Monday, December 24, 2018

Love Has Come!

May the Lord make your love increase and overflow for each other
and for everyone else.” – 1 Thessalonians 3:12a

Would you agree with me if I were to say, “Most Americans don’t understand love”? When we talk about two people “falling in love,” it demonstrates a misunderstanding about love. Love can’t be fallen into. When a husband or wife says, “I don’t love you anymore,” that person doesn’t understand love. Love isn’t an emotional switch that accidentally gets turned on or off.

If you really pay attention, you’ll notice that we overuse the word “love” – a lot! I say “I love you” to my wife and kids. But I also say, “I love In-N-Out Burgers. I love going to Disneyland. And I love eating carne asada tacos!” We’ve tossed around the word “love” so much over the years, we need to go back to the source—God’s word—to be reminded what true love really is.

There are three Greek words that are translated as “love.” There’s “eros,” which is a romantic kind of love. Next there’s “phileo,” which is friendship love, or brotherly love, between two people who have a close relationship. And finally, there is “agape,” which was chosen by the writers of the New Testament as the best word to describe God’s love and Jesus’ love. Agape is a self-sacrificing kind of love—a much higher form of love than eros or phileo.

You see, eros love sets its sights on someone you’re attracted to. But agape love doesn’t discriminate between someone you think is hot, and someone you think is … not. And phileo love is directed at someone you already have a close personal relationship with, like a family member or a close friend. But agape love doesn’t discriminate between someone you know well and someone you don’t know at all. It doesn’t even discriminate between someone you like and someone who drives you up the wall.

Do you see why agape is the highest form of love? It’s no wonder we find this word used some 320 times in the New Testament in reference to God the Father’s love for Jesus, God’s love for people, and Christ’s love for his church. And it’s no wonder that when Jesus Christ commands us to love one another, he commands us to “agape love” one another. Let’s take a look at what the New Testament teaches us about agape love.

1. God the Father loves His Son. We read about this in John 17:26, when Jesus prays to the Father for his disciples, saying, “I have made You known to them and will continue to make You known in order that the love You have for me may be known in them and I myself may be in them.” He says, in essence, “Father, I know that You love me more than life itself. And I have so badly wanted to share Your amazing love for me with them. So, I have taught them about You and shown them through my actions what You are like. And as they’ve taken it all in, they’ve taken Your love in, and they’ve taken me in, too.”

2. God the Father loves people. Agape is the attitude of God the Father for His Son, but it’s also His attitude toward people. Without a doubt one of the best-known verses in the Bible is John 3:16, where the love of God for the human race is made crystal clear: “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.”

Now, think about it. What God the Father did 2,000 years ago is no small thing. He sent His one and only Son from absolute Paradise to this messy, smelly, sin-cursed world. Why would He do such a thing if He REALLY loved His son as much as the Bible says? Well, He did it because “God so loved the world.” God the Father loved God the Son more than life itself. But He also loved you and me more than life itself. And because He couldn’t bear the thought of all of us spending an eternity in Hell, He sacrificed His one and only Son so that you and I could be forgiven and live. There should be no doubt in our minds: God is love—agape love. And love came down to earth on that first Christmas.

3. The Father desires for us to love. The Bible is clear that God expects His followers to love as He has loved. According to Jesus, the two greatest commands in the Old Testament are, “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind” (Matthew 22:37) and “Love your neighbor as yourself” (Matthew 22:39). If the Bible is true that heaven is absolute paradise and Jesus Christ is the only way to heaven, there is only one logical conclusion we can come to: The most loving thing you could ever do for any person is to do whatever you have to do at whatever cost to yourself to help people have an all-satisfying relationship with Jesus forever.

Jesus made it clear that he wants us to agape love our fellow Christians. But true, agape love never stops at the church door. Jesus also makes it crystal clear that he also wants us to agape love our spiritually lost and dying family, friends and neighbors. Jesus wants us to do whatever we have to do, at whatever cost to ourselves, to help unsaved men, women and children get saved and have an all-satisfying relationship with him. And that’s a Christmas present that will last for eternity.

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

Tuesday, December 18, 2018

The Peace of Christmas

The punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed.” – Isaiah 53:5b

A wise man once gave a young, discouraged coworker this advice: “The way to achieve inner peace is to finish all the things you’ve started." So the young man went home and took his mentor’s advice. The next day at work the man asked his young friend if he felt more at peace, and he responded, “You have no idea! I went home and looked around the house to see all the things I had started but hadn’t finished. And before I left this morning, I finished off a bottle of red wine, a bottle of white, some cheesecake, a box of chocolates, and the rest of my Prozac. I totally feel at peace!”

Well, that’s not REAL peace, is it? Let’s take a look at the REAL peace that Jesus offers us at Christmas. A marvelous prophecy about Jesus is recorded in Isaiah 53:5, where God tells His people, “He was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities, the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed.”

Think about these powerful words for a moment: “The punishment that brought us peace was upon him.” The Hebrew word for peace is “shalom”--one of the most important words to the Jewish people. For centuries, orthodox Jews have greeted each other with the one-word greeting “Shalom!” To the orthodox Jew, “Shalom!” is used both for a “Hello!” and a “Goodbye!” But it means so much more. Shalom is most often translated into English as “peace” or “harmony.” But shalom more literally means “wholeness.”

So, when a Jewish man wishes his neighbor “shalom,” he is wishing him wholeness—in his health, in his marriage and in his walk with God. And when God tells us in Isaiah 53:5 that “the punishment that brought us shalom was upon Jesus,” He is telling us that because of our sin, our relationship with God was shattered into a million pieces. Our relationship with God was hopelessly broken. And because our broken relationship was absolutely, 100% our fault, we rightly deserved to be punished.

The wages of sin is death. But because of God’s amazing grace through Christ, we don’t have to experience eternal brokenness and punishment. Because Jesus never sinned, he didn’t deserve any punishment and his relationship with God was perfectly whole. Jesus traded us his reward for our punishment, and his shalom with God for our brokenness. Is there any doubt that Jesus got the short end of the stick on that trade?

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” (Luke 2:14), they were talking about wholeness. Yes, they wanted us to know that Jesus offers us peace with God! Yes, they wanted us to know that Jesus offers us harmony with God! But perhaps most of all they wanted us to know that Jesus offers us wholeness with God. Jesus had come into the world to put back together what we had irreparably broken.

But I find it interesting that Jesus, at times, gives a mixed message about the shalom that he brought to mankind. In John 14:27 Jesus tells his disciples, “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.” But then he says in Matthew 10:34-36, “Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I have come to turn ‘a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law—a man’s enemies will be the members of his own household.’”

Well, that doesn’t sound very peaceful, does it? But think about it. When it comes to true peace, the world doesn’t get it. The world thinks that peace comes on the heels of anti-bullying campaigns and by eliminating politically incorrect words from our vocabulary and reducing greenhouse gases. And this Christmas season, many seem to think we’ll have more peace if we stop singing “Baby, It’s Cold Outside” and stop watching “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer”!

None of these things can bring true, lasting shalom. Anti-bullying campaigns can’t make a person whole. Stricter emissions standards cannot make a person whole. Only Jesus Christ can make a person whole. That’s the truth. But the problem is, many of our family members and coworkers and neighbors don’t want to hear the truth. So, when we embrace the shalom of Jesus Christ and receive peace with God and peace with others, many unbelievers around us will say, “Thanks, but no thanks! I want nothing to do with you or your Jesus.”

The Prince of Peace came to bring wholeness, but to those who reject Him, he actually ends up bringing division. The Good News of Jesus Christ is rightly called the Gospel of peace. But the Gospel of peace—when it is bitterly rejected—becomes more like a gospel of war. The gospel of peace does not bring peace to those who harden their hearts.

But to those 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 peace—peace and wholeness within our own broken lives, peace and wholeness within our relationship with others, and peace and wholeness in our relationship with God.

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

Monday, December 10, 2018

A Topsy-Turvy Look at Blessings

“Woe to you who are rich, for you have already received your comfort.”  – Luke 6:24

Have you ever felt like you didn’t belong? Have you ever felt that in this crowded world of ours you stand out like a sore thumb? Well, if you stand out like a sore thumb because you’re following Jesus, that’s a good thing. If you follow Christ well, you will stand out in a crowd, because in this fallen and sinful world we live in, Jesus stands out in a crowd. Jesus always stood out, because the life he lived and the truth he taught were countercultural. Jesus’ values and his priorities and his teachings were out of place in the kingdom of this world.

In Luke 6:17, Jesus headed down the mountain with his 12 apostles to preach a sermon that’s usually called “The Sermon on the Plain,” because Luke tells us Jesus was standing “on a level place.” Due to its striking similarities to the Sermon on the Mount recounted in Matthew, some believe it may be the same message. In any case, Jesus’ teaching in The Sermon on the Plain was revolutionary then, and it’s still revolutionary today—2,000 years later.

The first seven verses of Jesus’ sermon (vs. 20-26) contain what we call “The Beatitudes.” “Beatitude” is just a fancy word for “a state of blessedness.” So, in other words, in vs. 20-26 Jesus reveals whom God blesses and whom God curses. And surprise, surprise! What Jesus reveals about the blessed and the cursed in these seven verses is 180 degrees from conventional wisdom.

Jesus lays down four “Blessed are you” teachings in vs. 20-22. I’ll list them one by one, but first, bear in mind: The word “blessed” means much more than just “happy.” It means “congratulations.” See if that fits the verses below by this world’s standards.

#1: “Congratulations to you who are poor” (v. 20a). How countercultural is that! When someone plays Super Lotto, picks all the winning numbers and wins 100 million dollars, what one word does everyone say to the winner? CONGRATULATIONS! But how many people go up to the millions of losers who picked the wrong numbers & tell them, “Congratulations! You picked all the wrong numbers. You were broke before buying those 20 tickets, and now you’re more broke! Way to go! You did it!”

But Jesus finishes the verse: “for yours is the kingdom of God.” You see, if we make financial sacrifices for Jesus and for others, we gain access to the riches of God’s kingdom that are so much more precious than big houses and new cars and hefty retirement accounts.

#2: “Congratulations to you who hunger now” (v. 21a). How upside down is that! As we were stuffing our faces last week on Thanksgiving, we felt really blessed, didn’t we? Did any of you drive up to a homeless person on the street, roll down your window and say, “Congratulations! You don’t get to eat half the stuff that I get to eat today. You lucky duck!”

But Jesus goes on to say: “for you will be satisfied.” For his followers who go without eating in the course of doing ministry, Jesus will give food that is so much more satisfying than a Double-Double or a venti Mocha Frappuccino.

#3: “Congratulations to you who weep now” (v. 21c). We say “congratulations” to the bride and groom on their wedding day and to graduates on their graduation day. But when’s the last time you congratulated a widow at her husband’s funeral? Or a young man receiving divorce papers from his wife? But Jesus adds, “for you will laugh.” For his followers whose hearts weep over the things that break Jesus’ heart, true joy will come in the morning.

#4: “Congratulations to you when men hate you, when they exclude you and insult you and reject your name as evil because of the Son of Man” (v. 22a). I just love being a social outcast, don’t you? But Jesus completes the verse: “Rejoice in that day and leap for joy, because great is your reward in heaven.” He congratulates his followers who are hated, excluded, insulted and rejected for standing firm in the faith, because our heavenly reward will be great.

By contrast, Jesus’ “Woe to you” statements in verses 24-26 refer to the rich, the well-fed, those who laugh now, and those whom men speak well of. Just like his “Blessed are you” teachings, every single one of Jesus’ “Woe to you” teachings is counterintuitive. In our culture we say congratulations to the rich and woe to the poor. But Jesus says congratulations to the poor and woe to the rich.

How can this be? It can be because Jesus’ values and priorities and morals are 180 degrees from the values, priorities and morals of the world. Jesus is on a completely different plane than we are. What we call “blessings” he calls “woes” because his thoughts are higher than our thoughts and his ways are higher than our ways. His priorities are higher than our priorities. And we as Christ-followers living in this fallen, sin-cursed world desperately need to adopt Jesus’ higher perspective.

You and I need to wash our brains with the pure water of Christ’s upside down, topsy-turvy teaching. And each of us has to make a clear and conscious decision: When it comes to my priorities and my morals, will I follow the world’s way, or will I follow Christ’s way?

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

Monday, December 3, 2018

The Cancer of Unforgiveness

 “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.” – Matthew 6:14-15

In 1993, a Minneapolis mother of one experienced hell on earth. Mary Johnson’s only son, eighteen-year old Laramiun Byrd, was gunned down in cold blood after a fight broke out at a party he was attending. It didn’t take long for the suspect to be arrested: sixteen-year old Oshay Israel, who was tried as an adult and sentenced to 25 ½ years in prison. Although Mary was devastated by her son’s murder, at least she knew that justice was being served. In her own words, “[Oshay] was an animal. He deserved to be caged.”

But something unexpected happened several years into Oshay’s sentence. Mary, a devoted Christian, felt led by God to visit him in prison. She did. And she visited him again and again until he was released after serving seventeen years of his sentence. And miracle of miracles: By the time Oshay was released, not only had Mary forgiven him for killing her son, she actually had become like a mother to him. Upon his release, Oshay needed a place to live, so Mary put in a good word for him with her landlord. And today, Oshay lives in the same apartment complex as Mary. In fact, he lives right next door. 

Wow! Do we serve an amazing God or what? If I wasn’t a Christian already, after hearing Mary Johnson’s testimony I’d say, “Sign me up! I want what that lady has. I want to have her kind of strength. I want to have her kind of peace. I want to be able to have the grace to forgive the way she forgives … especially when it comes to my dad.”
Sadly, my relationship with my father has been strained for a long time. We haven’t been close for many years. And that relational distance has been thrust to the forefront of my mind in recent months as my dad has struggled to bounce back from a major stroke. The stroke has crippled his ability to speak full sentences and process others’ speech. And my dad, who as long as I’ve known him has been able to fix anything with his own two hands, can barely button his own shirt or brush his own hair.  
You’d think that witnessing my father’s struggles would break my heart. But to be honest with you, my heart has been a bit calloused these past few months because of some lingering bitterness and unforgiveness. You see, I’ve never completely let go of the bitterness I’ve felt toward my dad for being physically abusive to my mom, my sister and me. I’ve never completely forgiven him for tearing me down with his words. And I’ve never completely let go of the resentment I’ve felt toward my dad for trying to chase off my wife when we were dating.
Don’t get me wrong: I have many wonderful memories of my dad. But those wonderful memories are mixed in with a lot of bad ones that have strained our relationship. And our strained relationship has become more strained because of my unforgiveness. I realize that needs to change.
Even though I’ve been a committed Christian for a long time, I still find myself longing for what Mary Johnson has. She so eloquently reminds us, “Unforgiveness is like cancer. It will eat you from the inside out. It’s not about that person. Me forgiving him does not diminish what he’s done….But the forgiveness is for me. It’s for me.”
These are wise words, powerful words, life-changing words that I need to hear. And you need to hear them as well. For me, two of the most haunting verses in the whole Bible are Matthew 6:14-15 where Jesus says bluntly, “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.”
Ouch! These verses crush me. Long story short: God will only forgive my sins against Him to the extent that I forgive others’ sins against me. And if I refuse to forgive others’ sins against me, God will refuse to forgive my sins against Him.
So, the Lord has revealed to me in recent weeks what I must do. I must forgive my dad…not just mostly. I need to forgive him completely. I need to do it for him. And I need to do it for me. Most importantly, I need to do it for my Lord Jesus Christ. He is ready and willing to forgive me. How can I possibly refuse to be ready and willing to forgive my dad?
Jesus Christ has called us to get rid of all bitterness and unforgiveness, because they are a poisonous cancer that infects our hearts, our families and our churches. Jesus Christ does NOT want us to miss the grace of God, and He does NOT want others to miss the grace of God pouring out through you and me.
If we DESIRE it, Jesus Christ will give us—just as He gave Mary Johnson--the grace to forgive the unforgiveable, to give mercy to the unmerciful and to love the unlovable. And as we share these amazing blessings with others, Jesus will respond by sharing them with us. Therefore, if you and I are serious about wanting Jesus to forgive us, we must get serious about forgiving others. And if we are serious about walking in our Lord’s footsteps, we have no choice but to eradicate the cancer of unforgiveness from our hearts. 
Dane Davis is the Lead Pastor of First Christian Church in Victorville. For more information,
visit and join us for church tomorrow at 10 a.m.

Thursday, November 29, 2018

Splitting Hairs and Hatching Plots

“The Pharisees and the teachers of the law were looking for a reason to accuse Jesus, so they watched him closely to see if he would heal on the Sabbath.” - Luke 6:7

John Hyde was a missionary to India in the 1800s, and he really frustrated other Christians. It wasn’t because his theology was off, or because of a poor attitude. He frustrated them because he had a bad habit of showing up late.

You see, John Hyde was a true prayer warrior—so much so that he earned the nickname “Praying Hyde.” Before he spoke at a worship service or at an evangelistic crusade, he would be on his face before the Lord in prayer … sometimes for hours. He wasn’t about to go up and teach God’s word until he was convinced in his heart that God had released him from his time of prayer. On more than one occasion he refused to stop praying when it was time for him to speak. As you might guess, this didn’t go over well with his fellow missionaries, who had to stall until he was done praying.

Well, the frustration John Hyde’s fellow ministers felt with his methods gave them just a small taste of the frustration the Pharisees and teachers of the law felt over Jesus’ methods. They started off by accusing Jesus of breaking Jewish law by forgiving sins, dining with sinners and eating on designated fasting days. But he was only breaking the manmade oral traditions which had been added onto God’s laws over the past few hundred years. Jesus made it clear that he didn’t give a flying fig about their manmade rules and traditions. And that really chapped their hides.

So, the Pharisees and teachers of the law decided to step up their game. They were bound and determined to catch Jesus in the act of breaking one of God’s Old Testament laws. At the beginning of Luke 6, they started by accusing Jesus’ followers of working on the Sabbath by eating kernels of grain as they walked through a field. The hundreds of oral tradition laws related to the Sabbath said that “work” included reaping, winnowing and preparing food. So, when Jesus’ followers were pulling the heads of grain off the stem, the Pharisees considered that “reaping.” When they rubbed the heads of grain in their hands to separate the chaff, that was “winnowing.” And when they tossed the kernels into their mouths, the Pharisees could say, “A-HA!! You’re preparing food!” But Jesus let his critics know that it would not be right for his followers to go hungry by splitting hairs about what did and didn’t constitute work on the Sabbath Day.

On another Sabbath, Jesus was teaching in a synagogue, and there was a man there whose right hand was shriveled. Jesus knew in his spirit that the Pharisees and teachers of the law were wondering whether or not Jesus would heal this man’s hand on the Sabbath Day. In verse 7, we read that they were watching Jesus closely, “looking for a reason to accuse [him].” The oral traditions regarding healing on the Sabbath were very clear: it had to be a life-threatening injury. If Jesus healed this man’s shriveled hand, his opponents believed they could make a strong case that Jesus was breaking the Old Testament laws about working on the Sabbath, because clearly a shriveled hand was not a life-threatening malady.

Well, Jesus must have figured if he was going to heal the man, he might as well do it in front of everyone and teach an important lesson in the process. After calling the man forward to stand in plain view of everyone, Jesus asked the crowd—particularly the Pharisees and teachers of the law—“I ask you, which is lawful on the Sabbath: to do good or to do evil, to save life or to destroy it?” (v. 9). This question must have infuriated Jesus’ critics. They had a question they wanted Jesus to answer, but this wasn’t the question!

But Jesus had delivered a pre-emptive strike. Obviously there was no possible way for the Pharisees to answer his question in the negative. They were forced to agree that the Sabbath was a day for doing what was “good” and for “saving life.” And you’d better believe they felt backed into a corner and hated every moment of it. So, Jesus told the man to stretch out his hand, and immediately the hand was “completely restored” (v. 10). At that point, we’re told in verse 11, the Pharisees and teachers of the law “were furious and began to discuss with one another what they might do to Jesus.” For the first time, Jesus’ critics put every option on the table. And one of those options was to kill him. At this point, it was one of several options—but before too long, they would see killing Jesus as the ONLY option.

We look at the Pharisees today and shake our heads at how wrong they were. But while we (hopefully) don’t plot to murder those we disagree with, how often do we ourselves miss the true meaning of God’s word for us? In the words of theologian William Barclay, “They came to Scripture not to learn God’s will but to find proof texts to buttress up their own ideas…. When we read Scripture we must say, not, ‘Listen, Lord, for Thy servant is speaking,’ but ‘Speak, Lord, for Thy servant is listening.”

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

Monday, November 26, 2018

A Change for the Better

“No one tears a piece out of a new garment to patch an old one. Otherwise, they will have torn the new garment, and the patch from the new will not match the old.” - Luke 5:36

How well do you handle change?

A middle-aged man went to the doctor’s office for his annual check-up, and the doctor came into the room with a concerned look on his face. “Sir, you’re in really bad shape. Your blood pressure is way too high, your cholesterol is off the charts, and you’re clearly stressed out about your finances. You won’t survive another month unless your wife helps you make some major changes. I want you to go home and tell your wife that she needs to start making you fresh, healthy meals at least twice a day. She needs to do more work around the house to lighten your load. And she needs to stick to a budget, so you’re not so stressed about finances.”

The man replied, “Doctor, would you please call her and tell her?” The doctor said, “Sure. No problem!” About 45 minutes later the man got home, walked through the door and saw his wife crying at the kitchen table. He said, “Honey, what’s wrong? Did the doctor call you?” “Yes,” she sobbed. “He told me you’re going to die in a month.”

That woman did NOT like to change. Neither did the Pharisees of Jesus’ day. That was one of their biggest problems with Jesus. And in chapter 5 of the Book of Luke, they started voicing their complaints.

First, the Pharisees didn’t like the fact that Jesus and his followers went to a big banquet thrown for Jesus by Levi, who had been a tax collector, and Levi’s friends—more tax collectors and other people the Pharisees viewed as the scum of the earth. Second, they REALLY didn’t like the fact that they were dining during a time the Pharisees held as a time of fasting. Put into modern lingo, their complaint might sound like this: “Jesus, why are your followers chowing down while the rest of us are fasting?” (v. 33).

In response to their complaint, Jesus shared three illustrations from everyday life to help explain why his disciples didn’t fast and why he didn’t follow all of the Pharisees’ legalistic, man-made traditions. First, he compared his presence with the disciples to a wedding feast: “Can you make the friends of the bridegroom fast while he is with them? But the time will come when the bridegroom will be taken from them; in those days they will fast” (vs. 34-35). Then, in his next two examples, he talked about what the Pharisees were fighting against the hardest: change.

Jesus said in verse 36, “No one tears a patch from a new garment and sews it on an old one. If he does, he will have torn the new garment, and the patch from the new will not match the old.” New cotton shirts shrink, right? But once they’ve been washed a few times, they don’t shrink anymore. So if you get a hole in your favorite t-shirt, and you need to patch that hole, you would never buy a brand new $20 t-shirt and cut a hole in it to provide a patch for your old shirt. You’d end up with a new shirt that’s destroyed. And once you put your old shirt in the washing machine, the patch would shrink and make the rest of your old shirt look terrible.

So, what is Jesus’ point? Jesus and the Pharisees probably agreed that Judaism wasn’t perfect. But the Pharisees thought where it had holes, it could be patched up with lots and lots and lots of extra rules. Jesus said, “No!” Jesus’ illustration of the patch job makes it clear that he didn’t come to earth to put a patch on Judaism. He came to offer something radically new.

Next, Jesus drove his point home with the illustration of wine and wineskins. In those days, they would use animal skins to store grape juice and wine. Well, in order for grape juice to become wine, it has to ferment. And during the fermentation process, the juice gives off a gas and expands. New skins have a nice elasticity that allows them to expand during the fermentation process without breaking. But old skins become dry and stiff and lose their elasticity. The same was true of the Pharisees and teachers of the law. Over time they had become dry and stiff and had lost their elasticity. They didn’t respond well to change.

Here’s what Jesus was saying to the Pharisees: You religious leaders are comfortable in your tired old religion. You want me to lock arms with you and just put a few small patches onto Judaism to make it a little better, but that’s not going to happen. The new life of the Spirit can’t be sown onto old Judaism, and it can’t be poured into old Judaism. I am giving you something fresh and new and life-changing. What I am offering you is a brand new life of forgiveness, healing and joy in the Lord.”

Jesus isn’t into putting a patch on your tired, stale religion or your old, ineffective priorities. Jesus doesn’t do makeovers. He does new construction. Out with the old. In with the new. And praise God for that!

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

Thursday, November 8, 2018

Saying “Nay” to the Naysayers

Who is this fellow who speaks blasphemy? Who can forgive sins but God alone?
- Luke 5:21a

Have you ever had something really exciting happen that you couldn’t wait to share with your family and friends … and when you did, someone was a naysayer? Well, you’re not alone. History is filled with naysayers.

In 1878, many people said, “Electric lights are unworthy of any serious consideration.” While in acting school, Lucille Ball was told she couldn’t act. Charles Schultz was told he couldn’t draw. Michael Jordan was cut from his high school basketball team. And in the early 1960s, a prominent recording company told the Beatles that they didn’t like their sound, and besides, guitar groups were “on the way out.”

Just about everyone who has accomplished anything significant has run into naysayers—and Jesus Christ is the ultimate example. For a little while, his supporters were many and his naysayers were few. But we see that change in the second half of Luke 5, as the Pharisees and the teachers of the law come onto the scene for the first time in Galilee.

Jesus was teaching in a home that was packed with people, both inside and out. So, the friends of a paralyzed man had an ingenious idea: They dug through the roof of the home and lowered their friend through the makeshift skylight into the crowded house to be healed. Jesus was impressed: “When [he] saw their faith, he said, ‘Friend, your sins are forgiven’” (Luke 5:20).

Now, at that point the Pharisees and teachers of the law who’d shown up that day had a legitimate concern. A rabbi, no matter how good a teacher he was, did not have the authority to forgive human sin. Only God can do that. They thought to themselves, “Who is this fellow who speaks blasphemy? Who can forgive sins but God alone?” (v.21). And although they didn’t say a word, they didn’t have to. The Son of God knew what they were thinking. And he knew that this would be a marvelous teachable moment for them and for everyone who would ever hear this story—including you and me.

Jesus asked in verse 23, “Which is easier: to say, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Get up and walk?’” Well, when you think about it, it’s obviously much easier to say “Your sins are forgiven.” Anyone can say that, and it’s impossible to prove whether or not the person was actually able to do it. But “Get up and walk”—that’s tough, because it can easily be verified. If the man can’t get up and walk, the so-called healer is full of bunk. But if the man does indeed get up and walk—well, the healer has just pulled off the impossible. And of course, that’s just what Jesus did. He said, “Get up, take your mat and go home,” and the paralytic stood up and went home with his mat, praising God all the way (vs. 24-25). The crowd was left amazed … and the naysayers were left with egg on their faces.

But here’s something that’s easy to miss: Right before Luke recounts this event, he tells us in verse 16, “Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed.” In his commentary on Luke, theologian William Barclay points out that this is likely no accident: “Before [Jesus] met the opposition, he withdrew to pray. The love in the eyes of God compensated him for the hate in the eyes of men. He drew strength for the battle of life from the peace of God—and it is enough for the disciple that he should be as his Lord.”

I don’t know about you, but I find Barclay’s words extremely insightful. It’s no accident that Jesus was in the regular habit of going off alone and spending quality time with God the Father. Jesus KNEW what was coming. Jesus KNEW that the days of having plenty of supporters and hardly any critics were not going to last much longer. And he knew that once the criticism from the religious leaders began, it would not stop until they crucified him. So, Jesus drew strength from getting away alone with God.

Think about it. Why do we so often become weary in doing good? Why do we get so discouraged by the criticism of the naysayers in this life? Well, for starters, it happens because we’re not spending serious time soaking in the love of God or embracing His strength and peace. If you’re doing anything significant for God, sooner or later you WILL be nay-sayed; you WILL be criticized; and you may even be slandered. If you’re not prayed up, you’re likely to get down in the dumps … fast.

Or maybe at times, you might be like the Pharisees. They didn't come to learn God's word or to grow closer to him. They came as naysayers and cold spectators. I wonder, do you ever do the same? Do you attend worship services with no expectancy that you’re going to meet God, no expectancy that your love for God and Jesus Christ is going to grow, no expectancy that your circumstances are going to change? You may not be a naysayer, but in our culture, it’s very easy to be like them and be a disengaged spectator.

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

Monday, October 29, 2018

A Couple of Fish Stories

Master, we’ve worked hard all night and haven’t caught anything.
But because you say so, I will let down the nets. - Luke 5:5

The story goes that when President Grover Cleveland’s second child was born, no scales could be found to weigh the baby. Finally, someone went down to the cellar and found the scales that President Cleveland used to weigh the fish he caught on his trips. And to everyone’s surprise, Grover Cleveland was the father of a 25-pound baby.

Evidently, President Cleveland liked to rig his scales a little bit in order to make his fishing stories more exciting. But Jesus never had that problem, as we discover in the fifth chapter of Luke.

Jesus had boarded Simon Peter’s fishing boat in order to teach a crowd that was filling the beach. This allowed more room for families to spread out across the shoreline, and the offshore breeze and slope of the beach would make the acoustics really good. Jesus asked Simon to “put out a little from the shore,” and Simon obeyed, dropping anchor a few yards from the growing crowd. After Jesus finished teaching from his improvised pulpit, he gave Simon Peter one more simple command: “Put out into deep water, and let down the nets for a catch” (Luke 5:4). Simon Peter responded, “Master, we’ve worded hard all night and haven’t caught anything” (vs. 5a).

From what I’ve read, it was common for Galilean fishermen to fish at night, when the fish tended to come up from the depths and swim closer to the surface, making them easier to catch in the fishermen’s nets. But Simon and his buddies had fished all night long, and they hadn’t caught bupkis. Undoubtedly they were frustrated and exhausted. So, when Jesus told the weary fishermen to try one more time, that was definitely NOT what Simon Peter wanted to hear. He must have been thinking, “Jesus, with all due respect, you’re a carpenter and I’m a fisherman. If the fish weren’t biting during the cool of the night, they’re certainly not going to be biting during the heat of the morning. And you want us to sail all the way out to deep water? Do you realize that’s, like, a mile away?”

But before Simon Peter said all that, something changed. He probably realized it was best not to argue with Jesus as he added, “But because you say so, I will let down the nets” (vs. 5b). You know what happened next, right? “They caught such a large number of fish that their nets began to break. So they signaled their partners in the other boat to come and help them, and they came and filled both boats so full that they began to sink” (vs. 6-7).

To say that Simon Peter was blown away would be an understatement. He fell to his knees and cried, “Go away from me, Lord; I am a sinful man!” (vs. 8). There on his own fishing boat, holding his own fishing nets, Simon Peter experienced a small taste of the power and glory of Jesus Christ. He felt like a sinful wretch, unworthy to be in the presence of his holy Lord and Savior. But Jesus wasn’t about to “go away.” Instead, he said, “Don’t be afraid; from now on you will catch men” (vs. 10). And with that, Simon Peter, Andrew and his fishing partners James and John began to follow Jesus full-time. Not a bad day’s fishing, wouldn’t you say?

There are two important lessons we can learn from this life-changing fishing trip:

1) Regardless of how tired, hungry or uninspired we feel, we must obey Christ’s commands … because Jesus said so. Simon Peter’s tired body didn’t WANT to trust and obey Jesus. His tired body didn’t FEEL like trusting and obeying Jesus. But he chose to trust and obey him anyway. Why? Because Jesus said so! So often, we as Christians make Christianity so complicated. We pick and choose when to obey Christ’s commands and when to disobey them. And when we do obey them, we often don’t obey them completely. Or we procrastinate and don’t obey them until later. But in reality, Christianity is not complicated. It’s quite simple. Following Christ boils down to three simple steps: Trust him. Love him. Obey him.

2) Good intentions and hard work are not enough. Only Jesus can make an otherwise ineffective life productive. Never forget that Peter was the professional fisherman, not Jesus. Peter was the man with all the right equipment—the right kind of boat, the right kind of nets, the right kind of sinkers and floats—not Jesus. Peter had all the necessary training and experience—not Jesus. But before Jesus got involved, Simon Peter’s wonderful equipment and expertise and training got him a whole lot of nothing.

The same goes for you and me. At times in life we may have all the right stuff: the right kind of clothes, the right kind of car, the right kind of home, the right kind of job, the right kind of relationships. Then we step back, look at it all, and realize we’re going nowhere fast. We’re hitting a wall, and what’s worked in the past no longer works. We need something else, and that “something” else is “someone” else. That someone is Jesus. Good intentions and hard work are not enough. Only Jesus can make an otherwise ineffective life productive.

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

Monday, October 22, 2018

4 Pillars of Christian Ministry

“All the people were amazed and said to each other, “’What words these are! With authority and power he gives orders to impure spirits and they come out!’” - Luke 4:24

After leaving his hometown of Nazareth, Jesus never established a new home address. That’s why Jesus would later say that he “has no place to lay his head.” But Capernaum—the hometown of Peter, Andrew, James and John—was where Jesus spent more time than anywhere else. After speaking at a synagogue in Nazareth and nearly getting pushed off a cliff, he went to Capernaum, where he again spoke at a synagogue on the Sabbath. This time, he got a much warmer reception, and the results of his ministry were nothing short of amazing.

During this visit to Capernaum, Jesus modeled what we could call “The Four Pillars of Christian Ministry”: 1) Teach truth; 2) Confront evil; 3) Show compassion; and 4) Spend time alone with God. I’d like to take a quick look at each of these, starting with Jesus’ visit to the synagogue.

1) Teach truth. When Jesus was given the opportunity of teach God’s word, he taught. And in Luke 4:32, we see that “They were amazed at his teaching, because his message had authority.” What does that mean? It means that Jesus didn’t teach the way all the other rabbis taught. When other rabbis gave an exposition on a passage of scripture, they would quote another rabbi, then give the opinion of other rabbis who disagreed with him. In other words, the rabbis leaned on other rabbis’ authority when teaching a passage of scripture. They couldn’t lean on their own authority, because they didn’t have much. Even the great prophets of the Old Testament wouldn’t lean on their own authority; they would routinely say, “Thus saith the Lord” when sharing a truth of scripture.

But Jesus was different. He didn’t quote Rabbi So-and-So. He didn’t say, “Thus saith the Lord.” Jesus would just say it as if it was God saying it. And that fact blew the sandals off those who were listening as Jesus taught in the Capernaum synagogue.

2) Confront evil. In verse 33, while Jesus was still in the synagogue, he encountered a man who was “possessed by a demon, an evil spirit.” This demon called out the Son of God in plain view of the people Jesus had been winning over: “Hah! What do you want with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are—the Holy One of God!” (verse 34). The demon knew full well that he was no match for Jesus in a head-to-head matchup. But he must have figured that if he was loud enough and gutsy enough to call Jesus out by name, Jesus would back down. But instead, Jesus told him sternly, “Be quiet! Come out of him!” And with that, the demon threw the man down and came out without injuring him (verse 35).

When the demon threw the man down on the floor of the temple, the onlookers must have thought that the demon had seriously injured him. But Jesus wasn’t about to let that happen. Jesus made sure that the man was not harmed by the demon. As theologian Matthew Henry wrote: “Whom Satan cannot destroy, he will do all that he can to; but … he can harm them no further than Christ permits; nay, he shall not do them any real harm.” You see, everything that God allows to come our way has to pass through the filter of His love for us. Therefore, whenever Satan harms us, it’s not “real” harm. It’s really only temporary and brings a blessing at the end of it.

3) Show compassion. In Luke 38-40, Jesus went to the home of Peter’s mother-in-law and destroyed the miserable fever that caused her to suffer. Then, one by one, people brought their miserably sick relatives and friends to Jesus, and Jesus healed every one of them. As William Barclay points out in his commentary, “Always Jesus was ready to help; his followers must be the same. Jesus did not need a crowd to work a miracle. Many a man will put out an effort in a crowd that he will not make among his own private circle.” But not Jesus. Whether he was in the synagogue, in a crowd, or behind closed doors in Peter’s home, he was the same compassionate Jesus.

Remember, it’s not just so-called “faith healers” who do their best work when the spotlights are on and the cameras are rolling. You and I so often can let down our guard when we’re at home behind closed doors. You and I should be the same compassionate Christians at home as we are at church, at school and at work.

4) Spend time alone with God. Luke tells us in verse 43, “At daybreak Jesus went out to a solitary place.” Mark records this as well, but Mark clarifies the purpose of Jesus going off by himself: He did it to pray. When we focus on Jesus’ powerful ministry, we tend to gravitate to his miracles, signs and wonders. He opened the eyes of the blind and cleansed the lepers and raised the dead and calmed the storm and walked on water. We love these parts of Jesus’ ministry … and well we should. The miracles were certainly a pillar of Jesus’ ministries. But so was Jesus’ prayer life—the hours and hours that Jesus spent alone in prayer with the father. They were vital to his life and ministry. And they will be vital to yours as well.

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

Tuesday, October 16, 2018

A Real Cliffhanger

“Truly I tell you … no prophet is accepted in his hometown.- Luke 4:24

Jesus’ ministry was off to a tremendous start. Within a few months of being baptized and facing down the temptations of Satan, Jesus chose at least four of his twelve disciples. He performed his first miracle—turning water into wine at a wedding in Cana of Galilee. He also shared with Nicodemus the most important verse in the whole Bible—John 3:16.

Suffice it to say: Before he ever rolled into his hometown of Nazareth, Jesus was doing a whole lot of life-changing ministry. When he went to Galilee, news about him spread quickly “through the whole countryside” (Luke 4:14). Luke tells us in verse15 that Jesus taught in the Jewish synagogues and “everyone praised him.” Jesus had reached a ministry sweet spot where most people loved him and cheered for him. His fans were many and his critics were few. But that would all change quickly as he returned home.

Word quickly spread through Nazareth that Jesus had returned, and his new-found reputation as a powerful teacher and miracle worker had preceded him. So, as Jesus entered the synagogue, he must have been approached by one of the religious leaders and asked if he’d like to read a Scripture and offer the exposition on that Scripture. When the attendant handed Jesus the scroll of Isaiah, Jesus stood and opened it to Isaiah 61:1-2, reading its words with just some minor variations: “The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because He has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to release the oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”

After reading those words, Jesus rolled up the scroll, returned it the attendant and sat down. Everyone understood this to be a nonverbal cue that Jesus was about to begin his teaching. But none of them could have anticipated what he said next: “Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing” (v. 21). At first the crowd was supportive. They knew that this passage referred to the coming Messiah, who would preach good news to the poor, release prisoners and open the eyes of the blind. In verse 22, “all spoke well of him and were amazed at the gracious words that came from his lips.”

But after a few seconds, the reality of what Jesus was saying must have sunk in. Jesus said the prophecy was being fulfilled right here and now…in this synagogue…in this very room. So, their reaction shifted: “The Carpenter Boy that we’ve known for 30 years is actually saying that HE is the fulfillment of Scripture. He is actually saying that HE is the promised Messiah!” The crowd in the synagogue quickly went from being amazed to being offended.

And then they went from being offended to being furious when Jesus made his bottom-line statement in verse 24: “I tell you the truth, no prophet is accepted in his hometown.” Jesus offered two quick illustrations of this truth. The prophet Elijah was sent by God to a Gentile widow in Zarephath instead of to a Jewish widow in Israel. And of all the lepers in Israel, God didn’t send any of them to Elisha to be healed. God only sent him a Gentile leper. By the time Jesus finished giving these examples of strangers who were more receptive to God’s blessings than the Israelites, the Jews in the synagogue were fuming. It was bad enough that Jesus was claiming to himself be the fulfillment of Scripture. But talking about Gentiles winning God’s favor before the chosen Jews…that was unacceptable!

St. Augustine offers this insightful reflection: “They love truth when it ENLIGHTENS them, but hate truth when it ACCUSES them.” Similarly, Christians today love to hear sermons filled with gracious words. But many of us quickly attack and reject sermons that speak a truth that hits too close to home. And in this case, the crowd attacked Jesus literally: “They got up, drove him out of the town, and took him to the brow of the hill on which the town was built, in order to throw him down the cliff” (v. 29). What a bunch of sweethearts!

Interestingly, Jesus’ hometown neighbors were basically repeating Satan’s third temptation in the desert, when he took Jesus to the pinnacle of the temple and tried to tempt him to glorify himself by doing a 150-foot swan dive to the pavement below. But once again, Jesus resisted the urge to make a flashy escape.

We know that Jesus had the power to defy the laws of physics. In Matthew 14:25, Jesus walked on a lake. If you didn’t realize it…that’s impossible. And so does walking through walls into a locked room and ascending into heaven after his resurrection. So, Jesus certainly could have jumped off the temple roof and survive the fall, or he could have taken a leap off the Nazareth cliff and defied gravity for all to see. But in both cases, he didn’t. Why?

Because Jesus and God the Father had already decided that he wasn’t going to take the quick and easy path, the path of showboating and scaring his followers half to death. Instead, he made himself “of no reputation” (Philippians 2:7). Almighty God had chosen the slower, more humble path of pain and suffering. Jesus chose the path of the cross. And I’m so glad that he did. It wasn’t flashy, but it saved my life…and yours.

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

Tuesday, October 9, 2018

Why Was Jesus Tempted?

Jesus answered, “It is written: ‘Worship the Lord your God and serve Him only.’”
- Luke 4:8

In June 2011, a man found a bag of money with a Chase Bank logo on it at a Walgreen’s drugstore in Chicago. When he peeked inside, he discovered the bag contained $17,000 in cash and checks. What would you have done? Well, this man gave in to temptation and took the bag. But it was a 45-minute drive back to his suburban home, and in that time, he became convicted that he was doing the wrong thing. The fact that he might get caught probably also weighed into his decision. At any rate, he turned the money in.

But when he turned it in at a Chase Bank, he was a little concerned about how he’d explain those 45 minutes. So, he lied and said he found it at the local mall. The story made the news, and he was hailed around the world as a hero. But the authorities weren’t so sure. The police and FBI investigated the incident and discovered the truth. As a result, the man was fined $500 for filing a false police report, and he went from hero to zero in one news cycle.

Well, Jesus was tempted too. And before we assume that any temptation would be a slam-dunk for the Son of God, the Book of Luke reminds us that Jesus was also the son of Adam. Luke spends the last half of chapter 3 tracing Jesus’ family tree to the first man ever created: Adam. He wanted us to know that as the Son of God, Jesus was 100 percent God. But as the son of Adam, Jesus was also 100 percent man. Jesus could get hungry like Adam got hungry. He could get tired and discouraged, just as Adam could get tired and discouraged. And Jesus could be tempted, just as Adam was tempted.

In Luke 4:1, we’re told that after his baptism Jesus was “full of the Holy Spirit,” and that he was “led by the Holy Spirit into the desert.” He fasted in the Judean desert for 40 days and 40 nights. At the end of 40 days, Satan knew full well that Jesus was hungry—REALLY hungry. So he tried to persuade Jesus to turn one of the limestone rocks around him into a loaf of bread. But the Father had something much more important than bread for Jesus to feast on, and Jesus knew that. So in response, Jesus quoted Deuteronomy 8:3: “It is written, man does not live on bread alone.” One temptation down, two to go.

In the following verses Satan tempted Jesus two more times, and each temptation was strategically chosen by Satan to capitalize on one of Jesus’ weaknesses (as if he had any). The second temptation—offering Jesus authority over all the kingdoms of the world—was intended to get Jesus to compromise his integrity in order to avoid the pain and suffering of the cross. And Satan’s third temptation—for Jesus to throw himself from the temple to be rescued by angels—was designed to get Jesus to upstage God, making himself the center of attention instead of God the Father. In both cases, Jesus overcame the temptation by unleashing the sword of the Spirit: the word of God.

Over the years many Christians have wondered why Jesus was tempted. Perhaps it was because Jesus wanted a showdown or because Satan thought that he could best Jesus. Maybe. But I tend to think Jesus suffered through that temptation for you and me. He allowed himself to be tempted because he knew that you and I would be tempted. And his victory over his three temptations provides a picture-perfect “how-to” guide for how we can do the same.

The truth is, as long as you and I are still living here on earth, we’re going to be tempted. Sometimes the devil is the one tempting us. Sometimes people around us are tempting us. Sometimes our old sinful nature tempts us. We have these three great enemies that constantly fight against our souls. And we are told in God’s word to resist temptation. It’s not a sin to be tempted. It’s only a sin to give in to that temptation. So, how do we resist temptation? We do it the same way Jesus did. First of all, we pray. Second, we lean on the Holy Spirit.

Third—and this one is a biggy—we stand firm on God’s word. Did you notice Jesus’ response to Satan? They’re the first words quoted from Jesus in the Bible after his baptism: “It is written.” These words mark the beginning of his ministry on earth. Do you think, perhaps, there’s a message for us in there? I think so. As long as we are living here on earth, Satan will nip at our heels just as he nipped at Jesus’ heels. But just like Jesus, in the power of the Holy Spirit, we can prayerfully use the word of God to crush Satan’s head.

When we lift God’s word in prayer, it is our strongest weapon against temptation. Jesus responded to every one of Satan’s temptation with the powerful, unchanging word of God. Back in 2011, if the man at Walgreen’s had followed these three steps—if he had prayed, leaned on the Holy Spirit and stood firm on God’s word—it would have saved him a lot of embarrassment and heartache. It also would have saved him 500 bucks. I can’t guarantee you that following these three steps will save you money, but following them will save you a lot of heartache, and God will be very, very pleased with you.

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