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.