David C. Hughes, Writer

Twelve Tantalizingly Twisted Tales featured on Lone Star Book Blog Tour, starting Wednesday, 12 October 2016

Archive for the month “January, 2014”

The Epiphany of Joy, Chapter 7: Joy in Redemption (2 of 2)

“Redeemed is a special word for me, because of where I came from,” related Marc Owings, who grew up wild, unrestrained, and always looking for the next thrill, party, or fight. “The heavy voice and belief systems, the old tapes that played in my head told me there was no possible way I could be redeemed.  What I came to believe and receive at age forty or so was that I was completely redeemed, that God does not judge me based upon my behavior but rather through the eyes of grace.”  When we get our heart wrapped around this timeless Truth, we can begin to receive what God freely gives: forgiveness, freedom, and joy.

“Whoever is set free with Truth is free indeed!” Marc continued, paraphrasing Jesus’ words of John 8:36.  “It’s us looking in the Word for truth, believing it, and receiving it.”  The enemy of the past is at war with the blessings of the future.  The fight is ongoing, the outcome imperative.  To be free, to live in the joy of true freedom, is to press forward, no matter what.  “Forgetting what is behind, pressing on, and running the race, not being easily entangled with sin that easily entangles us,” said Marc.  “Jesus is saying ‘Your sin doesn’t nullify, it doesn’t disqualify, none of those things.’  That is the joy of the Lord!  No matter how bad I stumble and fall, He’s with me.  He says He’ll never forsake you.  There’s incredible joy when we ponder that.  But we let the cares of this world suck the joy out.

“If a man tells you something,” he went on to say, “if you receive it from a man, then the devil can certainly talk you out of it.  But once you hear the Father say ‘Marc, you’re redeemed,’ the bottom line at the end of the day, no matter what, is I’m redeemed.  Totally brand new.”  There is joy in this revelation, and according to Marc, “That’s what spurns us on.”

And once our eyes are opened to this truth, nothing can stop us from bearing witness and building up the Kingdom of God on earth.  “When you have an epiphany or revelation of joy,” Marc explained, “I believe it’s one of the most dangerous weapons for the enemy, because it’s louder than a sermon or a song, and you can see it from a distance, which reflects back to the Scripture ‘You will be a light on a hill.’”

A few years ago Mary’s mom, Janet, gave me a Christmas present, a three-foot-long, six-inch tall plaque that says “Live in such a way that those who know you but don’t know God will come to know God because they know you.”  I hung that plaque at the foot of our cross wall in the living room.  It’s true: Jesus called us to bear witness to His Truth, and as we joyfully carry out our calling, people will come to God.  As Jason Hoffman witnessed when the woman stopped him and asked, “What’s the source of your joy?” all we need to do is point up.  And nod with a knowing smile.

“Whoever has been forgiven much, loves much,” Marc Owings said, reflecting Jesus’ words in Luke 7:47.  “In the case of Jason Hoffman, he went to the deeper depth of his past than most people, where God plunged him to the depths of His love in a greater way, and when he came out, all of us sitting there [at the Fully Alive retreat] realized he had just come from the depths of God.  Freedom, forgiveness, love, and truth; it was evident.  All he could do was cry.  His eyes never turned off all weekend.  And he wasn’t crying for joy himself, but as I watched him, he was also crying and weeping in joy for other people.  Once you’ve been there, there’s no going back.”

“It is for freedom that Christ has set us free,” Paul wrote to the church in Galatia.  “Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery” (Galatians 5:1).  Approaching the throne of grace without shame, confessing, repenting, and receiving in your heart the forgiveness freely given opens the door for God’s healing to transform our lives from one of slavery to sinfulness to the freedom of redemption.  And once we are freed, we are freed indeed!  “For, ‘Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.’” (Romans 10:13).

“It’s not what He saves us from–He saved us for joy,” declared Sharon Grissom, one of our life group facilitators and an incredibly strong faith warrior.  In Psalm 106, the psalmist asserted: “Yet he saved them for his name’s sake, so that he might make known his mighty power” (Psalm 106:8).  God saves us, forgives us for His name’s sake, so that we’ll not only continue to rejoice in Him, but so that we can glorify Him!  He restores us for the relationship, forgives us to declare His mighty works, redeems us for love.

“The glory of God is man fully alive,” said St. Irenaeus of Lyons.  And only by embracing the truth of our redemption and the complete forgiveness of our sins–past, present, and future–can we begin to fully glorify God by living out the life He created each of us for.  “Believe and receive what has already taken place,” said Marc Owings, “instead of letting the rearview mirror–the past–dictate your future.”  Live fully alive!  Live fully in joy!

Copyright ©2014 by David C. Hughes

The Epiphany of Joy, Chapter 7: Joy in Redemption (1 of 2)

. . . for as the weight of our sins was removed from our shoulders and we were taught to hope in the joy of eternal life. . . . It is this joy of redemption and this hope of eternal life that have elevated and completed our happiness as human beings. 

–Matthew Kelly, A Call to Joy, page 122

 

But I trust in your unfailing love;

    my heart rejoices in your salvation.

I will sing the Lord’s praise,

    for he has been good to me.

–Psalm 13:5-6 NIV

 

I met Jason Hoffman during the Fully Alive men’s retreat in Lake Fork, Texas, in January 2011.  One of the first things I noticed about him, besides his lanky stature and his curly reddish-brown hair, was the sincerity of his testimony and the heartfelt passion with which he delivered it.  He leaned forward in his chair and spoke to the circle of men with the voice of a man convicted: weary yet determined to get the burden off his chest.  His eyes, red with emotion, implored us to listen to his story.  And in that testimony I witnessed the power of repentance, confession, and forgiveness, and I got to see the genesis of a new life, one that even now glows with an almost continuous ear-to-ear smile, an aura that marks him as a man reborn, a true son of God.  During that weekend, when Jason humbly surrendered his heart to God, God set him free.

Jason, a Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetist, had come from a broken home–his parents had divorced when he was young, and his mom had worked three jobs to make ends meet.  Because of the instability of his family life and his mother’s virtual abandonment due to her work load, Jason inevitably got into serious trouble.  At age 13 he embarked on a long spree of incarcerations, starting in juvenile detention facilities and working his way up to adult detention centers.  As his life spun out of control, he wound up with two felony convictions by the age of 19.

By the grace of God, he managed to turn his life around despite the two felonies. “Anyone with felony convictions isn’t supposed to be licensed in the medical field,” he later told the New River staff during a videotaped interview, “and He saw to it I was able to do just that” (http://newriver.tv/media/stories//page2/).  But instead of being grateful for what God had done for him, Jason instead focused on acquiring things and accumulating money, to the detriment of his relationships, his marriage, and his happiness.  “I ended up broken,” he admitted.  “In so much pain, full of shame, full of guilt, full of pride.”  Because his heart had become so hardened, he didn’t believe he could ever climb out of the pit of shame.  “I didn’t think that I could ever be free.”  And that’s when the Spirit urged him to attend the Fully Alive men’s retreat.

When he joined together with the other men at the retreat, when he confessed his brokenness, when he dropped his pride, fell on his knees, and gave himself over to God’s mercy and offer of reconciliation, “my heart began to fill with the love and grace of Jesus, and I began to change.  I began living the life once again that I didn’t think was possible.”  But, for Jason, it was not only possible, his absolute transformation from brokenness to redemption to true joy was nothing short of miraculous.  Today Jason recognizes his call to live righteously, to be a “spiritual man of God, and proclaim it, and own it, and share it with others.”  Jason’s story is a true testament to the power of redemption, salvation, and reconciliation, and the joy he now wears like a comfortable jacket makes him a bold and effective witness for God’s Kingdom.

“The best day of my Christian walk was when I read Romans 12:2,” he told me later.  “Letting go of my worldly possessions, not caring about my position at work, how big my paycheck was, how big my house was, the car I drove, the clothes I wore, how much I had in savings, how many toys I had . . . . My life changed, my relationship with the Lord changed, my faith changed, my attitude changed, everything changed!”  And it shows.  One day while at work a lady walked up to him and asked him flat-out, “What’s the source of your joy?  You’re always happy.”

“I simply answered, pointing up, and said ‘It’s all Him.’”

Jason’s story is a testimony to God’s power, desire, and willingness to redeem our hearts from the grip of hell and the enticements of our society.  Redemption, the deliverance of mankind from the power and consequences of sin through the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ is, of course, the heart of the Gospel message.  Salvation is the hinge pin of Christian faith, the purpose for the incarnation, the climax of the resurrection, mankind’s history merging with His Story, the fulfillment of His promises.  Indeed it’s the reason why we’re called to be a light for the world, why we need to set our lamps on the hill and not under a basket–the Gospel is, indeed, the Good News!

Salvation guarantees eternal life, but more importantly, redemption through Jesus’ blood opens the door to accepting an intimate relationship with Creator of the universe, the King of kings, the Lord of lords.  “For the grace of God has appeared that offers salvation to all people,” the apostle Paul wrote in his Pastoral Epistle to Titus.  “It teaches us to say ‘No’ to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age” (Titus 2:11-12 NIV).  Salvation is ours, free for the asking.  We just need to step out and ask!

Marc Owings, founder of elevateHim Ministries in Fort Worth, Texas, and co-author of The Original Sanctuary, said, “I believe this: When you receive Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior of your life, you’re totally restored, totally redeemed.  When we first acknowledge Him as Lord, then salvation comes.”  However, a person can receive that redemption but not necessarily the freedom they hope for.  “I see people who have a portion of forgiveness,” continued Marc, “they’ve been forgiven but they’re not free.  Forgiveness comes instantaneously; your freedom you have to fight for.”  In order to become totally free and experience the fullness of joy that forgiveness and redemption bring, the redeemed heart has to sincerely believe in and embrace the transformation.  Instead, many believers continue to wallow around in the muck of their past failings; they’re redeemed . . . and totally miserable.  To become free, we have to believe what God says in His Word is true.

(continued)

Copyright ©2014 by David C. Hughes

Post Navigation

%d bloggers like this: