Saturday, October 9, 2021

Running Against God

“I knew that you are a gracious and compassionate God, slow to anger and abounding in love, a God who relents from sending calamity.” – Jonah 4:2 

“Les Miserables” by Victor Hugo is one of the best loved novels of all time. You’ve probably seen one of the many adaptations in a movie or musical. It tells the bittersweet story of Jean Valjean, a poor wood-chopper’s son who grew up as an orphan. When he was just 17, after his brother-in-law died, the responsibility fell on Valjean to provide for his sister’s seven young children. But he didn’t earn enough money to even feed them. So, one winter night, he went out, broke a baker’s window and stole a loaf of bread. The next morning he was arrested for stealing. His bleeding hand convicted him.

Valjean was sentenced to five years of hard labor in prison. But because of numerous escape attempts that added to his sentence, Valjean ended up serving 19 years in prison—for stealing a loaf of bread for his family. By the time he was released, he was bitter, mean and mad at the world. As he traveled from town to town, nobody wanted anything to do with him. Finally, Valjean went to the house of a Catholic bishop, who took him in, fed him and gave him a bed for the night. But after the bishop fell asleep, Valjean stole all of his silver knives and forks and fled. Early the next morning, five soldiers brought Valjean back to the bishop’s house, explaining that they were arresting him for stealing the silver. But the bishop turned to Valjean and said, “I gave you the candlesticks, too. Why didn’t you take them?” And then he turned to the soldiers and said, “It was a mistake to arrest him. Let him go. The silver is his. I gave it to him.”

As the soldiers left, Valjean whispered to the bishop, “Is it true that I am free? I may go?” And the bishop responded with some of the most wonderful words ever penned in a novel: “Yes. But before you go, take your candlesticks. Jean Valjean, my brother: you belong no longer to evil, but to good. It is your soul that I am buying for you. I withdraw it from black thoughts and the spirit of hate, and I give it to God!” From that moment on, Jean Valjean was a changed man. His heart belonged to God, and he spent the rest of his life loving and serving others. Years later, as Valjean lay on his deathbed, there was something familiar in the room just a few feet from his head:  those two silver candlesticks that for years had reminded him of God’s great mercy and grace.

If only the prophet Jonah had had as much compassion for the people of Nineveh as the good bishop had for Jean Valjean! But in chapter 4 of the Book of Jonah, we see that isn’t the case. After running from God’s will, then doing an about-face after being spat up by a whale, Jonah walked into the city of Ninevah and preached ONE sermon—and over 100,000 people repented from their wickedness. Jonah should have been thrilled. Instead, we read that “Jonah was greatly displeased and became angry” (v. 1). And he prayed this angry prayer: “O LORD, is this not what I said when I was still at home? That is why I was so quick to flee to Tarshish. I knew that You are a gracious and compassionate God, slow to anger and abounding in love, a God who relents from sending calamity. Now, O LORD, take away my life, for it is better for me to die than to live” (vs. 2-3).  

You see, Jonah—like most Israelites of his time—hated the Ninevites, because it was prophesied that Assyria was going to wipe out Northern Israel, and Nineveh was one of the biggest cities in Assyria. The Jews considered Assyrians their mortal enemies. So Jonah would have preferred that the Assyrians NOT repent … for them to die a horrible death rather than be spared by God … to burn in hell for all eternity rather than go to heaven. At least at that moment, Jonah despised the compassion of God.

Jonah didn’t want to see this basic truth: If Jonah was saved, his salvation was for others. As Bible commentator Michael Griffiths puts it:  “If Jonah receives the call, if he is truly saved, it is for others. We must be permeated by the conviction that if grace is being conferred on us, it is primarily for others. The Christian is not just the man who is saved by Christ, he is the man whom God uses for the salvation of others by Christ.” The same holds true for you and me. Jesus Christ has given salvation and grace TO us so that He can give salvation and grace THROUGH us. We must never hoard them.

Honestly, we’re more like Jonah than we like to admit. We’re more than happy to receive Christ’s salvation. But we want to keep it to ourselves, especially when we’re around people we can’t stand. We’ve somehow missed or ignored the reality that every blessing from God in our lives was given to us to be shared. Your salvation is supposed to be shared. Your spiritual gifts, talents and abilities are supposed to be shared. Your house, your car and your food, your time and your money, are all supposed to be shared.

Every good and perfect gift that has ever come across your path is from God, and it was given to you to share. So, let’s be more like the good bishop (selfless, generous and compassionate) and not like Jonah (selfish, stingy and judgmental). As Jesus tells us in Matthew 10:8: “Freely you have received. So, freely give.”

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 the Impact Christian Church YouTube channel or Facebook page. For more information, visit www.GreaterImpact.cc.

Thursday, October 7, 2021

Running With God

The Ninevites believed God. A fast was proclaimed, and all of them, from the greatest to the least, put on sackcloth.” – Jonah 3:5 

Back in 1954, Governor Christian Herter of Massachusetts was working hard on the campaign trail as he ran for a second term. One day, after a busy morning chasing votes, he arrived at a mid-afternoon church barbecue. He hadn’t eaten a thing since breakfast, so he was really hungry. As Governor Herter moved down the serving line, he held out his plate to the woman serving the chicken. She put one piece on his plate and turned to the next person in line. Using his best manners, Governor Herter asked, "Excuse me. Do you mind if I have another piece of chicken?" She responded, "Sorry. I'm supposed to give only one piece of chicken to each person." 

Normally the governor wasn’t one to throw his weight around, but he was starving. So, he looked the woman in the eye and said, “Do you know who I am? I am the governor of this state.” Without missing a beat, she responded, “Do you know who I am? I’m the lady in charge of the chicken. Move along, mister.”

Wouldn’t it have been nice if the prophet Jonah had been as good at following orders as the lady serving the chicken? The job of an Old Testament prophet was NOT complicated. Simply say WHAT God wants you to say, WHEN God wants you to say it, to WHOMEVER God tells you to say it to. For the Old Testament prophet, Job #1 was OBEDIENCE. The job wasn’t complicated, but it WAS really hard. Quite often God told His prophets to say things they didn’t want to say at times they didn’t want to say them to people they didn’t want to say them to.

That’s the way it was with Jonah. When he got God’s marching orders to preach God’s message to the people of Ninevah, he ran the other way. And you remember what happened next. Jonah boarded a ship. Fierce storm. Jonah confessed that the storm was his fault. The sailors tossed Jonah overboard. As Jonah was about to drown, he cried out to God in prayer. God saved his life by providing a great big fish to swallow him and give Jonah a free ride back to shore. And as soon as Jonah turned to the LORD and confessed his willingness to do what God called him to do, “The LORD commanded the fish, and it vomited Jonah onto dry land” (Jonah 2:10).

At last Jonah began running WITH God and doing the work he’d been called to do. He was ready and willing to obey the LORD, but it’s pretty clear that he wanted to get it over with as soon as possible. When he got to Ninevah, he started preaching on Day One: “Forty more days and Nineveh will be overturned’” (Jonah 3:4). Now, this is probably just a small sample of his message, but it seems safe to say that Jonah didn’t preach a lengthy sermon. He didn’t tell them to repent. He didn’t teach them how to repent. He didn’t seem to give them any hope that they could do anything to stop God’s judgment from coming if they DID repent.

Yet, amazingly, “The Ninevites believed God. A fast was proclaimed, and all of them, from the greatest to the least, put on sackcloth” (v. 5). It’s hard to imagine how Jonah’s short-and-not-too-sweet message got through to them. But whatever the reason may be, GOD … WAS … BEHIND IT. God was at work. Just as God provided a fish for Jonah in chapter 2, God provided all that was needed for the people of Nineveh to repent and turn to Him. It certainly wasn’t Jonah’s preaching that won them over. It was ALL God.

And “When God saw what they did and how they turned from their evil ways, He had compassion and did not bring upon them the destruction he had threatened” (v. 10). On the heels of showering Jonah with undeserved compassion, God showered the wicked people of Nineveh with undeserved compassion as well. You see, neither Jonah nor the people of Nineveh were too far gone to be reached by God’s mercy and grace. And neither are you.

I’d like to share two insights from Jonah’s latest adventures:

Insight #1: It’s not enough to just run TO God. You need to start running WITH God. Some of us are running from God, like Jonah in chapter 1, and we’re going nowhere fast. We need to come to our senses, make a spiritual U-turn and run TO God. But running TO God is only the starting point. Once we get to God, we need to start running WITH God. A surfer is not a surfer if he just paddles out TO the waves. He has to mount his board and start riding the waves. It’s the same way when you’re a Christian. Once you run TO God, you’ve got to start running WITH Him. Join Him in His work. Find out where He is moving, and move with Him. Find out where He is working, and work with Him.

Insight #2: In the Kingdom of God, the shortest distance between two points is obedience. It would have spared Jonah and the sailors on that ship a whole lot of pain and suffering if he had obeyed God’s word way back in chapter 1. If God is bound and determined to have you do something for Him, you’ll do it for Him eventually … one way or another. But it will save you and those around you a whole lot of pain and suffering if you obey quickly. The shortest distance between where you are right now and where God is calling you to go is obedience. So, don’t wait until the final chapter or two of your life to obey. Obey God’s word today. If you can’t beat Him, join Him!

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 the Impact Christian Church YouTube channel or Facebook page. For more information, visit www.GreaterImpact.cc.

Friday, September 24, 2021

Running To God

“In my distress I called to the LORD and He answered me.”  
– Jonah 2:2

Back in the late 1800s, a story started circulating in coastal taverns around Great Britain. English whalers began sharing the biggest “fish story” anyone had ever heard. According to these whalers, in 1891, one of their shipmates—a 21-year-old apprentice named James Bartley—fell off the boat and disappeared underneath the water. They searched for him for hours, but there was no sign of him anywhere.

But the next day, the sperm whale they were hunting was floating dead on the surface of the ocean. And someone noticed the whale’s abdomen was moving in a strange way—as if something alive was inside it. So, the whalers cut open the large whale, and to everyone’s surprise… out came James Bartley, who had been inside the whale’s stomach for 18 long hours. His skin was bleached white, he was nearly blind, and he was temporarily insane. Newspapers called him a “modern-day Jonah.”

However … in the early 1900s, a historian did some investigating into that whopper of a fish story. He discovered many conflicting reports, and even received a letter from James Bartley’s wife who claimed the whole story was made up. So, was James Bartley actually swallowed by a whale or large fish? Probably not. But the Bible makes it clear that Jonah … WAS.

Now, Bible skeptics read the Book of Jonah and say, “Impossible! It couldn’t happen! It didn’t happen!” But followers of Christ look at Jonah 1:17 and say, “No problem! My Bible tells me in Luke 1:37: “Nothing is impossible with God.” Our God is a great and powerful God. He specializes in the impossible.

In chapter 1 of the Book of Jonah, God gave Jonah clear-cut marching orders to preach a message of repentance to the people of Ninevah. Instead, Jonah boarded a ship headed the other way. But after the boat set sail, God sent a “great wind” and a “violent storm” that engulfed the ship (v. 4). Finally, Jonah admitted to the panicking sailors that he was responsible for the storm because he had angered his Lord. He told the crew the storm would stop if they threw him off the ship. With a little persuading—and a lot more big waves—the crew tossed Jonah overboard.

After spending chapter 1 running FROM God, Jonah finally came to his senses and ran TO God at the beginning of chapter 2: “From inside the fish Jonah prayed to the LORD his God” (v. 1). It’s clear that Jonah didn’t wait until he was being digested to start praying. He started crying out to God before the fish ever swallowed him. As we read Jonah’s prayer in vs. 2-9, we see that it’s more of a testimony. Jonah prayed to God from inside the stomach of the great fish, recounting what had taken place over the past day or two. “In my distress I called to the LORD and He answered me. From the depths of the grave I called for help, and You listened to my cry” (v. 2). According to verse 3, the currents swirled around him and the waves and breakers engulfed him.  According to verse 5, the deep waters surrounded him, and seaweed wrapped around his head as he sank down.

And what did God do? Did God say, “Forget you, Jonah! You’re getting what’s coming to you! Good riddance, you worthless piece of fish food!” No, thankfully, that’s not at all what God said.

According to verse 6, “[God] brought [Jonah’s] life up from the pit.” Did you catch that little word “up”? For a whole chapter Jonah had been going down, down, down in his rebellion. But as he humbly cried out to God in desperation, God “brought [his] life up from the pit.”

Isn’t that just like our great and awesome God? Even when we rebel against Him, ignore His commands and do the exact opposite of what He’s commanded us to do … when we in humble repentance cry out to Him for deliverance, His compassion, mercy and love break through.

For a whole chapter, Jonah rebelled against God’s marching orders. He was going nowhere but down until—in desperation—he looked up and cried out to God. So God provided a great fish and instructed the fish to swallow Jonah. And unlike Jonah, the fish OBEYED God’s instructions.

The Book of Jonah reminds us that running from God is pointless. It only brings hardship and disappointment. The 19th century preacher Charles Spurgeon said it this way: “God never allows His children to sin successfully.” If you want to run from God, ignore God’s commands and pursue other priorities, God gives you that choice. But it’ll cost you. Life is hard enough when you’re running TO God. It’s a whole lot harder when you’re running FROM God. Jonah quickly discovered when he was running from God, His life just kept getting worse and worse. But when he repented and reached out to God in faith and obedience, God immediately began to bring him back up. God will do the same for you.

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 the Impact Christian Church YouTube channel or Facebook page. For more information, visit www.GreaterImpact.cc. 

Wednesday, September 22, 2021

Running From God

“Go to the great city of Nineveh and preach against it, because its wickedness has come up before me.” -Jonah 1:2

This September 11th marked the 20th anniversary of the terrorist attacks in 2001. It’s hard to believe it’s been 20 years since four planes were hijacked by terrorists and flown into the World Trade Center towers and the Pentagon. Those attacks claimed 2,977 lives—and 412 of them were emergency workers in New York City who ran into the Twin Towers to help save others. Included in that number were 60 police officers and 343 firefighters. When those brave men and women received the call that the twin towers were on fire and people were trapped on the upper floors, they rushed into the building and sacrificed their own lives to save others.

They were heroes. When they received the call of duty, without hesitation, they went. It wasn’t fun. It wasn’t easy. And it certainly wasn’t safe. But they went anyway, because it was their duty and their calling.

Jonah was one of God’s prophets in the Old Testament. He, too had a calling on his life: to speak God’s word whenever and wherever God told Him to. But unlike the heroes on 9/11, he turned his back on his call of duty. Jonah was the Reluctant Prophet.

It all started when God came to Jonah one day and said, “Go to the great city of Nineveh and preach against it, because its wickedness has come up before me” (Jonah 1:2). Now, Nineveh was part of Assyria, which was notorious for its violence and cruelty to its enemies. The Assyrians weren’t satisfied with simply killing their enemies. They took great pleasure in torturing and dismembering them. So, this command made Jonah sick to his stomach. And he hated God’s marching orders for another reason: Jonah had NO interest in aiding and abetting an enemy of Israel. Yet God was commanding Jonah to travel 500 miles into enemy territory to preach a message of repentance. Jonah said, “Count me out!” Instead traveling 500 miles northeast in obedience to God’s command, he jumped on a ship to head 2,500 miles in the opposite direction—to Tarshish in modern-day Spain.

Why was Jonah doing everything in his power to NOT go to Nineveh and preach to the Assyrians? It wasn’t because Jonah didn’t know God. It’s because he DID know God. Jonah knew that if he preached to the people of Nineveh and they repented, God would forgive them and spare them. And that’s the last thing Jonah wanted. In his heart, he wanted the Assyrians to die in their sins and go to hell. Jonah was a real sweetheart, wasn’t he?

Now, I’d like to think that Christians today are much different than Jonah. But let’s be honest: We’re not! Truth be told, there are some people who we don’t want with us in heaven. Not too long ago I was scrolling through Facebook and saw a political post about Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi. A Christian I know had posted this comment below it: “Go to Hell, Nancy!” Friends, God has a big problem with us telling people we like “God bless you!” on Sunday morning and turning around and telling people we don’t like “Go to Hell” on Monday morning. Followers of Christ, THAT … IS … SIN! Wishing hell on anyone is a sin. Jesus came to earth to seek and save the lost, and if you are a follower of Jesus, He calls you to do the same.

Jonah was consumed by hatred, resentment and vengeance. But you and I must NOT be. We are on mission from God to share the good news of Jesus Christ with EVERYONE, not just with those we like … not just with those who like us … not just with those who are in our comfort zone. In the Book of Jonah, God shows Himself to be consumed with compassion and love for hopeless sinners. So too must we be consumed with compassion and love for hopeless sinners.

Come what may, God wants you to obey His marching orders: to go and share God’s word with lost and dying people. We need to have a heart like Christ’s: a heart filled with mercy and love for lost and dying people. Like Jesus, God wants you and me to seek and save the lost.

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

Tuesday, September 21, 2021

Better … Stronger … Faster!

 “We are not of those who shrink back and are destroyed, but of those who believe and are saved.Hebrews 10:30

 Ever since I was a little boy, I’ve had a fascination with superheroes. As a preschooler, my favorite was the flying cartoon rodent, Mighty Mouse. In grade school I outgrew Mighty Mouse and discovered another superhero: He-Man. Then, at some point in the early ’80s, my favorite superhero was Steve Austin—aka, The Six Million Dollar Man. The TV show opens with one of the greatest title sequences of all time. We see astronaut Steve Austin in his space suit, flying an experimental aircraft. But something goes terribly wrong. His plane crashes, and it’s engulfed in flames. The next thing we see is an operating room … and the narration begins:

"Steve Austin—astronaut. A man barely alive. Gentlemen, we can rebuild him. We have the technology. We have the capability to make the world’s first bionic man. Steve Austin will BE that man. Better than he was before. Better. Stronger. Faster!” After he came out of that six-million dollar surgery, Steve Austin had bionic legs that allowed him to run up to 60 miles per hour. He had a bionic left eye that gave him telescopic vision. And he had a bionic right arm that made him the strongest man on earth. Pretty impressive, don’t you think? Now, I admit, The Six Million Dollar Man was a pretty corny show. But honestly, those words from the title sequence have still inspired me over the years: “Better than he was before: Better, Stronger, Faster.”

As you probably know, Jesus loves us. But He loves us too much to leave us the way we are. Jesus refuses to leave us spiritually fat and lazy. So, He is patiently and powerfully working in our lives to make us better than we were before. Better. Stronger. Faster! And here are three things we need to get there:

#1: We need BETTER vision. In Hebrews 11, God’s word highlights many Old Testament superheroes of faith. And verse 13 tells us, “All these people were still living by faith when they died. They did not receive the things promised; they only saw them and welcomed them from a distance.” These Old Testament heroes all died before some of God’s promises to them were fulfilled. But to their dying day, they had faith in God’s promises anyway. How was this possible? It was possible because they had much better vision than most of us have. These men and women of God could see things in the distance that can only be seen through the eyes of faith— hope, deliverance, fulfilled promises—things that nobody else around them could see. Since they could see what was coming down the pike, they walked by faith even when what was down the road didn’t arrive during their lifetime. Warren Wiersbe says it this way: “Faith enables us to SEE what others cannot see. As a result, faith enables us to DO what others cannot do!”

#2: We need STRONGER endurance. Hebrews 11 is filled with example after example of heroes from whom we can draw inspiration. Take a look at Hebrews 11:32-40, and consider the endurance of these men and women of faith. Some had to encounter hungry lions (v. 32). This is most likely a nod to Daniel, who was thrown into a lion’s den. Some faith heroes, like Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego in Daniel 3, endured being thrown into the fire—literally (v. 34). Those are heroes who God miraculously delivered from death. But don’t overlook the faith heroes God didn’t deliver: the faith heroes that God allowed to suffer and die. “Others were tortured and refused to be released. Some faced jeers and flogging, while still others were chained and put in prison. They were stoned; they were sawed in two; they were put to death by the sword” (vs. 35-37). Thankfully, none of us have had to deal with THAT kind of torture. But many Old Testament heroes of our faith did. They were able to endure what most people on this planet could never endure—because they endured it by faith. It’s easy to persevere in faith for a few minutes when God answers our prayers quickly. But when God’s answers come slowly, and the pain and suffering intensifies—that’s when our faith is REALLY tested.

#3: We need FASTER obedience. If we really trust Christ, we will obey Him. And we’ll obey Him quickly. Do you know what we call delayed obedience? Disobedience. So, let’s NOT drag our feet. We need to obey God quickly. If He says “Give!”—we need to give without hesitation. If He says, “Go!”—we need to go. If He says, “Do this!”—we need to do this. If He says, “Do that!” —we need to do that. We don’t have time for disobedience and sin. Our time is short and the stakes are too high. So, we must fix our eyes on Jesus and obey Him on time, every time.

Christ has called us as Christians to have BETTER vision—STRONGER endurance—and FASTER obedience. And if there’s any doubt in your mind that this is what God’s word is calling you to do, consider these amazing words in Hebrews 12:1-2: “Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles [that’s faster obedience], and let us run with endurance the race marked out for us. Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the Author and Perfecter of our faith [that’s better vision] who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, scorning its shame [that’s stronger endurance] and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.”

There you have it: the greatest superhero of all time … Jesus Christ. Better. Stronger. Faster. And together we are running in His footsteps!

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

Friday, August 27, 2021

Don't Let Sin Slow You Down!

“We are not of those who shrink back and are destroyed, but of those who believe and are saved.Hebrews 10:30

When I think of running a race with perseverance, Cliff Young comes to mind. Who is Cliff Young? An Australian sheepherder and potato farmer, of course! In 1983, Australia began hosting what was, at the time, the most grueling foot race on earth: a seven-day, 543-mile ultra-marathon stretching from Sydney to Melbourne. That’s like running from Victorville to Sacramento, hanging a left and running 85 miles to San Francisco, then topping it all off by running back-to-back marathons around the city. 

The day the Sydney ultra-marathon started, 150 world-class runners showed up. And guess who showed up to run with them: Cliff Young. At the age of 61, Cliff approached the registration table, wearing overalls and rain boots, and declared his intention to run. You see, Cliff had grown up on a farm without the luxury of a horse or a four-wheel drive. So, when the storms rolled in, Cliff had to put on his rain boots and run for two or three straight days to round up 2,000 sheep over a 2,000-acre farm. To Cliff, running an ultra-marathon sounded like another day on the farm.

When Cliff started running, spectators thought, “This must be a joke!” Because he didn’t really run. It was more of a leisurely old-man shuffle. Australians were glued to their TVs, saying things like: “Someone should stop that crazy old man before he kills himself!” But five days, 15 hours, and four minutes later, after shuffling for 543 miles, Cliff Young shuffled across the finish line in Melbourne—in first place. And he didn’t win by a few seconds, or even by a few minutes. Catch this: The second-place runner was nine hours and 56 minutes behind him. You see, during the race, Cliff shuffled along day and night with almost no sleep, until he crossed the finish line. And the 61-year-old sheepherder who defied all odds became a national hero.

If Cliff Young can persevere through a 543-mile ultra-marathon, you and I can certainly persevere in our lives as Christians. One of the keys to running a gold-medal race for Jesus is, “Don’t sin.” Sin slows you down. Sin makes you weak. With that in mind, I’d like to point out three sins that slow you down and cause collateral damage in the church:

Sin #1: Unbelief. God’s word tells us in Hebrews 11:6: “Without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to Him must believe that He exists and that He rewards those who earnestly seek Him.” God is deeply concerned about unbelief in His followers. No sin will stop a church dead in its tracks as quickly as the sin of unbelief. Unbelief is a spiritual cancer within a congregation. And Hebrews 10:39 tells us: “But we are not of those who shrink back and are destroyed, but of those who believe and are saved.” We are believers—not quitters. No matter what tragedies happen in your life … no matter how many people around you think you’re nuts … no matter how hard it is to hold on to your faith … don’t stop believing.

Sin #2: Unforgiveness. To me, this is one of the most troubling sins in the church today. It grieves my heart to see how many Christians hold on to bitterness, resentment and unforgiveness. And Christianity is nothing without forgiveness. Do you remember what Jesus taught us to pray in The Lord’s Prayer? “Forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors.” And in case we missed it, he elaborates in Matthew 6:14-15: “For if you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.” If you refuse to forgive someone who has sinned against you, God will refuse to forgive you who have sinned against Him.

Sin #3: Undernourishment. Even if you’ve never participated in a team sport, you know that a nutritious diet is very important for an athlete. If you don’t train well or eat well, it affects you on the playing field. The same holds true in the spiritual realm. Our number-one source of nourishment is the Bible. It is our spiritual meat. It is our living water. Yet sadly, one recent study found that only one in eight Christians read their Bible daily. Last week, how many days did you go without eating any food? I would guess—zero. But how many days did you go without eating any spiritual food? Our second source of nourishment is prayer. Every follower of Christ needs to spend time with God in prayer every day. If we don’t, we’ll be undernourished. Finally, our third source of spiritual nourishment is the church. More than ever before, Christians are not making church attendance a priority. And the results have been devastating. Hundreds of churches across America have closed their doors for good. Needs in the community are going unmet. And most tragic of all: Millions of people are NOT getting saved … because the church is AWOL.

So, please make sure that you do your part to stay well-nourished as we run this Jesus Race together. Be in God’s Word every day. Spend quality time in prayer with God every day. And if you’re physically able to attend, be in church every week. We’ve got a lot of race left to run and not much time left to run it. So, let’s each do our part to finish our Jesus Race strong … together.

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 the Impact Christian Church YouTube channel or Facebook page. For more information, visit www.GreaterImpact.cc.

Thursday, August 26, 2021

Racing by the Rules

“If anyone competes as an athlete, he does not receive the victor’s crown unless he competes according to the rules.2 Timothy 2:5 

Tatjana Schoenmaker is a record-holding swimmer from South Africa. Her specialty is the 200-meter breaststroke. Three weeks ago, heading into the 200-meter final, she was the favorite to win gold. There was even talk of her breaking the world record that had remained unbroken since 2013. Everyone watching that 200-meter women’s final knew that Tatjana Shoenmaker was a great swimmer. What many didn’t know is that she’s also a follower of Christ. As she swam at the Olympics, underneath her outer green swim cap that identified her home country of South Africa, she wore another white swim cap. It has a blue Jesus fish on it along with the words, “Soli Deo Gloria,” which translates as “Glory to God Alone.”

Before heading to Tokyo last month, Tatjana posted this tweet: “Father God may Your will be done, may Your peace fill us up, may we praise You no matter what the outcome, may we be empowered by Your strength to give it our all and may we forever be in the awe of Your goodness.” And as it turned out, Tatjana Shoenmaker not only won Olympic gold, she became the first woman in history to swim the 200-meter breaststroke in under 2 minutes and 19 seconds.

Tatjana traveled to the Olympic Games and fought the good fight. She kept the faith and finished her race on top. Tatjana Shoenmaker did it in an Olympic swimming pool, and you and I can do it right here where God has placed us. He has called us to run the race of our lives: “Let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us” (Hebrews 12:1). Life is short, and we have a lot of work to do for Jesus before we croak. So, by faith, we’ve got to hustle! We’ve got to run this Jesus race with some heart. We’ve got to run this Jesus race as if lives depend on it—because they do.

In 2 Timothy 2:5 we read, “If anyone competes as an athlete, he does not receive the victor’s crown unless he competes according to the rules.” As I mentioned last week, there are three rules in this Jesus race. #1: Trust God. #2: Love God. #3: Obey God’s commands. Let’s take a closer look at these three life-changing rules for running a gold-medal race.

Rule #1: Trust Him—ONLY Him. (Heb. 11:6) “Without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to Him must believe that He exists and that He rewards those who earnestly seek Him.” Don’t trust in Jesus AND the Pope. Don’t trust in Jesus AND Donald Trump. Don’t trust in Jesus AND your own righteousness and good works. Trust in JESUS ALONE. Jesus can not and will not share your soul’s trust with anyone. Your soul is either His completely, or it’s not His at all. You either surrender complete control of your life to Christ, or you don’t surrender it at all. Trust Him and Him alone. That’s Rule #1.

Rule #2: Love Him—ONLY Him. (Matt. 22:37-40) “Love the Lord Your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: Love your neighbor as yourself. All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” These verses confuse a lot of people. They wonder: “If I love God with all my heart, there won’t be any part of my heart left to love anyone else.” Exactly! That’s exactly the way God wants it to be. You may ask, “What about my spouse? What about my family?” Here’s the thing: If your heart is completely God’s, you won’t have ANY part of your heart left to love people around you in your inferior, half-hearted way. God will just have to love them perfectly through you. And whose love is better—yours or God’s? Jesus can not and will not share your heart’s love with anyone else. You either love Christ completely, or you don’t love Him at all. So, love God with everything you’ve got. That’s Rule #2.

Rule #3: Obey Him—ONLY Him. (John 14:15) Jesus says it so simply in John 14:15: “If you love Me, you will obey what I command.” If you don’t obey Christ, you don’t really love Christ or trust Christ—which means you’re not IN Christ. If you don’t obey Christ, you’re on the wide road to Hell. There’s no way around it: If you want to be forgiven of your sin, if you want to be on the narrow road, if you want to go to heaven some day, you have to be ready and willing to obey … right now. Not one of these days. Not when things get less busy. Not when obeying becomes more convenient. NOW! Obeying Jesus’ commands isn’t convenient. It’s rarely popular. And it’s almost never easy. But if you’re serious about running a gold-medal race for Jesus, you will obey His commands anyway. That’s Rule #3.

You may never be an Olympian. But like Tatjana, you can finish your race strong by trusting Christ, loving Christ and obeying Christ’s commands every day of your life. Fix your eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of your faith, and finish strong. Then, when you get to the end of your life here on earth, you’ll be able to join the Apostle Paul in saying, “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.” (2 Timothy 4:7).

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 the Impact Christian Church YouTube channel or Facebook page. For more information, visit www.GreaterImpact.cc.