Monday, February 25, 2019

Are You Shining Like Jimmy?

“No one lights a lamp and hides it in a clay jar or puts it under a bed. Instead, they put it on a stand, so that those who come in can see the light.” – Luke  8:16

Hubert Humphrey, who served as Vice President under President Lyndon Johnson, was narrowly defeated by Richard Nixon in the 1968 presidential election. Ten years later, Humphrey died of cancer. Dignitaries from around the world gathered at his funeral to say “good-bye” to their old friend and colleague. But one attender was shunned and ignored. That person was former president Richard Nixon, who had gone through the shame of Watergate just four years earlier. He was back in Washington for the first time since his resignation from the presidency. Nobody at Humphrey’s funeral would look at him, much less speak to him.

Then a very special thing happened. President Jimmy Carter, who was in the White House at the time, came in and saw Nixon standing all by himself. President Carter went to him, stuck out his hand and smiled as though he were greeting a family member. To everyone’s surprise, the two men embraced, and Carter said, “Welcome home, Mr. President! Welcome home!” Newsweek magazine later wrote, “If there was a turning point in Nixon’s long ordeal in the wilderness, it was that moment and that gesture of love and compassion.”

Why on earth would President Carter do such a thing? Well, because that’s what Jesus would have done. Jimmy Carter may not have been our greatest president, but as a committed follower of Jesus Christ, he believed he was called to shine the light of Christ. And twice a month in Plains, Georgia, Carter still teaches a Sunday School class at Maranatha Baptist Church. At 94 years old, he’s still shining the light of Christ.

Jesus tells us in the book of Luke, verse 8:16, “No one lights a lamp and hides it in a jar or puts it under a bed. Instead, he puts it on a stand, so that those who come in can see the light.” In the Bible, “light” is often used as a symbol for God’s Word. But in Scripture light is also a symbol for the truth. So, what is Jesus saying in verse 16 of Luke 8? He is saying, “Just as no one lights a lamp during a power outage and hides it in the closet, no Christian who understands God’s word should hide it.” Followers of Christ, who know the truth about salvation, forgiveness and heaven and hell, should never keep that truth to themselves. William Barclay says it so well: “Verse 16 stresses the essential conspicuousness of the Christian life. Christianity is in its very nature something which must be seen.” 

Think about those words. The Christian life should be conspicuous. Our Christianity “must be seen.” You and I are to proclaim God’s word openly to all who are willing to listen. We must proclaim the truth both with our words and our actions. Our faith is to be lived out in plain view. And in verse 17, Jesus stresses the fact that if we DO try to keep our faith hidden, it will eventually be revealed anyway: “For there is nothing hidden that will not be disclosed, and nothing concealed that will not be known or brought out into the open.

That’s a bit scary when you think about it. Many Christians are secretly addicted to porn, and they’re convinced that “Nobody will ever know.”  Yeah, they will. Sooner or later….they’ll know. Many Christians never crack open their Bibles outside of church, and they don’t think that anyone will ever find out. Yeah, they will. Sooner or later…it’ll be revealed. We try hard to hide our faults and our skeletons in the closet from other people. We hope they’ll never find out. Sometimes I’ve shuddered as I’ve considered what it would be like to have my most inappropriate thoughts and my most sinful actions projected on a big screen for all to see. That’d be a nightmare!

But in the context of what Jesus says in verse 17, I don’t think he plans to project our sins on a big screen. What Jesus most likely is referring to is the reality that if you as a follower of Christ hide your Christianity and God’s truth from your friends and family, they’ll discover your secret sooner or later. Imagine how terrible it would be if your family and friends discover that you’re a Christian after they’ve died. “What? You mean you knew all these years where I was going after I died, and you didn’t warn me? You knew how to make it to heaven, and you didn’t tell me? I didn’t think I knew any Christians, and you were one all this time! Why on earth didn’t you tell me?”

You may be one of those Christians who has said for years, “There are two things I never discuss: politics and religion.” Well, la-dee-da! It’s time to change your policy and start talking more openly about Jesus. One of these days your friends and family will find out that you’re serious about your faith. I hope and pray that when they do, it’s not too late.

If you as a Christian are learning God’s truth, but you’re not sharing God’s truth, God will see to it that your growth is stunted, and you’ll start losing much of the knowledge you learned. Just like most things in life, if you don’t use it, you lose it. We must receive God’s Word with open ears, open minds and open hearts. And then we must share God’s word with open eyes, open mouths and open hands. So, do what Jimmy Carter does: Get yourself off the couch and shine your light in this dark world.

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.

Tuesday, February 19, 2019

How's Your Soil?

“The seed on good soil stands for those with a noble and good heart, who hear the word, retain it, and by persevering produce a crop." – Luke 8:15

It’s one of the most iconic buildings in the world. The Leaning Tower of Pisa
was only supposed to take a few years to build, but construction was interrupted several times by wars, debt and design modifications. You see, five years into construction, when the builders reached the third story, the tower began to lean ever so slightly to the South. The builders tried to correct the lean by making the remaining stories shorter on the uphill side, but the extra weight of the upper stories just made the lean worse. In the 600 years after the tower was completed, it kept leaning more and more. It became clear to engineers that the tower wasn’t just leaning -- it was actually falling at a rate of one to two millimeters per year. By the late 1980s, the tower was leaning by more than 5 degrees.

Do you know why the leaning tower leans? Bad soil. The soil it’s built on is too spongy. So, between 1990 and 2001, a team of experts worked to save the tower. They used gigantic steel cables to hold the tower in place while they dug wells under the foundation, drained water from the wells, and reinforced the foundation with concrete. If something hadn’t been done in the 1990s, the tower would most likely have toppled over by now. And their best guess is that the Leaning Tower of Pisa is safe for at least another 200 years, when—once again—the tower’s lean will increase. Because the reality is that the reinforced concrete foundation is still surrounded by bad soil.

We read more about bad soil in Jesus’ Parable of the Soils in Luke 8:1-15. Although it’s not the first parable Jesus spoke, it’s called a doorway parable because it serves as the doorway to his parable ministry, and because it holds the key to understand all his other parables. In the parable, a farmer sows seeds on four different types of soil, with different results.

To understand this parable, we need to know three things: 1) The farmer is a follower of Christ. 2) The seed is the word of God, especially the gospel message. 3) The soils are the hearts of the different people who hear God’s Word. In Matthew 28, Jesus tells us plainly to go into all the world and make disciples of all nations. That is our mission: to sow and nurture gospel seed. And in the Parable of the Soils, Jesus tells us that the seed may fall on one of four types of soils:

Bad Soil #1 Represents a Hard Heart. In the first example, some seeds fall along the path, where it’s trampled and eaten by birds. Jesus explains in Luke 8:12, “Those along the path are the ones who hear, and then the devil comes and takes away the word from their hearts, so that they may not believe and be saved.” So, the path represents a hard heart. These are the people who hear the Gospel message, but they reject it outright. The hard heart doesn’t understand the Gospel because it doesn’t want to understand the Gospel.  It doesn’t want to be convicted of sin.  It doesn’t want to change.

Bad Soil #2 Represents a Shallow Heart. The seeds that fall on rocky soil sprout at first, but then wither away because they have no moisture. As Jesus explains in verse 13, “Those on the rock are the ones who receive the word with joy when they hear it, but they have no root. They believe for a while, but in the time of testing they fall away.” So, the rocky soil represents a shallow heart. These are the people who make a superficial decision for Christ. They receive the gospel message enthusiastically, but because their decision is shallow, at the first sign of trouble, they jump ship.

Bad Soil #3 Represents an Overcluttered Heart. In the parable, some seeds fall among thorns, which grow up around the new plants and choke them. Jesus says in verse 14 that these seeds stand for “those who hear, but as they go on their way they are choked by life’s worries, riches and pleasures, and they do not mature.” The third bad soil represents an overcluttered heart—people who make a half-hearted decision for Christ. The gospel seed begins to grow in their lives, but it doesn’t produce anything, because their hearts are distracted and are preoccupied with other things. Our hearts were created to serve one master: Jesus Christ. You either serve Jesus Christ alone or you don’t serve him at all.

The Good Soil Represents a Soft, Honest Heart. Yes, there is one good soil—the one that “came up and yielded a crop, a hundred times more than was sown” (v. 8). This soil represents an honest and good heart—those “who hear the word, retain it, and by persevering produce a crop” (v. 15). Bottom line: This good soil is the heart of a true Christian who is truly saved. He allows God’s word to take root in his life even when Satan attacks. She remains faithful to Christ during times of trouble or hardship. He offers Christ his full heart and refuses to allow stuff to clutter his heart. Christians with soft-soil hearts are going to Heaven. They are true, born again Christians.

Friends, let me ask you: How’s your soil? I encourage you today to examine your spiritual fruit. If you find it’s lacking, check your soil. Check your heart. If you discover that your heart is hard or shallow or overly cluttered, I urge you to go before the Lord and ask Him--beg Him—to work a miracle on your heart. If you allow him to do so, your fruitfulness for Christ in the days to come can greatly surpass your fruitfulness in days past.

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, February 11, 2019

Are You a Party Crasher?

“Whoever has been forgiven little loves little.” – Luke 7:47

In 1829 two men robbed a U.S. Mail carrier train. They were both arrested and sentenced to hang on July 2, 1830. One of the men was executed on schedule—but not the second man, George Wilson. His friends had petitioned President Andrew Jackson to give him a presidential pardon, and President Jackson DID. But surprisingly, George Wilson refused the pardon.

Well, the courts didn’t know what to do, so they petitioned the Supreme Court to make a ruling. This is what Chief Justice John Marshall wrote: “A pardon is an act of grace, proceeding from the power entrusted with the execution of the laws…. But delivery is not completed without acceptance. It may then be rejected by the person to whom it is tendered, and we have no power in a court to force it on him.” Marshall said, in a nutshell: We can’t force the Presidential Pardon on George Wilson. If he doesn’t accept it, his sentence stands, and he must be hanged.

Not a very cheery story! But I’d like you to keep Justice Marshall’s words in mind: “Delivery is not completed without acceptance.” That not only holds true for a Presidential pardon. It also holds true for God’s grace and forgiveness. Hold on to that thought as we look at an episode in Jesus’ life from Luke 7.

Jesus had been invited to eat at the home of a Pharisee named Simon. And as Jesus was at Simon’s house, in came an uninvited guest—a party crasher. Luke 7:37 tells us that she was a woman in that town “who had lived a sinful life.” We don’t know for sure, but most likely she was a prostitute. At any rate, she wasn’t on the guest list. But she came in with a jar of perfume and stood at Jesus’ feet, weeping so much she was able to wet his feet with her tears. “Then she wiped them with her hair, kissed them and poured perfume on them” (v. 38).

What was the Pharisee’s reaction to this party crasher? He thought Jesus, if he was a prophet, should know the woman was a sinner and should want nothing to do with her. But Jesus pointed out that because she had received more forgiveness, she loved Jesus more, while his respectable host had shown him little or no love at all. As Jesus put it, “Whoever has been forgiven little loves little” (v. 47). Here are a few lessons we can take from this incident.

1) A Lesson on Acceptance: Jesus was utterly accepting of deeply flawed people, and so too should we be. Simon refused to accept this woman, but clearly Jesus did accept her. I love how Chuck Swindoll makes this point. He writes: “Throughout his earthly ministry, Jesus never compromised the righteousness of God, yet he remained utterly accepting of deeply flawed people. No incident illustrates this better than the day a prostitute crashed the Pharisee’s party.” Did you catch that important phrase in the middle? Jesus “remained utterly accepting of deeply flawed people.” As Christians, we sometimes do a good job talking about God’s grace. But we often do a shoddy job sharing that grace in real life. That shouldn’t be.

2) A Lesson on Self-Awareness: Until we open our eyes and see that we are deeply flawed and admit that we desperately need God’s mercy and healing, we will never receive it.
The greatest sin I could ever commit would be to blindly think that I don’t have any sin for Jesus to forgive. As this sinful woman kept carrying on—crying and wiping Jesus’ feet with her hair and pouring more and more and more expensive oil all over his feet, Simon the Pharisee began to have second thoughts about inviting Jesus to his house. He didn’t realize that even if you sin less than the next guy, you’re STILL A SINNER! And you need to realize that. Simon the Pharisee was very good at identifying other people’s sin. But he was terrible at identifying his own sin.

3) A Lesson on Love for Jesus: The more we express our sorrow for sin and our love for Christ, the clearer evidence we have of the forgiveness of our sins. What came first, the woman’s love or the woman’s forgiveness? Did Jesus forgive her because she loved him, or did she love Jesus because he had forgiven her? Jesus told the woman in verse 50, “Your faith has saved you,” making it clear that her faith in Jesus led to his forgiveness of her many sins. And once she had experienced his amazing forgiveness, she couldn’t help but shower him with love.

Now, let me ask you: With whom do you most identify in this story—the party host or the party crasher? At first glance, you might say, “The Pharisee.” But the Pharisee was blind to his own sin, and he stubbornly refused to repent and put his faith in Jesus—much like the train robber who refused his pardon. So, he wasn’t forgiven, and therefore he had very little love for Jesus.

I hope you and I can most identify with the party crasher, because SHE was the one whose eyes were open to her own sin. SHE was the one who humbly reached out to Jesus in faith and repentance and love. And her repentance and love for Christ give crystal clear evidence that SHE was the one who was truly forgiven. I so much want us to identify with her … because I want us to be forgiven much and respond by loving Jesus much.

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, February 4, 2019

The Difference Between Doubt and Unbelief

"All the people, even the tax collectors, when they heard Jesus' words, acknowledged that God's way was right.... But the Pharisees and the experts in the law rejected God's purpose for themselves."- Luke 7:29-30

A cocky young science professor began teaching at a small
Midwest university. On the first day of class, it took his students less than five minutes to figure out that he was a strong atheist—and proud of it. He told the class: “Unless you shake off old-fashioned views and act for yourself, the world will leave you behind. Putting your faith in God won’t get you anywhere. Take rain-making. When the farmers prayed for rain, what did they get? The Dust Bowl. Now all they do is send up a plane, drop some chemicals on a cloud, and it rains. No question about that, is there?”

To the professor’s surprise, a farm boy sitting in the back row spoke up. “Professor, there’s still one question: Who gives us the cloud?”

The cocky professor hadn’t figured on that simple piece of evidence, and my guess is he wasn’t thrilled to have a student come along and poke a big hole in his argument. Did he take this new element into account? My guess is no—the professor had a big case of unbelief, and he would be in no hurry to part with it. On the other hand, many a committed Christian deals with doubt—even one as fervent and devoted as John the Baptist.

When John the Baptist had his moment of doubt while in prison and sent a message to Jesus, we read in Luke 7 that John’s disciples returned to John with Jesus’ answer. That reply showed that Jesus was a clear fulfillment of at least three different Old Testament prophesies. After John received that message, all indications are that he persevered in his faith. From his prison cell, John served Jesus faithfully until his dying day.

And for people who believed the truth about John the Baptist—that he was the promised prophet and the forerunner to the coming Christ—it was natural for them to believe the truth about Jesus. Even the tax collectors who had been baptized by John acknowledged that John was the promised forerunner to the Christ, and that Jesus himself was the promised Christ (Luke 7:29). But as we read on in verse 30, “the Pharisees and experts in the law rejected God’s purpose for themselves, because they had not been baptized by John.”

In other words, the religious leaders who didn’t believe in John rejected John’s call to repent and be baptized in preparation for the coming Messiah. And since they rejected his call to get ready for Jesus’ coming, it shouldn’t surprise us that they weren’t willing to believe in Jesus when he came. God had great plans for the Jewish religious leaders, but when they rejected John the Baptist, they rejected God’s plans for them. And once they started down the path of unbelief, they wouldn’t stop until Jesus was dead with his blood on their hands.

In verses 31-32, Jesus compared the religious leaders to a bunch of brats throwing a tantrum because the other kids aren’t playing by their rules. “For John the Baptist came neither eating bread nor drinking wine, and you say, ‘He has a demon.’ The Son of Man came eating and drinking, and you say, ‘Here is a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and ‘sinners.’” No matter what John the Baptist or Jesus did, it wasn’t good enough for the Pharisees. So, they did what virtually every unbeliever has done over the past 2,000 years: They attempted to rationalize their unbelief by criticizing and even slandering God’s chosen leaders with accusations pulled out of thin air.

 Bottom line: The religious leaders’ hateful criticism of John and Jesus stemmed from their stubborn unbelief. And their unbelief was literally insane. Their refusal to accept the clear, observable facts about John and Jesus was insane. Their slanderous accusations were insane. And their jealous, vengeful drive to murder Jesus was especially insane. They refused to see the clear truth that John was the forerunner, and Jesus was the Christ. God had made sure that there was plenty of evidence to substantiate these two facts. As Jesus said in verse 35, “Wisdom is proved right by all her children.”

In Luke 7:18-23, John the Baptist struggled with doubt. In verses 7:24-35, Jesus talks about the religious leaders who were plagued by unbelief. And there’s a big difference between the two. Doubt is a matter of the MIND, but unbelief is a matter of the WILL. It’s one thing to doubt God’s goodness and plans because we can’t wrap our minds around it. It’s quite another thing to stubbornly refuse to believe His word and obey His word when the evidence is right in front of our faces.

Doubt is often nourished by physical and emotional strain, such as John’s when he was in prison, but unbelief is nourished by a stubborn heart that refuses to accept the evidence. Unbelief puts our circumstance between us and God, but faith—even doubting faith—puts God between us and our circumstance. May we always put God between us and our trials.

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