David C. Hughes, Writer

“For the LORD your God will bless you in all your harvest and in all the work of your hands, and your JOY will be complete." –Deuteronomy 16:15

Archive for the month “January, 2014”

The Epiphany of Joy, Chapter 6: Joy in Worship (1 of 3)

Come, let us sing for joy to the Lord;

    let us shout aloud to the Rock of our

      salvation.

Let us come before him with thanksgiving

    and extol him with music and song.

–Psalm 95:1-2 (NIV)

 

Holy, holy, holy Lord,

God of power and might,

heaven and earth are full of your glory.

Hosanna in the highest.

Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.

Hosanna in the highest.

–The Sanctus

 

Being raised in a small-town Catholic community, I never knew worship, or at least I didn’t recognize it and appreciate it at the time.  I learned the traditional prayers, the structure of the Mass, when to kneel, stand, and sit, and the discipline and responsibility of being an altar boy.  I faithfully went to church with my family on Sunday mornings, a practice which followed through my college years and into adulthood.  It wasn’t until I met Mary and we started dating that I had to embrace a new way of looking at and experiencing church.  You see, she was raised sort-of Baptist, and after we got engaged I asked her if she would be willing to convert to Catholicism.

She agreed to start the process, but when she started filling out the paperwork to get an annulment from her first marriage, she slammed on the brakes.  “God and I talked about my divorce and He still loves me,” she told me emphatically.  “I’m not taking this to a panel of people I don’t know to judge that reconciliation.  What business is it of theirs?  This is between God and me.”  She definitely had a different view of God and His mercy than I did!  And from that moment on, I had to give up my regimented thinking about what church was all about and open my eyes to a different way of experiencing God.  As a result, we started attending a non-denominational evangelical Christian church.  What an eye-opener!  I quickly discovered that, at least for me, this is what church was meant to be: fresh, unbridled, dynamic, Jesus-centered, Bible-based, accepting, built on relationships with God and other believers serving each other and the community at large.  I fit right in!  I was finally home!  But worship was still something I struggled to get my heart wrapped around.

One Sunday evening, Mary and I attended New River Fellowship’s “First Sunday,” a monthly night of worship and digging deeper into God’s word.  An integral part of service which Spirit-filled churches like New River have in common is a half hour or so of praise involving talented singers and musicians.  Typically I listen to the music, sing the words . . . and let my mind wander all over the place.  Even after eight years of attending non-denominational evangelical churches, I still didn’t fully get it.  But that night something shifted.  It’s happened before, to a degree, but that night I lifted my hands above my head and closed my eyes during one song–and started crying.  The Holy Spirit overwhelmed me.  He poured into me, embraced me, loved me.  Just for . . . me.  I stood there, hands held high, and received His mercy, His love, His awesomeness.  I opened myself up to Him and He gushed into me.

Soon after, the Spirit told me very clearly to pray for the guy in the chair in front of me.  As we all stood and sang and danced and shouted, he sat with his face in his hand, virtually unmoving.  So, in unquestioned obedience, I knelt down, put a hand on his shoulder, and prayed for him out loud.  I don’t know what was going on in his life, I don’t know what he needed; the Spirit had nudged me to pray for him, so I did.  And gosh it felt good!

The next morning I got up before sunrise, as is my habit, to take the dogs for a walk.  I do my best thinking, praying, and creating in the quietness before the neighborhood begins to stir, enveloped in nature’s inspiration and God’s whispers.  The pre-dawn morning embraced me in stillness and mid-spring warmth as I led the dogs out the front door and onto the sidewalk.  Something–movement, a flash of light, a disturbance–caught my attention, and I turned toward the western sky just in time to catch the green-white streak of a meteor sacrificing itself in the atmosphere for God’s glory.  It was truly a good-morning kiss from Daddy.  Then I really noticed the sky: cloudless, black, painted with countless stars and the streak of the Milky Way running southwest to northeast.  The sliver of a waning crescent moon hung on the eastern horizon.  The Milky Way glowed softly against the inky backdrop, more pronounced that morning than I’d seen in recent memory, reminding me of those photos you see from the Hubble telescope of nebulae and galaxies.

(continued)

Copyright © 2013 David C Hughes

Learning to Love the Silence (2014-01-10 Daily) [2 of 2]

Distraction is a powerful weapon in the devil’s arsenal.  And if distraction is Satan’s white noise, then busyness is his sniper rifle.  He picks us off moment by moment with each act of selfishness, each act of pride, each act of apathy.  Busyness aims for our hearts, so we need to be vigilant against his schemes and slip on and tightly buckle the breastplate of truth, because, as Solomon offered in Proverbs 4:23, “Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.”  Including our capacity to listen.   But we have to remember that, as children of God, we possess the power to come against anything the devil throws at us.  As Paul instructed in 2 Timothy 1:7, “For the Spirit God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power, love and self-discipline.”  The Spirit gives us self-discipline.  Self-discipline to listen.  Self-discipline to obey.  Self-discipline to pray.  Self-discipline to quiet ourselves before God, enter His throne room, and acknowledge Who He is, a privilege bought for us by the blood of His Son.  And the Spirit gives us self-discipline to be still.  To love the silence.  “Be still, and know that I am God,” the Psalmist quoted God in Psalm 46:10a (NIV).  In the New American Bible translation, the same line is translated “Desist!  and confess that I am God.”  Desist, God says, as in cease, stop, quit it!   And the Message translation puts it this way: “Step out of the traffic! Take a long, loving look at me, your High God.”  “Stop!” God is saying to us, “Stop with your busyness, stop with your self-focus, stop with your fretting, your distractedness, your small-mindedness, and confess and acknowledge that I am God!”

 

The Lord said [to Elijah], “Go out and stand on the mountain in the presence of the Lord, for the Lord is about to pass by.”

Then a great and powerful wind tore the mountains apart and shattered the rocks before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind. After the wind there was an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake. After the earthquake came a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire. And after the fire came a gentle whisper. When Elijah heard it, he pulled his cloak over his face and went out and stood at the mouth of the cave.

–1 Kings 19:11-13

 

God’s voice comes in a whisper.  No wonder we complain we never hear it.  He desires a dialog with us, not a monolog.  He desires to show us His glory, and when we recognize His glory and tell others about it, He is glorified.  And we are satisfied.  But to hear God’s voice, we have to learn how to love the silence.  Patiently.

I admit I struggle with patience, and I sometimes have a hard time waiting for the Lord to provide guidance, direction, and timing.  Once I asked God what my greatest sin was.  “Impatience,” He replied.  I heard His voice loud and clear, but, sadly, patience and I still don’t see each other eye-to-eye.  I’ve wrecked cars because of impatience, lost a ton of money because of impatience, suffered through a bad first marriage and worse divorce because of impatience.  But from Genesis to Revelation, the Bible is very clear: those who waited on the Lord with an attitude of patient expectation received the Lord’s promises.  And when they didn’t wait, well, the Bible is full of examples of folks jumping the gun.  One of the most remarkable is the story of Abram, Sarai, Hagar, and Ishmael.  In Genesis 15, God promised Abram he’d be the father of nations, a people as numerous as the stars in the sky and the sand on the beach.  But when Sarai didn’t conceive right away, she grew impatient, and in Genesis 16 she urged Abram, already in his mid-80’s, to sleep with the Egyptian slave girl, Hagar.  Of course, Abram complied.  The result: Ishmael, “a wild donkey of a man” according to the angel of the Lord in Genesis 16:11.  Isaac finally came along when Abram, who’s name God changed to Abraham, reached 100.  God kept His promise to bless Abraham’s descendants, and while Ishmael received God’s blessing, God established the covenant with Isaac, who fulfilled God’s promise at the appointed time.

After Pharaoh finally relented and commanded Moses and Aaron to take the Israelite people and leave Egypt, God led the Hebrews out of the land of their 430-year slavery along the desert road instead of through the land of the Philistines, until He commanded them to camp next to the Red Sea.  The Israelites found themselves with desert behind them and the Red Sea in front of them, and for all intents and purposes, they had their backs against the wall when the king of Egypt changed his mind about letting his slaves go and sent his chariots after the Hebrews to recapture them.

Immediately the Israelites, numbering more than 600,000, cried out to God and started complaining to Moses:  “’What have you done to us by bringing us out of Egypt?  Didn’t we say to you in Egypt, “Leave us alone; let us serve the Egyptians”?  It would have been better for us to serve the Egyptians than to die in the desert!’” (Exodus 14:11b-12 NIV).  As their slave mentality oozed from God’s chosen people, Moses looked past the physical impossibility of their situation and exhorted them to continue to trust the God who had freed them from Egyptian slavery.  But instead of calling for action, Moses urged the Hebrews to do the opposite:  “Moses answered the people, ‘Do not be afraid. Stand firm and you will see the deliverance the Lord will bring you today. The Egyptians you see today you will never see again.  The Lord will fight for you; you need only to be still.’” (Exodus 14:13-14 NIV).

You need only to be still.  And when they kept still, the Lord opened a passage through the Red Sea, allowing the Israelites to pass through to safety on dry land.  When the Hebrews replaced fear with trust and held their ground, God performed one of the most spectacular miracles the world has ever known.

“In repentance and rest is your salvation, in quietness and trust is your strength,” Isaiah wrote in Isaiah 30:15.  But in our society, rest, quietness, and trust are in short supply as we strive and struggle through everyday life just to keep up.  And isn’t that the trouble?  We strive to keep up.  But as adopted sons and daughters of the Most High King, there are only two commands God expects us to follow: love Him, and love each other.  That’s it.  “Live out your time as foreigners here in reverent fear,” the apostle Peter wrote in his first epistle (1 Peter 1:17).  Love God, love each other, love yourself.  Rest, repent, trust.  Listen.  Learn to love the silence.

 

–THE END–

Copyright ©2014 by David C. Hughes

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