Friday, February 28, 2020

Don't Play Favorites

“If you really keep the royal law found in Scripture, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself,’  you are doing right. But if you show favoritism, you sin and are convicted by the law.”
- James 2:8-9

I was blessed to attend high school before the days of Columbine and Sandy Hook. It was, in many ways, a much more innocent time. As a teenager I attended youth group just about every week. And at one of those events, the speaker shared a story about an armed man who barged into a church service one Sunday morning. He stood in the middle of the sanctuary with rifle in hand and yelled, “I’m giving you all ONE chance to get out here. If you don’t really believe this foolishness about Jesus Christ, I’ll let you leave right now.” Ninety percent of the congregation left the building. The gunman turned to the pastor and said, “All right, preacher. I got rid of all the hypocrites. You can continue the service now.”

As a teenager, I remember thinking about that story and wondering: “Am I a hypocrite? I’ve heard the Bible verses that say I’m supposed to stand up for my faith in Christ, and I believe those verses. But do I believe them enough to actually die for my faith?” As the book of James reminds us, following Jesus has never been a matter of simply listening to God’s word. It’s about doing God’s word, obeying God’s word, living God’s word.

At the beginning of chapter 2, James gives his Christian readers a very important command: In order to be doers of God’s word, we cannot discriminate. We cannot play favorites. He writes in verse 1: “My brothers, as believers in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ, don’t show favoritism.” Notice that before James gives this command, “Don’t show favoritism,” he reminds us who we are: “believers in our glorious Lord Jesus,” the Savior of the world who saved us from our sins.  James is essentially saying: “As I give you this command, remember that it is the Savior of the world’s command.” And this is his clear command: “Don’t show favoritism.”

The word translated as “favoritism” in the NIV is the Greek word prosopolepsia, which literally means “receiving the face.” Favoritism involves looking at someone’s face and identifying characteristics of their physical appearance or status or race—and based on the characteristics we see, choosing whether to receive them or reject them. When I show favoritism, I accept some faces and reject others based entirely on what features I like and which ones I don’t like.

I hope that most of us don’t cut people out of our lives based on their appearance. But if we’re honest with ourselves, we’ve all struggled with favoritism at some level or another. The CEV translates Jesus’ command in verse 1, “Don’t treat some people better than others.” And the Good News version paraphrases the command, “Don’t treat people in different ways according to their outward appearance.” The truth is, in this day and age people talk a lot about equality and tolerance, but most people—even most Christians—show some favoritism. We don’t practice what we preach. We receive the faces of some, but we don’t receive the faces of others.

Now, let’s play devil’s advocate for a minute. We may say, “So, I’m more likely to talk to a guy in a suit than to a homeless guy who smells like last week’s garbage. And I’m more likely to be nice to a lady who looks like Barbie than a girl who’s tatted up and looks like a gang banger. I’m only human, right? What’s the big deal?” Well, it’s a big deal … because we are God’s representatives here on earth, and when we play favorites, we imply that GOD plays favorites. We imply that some people are less important to God and less loved by God than others. And that implication leads people to doubt that God and His word are true.

Years ago an older and wiser Christian taught me that when we are doing ministry, more is “caught” than what is “taught.” In other words, people will be more influenced by our actions than our words. It doesn’t matter how much we say, “I love you” if we treat people like trash.  And it doesn’t matter how much we quote John 3:16, “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son that whosoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life.” If we treat someone like a reject, he or she will likely come to the conclusion that God has rejected him: “John 3:16 is for everyone else—except for me.” When we show favoritism we completely misrepresent God to our lost and dying world. And that, my friends, is a sin.

In order to be doers of the word, we cannot discriminate. We cannot play favorites. We must treat all people with kindness and love. Whether you are at home or at church or at work or walking down the sidewalk, don’t show favoritism. Show kindness and compassion to everyone equally. Show mercy to everyone equally. And no matter what someone looks like or talks like or even smells like, love your neighbor as you love yourself. James calls this second-greatest command “the royal command,” reminding us to treat every person we meet like “royalty.”

Warren Wiersbe says it well: “We only believe as much of the Bible as we practice. One of the tests of the reality of our faith is how we treat other people. Can we pass the test?” Good question! Can you pass the test?

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

Tuesday, February 25, 2020

Shut Up and Listen

“Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry.”
- James 1:19

One of Aesop’s fables tells about a tortoise who was jealous of the geese who swam in the pond next to his home. As he listened to them describe the wonders of the world they had seen, he was filled with a great desire to travel. But being a tortoise, he was unable to travel far. Finally two geese offered to help him. One of them said, “We’ll each hold an end of a stick in our mouths. You hold the middle of the stick in your mouth, and we’ll carry you through the air so you can see what we see when we fly. But be quiet—or you’ll be sorry.”  

The tortoise loved the idea. He took hold of the stick, and away into the sky they went. The geese flew up above the trees and circled the meadow. The tortoise was amazed at his new view of the world. He marveled at the flowers on the hillside. Just then a crow flew past. Astonished at the sight of a tortoise flying through the air carried by two geese he said, “Surely this must be the king of all tortoises!” The tortoise started to answer: “Why, certainly…”—but as he spoke, he lost his grip on the stick and plummeted to the ground below.

The moral of the story: While there are times we need to speak up and take a stand, more often we find ourselves in trouble because we talk too much. As James 1:19 tells us, “Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry.” This is great wisdom, and it applies to every relationship in our lives: husbands and wives, parents and kids, brothers and sisters, fellow Christians in the church. Jesus Christ calls all of his followers to listen patiently, speak patiently and react patiently. We must be “quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry,” especially during times of trial or temptation.

James is essentially saying, “When the trials and temptations of life come your way, don’t close your ears, shoot off your mouth, or blow a fuse.” Instead, we should look up and ask God for wisdom. Most of us know this. But what we often forget is that God brings us the wisdom from His word in a variety of ways. And the number-one way He brings us wisdom is through His word—the Bible. Sometimes He brings us His word’s wisdom through our personal Bible reading or through prayer. Sometimes it comes through a sermon or Bible study. Sometimes it comes through a conversation with a Christian friend. Sometimes it comes from a perfect stranger. So, after you ask for it, do you remember to listen for wisdom? Or when someone gives you sound Biblical advice, do you lash out at wisdom?

Whenever you attend a church service or Bible study, listen to a sermon, or receive the counsel of another Christian—open your ears and listen to it. And during a period of trial or temptation, open your ears extra wide. Listen more intently than ever before. God may be speaking to you and giving you the perfect insight that you need to hear in order to make it through.

Here’s something else to think about. Often, when we as Christians are going through trials or struggling to resist temptation, we say we don’t have the answers. But the truth is, much of the time we have already learned the answers to our questions. They’re already there, in our minds and in our hearts. The word of truth has been planted inside you, and it is alive and active. It is a spring of living water. So, when you are experiencing trials or temptations, call to your mind what you have already learned from God’s word.

“I will never leave you nor forsake you” (Deut. 31:6). “In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will direct your paths” (Proverbs 3:16). “These who hope in the Lord will renew their strength” (Isaiah 40:31). “I know the plans I have for you—plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future” (Jer. 29:11). These verses are already in your mind and heart. So, when times of trial and temptation come, cling to their wisdom. Because they are God’s wisdom, given to you for such a time as this.

Then, remember to USE what you’ve learned. James 1:22 admonishes us, “Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says.” Listening to God’s word is vitally important. But if we’re only listening to God’s word and not obeying it, we’re just fooling ourselves. God’s word is meant to be obeyed. This verse reveals one of James’ greatest concerns about his Christian readers: They knew the word, but to a large extent they weren’t living out the word. They listened to solid teaching, but they weren’t living out the solid teaching. They had enough head knowledge to make them mature Christians, but because they weren’t practicing what they preached, they weren’t mature Christians. Christianity has never been about just listening to the truth that Jesus Christ is Lord. It’s about living out the truth that Jesus Christ is Lord.

In verses 23 and 24, James tells us that a man who only listens to God’s word is like a man who looks in a mirror, and once he turns away, immediately forgets what he looks like. How much more foolish is it to look into God’s word and see the things in our lives that need to change, then close the Bible and refuse to change. The Bible is a mirror. It shows you what looks good in your life … and what needs some work. If you listen to what the Bible tells you that you need to fix and you choose to ignore it, don’t expect God to bless your listening. God will only bless your listening if you follow it up with some doing. Don’t just be a listener of God’s word. Live out what it’s telling you to do.

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

Tuesday, February 18, 2020

Look Up to God for Wisdom

 “You must believe and not doubt, because he who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind.” - James 1:6

In his Bible commentary, Warren Wiersbe tells the story of a secretary who worked for him. Late in life she had a stroke, and her husband went blind. Then one day her husband was rushed to the hospital, where he stayed day after day. She was pretty sure that her husband would die in that hospital. When Wiersbe saw her in church, he let her know that he was praying for her. To his surprise, she asked, “What are you asking God to do?” He replied, “I’m asking God to help you and strengthen you.” She responded by saying, “I appreciate that, but could you pray one more thing? Pray that I’ll have the wisdom not to waste all of this!”

Wow! What an insightful thing to ask for: Wisdom. She understood that if you are a believer and follower of Jesus Christ, there is always a purpose to your pain. God never wastes trials in a Christian’s life. He works all things together for good. If you’re reading this, you’re probably a believer and follower of Jesus Christ. I hope you are. I hope that you talk to God every day. And I hope that when trials come, you talk to God … a lot! But when you’re going through some sort of trial, and you’re losing sleep, and you can’t hold back the tears … what do you pray for?

Is it all right to ask God to give you help and strength during your trial? Sure! Is it okay to ask God to make your trial go away? Yes! But perhaps the best prayer—the most important prayer that you and I could ever pray during the deepest valleys of life—is this one: “Father God, give me wisdom so that I won’t waste all of this. Help me to understand how You are using this trial for my growth and for Your glory.” You need to pray for wisdom.

James writes in verses 5-6: “If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him. But when he asks, he must believe and not doubt.”

When trials come, spend lots of time talking to God. Take time to pray. And, by all means, make sure that you pray for God’s wisdom so that you won’t waste your trial. Ask God for wisdom. Ask Him, for He is the Source of all wisdom. It’s been said, “Knowledge is the ability to take things apart, while wisdom is the ability to put things together.” When we’re in the middle of a trial and it feels like our lives are in a thousand different pieces, there are plenty of people who can break those 1,000 pieces into 2,000 or even 5,000 pieces. Some people in our lives are very knowledgeable about how to kick us when we’re down. But it takes wisdom to put the pieces back together. And God is the source of that wisdom. No matter how many broken pieces there are in your life right now, God can help you put them back together. He is the source of perfect wisdom. So He specializes in bringing order out of chaos and putting broken people back together again. So, ask God for wisdom.

But remember, when we ask God for wisdom, we need to ask in faith. We must “believe and not doubt, because he who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind” (vs. 6-7). Do you know what the greatest enemy to answered prayer is? Unbelief. If you pray to God for something but don’t really believe He’s going to give it to you, then you’re not going to get it. Do you know what the second-greatest enemy to answered prayer is? Doubt. James calls the man who prays with doubt a “double-minded man.” The one who prays with doubt is indecisive.

Think of Jesus’ disciple, Peter. Peter walked on water … temporarily. And he walked on water temporarily because he kept his eyes on Jesus … temporarily. He was indecisive. He believed, but then he doubted. And when he doubted—when he took his eyes off Jesus—he sank.

It boils down to this: Unbelief says “No!” to the unpleasant trials that God sends our way. Belief says “Yes!” to the trials. And doubt says “Yes!” one minute and “No!” the next. Don’t be a double-minded Christian. Keep your focus on Him.

God doesn’t want you to look DOWN. He wants you to look UP. The stuff of this world will all pass away. The rich man needs to take his eyes off of all his beautiful earthly stuff and look up, because all of his stuff will one day be left behind. And the poor man needs to take his eyes off of the rich man’s stuff and look up, because it will one day disappear. Only the eternal things of God will endure. James gives us the secret to turning our trials into triumphs: Instead of looking down at our problems, we look UP to God, asking Him for wisdom.

So, if you’ll let Him, God will work through your temporary pain for your eternal good and for the eternal good of those around you—all for His glory.

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

Monday, February 10, 2020

Turning Trials Into Triumphs

“Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds.”
- James 1:2

When I was a kid, I loved watching reruns of the hit TV series, “The Six Million Dollar Man.” Do you remember the backstory? After a major accident, the best and brightest minds spent $6,000,000 reconstructing astronaut Steve Austin into the first bionic man. After his state-of-the-art surgery, he could run 60 miles an hour, bend steel with his bare hands and see small objects half a mile away. And the key line in the title sequence goes like this. “Steve Austin will be that man: Better than he was before: better, stronger, faster.”

Had it not been for the trauma of Steve Austin’s accident, he never would have become the world’s first bionic man. And in much the same way, were in not for the trials in life that we face, we would never become more mature in our Christian faith. As much as we hate to admit it, the trials we face have the potential to make us better, stronger and faster.

But honestly, our natural human response to trials is to…FREAK OUT! Whether the trial is a life-threatening illness, a major car accident, the loss of a job, or persecution for our faith, we tend to respond to our trials by temporarily losing our minds. Right?

So, in the Book of James, verse 2 sounds like something straight out of “Fantasy Land”: “Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds.” Really? Is James serious? Because joy is NOT a natural response to trials. Most people don’t shout, “Praise the Lord!” when they receive a utility shut-off notice in the dead of winter. And most Christians don’t say, “Thank you Jesus!” when the doctor says, “It’s cancer.” So, as followers of Christ, we must make a conscious decision to do what’s unnatural: to choose joy when trials come. It takes effort. It takes discipline. And it takes faith.

But what’s the point of choosing joy when trials come? James gives the answer in verse 3: “You know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance.” James is basically saying, “Christian brothers and sisters, you know that trials teach you patience and increase your endurance to make you stronger. And these are all very good things. You know this—you just don’t like to admit it. You prefer to avoid trials at all costs and cross your fingers, hoping that you’ll get better and stronger without them. Well, it just doesn’t work that way. If you want to mature in your faith—if you want to grow up and become more and more like Jesus--there’s no way around it: You have to experience trials.”

James continues in verse 4: “Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.” If you are a believer and follower of Jesus Christ, you are a work in progress. God is slowly and methodically transforming your impatience into Jesus’ patience. He is slowly and methodically transforming your tendency to give up into Jesus’ tendency to press on. And He is slowly and methodically transforming your lousy attitude into Jesus’ attitude of counting it all joy.

Warren Wiersbe tells the story of a Christian man who realized that he was far too impatient. So, he prayed, “Lord, help me to grow in patience. I want to have more self-control in this area of my life.” Well, that morning he missed his train to work and spent the next 50 minutes pacing the platform and complaining about his situation. As the next train arrived, the man realized how foolish he had been. He said to himself, “The Lord gave me nearly an hour to grow in my patience, and all I did was practice my impatience.” Let’s be honest: When trials mess up our plans and schedules, how many of us spend far too much time practicing our impatience?

So, what is the purpose of learning patience and perseverance during our trials? The purpose—spelled out in verse 4—is to help us become mature and complete. Never forget that God is more interested in your character than He is in your comfort. God doesn’t want any of us to stay spiritual babies drinking spiritual milk. He wants us to grow up! He wants us to mature in our faith. And trials help us do that unlike anything else can. So, why should we respond to trials with joy? Not because trials are fun. Not because trials give us an excuse to have a pity party and get sympathy. We should rejoice when trials come for one reason according to James: Because they are tools in God’s hands to make us mature and complete—like Jesus.

This growth process brings with it some priceless blessings. It brings more peace to our lives; it positively influences those around us, and it pleases God. If trials pave the way for all these many blessings, you’d better believe we should rejoice. The trials may stink while we’re in them, but remember that God never wastes a trial in a Christian’s life. He will use it for your good, for the good of those around you, and for His glory. He REALLY is making you better, stronger, and faster. So, no matter how much it hurts … Rejoice. No matter how long it lasts … Rejoice. No matter how unfair and pointless it seems … Rejoice.

If you are a believer and follower of Jesus Christ, your trial is in the hands of a loving God. He’s got this! And since He’s got this, you’ve got this too. So, rejoice!

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

Tuesday, February 4, 2020

Love Your Neighbor

“And who is my neighbor?”

- Luke 10:29

Two weeks ago, there was a deadly crash on the I-15 between Victorville and Barstow. The crash involved two big rigs, and two men were killed. But one of the men who died in the crash wasn’t in either of the trucks. He was a man named Michael Keyser, who stopped to help the driver of the first truck and was killed when the second big rig collided with the first. It wasn’t the first time Keyser had risked his own life to save someone else. In 1992, he received a hero’s citation for pulling an injured driver out of a burning vehicle. In last week’s Daily Press article, a man who knew Keyser described him as a true hero: “His life was taken doing what he did best: Saving lives of people he didn’t know.”

Keyser was the definition of a Good Samaritan – a phrase that comes straight out of one of Jesus Christ’s most famous parables, told in Luke 10:25-37. You probably know the story well. A man who was traveling alone on a dangerous road was attacked by robbers, beaten and left for dead at the side of the road. Afterward two separate men, a priest and a Levite, came down the road and saw him lying there. But instead of helping him, each man scooted to the other side of the road and kept walking. But when a lowly Samaritan came by, he treated the man’s wounds, then put the man on his own donkey, took him to the nearest inn and paid the innkeeper to take care of him for as long as needed.

Jesus shared the story of the Good Samaritan in a conversation with an “expert in the law.” This so-called “expert” was a Jewish scribe and lawyer who basically asked, "When I am obeying the second greatest command in the Bible, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself,' who exactly is my neighbor?” Evidently the legal eagle thought that Jesus was going to say that his neighbor was the guy who lived next door in his upper-middle-class neighborhood or his fellow Jewish leader at the synagogue. Never in a million years would he have imagined that Jesus would single out a half-dead mugging victim as his neighbor. But that’s exactly what Jesus did in the story of the Good Samaritan. On the road to Jericho that day, the Good Samaritan was the ONLY man who had enough compassion to stop and help the half-dead stranger. Therefore, on the road to Jericho that day, the Good Samaritan was the only one who truly obeyed the second greatest command in all of Scripture: Love your neighbor as you love yourself. And Jesus ended the parable by telling the Jewish leader to “Go and do likewise.”

If you and I are going to follow the example of the Good Samaritan by “going and doing likewise," then we have to ask ourselves the right questions. For a follower of Jesus Christ, the first “right” question is not: “If I stop to help this person, what will happen to ME?” The right question is: “If I do not stop to help this person, what will happen to HIM?” We’ll never know this side of heaven why the priest and the Levite refused to stop and help the half-dead stranger. Maybe they were running late for an appointment. Maybe they didn’t want to become ceremonially unclean by touching a dying body. Maybe they were scared of getting mugged themselves. But this we do know: They were focused on themselves.

Jesus wanted the Jewish lawyer to know, as he wants you and me to know: When someone around us is hurting and needs us, there is no excuse for being self-centered. There is no reason to respond in any way other than compassionate love. When someone needs our help, that’s not the time to ask, “If I stop to help this person, what will happen to me?” It’s the time to ask, “If I do not stop to help this person, what will happen to him?” That’s the question Michael Keyser asked when he stopped to help the driver of that big rig.

The second “right” question is equally important: Do I view this hurting person in front of me as a nuisance to avoid or as a neighbor to love and help? Let’s face it: Hurting people are needy, inconvenient, and they sap our time, energy and money. But Jesus calls his followers to love and help them anyway.

Unlike the case of Michael Keyser, loving your neighbor most likely won’t cost you your life. But even if it does, Jesus calls you and me to count the cost and take up our crosses every day and follow him anyway. Regardless of the cost, Jesus Christ calls us to love our neighbors. He has shined the spotlight on a good and compassionate man who put the needs of others above his own needs. And Jesus says to you and me, “Go and do likewise.”  

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