Going Rogue

prayer hands

The story of Daniel and the lions’ den is not unfamiliar. As wonderful and promising it is that the Lord protected and honored Daniel even in the midst of ferocious animals, I am intrigued by the back story, the reason Danny found himself in the company of carnivorous kitties. He went rogue.

King Darius appointed Daniel (with two other administrators) to supervise the 120 overseers of the kingdom. Daniel soon “proved himself more capable than all the other administrators”, and because of his “great ability, the king made plans to place [Daniel] over the entire empire” (Daniel 6:1-3). Jealousy filled the other administrators, who sought to accuse Daniel to the king. However, in addition to being highly capable, Daniel was “faithful, always responsible, and completely trustworthy.” So, as the story goes, the bad guys decided that the only way to get Daniel in trouble was to somehow make his faith a problem to the king (6:4-5). They convinced the king to make it temporarily illegal to pray unless it was to the king (6:6-9).

This is the part that grabs me. Keep in mind the depiction of Daniel’s leadership – how much he was responsible for and how well he fulfilled those responsibilities. He was the leader of leaders. He was on the cover of leadership magazines. He had a dozen best-selling works on “leadership that transcends empires.” But it was his prayer life that got him in trouble. His comrades made it illegal for him to pray. I have to ask – I wonder how many contemporary leaders would be much affected by such a prohibition? Could they, could I, just continue with my current calendar agenda and comply with the law against praying? Would anything change much?

For Daniel there was no option. He went rogue in prayer. He prayed three times a day just as he had always done (v. 10). And that’s what got him busted. But God honored him and all worked out well – “the end.” Okay, now let’s take another look at Daniel’s prayer life.

Daniel prayed three times a day, giving thanks to God. That’s the first descriptive phrase attached to Daniel’s prayers. His prayer life is first characterized by giving thanks. When he was caught grateful-handed, the narrator says Daniel was praying and “asking for God’s help.” So we’re told three things: Daniel set aside three periods of time a day to pray. His prayers were characterized by thanksgiving. When he prayed, he asked for God’s help.

I love this! First, notice that Daniel was NOT praying in order to appease an angry god, nor to keep his god in a good mood so that things would go well for Daniel. [I chose not to capitalize the former references to divinity as they did not accurately represent one.] Daniel prayed in order to give thanks and ask for help. How sublimely simple! How similar to Paul’s admonition: with thanksgiving, pray about everything (Phil. 4:6).

Did God prosper Daniel in response to and because of his prayers? Did Daniel “pray enough” for God to notice and respond? I don’t think so. Rather, it seems to me that Daniel created a climate in his own heart and mind that tapped into the free flow of wisdom and grace from heaven by regularly practicing genuine gratitude and humbly asking for help. Consider how giving thanks and asking for help would have developed deep awareness of God’s abiding presence, and a calm confidence in God’s ready hand to help Daniel face whatever opportunity or obstacle.

I have responsibilities: to serve, to lead, to advise, to solve, even to “perform.” We all do. We all bear the responsibility to lead and serve in various arenas. Daniel’s example should inspire and instruct us. We would do well to set aside time, regularly, to give thanks to God and ask for His help. I don’t mean the panic-prayers in response to the latest crisis. I mean, like Daniel, the proactive prayer life that gives thanks and asks for help as a normal part (or several parts) of our day.

I deeply believe that we can create a climate of confidence, calm, and a deep awareness of God ready-to-help presence, and it is no harder than giving thanks and asking for His help. And here’s a bonus – it’s quite unlikely we’ll be fed to the lions for doing it.

If this or any post on this site encourages you, please feel free to share with others. And, as always, thanks for reading.






When is it okay to eat off someone else’s plate?



There is something sacred about the parameters of a plate. That is just some really personal space there. To sneak a nibble off a stranger’s plate is among the more indelicate actions conceivable. There is a pretty big difference between walking through a restaurant and noticing that what someone has ordered looks good, and deciding to find out on the spot for yourself if it is tasty. Pardon me, mind if I have a sip of your soup? In general, unless you’re dealing with toddlers-who-need-bites or spouses-who-wish-they-ordered-what-you-did, you simply do not eat off someone else’s plate. That is, unless we apply it to Thanksgiving.

No, I don’t mean that at the thanksgiving table one should be free to sample other’s side dishes or (by any means) mooch my mashed potatoes. I mean thanksgiving as in the act of giving thanks—gratitude.

Gratitude is the one arena where I can freely enjoy eating off of other’s plates. I can celebrate and give thanks for what is happening in the life of a friend, a family member, or even a complete stranger. I can give thanks to God for my friend’s promotion, for my brother’s new job, for the sweet deal on a new dryer that a lady in my church found. I give thanks for the stories I hear from around the world where love has overcome hostility, where faith has risen from failure, and where compassion has confronted suffering. I can (and do) give thanks for the stories of God’s grace at work in lives of people who lived and died generations ago.  I don’t even need permission to eat off of other’s plates when it comes to gratitude. I can eat to my heart’s content. The grateful heart has a continuous buffet.

What if my own plate is lacking? What if it seems like all I have are some crumbs and some wilted garnish while someone else’s plate seems to be overflowing gravy-goodness? Well, I have two options: I can fuss and feud. I can complain about my lack and criticize the injustice of what others have. I can sulk in my sadness. I can do that as long as I want to. I will then be no happier, no more content, no more hopeful, no more generous, and no more full than I was earlier. And my plate will still appear quite empty. OR I can give thanks for the grace I see in other’s lives. As I do, the first thing that will happen is my own joy will increase – because gratitude always leads to greater joy. Further, celebrating the victories and joys in others’ lives encourages my own soul. The same God that is at work in the lives of family, friends, and total strangers is the same God who loves me and knows my name. Gratitude for God’s goodness in other’s lives testifies to God’s ability and willingness to cause His goodness to prevail in my own life. The more stuff on other’s plates that I see, the more evidence I have for hope. So I will feast off of the full plates of others for the sake of my own soul.

Finally, I should note that a curious thing about gratitude is its powerful effect on perspective. Giving thanks helps me see just how much I am blessed. My plate is nowhere as barren as I imagined. In fact, I probably have enough for others to start eating off of my plate.

Happy Thanksgiving.

~ Dav




Walk By The Spirit




Galatians 5:16, “Walk by the Spirit..”

Paul’s understanding of the Christian life is that it is lived, it can only be lived from, by, and according to the Holy Spirit. The Spirit is the fountainhead of Christian worship, ethics, relationships and ministry. Paul asserted that the Spirit alone is entirely sufficient and totally adequate to accomplish God’s purposes in and among His people. He therefore prescribed attitudes, postures, and behaviors toward and with the Spirit – imperatives. The believer has the opportunity (responsibility) to rely on and conform to the influence of the Spirit. This is not striving or laborious. Our part is to choose (say yes), to believe (confidently anticipate and trust in His power and results), and to give thanks.

Walk by the Spirit

The second imperative we will consider (the first one was “be filled”) is Paul’s urging to the Galatian Church that they “walk by the Spirit.” In the letter, Paul has implored the Galatians to live in the freedom Christ has secured for them, free from the obligation (and curse) of the law, and free from the tyranny of the flesh. Neither are life-giving. Both are replaced and displaced by the power of the Spirit.

Walk by the Spirit, Paul says, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. Note here that Paul is describing (prescribing) opposite directions. He is not presenting two parallel tracks – one pristine and other problematic – between which we might hop back and forth on life’s journey. No. He is saying, in effect, if you walk north, you will not walk south. Period.

We need not confabulate what Paul has in mind by “the flesh.” Rather than strictly define “the flesh,” Paul describes its influence in vv. 19-21. Walk by the Spirit and you will not indulge in or engage in any of that kind of stuff. It is worth emphasizing that Paul says, “You will not.” He doesn’t suggest that walking by the Spirit will “aid in your avoidance” or will help you “ease up on this stuff” or even “keep you from doing it as often.” The Spirit’s empowering influence is entirely sufficient to ensure that you will NOT. Wow. Those who seek to comfort the consciences of saints by telling them there’s no real way to live free, but just to do their darndest, might should reconsider Paul’s perspective of the Spirit’s power. That, I think, is the problem. Too many believers struggle on their own, leaning on methods, on accountability partners, or adopting rules to avoid or abstain from certain things, but never becoming free.  Freedom does not, cannot come from doing our darndest. It flows from the empowering, gracious, personal influence of the Holy Spirit of God. Freedom comes as we relax and rely on the Holy Spirit. Paul’s prescription for freedom, for victorious Christian living, is singular: walk by the Holy Spirit.


This word means “to tread all around.” To walk (present tense) implies the continual actions of everyday life, one’s way of life and manner of living. The whole of our life is to be immersed under the gracious influence of the Spirit. Not only is this Paul’s antidote to the influence of the flesh, but it is a summary of Paul’s view of the whole of Christian life. We live, and therefore walk, by the Spirit (v. 25). In v.16 Paul says to “walk” by the Spirit in terms of our whole way of living, and in v.25 he says to “keep in step” with the Spirit, which to me implies yielding to the Spirit, following Him, in all the decisions and details of life – every step.

Learning to Walk

Paul doesn’t follow the imperative with an instruction manual. He seems content to point us to the Spirit and say, “He is enough. Trust Him.” Walking by the Spirit isn’t about a set of rules or a list of things to do, it is a relationship. Relationships require vulnerability and trust. This is how we walk by the Spirit. We trust Him. It seems to me that the simpler we make learning to walk by the Spirit, the closer to Paul’s intent we are.

Because this is an imperative, it begins with a choice. I decide. I choose to submerge my will beneath the life-giving waters of the Spirit. Come, Holy Spirit, I yield to you. I choose your Lordship over my life, and my steps, today.

I believe He is fully present. I practice an awareness of His abiding, surrounding presence. Think about Him. Be confident that He abides. Honor Him. Delight in Him. Walk with Him.

I believe He is working.  I believe that He is not passively present, but actively influencing me. He, in full power, is working in and through my life, now. Wow. Selah. Don’t move on too quickly from this thought. It’s a doozy.

I believe His work is working. Paul has informed me what kind of results to anticipate (v.16, vv.22-26) from the Holy Spirit’s work in me. I believe His work is working – now. I trust Him. I rely upon Him. I know that He will produce these good results in my life. He is right now.

What if I blow it? What if I demonstrate all kinds of behavior that Paul ascribes to the flesh? I have two choices: One, I can beat myself up and pout in my failure for as long as it takes for me to get tired of it (and be no better off whatsoever). Or, I can trust more in the Presence and Working of the Spirit than in myself. I do not accept a failure on my part as evidence of His incapability. Stumbling doesn’t mean you give up walking. Just keep walking.

Paul inspires our hopes, our expectations. He points us to an ideal. He helps focus our thoughts and affections and values on these qualities and outcomes (16, 22-26). Abandon yourself to absolute hope in the total sufficiency of the Spirit to accomplish all of God’s purposes in your life. He is enough. Trust Him. Believe He is present, that He is working, and that His work is working. And, overflow with thanksgiving for it. Freedom lies in the next step as we walk by the Spirit.

If this or any of post on this site has encouraged you, please consider sharing it with a friend. And, as always, thanks for reading!

~ Dav

Trash Talk

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James 4:11, “Don’t speak evil against each other, dear brothers and sisters” (NLT).


What if we didn’t? What if believers (the siblings James is addressing) ceased to trash talk? Yes, I mean the talk about others that is excused as concern, or sharing of frustrations, or venting, or whatever label is used to sanctify trash. I mean what if we didn’t?

People speak evil of others when they’re mad, or disappointed, or feel envious or resentful, or believe they’ve suffered some form of injustice. They present their grievances to others – again, clothed in the most pious pretenses – in order to gain sympathy and gather support. Really, it’s like holding court against someone: accusing them, presenting evidence, and demanding a verdict that favors your argument… except without the other party or person present, or even aware they’re being tried. The sentence handed down is silent scorn and harbored hard feelings.

Other times, trash talk is merely a mechanism to stroke our own ego at the expense of someone else. It works best if they never find out; that way we can use them again whenever ridicule of others becomes necessary to bolster our self-image (to remind ourselves or our audience of our superiority).

But what if we didn’t? What if – in cases where someone has actually hurt us – we had a Kingdom conversation with them? What if we asked humble questions and shared honest feelings? What if we sought to protect relationships and prized others above our own preferences? What if only fresh water came from the spring of our mouths – and we blessed God and others with our words? What if we trusted God to honor or promote us – and we focused on serving and honoring one another? Trash talk sullies every space it settles. No one benefits from evil speech. Everyone suffers from it. What if we didn’t?


Feel free to share if you like; and thanks for reading!

~ Dav

Faith – information or anticipation?




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an·tic·i·pa·tion (noun) the action of anticipating something; expectation or prediction

What if I used the word “anticipation” instead of “faith”? Perhaps “confident anticipation” is even better – so just assume I mean that when I say “anticipation.” Why mess with such a perfectly good word as faith? I don’t intend to replace it at all. I would simply like to look freshly at what faith is – and recognize what it is not, or at least not define faith poorly so as to diminish its transformational effect in our lives.

I am a fan of sound doctrine. Sound doctrine – truth – inspires and informs a robust faith. Faith requires sound doctrine. However, faith is not contained by or limited to doctrine. In fact, life-changing, God-honoring faith does not require perfect doctrine. Not at all. Good doctrine is better than bad doctrine. Bad doctrine can wreak havoc on people. But faith is not information. Information can be stored. It can be collected and organized. Information has the power to sit there and be accurate and accomplish absolutely nothing.

Faith is often understood as “what I believe.” That is true – but not true enough. Faith is not just a collection of things I think are correct about God, man, creation, fall, soteriology, eschatology, ecclesiology, and other-stuff-ology. It is a travesty to define faith as “correct information.” Certainly correct information is better than incorrect information. But if I limit faith to a collection of correct concepts, I have eliminated the catalyst. Such faith is akin to James’ statement that even the demons believe there is one God. Demons are monotheists. They are correct. But they are not obedient, not loving, not faithful, not kind, not joyful or grateful nor in any way do their lives glorify or enjoy God.  Correct information doesn’t save you (James 2:24). Correct information, alone, is dead. The pursuit of perfect doctrine more often than not leads to arrogance and argument (1 Cor. 8:1). I’ve had too much of both. Blech.

So I propose, even if for only my own benefit, to replace the word faith with anticipation. Confident anticipation. See, if I use that word instead, then I have immediately engaged my affections. I am leaning into expectancy, poised to act, ready to do something – anything. Here, I “do”- not in order to prove anything or earn anything – not at all. I “do” because anticipation is like the pulling back of a bow: hope-fueled eagerness compels the arrow of obedience. This is faith that believes not only that God is good all the time (an ontological reality) but that God is good right now (a teleological dynamic). I believe healing is in the atonement (information). I believe God wants to heal you, now (anticipation). I believe God is (information) and that He rewards those who sincerely seek him (anticipation). One of the New Testament metaphors for faith is a seed – the very icon of anticipation.

Isn’t it fascinating that Jesus almost always taught in terms of anticipation? The Kingdom of Heaven is at hand! Give and it shall be given to you; ask you will receive; knock and the door will be opened; it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the Kingdom; seek first the Kingdom and all these things will be added to you; let your light shine so that men will glorify your Father in heaven; your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you; how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask Him? All things are possible to him who believes… Jesus life and teaching demonstrate that faith is more than information – it is anticipation.

When I understand and apply faith as “anticipation,” I look for ways to obey and to serve. I look for opportunities to give thanks and rejoice. I expect God’s goodness to burst in upon the ordinary. I see acres of opportunity in front of me. All things are possible. Fields are white unto harvest. The Kingdom of heaven is at hand. There are people to love, mountains to move, seeds to sow, commands to obey, promises to receive, and dreams to realize. There is thanks to give, suffering to confront, and grace to give away. So I ask not only “what do you believe?” but “what do you anticipate?” See how much more fun that is?


If this or any article on this site has encouraged you, please consider sharing it with others. And, as always, thanks for reading!

~ Dav


Be Filled with the Spirit

be filled

      The Apostle Paul unequivocally asserted that the Holy Spirit is God’s powerful, perfect provision for living in the freedom and wholeness that Christ secured for us. The Holy Spirit is God’s empowering presence* for all our worship, witness and walk.

The Spirit in Paul

I invite you to join me, in several entries to follow, as we consider what Paul had to say about the Spirit and us. What I set out to do is identify in particular how Paul prescribes the role and influence of the Spirit in believers’ lives. By way of introduction, this is the fundamental truth that will bear out: Paul’s understanding of the Christian life is that it must be lived, can only be lived, from, by and according to the Holy Spirit. The Spirit is the fountainhead of Christian worship, ethics, relationships and ministry. The Spirit alone is absolutely sufficient to accomplish God’s purposes in and among His people. Paul, therefore prescribes attitudes, postures, and behaviors towards/with the Spirit – “Pauline Spirit Imperatives.” They are imperatives – meaning that these require the active will of the believer. I don’t mean that they require will power, just an act of our will. Walking by the Spirit requires decision and surrender by the believer. Believers do their part to rely upon His power and conform to His influence; that “part” is to give thanks, believe, and choose.

Be Filled With the Spirit

There are seven or eight unique imperatives from Paul regarding the Spirit, but let’s look at this one first. In a way it’s not just another imperative, it encompasses all of them. Paul writes in Ephesians 5:18, “Don’t be drunk with wine, because that will ruin your life. Instead, be filled with the Holy Spirit.” Consider with me what this means, and perhaps just as urgent, how this happens.


What does it mean to be filled; what does Paul mean when he says this? A literal meaning indicates that we are to be actually, fully-filled with the Person of the Spirit: like an earthen-container burgeoning with divine life. Handfuls of other passages in the NT indicate that this understanding should be accepted – regardless of its mystical feel. We truly are temples, “dwelling places” of God’s Spirit. Consider that whatever a container becomes full of, that becomes the identity of that vessel. A water bottle. A coffee cup. A pop can. All those things are defined by their fullness. So are you. You are filled with the Holy Spirit.

We are filled individually and as a community. This imperative, as most Spirit-imperatives, is given in the second-person plural. “You all, each of you and all of you together, be filled with the Holy Spirit.” The “plurality of Spirituality” is often missed – that Spirituality is intended to be shared with others in community. The fullest ideal of Spirit-filled living really requires us to be part of a “body” – much like our organs rely on the exchange of life, blood and breath. I, we, are invited (expected) to be made full of God’s very self. Words fail to describe the wonder of this.

In addition to the “actual” meaning of filled, there is an “influential” meaning. The Holy Spirit indeed lives personally in me, and His presence is not without effect. He influences me, inspires me. In truth, He has come to fill me because He loves me just the way I am, but loves me too much to leave me that way. I am not merely a clay container of a foreign-but-blessed substance. He fills, saturates, permeates, and transforms every fabric of my being. It is not incidental that Paul begins this imperative by urging his audience not to be drunk with wine, “but” Paul says, be filled with the Spirit. Do not come under the corrupting influence of drunkenness-from-wine, rather yield to the sublime influence of the Spirit’s fullness. To be filled is to live under His gracious, empowering weight. Of further interest is that immediately following this imperative to be made full are concurrent verbs (present participles that connect to the main verb “be filled”): speaking to one another in psalms, hymns and spiritual songs… singing and making music in your heart to the Lord; giving thanks to God…submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ (5:19-21). The Holy Spirit’s influence manifests in my relationships, attitudes, and the overall climate of my heart.

Finally, there is no inference here (or anywhere in the NT) to being “partially full.” There is no gradient of fullness. The Holy Spirit does not come partially to us, but fully. We do not possess more or less of Him, we do not contain limited measures of His presence. He is fully present. Jesus Christ paid for, prayed for, and poured out the Holy Spirit generously (Titus 3:6). The only “degree” or “measure” is our surrender, our confidence, our awareness, our choice.

Be-Being Filled

You might be saying, “Sounds terrific! But how?” The English text gives us a direct command, but can leave the reader wondering how to respond. The Greek syntax, I believe, makes it much clearer.  “Be filled” is a present, passive imperative in the original language. Unpacking this can help us see how simple and straightforward obeying this imperative is.

First, it is an imperative. That means the reader is responsible to choose. The action is a decision, initiated by one being commanded. Being filled begins with your choice. Second, it is a passive verb. That means it is something that happens to you, rather than something is done by you. Being filled is something you let happen to you. I have often likened it to the Nestea Plunge. Being filled is a decision to let God fill me. Being filled is not-not-not a result of my discipline, my energy, my striving or efforts. It is the result of surrender. So I take the plunge. Third, it is a present-tense verb. That means it is something that is happening right now. The present is happening now. It is always happening now. As is supposed to be the infilling of the Spirit. It is always happening right now. You are always a candidate to be filled – regardless of whatever you done or wherever you’ve been. No matter how stellar or how cellar your conduct – you’re a candidate to be filled. Right now. The present passive imperative means that being filled is something I choose to let happen to me, and it is happening right now. Believers are to be continually, completely filled with the Holy Spirit.

So, let me say it this way: Christ has made every provision for you to be filled with the Spirit. The Spirit is fully present to fill you and keep you being-filled. What is your part? That couldn’t be easier. Believe. Believe that Holy Spirit is filling you. Believe He is soaking you down in the depths of your person and flowing up and over the brim of your life. Believe it. And, give thanks. Just thank Him for His abiding fullness. Thank Him for His fresh filling. Just thank Him. Go ahead… give thanks for His filling right now.

Perhaps pray something as simple as this: “Lord, I believe you are filling me. I thank you for filling me now, and continuing to fill me. I choose to surrender and yield to you; I welcome your fullness now. Come, Holy Spirit, and keep on coming.”

Be (being) filled with the Holy Spirit!


If this or any of post on this site has encouraged you, please consider sharing it with a friend. And, as always, thanks for reading!

~ Dav

*Thanks, Gordon Fee



Grief’s counsel: Love one another.


In many ways I am a late-comer to grief. Providence has arranged for me to born late enough to be safely distant from the passing of older generations of family, and young enough to have most immediate family with me still. My wife lost her grandfather ten years ago, and although that was a seismic event in our lives, it was one of the few I have felt personally.

Until now. My childhood best buddy died suddenly just the other day. I am shocked over the shock that I feel. His death has led to a reclaiming and reopening of a chest of memories that time has buried under other boxes of life’s events. I sort through mental images that span from 9 to 19 and beyond. I have forgotten how much I remember. And in ways that seem irrational, I weep. With a death of a childhood friend, I feel, or fear-to-feel, the death of part of childhood.

Death makes the speed of life come to a screeching halt. Beside the grief of losing a loved one, another message resonates. Love one another. Love one another deeply and fiercely. Time and distance happen. Life happens. Love is greater. Loyalty is stronger. Handle with care the people and relationships God gives you. People: friends, family, friends… and family… people matter. Not one of them can be replaced. God has graced each of them uniquely to landscape our lives. They are here for us to love and encourage, and we are there to serve, love, and celebrate their lives. We are here, under God, to enrich one another’s lives.

I know we get annoyed. I know we prefer some people in smaller doses. I know that the fellowship of certain people actually aggravates us. I don’t mean to say we should discard healthy boundaries or sweep real problems under the rug. But if it is possible for love to cover a multitude of sins, let alone a handful of hurts, then let us love one another deeply and fiercely while we can. It strikes me that as Jesus was preparing for his last moments with his disciples, one of the most urgent commands he gave them was love. He implored them to “love one another; As I have loved you, you must love another” (John 13:34). The frailty and finality of life reminds us of the priceless and timeless power of love. Let us love one another. We’ll never regret loving generously. We might regret anything less.

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Thanks for reading,
~ Dav