Monday, January 18, 2021

Who Wants to Be Poor?

 “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” 
 Matthew 5:3

Ask any Christian what the most important verse in the Bible is, and more often than not they’ll answer, John 3:16: “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.” That verse beautifully summarizes the fact that we can never EARN our salvation. Salvation is a gift from God. And the key to receiving that gift is faith. We must believe—truly believe—in Jesus.

But somewhere along the way, many Christians have bought into the crazy idea that Christianity is ONLY about holding the right beliefs. As long as I believe right, I will be right with God. As long as I believe that Jesus is the Christ and the Son of the living God, as long as I believe that the Bible is the inspired word of God, I can call myself a “good Christian.”

But there’s just one problem with this notion: It’s not true. Jesus never taught us that Christianity is only a matter of BELIEVING right. Christianity is also a matter of DOING right. We are not just believers in Jesus Christ. We are believers and followers of Jesus Christ.  And nowhere is that made more clear than in Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount.

The first type of teaching Jesus uses in this great sermon are known as the Beatitudes, which we find in Matthew 5:3-12. The word “beatitude” is taken from the Latin word “beatitudo”, which means “blessed are.” Many pastors and Bible teachers translate this word simply as “happy.” But “happy” is far too narrow a translation. “Blessed” means so much more than happy. Years ago, one of my Bible college professors, Knofel Staton, did an in-depth study of this word “blessed,” and he learned that it means two things beyond “happy”:

1: Congratulations. In his Beatitudes, Jesus isn’t just saying that those who are poor in spirit, those who mourn and those who are merciful will be happy. He is also saying “Congratulations are in order for my followers who are poor in spirit and those who mourn.”

2: Buoyed up. Jesus is also saying, “In this sinful world we live in—no matter what hardships or insults come your way—the world will never be able to sink your faith or drown your relationship with Christ. God will see to it that you will always bounce back to surface. You are buoyed up in Christ. Neither this world nor the armies of hell can sink a faithful follower of Christ.”

Let’s focus on the first Beatitude from the Sermon on the Mount: “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven” (v. 3). Someone once asked the evangelist Billy Graham: Why doesn’t Jesus tell us to be rich in spirit instead of telling us to be poor in spirit? Reverend Graham answered: “If you put the word ‘humble’ in place of the word ‘poor,’ you will understand what [Jesus] meant. We must be humble in our spirits. In other words, when we come to God, we must realize our own sin and our spiritual emptiness and poverty. We must not be self-satisfied or proud in our hearts, thinking we don’t really need God. If we are, God cannot bless us. The Bible says, “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble” (James 4:6).” So, “poor in spirit” means humble in spirit and empty in spirit.

If I am serious about being in Christ’s heavenly kingdom, I must begin by confessing that by myself, I can’t ever get there. By myself I will never get to heaven. By myself I can never be right with God. By myself I can never ever be saved. If you don’t fall in line with this truth, you CAN’T be blessed by God.  So, if you can’t live out this first beatitude, there’s no point moving on to the other seven.

Some of us come to Christ with notions of our own righteousness. This first beatitude knocks us off our high horse. Some of us come to Christ thinking we’ll impress Him with our religious heritage: “I grew up in a good Catholic home.” “I was baptized as a baby and confirmed as a teenager.” “My wife and I were married in the church.” But this beatitude makes it clear, not only that our religious upbringing doesn’t impress God, but that it actually turns Him off when we hold it up like some sort of trophy. If you puff out your chest and brag to God about making it onto the religious honor roll, Jesus Christ will flunk you out of class. Religious pride is repulsive to Him. But He is drawn to spiritual poverty.

At the heart of this first beatitude is a humble recognition of my weakness and God’s strength, an understanding that I offer God nothing yet God offers me everything. Spiritual poverty is attractive to Jesus because it’s honest, it’s real, and—most importantly—it gives Him plenty of room to come in and fill us with more of God. The biggest problem with being a religious snob is that we’re so full of ourselves, there’s no room left for Christ. But when we are spiritually humble, spiritually empty, there is plenty of room for Jesus to come in and fill us with Himself. So, Jesus begins the Sermon on the Mount by saying, “Follow me humbly, or you won’t follow me at all.”

Dane Davis is the Pastor of Impact Christian Church. Please join us for our in-person worship service Sundays at 9 a.m. at 17746 George Blvd. in Victorville. Or, join us online at 10 a.m. on our YouTube channel (Impact Christian Church) or on Facebook. For more information, visit www.GreaterImpact.cc.

Friday, January 8, 2021

For Such a Time As This

 “Who knows but that you have come to your royal position for such a time as this?”
— Esther 4:14

There’s a story about a dairy farmer who went to buy a new pickup truck. He had seen an ad in the paper for a great deal on a new truck, so he decided to trade in his old clunker. He went to the dealership, chose a pickup and was ready to write the check for the full amount. But the salesman said, “Wait, I haven’t given you the final price yet.” Farmer John asked, “Isn’t it the price I saw in the paper?” The salesman said, “No, that’s for the base model. All the options cost extra.” So, after the options were added, the farmer reluctantly wrote a check for $2,000 more than he had planned to pay, and he drove off the lot in his new pick-up.

A few months later the car salesman called Farmer John because he wanted to buy a cow. The farmer assured the car salesman he had several good milk cows for sale for $500. The salesman drove out, selected a cow and took out his checkbook. But Farmer John said, “Wait. I haven’t given you the final price yet.” Then he handed the salesman a bill that read: “Basic cow, $500. Two-tone exterior, $45. Milk storage compartment, $60. Four handy spigots at $10 each, $40. Leather upholstery, $125. Automatic rear fly swatter, $38. Natural fertilizer attachment, $185. Grand total … $1,233.”

Now, I’d like to ask you an interesting question: If you were a cow on Farmer John’s dairy farm, what kind of cow would you be? Think about it. Many Christians have a low view of themselves. They believe that if they were a cow, they would be a base model. Sadly, some Christians see themselves as an ugly cow—not good for much. On the other hand, other Christians believe that if they were a cow, they would be the top-of-the-line limited edition, with all the cowbells and whistles. So, if you were a cow, would you be a base model or the top-of-the-line, limited edition? The truth is, you’d be somewhere in the middle. God did not design you as a base model. And although you ARE a limited edition, you’re not God’s greatest gift to the world either. That distinct honor has been given to Jesus Christ.                                                           

As we forge ahead in this New Year, I believe God wants to transform the way we view ourselves. I believe that He is calling some of us to stop thinking so little of ourselves and step up to our God-given calling. And I believe that He will be knocking some of us off our high horses, calling us to roll up our sleeves and get to work for Him. For an idea of what God wants for us, here are some insights from God’s word.

#1: God placed you at this time and place for a reason. You might wonder how on earth you ended up in the Victor Valley. You may even think that you being in the High Desert is a mistake. But it’s no mistake. God brought you here. Acts 17:26 tells us, “From one man [God] made every nation of men, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and He determined the times set for them and the exact places where they should live.” This verse reveals that God determined long ago both the time and place where you would live. You might think that you were born in the wrong century or in the wrong decade. But it’s no mistake that you are the age you are, living here today in the year 2021. God chose the perfect time and place for you to live.

#2: God has important work for you to do between here and heaven. Acts 13:36 reads, “For when David had served God’s purpose in his own generation, he fell asleep.” David was born in Bethlehem in the 11th century B.C., because that’s the exact time and place God wanted David to be born. And God gave him a clear purpose to carry out in his own generation. God called David to slay Goliath, so David obediently slew Goliath. God called David to lead Israel in her battles and lead the people to follow God. So David obediently led Israel in her battles and led them to follow God. Before David died and left this earth, he served God’s purpose in his own generation. The same should be said of you. After all, you are not a stock cow. You have some custom upgrades. You have a unique personality, distinct experiences, and a particular set of skills that are perfectly suited for doing WHAT God has called you to do, WHERE He has called you to do it. And make no mistake about it: God has called you to do something that is important and meaningful.

#3: Everything you’ve learned and endured up to now has prepared you to serve Christ courageously in 2021. When Esther was queen of Persia nearly 500 years before Christ was born, a wicked advisor tricked her husband the king into signing an edict ordering that every Jew in the kingdom was to be killed. Her cousin Mordecai told her to go into the king’s presence to beg for mercy for her people. Esther was hesitant, because she could be put to death for even approaching the king without an invitation. Mordecai famously responded: “And who knows but that you have come to your royal position for such a time as this?” (Esther 4:14). Esther needed to realize that everything she had learned, experienced and endured up to that point had prepared her for that pivotal moment. She was not in Persia by accident. She was not beautiful by accident. She was not queen by accident. God had done ALL of it to prepare her to serve God’s purpose in her own generation.

God’s general purpose is the same for all of us. He has called all of us to trust Him, to love Him and to serve Him. But what is God’s specific will for your life in 2021? Ask Him. Go to Him in prayer and say, “Lord, I believe that You placed me here at this time and place for a reason. You placed me here for such a time as this. So, please show me what Your purpose is for me today, and give me the courage to say what You want me to say and do what You want me to do.” And this I can say with certainly: All that we’ve learned and experienced and endured in 2020 has prepared us for even greater impact in 2021. So, let’s serve God’s purpose in our own generation.

Dane Davis is the Pastor of Impact Christian Church. Please join us for our online service Sunday at 10 a.m. on our YouTube channel (Impact Christian Church) or on Facebook. For more information, visit www.GreaterImpact.cc.

Monday, January 4, 2021

Peace on Earth in 2020

 “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you.” – John 14:27

The Hebrew word for peace is “shalom.” It’s one of the most important words to the Jewish people. For centuries, Jews have greeted each other with the one-word greeting, “Shalom!” To the orthodox Jew, “shalom” is used both as a “hello” and a “goodbye.” But it means so much more than “hello” and “goodbye.” Shalom is most often translated into English as “peace” or “harmony.” But shalom literally means “wholeness.” In Joshua 8:31, we’re told that Joshua made an altar out of “shalom” stones—meaning stones that were uncut. They were completely whole.

So, if shalom refers to wholeness, what exactly is a Jewish man wishing his neighbor when he wishes him “shalom”? He is wishing him wholeness in his health, wholeness in his marriage and wholeness in his walk with God. Ever since the Garden of Eden, human beings have been breaking things. Thinking back, have you broken something valuable this past year? It may have been a cellphone or a collar bone. Some of us broke our cars this year. And at some point, most of us broke our budgets this year.

We are very good at breaking things—including our relationships. At some time or another, most of us have broken relationships with our neighbors, friends or family members. To say it another way: We have broken “shalom” with our neighbors, with our friends, and with our family members.  But worst of all: Every single one of us has broken shalom with God. And the Bible is clear that the punishment for breaking shalom with God is death. As we’re told in Romans 6:23, “The wages of sin is death.”

But because of God’s amazing grace through Christ, we don’t have to pay the price of eternal brokenness and punishment. As our all-wise Wonderful Counselor, Jesus had the perfect plan to bring us shalom with God. He decided to trade his reward for our punishment. And as our all-powerful Mighty God, Jesus had the strength to resist every temptation so that he could be a perfect substitute sacrifice for our sins. And as our all-loving Everlasting Father, Jesus loved us enough to endure the pain and humiliation of the cross until our debt was fully paid.

Because of what Jesus did for us, you and I can have peace with God. We broke our relationship with God, but Jesus came to earth to offer us shalom. Jesus traded His SHALOM with God for our BROKENNESS. 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,” they were talking about wholeness. They wanted people to know that Jesus offers us shalom in our broken relationships with other people. But most of all, they wanted us to know that Jesus offers us shalom in our broken relationship with God. Jesus came to put back together what you and I had broken into a million pieces. As Jesus told his disciples in John 14:27: “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you.”

Nowadays most people seem to think that peace comes from good counseling sessions, self-help books or from putting the right guy in the White House. All of these things have their place, but none of them brings true, lasting shalom. No psychologist can bring wholeness to a broken marriage. Joel Osteen’s best book can’t make a person whole. And neither Donald Trump nor Joe Biden can bring true and lasting wholeness to our fractured nation. Only Jesus Christ can. Only the Prince of Peace can completely heal a broken marriage, mend a broken soul, and bring true harmony to our fractured nation.

To those of us 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 wholeness. He is the only one who can restore the relationships that you and I have broken. And he specializes in bringing peace to our broken relationship with God.

Honestly, 2020 has been a really hard year. Covid has been devastating. Seeing cities across America being looted and burned has been heart-wrenching. The presidential election was excruciating. Our kids’ schools have closed, many of us have lost our jobs, and many of us have lost friends and family this year. Other family and friends have been diagnosed with cancer.

But regardless of how depressing this past year has been, you can experience true peace in 2021—because Jesus IS the Prince of Peace. He is smart enough, strong enough and loving enough to bring wholeness to your life. Regardless of what’s broken in your life and how it got that way, I urge you to give Jesus Christ your broken pieces this New Year. He is the only one who can make you whole. That’s why he came to earth in the first place. He is ready and willing to be your Wonderful Counselor, your Mighty God, your Everlasting Father, and your Prince of Peace. And He’s just a prayer away.

Dane Davis is the Pastor of Impact Christian Church. Please join us for our in-person worship service Sundays at 9 a.m. at 17746 George Blvd. in Victorville. Or, join us online at 10 a.m. on our YouTube channel (Impact Christian Church) or on Facebook. For more information, visit www.GreaterImpact.cc.