Friday, December 27, 2019

Christmas at the Movies: It’s a Wonderful Life

“They saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him…. And having been warned in a dream not to go back to Herod, they returned to their country by another route.” 
– Matthew 2:11-12

Our church family’s favorite Christmas movie of all time is the original Christmas classic: “It’s a Wonderful Life.” The movie tells the story of a dreamer named George Bailey who feels cooped up in his sleepy little town of Bedford Falls. George manages a small Building and Loan company founded by his father. But since childhood, George has dreamed of shaking the dust of his crummy little town off his feet and seeing the world! George Bailey wants to do big things with his life. And he does…but not in the way he expects.

Some of the best stories and movies have a hero and a villain. In “It’s a Wonderful Life,” George Bailey is the hero, and Mr. Potter—the most powerful man in town—is the villain. In Matthew 2, after Jesus Christ has been born, there are several heroes and a villain. The heroes of the story are the magi. And the villain is King Herod.

We don’t know much about the magi who visited Jesus, but we do know they were experts in astronomy and astrology. And around the time of Jesus’ birth, these magi noticed a new star they had never seen. Somehow, the magi concluded that the star had been placed in the sky to announce the birth of the King of the Jews, so they formed a caravan and traveled over 1,000 miles to see and worship the newborn King of the Jews.

Historians tell us that the Roman government gave Herod the title “King of the Jews,” and he wore that title proudly. These historians also tell us that Herod was an extremely jealous, paranoid ruler who murdered anyone who he suspected of trying to steal the throne--even his own family members. It’s safe to say that Herod was a psychopath. He must have become insanely jealous when the magi strolled into town asking where the newborn King of the Jews was. “A new king?” Herod must have thought. “I’M THE ONLY KING OF THE JEWS!!”

Herod set out to destroy the child he believed was after his throne. And in “It’s a Wonderful Life,” Mr. Potter tries repeatedly to defeat George Bailey—the young upstart who, with his crummy little Building and Loan, defies Potter’s efforts to control the town. One of the saddest moments in “It’s a Wonderful Life” comes when George goes to visit Mr. Potter and asks him for an $8,000 loan. George’s Uncle Billy had misplaced $8,000 in cash, and the bank examiner is bearing down on the Building and Loan for an accurate account of their finances. What neither George nor his uncle realize is that Mr. Potter found the missing $8,000 and kept it for himself. Mr. Potter knew who the money belonged to, but he stole it so that George Bailey would be arrested and out of his hair once and for all.

George is at the lowest point of his life. Facing jail—but with a $15,000 life insurance policy in-hand—Mr. Potter’s taunting words keep running through his mind: “You’re worth more dead than alive.” So, after getting drunk at Martini’s Bar, George walks to a bridge and prepares to jump into the river and end his life. But he’s rescued by an angel named Clarence, who jumps into the river first and yells for help. Clarence knows that George will jump in to save him. And when George saves Clarence, Clarence can save George.

Afterward, God lets Clarence show George what life in Bedford Falls would be like if he’d never been born. And it’s ugly. George’s friends and neighbors live in Potter’s slums. The downtown area is riddled with crime. George’s brother is dead. His kids don’t exist. And his beloved wife Mary is an old spinster. Jail or no jail. George ends up begging Clarence to give him his life back. And next time you watch the movie, notice something: George is given his life back ... but only AFTER he stops crying out to Clarence for help and starts crying out to God.

When it comes down to it, George Bailey isn’t the greatest hero of “It’s a Wonderful Life.” Clarence is more of a hero that George. Clarence saves George’s life so that George can save others’ lives. But there’s even a greater hero than Clarence: God Himself, who sent Clarence in the first place. And in the same way, the magi aren’t the greatest heroes in Matthew 2. God placed the star in the sky and set their course for Bethlehem. And God shone heaven’s spotlight on heaven and earth’s greatest hero: Jesus Christ—born to save the world. 

So many Christians gripe about Victorville without considering the “wonderful life” that God has given us in our own “crummy little town.” God does some of His greatest work through his followers who live in “crummy little towns.” George Bailey thought that Bedford Falls was a crummy little town. Many in Israel thought that Bethlehem and Nazareth were crummy little towns. And I bet that some of you think that Victorville is a crummy little town. Well, maybe it is. Maybe it isn’t. But regardless, I believe that God can and will do some of His greatest work right here in the Victor Valley. Some of you, like George Bailey, can’t wait to get out of the desert. Well, might I suggest that God could have other plans for you. Don’t underestimate God’s ability to work through you to do some amazing things right here in your “crummy little town.” God has you here for a reason. And His plans for you here might be much, much better than your own plans for you somewhere else.

Dane Davis is the Pastor of Impact Christian Church. Join us for church every Sunday at 10 a.m. at the new Dr. Ralph Baker School in Victorville. For more information, visit

Monday, December 23, 2019

Christmas at the Movies: Elf

“The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all thing things they had heard and seen, which were just as they had been told.” – Luke 2:20

This month, our church has been going to “Christmas at the Movies”–taking a look at some of the most-loved Christmas films of all time, based on a vote from our attenders. Our second-place vote-getter tells the story of a baby boy named Buddy who is raised at the North Pole by one of Santa’s elves. That movie, of course, is “Elf.”

Buddy the Elf didn’t really fit in. He was twice as tall as all the other elves, so the chairs he sat in were too small, the doorways and ceilings were too short, and when it came to making toys … he was A LOT slower than the other elves. Now, Santa’s elves liked Buddy. They thought he was a nice guy. But at the same time, they thought he was a lousy elf. He was a round peg in a square hole. Have you ever felt like Buddy–like you didn’t belong?” Well, you’re not alone.

Take a look at Luke 2:8: “And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night.” But everyone else was in town, registering for the big census. What’s up with that? Well, at the time Jesus was born, shepherds had become outcasts in Jewish society. Because they worked with dirty sheep, they were considered ceremonially unclean, and they were banned from entering any Jewish synagogue. They could not testify in a court of law, because the ruling class thought that they were liars who weren’t trustworthy. They were basically considered to be less than human, so why count them in the census?

Jewish society looked at the shepherds and decided that they just didn’t measure up. In a similar way, the North Pole elves looked at Buddy and decided that he didn’t measure up. And, honestly, many of us have had our families, friends, teachers bosses look us over and decide WE don’t measure up either.

Finally, at the age of 30, Buddy learns the truth: He’s a human in an elf world. He decides to leave and search for acceptance somewhere else. So, he sets out on a bold adventure to New York City to find his biological dad. Buddy dreams of being accepted with open arms. He envisions days filled with sipping hot cocoa, eating spaghetti with syrup, ice skating and snuggling with his dad. But when he gets to New York City and find his father’s office in the Empire State Building, Dad has him thrown out of the building. Poor Buddy! He doesn’t fit in at the North Pole, and he doesn’t seem to fit in with his dad either.

But instead of sulking, Buddy takes the security guards up on their snarky suggestion and walks across the street to Gimbel’s department store. He finds the toy department—labeled “The North Pole”—and that’s where Buddy the Elf really stands out. Surrounded by bored, grumpy store employees who have absolutely NO Christmas spirit, Buddy’s childlike enthusiasm and joy are off the charts. But when their fake Santa arrives the next day, Buddy confronts him … and ends up getting assaulted and slapped with a restraining order.
Do you know who the workers at Gimbel’s remind me of? They remind me of some Christians on a Sunday morning. The manager, the fake Santa and all the other elves weren’t really excited about Christmas. They were just going through the motions to get their paycheck. But for Buddy, Santa’s visit was personal. And in a worship service, far too often, we aren’t really excited about Jesus, are we? We may go through the motions with very little enthusiasm for singing to our awesome God, for communion, prayer or studying God’s word. Imagine if we were as excited for Jesus as Buddy the Elf is for Santa. Let me encourage you, church, to be a little bit more like Buddy as you worship and serve Jesus Christ.

In Luke 2:8, the Bethlehem shepherds were a few miles outside of town watching their smelly, dirty sheep. It was a normal night. Until suddenly “an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them.” And the angel made those shepherds the first messengers of the ultimate good news: “Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord” (v. 11). Then hundreds of angels filled the night sky and sang praises to God. The angels announced “good news of great joy,” and the shepherds embraced that “good news” and that “great joy” and they ran with it.

They couldn’t believe it! They were nobodies in society. But evidently, God thought they were somebodies. No matter what people thought of the shepherds, they mattered to God. And so do you! What matters most is not whether or not people think you matter, but whether or not God thinks you matter. And here’s some good news: God thinks you matter.

Why did God choose to announce Jesus’ birth to shepherds? Why didn’t he choose priests or rabbis? Why didn’t he choose some other prominent citizens? I believe God chose shepherds, in part, because He knew they wouldn’t just get the message right—they would get the enthusiasm and joy right. Verse 20 tells us, “The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all thing things they had heard and seen.”

Let’s take a lesson from the shepherds, from Buddy the Elf and from our own kids. Let’s get excited about Christmas! God has brought us good news of great joy. Are you going to celebrate and share that good news with enthusiasm? God has chosen to bring this good news of great joy to YOU! Don’t squander it. Don’t keep it to yourself. Share it with enthusiasm and joy!

Dane Davis is the Pastor of Impact Christian Church. Join us for church every Sunday at 10 a.m. at the new Dr. Ralph Baker School in Victorville. For more information, visit

Monday, December 16, 2019

Christmas at the Movies: The Polar Express

“Blessed is she who has believed that what the Lord has said to her will be accomplished.”  – Luke 1:45

The Polar Express is a classic children’s book that was made into a 2004 movie starring Tom Hanks. You’ve probably seen it. If you have, you’ll recall that it tells about a young boy who doubts the existence of Santa Claus. It’s well past bedtime on Christmas Eve, and as he lies in bed, he longs to hear the sound of reindeers’ sleigh bells, which would prove to him that Santa is real. But the boy doubts that he’ll ever hear that sound. Although he really wants to believe, the honest truth is … his belief in Santa is hanging by a thread.

Of course, we know what happens next. The young boy climbs on board The Polar Express, where he and about 10 other children drink hot cocoa and embark on a thrilling, rollercoaster-like ride down a steep canyon and across a frozen lake. Eventually, they make it to the North Pole none the worse for wear. And throughout their long journey north, this young boy continues to wrestle with his doubts. He hopes that his midnight train ride will lead to a rekindled belief in Santa Claus. But he fears that it’s all just a dream.

I wonder if Mary had a similar reaction when the angel Gabriel appeared to her in Luke 1. Did she pinch herself to see if she was dreaming? Did she rub her eyes to make sure she wasn’t seeing things? I don’t know. But I do know that she was shocked, scared and confused. Yet despite all that, she listened intently to every word as the angel told her: “You will be with child and give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever; his kingdom will never end” (vs. 30-33).

Mary responded to this astonishing news in verse 34 by asking only one simple question: “How will this be since I am a virgin?” Compare that to her cousin Zechariah’s reaction when Gabriel appeared to him a few months earlier. Gabriel told Zechariah that his barren and now elderly wife Elizabeth would give birth to a son named John (who would grow up to be John the Baptist). Like Mary, Zechariah responded with a question: “How can I be sure of this? I am an old man and my wife is well along in years” (v. 18). At first glance, Zechariah’s question seems very similar to Mary’s. But there’s a BIG difference. Zechariah asked, “How CAN this be?” Mary asked, “How WILL this be?” Zechariah responded with UNBELIEF. Mary responded with BELIEF.

On The Polar Express, our main character continues his journey of faith. The young boy comes face-to-face with his own unbelief when he meets a mysterious hobo who has some doubts of his own. The hobo tells him, “Seeing is believing.” Is that true? For many people, the answer to this question is a resounding “Yes.” Their belief is limited to what they can see with their eyes, what they can hear with their ears, and what they can touch with their fingertips. In other words, if they can’t personally experience it with their five senses, they don’t believe it.

But then, about 15 minutes or so after the hobo scene, the little boy is talking with the conductor. In just a few words, the conductor offers him what I believe is the greatest nugget of wisdom in the entire movie: “Sometimes the most real things in the world are the things we CAN’T see.”

And he’s right. We can’t see God the Father. We can’t see Jesus Christ. We can’t see the Holy Spirit. We can’t see heaven. We can’t hear eternal life. We can’t taste forgiveness. We can’t touch love, grace or forgiveness. But we know that they are even more real than the clothes on our backs. They are more real than the car you drive, more real than the chair you’re sitting in, more real than the screen you’re reading this on. For many people in this life, seeing is believing. But if you have chosen to follow Jesus Christ as your Savior and Lord, you have chosen the path of faith. And on the path of faith, NOT seeing is believing. As Jesus said to Thomas after showing his doubting disciple the proof of his resurrection, “Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed” (John 20:29).

When the Polar Express reaches the North Pole, the kids are surrounded by thousands of tiny elves. But the little boy still struggles to believe. He realizes that he needs to come to a point of belief, not after he sees Santa with his own two eyes, but before. As he stands in the village square, one of the reindeer’s sleigh bells is flung into the air and lands just a few feet from him. That is the moment he has to decide once and for all whether or not to believe in the one he cannot see. He picks the bell up and shakes it. Eyes shut tight, he whispers, “Okay … I believe. I believe!” And in that moment of faith, when he shakes the bell, its beautiful sound chimes out.

Zechariah responded to God’s word with unbelief. He was a “Seeing is believing” kind of Christian. Mary responded to God’s word with belief. She was a “walk by faith and not by sight” kind of Christian. Which kind of Christian are you? You’ve asked God to forgive your sins. Do you believe He has? Jesus said he will never leave you nor forsake you. Do you believe His words? Jesus said he’s going to heaven to prepare a place for each of his followers, including you if you truly follow him. Do you believe him?

Inspired by the Holy Spirit, Mary’s cousin Elizabeth proclaimed in Luke 1:45: “Blessed is she who has believed that what the Lord has said to her will be accomplished.” So too will you be blessed as you believe the word of the Lord. I don’t know about you, but I believe! I believe!

Dane Davis is the Pastor of Impact Christian Church. Join us for our holiday message series, “Christmas at the Movies,” Sunday at 10 a.m. at the new Dr. Ralph Baker School in Victorville. For more information, visit

Tuesday, December 10, 2019

Christmas at the Movies: Home Alone

“We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to our own way.” – Isaiah 53:6

For the Christmas season this year, our church is having some fun by taking a look at a few favorite holiday movies. Our attenders voted on their favorite Christmas films, and my job is to find a lesson from God’s word that applies to each of them. First up, we highlighted the movie that tied for third place in our congregation’s vote. Released in 1990, for 28 years it held the record as the highest grossing Christmas movie of all time. The movie? “Home Alone.”

The film tells the story of the 8-year-old troublemaker Kevin McCallister, who is accidentally left home alone while the rest of his family flies to Paris for Christmas vacation. At the beginning of this movie, let’s just say it: Kevin is a spoiled brat. He starts out by complaining, “Why do I always get treated like scum?” Through his actions, he answers his own question pretty fast. He calls his mom a “dummy.” Then he tells her, “I don’t want to see you again for the rest of my whole life.” And then he tells his whole family, “I hope I never see any of you jerks again.”

In short, Kevin is behaving like a little jerk, lashing out in anger, disrespecting his parents and rebelling against their authority. And do you know who Kevin reminds me of? He reminds me of you and me. Isaiah 53:6 comes to mind: “We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way; and the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all.” Eight-year old Kevin, like you and me, is a little sheep that went astray; like you and me, he’s turned to his own way. In the movie, Kevin’s mom is the unappreciated dumping ground for his bad behavior. In real life, Jesus Christ is the unappreciated dumping ground for ours. 

Eventually young Kevin is banished to the attic, thinking to himself, “I wish they would all just disappear.” Then overnight, a storm rolls in and the power goes out, causing everyone’s alarm clocks to stop working. The next morning Kevin’s family flies out the door to catch their plane while Kevin sleeps like a baby in the attic. Later Kevin wakes up, casually walks downstairs, and is surprised to discover the whole house is empty. He decides his wish caused some kind of Christmas miracle, and he gloats: “I made my family disappear!”

Kevin wastes no time jumping on his parents’ bed while shoving popcorn in his mouth. He runs around the house like a crazy man. He eats whatever he wants. He watches whatever “rubbish” he wants to on TV. To Kevin, being home alone is a dream come true! He feels so free!

Let me ask: Why do you and I sin? Why do we rebel against God’s laws and ignore His commands? Because it’s fun, right? Don’t deny it: Sin can be a LOT of fun. When you’re in the moment, getting drunk can be fun. Gossiping can be fun. Having premarital sex or an affair can be fun. But the fun of sin is short-lived, isn’t it? As Paul writes in Romans, 6:23 “The wages of sin is death.” In other words, sin might be fun in the moment, but it’ll end up killing you.

For the first 24 hours or so that Kevin is home alone, he has a blast. He can say anything he wants. He can do anything he wants. But after the first day, it starts to get old … especially when he finds himself in the crosshairs of two burglars who wanted to loot his house while his parents are gone. Kevin thought life with his family was just horrible. But within about 48 hours he discovers the truth: Life WITHOUT his family was what was truly horrible.

Can’t we say the same about life without Jesus? Life without Jesus ends up being really horrible. Sin seems fun for a while, but it never really satisfies us for any length of time. Only Jesus satisfies. He alone is the living water who quenches our spiritual thirst. He alone is the bread of life who answers our soul’s hunger for meaning and purpose. Only Jesus satisfies.

By Christmas Eve, Kevin is feeling pretty empty. Being home alone isn’t working out the way he imagined. And as he walks home in the dark, he passes a church and goes inside. I’m not sure we can say that Kevin has a “religious experience,” but this short church visit becomes a defining moment in Kevin’s life. As he leaves the chapel, he’s determined to stand up to the burglars and fight for his home. And even though he never says so, his wish has changed. Instead of wishing his family would disappear, he wishes they’d come back—especially the mom he dumped on just a few days earlier. And about 12 hours later (with two crooks severely beaten up and on their way to jail), Kevin’s wish comes true.

By the time his family comes home, Kevin has come to his senses. He realizes that he unfairly dumped on his mom. Deep down he loves her. He needs her. And Christmas without her is empty. I hope and pray that you’ve come to the same conclusion about your family. At times, you’ve taken your parents, your spouse or your kids for granted, and you’ve unfairly dumped on them. But deep down you realize you love them; that Christmas without your family is empty.

And Christmas without Jesus Christ is even more empty. We’ve taken Jesus for granted and dumped on him far too often. But the truth is: I need Jesus Christ in my Christmas celebration. You need Jesus Christ in your Christmas celebration. In fact, not only is Christmas empty without him—LIFE is empty without him. So, open your heart’s door and invite him back home this Christmas season. In the long-run, it’s no fun being home alone without Jesus at Christmas.

Dane Davis is the Pastor of Impact Christian Church. Join us for our holiday message series, “Christmas at the Movies,” Sundays at 10 a.m. at the new Dr. Ralph Baker School in Victorville. For more information, visit

Monday, December 2, 2019

The Rewards—and Sacrifice—of Faith

“These were all commended for their faith, yet none of them received what had been promised.” - Hebrews 11:39

One Sunday morning a little girl went to church, and her Sunday School teacher had a little craft for all of her students to do. Each of the kids made a little plaque with the words, “Have Faith in God.” Well, the little girl took it home, and she was so proud of it, she decided that she was going to put it in her backpack and take it to school to show her friends.

The next morning she woke up late, got dressed in a hurry, and managed to board the school bus just in time. But when she found her seat and looked inside her backpack, her plaque wasn’t there. The bus driver had already started down the street. In a panic, she jumped out of her seat, ran up front to the bus driver and shouted: “STOP THE BUS! I lost my Faith in God!”

In Hebrews 11, the Bible talks about many heroes who found great faith in God. In verses 33-35a, the writer illustrates a powerful point: The obedient faith of these Old Testament faith heroes brought them great rewards. Through faith, they conquered kingdoms, administered justice and gained what was promised to them. Through faith they shut the mouths of lions, quenched the flames of the fiery furnace and escaped the sword. Through faith their weakness was turned to strength, they became powerful in battle and defeated foreign enemies, and women even received back their dead.

Then, partway through verse 35, God’s word makes a shift from the rewards of faith to the sacrifices of faith. Although many men and women of faith experienced miraculous healings and deliverance during their lifetimes, many others suffered and died. According to verses 35-38, some of the faith heroes of the Old Testament were tortured or faced criticism and flogging, while others were chained and put in prison. Some were stoned to death with rocks. Others were sawed in two. Some faith heroes were impaled with swords. Others were dirt poor and had to dress in sheepskins and goatskins. Many wandered in deserts and mountains, living in caves and holes in the ground.

All this to say: Walking in faith has never been a walk in the park. True Bible faith does bring certain rewards, but it also brings certain suffering. Write this down and don’t forget it: Living out your faith in God will always cost you something. As Jesus warned his disciples in John 16:33, “In this world you will have trouble.” Jesus doesn’t say that as we live out our faith on this alien planet, we “might” have trouble. He says, you and I WILL have trouble. There’s a really good chance that the world will hate us, because it hates him. There’s a really good chance that the world will persecute us and make us suffer in one way or another.

But take a look at the second half of verse 35: “Others were tortured and refused to be released, so that they might gain a better resurrection.” And in verses 39-40, we’re told: “These were all commended for their faith, yet none of them received what had been promised. God had planned something better for us so that only together with us would they be made perfect.” I love the way The Living Bible translates this verse: “For God wanted them to wait and share the even better rewards that were prepared for us.”

Think about this: When you walk in faith, you are never doing it alone. You are walking in faith with Christians in your church and throughout the Victor Valley and around the world. And since true faith never dies, you are also walking with all of the heroes of the faith in Hebrews 11. When heaven is finished being built and Jesus takes us all to our permanent home, he will take us all together. And we will enjoy the greatest rewards in eternity for our faith.

In this world you and I WILL experience insults and trials and persecution for our faith. But on the front end of our faith journey we will also experience some amazing, undeserved rewards: grace, mercy, forgiveness, a relationship with God, and purpose in life. And the back end of our faith journey will be even more amazing! We’ll receive eternal life in heaven with heavenly rewards that are so much more generous than we deserve for enduring some temporary criticism and hardships here on earth. Isn’t that great?

You could say our lives of faith are like a “reward sandwich,” with just a little bit of suffering in between the buns to keep things interesting. Yes, living out your faith in God will cost you something, but when we consider the rich rewards that come by faith, there’s no doubt: NOT living out your faith in God will cost you even more.

Dane Davis is the Pastor of Impact Christian Church. Join us for our latest message series, “Christmas at the Movies,” Sunday at 10 a.m. at the new Dr. Ralph Baker School in Victorville. For more information, visit