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 “Faith”

Want Change? Pray (2013-10-01 Daily)

WANT CHANGE?  PRAY

by

David C. Hughes

I admit it: sometimes I can be pretty grumpy.  Usually these bouts of impatience originate from my inability to deal well with expectation versus reality.  Other times my selfishness noses into family moments, including one-on-one time with my six-year-old daughter, Hannah.  I guard my time greedily, the result of decades of perfectionism and inflexibility; my to-do list and my schedule constantly lock horns with down-time and relaxation.  Then sometimes I’m just plain grumpy.  Can’t help it: I’m staring at 50 across the transom of the upcoming calendar.

One evening I picked Hannah up from gymnastics and drove home to start dinner.  Since Hannah’s a competitive gymnast, she spends four hours a day in the gym, another hour or two in homeschool, and ends her day in the gym’s after-school program.  So when we arrived home that evening, all Hannah wanted to do was watch TV.  I don’t blame her, but being a daddy of high expectations, I asked her to do her online note-reading homework first.

“Aw, do I have to, Dad?” she whined.

“Yes, you have to,” I retorted.  “Three rounds.  Pro level.”

Reluctantly she climbed into the stool in front of the Mac, brought up the website, and did what I asked.  “Now can I watch a show?” she queried after finishing round three.

“Yes, just one while I fix dinner.”

Unsettledness crept in as I prepared dinner.  I don’t know if it was the lack of writing time during the day, my preoccupation with limiting Hannah’s TV viewing, or my growing frustration over the rash our border collie was suffering from, but anger soon picked a fight with me.  I called Hannah to dinner and wordlessly set her plate in front of her, but soon my mental turbulence spilled onto the dinner table in the form of practiced passive-aggressiveness.

“Dad, do I have to eat this?” Hannah asked, pinching a tiny broccoli spear.

“Yes, if you want dessert tonight.”  She dropped the broccoli and picked up her grape juice.  I rapped the table.  When she set the cup back down, I moved it out of reach.

“Why do you always move my drink where I can’t reach it?” she cried.

“Because you suck down your grape juice then complain about your stomach hurting, then you don’t eat.”  I glared at her.  “You need to eat, Hannah.”  She picked up the broccoli again with her fingers.  “Use your fork!” I griped.  She dropped the broccoli.  I grabbed her fork, stabbed the spear.  “This is a fork,” I said, handing it back to her.  “We use these to eat with.”  Suddenly Hannah jumped up.  “Where are you going?” I barked.

“I have to go potty!”

She ran to the bathroom and I just sat for a moment wondering what the heck was wrong with me.  “Jesus,” I prayed.  “Please calm me down and take away this ridiculousness.  She doesn’t deserve this.” An inkling of peace settled over me, along with a resolve to remain calm for the rest of the dinner.  After a round of negotiation, Hannah finished eating, and I gave her a bit of ice cream for dessert.

I’d cleared the table and started washing dishes when Hannah suddenly stopped eating her dessert and looked at me: “Daddy,” she said.  “How did you change?”

“What’s that?”

“How did you change?  You were a little mean to me earlier, but now you’re not.”

Whoa!  I thought.  She noticed!  “I prayed,” I answered.  “I prayed for calmness and Jesus answered my prayer.  See how powerful prayer is?”

“Yeah, Dad!” she said.  She finished her ice cream and got ready for bed without a fuss.  A simple prayer had trounced anger and unsettledness; peace and joy prevailed.

I’m a staunch believer in both the power and the practicality of prayer, ordinary folks wielding the unlimited power promised to us.  As Jesus said, “Very truly I tell you, whoever believes in me will do the works I have been doing, and they will do even greater things than these. . . .” (John 14:12).  It’s true.  I know folks whose damaged body, mind, and spirit have been healed, or are being healed, by faith and large doses of prayer.  One powerful example comes to mind: Mary Jackson, one of the most Spirit-filled people I know, related the following story.

Several years ago Mary, a high school special ed teacher, sat in a faculty meeting while her daughter, Bethany, then 12, attended cheerleader/mascot try-outs.  “She was goofing around with another girl,” Mary said, “and the other girl fell down and her knee landed on the heel of Bethany’s hand, at the base of the thumb. It immediately began swelling.”  Mary received a text message telling her get to the gym.  “When I got there, Bethany was clearly upset and holding her hand.  I got the short version of what happened and looked at her thumb. The base was swollen to at least twice the normal size, and it had already turned a blue-bruise color less than ten minutes after it happened.  She couldn’t move her thumb at all and she began to cry.”

“At that moment, I had a decision to make,” Mary continued, “and I spoke it out loud.  ‘Do you want to believe that your hand is broken?  Or do you want to believe that your hand will be healed?’  Because that’s always the first choice in healing: making a decision to believe for the healing.  Bethany said she wanted to believe for it to be healed, but asked if we could step out of the gym.”  At the time, Mary didn’t recognize how important that request was, but after reflecting on it, she realized the Holy Spirit was speaking through Bethany.  “One of the chief reasons we don’t see healing is because unbelief stops it,” said Mary.  “Remember, Jesus talked about how he couldn’t do anything in his own home town because of the unbelief.”

Mary, Bethany, Mary’s younger daughter, Genevieve, and the school secretary and friend, Heather, stepped outside the gym as Bethany had requested.  “I asked all of us standing outside that gym door if we all believed Bethany’s hand could be healed.”  She received their affirmations.  “I then encouraged everyone to pray like they believed it, and I encouraged everyone to pray in any prayer language the Lord put in them at the time.  So I put my hands around Bethany’s — one hand holding hers from underneath, and the other hand covering the top.  And we prayed.  We prayed like we meant it, like we needed the Holy Spirit to get there that very second and do a miracle, like we expected to see something amazing happen to this swollen, badly bruised hand.  I prayed this would be just a part of Bethany’s testimony because no one could ever tell her it didn’t happen when it happened to her.  We prayed out loud for about five minutes.  Her hand was so hot in mine, and my faith grew and grew during the prayer time.  Then I sensed it was finished.  I removed my hand from underneath hers and looked my sweet girl right in her precious blue eyes.  ‘We are so thankful, Lord,’ I said, and clapped my hands together just above her hand.  ‘Wanna look?’  I know I said that with a huge grin because I was highly expectant of something miraculous.”

When Mary moved her hands away from Bethany’s, what they saw was a perfect, totally normal hand.  A thin blue streak ran from the base of her thumb almost to her wrist.  That was all.  Then Bethany began to move her thumb.  Five minutes earlier, she couldn’t move it at all; now she moved and bent it without any problems.

“We still talk about that story when the Lord’s healing power became very real to my girls,” declared Mary.  “Even my younger daughter, who witnessed and participated in the prayers that ushered in the healing, owns this as part of her testimony about what the Lord has done in her life.  They learned at the young ages of 12 and 9 . . . . God hears me.”

The day after my dinner with Hannah, as she sat in homeschool class at the gym, the teacher asked if anyone would like to pray.  The lesson had been on Ephesians 6:1, “Children, obey your parents in the Lord . . . .” Hannah raised her hand and began:  “Daddy God, help us to obey our parents . . . .”  She prayed simply and directly, and when she ended, two other girls in class spoke up and prayed as well.  When they finished, my wife praised and encouraged them for stepping out and praying these most beautiful and powerful prayers.  These children are prayer warriors with an uncorrupted line to God.  As Jesus said in Matthew 18:3, “Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.”  Want change?  Pray.  He hears you.

 

Copyright © 2013 David C Hughes

Why I Believe (2013-09-17 Daily)

WHY I BELIEVE

by

David C. Hughes

 

“Jesus came to take away our sins, not our minds.” –Seen on a church marquee.

 

Recently I spent an evening with my wife’s family.  As the queue formed for the roast beef, corn on the cob, and Spring Mix, I sat at the dining room table and caught up with my nephew, a young and talented journalist.  After a few minutes lamenting the state of print media, he queried about my writing and its progress.  “So you’re writing Christian lit?” he asked.

“Christian non-fiction,” I corrected.  “Among other things.”

“Have you read The Case for Christ?”

“Yes!  Written by the atheist who set out to disprove Christianity and ended up becoming a Christian.”  I’d read this book by Lee Strobel a few years ago, and for me it was a key that helped unlock my heart and finally orient my faith in Jesus Christ as the true Son of God and Savior.  Months after reading The Case for Christ, I sent it to my dad who was struggling with the Second Person of the Trinity as well.  Strobel’s book also helped him regain his footing in the truth.

“Have you read The God Delusion by Richard Dawkins?” my nephew asked.  I admitted I’d never even heard of it.  As a reporter and philosopher, my nephew looks at the world through a critical thinker’s lenses, gathering and assimilating information, regarding all sides of an issue, and drawing a conclusion.  Or at least leaving the argument open for further discussion.  “I’m an agnostic leaning toward atheism,” he told me. We talked about the faith issue for several more minutes, until my mother-in-law called me away from the table to run an errand.

I respect my nephew’s position, but I have to admit his defense of his atheistic leanings backed me up against the wall of faith that evening.  I didn’t know how to respond to it.  After all, God did create us in His image, in essence as creative, thinking beings, but He never intended for us to think Him into non-existence.  So I resorted to appeasement instead of countering his points with my own experience, knowledge, and beliefs.  Thank God my mother-in-law called me away when she did.  The belief-versus-unbelief issue didn’t come up again for the rest of the night as wine and several rounds of Wahoo captured our attention and refocused it on just hanging out and being family.  But the discussion had left me edgy and unsettled.

I was baptized into the Catholic Church when I was one month old and confirmed at age 13.  In my mid-forties I received a full-immersion baptism at a non-denominational Christian church, and, to make sure I wore the full suit of spiritual armor, I was baptized in the Holy Spirit at age 49.  I believe without a doubt God exists, that Jesus of Nazareth, as shown in the historical, traditional, and Scriptural record, is the Son of God, and that through His death my sins–past, present, and future–have been forgiven. I believe I’ve been redeemed from the power and punishment of sin, and that I will live eternally in heaven after my earthly mission has been fulfilled.  I also believe without a doubt that, as Paul wrote in 2 Timothy 3:16, “all Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness.”  Because of my upbringing and education in the sciences, I don’t always interpret what is written in the literal sense, but I do believe the Bible is God’s word and contains God’s truth.  As such, I embrace it as God’s instruction and direction, and try to live out my faith per His word every day.

Because of my bent toward introversion, I’m most comfortable with the philosophy “Preach the Gospel always, and if necessary, use words,” an imperative generally attributed to Saint Francis of Assisi.  I wear my faith on my sleeve, and am generally willing to share it with anyone.  But, as I discovered during the conversation with my nephew, I’m WAY more comfortable sharing my testimony with folks who are either acknowledged Christians, or people I perceive would be open to receiving the truth as professed through my story rather than through philosophical argument.

I’m no Paul.  I’m not trained in rhetoric or formal debate.  I don’t even have a degree in English.  I’m a humble country boy raised in a family of storytellers with a degree in electrical engineering.  However, my interaction and inaction around the dinner table that night re-opened my eyes and my heart to God’s truth: Per 2 Timothy 1:7-8 “For the Spirit God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power, love and self-discipline. So do not be ashamed of the testimony about our Lord . . . .”  And as Jesus instructed the disciples: “’When you are brought before synagogues, rulers and authorities, do not worry about how you will defend yourselves or what you will say, for the Holy Spirit will teach you at that time what you should say.’” (Luke 12:11-12).  Although I knew the Spirit would guide my words, I kept my mouth shut nonetheless.  What holds me back from professing the truth verbally, in real-time, is fear. Fear of being thought of as a right-wing Christian crackpot, fear of losing friendships and family, fear of offending people, fear of not being able to defend my faith against well-crafted and well-rehearsed counter-arguments.  “Fear of man will prove to be a snare. . . .” King Solomon wrote in Proverbs 29:25, and after all these years, his wisdom still proves powerfully, and painfully, accurate.

So why do I believe?  What drives my faith from the very core and swamps out any arguments against the knowledge of God?  Simple: I’ve seen too much.  Jesus said in John 10:37-38 “Do not believe me unless I do the works of my Father.  But if I do them, even though you do not believe me, believe the works, that you may know and understand that the Father is in me, and I in the Father.”  I’ve seen the works.  I’ve witnessed miracles.  I’ve heard so many first-hand accounts of other miracles that there’s no way in my mind to discount the very real presence of God.

I know a man whose frontal lobe was removed to reduce brain swelling after a near-fatal motorcycle accident.  As church, family, and friends came together to pray for him, his frontal lobe eventually regenerated.  And I witnessed him walk again.  My church life group prayed over me one evening, laying hands on a very swollen throat.  As the believers prayed, the lump withered beneath their fingers.  My wife watched it shrink.  When my Aunt was diagnosed with a lump in her breast, she asked for prayer.  We prayed.  When it came time to measure the growth again prior to the operation to remove it, the tumor had shrunk to half its original size.

I’ve heard God’s voice instructing and directing me.  I’ve perceived God’s Spirit conveying knowledge I couldn’t possibly possess, knowledge that brought about a permanent change of heart, culminating in a healing and an eventual awakening which has brought me to where I am today.  I’ve watched men transform before my eyes from shame-filled abusers, addicts, liars, and cheats to Spirit-filled men of God on fire for the Kingdom.  I know men with lifelong addictions to powerful drugs quit using–permanently–after asking Jesus to take away their cravings and restore their lives.  I’ve seen the amazing power of redemption played out when men cast off pride and dependence on the world’s lies and accept the Truth and the freedom it ignites in those who receive it. I’ve witnessed evil, very real and very insidious, as it entered my household and manifested itself in the present realm, and I’ve witnessed how prayer and anointing drove it away.

So why do I believe?  How can I so confidently go against the grain of the world’s promises and place my heart, soul, and spirit into the care of a God so many people haven’t opened their eyes to yet?  Why do I dare trust my life with a Creator so many people don’t even believe in?  Because I see Him.  Because I’ve seen too many “coincidences,” experienced too many events that “just so happened,” and heard too many testimonies of God’s very real interaction in people’s lives to discount His existence.  God is real.  God exists.  And He invites each and every one of His creations to experience Him not only as sovereign God, but as Abba.  Daddy.  With a God like that, what other proof do we need?

 

Copyright © 2013 David C. Hughes

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