Tuesday, October 22, 2019

Take a Long Walk with God

“Enoch walked with God; then he was no more, because God took him away.”
– Genesis 5:24

After starring in several blockbusters including Jurassic World, Guardians of the Galaxy and Avengers Endgame, Chris Pratt has become one of the most popular actors in Hollywood. But here’s something that’s far more remarkable: he is a Christian who is very vocal about his faith. After high school, Chris experimented with drugs and alcohol and was going nowhere fast.

But one day he was at a grocery store doing some shopping before heading to a party where he hoped to get drunk and hook up with a cute girl. But at that grocery store a man came up to him and said, “Jesus told me to talk to you.” In Chris Pratt’s own words: “At that moment I was like: I think I have to go with this guy. He took me to church. Over the next few days I surprised my friends by declaring that I was going to change my life.”

Hollywood isn’t exactly a hotbed for Jesus-loving Christians, but isn’t it encouraging to know that there are followers of Christ who stand out in the crowd and openly share their faith in Tinseltown? And isn’t it encouraging to know that the Bible spotlights dozens of men and women of faith who loved and served God faithfully in their own generations? One of the Bible’s lesser-known faith heroes is Enoch.

Enoch’s life is nicely summarized in Genesis 5:18-24. In a nutshell, Enoch was seven generations removed from Adam, and he was the great grandfather of Noah. Genesis chapter 5 records the 10-generation genealogy between Adam and Noah. And if you were to read the entire chapter, you would see that Enoch stands out in three inspiring ways:

#1: Enoch didn’t just live; he walked with God. If you read through Genesis 5, you’ll notice a repetition of words and phrases in the genealogy. For example: Each man was born, lived a certain number of years, had a son of his own, and then “lived” a certain number of years afterward, having more sons and daughters. We find this pattern repeated in verses 4, 7, 10, 13, 16 and 19.

But this pattern is interrupted with Enoch. Verses 22-23 read: “When Enoch had lived 65 years, he became the father of Methuseleh. And after he became the father of Methuseleh, Enoch…walked with God 300 years and had other sons and daughters.” Did you catch the difference? With Enoch, the phrase “walked with God” replaces the word “lived.” Well, that’s nice…but what’s the point? Here’s the point: God’s word is telling us that there is a difference between WALKING with God and merely LIVING. Any fool can simply exist. Anybody can merely live. But those whose lives glorify God and fulfill His purpose in their generation are those who don’t merely believe in God or talk about God. Like Enoch, they WALK with God.

#2: Enoch’s years here on earth were FEWER but so much FULLER than those of every one of his ancestors. If you look at the lifespans called out in Genesis 5, they’re pretty remarkable. Most of the men lived over 900 years. But Enoch just lived on earth for 365 years—or as some call it: A year of years. Enoch only lived here on earth for about one-third as long as his dad and granddads. But a longer life does not necessary produce a more impactful life. Does it?

Alexander the Great died at the age of 33. Amadeus Mozart clocked out at 35. Vincent van Gogh--just 37. Martin Luther King Jr. died at 39, and Joan of Arc was just 19. Like most of you, I hope to live a long life. But what is much more important than the number of years that I live is how much I put into those years for the glory of God. When you consider your own life, are you more focused on the number of your years or on the fullness of your years? No matter how many years God gives you, make sure every one of them counts for the glory of God.

#3: Unlike all of his ancestors, Enoch didn’t die. Instead, God took him away. If you were to look at the brief descriptions of Enoch’s dad and granddads in verse 5-20, you would see another pattern in the way the end of their lives is described. They lived a certain number of years, and then they died. But not Enoch. “Altogether, Enoch lived 365 years. Enoch walked with God; then he was no more, because God took him away” (vs. 23-24).

Enoch never died. God simply…took him away. And in a sense, committed Christians don’t really die either. God simply takes them away.  Even if our heart stops beating and our lungs stop pumping and our brain waves stop firing, we don’t die. God simply takes us away. We live every day that God has called us to live, walking by faith, obeying God’s commands and fulfilling His purpose in our own generation. And after we have done all that God has called us to do, He simply takes us away.

A little girl learned about Enoch one day at church, and when she got home she told her mom the story of Enoch. She said, “Enoch used to take long walks with God. One day he walked so far God said, ‘It’s too far to go back; come on home with Me.’ That’s what happened to Enoch.”

Wow! I don’t know about you, but I want to take long walks with God. I’m going to keep walking by faith and fulfilling His purpose in my generation until He calls me home. How about you?

Dane Davis is the Pastor of Impact Christian Church. Join us for our Worship Service Sundays at 10 a.m. at the new Dr. Ralph Baker School in Victorville. For more information, visit www.GreaterImpact.cc.

Thursday, October 17, 2019

Are You a Base-Model Christian?

“For when David had served God’s purpose in his own generation he fell asleep.” - Acts 13:36

I heard a story about a dairy farmer who went to buy a new pickup truck. He had seen an ad in the paper for a great deal on a new truck, so he decided to trade in his old clunker. He went to the dealership, chose a pickup and was ready to write the check for the full amount. But the salesman said, “Wait, I haven’t given you the final price yet.” The farmer asked, “Isn’t it the price I saw in the paper?” The salesman said, “No, that’s for the base model. All the options cost extra.” So, after the options were added, the farmer reluctantly wrote a check for $2,000 more than he had planned to pay, and he drove off the lot in his new pick-up.

A few months later the car salesman called the farmer because he wanted to buy a cow for his son’s 4-H project. The farmer assured the car salesman he had several good milk cows for sale for $500. The salesman drove out, selected a cow and took out his checkbook. The farmer said, “Wait. I haven’t given you the final price yet.” Then he handed the salesman a bill that read: “Basic cow, $500. Two-tone exterior, $45. Milk storage compartment, $60. Four handy spigots at $10 each, $40. Leather upholstery, $125. Automatic rear fly swatter, $38. Natural fertilizer attachment, $185. Grand total … $1,233.”

Now, I’ve never purchased a cow, but because I’m a bit of a cheapskate, I’m pretty sure I’d go for the base model. When I buy a car, I LIKE the base model … as long as it has air conditioning. If the car has four tires, an engine and a steering wheel, the base model is just fine. But when it comes to living the Christian life, the base model will never be “just fine.”

On Paul’s first missionary trip, he went into the Jewish synagogue in Pisidian Antioch to preach a powerful message about Jesus. In this message, Paul mentioned one of the greatest heroes of the Old Testament: King David, the only man in the Bible to be called “a man after God’s own heart.” David had a fierce love for God and served Him faithfully. And then, in Paul’s words, “when David had served God’s purpose in his own generation he fell asleep” (Acts 13:36).

Paul was making the point that God had a plan for David’s life. God gave him a clear purpose to carry out in his own generation. And David carried it out. David served God’s purpose in his own generation. God called David to slay Goliath, so David obediently slew Goliath. God called David to serve in King Saul’s court, so David obediently served in King Saul’s court. God called David to lead Israel in her battles and lead the people to follow God. So David obediently led Israel in her battles and led them to follow God.

Isn’t that good? In a day and age when most people were pretty much living for themselves, David was the servant of his generation. Could the same be said about you and me? The Bible makes it clear that everything in this vast universe of ours was created by God. He created every bug, every fish, every bird, every animal and every person—including you. The Bible is clear that God created you and designed you just the way you are. He knit you together in your mother’s womb. Your eye color and hair color are by design. Your height and your build are by design. Your natural strengths and even your natural weaknesses are by design.

So, are we living the lives God designed us for? In a day and age when most people are pretty much living for themselves, are we, like David, a great blessing to the age we live in? Are we servants of our generation? Matthew Henry reminds us, “We were not born for ourselves, but are members of communities, to which we must study to be serviceable.” And as devotional writer A.W. Tozer says, “David was smart enough to serve God and his generation before he fell asleep [ie, “died”]. To fall asleep before we have served our generation is nothing short of tragic…. It is a moral calamity to sleep without having first labored to bless the world.”

So true! But what is that purpose? At Impact Christian Church, we summarize God’s purpose with the shortest mission statement I’ve ever seen. It’s only three words: Love. Learn. Serve. Every Sunday morning, we seek to love God by loving people. Our greatest desire is to see every person who comes through our doors accept Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior and begin loving him too. Our second focus is to learn God’s word. As we study His word, we get to know Him better, and we learn how to love and serve Him better. Our third purpose is serving. Just as David was created to serve God’s purpose in his own generation, so too are we. Jesus didn’t come to earth to be served, but to serve. And we follow in his footsteps as we serve each other and our community.  

My life has meaning and purpose, and so does yours. So, we must boldly stand and declare, “I will NOT waste my life!” You and I were created not to be served but to serve, and to serve God’s purpose in our own generation. I do not believe that anyone was created by God for base-model Christianity. I believe you and I were created for greater impact. And that boils down to this: Loving God by loving people … learning His Word … and serving others. If you don’t already have a church home, then I’d love to invite you to start joining us every Sunday. And we’ll serve God’s purpose in our generation—together.

Dane Davis is the Pastor of Impact Christian Church. Come join us Sunday at 10 a.m. at the new Ralph Baker School in Victorville. For more information, visit www.GreaterImpact.cc.

Wednesday, October 9, 2019

From Good to Great

“Whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be your slave.” – Matthew 20:26-27

About three months ago, I met in my office with two of our amazing staff members: Patrick, our Worship Director, and Christie, our Children’s Ministries Director. Our congregation had just voted to move our church to a more central location with a new name and new determination to make a greater impact in our community. I said to Patrick and Christie, “We do some really good ministry here at First Christian Church. But as we make this big move and launch Impact Christian Church, we need to move from good to great.”

But what is “great”? In Matthew 20, two of Jesus’ disciples learned an important lesson about what true greatness looks like in Jesus’ kingdom. James and John, using their mother as a messenger, basically asked for the two best thrones in Christ’s kingdom—one on Christ’s left and one on his right. They wanted the seats of honor and authority right next to Jesus. Now, that takes guts! And Jesus’ answer was … “No! Not gonna happen!"

You see, the path to greatness in Christ’s kingdom is much different from the path to greatness that we are accustomed to in our culture. The path to greatness in Christ’s kingdom requires sacrifice and suffering. “You don’t know what you are asking,” Jesus said to them. “Can you drink the cup I am going to drink?” The word “cup,” as it’s used here and elsewhere in the Bible, is a metaphor for suffering. So, Jesus asked James and John, “Are you willing to sacrifice and suffer the way I’m going to sacrifice and suffer?” Both men immediately answered, “Yes.” But they had no clue how much Jesus was about to sacrifice and suffer.

Afterward, Jesus seized this teachable moment to pull all twelve of his disciples together and teach them about true greatness. His words in verses 25-28 are so important for every Christian to grasp: “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be your slave—just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”

Jesus was God in human flesh. That being the case, he had every right to ask his followers to wait on him hand and foot. But he freely relinquished this right because he so loved the world that he came to seek and save the lost. Paul says it so well in Philippians 2:5-7. He writes, “Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant.” Here in Matthew 20, as Jesus had his sights set on the cross, his message to his disciples was loud and clear: “I’m not asking you to serve ME. I came to earth to serve YOU.”

Most of you have probably heard the famous words spoken by President John F. Kennedy at his inauguration. He said, “Ask not what your country can do for you—ask what you can do for your country.” These are some of the most enduring words ever spoken by a U.S. president. But when you think about it, President Kennedy—whether he realized it or not—was basically just asking us to follow in Jesus’ footsteps as citizens of this great nation.

We could just as easily apply Jesus’ instruction about serving to our marriages, to our friendships, to our work life and to our church. “Husbands, ask not what your wife can do for you. Ask what you can do for your wife.” “Wives, ask not what your husband can do for you. Ask what you can do for your husband.” How much healthier would our marriages be if we asked this question every day? “Ask not what your friends can do for you. Ask what you can do for your friends.” “Ask not what your coworkers can do for you. Ask what you can do for your coworkers.” If you and I will follow in Jesus’ footsteps and serve others without expecting them to somehow repay us for that service…it will transform our marriages, our families, our friendships, our workplaces, our church and our community.

Who would have thought that the path to greatness would be the path of serving and humility? Jesus, that’s who. The Son of Man did not come to be served but to serve and to give his life. As we launch Impact Christian Church, I pray that we will follow in Jesus’ footsteps. I pray that we will humbly serve each other and serve our community. As we do, there’s no doubt in my mind that we will have a greater impact in the Victor Valley for Jesus Christ. And best of all, lots of people are going to come home to Jesus.

Dane Davis is the Pastor of Impact Christian Church. Join us for our Worship Celebration every Sunday at 10 a.m. at the new Ralph Baker School in Victorville. For more information, visit www.GreaterImpact.cc.

Thursday, October 3, 2019

We Are Doing It for Them

“For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.” - Luke 19:10

One of my favorite poems is “The Bridge Builder” by Will Allen Dromgoole. In three short stanzas the poem paints the picture of an old man traveling his final highway as the end of his life nears. After crossing a fast-moving stream, he turns and begins building a bridge across it. A fellow traveler questions his rationale for building a bridge over a chasm that he’ll never cross again. The builder turns to his fellow traveler and famously says, “This chasm that has been as naught to me, to [a] fair-haired youth may a pitfall be; He too must cross in the twilight dim; Good friend, I am building the bridge for him!”

The Book of Luke records some of the most impactful moments in Jesus’ life and ministry. It records some of his most important teachings and miracles. But through it all, the Book of Luke holds this common theme: Jesus came to earth to seek and save people who were far from God—people who were “lost.” And nowhere in the Book is this theme made more clear than it is in Luke 19 as Jesus reaches out to the Danny DeVito of Israel: a very short tax collector named Zacchaeus.

You probably remember the story. The hated tax collector wanted to get a glimpse of Jesus as he walked through Jericho. But because of the size of the crowd, and because he was vertically challenged, all he could see was the back of people’s heads. So Zacchaeus got creative. He ran up the road ahead of Jesus and climbed a sycamore fig tree. And when Jesus passed that way, Zacchaeus received the shock of his life. Not only did Jesus see him perched up in that tree—Jesus actually stopped under the tree, met his eyes and called him by name. He said, “Zacchaeus, come down immediately. I must stay at your house today.”  

Not surprisingly, the people in the crowd grumbled when they heard Jesus choose to have dinner with the person they despised the most—someone known for lying, cheating and stealing from the people. But Zacchaeus wasted no time demonstrating to Jesus that he was a changed man. He stood up and said, “Look, Lord! Here and now I give half of my possessions to the poor, and if I have cheated anybody out of anything, I will pay back four times the amount” (vs. 8). There’s no doubt: Zacchaeus was a changed man!

Now, just to be clear: Zacchaeus wasn’t saved because he generously reimbursed those whom he’d ripped off. Just like everyone else who is saved, Zacchaeus was saved by God’s grace through faith in Jesus Christ. His generosity was simply his new faith in action. But consider this: When Zacchaeus ran ahead of the crowd and climbed the sycamore tree, he thought that he was seeking Jesus. But Jesus makes it clear in verse 10 that Jesus himself was the one doing the seeking: “For the Son of Man came to seek and to save what was lost.”

But who are the lost whom Jesus seeks? Bible scholar William Barclay gives a great answer to this question. He writes, “In the New Testament [‘lost’] does not mean damned or doomed. It simply means in the wrong place. A thing is lost when it has got out of its own place into the wrong place; and when we find such a thing, we return it to the place it ought to occupy. A man is lost when he has wandered away from God; and he is found when once again he takes his rightful place as an obedient child in the household and the family of his Father.”

This summer as I was finishing up a morning jog, I looked across the street from my house
and saw two large dogs moseying down the street. One was a German shepherd, and the other was a blood hound. I whistled for them to come over, and unlike many of the strays I’ve encountered, they actually came. They trotted across the street into my driveway, and I checked their collars. I don’t remember the name of the German shepherd, but the bloodhound was named…Bubba. So, I called the number on Bubba’s I.D. tag, closed my front gate and let my girls play with the two dogs all morning until their owner showed up to take them home. I’ve got to say: It felt really good to be a part of that family reunion. It felt really good to help return those two dogs home to their owner. But believe me, it feels even better to help people return home to God.

This past Sunday I asked our church family a very important question: “Why did God direct us to move our worship services to a new location and launch Impact Christian Church?” Is it because doing Sunday ministry in our new location will be cheaper or easier? Not at all! In fact, it’s more expensive, and it’s a lot more work for set-up. So, why did God lead us to do it? He did so because Jesus’ love for the people of Victorville compels him to seek and save the lost. And he has given you and me the incredible privilege of helping to bring our neighbors home to Jesus Christ.

So, may I be so bold as to ask: Are you a bridge builder? Are you in the business of helping others get back home?

Dane Davis is the Pastor of Impact Christian Church. Join us for our Grand Opening at 10AM on Sunday, October 6th at the new Ralph Baker School in Victorville. For more information, visit www.GreaterImpact.cc.