God is an Optimist


God is an optimist. He is resolutely hopeful. Fear is absent from His gaze. God loves the future, but He does not need to resent or reject the former to do so.

In Haggai 2:6-9, the prophet, speaking for God, declares that although the former temple was glorious, the glory of the future temple would be greater. That is a bold and fascinating claim. The former temple was exceedingly magnificent, part of a glorious dynasty and lineage that the world has seldom (if ever) seen equaled. It was the center of national pride, robust with rich beauty and intricate design. The former temple shook with the visible presence of God. God lived in it. Whoa. The testimonies, the life-changing and nation-shaping events that transpired there are sacred. And now, in the midst of a barely reborn and hardly rebuilt nation, God’s mouthpiece claims that the new will be better than the old.

I am fascinated by that moment. The prevailing mood must have been at best doubtful, if not outright pessimistic. No evidence for a grand future existed. The scales of greatness were tipped by the weight of yesteryears long gone.  But hear the heart of God; listen for the pounding resonance of hope. The prophet’s words paint possibility on the canvass of his audience’s imagination. God says, “It can, and it will, be better than before.” It strikes me that this is how God sees the future, regardless of current situations. It doesn’t have to be bad for God to say things are going to be good. Things can be pretty good, and God still has designs for them to be even better. In fact, no matter how glorious the past was, it never, absolutely never, should be considered a high-water mark. God’s tide is always rising. God’s beautiful brilliance always sees the future as better and brighter, not because He’s necessarily displeased with how things are or were, but because beauty and excellence and growth and ever-increasing-glory are fundamental expressions of God’s very self.

For God to say the new temple was going to better was not a rejection of the former temple. The former wasn’t insufficient. It wasn’t a model to avoid or reject. This is not a proof-text for us to be condescending to our past. It is simply an invitation to believe that regardless how great (or not so great) our past was, God always has a more glorious future for us. The reason we don’t “live in the past” is precisely because the laws of physics do not allow us to. We cannot live anywhere other than “now” nor can we plan for anywhere other than “next.”

For our future to be better, we don’t need to reject or forget the past. Rather, we should cherish and celebrate testimonies and experiences as fuel for faith in future glory. What God has done before, in and through people who were willing, should inform our expectations that God will continue to express His brilliance, power and love through people who are grateful for what He has done, and willing to be part of what He’s still doing.

Cheers to the glorious future, and happy new year

~ Dav

Even Jesus needed a Joseph

nativity oil painting

Other than the Christ-child, who comes to mind when you think of the manger scene? Hey – you can even throw in the Magi’s visit and stick them next to the shepherds. Which of these characters is celebrated in song and story? Yup – pretty much everyone. Even that little kid with the snare drum (how’d he get here?) But wait a minute – who is that kind-faced gentleman hovering over Mary? He’s not really following the all-is-calm motif… he keeps doing things to make Mary comfortable and checking to see if the baby is okay and he REALLY gave the stare-down and third-degree to those shepherds before letting them in to see the baby. Who is THAT guy? That’d be Joseph. He didn’t get a song. But don’t you dare underestimate him. I think he’s pretty important. I think God thought Joseph was important. And, whether the babe in the manger knew it or not, even Jesus needed a Joseph.

A few long months before the events of this evening, Joseph got some pretty unexpected news on the way home from the carpentry shop. Mary, his betrothed, was pregnant (Matthew 1:18-25). Before they came together, she was found to be pregnant – by the Holy Spirit (at least that is what Mary claimed). But here is where we learn something about this unsung tradesman, he was just (righteous), and yet did not want to expose Mary to public disgrace. Justice, here, would have allowed, even required, for Joseph to give her a certificate of divorce, stating the reason, and then Mary would have been publically scorned, and then possibly, publically stoned (Duet. 22:22). But Joseph, who by all appearances was the one sinned against, chose NOT seek revenge. God didn’t have to intervene and stop Joseph from condemning Mary. Joseph himself chose to be merciful. There was plenty riding on how Joseph responded to Mary. Joseph chose mercy. Mercy persuaded judgment and gave birth to redemption.

Now, of course, an angel showed up to further encourage Joseph to stay on course, that all was as Mary said, and this child was of the Holy Spirit. And Joseph accepted the challenge. He knew what was coming. He knew what could be said about him, about his young betrothed bride, and about this mysterious child in her womb. But Joseph was no coward. He accepted his commission from Heaven to be the caretaker of this family. God trusted Joseph with the salvation of the planet.

We don’t know how long Joseph was with Jesus. We just don’t hear much more about Joseph after Jesus is 12. Somewhere it seems Joseph passed away before Jesus began his public ministry. But his contribution to Jesus’ life, I suspect, was not limited to being a tour-guide-to-Bethlehem. Having observed Joseph’s exceptional character and conduct, consider this: Where did Jesus first learn about mercy, kindness, loyalty, and trust? Where would Jesus’ little brother James learn that “mercy triumphs over judgment”? (James 2:13) Why do you think Jesus did what His mother wanted, even if it wasn’t on his schedule (John 2:1-11). How was it that Jesus knew that fathers knew how to give good gifts to their children? (Matthew 7:9-11) I think it was because Jesus had a Joseph. God chose Joseph just as much as He chose Mary. Jesus was divine, and studied the scriptures, but I believe he still learned plenty from His daddy. Even Jesus needed a Joseph.

Thanks for reading, and Merry Christmas
~ Dav

Get A Big Tree


When I was a kid, for a few years I remember going to the Christmas tree “farm” and our family wandering around looking for the perfect tree to saw down and haul home. I remember the exhilarating desire to search for and select not only the most perfectly shaped tree, but a really big one. Without fail, my mom would decline my first few suggested trees, not because they were unattractive, but always for this one reason: they were just too big. She’d say that by the time we put it in a stand it would be taller than the ceiling.

But a big tree is what I wanted. A big tree it had to be. Why? Well, obviously because the bigger the tree the more presents, and bigger presents, would be under the tree. Clearly, the size of the tree determined the magnitude of gifts there-under. Clearly. So, we had to get a big tree.

Now, as I reflect upon my preadolescent reasoning, I know that my hope wasn’t really in the size of the tree. It was really about my confidence in the nature of my parents. I knew the size of their affection, and the joy of their generosity. Those great qualities inspired my hope for the good times wrapped under the tree. So, we had to get a big tree.

And, my friends, it is that same confidence in the profound goodness of God that inspired the Apostle Paul to pen one of the pinnacle promises in scripture, “And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them” (Romans 8:28). If this promise is true, we had better get a big tree.

If God is causing all things to work together for our good, then there is going to be A LOT of good things under the tree. In fact, somehow, ALL THINGS will be under there: the good, the bad, the ugly, the bright, the dark, the sweet and the bitter, the calm and the storm, ups and downs, laughter and sorrows. All things. We better get a big tree.

All things are pressed into the service of God and packaged for our good. If all things are being worked out, worked together for my good by a loving and gracious God, then I had better get a big tree. Psalm 31:19, “Your goodness is so great! You have stored up great blessings for those who honor you!”

John Piper writes, “If you live inside this massive promise, your life is more solid and stable than Mount Everest. Nothing can blow you over when you are inside the walls of Romans 8:28.”

This promise assures us that it is not just going to be okay, it is going to be good. There never has been and never will be a circumstance in your life where this promise is irrelevant. It is particularly powerful in times of challenge, heartache, setback or despair. It is NOT a proof-text to tell us “why bad things happen.” It does not suggest God is the author of calamity or hardship. It promises that God is too good to be overcome by any of it. It may not provide answers to our questions, but  it assures us of peace. Nothing will ever enter your experience as God’s child that, by God’s profound goodness, will not turn out to be a benefit for you. Get a big tree.

This promise assures you that God is FOR you. If we will believe this deeply, we will not only survive, but will thrive in the pressures and temptations of modern life. We can believe deeply that God almighty is taking every set back and and every discouragement and pressure and pain and stripping it of its destructive power and making it work for our good. Get a big tree.

We can know that God causes all things to work together for the good of those who love Him and are called according to His purpose. All things. All of them. Wow.

We better get a very big tree.

Thanks for reading, and please feel free to share.
~ Dav



A Resolve to Rejoice

rejoice in a field

If ever it were clear that joy is no trifling matter, no mere elective in the course of life, it is so in Habakkuk 3:18. The prophet has just acknowledged that even if all the normal or natural causes of celebration are null (no figs, no grapes, no olives, no crops, no flocks or cattle), he would rejoice in the Lord; He would take joy in God His savior. The syntax is strong, indicating a strong resolve to continue rejoicing. Come hell or high water, Habakkuk will keep rejoicing: “I will joy in the God of my salvation.

I am afraid to consider how often I authorize my own forfeiture of joy. Too much do I give myself too easy reason to choose a lesser and weaker attitude. And truthfully it never works out. Indulging in impatience, anger, pride or fear never, absolutely never, shares the divine dividends that joy does. I welcome the prophet’s testimony of his unyielding commitment to joy. I share in said resolve.

I can trust joy. Joy will always lead me to the highest good; joy will always make me my best self. Joy will always keep my heart and mind and actions congruent with the climate of heaven. When I rejoice, I am agreeing with heaven in terms of who God is (His profound goodness and faithful love), and with regard to the full force of the finished work of Jesus (and the bright realities thereof). I see people, circumstances, opportunities, obstacles, hardships and heartaches, challenges and successes in the light of the prevailing truth of Heaven.

A joy-based climate in my heart is an environment that precludes the presence of anger, anxiety, or fear. Joy is none of the above. Rather, joy is a greenhouse for a host of godly virtues and benefits:

  • Joy is gentle (consider how joy and gentleness are neighboring imperatives in Philippians 4:4-5)
  • Joy is generous (2 Cor. 9:7)
  • Joy is strength (Neh. 8:10)
  • Joy is peace and hope (Romans 15:13)
  • Joy is healing (Proverbs 17:22)
  • Joy is a continual feast (Proverbs 15:15)
  • Joy is trust in His Name (Psalm 33:21)
  • Joy is being ever aware of His presence (Acts 2:28, Psalm 89:15)

Joy is always the right choice (I Thess. 5:16). Joy will never let me down. My resolve to rejoice transcends the fluctuating circumstances of earth; my joy agrees with the unchanging nature of God. I will rejoice in the Lord; I will take joy in the God of my salvation.

Thanks for reading; feel free to share.

~ Dav

Be Holy


Peter writes that “just as He who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do; for it is written: be holy, because I am holy” (I Peter 1:15-16). Is it possible that Peter intends to insist that we be holy just as God is holy? Yup.

Why Be Holy?

In Peter’s command to be holy and in his OT quote of the same, the reason for holiness is because God is Holy. Be holy because God is. We are to be holy in everything we do, because God is.  At first blush this seems like idealistic hyperbole, like wishful thinking. But maybe not. We were, in fact, created in the image and likeness of God. We aren’t divine, but were made to reflect His divinity. In creation we were made to bear the image and likeness of the one who created us, and in redemption we are created-in-Christ to bear the image and likeness of the One who calls us.

When I am I like Him, when I reflect His image, I am my most authentic self. My truest self is Him. Holiness is not strange or alien; it is truth; it is reality. It is my real self as created by Him who calls me His own.

How Holy?

This begs the question – how can I be holy? Peter’s double imperative includes two different syntaxes. The OT passage he quotes (v. 16) uses syntax that implies that the recipients of the command act in such a way as to be (or become) holy. The onus is on the audience. But Peter’s own voice (v. 15) issues the command passively. This seems to imply that though both the Old and New Covenants contain the same imperative to be Holy, the means of Holiness are not the same. I don’t know if under the OT it was possible to fully embrace / embody the Holiness God required. It seems clear that it was not.

But when Peter says to be holy in all we do, because he is using the passive verb of “be,” he is saying “be made Holy.” In Christ, I am not working or trying to be Holy. In Christ I am made Holy. Made Holy. That is something God does to me and for me in Christ. It isn’t something I try to do; it is something He has made me. The Holy Spirit makes me Holy. God does not give His Spirit to people because they are holy; He gives His Spirit to people to make them Holy. I am the temple of the Holy Spirit. When I know this, and believe it deeply, I live out of that reality, out of that identity. And I act like who I am in all I do. My “do” comes directly from my “who.”

This makes sense, because that is how God is Holy. God’s holiness is simply the normal expression of His Nature. He is Holy in all He does because He IS Holy. God’s holiness is not defined by what he doesn’t do. Holiness is not defined by what it is not. God is not holy because he avoids doing certain things on a sacred list. Holiness originates and emanates from Him.

Therefore, I cannot be holy (or be made holy) by attempting to observe and keep a list of things to do, and avoid another list of things I should not do. No list-keeping will make me holy. Nor can I rely on my own frame of reference to determine what holiness is. My frame of reference is at best limited. Holiness is not my idea. Nor does holiness come from common consent. Holiness does not a rise from a committee nor does it result from a vote. If we rely on lists or on our own ideas, the result can only be a limited or legalistic “less-than.” Instead, we realize, gladly and gratefully, that Holiness comes from God. It is defined by Him and effected by Him.

Yes, scripture provides examples of the attributes of the Holiness God desires, and these examples should absolutely inform our expectations for what the Holy Spirit will produce in our life. These attributes are landscaped throughout epistolary literature, but in general they look like: loving one another deeply, being kind, honest, loyal and compassionate, and forgiving one another as God in Christ forgave us. Further, there are examples of what genuine holiness precludes – attitudes and actions that are fundamentally contrary to the nature of God – most often forbidden are vices like: anger, slander, evil speech, every form of malice, harsh words and hard feelings (yes, those two things are UNHOLY), and sexual impurity of any kind. To be clear on that point: sex is holy, sexual immorality is not. These examples help to form and forge our focus, they inform our faith. But our faith is not in our behavior, it is in the One who calls us and gives us His Spirit. In Christ, God has made me Holy. In scripture, God has given me examples of what that does and does not look like.

So, dear friends, when responding to the God’s great command to be Holy, we have reason, means, and example. Therefore, as image bearers, let us be the likeness of Him who created us and called us. Let us be holy.

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

~ Dav

How to Change the World



In Daniel chapter 9, Daniel partners with a prophecy decades old in order to see a nation reborn. In the first year of Darius the Mede, Daniel reads Jeremiah’s prophecy that Jerusalem must lie desolate for 70 years (v. 2). Measuring the timeline, Daniel understands that the time for restoration is coming. He does not read the prophecy and repose passively waiting for its outcome, but turns to the Lord to intercede for the prophecy’s fulfillment (v. 3).  What follows provides insight into the nature and power of prayer that influences earth: this is how we can change the world.

First it should be reasserted that Daniel’s response to prophecy was to participate, not merely observe. There may be times when our only form of participation is to sit back and behold what God does. But more often than not, prophecy is an invitation to participate in God’s redemptive and gracious activity on the earth and in our lives. So deeply did Daniel feel responsible to partner with God’s purposes, that he prayed – it seems – as if the fulfillment of God’s plans depended on his prayer (v. 3). That, I believe, is prayer that changes the world.

Daniel turned to the Lord and pleaded with Him in prayer and fasting. Daniel even donned rough burlap clothing and sprinkled himself with ashes. Both of these behaviors are iconic expressions of Semitic mourning. Daniel deeply, very deeply longed for the restoration of his people to their homeland, and grieved over the sin that brought about their exile. Why did Daniel engage in such drastic, even painful behavior as he prayed? Would abstaining from food and causing severe discomfort on his skin really get God’s attention? Does such activity change God’s mind or modify His mood? I don’t think so. Not at all.

I believe that what we observe in Daniel’s prayer here is the kind of praying that seeks to change earth. Prophecy already revealed the will and plan of God. Prayer, now, partners with that will to effect it on earth. This kind of prayer involves focusing our will, our attention, and our commitment. This is prophetic prayer – prayer that knows the will of heaven and calls for that will to prevail on earth. Fasting, then, is more about focus, about summoning the utmost of our energy and focus upon an obstacle or opportunity before us: where heaven can and should and must prevail on earth. I want to be clear here: I do not believe fasting makes God do anything. I don’t believe that fasting (or wearing burlap or ashes) bears in itself anything meritorious. Fasting affects me, not God. Prayer affects Heaven and earth. Daniel’s fast was about focus. He was fixed on changing earth.

God is already focused. Especially on this side of cross. God has already acted, already spoken, already had mercy, already released immeasurable and incomprehensible grace. God needs no arm-twisting from me, and certainly isn’t affected by my missing a few cheeseburgers. In fact, no self-flagellating will ever eclipse the pristine perfection of Christ’s suffering on my behalf. Christ has paid every price, met every condition; He alone is the Advocate, the Intercessor, the Mediator between God and man. His work is perfect! It cannot be augmented, improved upon, or added to in any way. It is finished.

So why fast? Well, if we feel led to, we should fast only for our own benefit; only to bring a sense of focus to our prayer. Fasting does not make prayer more powerful. It might, however, help us feel the significance of our prayer’s longing. Fasting is a refocus of our appetites, isolating our affections upon a single outcome. As such, it should be done sparingly, and never with the false hope that we’re gaining special favor with God as a result. You might say, “Hey Dav, Jesus fasted for 40 days!” Yup, he did. But friends, Jesus fasted AFTER He saw heaven open, heard the voice of God, and the Spirit descended upon Him. It seems to me that Jesus was spiritually overwhelmed by that experience and literally took 40 days alone to respond to it. And further, those days may have been days of powerful fellowship with the Father and focus on the ministry ahead. Jesus didn’t fast to get anointed. He fasted because He was anointed. Further, you might say, “Hey Dav! The disciples at Antioch worshipped the Lord and fasted!” (Acts 13) Yup. They sure did. They were worshipping the Lord and fasting – totally focused on Him, on His presence – to the point where they let go of time, schedule, even regular meals. That kind of worship is a work of the Holy Spirit’s calling and prevailing presence. He causes that response from us; we don’t cause or conjure Him by fasting. But here, as with Daniel’s prayer, we see that this kind of focus in prayer partners with the will of God to bring about His purposes on earth. In Antioch they prayed and birthed the missionary journeys of Paul – which in every measurable way has influenced the earth. They changed the world by prayer.

We see in the narrative in Daniel 9 and 10 that somehow prayer affects the outcome of history. Daniel prayed, confessed the sins of his people, and called for God’s redemptive plan to come forth. He “went on” doing it (v. 20). As he continued, the angel Gabriel appeared to him and said that from the moment Daniel started praying a command was given (v. 23). Heaven immediately responded to Daniel’s intercession. Daniel’s prayer set things in motion for Heaven to prevail on earth.

There are realities that I do not fully understand (few really do – regardless of how many paper-backs they peddle). There are spiritual forces, authorities and rulers against which we contend for the advancement of The Kingdom. Daniel later heard this fact from another angel who told him that “since the first day you began to pray… your request has been heard in heaven. I have come in answer to your prayer. But for twenty-one days the spirit prince of the kingdom of Persia blocked by way. Then Michael, one of the archangels, came to help me, and I left him there with the spirit prince of the kingdom of Persia…” (vv. 12-13). This is not just an OT apocalyptic reference, because The Apostle Paul matter-of-factly says that we contend against, “the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms” (Eph. 6:12).

What I do understand is that Daniel’s prayer actually helped effect the outcome and destiny of nations. What I do understand is that we can and should pray with focus and determination to see what we know to be Heaven’s will  prevail upon earth. Where we read promise or prophecy in scripture, let us respond as if it were a direct invitation to partner with God in prayer. We know God hates suffering. We know God loves justice. We know God is willing that none should perish. We know God loves children. We know God loves peace. We know that God wants everyone to know the Love, Grace, and Power of the name of Jesus. We know God is grieved by evil, by malice, by oppression. We know the church is God’s plan for this planet. We know enough to pray well, to pray with focus and determination and resolute confidence. We can, in fact, change the world. We can pray.