Monday, December 24, 2018

Love Has Come!

May the Lord make your love increase and overflow for each other
and for everyone else.” – 1 Thessalonians 3:12a

Would you agree with me if I were to say, “Most Americans don’t understand love”? When we talk about two people “falling in love,” it demonstrates a misunderstanding about love. Love can’t be fallen into. When a husband or wife says, “I don’t love you anymore,” that person doesn’t understand love. Love isn’t an emotional switch that accidentally gets turned on or off.

If you really pay attention, you’ll notice that we overuse the word “love” – a lot! I say “I love you” to my wife and kids. But I also say, “I love In-N-Out Burgers. I love going to Disneyland. And I love eating carne asada tacos!” We’ve tossed around the word “love” so much over the years, we need to go back to the source—God’s word—to be reminded what true love really is.

There are three Greek words that are translated as “love.” There’s “eros,” which is a romantic kind of love. Next there’s “phileo,” which is friendship love, or brotherly love, between two people who have a close relationship. And finally, there is “agape,” which was chosen by the writers of the New Testament as the best word to describe God’s love and Jesus’ love. Agape is a self-sacrificing kind of love—a much higher form of love than eros or phileo.

You see, eros love sets its sights on someone you’re attracted to. But agape love doesn’t discriminate between someone you think is hot, and someone you think is … not. And phileo love is directed at someone you already have a close personal relationship with, like a family member or a close friend. But agape love doesn’t discriminate between someone you know well and someone you don’t know at all. It doesn’t even discriminate between someone you like and someone who drives you up the wall.

Do you see why agape is the highest form of love? It’s no wonder we find this word used some 320 times in the New Testament in reference to God the Father’s love for Jesus, God’s love for people, and Christ’s love for his church. And it’s no wonder that when Jesus Christ commands us to love one another, he commands us to “agape love” one another. Let’s take a look at what the New Testament teaches us about agape love.

1. God the Father loves His Son. We read about this in John 17:26, when Jesus prays to the Father for his disciples, saying, “I have made You known to them and will continue to make You known in order that the love You have for me may be known in them and I myself may be in them.” He says, in essence, “Father, I know that You love me more than life itself. And I have so badly wanted to share Your amazing love for me with them. So, I have taught them about You and shown them through my actions what You are like. And as they’ve taken it all in, they’ve taken Your love in, and they’ve taken me in, too.”

2. God the Father loves people. Agape is the attitude of God the Father for His Son, but it’s also His attitude toward people. Without a doubt one of the best-known verses in the Bible is John 3:16, where the love of God for the human race is made crystal clear: “For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life.”

Now, think about it. What God the Father did 2,000 years ago is no small thing. He sent His one and only Son from absolute Paradise to this messy, smelly, sin-cursed world. Why would He do such a thing if He REALLY loved His son as much as the Bible says? Well, He did it because “God so loved the world.” God the Father loved God the Son more than life itself. But He also loved you and me more than life itself. And because He couldn’t bear the thought of all of us spending an eternity in Hell, He sacrificed His one and only Son so that you and I could be forgiven and live. There should be no doubt in our minds: God is love—agape love. And love came down to earth on that first Christmas.

3. The Father desires for us to love. The Bible is clear that God expects His followers to love as He has loved. According to Jesus, the two greatest commands in the Old Testament are, “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind” (Matthew 22:37) and “Love your neighbor as yourself” (Matthew 22:39). If the Bible is true that heaven is absolute paradise and Jesus Christ is the only way to heaven, there is only one logical conclusion we can come to: The most loving thing you could ever do for any person is to do whatever you have to do at whatever cost to yourself to help people have an all-satisfying relationship with Jesus forever.

Jesus made it clear that he wants us to agape love our fellow Christians. But true, agape love never stops at the church door. Jesus also makes it crystal clear that he also wants us to agape love our spiritually lost and dying family, friends and neighbors. Jesus wants us to do whatever we have to do, at whatever cost to ourselves, to help unsaved men, women and children get saved and have an all-satisfying relationship with him. And that’s a Christmas present that will last for eternity.

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.

Tuesday, December 18, 2018

The Peace of Christmas

The punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed.” – Isaiah 53:5b

A wise man once gave a young, discouraged coworker this advice: “The way to achieve inner peace is to finish all the things you’ve started." So the young man went home and took his mentor’s advice. The next day at work the man asked his young friend if he felt more at peace, and he responded, “You have no idea! I went home and looked around the house to see all the things I had started but hadn’t finished. And before I left this morning, I finished off a bottle of red wine, a bottle of white, some cheesecake, a box of chocolates, and the rest of my Prozac. I totally feel at peace!”

Well, that’s not REAL peace, is it? Let’s take a look at the REAL peace that Jesus offers us at Christmas. A marvelous prophecy about Jesus is recorded in Isaiah 53:5, where God tells His people, “He was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities, the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed.”

Think about these powerful words for a moment: “The punishment that brought us peace was upon him.” The Hebrew word for peace is “shalom”--one of the most important words to the Jewish people. For centuries, orthodox Jews have greeted each other with the one-word greeting “Shalom!” To the orthodox Jew, “Shalom!” is used both for a “Hello!” and a “Goodbye!” But it means so much more. Shalom is most often translated into English as “peace” or “harmony.” But shalom more literally means “wholeness.”

So, when a Jewish man wishes his neighbor “shalom,” he is wishing him wholeness—in his health, in his marriage and in his walk with God. And when God tells us in Isaiah 53:5 that “the punishment that brought us shalom was upon Jesus,” He is telling us that because of our sin, our relationship with God was shattered into a million pieces. Our relationship with God was hopelessly broken. And because our broken relationship was absolutely, 100% our fault, we rightly deserved to be punished.

The wages of sin is death. But because of God’s amazing grace through Christ, we don’t have to experience eternal brokenness and punishment. Because Jesus never sinned, he didn’t deserve any punishment and his relationship with God was perfectly whole. Jesus traded us his reward for our punishment, and his shalom with God for our brokenness. Is there any doubt that Jesus got the short end of the stick on that trade?

When the angels shouted in the Bethlehem sky, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth shalom to men on whom His favor rests” (Luke 2:14), they were talking about wholeness. Yes, they wanted us to know that Jesus offers us peace with God! Yes, they wanted us to know that Jesus offers us harmony with God! But perhaps most of all they wanted us to know that Jesus offers us wholeness with God. Jesus had come into the world to put back together what we had irreparably broken.

But I find it interesting that Jesus, at times, gives a mixed message about the shalom that he brought to mankind. In John 14:27 Jesus tells his disciples, “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.” But then he says in Matthew 10:34-36, “Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I have come to turn ‘a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law—a man’s enemies will be the members of his own household.’”

Well, that doesn’t sound very peaceful, does it? But think about it. When it comes to true peace, the world doesn’t get it. The world thinks that peace comes on the heels of anti-bullying campaigns and by eliminating politically incorrect words from our vocabulary and reducing greenhouse gases. And this Christmas season, many seem to think we’ll have more peace if we stop singing “Baby, It’s Cold Outside” and stop watching “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer”!

None of these things can bring true, lasting shalom. Anti-bullying campaigns can’t make a person whole. Stricter emissions standards cannot make a person whole. Only Jesus Christ can make a person whole. That’s the truth. But the problem is, many of our family members and coworkers and neighbors don’t want to hear the truth. So, when we embrace the shalom of Jesus Christ and receive peace with God and peace with others, many unbelievers around us will say, “Thanks, but no thanks! I want nothing to do with you or your Jesus.”

The Prince of Peace came to bring wholeness, but to those who reject Him, he actually ends up bringing division. The Good News of Jesus Christ is rightly called the Gospel of peace. But the Gospel of peace—when it is bitterly rejected—becomes more like a gospel of war. The gospel of peace does not bring peace to those who harden their hearts.

But to those who are willing to accept it, the word of God is clear: Jesus IS the Prince of Peace. Jesus is the only One who offers true, lasting peace—peace and wholeness within our own broken lives, peace and wholeness within our relationship with others, and peace and wholeness in our relationship with God.

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, December 10, 2018

A Topsy-Turvy Look at Blessings

“Woe to you who are rich, for you have already received your comfort.”  – Luke 6:24

Have you ever felt like you didn’t belong? Have you ever felt that in this crowded world of ours you stand out like a sore thumb? Well, if you stand out like a sore thumb because you’re following Jesus, that’s a good thing. If you follow Christ well, you will stand out in a crowd, because in this fallen and sinful world we live in, Jesus stands out in a crowd. Jesus always stood out, because the life he lived and the truth he taught were countercultural. Jesus’ values and his priorities and his teachings were out of place in the kingdom of this world.

In Luke 6:17, Jesus headed down the mountain with his 12 apostles to preach a sermon that’s usually called “The Sermon on the Plain,” because Luke tells us Jesus was standing “on a level place.” Due to its striking similarities to the Sermon on the Mount recounted in Matthew, some believe it may be the same message. In any case, Jesus’ teaching in The Sermon on the Plain was revolutionary then, and it’s still revolutionary today—2,000 years later.

The first seven verses of Jesus’ sermon (vs. 20-26) contain what we call “The Beatitudes.” “Beatitude” is just a fancy word for “a state of blessedness.” So, in other words, in vs. 20-26 Jesus reveals whom God blesses and whom God curses. And surprise, surprise! What Jesus reveals about the blessed and the cursed in these seven verses is 180 degrees from conventional wisdom.

Jesus lays down four “Blessed are you” teachings in vs. 20-22. I’ll list them one by one, but first, bear in mind: The word “blessed” means much more than just “happy.” It means “congratulations.” See if that fits the verses below by this world’s standards.

#1: “Congratulations to you who are poor” (v. 20a). How countercultural is that! When someone plays Super Lotto, picks all the winning numbers and wins 100 million dollars, what one word does everyone say to the winner? CONGRATULATIONS! But how many people go up to the millions of losers who picked the wrong numbers & tell them, “Congratulations! You picked all the wrong numbers. You were broke before buying those 20 tickets, and now you’re more broke! Way to go! You did it!”

But Jesus finishes the verse: “for yours is the kingdom of God.” You see, if we make financial sacrifices for Jesus and for others, we gain access to the riches of God’s kingdom that are so much more precious than big houses and new cars and hefty retirement accounts.

#2: “Congratulations to you who hunger now” (v. 21a). How upside down is that! As we were stuffing our faces last week on Thanksgiving, we felt really blessed, didn’t we? Did any of you drive up to a homeless person on the street, roll down your window and say, “Congratulations! You don’t get to eat half the stuff that I get to eat today. You lucky duck!”

But Jesus goes on to say: “for you will be satisfied.” For his followers who go without eating in the course of doing ministry, Jesus will give food that is so much more satisfying than a Double-Double or a venti Mocha Frappuccino.

#3: “Congratulations to you who weep now” (v. 21c). We say “congratulations” to the bride and groom on their wedding day and to graduates on their graduation day. But when’s the last time you congratulated a widow at her husband’s funeral? Or a young man receiving divorce papers from his wife? But Jesus adds, “for you will laugh.” For his followers whose hearts weep over the things that break Jesus’ heart, true joy will come in the morning.

#4: “Congratulations to you when men hate you, when they exclude you and insult you and reject your name as evil because of the Son of Man” (v. 22a). I just love being a social outcast, don’t you? But Jesus completes the verse: “Rejoice in that day and leap for joy, because great is your reward in heaven.” He congratulates his followers who are hated, excluded, insulted and rejected for standing firm in the faith, because our heavenly reward will be great.

By contrast, Jesus’ “Woe to you” statements in verses 24-26 refer to the rich, the well-fed, those who laugh now, and those whom men speak well of. Just like his “Blessed are you” teachings, every single one of Jesus’ “Woe to you” teachings is counterintuitive. In our culture we say congratulations to the rich and woe to the poor. But Jesus says congratulations to the poor and woe to the rich.

How can this be? It can be because Jesus’ values and priorities and morals are 180 degrees from the values, priorities and morals of the world. Jesus is on a completely different plane than we are. What we call “blessings” he calls “woes” because his thoughts are higher than our thoughts and his ways are higher than our ways. His priorities are higher than our priorities. And we as Christ-followers living in this fallen, sin-cursed world desperately need to adopt Jesus’ higher perspective.

You and I need to wash our brains with the pure water of Christ’s upside down, topsy-turvy teaching. And each of us has to make a clear and conscious decision: When it comes to my priorities and my morals, will I follow the world’s way, or will I follow Christ’s way?

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, December 3, 2018

The Cancer of Unforgiveness

 “If you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.” – Matthew 6:14-15

In 1993, a Minneapolis mother of one experienced hell on earth. Mary Johnson’s only son, eighteen-year old Laramiun Byrd, was gunned down in cold blood after a fight broke out at a party he was attending. It didn’t take long for the suspect to be arrested: sixteen-year old Oshay Israel, who was tried as an adult and sentenced to 25 ½ years in prison. Although Mary was devastated by her son’s murder, at least she knew that justice was being served. In her own words, “[Oshay] was an animal. He deserved to be caged.”

But something unexpected happened several years into Oshay’s sentence. Mary, a devoted Christian, felt led by God to visit him in prison. She did. And she visited him again and again until he was released after serving seventeen years of his sentence. And miracle of miracles: By the time Oshay was released, not only had Mary forgiven him for killing her son, she actually had become like a mother to him. Upon his release, Oshay needed a place to live, so Mary put in a good word for him with her landlord. And today, Oshay lives in the same apartment complex as Mary. In fact, he lives right next door. 

Wow! Do we serve an amazing God or what? If I wasn’t a Christian already, after hearing Mary Johnson’s testimony I’d say, “Sign me up! I want what that lady has. I want to have her kind of strength. I want to have her kind of peace. I want to be able to have the grace to forgive the way she forgives … especially when it comes to my dad.”
Sadly, my relationship with my father has been strained for a long time. We haven’t been close for many years. And that relational distance has been thrust to the forefront of my mind in recent months as my dad has struggled to bounce back from a major stroke. The stroke has crippled his ability to speak full sentences and process others’ speech. And my dad, who as long as I’ve known him has been able to fix anything with his own two hands, can barely button his own shirt or brush his own hair.  
You’d think that witnessing my father’s struggles would break my heart. But to be honest with you, my heart has been a bit calloused these past few months because of some lingering bitterness and unforgiveness. You see, I’ve never completely let go of the bitterness I’ve felt toward my dad for being physically abusive to my mom, my sister and me. I’ve never completely forgiven him for tearing me down with his words. And I’ve never completely let go of the resentment I’ve felt toward my dad for trying to chase off my wife when we were dating.
Don’t get me wrong: I have many wonderful memories of my dad. But those wonderful memories are mixed in with a lot of bad ones that have strained our relationship. And our strained relationship has become more strained because of my unforgiveness. I realize that needs to change.
Even though I’ve been a committed Christian for a long time, I still find myself longing for what Mary Johnson has. She so eloquently reminds us, “Unforgiveness is like cancer. It will eat you from the inside out. It’s not about that person. Me forgiving him does not diminish what he’s done….But the forgiveness is for me. It’s for me.”
These are wise words, powerful words, life-changing words that I need to hear. And you need to hear them as well. For me, two of the most haunting verses in the whole Bible are Matthew 6:14-15 where Jesus says bluntly, “If you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.”
Ouch! These verses crush me. Long story short: God will only forgive my sins against Him to the extent that I forgive others’ sins against me. And if I refuse to forgive others’ sins against me, God will refuse to forgive my sins against Him.
So, the Lord has revealed to me in recent weeks what I must do. I must forgive my dad…not just mostly. I need to forgive him completely. I need to do it for him. And I need to do it for me. Most importantly, I need to do it for my Lord Jesus Christ. He is ready and willing to forgive me. How can I possibly refuse to be ready and willing to forgive my dad?
Jesus Christ has called us to get rid of all bitterness and unforgiveness, because they are a poisonous cancer that infects our hearts, our families and our churches. Jesus Christ does NOT want us to miss the grace of God, and He does NOT want others to miss the grace of God pouring out through you and me.
If we DESIRE it, Jesus Christ will give us—just as He gave Mary Johnson--the grace to forgive the unforgiveable, to give mercy to the unmerciful and to love the unlovable. And as we share these amazing blessings with others, Jesus will respond by sharing them with us. Therefore, if you and I are serious about wanting Jesus to forgive us, we must get serious about forgiving others. And if we are serious about walking in our Lord’s footsteps, we have no choice but to eradicate the cancer of unforgiveness from our hearts. 
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.