Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Covenant: The Pursuit of God

 “This is the covenant I will make with the house of Israel after that time,’ declares the
LORD. ‘I will put My law in their minds and write it on their hearts.
I will be their God, and they will be My people.’”
– Jeremiah 31:33

Just about everyone knows the Bible is divided into two sections—the Old Testament and the New Testament. But most of us would be hard-pressed to explain what a “testament” is and why knowing the answer could make God’s Word come alive to us. Well, let me take a stab at it. The word “testament” is a synonym of “covenant.” And contrary to popular belief, a biblical covenant isn’t merely a promise or a contract. It’s much, much more. You see, unlike a run-of-the-mill contract, a biblical covenant requires love and grace.

That being the case, a biblical covenant is a binding contract between two parties, marked by love and grace and containing specific terms and promises. With only one or two exceptions, every covenant in Scripture contains three components: Parties (those who are participating in the covenant), Terms (the stipulations of the covenant) and Promises (the blessings guaranteed by the participating parties to each other if the terms of the covenant are met).

Of the many covenants described in Scripture, five stand out as most important. And each of these five communicates loud and clear that God pursues a love relationship with us. The five key covenants are the Noahic Covenant (Gen. 9), Abrahamic Covenant (Genesis 15&17), Mosaic Covenant (Exodus 19-24), Davidic Covenant (2 Sam. 7) and New Covenant (Jer. 31:31-34; 2 Cor. 5:17-21). Consider the great pursuit of God through these five covenants.

The Noahic Covenant. After Noah, his family and his animal friends exited the ark, the Lord spoke to Noah and initiated a covenant with every living creature on earth (Parties). God gave Noah three commands (Terms): 1) Do not murder, 2) Do not eat meat with blood in it, and 3) Multiply and fill the earth. And God made a marvelous promise to Noah and the rest of creation—never again would He destroy the earth with a flood. The Noahic Covenant demonstrates that even on the heels of judgment, God shows concern and loving care for His creation.

The Abrahamic Covenant. When Abraham was around 80 years old, God made a covenant with him and his descendants (Parties). God gave Abraham three general instructions (Terms): 1) Walk with God, 2) Be blameless, and 3) Circumcise every male in your household. And as he walked in faith and obedience to God’s commands, the LORD made three guarantees to Abraham (Promises): 1) His descendants would possess all of Palestine, 2) His descendants would become a great nation, and 3) The LORD would be Israel’s God. Within the Abrahamic covenant resonates this powerful message of God’s love: God pours out extravagant blessings on those who walk by faith and obedience.

The Mosaic (“Old”) Covenant provides a canopy over the first ¾ of the Bible. In Exodus 19-24, God drafted a covenant with Moses and the nation of Israel (Parties). The requirements of this covenant (Terms) boiled down to this: 1) Israel must faithfully obey the 613 Laws of Moses, and 2) Israel must be a holy people (i.e., set apart from sin). If Israel faithfully followed these two stipulations, God promised to: 1) Keep Israel as His treasured possession, 2) Protect Israel from attack, and 3) Set them apart to spread His grace to the nations. This great message resonates from the Mosaic Covenant: The Lord treasures His chosen people and sets them apart to spread His grace to the nations.

The Davidic Covenant is short and sweet. But it is, oh, so important. The Lord appreciated David’s desire to build a temple in Jerusalem, but God didn’t want a man of war like David to build a temple for the Prince of Peace. However, in the midst of delivering this message to David, the Lord forged a covenant with him (Parties). There were no specific terms of the covenant, but God made this promise to David: He would have a permanent dynasty. One of his royal descendants would establish a throne over Israel, and His throne and rule would be eternal. Yes, the Davidic Covenant paved the way for the Prince of Peace and King of Kings to rule. And this great message is proclaimed: In our violent, war-torn world, God promises a future of peace and rest to His followers. 

The New Covenant is the crème de la crème—the covenant of all biblical covenants. It is the culmination of God’s great love pursuit of mankind. God offers this covenant to every man, woman or child who chooses to be a follower of Jesus (Parties). And the requirements (Terms) of the covenant are surprisingly simple: 1) Believe/Trust in Christ as Lord and Savior, and 2) Obey Christ’s commands. For those who do, God extends three great promises: 1) Forgiveness of sin, 2) The indwelling of the Holy Spirit, and 3) Eternal life. Wow! The wonderful message of the New Covenant is: Through Christ God demonstrates His heart’s desire—for you and me to be forgiven and restored to an unbroken love relationship with Him.

From the very beginning of creation, God has been pursuing a love relationship with us. And the only thing that stood in the way was our own sin. But through these five great covenants in Scripture, God was methodically and compassionately paving the way for our relationship with Him to be restored. Yes, throughout human history God has been engaged in a great pursuit: a pursuit of a love relationship with you and me, expressed through covenant.

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

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Human Life Is Sacred

“Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I set you apart;
I appointed you as a prophet to the nations.”
– Jeremiah 1:5

This Sunday, January 22, marks the 44th anniversary of the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision to legalize abortion in the United States. In their landmark Roe v. Wade decision, the Supreme Court ruled that the 14th Amendment protects a woman’s right to terminate her pregnancy. Interestingly, the 14th Amendment was intended to protect an individual’s rights while providing him/her with equal protection under the law. Evidently, the Supreme Court justices didn’t believe these protected individual rights extend to the unborn child. As a result, over 58 million pre-born babies have been aborted in the U.S. since 1973. That’s roughly equal to the entire populations of California, Oregon, Washington, Arizona and New Mexico combined!

Fast forward 44 years. Here we are just two months after our national elections, where well over 100 million Americans went to the polls and voted for a slew of candidates and a laundry list of propositions. And one of these propositions in the State of Colorado slipped under the national radar: Proposition 106. It passed by an overwhelming 2/3 majority, making Colorado the sixth state to legalize doctor-assisted suicide. 

With these sobering realities in mind, Christian leader Dr. Frank Wright recently wrote, “Will a differently constituted U.S. Supreme Court make a difference in the defense of life? It could, but we have heard those promises before. Besides, a question more important than whether the courts will defend life is: Why is the culture running headlong after death?” Now, that’s a sobering question. Why is our culture running headlong after death?

Honestly, one of the main reasons is because we as a nation no longer read, understand, or embrace what God’s word says about the great value of human life. We have failed to embrace what God says in the very first chapter of the Bible—Genesis 1. He makes it clear that all life on earth is good and beautiful. But only human life is sacred, which is defined as “connected to God and dedicated to a religious purpose and so deserving veneration.” Every human life is connected to God in a way that a dog or cat couldn’t be. Every human life is dedicated to a religious purpose—to worship Him and love Him in a way that a rhino, monkey, or polar bear never could. As a nation, we have rejected these timeless truths.

And we have ignored and rejected the timeless truth of Psalm 139:13-15, where King David answers the “when” question: “When does God create human life as good, beautiful and sacred?” David answers—in a mother’s womb. David expresses amazement at the thought of God creating his kidneys, lungs, and heart before he drew his first breath. Without a doubt, human life begins in the womb. Therefore, the life of the unborn child is good, beautiful and sacred in the sight of God. From God’s perspective, a fetus is not a clump of cells, a mass of tissue, or an inconvenience. What the medical community labels a “fetus” is a child, created with great love and care by our Creator. As a nation, we have rejected this timeless truth.

The truth is: There are only four differences between an unborn child and a toddler, and none of these differences taken individually or together diminish the value and “humanity” of the unborn child. See for yourself. [These four differences form the acronym, SLED.]

SIZE. For years pro choice groups like Planned Parenthood have argued that a human fetus is not a human being because of its tiny size. But since when does human size equate to human value? Would anyone make the case that a 7-foot-tall NBA center’s life is 3 ½ times more valuable than a 2-foot-tall toddler’s life? Would anyone try to convince us that a teenager is twice as human as a two-year old because the teenager is twice as tall? No way! The size argument is completely illogical. Size has nothing to do with human value.

LEVEL OF DEVELOPMENT. Abortion clinics have peddled the lie that because a child in utero is less developed than a baby, it’s not a human being. Because the heart isn’t beating until the second month and the pain receptors aren’t functional until the second trimester, it’s not a baby. But since when does level of development determine human value? Toddlers are less developed than teenagers. Teenagers are less developed than adults. Many adults have diabetes or other diseases that keep them from feeling pain, and some severely disabled adults aren’t self-aware. Would any reasonable person conclude that children and adults with developmental disabilities are less human than those who are perfectly healthy? I think not!

ENVIRONMENT and DEGREE OF DEPENDENCY. These last two differences between an unborn child and a toddler are equally important. Abortion advocates make the case that because a human fetus is inside his/her mother and is completely dependent upon her for survival, the fetus is not a human being. But under close scrutiny, both of these arguments fall apart. When toddlers change environments, do they change their value? Is a toddler in the house more human that a toddler in a swimming pool?  As for degree of dependency—Is a retiree on dialysis and oxygen less human than a senior with a clean bill of health? Hardly! You see, dependency is irrelevant to value. In fact, a greater level of dependency signals us as compassionate human beings to help and fight for the one who is dependent. Right?

Perhaps we will never fully understand why our culture has been running headlong after death. But of this we can be sure: God holds all human life—from the earliest stages in the womb to the final day of hospice care—as good, beautiful, and sacred. Therefore, we as His followers must also hold all human life to be good, beautiful and sacred. As God loves and defends human life, so too must we.

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

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

The Problem of Suffering

“The LORD gave and the LORD has taken away; may the name of the LORD be praised.”
– Job 1:21

I wish I had a dollar for every time I heard someone ask, “If God is all-powerful and He is just, then why do good people suffer?” Over the centuries atheists and agnostics have asked this question. Most Jews and Christians have—at some point or another—asked it as well. And honestly, most answers to this question have been dead wrong.

Many skeptics have used the problem of suffering as an opportunity to cast aspersions on God’s character: “Perhaps good people suffer because God is not as powerful or as just as we once thought Him to be. Maybe God wants to squelch suffering, but He’s powerless to do so. Or perhaps He’s powerful enough to do so, but He chooses not to because He doesn’t care.” When faced with this question of human suffering, skeptics have responded by saying, “Good people suffer because God is NOT all-powerful, and He is NOT just.” To the average agnostic, it’s as simple as that.

Yet to the Jews in both Old and New Testament times, this answer was completely unacceptable. It flew in the face of everything they believed about God. You see, they believed with all their hearts that Yahweh is the all-powerful Creator of heaven and earth. And they believed the Old Testament Scriptures that testify to God’s goodness and justice time after time. Therefore, the Jews came to the conclusion that every person’s suffering is a direct consequence of his/her guilt before our holy God. In other words, if I sin a lot, I will suffer a lot. But if I sin a little, I will only suffer a little. To most Jews, it was as simple as that.

Do you recall what Jesus’ disciples asked him in John 9:2 when they saw a man who had been blind since birth? They asked him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” It seemed so obvious to the disciples: The ONLY reason this man was blind was because someone had sinned. Otherwise, our all-powerful, all-just God wouldn’t have allowed him to be born blind. So, when faced with the question of why good people suffer, the Jews’ typical response would have gone something like this: “God IS all powerful. And God IS perfectly good and just. Therefore, good people don’t suffer.”

Well, the truth is: The answers offered by both the skeptics and the Israelites were wrong. And to them and to all others who hold false views of God’s character and/or human suffering, God gave the Book of Job.

Perhaps you’re familiar with the story: Job was a man who lived to the East of Israel around the same time as Abraham. We are told in chapter 1 that he was “blameless and upright” and “he feared God and shunned evil.” You might call Job “God’s pride and joy.” Job was a very dedicated follower of God, and he was also the richest man in his neck of the woods. But with God’s permission, Satan unleashed his fury on Job—stripping him of all his wealth and even murdering his ten children in one fell swoop. By the time we reach the end of chapter 1, Job is a broken man, lying on the ground grief-stricken and baffled by his misfortune. Yet in the midst of his unimaginable suffering, he cries out to God saying, “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked I will depart. The LORD gave and the LORD has taken away; may the name of the LORD be praised.”

Over the next thirty-six chapters, Job struggles to find meaning behind his suffering. He begs God to answer the “why” question. Yet surprisingly, God never gives Job a satisfactory answer. The LORD never reveals to Job that he was the apple of His eye. The LORD never informs Job that Satan was the instigator and perpetuator of his intense suffering. And He never reveals to Job that his very faithfulness to God in the midst of his suffering both shamed Satan and brought much glory to the LORD.

So, the Book of Job does not give Job or us a satisfactory answer to the question of why good people suffer. [This “why” question is answered later in Scripture: in Luke 18:19, James 1:2-4, 1 Peter 1:6-9, Hebrews 12:4-13 and John 9:3.] But the book does answer two similar and equally important questions about suffering. To the question: “Is there such a thing as innocent suffering?”, the Book of Job answers with a resounding “Yes!” The Book of Job clearly demonstrates that God IS all-powerful and just. But even still, sometimes—through no fault of their own—the innocent suffer.

And to the second question: “How should I respond to my suffering?”, Job gives us a marvelous answer: “The Lord gave and the LORD has taken away. May the name of the LORD be praised.” In other words, when suffering rushes in—even through no fault of our own—we as Christ’s followers are called to ride out the storm in humble worship and praise. Like Job, we may never know why we suffer, but we can and should trust, obey and worship our great God in the midst of our pain. Ultimately, He will see us through.

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

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Rx for Stale Worship

“Praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people, the Lord added
to their number daily those who were being saved.”
– Acts 2:47

I stumbled across a quote by Kenneth Osbeck that got me thinking: “It would be enlightening if the people in the pew could stand on the platform and observe the congregational singing during an average church service. One would soon concur that there are many who appear to have attended church without the express purpose of having a personal encounter with God. Comparatively few people reveal evidence of [fully giving of] themselves in worship and praise or of [receiving] the great truths about which they sing. Not all of us are able to sing tunefully, but everyone in whom the Spirit of God dwells can and should respond with joyful praise when the opportunity is presented.”

Let me ask you: If you were able to stand discreetly on the stage at your home church and observe the entire worship service from that vantage point, what would you see? None of us can know what’s going on inside another’s heart, but would it appear to you from people’s facial expressions and body language that they were going through the motions? Would you see many Christians walking into the service late? Would you observe attenders with hands in their pockets during “How Great Is Our God” and others fiddling with their cell phones during “10,000 Reasons”? Would there be more sighs than singing, more yawns than tears?

Now, let’s move from speculation to reality. What does the Holy Spirit actually see when He observes you in worship? Does he see clear evidence that you are giving Him your very best praise? Is it evident to Him that you believe the words you’re singing and are excited about being in God’s presence? Does he see clear signs of humble repentance during communion, sacrifice during offering and a hunger for God’s word during the time of teaching?

In Acts 2:42-47, the Jerusalem Christians provide us with a beautiful example of a worshiping church. Worship was one of their top priorities. They loved God fiercely, and their worship carried great impact both inside and outside the church.  Within these six verses we discover at least three components of impactful worship.

#1: Impactful worship is fresh and never stale. The Jerusalem Christians worshiped together daily, and their worship was anything but boring or monotonous. According to verse 43, “everyone was filled with awe.” And then we’re told that the Christians “ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God.” There’s no doubt that the Jerusalem Church’s worship was marked by fresh enthusiasm, awe and joy. When the Christians came together for worship, they came together expectantly. They expected God to show up and move in their midst. They expected miracles and healings to take place. They expected new people to be saved. Their worship was, in a word, fresh.

#2: Impactful worship is both formal and informal. We’re told in verse 46 that the Christians met together in the temple courts and in their homes. The Jerusalem temple had designated times of prayer at 9am, noon and 3pm. And the Christians attended at least some of these public prayer times even though they also held services within each other’s homes. Bottom line: Some of us worship God more easily in an informal setting (e.g., our homes or cars), while others worship God more easily in a structured worship service. But you and I need both. True, impactful worship can never be compartmentalized within a weekly worship service or single home address. Worship is much bigger than that. It encompasses both formal and informal settings.

#3: Impactful worship is both reverent and joyful. We are told in verse 43, “Everyone was filled with awe.” The word “awe” is translated from a Greek word that literally means “fear.” So, it’s clear that the Christians’ worship included a healthy fear of God’s power and majesty. They made sure that their worship offered Him the highest respect. However, in verses 46-47, it’s equally clear that the Christians worshiped God with great joy. John Stott summarizes this reality so well: “It is right in public worship to be dignified; it is unforgiveable to be dull.... If joy in God is an authentic work of the Spirit, so is the fear of God.”

When considering these truths from God’s word, it’s imperative that each of us does a self-check, humbly asking the Lord: “When I attend a worship service, what is missing in my worship? Although God is never stale, is my worship stale? Do I only worship God in certain settings and in certain, very redundant ways? Does my worship lack a healthy fear of God or a vibrant joy in the Lord? If so, what changes do I need to make?”

My friend, we serve an awesome God who is always exciting, always strong, always faithful, always good, always just, always pure, always holy and always worthy of every bit of praise, honor and respect that we can give Him. So when we come together with other Christians to worship our great and awesome God, we must give Him our very best. Not only will this make our own worship experience so much more meaningful, it will fuel the effectiveness of our worship leaders up front and, most importantly, usher in the presence of God. And nothing in this world carries more impact than God showing up. 

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