Tuesday, November 22, 2022

Give Thanks … Even When You’re Depressed

“The LORD gave and the LORD has taken away; may the name of the LORD be praised.”
– Job 1:20-21 

In her best-selling book, “The Hiding Place,” Corrie ten Boom tells the story of how she and her family resisted the Nazi occupation in the Netherlands during World War II. When the Nazi Gestapo began rounding up Jews in Amsterdam and sending them to concentration camps, Corrie and her family risked their lives by helping Jews hide and escape. During the first four years of the Nazi occupation in the Netherlands, it’s estimated that Corrie ten Boom and her family helped save the lives of 800 Jews.

But on February 28, 1944, the German secret police raided Corrie’s house, where she was hiding six Jews and resistance workers. The Gestapo didn’t find the hidden Jews, but they arrested Corrie and several other family members. Eventually Corrie and her older sister Betsie were transferred to the Ravensbruck concentration camp in Germany, where they were disgusted to find that their barracks were infested with fleas. When Corrie began to complain, Betsie insisted that they give thanks instead, quoting 1 Thessalonians 5:18: “Give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.”  

Corrie finally joined her sister in thanking God for the fleas. The two of them began hosting evening Bible studies for their fellow prisoners, and many women accepted Jesus Christ as their Savior and Lord. To their surprise, the camp guards never disrupted those evening studies, and they never came to their barracks to harass or rape the women. After several months, Corrie realized the very fleas she had so despised had actually been a blessing. God had sent the fleas to keep away the cruel guards and pave the way for many prisoners to find hope and salvation in Christ.

If fleas in a concentration camp are actually a blessing from God, which blessings might you and I have missed because we’ve mistakenly seen them as a curse? In the Bible, Job is the perfect example of how to be thankful—even when we’re grieving and depressed.

According to Job 1:1, “Job was blameless and upright; he feared God and shunned evil.” He was also wealthy and devoted to the large family God had blessed him with. But Satan wasn’t buying it. He challenged God: “What do you think would happen if you reached down and took away everything that is his? He’d curse you right to your face, that’s what’” (v.11). Well, God gave Satan free rein to do his worst, and that’s exactly what the devil did. In the space of a few hours, Job’s sheep were burnt to a crisp in a freak lightning storm, the rest of his herds were stolen by raiders, and his 10 sons and daughters were all killed when a dust storm caused the house where they were eating to collapse on them.

Job was grief-stricken. His first reaction was to do what was customary in his culture when someone was overcome with sadness. He tore his robe and shaved his head. But what he did next is remarkable: “He fell to the ground in worship and said: ‘Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked I will depart. The LORD gave and the LORD has taken away; may the name of the LORD be praised’” (vs. 20-21). And as chapter 1 draws to a close, the writer of Job offers this beautiful commentary: “In all this, Job did not sin by charging God with wrongdoing” (v. 22). Job sank into a deep depression. But still, somehow, he was thankful.

When we’re grieving and slipping into depression, we can pull these three steps right from Job 1:21:

Step #1: Look BACK. “Naked I came from my mother’s womb.” Job urges us to focus on God’s past blessings. When you and I are depressed, our tendency is to have tunnel vision. We become consumed with the thoughts of today’s misery. So, like Job, we must pull off the blinders and remember that we came into this world with nothing. Everything we own has been a good and gracious gift from God: our clothing, food, jobs, our homes.

Step #2: Look AHEAD. “Naked I will depart.” When we’re down in the dumps because our water heater is busted, our identity was stolen, or our car was repossessed, we need to remember that when we die, we won’t be able to take it with us anyway. If you are experiencing depression because something you value has been taken from you, here is the perspective that can help you be thank-full: “God gave it to me in the first place, and sooner or later He was going to pass it on to someone else. So, I’m going to thank God for the time that I had it. I was never the owner. I was simply the manager of that item for a short time. Thank you, Jesus!”

Step #3: Look UP. “The LORD gave and the LORD has taken away; may the name of the LORD be praised.” When you’re depressed, the more you look up to God, the better off you’ll be. Satan was convinced that when all Job’s stuff was taken from him, he would curse God and die. But Job wasn’t duped by the father of lies. Instead of cursing God, Job “fell to the ground in worship…. Job did not sin by charging God with wrongdoing.”

May the same be said of you and me when we find ourselves in the pit of grief and despair. While most people are blaming God, resenting God and turning their backs on God, let’s worship and praise God. And through it all, let’s make sure we do not sin by charging God with wrongdoing. In the end, it will be crystal clear to everyone that God is faithful, God is just, and God IS at work for our good.

Dane Davis is the pastor of Impact Christian Church in Victorville. Pastor Dane’s latest book (Called to Persevere: One Man’s Journey to Overcome Pain, Disease and Disappointment with God) is NOW available at Amazon. For more information, visit www.GreaterImpact.cc or www.Called2Persevere.com.

Monday, November 14, 2022

Give Thanks … Even When You’re Stressed

“Give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.”
– 1 Thessalonians 5:18

The famous 17th century Bible scholar, Matthew Henry, was once mugged by thieves and robbed of his wallet. He wrote these lines in his diary: “Let me be thankful, first, because I was never robbed before; second, because, although they took my purse, they did not take my life; third, because, although they took my all, it was not much; and fourth, because it was I who was robbed, not I who robbed.”

Yes, there’s always something to be
thankful for. And at this time of year, as our thoughts turn to Thanksgiving, I’d like to focus on 1 Thessalonians 5:18: “Give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” No matter what you’re going through, God has called you to give thanks in ALL circumstances—even when you’re anxious, worried and stressed out. In 2 Chronicles 20, King Jehoshaphat of Judah offers a powerful example of doing just that.

In this exciting chapter, Jehoshaphat learned that three enemy nations—the Moabites, Ammonites and some of the Meunites—had merged their armies and were marching toward Jerusalem. This combined army was massive, so when the king found out about it, he was terrified: “Alarmed, Jehoshaphat resolved to inquire of the Lord, and he proclaimed a fast for all Judah (v. 3). Notice what Jehoshaphat DIDN’T do. There’s no mention of him drafting more soldiers, or strengthening the defenses around Jerusalem. Instead, he mobilized the people of Judah to fast and pray.

When the people gathered to pray, Jehoshaphat laid the cold, hard facts before God: “We have no power to face this vast army that is attacking us. We do not know what to do …” And then the key words: “… but our eyes are upon You” (v. 12). God’s spirit responded through one of the Levites: “Do not be afraid or discouraged because of this vast army. For the battle is not yours, but God’s” (v. 15). The Lord went on to instruct them: “Tomorrow march down against them….Take up your positions; stand firm and see the deliverance the LORD will give you” (v. 17). The next day, Jehoshaphat carried out one of the most unorthodox military strategies in the history of warfare. Instead of having cavalry or spearmen lead the charge, he put his PRAISE TEAM in the front line to sing to God. We even have some of their lyrics recorded for us in verse 21: “Give thanks to the LORD, for His love endures forever.” God’s response? He set ambushes that caused the three armies to turn on each other. When Jehoshaphat and his men arrived at the scene, they found nothing but dead bodies. God wiped out all three enemy armies without the Israelites even having to lift a sword. Just as God had prophesied, the battle belonged to the LORD. No one can convince me there’s not power in thankfulness and praise.

When we’re stressed, how can we possibly give thanks to God?

Step #1: Begin by humbly taking your problems and stresses to God. There are any number of things King Jehoshaphat COULD have done when he heard the news of the invasion. But his first reaction was to do something entirely different—the same entirely different thing that you and I should do when someone drops a huge stressor in our lap. Jehoshaphat’s first response was to pray … REALLY pray … and to mobilize everyone around him to pray. Jehoshaphat was able to be thankful later, because he was prayerful first. If you want to lean on God in the midst of your stress, anxiety and fear, you need to start responding to your stresses differently. Instead of acting first and praying later, you need to pray first and act later.

Step #2: Take hold of both the commands and the promises of God. One of the reasons we get so stressed out is because we don’t even TRY to obey God’s most oft-repeated command in the whole Bible: “Do not be afraid.” And the Holy Spirit can help us “fear not” when we remember and believe the promises of God. God has made certain promises to you and me, and we need to believe them and take hold of them.

Step #3: Praise God for who He is, and thank God for what He’s done. It will feed your faith and lower your anxiety. Nine times out of 10, when we’re stressed it’s because we’ve taken our eyes off God. Praising God for who He is, and thanking Him for what He’s done, re-directs our attention to God and reminds us that He is much bigger and stronger than our problems. That being the case, there is always, always, ALWAYS something to praise and thank God for.

Dane Davis is the pastor of Impact Christian Church in Victorville. Pastor Dane’s latest book (Called to Persevere: One Man’s Journey to Overcome Pain, Disease and Disappointment with God) is NOW available at Amazon. For more information, visit www.GreaterImpact.cc or www.Called2Persevere.com.

Sunday, October 30, 2022

God Can See You Through the Perfect Storm

 I urge you to keep up your courage, because not one of you will be lost. – Acts 27:22

In October 1991, a freak storm hit the New England coast. Even those who had lived in New England all their lives said it was, hands down, the worst storm they’d ever seen. Three storm systems, including the dreaded nor’easter, suddenly converged over the Atlantic, producing wind gusts up to 120 miles per hour and 30- to 60-foot waves. The locals dubbed it “The Perfect Storm.”

Three weeks earlier, Captain Billy Tyne boarded his fishing trawler, the Andrea Gail, with his crew of five fishermen. They set out for a one-month fishing trip off the shores of Newfoundland, where they knew the fishing was amazing. They hauled in a quarter-million dollars’ worth of fish—but they never saw a penny of it. On their return trip, the Perfect Storm hit, and the Andrea Gail got caught in the middle of it. In Captain Billy’s final radio transmission, he said, “She’s comin’ on boys, and she’s comin’ on strong!” After those fateful words, the radio went dead. To this day, the trawler and its crew have never been recovered.

Well, 1900 years earlier, a similar freak storm swept across the Mediterranean Sea. Just like the Andrea Gail, the ship caught in that storm went down. But miraculously, not a single one of the 276 men on board died. Every one of them made it to shore safely, including the Apostle Paul. God had made him a promise that he would get to share the gospel of Jesus Christ in Rome, and absolutely NOTHING was going to stop God from keeping that promise. Not even The Perfect Storm.

In Acts 27, after appealing to have his case heard by Emperor Nero, Paul was sent to Rome on a ship with his two companions, Dr. Luke and Aristarchus. Other prisoners were on board as well. If all went well, they’d reach Rome in a few weeks, before the bad winter weather came. But the winds changed and forced them to take a detour that added several hundred miles to the trip. When they reached the port city of Myra, they switched to a larger, sturdier ship to take them the rest of the way. But the wind still fought them, so it was October before they reached a small port called Fair Havens. Sailing the Mediterranean was sketchy in October and impossible in November. In Acts 27:10, Paul warned the captain that the voyage would be disastrous if they continued. But Paul was overruled.

The captain decided to sail another 40 miles to a more sheltered harbor, the port city of Phoenix. But in verse 14, “a wind of hurricane force, called the Northeaster”—like the one in the Perfect Storm—came up. The ship was tossed helplessly for days. The crew “passed ropes under the ship itself to hold it together” (v. 17), and soon, they started throwing the cargo overboard … then the ship’s tackle. For two weeks, the ship was battered by the storm. Luke writes in verse 20, “When neither sun nor stars appeared for many days and the storm continued raging, we finally gave up all hope of being saved.”

But not Paul. When they had gone days without food, he told the men, “I urge you to keep up your courage, because not one of you will be lost; only the ship will be destroyed” (v. 22). And he shared a vision he’d had the night before, in which an angel told him: “Do not be afraid, Paul. You must stand trial before Caesar; and God has graciously given you the lives of all who sail with you” (v. 24). On the last night of their harrowing voyage, Paul urged everyone to eat to keep up their strength. The next day, they ran the ship aground on a sandy beach—and, just as the angel had promised, no lives were lost.

There are many wonderful lessons we can pull from this amazing chapter. Here are three highlighted by Pastor Warren Wiersbe:

Life Lesson #1: Storms often come when we disobey the will of God, and we sometimes suffer because of the unbelief of others. Paul warned the captain that disaster awaited them if they sailed on from Fair Havens. We don’t know if God had revealed that to him or if it was simply based on Paul’s experience. But Paul clearly had divine insight. That insight was ignored, and all 276 men on board suffered because of that unbelief and disobedience. The same holds true in our families, in our workplaces, in our church and in our nation. Storms come and many people suffer because of the disobedience and unbelief of a few.

Life Lesson #2: Storms have a way of revealing character. It’s easy to trust and serve God when the sun is shining and the seas are calm. It’s much harder to trust and serve Him when our ship is coming apart at the seams. None of us LIKE being scared half to death. None of us enjoy being in the middle of a miserable, painful storm. But that’s where you’ll find out who you really are. Are you a committed follower of Christ, or are you just a fair-weather Christian? Life’s storms will show you AND those around you what you’re made of. Storms will reveal if you’re the real deal.

Life Lesson #3: Storms can give us opportunities to serve others and bear witness to Jesus Christ. Most of the passengers on that ship probably wouldn’t have given Paul the time of day if it had been smooth sailing to Rome. But their ears were wide open to what he had to say in the midst of the storm. The same holds true for you and me during our storms. People listen more carefully to what I say at a funeral than they do at a wedding. And you’ll find that during the worst of storms, people around you will be much more open to you serving them and sharing the hope of Christ. So, let’s not curse our trials. Let’s accept them for what they are: opportunities to grow, serve and bear witness to Jesus Christ. 

Dane Davis is the pastor of Impact Christian Church in Victorville. Pastor Dane’s latest book (Called to Persevere: One Man’s Journey to Overcome Pain, Disease and Disappointment with God) is NOW available at Amazon. For more information, visit www.GreaterImpact.cc or www.Called2Persevere.com.

Sunday, October 23, 2022

Better, Stronger and Faster are on the Horizon

 “Our salvation is nearer now than when we first believed. The night is nearly over; the day is almost here.” – Romans 13:11-12

Superheroes have always fascinated me. And when I was growing up, one of my favorites was Steve Austin: “The Six Million Dollar Man” of TV fame. The show began with one of the best title sequences of all time. We see astronaut Steve Austin in his space suit, flying an experimental aircraft. But something goes terribly wrong. His plane crashes, and it’s engulfed in flames. The next thing we see is an operating room, and the narration begins.

“Steve Austin—astronaut. A man barely alive. Gentlemen, we can rebuild him. We have the technology. We have the capability to make the world’s first bionic man. Steve Austin will BE that man. Better than he was before: Better. Stronger. Faster!” Sure enough, after his six-million-dollar surgery, Steve Austin had two bionic legs that let him run up to 60 miles per hour. He had a bionic left eye that gave him telescopic vision. And he had a bionic right arm that made him the strongest man on earth. Now, I admit it: “The Six Million Dollar Man” was a pretty corny show. But those words from the title sequence have still inspired me over the years: “Better than he was before: Better. Stronger. Faster.”

Here’s a question for you: As Steve Austin was soaring over the earth in his experimental aircraft he was completely healthy—two healthy legs, two healthy arms, two healthy eyes. So, BEFORE his plane crashed, how far was Steve Austin from being “better, stronger, faster”? Probably a few days. But what about AFTER Steve Austin’s accident? As he was lying on that operating table with two crushed legs, a severed right arm and a damaged left eye, at THAT point how far was Steve Austin away from being “better, stronger, faster”? Just minutes away.

If Steve Austin had been a real man, most people would have looked at him in his hospital bed and said, “He is definitely NOT better than he was before! After his accident he is LESSER, WEAKER, SLOWER.” And yet, when Steve Austin was at his WORST point, he was actually the closest to his BEST point. When he was at his WEAKEST, he was closest to being at his STRONGEST. When he was flat on his back, he was minutes away from being at his fastest. The night was nearly over. The day was almost there.

In today’s world, it’s been a rough couple of years for a lot of us. After having Covid, many of us feel worse than we did a year or two ago—lesser, weaker, slower. But God’s Word has some great news for you today: “Our salvation is nearer now than when we first believed. The night is nearly over; the day is almost here” (Romans 13:11-12). Thank about that. If you are a believer and follower of Jesus Christ, it doesn’t matter how bad you FEEL right now. You might FEEL lesser, weaker and slower than you did a year or two ago. But we walk by faith and not by sight.

In God’s word, Hebrews 11 is nicknamed “The Faith Chapter.” It’s filled with over a dozen examples of biblical heroes who persevered through extreme difficulties … by faith. Noah persevered for more than 100 years as he built a huge wooden ship in the middle of the desert. But Noah walked by faith, reminding himself of what God said was up ahead. Abraham persevered for 30 years, trusting God’s promise that he and his wife would have a son in their old age. That took a lot of faith, because Abraham was 70 years old when God first made that promise to him. He was 100 by the time Isaac was born. But Abraham walked by faith, reminding himself of what God said was up ahead. Moses persevered for 40 years, carrying out God’s marching orders to lead over a million Israelites to the Promised Land of Canaan. Moses was repeatedly criticized and slandered, and he received death threats. But he walked by faith, reminding himself of what God said was up ahead.

Hebrews 11:13-15 tells us, “All these people were still living by faith when they died. They did not receive the things promised; they only saw them and welcomed them from a distance…. Therefore, God is not ashamed to be called their God, for He has prepared a city for them.” These biblical heroes looked ahead, beyond what their eyes could see. And they saw with the eyes of faith what God had promised them was up ahead. Noah saw a flood that wasn’t yet there. Abraham saw a son who wasn’t yet born. Moses saw a homeland that the Israelites hadn’t yet reached.

And if you look ahead with those same eyes of faith, you can see what awaits you up ahead. No more pain. No more disease. No more cancer. No more depression. No more war. No more divorce. No more funerals. No more crime. No more poverty. Heaven is nearer than it was last year. Your complete physical healing is nearer than it was last month. Your brand new, top-of-the-line, pain-free, resurrected body is nearer than it was just yesterday. Despite how beaten up and broken down you may feel, if you are a believer and follower of Jesus Christ you are closer than you’ve ever been to being better than you’ve ever been: BETTER, STRONGER, FASTER!

Dane Davis is the pastor of Impact Christian Church in Victorville. Pastor Dane’s latest book (Called to Persevere: One Man’s Journey to Overcome Pain, Disease and Disappointment with God) is NOW available at Amazon. For more information, visit www.GreaterImpact.cc or www.Called2Persevere.com.

Monday, October 17, 2022

Make the Most of Your Time With Kings

 “God has helped me to this very day; so I stand here and testify to small and great alike.
 – Acts 26:22

Mother Teresa dedicated her life to doing what Jesus Christ tells his followers to do in Matthew 25:35-36. She gave food to the hungry. She gave clean water to the thirsty. She gave a home to homeless strangers. She gave clothes to the naked. She gave free medical care to the sick.

And just three and a half years before she died, 83-year-old Mother Teresa was invited to Washington D.C. to be the keynote speaker at the National Prayer Breakfast. On February 5, 1994, Mother Teresa spoke to an audience of 4,000, which included some of the highest-level leaders in the United States, including President Bill Clinton. As the frail little Catholic nun stepped up to speak, her head didn’t even extend above the microphones mounted on the podium. Here is a small part of her impassioned message: “I feel that the greatest destroyer of peace today is abortion, because it is a war against the child, a direct killing of the innocent child.... Any country that accepts abortion is not teaching its people to love, but to use any violence to get what they want. This is why the greatest destroyer of love and peace is abortion.”

When given an audience that included the leader of the free world, that’s what Mother Teresa said. If you had been given that opportunity, what would you have said to them? Let’s take a look at what the Apostle Paul said when he was given a similar opportunity.

Paul had been cooling his heels in prison for two years while the corrupt Governor Felix waited for him to bribe his way out. Finally, Governor Felix was booted out of office, and Paul was called into court to stand before the new Roman governor of Judea, Porcius Festus. And Governor Festus responded ... by asking Paul if he wanted to go to Jerusalem and stand trial there.

Paul knew he’d been given the runaround by Governor Felix, and it seemed Governor Festus was doing the same. So, Paul gave him this very respectful but eloquent response: “I am now standing before Caesar’s court, where I ought to be tried. I have not done any wrong to the Jews, as you yourself know very well. If, however, I am guilty of doing anything deserving death, I do not refuse to die. But if the charges brought against me by these Jews are not true, no one has the right to hand me over to them. I appeal to Caesar!” (Acts 25:10-11).

God had promised Paul that he’d get a chance to share the Gospel in Rome, and Paul probably decided it was time to “get this show on the road.” The quickest way to get there would be to claim his right as a Roman citizen to have his case appealed to the highest court in the empire. So, Paul asked for his court case to be transferred to the Caesar himself, Emperor Nero.

In Acts 26, before Paul was transferred to Rome, he was given the opportunity to share his personal testimony with a lower-level ruler: King Agrippa. Paul spoke to the king respectfully, saying that he considered himself “fortunate to stand and offer my defense” before King Agrippa. Then, in a courtroom filled with powerful leaders, he shared his testimony: the story of his own persecution of Christians, his life-changing revelation on the Road to Damascus, and his mission to share the gospel of Jesus Christ from that day forward. And in verse 26, he pointed out that the king was familiar with both the Old Testament prophecies about the Messiah and the events surrounding Jesus’ death and resurrection. In front of everyone in the room—all the political, military leaders and religious leaders—Paul asked the king a question that could lead to him embracing the truth that Jesus is the Christ and the Son of the living God: “King Agrippa, do you believe the prophets? I know you do” (v. 27).

But instead of responding with a genuine, heartfelt answer, King Agrippa took the easy way out by asking a question of his own: “Do you think that in such a short time you can persuade me to be a Christian?” (v. 28). That is what we called a missed opportunity. King Agrippa heard the good news of Jesus Christ, and I believe the Spirit of Almighty God was whispering in his ear, “Today is the day of salvation.” But King Agrippa said, “No!” He squandered that moment. He put Jesus off until tomorrow. And as best we can tell, for King Herod Agrippa II, tomorrow never came. He never turned from his sin and received the grace of Christ.

I’d like to share two life lessons that we can draw from this passage.

Lesson #1: When given the opportunity to stand before high-ranking leaders, treat them with kindness and respect. Regardless of the way Paul was treated by governing leaders, he spoke to them with kindness and respect. As Chuck Swindoll puts it: “When God grants us the rare opportunity to stand before prestigious people and high-ranking government officials, it is best to demonstrate courtesy and grace. Regardless of their lifestyle, speak with respect…. To come on like gangbusters will surely be an offense, and the door of opportunity will slam shut…. Despite his chains and their differences, [Paul] addressed them with kindness and respect.”

Lesson #2: Don’t squander your God-given opportunities to truly believe, repent and submit to God’s will for your life. King Agrippa heard Paul share about his experience on the Road to Damascus and how it changed his life forever. And King Agrippa COULD have had his own Road to Damascus experience right then and there. But foolishly, King Agrippa squandered his God-given opportunity. He chose not to believe, not to repent and not to submit to God’s will for his life. What a tragedy!

If you have never accepted Jesus Christ as your Savior and Lord, you are being offered your own Road to Damascus moment. You have the God-given opportunity to believe in Jesus Christ, turn from your sin and submit to God’s will for your life. The question is, are you going to respond like Paul or like Agrippa? Will you take hold of this opportunity, or will you squander it? 

Dane Davis is the pastor of Impact Christian Church in Victorville. Pastor Dane’s latest book (Called to Persevere: One Man’s Journey to Overcome Pain, Disease and Disappointment with God) is NOW available at Amazon. For more information, visit www.GreaterImpact.cc or www.Called2Persevere.com.

Wednesday, October 12, 2022

How to Handle Criticism

I strive always to keep my conscience clear before God and man.” – Acts 24:16

Two taxidermists stopped in front of a store window in which a great horned owl was on display. They immediately began to criticize the way it was mounted: “Its eyes don’t look natural. Its wings are out of proportion with its head. Its feathers are matted, and its feet could be improved.” When they had finished with their criticism, the old owl turned his head ... and winked at them.

Evidently, even an owl minding his own business is not above negative criticism. Sooner or later, you’re going to be criticized by a family member, friend, coworker or neighbor. And if you find yourself in a significant position of leadership, you’ll likely have criticism coming at you from all sides.

Sometimes the best response to criticism is no response at all. During the Civil War President Abe Lincoln told one of his military officers, “If I were to try to read, much less answer, all the attacks made on me, this shop might as well be closed for any other business. I do the very best I know how—the very best I can, and I mean to keep doing so until the end. If the end brings me out all right, what is said against me won’t amount to anything.” These words so impacted British Prime Minister Winston Churchill that he mounted them on his office wall.

Yes, there are times when we shouldn’t respond to criticism. But what about the times when we NEED to respond? In those cases, there is no better place to turn for advice than Acts 24. In the city of Caesarea, as the Apostle Paul stood in the courtroom of Governor Felix, he was given the opportunity to respond to the harsh criticism and accusations leveled against him by his critics. And he responded masterfully. We would do well to take note of and mirror Paul’s seven guidelines for responding to harsh criticism.

GUIDELINE #1: REFUSE TO BE CAUGHT UP IN THE EMOTION OF THE CRITICISM. As Paul begins his defense in verse 10, he doesn’t let his emotions take the lead. So, ask yourself: “When I am harshly criticized, do I tend to respond more like Dr. Spock from Star Trek or more like the Incredible Hulk? Do I respond to criticism with a level head, or do I tend to lose my head? Strive to respond to criticism like Paul … calmly and rationally.

GUIDELINE #2: STICK TO THE FACTS. In verses 11-13, Paul presents the facts of his case. He respectfully points out that there’s not a single eyewitness among his prosecutors. Their accusations and criticism are nothing other than speculation and hearsay. So, when responding to criticism, do what Paul does: Stick to the facts.

GUIDELINE #3: TELL THE TRUTH WITH A CLEAR CONSCIENCE. In verse 16, Paul mentions his efforts to maintain a clear conscience in the sight of both God and man. That’s significant! He wasn’t a religious snob who said, “To heck with man’s laws! I only pay attention to God’s laws!” On the other hand, he didn’t just do everything that was right by man but wrong by God. So, when you’re under attack, you may not think speaking the truth will pay off in the end, but it will. “The truth will set you free.”

GUIDELINE #4: IDENTIFY THE ORIGINAL SOURCE OF THE CRITICISM. Paul respectfully points out in verse 19 that those who had first made accusations against him in Jerusalem were nowhere to be found on court day. Where were they? Who knows? Criticism tends to come from people who are the least qualified to give it. So, when responding to criticism, it’s a good idea to identify the original source of the criticism. 

GUIDELINE #5: DON’T SURRENDER OR QUIT. Paul’s prison sentence in Caesarea lasts more than two years. Think about that for a moment. The charges against him are unsubstantiated hearsay. He’s never convicted of a crime. And we learn in verse 26 that Governor Felix leaves Paul in jail for a very selfish reason: He’s hoping Paul will offer him a bribe! No matter. Paul refuses to compromise his integrity by throwing in the towel and taking the easy way out. And it pays off in the end. Paul eventually makes it to Rome.

GUIDELINE #6: DON’T BECOME IMPATIENT OR GROW BITTER. Instead of growing bitter while under house arrest, Paul takes the opportunity to serve Jesus Christ right there. And it’s most likely during his two-year incarceration in Caesarea that his missionary companion, Dr. Luke, is able to conduct interviews and do the research necessary to later write the Gospel of Luke and the Book of Acts. I am very grateful for these two books of the Bible and for Paul’s no-retreat-no-surrender attitude that helped pave the way for them to be written.

GUIDELINE #7: STAND ON THE PROMISES OF GOD. Because Paul knew that God’s promises are as good as gold, he didn’t need to be anxious or worry about his unforeseen roadblock in Caesarea. God had promised him that he’d make it to Rome, so no matter how long and drawn out his incarceration was, he knew he would eventually make it to Rome. God had said so. So, when you are harshly criticized, hold onto the promises of God. Paul was able to endure some of the harshest criticism imaginable as he stood firmly on the promises of God. And so can you.

Dane Davis is the pastor of Impact Christian Church in Victorville. Pastor Dane’s latest book (Called to Persevere: One Man’s Journey to Overcome Pain, Disease and Disappointment with God) is NOW available at Amazon. For more information, visit www.GreaterImpact.cc or www.Called2Persevere.org.

 

 

Saturday, October 1, 2022

Are You a Bulldog for Jesus?

“The Lord stood near Paul and said, ‘Take courage! As you have testified about me in Jerusalem, so you must also testify in Rome.’” – Acts 23:11

A man who loved to hunt purchased two Irish setters that he trained to be world-class bird dogs. One morning, the dog’s owner saw an ornery little bulldog shuffling and snorting down the alley beside his house. With drool hanging off his gums, the bulldog crawled under the fence into the man’s backyard and started to pick a fight with his two Irish setters. Well, those setters chewed that bulldog up one side and down the other. The intruder crawled back under the fence and went on his way, and the man figured that would be the end of it.

But the next day, around the same time, up the alley came the same bulldog, shuffling and snorting just as he had the day before. And, once again, he crawled under the fence, picked a fight with the two Irish setters and got the stuffing beaten out of him. So, the bulldog crawled back under the fence and went home. And the next day? Same time. Same dog. Same result.

The next day the man left for a business trip. When he returned a week later, he asked his wife for an update on the dogs. She said, “Honey, every morning at the same time, that little bulldog crawled under our fence and fought with our two setters. He didn’t miss a day! And now, every time our setters hear that bulldog snorting down the alley and see him squeezing under the fence, they start whining and run into the house. Now that little bulldog struts around our backyard like he owns the place.”

I got to thinking: That scrappy little bulldog – THAT’S THE APOSTLE PAUL! Paul took a lickin’ and kept on tickin’. Paul was chased out of Pisidian Antioch, stoned in Lystra, flogged in Philippi, arrested in Jerusalem and had his life threatened numerous times. But he refused to back down. He just kept coming, taking whatever blows were necessary to spread the life-changing message of Jesus Christ. I don’t know about you, but I want to be that determined. I want to be that resilient. I want to be that tough for Jesus.

In Acts 22 and 23, Paul was rescued from an angry mob by a Roman commander, Commander Lysias, three times in a 24-hour period. When Paul got back to the safety of the barracks after his third rescue, he must have wondered if the NEXT mob would be the one that would take him out. But then Jesus spoke to Paul with this promise: “Take courage! As you have testified about me in Jerusalem, so you must also testify in Rome” (Acts 23:11).

But the mob had other ideas. The morning after Jesus’ promise to Paul, more than 40 men hatched a fresh plot to murder him. They asked the chief priests and elders to have the commander send for Paul “on the pretext of wanting more accurate information about his case. We are ready to kill him before he gets here” (v.15). However, Paul’s nephew—a young man we’ve never heard of before and won’t hear of again in Scripture—learned about the plot. He went to Commander Lysias and urged him not to send Paul into the conspirators’ trap. So, late that night, when most of the conspirators were home in their PJs, the commander had Paul escorted out of the city. Just to be safe, he sent along some company: 200 armed foot soldiers, 70 horsemen and 200 spearmen. Even if the 40-plus conspirators had realized Paul was being escorted out of the city, they wouldn’t have stood a chance against 470 armed soldiers. They were outnumbered 11 to one.

So the Apostle Paul, our determined bulldog, lived to fight another day. Here are three Life Lessons we can draw from this passage.

Life Lesson #1: When God makes you a promise, you can afford to be bold in carrying out His marching orders. I like to remind people: There is no safer place to be than in the center of God’s will. When you are right where He wants you to be, doing exactly what He wants you to do, you can afford to be bold and courageous for Him. Why? Because He’s made you some promises. He’s promised that He will be with you. He’s promised to never leave you nor forsake you. He's promised that the Holy Spirit will give you the words to say when you’re under attack. Since God’s promises are as good as gold, allow His promises to embolden you to say what He leads you to say and do what He calls you to do.

Life Lesson #2: Most of the time God doesn’t use extraordinary means to accomplish His purposes. He uses ordinary people and circumstances to carry out His will. For every time that God does the extraordinary, He works thousands of times through ordinary people and everyday circumstances. Occasionally God will part the Red Sea, hold the sun in place or raise someone from the dead. But every day, God works in unremarkable ways through thousands of ordinary people. In Acts 23, He fulfilled His promise to protect Paul by working through Paul’s nephew and Commander Lysias. There’s a good chance neither of those men was saved. But God used them anyway to work all things together for the good of His servant Paul.

Life Lesson #3: Somewhere inside you there’s a bold, scrappy bulldog. So, let him loose. Be a bulldog for Jesus. As long as we allow Jesus to hold our leash, you and I need to be more bulldog-like. Jesus doesn’t want us to be like the two Irish setters who start whining and running into the house at the first sign of an attack. We need to be like the bulldog: standing strong in our faith, holding firm in our convictions, and speaking boldly for Jesus. And when we take some lumps for our Lord, we need to lick our wounds and do it all over again the next day.

Dane Davis is the pastor of Impact Christian Church in Victorville. Join us at Impact for Sunday services: in person at 9 a.m., or online at 10 a.m. on YouTube or Facebook. Dane’s latest book, “Called to Persevere: One Man’s Journey to Overcome Pain, Disease and Disappointment with God,” is scheduled for release on Amazon in October.

Saturday, September 24, 2022

Jesus Brings Radical Changes

“Isn’t he the man who raised havoc in Jerusalem among those who call on [Jesus Christ’s] name?”
– Acts 9:21

It was around the year 1920. There was a certain old farmer who lived with his family in the middle of nowhere. One day they climbed into their horse-drawn buggy and headed into the nearest big city to take care of some important business. When they got there, the farmer parked his buggy in front of a massive building. He turned to his youngest son and said, “Little Johnny, you can come with me if you want. But the rest of you stay here. We won’t be long.”

Johnny jumped at the chance to go inside the huge building with his dad. He’d never seen anything like it. Truth be told, neither had his dad. Inside, the receptionist directed them to the elevator that would take them to the fifth floor. The farmer and his son stood in front of the elevator, bewildered, watching the doors open and close as people got in and out. After a few minutes, they saw a little old lady shuffle into the elevator by herself. Once alone inside the elevator, she turned and faced the farmer and his son as the doors closed.

About 30 seconds later, the elevator doors re-opened, and the farmer and his son couldn’t believe their eyes. Before them stood a gorgeous young woman, who gave them a dazzling smile as she stepped out of the elevator. INCREDIBLE! A decrepit old woman went in, and a beautiful young woman came out. So, the farmer turned to his son and said, "Quick, boy—go get your Ma!"

That farmer was pretty shallow, wasn’t he? He wanted to trade his wife in for a newer model. It never even crossed the old codger’s mind to step into the elevator himself to become a better man for her. But when you think about it, you and I aren’t very different from that farmer. We work much harder trying to get the people AROUND us to change than we do trying to change OURSELVES.

Well, some two thousand years ago, a man stepped into God’s elevator and allowed himself to be radically changed: the Apostle Paul. In a matter of moments, Paul went from destroying churches to building them. He went from exterminating Christians to nourishing them. He went from hating Jesus to loving Him.

In Acts 8, Paul was a zealot who stood by, giving approval to the stoning death of Stephen, the first Christian martyr. From there, he set out to arrest as many Christians as he could, often campaigning to have them executed. Saul hated Christians with a passion. Because, from the bottom of his heart, he hated Jesus Christ—so much that he tried to eradicate the name of Jesus not only from the lips of Christians in Jerusalem, but from the lips of Christians around the world.

But that all changed in Acts 9 when Paul met Jesus Christ. He was knocked flat on the road to Damascus, temporarily blinded. He gave his life to Christ and was baptized. And the next thing people knew, he was proclaiming the name of Jesus in the synagogues. The man who had been bent on getting rid of Christians was now trying to make more Christians. And during his years on the mission field, Paul traveled somewhere in the neighborhood of 10,000 miles, spreading the word of Christ. Within about 30 years, Paul helped plant dozens of churches, wrote half the books of the New Testament, and through those books, he has led hundreds of millions of people to a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ. The Apostle Paul changed the world. But before Paul could change the world, Jesus Christ had to first change HIM.

I’d like to share three powerful life lessons we can draw from Paul’s transformed life.

Life Lesson #1: Even the greatest Christians have checkered pasts. No matter what you’ve done, no matter how far you’ve strayed from God, there is hope for you in Christ. If you’ll let Him, God will forgive you. God will save you. God’s grace is greater than our disgrace.

Lesson #2: God doesn’t just SAVE hell-bent sinners. He RECRUITS them to change the world. Even after you’re saved, Satan is very good at whispering in your ear, “You’re a nobody. You don’t belong at church. You’ve got nothing to offer. You can’t lead anyone to Christ. You’re useless!” And that’s when Jesus calls you to stand up and say, “Get behind me, Satan! Jesus Christ has filled my life with purpose, and I will do great things for Him, not because I’m great, but because He’s great in me. ‘I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength!’”

Lesson #3: You have precious little time to impact the lives around you. So, hit the ground serving. Finish strong. Far too many Christians START strong and FINISH weak. Regardless of how badly you started your Christian journey, you can finish strong. Honestly, Paul didn’t start his ministry years very well either. In fact, as he saw it, he had been the worst of sinners. But he sure did finish well. Once he made up his mind to give Jesus Christ his all, he fought the good fight and finished the race strong. And so can you!

Dane Davis is the pastor of Impact Christian Church in Victorville. Join us at Impact for Sunday services: in person at 9 a.m., or online at 10 a.m. on YouTube or Facebook. Dane’s latest book, “Called to Persevere: One Man’s Journey to Overcome Pain, Disease and Disappointment with God,” is scheduled for release on Amazon in October.

Monday, September 19, 2022

Paul Stands Before His Accusers

“The dispute became so violent that the commander was afraid Paul would be torn to pieces by them.– Acts 23:10

As much as we might hate to admit it, mob violence has been on the rise in the United States in recent years. It was just over 2 years ago, in June 2020, that a mob took over six city blocks in downtown Seattle. Over the course of 23 days, The Capitol Hill Occupational Protest (CHOP) evolved into CHAZ, The Capitol Hill Autonomous Zone. The mob chased the police out of their precinct, trashed public and private property, and several people were shot and killed. Just seven months later, on January 6th, 2021, we saw a horrifying scene in Washington D.C. as a mob of around 2,000 protesters stormed the Capitol building. In the melee, five people were killed. And a few months ago, in the wake of the leaked Supreme Court draft overturning Roe v. Wade, small mobs vandalized pro-life clinics around the country. Several were even fire-bombed. 

Sadly, in this world we live in, we are no strangers to mob violence. And neither was the Apostle Paul. Just a few days after his arrival in Jerusalem, a mob was calling for his lynching, and a Roman commander stepped in to save Paul’s neck. But since the commander couldn’t figure out what Paul was being accused of, he called on the chief priests and the Jewish Ruling Council—the Sanhedrin—to hold a hearing.

Some 25 years earlier, Paul had been carrying out the Sanhedrin’s orders to hunt down and arrest Christians. He was likely on track to become a member of the Sanhedrin before Jesus Christ shook up his plans. So, as Paul stood before the Sanhedrin in Acts 23, he probably recognized many of them. And what he said next immediately got him into hot water with their head honcho, the high priest Ananias: “My brothers, I have fulfilled my duty to God in all good conscience to this day” (v. 1). Ananias promptly “ordered those standing near Paul to strike him on the mouth” (v. 2).

As Pastor Warren Wiersbe explains, conscience is our inner judge of whether we’re doing right or wrong. Conscience doesn’t set the standard—it only applies our own standard. “Conscience,” he writes, “may be compared to a window that lets in the light. God’s law is the light, and the cleaner the window is, the more the light shines in. As the window gets dirty, the light gets dimmer.”

Paul’s hearing before the Sanhedrin went downhill fast. Paul’s remarks came across to his accusers as arrogant and hypocritical. The slap across Paul’s mouth came across to Paul as petty and unbiblical. So, Paul retaliated by turning to the High Priest Ananias and saying, “God will strike you, you whitewashed wall! You sit there to judge me according to the law, yet you yourself violate the law by commanding that I be struck!” (v. 3). These are pretty harsh words. They seem out of character for Paul, who usually submitted to local authorities as long as he could still preach God’s word.

Eventually Paul’s confrontation with the Sanhedrin sparked a heated dispute between the Pharisees and the Sadducees in their ranks. The Roman commander stepped in once again and ordered that Paul be taken to the safety of the barracks before this latest mob could tear him to pieces (v. 10). By now, Paul must have wondered if the Roman soldiers wouldn’t come to his rescue next time. He had dreamed of sharing the Gospel of Jesus Christ in Rome, but that was beginning to look like a pipe dream. So, Jesus spoke to Paul the following night with the perfect, timely message: “Take courage! As you have testified about Me in Jerusalem, so you must also testify in Rome” (v11). And that’s all Paul needed to hear.

Here are a few insights we can gain from this passage:

Insight #1: Treat your conscience like a close friend. Don’t allow it to be tainted and clouded by ongoing, unconfessed sin. In 1 Timothy 4:2, Paul warned Timothy about hypocritical liars whose consciences have been seared as with a hot iron. That’s a tragedy—to have a God-given conscience that has been exposed to so much sin that it has become completely desensitized to it. Your conscience is a gift from God. So, make sure that you guard your heart from the hardness of sin, and stop filling your eyes and mind with immoral junk. Because if your heart is hard and your mind is full of trash, your conscience window will become grimier and grimier to a point where it doesn’t let the light in anymore. So, confess your sins and turn from your sins every day to keep your conscience clear and the light of God’s word shining through.

Insight #2: Even when your leaders do things that are disrespectful, God’s Word calls you to show respect to your leaders. Throughout God’s word, we are commanded to honor, respect and obey our government leaders. Not just the government leaders we like. Not just the government leaders we agree with. Not just the government leaders we voted for. ALL government leaders. Over the past few years, Christians across our country have come across just as divisive and disrespectful as nonChristians—in some cases, even more so. As I’ve mentioned before, we’ve given Christianity a really bad name. The gospel is controversial enough. We don’t need to make it MORE controversial by acting like a bunch of hate-spewing, disrespectful jerks. Remember: Your number-one political duty as a Christian is to PRAY for your leaders. So, pray for our President, pray for our Governor, pray for our local leaders. And show them respect—even when they do things that you find disrespectful. 

Insight #3: God’s message to Paul is also God’s message to you: “Take courage! You still have important work to do. I’m not through with you yet.”

Dane Davis is the pastor of Impact Christian Church in Victorville. Join us at Impact for Sunday services: in person at 9 a.m., or online at 10 a.m. on YouTube or Facebook. Dane’s latest book, “Called to Persevere: One Man’s Journey to Overcome Pain, Disease and Disappointment with God,” is scheduled for release on Amazon in October.

Saturday, September 10, 2022

Never Trample the Cross. No Matter the Cost.

They stirred up the whole crowd and seized him, shouting, “Fellow Israelites, help us! This is the man who teaches everyone everywhere against our people and our law and this place.”
– Acts 21:13

During China’s Boxer Rebellion of 1899 and 1900, Chinese insurgents killed hundreds of Christians in their efforts to drive Christianity out of China. I have heard the following story about one of the many massacres that took place. The story may be embellished, but it’s based on historical fact. Insurgents captured a mission station that housed around a hundred Christians. They locked all the gates but one, and in front of that one open gate, they placed a cross flat on the ground. The people inside were told that any who trampled the cross underfoot would be permitted their freedom and life. Anyone refusing would be shot.

Terribly frightened, seven students trampled the cross under their feet and were allowed to go free. But the eighth student, a young girl, refused to trample the cross. She knelt beside the cross in prayer for strength. Then she stood up and shuffled carefully around it, and went out to face the firing squad. Strengthened by her example, every one of the remaining students followed her to the firing squad.

What would you have done if you’d been inside the mission that day? I’ll tell you what the Apostle Paul would have done: He would have prayed, walked around the cross and boldly shared the Good News of Jesus Christ until they put a bullet in his head. Regardless of what persecution came his way, Paul refused to stop telling people about His Lord who saved him. He didn’t steer clear of persecution. He faced it head-on. It was true when he was out on the mission field. And it was equally true when he stood before his fellow Jews in Jerusalem.

After finishing his third missionary journey, Paul and his missionary companions arrived in Jerusalem to celebrate the Day of Pentecost. They were received warmly by the Christian leaders in the Jerusalem church. But after several days, some of Paul’s critics from the province of Asia showed up and made a slew of false accusations against him.

A mob formed, dragged Paul out of the temple and tried to beat him to death. Immediately a military commander arrived with at least 100 soldiers, and the rioters stopped beating Paul long enough for the soldiers to arrest and chain him. Then, as the soldiers carried Paul up the steps leading to the barracks, Paul made a strange request to the Commander. Most prisoners in Paul’s sandals would have yelled, “Get me out of here!” But instead he asked, “Please let me speak to the people” (Acts 21:39).

Wow! Paul REALLY loved Jesus. And he REALLY loved his fellow Jews—even the ones who wanted to tear him limb from limb. The commander reluctantly agreed. So, bloody and bruised, Paul stood before the angry crowd and shared his beautiful testimony of how he met Jesus and what Jesus had done in his life. But as soon as Paul mentioned God sending him out to the Gentiles, the crowd erupted again.

What can we learn from this passage?

Life Lesson #1: Even when you live your life with absolute integrity , some people will still misjudge and falsely accuse you. God calls you to live a life of integrity anyway. During his first week in Jerusalem, Paul went to great lengths to demonstrate that he wasn’t Anti-Judaism, Anti-Old Testament or Anti-Temple. But he was false accused anyway. It happened to Paul, and if you are following Christ well, sooner or later it WILL happen to you.

Life Lesson #2: Whenever someone gives you the opportunity to trample the cross of Christ to save your bacon, hold fast to the cross, and surrender your bacon. I ask again: What would you have done if the Boxer rebels had threatened you? And what would you have done if the nationalists in Jerusalem had threatened you? We know what that young Chinese Christian girl did. And we know what Paul did. May God find you and me faithful to do the same—no matter the cost.

Life Lesson #3: Prejudice comes at a high price. It makes us deaf and blind to the truth that can set us free, both in this life and in the life to come. Bible commentator John Wade writes: “The tragedy of this situation [at the temple] was that prejudice against the Gentiles … prevented them from hearing the rest of Paul’s message. Had he been allowed to continue, there is no doubt that he would have conveyed to them the good news of the gospel, the good news that God has offered salvation to all men. Prejudice of any kind exacts a high price, but none higher than the price that these men paid.”

Let me say this plainly: There is no room for prejudice in a Christian’s life. Whether it’s prejudice because of the color of someone’s skin, someone’s social status or because of who someone associates with, there’s no place for it in a Christian’s life. EVERYONE needs Jesus. Therefore, God has called us to share the gospel of Jesus Christ with everyone: Jew and Gentile, young and old, male and female. We are called to tell ALL people in our lost and dying world: “You’re a precious creation of God. You were carefully and lovingly knit together in your mother’s womb. God knows EXACTLY who you are, and He has a PERFECT plan for your life. And if you’d like to know what it is, let me tell you about His Son, Jesus Christ.”

Dane Davis is the pastor of Impact Christian Church in Victorville. Join us at Impact for Sunday services: in person at 9 a.m., or online at 10 a.m. on YouTube or Facebook. Dane’s latest book, “Called to Persevere: One Man’s Journey to Overcome Pain, Disease and Disappointment with God,” is scheduled for release on Amazon in October.

Saturday, September 3, 2022

Jerusalem or Bust!

“Why are you weeping and breaking my heart? I am ready not only to be bound, but also to die in Jerusalem for the name of the Lord Jesus.” – Acts 21:13

In one of his many inspiring books, Pastor Max Lucado tells the story of Chippie the parakeet. One moment, Chippie was peacefully perched in his cage. The next thing he knew, he was—in Lucado’s words—“sucked in, washed up, and blown over.”

It all began when Chippie's owner decided to clean his cage with a vacuum cleaner. She stuck the vacuum hose in the cage and flipped the switch. Everything was going fine until the phone rang. The owner picked it up, said "Hello," and … sssspp! Chippie got sucked in. Chippie’s owner gasped, put down the phone, turned off the vacuum, and opened the canister. There was Chippie -- still alive, but stunned and covered with dirt. She ran to the bathroom, turned on the faucet, and held Chippie under the running water. Then, when she saw that Chippie was soaked and shivering, she tried once again to help—by reaching for the blow dryer and blasting him with hot air.

A few days later, someone asked Chippie's owner how her pet was recovering. “Well," she said, "Chippie doesn't sing much anymore—he just sits and stares." Poor Chippie!

On the surface, Chippie and the Apostle Paul had a lot in common. As he wrote in his second letter to the Corinthians: “I have been in prison more frequently, been flogged more severely, and been exposed to death again and again. Five times I received from the Jews the forty lashes minus one. Three times I was beaten with rods, once I was stoned, three times I was shipwrecked.” (2 Corinthians 11:23-25). Like Chippie, Paul was sucked in, washed up and blown over. After all that he endured for Christ, Paul’s friends and family would have understood if he had finished his life like Chippie—just sitting there shell-shocked, staring into the distance. But even after all that he had suffered, and knowing that more persecution awaited him in Jerusalem, Paul was just as determined as ever to fight the good fight, finish the race and keep the faith.

As they set off for Jerusalem, Paul and his team stopped in several towns, staying in the homes of fellow Christian disciples. In Caesarea, they spent several days at the house of a man you might remember: Philip the evangelist. Twenty years earlier, Philip had served as a deacon alongside Stephen, the first Christian martyred for his faith in Christ. Paul was at that execution … watching over the coats of the murderers who were throwing rocks at Stephen’s head. Think about that: Paul was an accomplice in the murder of one of Philip’s partners in ministry. Stephen might have been one of Philip’s best friends—and Paul had helped kill him. Surprisingly, in Acts 21, there is no hint of bitterness, anger or a grudge. There is just warm Christian hospitality. Isn’t this a beautiful testimony to the power of Christian love and forgiveness?

Before Paul’s group left Caesarea, a prophet named Agabus visited them to deliver a prophetic message to Paul. He took off Paul’s belt, tied it around his own hands and feet and said, “The Holy Spirit says, ‘In this way the Jews of Jerusalem will bind the owner of this belt and will hand him over to the Gentiles’” (vs. 10-11). The church’s reaction to this prophecy wasn’t surprising. Paul’s missionary buddies and the Caesarean Christians “pleaded with Paul not to go up to Jerusalem” (v. 12). Paul had now been warned multiple times that persecution awaited him in Jerusalem. But listen to Paul’s response: “Why are you weeping and breaking my heart? I am ready not only to be bound, but also to die in Jerusalem for the name of the Lord Jesus” (v. 13). Is it any wonder that this man is a hero of our faith?

I’d like to suggest three life lessons we can pull from this passage:

Life Lesson #1: If you follow Christ faithfully, you will be misunderstood. Follow Him faithfully anyway. The 19th century essayist and poet Ralph Waldo Emerson said it really well: “Pythagoras was misunderstood, and Socrates, and Jesus, and Luther…. To be great is to be misunderstood.” Even Paul’s fellow missionaries couldn’t understand why he was so dead set on going to Jerusalem when he knew full well that persecution awaited him there. So, Paul was misunderstood by many people, including his Christian friends. To be a great Christian is to be misunderstood.

Life Lesson #2: If you are a Christian, you have family and friends all over the world. Everywhere Paul traveled and encountered Christians, he had a place to stay. And the same is true of Christians today. No matter where you find yourself here in the United States, or in other parts of the world, go to church. You’ll find family and friends there who will receive you with open arms.

Life Lesson #3: As you walk in grace, the Holy Spirit gives you the grace to forgive. I believe Philip is an unsung hero. Most people wouldn’t have done what he did. In our world, where people hold grudges and harbor anger, bitterness and unforgiveness, Philip walked in God’s grace. So, God gave him the grace to forgive Paul. Remember, no matter WHO the person is or WHAT they’ve done to wrong you and your family, God has given you the grace to forgive that person. So, do it. Let go of the anger, the bitterness and the unforgiveness today. Jesus will give you the grace to forgive, if you’ll just hand over your unforgiveness to Him.

Dane Davis is the pastor of Impact Christian Church in Victorville. Join us at Impact for Sunday services: in person at 9 a.m., or online at 10 a.m. on YouTube or Facebook. Dane’s latest book, “Called to Persevere: One Man’s Journey to Overcome Pain, Disease and Disappointment with God,” is scheduled for release on Amazon in September.


Saturday, August 27, 2022

Three More Savage Wolves in the Church

“Stay there in Ephesus so that you may command certain men not to teach false doctrines any longer.” 
1 Timothy 1:3-4

When the Apostle Paul left the city of Ephesus after three years of ministry, he warned the church leaders about “savage wolves” who would come to undermine the teachings of Jesus Christ. Sure enough, false teachers arose within the Ephesian church and started muddying the clear and simple gospel teaching that they had received from Paul.

Listen to what Paul wrote to his partner in ministry, Timothy, after he left: “Stay there in Ephesus so that you may command certain men not to teach false doctrines any longer nor to devote themselves to myths and endless genealogies. These promote controversies rather than God’s work—which is by faith. The goal of this command is love, which comes from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith. Some have wandered away from these and turned to meaningless talk. They want to be teachers of the law, but they do not know what they are talking about” (1 Timothy 1:3-7).

This wasn’t just a 1st-Century problem. Last week we looked at examples of three savage wolves that have risen up within the American church today. Now, let’s take a look at three more:

Savage Wolf #1: The hedonist who teaches, “Do what makes you happy. God will forgive you” (Jude 4). Jude wrote: “For certain men whose condemnation was written about long ago have secretly slipped in among you. They are godless men, who change the grace of our God into a license for immorality and deny Jesus Christ our only Sovereign and Lord” (Jude 4). In recent years, a growing number of Christian leaders and churches have turned a blind eye to most sexual sins. Hedonistic Christians are very good at making excuses for sin and watering down what God’s word teaches about judgment and hell. They view God’s grace as a get-out-of-hell free card. So, be on guard. Steer clear of churches that call “good” what God calls “evil.” These are wolves in sheep’s clothing.

Savage Wolf #2: The legalist who teaches, “Follow all my rules” while largely ignoring Jesus’ call to love God and people (Matthew 23-24). Jesus leveled this woe against the religious leaders of his day: “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You give a tenth of your spices .... but you have neglected the more important matters of the law—justice, mercy and faithfulness” (Matthew 23:23). Legalism takes our eyes off Jesus and shifts our focus to rule-keeping. And any pastor or teacher who takes your eyes off Jesus, and tries to get you to follow some religious formula instead of loving and following Jesus, is a wolf in sheep’s clothing.

Savage Wolf #3: The politician’s hatchet man disguised as a pastor (1 Timothy 2:1-4). Remember what Paul teaches us: “I urge, then, first of all, that requests, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for everyone—for kings and all those in authority…. This is good, and pleases God our Savior, who wants all men to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth” (1 Timothy 2:1-4). God only calls a few Christian pastors to be political activists. But He calls ALL of us to pray for our leaders. It doesn’t matter if you’re a registered Republican, Democrat or Libertarian. Your top political priority as a Christian is to PRAY for President Biden, Vice President Harris, Governor Newsom and our local city council members. Pray for ALL our leaders to carry out God’s will for their lives. And we know that if they are in the center of God's will, they will make decisions that are righteous and honor Him.

More times than not, political activism in the church take our eyes off the goal: to expand Christ’s kingdom on earth by leading people to salvation and maturity in Christ. So, watch out for church leaders who are two-thirds political activist and only one-third gospel proclaimer. Most of them are wolves in sheep’s clothing.

Remember, Christianity boils down to these three things: 1) Trust God, 2) Love God and 3) Obey God. False teachers always, always, ALWAYS chip away at at least one of these: Faith, Love and Obedience. Remember that and be on your guard!

Dane Davis is the pastor of Impact Christian Church in Victorville. Join us at Impact for Sunday services: in person at 9 a.m., or online at 10 a.m. on YouTube or Facebook. Dane’s latest book, “Called to Persevere: One Man’s Journey to Overcome Pain, Disease and Disappointment with God,” is scheduled for release on Amazon in September.

Monday, August 22, 2022

Savage Wolves in the Church

“Savage wolves will come in and will not spare the flock.” – Acts 20:29

Remember the story of the Three Little Pigs? Each piggy built a house. The first pig built his house out of straw. The second pig built his house out of sticks. The third little pig built his house out of bricks. Then the big bad wolf, who just loved to eat fat little piggies, came along.

First he went to the house of straw and said, “Little pig, little pig, let me in, or I’ll huff and I’ll puff and I’ll blow your house in!” “Not by the hair of my chinny-chin-chin,” said the little pig. But the wolf did blow the house in and ate the first little pig.    Next, the wolf then came to the house of sticks. Same conversation, same result: The wolf blew down the stick house and ate the second little pig. But then the wolf came to the house of bricks. The wolf huffed and puffed and huffed and puffed … but he could not blow down that brick house. And the third little pig lived happily ever after.

Why did I just tell you the story of the Three Little Pigs? Because every Christian in America is one of the little pigs, and the wolves are coming. Mind you, this is nothing new. When the Apostle Paul left the Ephesians in Acts 20, he warned them, “After I leave, I know that savage wolves will come in and will not spare the flock.” (v. 29). And just like the Ephesian Christians, we have “savage wolves” among us. They’re not just coming at us from outside the four walls of the church building. They’re already here.

So, which savage wolves have arisen within the American church today? Today I’ll name five of them:

Savage Wolf #1: The sexual predator who says, “You can trust me” when all the while he is abusing women and/or children in the church (1 Samuel 2:22). In 1 Samuel 2, the Jewish high priest was Eli, and his two sons served as priests under him. God’s Word tells us that these sons were “wicked men” (v. 12), and part of their wickedness is described in verse 22: “They slept with the women who served at the entrance to the Tent of Meeting.” That’s a wicked abuse of power. We would like to think that there aren’t any such predators in the church today, but sadly, there are. I’m convinced that sexual predators in the pulpit are rare, but they are out there.

Savage Wolf #2: The embezzler who says, “I handle church finances with the utmost integrity” when all the while he/she is stealing donations (John 12:6). Even Jesus had an embezzler in the ranks of his 12 apostles. We read in John 12:6 that Judas Iscariot “was a thief; as keeper of the money bag, he used to help himself to what was put into it.” Recently I read an article that described several examples of financial predators in churches. There was the usher who collected the offering in the balcony and helped himself to the cash on the way down the stairs. A bookkeeper in one church and a treasurer in another were both sentenced to prison for embezzling thousands of dollars from their churches. Most church leaders handle their finances with integrity, but not ALL of them.

Savage Wolf #3: The narcissist who says, “Look at me! Look at me!” (Matthew 23:5-7). Jesus tells his disciples in Matthew 23:5-7: “Everything [the scribes and Pharisees] do is done for men to see … they love to be greeted in the marketplaces and to have men call them ‘Rabbi.’” Unfortunately, there are some big egos in the church. A pastor with a big ego can get a messiah complex. As he begins lifting himself up, he also begins subtly pulling Jesus down. And that’s a recipe for disaster. A few years ago a local Christian businessman asked me to listen to one of his pastor’s sermons and evaluate it. So, I listened to it and gave him my honest opinion: The sermon was terrible! It was twisting Scripture and peddling false doctrine. But this man was so loyal to his pastor, he said, “If my pastor is going to hell, I’m going with him.” Wow! Never forget, our loyalty is first and foremost to Jesus Christ—not to any church leader. You follow your church leaders AS they follow Christ. But when they stop following Christ and teaching His word faithfully, STOP following them.

Savage Wolves #4 and #5: The universalist who teaches, “All roads lead to God and heaven.” And the cultist who teaches, “Jesus isn’t God, the Bible isn’t God’s perfect Word, and salvation only comes through OUR church” (2 Peter 2:1-2). The Apostle Peter warned, “There will be false teachers among you. They will secretly introduce destructive heresies, even denying the sovereign Lord who bought them…. Many will follow their shameful ways” (2 Peter 2:1-2).

Millions of Christians have gotten pulled away from good, Bible-teaching churches by so-called “Christians” who either claim that Jesus is ONE OF MANY WAYS to heaven, or that salvation requires Jesus PLUS someone or something else. Both universalism and cults strip Jesus of His power and authority. He is presented as great, but not THAT great. He is presented as a Savior, but not THE Savior. If you’re ever in a church where the pastor starts pulling Jesus down to the same level as Buddah, Mohammad or even Moses, get out of there. Universalists and cultists are wolves in sheep’s clothing.

We need to be on guard and call out these wolves when we see them. Across America, there are plenty of wolves inside churches, hollering, “Little pig, little pig, let me in.” I hope you’ll join me in responding, “Not by the hair of my chinny-chin-chin!”

Dane Davis is the pastor of Impact Christian Church in Victorville. Join us at Impact for Sunday services: in person at 9 a.m., or online at 10 a.m. on YouTube or Facebook. Dane’s latest book, “Called to Persevere: One Man’s Journey to Overcome Pain, Disease and Disappointment with God,” is scheduled for release on Amazon in September.