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 tag “A Call to Joy”

The Epiphany of Joy, Chapter 15: Joy in a Person (1 of 3)

One of the most easily identifiable characteristics of Christian happiness is attractiveness. . . . Christian happiness . . . is tremendously attractive and very contagious.

—Matthew Kelly, A Call to Joy: Living in the Presence of God[i]

 

 

“Dad, you’re weird,” Hannah declared one morning as I waited for the toaster to eject my English muffin.

I grinned.  “Why do you say I’m weird?” I asked, sipping my coffee.

“Because you’re a writer.”

Yes, I am a writer, but first and foremost I’m a child of God walking to the beat of a heavenly drum.  For years I stifled my bongos under a blanket of conformity, smiling nonetheless, because, as the eyes are the windows to the soul, a smile is the window that opens to hope.  And now that the blanket has been stripped off, my drum beats loud and strong as I walk the path marked out for me through the jungle of status quo.

Mother Teresa once said, “Let us always meet each other with a smile, for the smile is the beginning of love.”[ii]  A smile can change your demeanor in an instant if you take the time to consider the possibilities painted in the brightness of the offering.  As I walk through life, I pray my smile touches people’s lives in some small way, with some small hope, with some small encouragement.

“Anyone who has a continuous smile on his face conceals a toughness that is almost frightening,” said Greta Garbo.[iii]  In so many ways, I wear this smile as a badge of defiance against an enemy who’d like nothing better than to steal it away and replace it with a scowl of defeat.

The Bible is filled with examples of people whose lives brought joy to others.  In the book of Esther, King Xerxes, king of Persia and Media, honored Mordecai, Queen Esther’s cousin, because Mordecai exposed a plot to kill him.  And because Esther revealed she was, in fact, a Jew, destined to be annihilated under the “vile” Haman’s orders, King Xerxes ordered Haman impaled, elevated Mordecai to second in command, and gave Mordecai authority to write a decree allowing the Jews to avenge themselves against their enemies.

Because the edict authorized God’s people to stand their ground, they ended up killing over 75,000 of their enemy.  Mordecai then established the celebration of Purim “as the time when the Jews got relief from their enemies, and as the month when their sorrow was turned into joy and their mourning into a day of celebration” (Esther 9:22 NIV®).

In his gospel, Luke recounts the angel Gabriel’s announcement of John the Baptist’s birth and ministry to Zechariah, John’s father.  “He will be a joy and delight to you,” Gabriel told the old priest, “and many will rejoice because of his birth, for he will be great in the sight of the Lord.  He is never to take wine or other fermented drink, and he will be filled with the Holy Spirit even before he is born.   He will bring back many of the people of Israel to the Lord their God.  And he will go on before the Lord, in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the parents to their children and the disobedient to the wisdom of the righteous—to make ready a people prepared for the Lord” (Luke 1:14-17 NIV®).

John the Baptist became a joy and a delight to Zechariah, but more importantly, he became a joy and a delight to those who paid attention to his message, repented, and turned back to God.  But why did Gabriel tell Zechariah to keep John away from wine or other fermented drink?  Because, as the last prophet before Jesus’ coming, God had filled him with the Holy Spirit in the womb, and God wanted to ensure folks didn’t confuse John’s intense joy for inebriation.  He was drunk with the Holy Spirit!  And he became a joy for others as he pointed his followers to the Messiah.

Earlier, I told the story of my friend, Jason Hoffman, and how a woman approached him at work and asked him, “What’s the source of your joy?”

Jason pointed up and responded “It’s all Him.”  Jason displays his joy in not only his beaming countenance and gentle character, but in his willingness to step out and serve others.  He’s a true model for what it means to be a joy-filled Christian walking in the footsteps of Jesus, our ultimate Joy.  Another inspiring person I know who’s wrapped in a mantle of gladness is Amy Copeland, Preschool and Special Needs Director at New River Fellowship.

Talk about someone who radiates joy!  The woman displays it as brightly as the moon wears the sun’s reflection.  The moment she walks into a room dressed in her almost perpetual smile, you can’t help but feel lighter and happier. “I think of joy as a deep feeling of happiness and contentment,” Amy told me, “knowing that no matter what happens, I am going to be okay, because God has me in His hand and He is in control.”

 

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References:

[i] Kelly, Matthew. A Call to Joy: Living in the Presence of God. Beacon Publishing, 1999. 134.

[ii] “Mother Teresa Quotes.” BrainyQuote. n.d. 12 June 2014. http://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/authors/m/mother_teresa.html.

[iii] “Greta Garbo > Quotes > Quotable Quote.” goodreads.com.  2014. Good Reads Inc.  19 June 2014.  https://www.goodreads.com/quotes/252365-anyone-who-has-a-continuous-smile-on-his-face-conceals

 

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.

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Copyright ©2014 by David C. Hughes

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