthew 14:25, Jesus walked on a lake. If you didn’t realize it…that’s impossible. And so does walking through walls into a locked room and ascending into heaven after his resurrection. So, Jesus certainly could have jumped off the temple roof and survive the fall, or he could have taken a leap off the Nazareth cliff and defied gravity for all to see. But in both cases, he didn’t. Why?

Because Jesus and God the Father had already decided that he wasn’t going to take the quick and easy path, the path of showboating and scaring his followers half to death. Instead, he made himself “of no reputation” (Philippians 2:7). Almighty God had chosen the slower, more humble path of pain and suffering. Jesus chose the path of the cross. And I’m so glad that he did. It wasn’t flashy, but it saved my life…and yours.

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

Tuesday, October 9, 2018

Why Was Jesus Tempted?

Jesus answered, “It is written: ‘Worship the Lord your God and serve Him only.’”
- Luke 4:8

In June 2011, a man found a bag of money with a Chase Bank logo on it at a Walgreen’s drugstore in Chicago. When he peeked inside, he discovered the bag contained $17,000 in cash and checks. What would you have done? Well, this man gave in to temptation and took the bag. But it was a 45-minute drive back to his suburban home, and in that time, he became convicted that he was doing the wrong thing. The fact that he might get caught probably also weighed into his decision. At any rate, he turned the money in.

But when he turned it in at a Chase Bank, he was a little concerned about how he’d explain those 45 minutes. So, he lied and said he found it at the local mall. The story made the news, and he was hailed around the world as a hero. But the authorities weren’t so sure. The police and FBI investigated the incident and discovered the truth. As a result, the man was fined $500 for filing a false police report, and he went from hero to zero in one news cycle.

Well, Jesus was tempted too. And before we assume that any temptation would be a slam-dunk for the Son of God, the Book of Luke reminds us that Jesus was also the son of Adam. Luke spends the last half of chapter 3 tracing Jesus’ family tree to the first man ever created: Adam. He wanted us to know that as the Son of God, Jesus was 100 percent God. But as the son of Adam, Jesus was also 100 percent man. Jesus could get hungry like Adam got hungry. He could get tired and discouraged, just as Adam could get tired and discouraged. And Jesus could be tempted, just as Adam was tempted.

In Luke 4:1, we’re told that after his baptism Jesus was “full of the Holy Spirit,” and that he was “led by the Holy Spirit into the desert.” He fasted in the Judean desert for 40 days and 40 nights. At the end of 40 days, Satan knew full well that Jesus was hungry—REALLY hungry. So he tried to persuade Jesus to turn one of the limestone rocks around him into a loaf of bread. But the Father had something much more important than bread for Jesus to feast on, and Jesus knew that. So in response, Jesus quoted Deuteronomy 8:3: “It is written, man does not live on bread alone.” One temptation down, two to go.

In the following verses Satan tempted Jesus two more times, and each temptation was strategically chosen by Satan to capitalize on one of Jesus’ weaknesses (as if he had any). The second temptation—offering Jesus authority over all the kingdoms of the world—was intended to get Jesus to compromise his integrity in order to avoid the pain and suffering of the cross. And Satan’s third temptation—for Jesus to throw himself from the temple to be rescued by angels—was designed to get Jesus to upstage God, making himself the center of attention instead of God the Father. In both cases, Jesus overcame the temptation by unleashing the sword of the Spirit: the word of God.

Over the years many Christians have wondered why Jesus was tempted. Perhaps it was because Jesus wanted a showdown or because Satan thought that he could best Jesus. Maybe. But I tend to think Jesus suffered through that temptation for you and me. He allowed himself to be tempted because he knew that you and I would be tempted. And his victory over his three temptations provides a picture-perfect “how-to” guide for how we can do the same.

The truth is, as long as you and I are still living here on earth, we’re going to be tempted. Sometimes the devil is the one tempting us. Sometimes people around us are tempting us. Sometimes our old sinful nature tempts us. We have these three great enemies that constantly fight against our souls. And we are told in God’s word to resist temptation. It’s not a sin to be tempted. It’s only a sin to give in to that temptation. So, how do we resist temptation? We do it the same way Jesus did. First of all, we pray. Second, we lean on the Holy Spirit.

Third—and this one is a biggy—we stand firm on God’s word. Did you notice Jesus’ response to Satan? They’re the first words quoted from Jesus in the Bible after his baptism: “It is written.” These words mark the beginning of his ministry on earth. Do you think, perhaps, there’s a message for us in there? I think so. As long as we are living here on earth, Satan will nip at our heels just as he nipped at Jesus’ heels. But just like Jesus, in the power of the Holy Spirit, we can prayerfully use the word of God to crush Satan’s head.

When we lift God’s word in prayer, it is our strongest weapon against temptation. Jesus responded to every one of Satan’s temptation with the powerful, unchanging word of God. Back in 2011, if the man at Walgreen’s had followed these three steps—if he had prayed, leaned on the Holy Spirit and stood firm on God’s word—it would have saved him a lot of embarrassment and heartache. It also would have saved him 500 bucks. I can’t guarantee you that following these three steps will save you money, but following them will save you a lot of heartache, and God will be very, very pleased with you.

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

Thursday, October 4, 2018

Why Was Jesus Baptized?

But John tried to deter him, saying, “I need to be baptized by you, 
and do you come to me?” - Matthew 3:14

It’s a good question: Why did Jesus Christ need to be baptized? That’s basically the question that came out of John the Baptist’s mouth when Jesus came forward to be baptized in the Jordan River.  He knew Jesus was the Messiah, the savior of the world. So John said, “I need to be baptized by you, and do you come to me?” John makes an excellent point. If John’s baptism was a baptism of repentance, what sin did Jesus commit that required his repentance? There wasn’t one! He was perfect! He had never sinned! Between John and Jesus, if one of them needed to be baptized, certainly that someone was John.

Here’s how Jesus responded to John’s protest: “Let it be so now; it is proper for us to do this to fulfill all righteousness” (v. 15). So, John complied. But the answer “to fulfill all righteousness” doesn’t really clear things up for us, does it? What did Jesus mean? Well, there are at least three possibilities.

Possibility #1: Jesus was baptized in order to identify with those he came to save. According to the theologian Albert Barnes, “When John emerged, the people flocked to hear him and to be baptized. Throughout the whole country there was an unprecedented movement towards God. And Jesus knew…that he too must identify himself with this movement towards God” John’s baptism was part of the people’s turning from sin and turning toward God. Jesus wanted to identify with this turning. That makes sense, doesn’t it?

Possibility #2: Jesus was baptized in order to mark the official start of his ministry. Since John would be handing the ministry baton over to Jesus when Jesus was ready to begin his ministry, what better place to do that than in the Jordan River where John—for quite some time—had been helping people turn from their sin and prepare themselves for Jesus’ coming? This possibility makes sense, too.

Possibility #3: Jesus was baptized in order to ceremonially cleanse himself before being filled with the Holy Spirit. According to Old Testament law, the Jewish high priest was the only man authorized by God to enter the Holy of Holies, the most sacred room in the temple where God’s Spirit dwelled. And before entering the Holy of Holies, the high priest would always wash his hands as part of a ceremonial cleansing. Well, in Jesus’ case, heaven was about to open above the Jordan River, and the Holy Spirit was about to leave heaven and come down to get up close and personal with Jesus. So, possibly, Jesus was baptized as a sort of ceremonial washing to prepare himself for the indwelling of the Holy Spirit.

All three of these possibilities make a lot of sense. And there’s a good chance that Jesus had all three in mind when he was baptized. Now, there’s one more detail I don’t want you to miss. All four Gospel writers—Matthew, Mark, Luke and John—record that the Holy Spirit descended on Jesus in the form of a dove. But let me ask you: What was Jesus doing when the Holy Spirit descended on him?

It wasn’t while he was being baptized. Jesus had already finished being baptized and was on his way out of the water. Only the book of Luke records for us exactly what Jesus was doing. Take a close look at Luke 21: “When all the people were being baptized, Jesus was baptized too. And as he was praying, heaven was opened and the Holy Spirit descended on him in bodily form like a dove.” So, what was Jesus doing when the Holy Spirit descended on him? He was PRAYING.

Luke makes it crystal clear in his gospel account that prayer was a priority for Jesus. And as such, Jesus prayed before and often during the most important moments of his ministry. He prayed all night before choosing his 12 disciples (v. 6:12). He was praying before Peter gave his good confession that “Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the living God” (v. 9:18). He was praying before teaching his disciples the Lord’s Prayer (11:1). Jesus prayed on the cross: “Father, forgive them, for they don’t know what they’re doing.” And before he died, he prayed: “Father, into Your hands I commit my spirit.”

Do you suppose it’s possible that Jesus did this—in part—to convince you and me that we also should be praying before and even during our most important moments in life? I think so. Communication with the Father was a top priority for Jesus. And it should be a top priority for you and me as well. Prayer was the fuel for Jesus’ most powerful ministry, and likewise it will be the fuel for ours.

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