Tuesday, March 26, 2019

12 Men on a Mission

“So they set out and went from village to village, proclaiming the good news and healing people everywhere.” – Luke 9:6

A few weeks ago, my wife Christine and I went out to dinner. When we got home from our date, our youngest daughter, Cara, had a message waiting for us on the kitchen counter. Her 9-year-old spelling and grammar are preserved here for authenticity: “I rilly rilly rilly rilly rilly rilly rilly rilly want a hamster. Please I love you so much.” She had also written two replies for us to choose from: “Yes” (with a happy face beside it) and “No” (next to a crying frowny face).

Well, no one would accuse our daughter of being too subtle. We told Cara we’d think about it, and honestly, we hoped she’d forget about it after a day or two. But she didn’t. So, after a few days, we told her we would buy her a hamster if she pitched in $30 for the hamster, cage and supplies. We figured that—best-case scenario—it would take her three to four weeks to earn the money. But Cara was on a mission! She started doing extra chores around the house and sold a partially-used Starbucks gift card to her mother. And within two weeks we were at the pet store adopting Coco, the newest member of the Davis family.

We took a picture of the proud hamster mother beaming beside her pet in its cage. And if I were to put a caption over this photo, it would read, “Mission Accomplished!” 

Many years ago, in Luke 9, Jesus sent his 12 disciples out on a very exciting mission. It marked a new phase in Christ’s ministry. You see, up to this time, Jesus was doing all of the teaching and performing all of the miracles. The 12 disciples were right there when Jesus calmed the storm, but they were just freaked-out spectators. They were right there when Jesus drove out demons and healed diseases, but they were just helplessly watching. Now the time had come for Jesus’ trainees to put their learning into practice. “When Jesus had called the Twelve together, he gave them power and authority to drive out all demons and to cure diseases, and he sent them out to proclaim the kingdom of God and to heal the sick” (Luke 9:1-2).

I want to focus for a moment on two words: power and authority. As Jesus gave his apostles power, he infused them with miraculous abilities that they would have never had on their own. And he gave them authority—the right, or permission, to carry out the Lord’s mission. Until now, the 12 disciples didn’t have the ability to heal a sick person, nor did they have the Lord’s permission to teach his life-changing gospel message. Now, they had both his miracle-working ability and his gospel-sharing permission.

But he didn’t make it easy. In verse 3, before the disciples headed out on their mission, Jesus gave them some last-minute packing instructions:
“Take nothing for the journey—no staff, no bag, no bread, no money, no extra shirt.” In other words, “Don’t pack anything! Travel light! No large stick for protection. No duffel bag to carry stuff. No food. No money. No change of clothes.” The disciples’ mission likely lasted at least a few weeks, possibly even a few months. How would you like to head out of town on foot for an extended trip and not take any food, money or extra clothes with you? A little scary, right? Why did Jesus want his disciples to travel so light?

I like the way Bible scholar William Barclay answers this question. He writes, “The man who travels light travels far and fast. The more a man is cluttered up with material things the more he is shackled to one place. God needs a settled ministry; but He also needs those who will abandon earthly things to adventure for him.”

The mission of sharing the good news is an urgent mission. People’s lives depend on it. Eternal souls are at stake. So, we don’t have time to piddle around and prepare for every contingency. Jesus’ disciples didn’t have all the answers. So what? They needed to get out there and start preaching the gospel anyway. Their mission was urgent. And so is ours! 

Jesus also wanted them to travel light in order to teach them to trust God to supply all of their needs along the way. His disciples didn’t have all the material resources conventional wisdom told them they would need for their trip. So what? As long as they were doing Jesus’ work and carrying out Jesus’ marching orders with Jesus’ blessing, he would supply ALL OF THEIR NEEDS. Do you suppose the same holds true today as we carry out Jesus’ mission here on earth? You’d better believe it!

And we’re told in verse 10, “When the apostles returned, they reported to Jesus what they had done.” If we had a picture of the 12 apostles returning to Jesus at the end of their mission, a great caption under the photo would be “Mission Accomplished.” They had driven out demons. They had healed the sick. They had preached the good news of Jesus Christ, and lives had been transformed by the power of the gospel.

Don’t forget—Jesus still has marching orders for us today. We may not be called on to heal sickness or drive out demons, but we can do something even more important: point the way to an eternity with Jesus in heaven as we share his gospel. Lives were transformed centuries ago, and lives are still being transformed today, as we carry out Christ’s mission in His power and authority.

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

Monday, March 18, 2019

The LGBT Community and the Church

“If any one of you is without sin, let him be the first to throw a stone at her.”        
– Jesus (John 8:7)

In recent years every Christian denomination has had to answer this controversial question asked by millions of Americans across our nation: “What’s the Big Deal About Homosexuality and Gay Marriage?” As individual congregations and entire denominations have answered this powder-keg question, many have been split in two. So, how are we who are Bible-believing Christians supposed to answer this emotionally-charged question?

I don’t presume to have the perfect answer, but let me share with you some insights from Pastor Gene Appel of Eastside Christian Church in Anaheim. He tackled this question in a sermon several years ago, and I’ve found his insights to be challenging and helpful for all of us—no matter what your personal beliefs and opinions about LGBT issues may be. Here are three of the points Pastor Gene made during his sermon. I encourage you to wrestle honestly with these insights and test them with Scripture.

#1: God is grieved over the pain and mistreatment of LGBT people (especially by Christians). Over the years, Christians have been far too quick to tell “fag” and “dyke” jokes and treat people with same-sex attraction like dirt. Images of Christians holding up picket signs that say, “God Hates Fags!” have been embedded in the minds of many in the LGBT community. Not only are these messages hateful, they’re dead wrong! The Bible doesn’t say that God hates people in the LGBT community. The Bible says quite the opposite. There is no asterisk on the end of John 3:16: “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son that whosoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.”

Where does it say in John 3:16 that God only loves those in the world who are straight? Where does it say in John 3:16 that God only loves those in the world who don’t struggle with same sex attraction? Where does it say in John 3:16 that God only loves YOU as a sinner and not someone else who sins differently than you do?

Bottom line: It doesn’t. And similarly, there is no asterisk at the end of the second greatest command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” Just as God loves every person regardless of the specifics of his/her personal sin, we who follow Christ must love every person in the same way. Love is the orientation that every follower of Jesus is called to. Billy Graham said it so well: “It’s the Holy Spirit’s job to convict. It’s God’s job to judge. It’s my job to love.”

#2: God is smarter than we are in understanding the complex dynamics that lead to same sex attraction. In recent years extensive research has been done to determine the root causes of same sex attraction. Are the roots genetic and biological, or are they environmental? At this time, the jury is still out. We know that many gay men and women experienced dysfunctional and destructive family dynamics while growing up. But so did many straight men and women. We know that many gay adults were sexually violated by trusted family members and friends during their formative childhood years. But that alone can’t explain same sex attraction either. You and I should never be so arrogant as to think that we have same sex attraction all figured out. But thankfully, according to Psalm 147:5, God has ALL things figured out. And since He does, we can and should follow His lead. Which leads us to point #3:

#3: God expects His followers to speak the truth in love. The Bible is very clear from the first two chapters of Genesis that God created two genders: male and female. And God designed full sexual expression to be ultimately between one man and one woman in the safety and context of a marriage relationship. Therefore, any straight or same sex sexual activity outside of that ethic is outside God’s design and plan. That’s not the truth that many in the LGBT community want to hear, but frankly that’s not the truth that many in the straight community want to hear either.

The truth is: God considers any sexual activity to be a sin that is outside of the marriage relationship between one man and one woman. Therefore, the Bible condemns heterosexual premarital sex (aka, fornication), heterosexual extramarital sex (aka, adultery) extramarital lust (aka, mental adultery) and homosexuality (see Leviticus 18:22 and Romans 1:26-27). The fact is, all of us have sinned sexually in one way or another, and because of that we all stand in desperate need of the forgiveness and grace of our holy God. To say it another way: God doesn’t see us as gay or straight. He sees us all as lost and dying sinners who need to repent and receive His mercy and grace.

A few final insights. Jesus never taught: “Love the sinner, but hate the sin.” Jesus’ teaching can better be summarized as, “Love the sinner, but hate your OWN sin.” You and I need to focus on the filthy plank in our own eyes. Finally, we as followers of Christ need to be able to answer two important questions. Since LGBT people are already attending our churches, the first question is, “Is our church a safe enough place where they can find love and support and allow God to work in them to contend with His truth?” And secondly, “Do we as Christians share this message loud and clear? ‘Just as you are, you matter to God. And just as you are, you matter to this church.’” Because of a blood-stained cross and an empty tomb, there is hope for all of us sinners.

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

Tuesday, March 12, 2019

The Best Bridge Builder, Hands Down

But he took her by the hand and said, “My child, get up!” Her spirit returned, and at once she stood up. – Luke 8:54-55

Years ago, a young girl was traveling by train through the country. And since she had never traveled so far by train before, she got pretty scared every time the train approached a river. Whenever she looked through the window and saw a river up ahead, she would start to panic. She couldn’t understand how the train could possibly cross the river without crashing. But each time the train approached a river, a bridge appeared that provided a way over. After this happened several times, the girl leaned back in her chair, breathed a sigh of relief, and in faith-filled confidence said, “Somebody put bridges for us all the way to where we’re going!”

Isn’t that just like what God does for us? We go through life worried about the obstacles we face. At times, the difficulties that lie ahead of us seem insurmountable! In Luke 8:40-56, a man turned to Jesus for help—and at first it looked as if that help came too late. 

Jesus had just arrived in town when one of the local synagogue rulers came to Jesus, fell at his feet and pleaded with him to come to his house and heal his 12-year-old daughter, who was on her deathbed. So, Jesus began following this man, Jairus, to his home. But along the way, Jesus was interrupted when a woman touched the hem of his robe and was healed after 12 years of internal bleeding.

When Jesus took the time to talk to the woman who had been healed, we’re not told what Jairus was saying or doing. But I imagine he was standing there impatiently saying under his breath, “Jesus, could you please hurry up! My daughter doesn’t have much more time. This woman is healed already. Let’s leave it at that and get to my house before it’s too late.”

Well, according to verse 49, while Jesus was still speaking to the woman, someone came from Jairus’s house and told him, “Your daughter is dead. Don’t bother the teacher any more.” Without a doubt, Jairus’s heart dropped. He was devastated. But Jesus said to him, “Don’t be afraid; just believe, and she will be healed” (v. 50). Jesus accompanied Jairus to his house and told the professional mourners weeping outside, “Stop wailing. She is not dead but asleep” (v. 52). The mourners laughed at him—after all, they recognized a dead body when they saw one.

Jesus went into the girl’s room with her parents and three of his disciples, Peter, James and John. Jesus took the dead girl by the hand and said, “My child, get up!” The Bible tells us: “Her spirit returned, and at once she stood up. Then Jesus told them to give her something to eat” (v. 55). Oh, wouldn’t it have been awesome to see the look on the mourners’ faces when that little girl walked out of the house munching on a chicken leg!

From a seemingly hopeless situation, Jesus built a bridge that brought a dead girl back to her parents. And from this point forward, Jesus’ followers would no longer view death as death, but only as sleep. It became clearer to them than ever before that the only thing that makes a body alive is the spirit inside that body. This girl’s spirit had never died. Jesus simply put it back into her body until God the Father was ready to call her spirit home to heaven.

This remarkable episode in Jesus’ ministry teaches us three things:

1. Each of us is at a different place in our faith journey, and Jesus is patient with each of us. Jairus, the bleeding woman, the messenger from Jairus’ house and the mourners were all at different places in their faith journey. But he didn’t scold or rebuke any of them. Likewise, each of is at a different place spiritually—and as we follow Jesus, we need to follow his example and be patient with each other.

2. Jesus wasn’t ever in a hurry. He allowed himself time to be interrupted, and it was during these interruptions that he did some of his best ministry. If your schedule is always full, and you’re always rushing from place to place, you will miss out on some wonderful ministry opportunities. If you wonder why God hasn’t called on you lately to do His work, it could be you’ve been too busy to notice your chances when they come along. God’s interruptions are always golden. We need to make time for them.

3. Our faith opens the door for Jesus to build bridges of healing and salvation. In verses 48 and 50, Luke uses the Greek word “sozo” for “healing.” That word literally means “to be saved.” When we put our faith in Jesus Christ, that faith paves the way for both His healing and His salvation.

God calls us as followers of Jesus to walk by faith and not by sight. Our eyes see certain disaster, but our faith sees that God will make a way. Jesus builds great bridges as we put our faith in Him. So, as we face obstacles that seem insurmountable, let’s trust Him. He is an expert at building bridges over and around and even through every obstacle we face.  

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

Wednesday, March 6, 2019

Compassion Isn’t Just for Pigs

“Then all the people of the region of the Gerasenes asked Jesus to leave them, because they were overcome with fear.” – Luke  8:37

One day an antique collector was walking through a strip mall parking lot. In front of one of the stores, he saw a mangy, skinny cat lapping milk from a saucer. When he got a little closer, his face lit up. You see, he was an antique expert, and he had a strong hunch that that saucer was very old and worth at least a thousand dollars. So, he decided he was going to play it cool and get himself a great deal on that saucer. He casually walked into the store and asked the owner if he could buy the cat for $5. The store owner replied, “I’m sorry, but the cat isn’t for sale.” The collector said, “Please, I need a hungry cat around the house to catch mice. Tell you what…I’ll pay you $50.” The owner said, “Sold!”

As the collector headed for the door, he turned and said, “Hey, since I paid you $50, I wonder if you could throw in that old saucer. The cat’s used to it and it’ll save me having to buy a new one.” The owner replied, “Sorry, buddy, but that’s my lucky saucer. So far this week it’s help me sell 17 stray cats.”

It’s kind of sad when someone has more interest in a profitable saucer than compassion for a suffering animal. But it’s a full-on tragedy when people have more compassion for pigs than for people. And Luke 8 shows a sad example of a whole town that told Jesus to take a hike, because their priorities were all out of whack.

In Luke 8:27, Jesus’ disciples had just survived a terrifying storm as they crossed the Sea of Galilee with their Lord. And as soon as their boat reached dry land, a crazy, naked man came running up the beach toward Jesus, screaming and carrying on. The disciples must have thought, “Out of the frying pan, into the fire!” Luke tells us in verses 27-29 that the man hadn’t worn clothes for a long time. In all likelihood, he had been running around naked for years. The man hadn’t lived in a house for a long time. Instead he lived in the tombs, surrounded by decaying corpses. The demon had seized this man many times and driven him into solitary places. And at times, he would have superhuman strength and break the chains that the townspeople had put on his hands and feet to restrain him.

But at the sight of Jesus, this wildman flung himself at Jesus’ feet, begging not to be tortured. Jesus knew he was dealing with a demon-possessed man, and as it turned out, many demons lived in him (v. 30). The demons “begged [Jesus] repeatedly not to order them to go into the Abyss” (v. 31). The Abyss is just a taste of the eternal Lake of Fire described in Revelation 20, and even Satan’s demons didn’t want to go there. If you have any doubts that Hell isn’t a nice place, that should convince you.

The demons asked to go into a herd of pigs nearby, knowing that even living inside a pig’s brain was much better than living in the Abyss. So, Jesus gave them permission to enter the pigs, and they left the man and entered the swine. For the first time in years, the man was freed from his suffering! The pigs, meanwhile, rushed into the Sea of Galilee and drowned. And for the people of the town, THAT was the big headline—NOT the amazing salvation of the demon-possessed man, whom they found “sitting at Jesus’ feet, dressed and in his right mind” (v. 35). Instead, they were afraid of Jesus’ power … and upset about the waste of a herd of livestock. And verse 37 is one of the saddest verses in the Book of Luke: “Then all the people of the region of the Gerasenes asked Jesus to leave them, because they were overcome with fear. So [Jesus] got into the boat and left.”

Think about it: The people in the town loved their pigs more than they valued the soul of a man. Money was more important to them than mercy. And, most tragically, they’d rather have Jesus leave than stay. Some might excuse them for their actions, because—after all—they were really, really scared. But that’s no excuse for being really, really stupid. Being scared is no excuse for having no compassion. It’s no excuse for grieving for your pigs more than you grieve for a man who’s experiencing hell on earth. And being scared is no excuse for rejecting Jesus Christ.

But there is a silver lining. The healed man was now a believer and follower of Jesus Christ. He asked to go with Jesus, but instead, Jesus told him to do something very important: “Return home and tell how much God has done for you” (v. 39). So, Jesus’ work wasn’t over when he sailed away from Gerasenes. This new follower of Jesus Christ with his amazing testimony returned home and shared the good news of salvation. It’s likely that hundreds of people were introduced to Jesus through this one man whose life had been radically transformed by Christ.

When Jesus’ disciples first saw the demon-possessed wildman, they probably wondered if there had even been any point in surviving the storm they’d come through to get there. The same is true of us today. We may not be able to see what awaits us on the other side of our present storm. But if we trust in Jesus, we can be confident that what he does next is going to be amazing. So, hang in there, Christian. And walk by faith.

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