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 “Holy Spirit”

The Epiphany of Joy, Chapter 5: Joy in Fearing the Lord [1 of 3]

The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge, but fools despise wisdom and instruction.

                      –Proverbs 1:7 NIV


Growing up in the 60’s and 70’s I looked forward to Saturdays, not only for the Saturday morning cartoons, but for the Saturday afternoon monster movie matinees.  Yes, my siblings and I would sit for hours glued to the TV on any given Saturday, especially when the upstate New York weather put the kibosh on romping around in four-foot-deep snow drifts, or hiking through the woods because it was pouring down rain.

I loved those old black-and-white movies like The Crawling Eye, The Blob, Them, King Kong, The Monolith Monsters, and all the Godzilla movies.  The theme of monsters being created by radiation rang loud and clear back then, as the nation slogged through the Cold War, and the fear of nuclear annihilation hung like a pall of neutrons over our heads.  We even practiced air raid drills in elementary school.  But my favorite movie at the time had nothing to do with being vaporized by an H-bomb, but being scared to death by the ghostly skeleton of a woman dressed in a white wedding gown. I remember watching the 1958 classic, The Screaming Skull, at my friend Kevin’s house one Saturday afternoon after a sleepover in their big, creepy two-story house in the woods, complete with a graveyard hidden deep in the shadows of the backyard copse.

So on that fateful day, when the ghost of Marion, the murdered wife, appeared in snowy black-and-white on Kevin’s television, I hid behind the sofa in utter fear until he somehow coaxed me out and convinced me to watch the rest of the flick with him. After recently renting The Screaming Skull through Netflix, and inviting Mary to watch it with me, I now know how campy, stupid, and poorly-acted that movie really was, but back then, to such a young and impressionable pre-adolescent mind, it scared the bejeezus out of me!  That, to me, was the definition of fear–plain, simple, and all-too-real.  I don’t remember spending very many more nights at Kevin’s house after that.

Thus my initial confusion when I first started reading the Bible and came across the phrase “fear of the Lord.”  Fear of the Lord?  Really?  I mean, I feared screaming skulls, being in the woods at night, driving in a blizzard, the crawl space in the basement, going to confession, talking to a girl, reading out loud in class, and getting a B in a third-year engineering class, but fear of the Lord?  I thought God was supposed to love me, protect me, and wrap me in peace, provision, and security; why should I be afraid of Him?  It wasn’t until recently that the true meaning of the term “fear of the Lord” came into the light–it was an “ah ha” moment which brought into focus my theological understanding of fear.

The Hebrew word for the noun “fear” in this context is yir’âh, which can mean both fear or terror and reverence or respect, depending on the context.  In Isaiah 11:1-3a (NIV), one of Isaiah’s prophecies about the birth and ministry of the Messiah includes the noun yir’âh as one of the outpourings of the Holy Spirit:


A shoot will come up from the stump of Jesse;

    from his roots a Branch will bear fruit.

The Spirit of the Lord will rest on him–

    the Spirit of wisdom and of understanding,

    the Spirit of counsel and of might,

    the Spirit of the knowledge and fear of the Lord—

and he will delight in the fear of the Lord.


This Old Testament passage is the source of the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit (the “Spirit of the Lord”), of which the gift of “fear of the Lord” is stated, then reiterated as something to be delighted in–to take joy in!

Likewise, in the New Testament, the Greek word for the verb “to fear” is phŏbĕō, which also has a multi-faceted meaning: to fear, to frighten, or to be afraid and to reverence or to venerate.  And the Greek word for the noun “fear” is phŏbŏs, meaning fear or terror and (interestingly) reverence for one’s husband.  In his first epistle, the apostle John wrote:


There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.

–1 John 4:18 (NIV)


Because the fear John is writing about here is phŏbŏs, i.e., terror, this kind of fear cannot stand up to God, the Source of perfect love and perfect security; on the contrary, since perfect love drives out phŏbŏs, fear of just punishment is replaced by awe, wonder, reverence, and respect.  This reverential joy, this fear inspired by redemption and fullness of relationship with God is the kind of fear He desires from His adopted sons and daughters.  “Serve the LORD with fear,” the Psalmist wrote in Psalm 2:11, “and rejoice before him; with trembling pay homage to him.” (Psalm 2:11a NASB).



Copyright ©2013 by David C. Hughes


The Epiphany of Joy, Chapter 8: Joy in Gratitude [1 of 2]

In celebration of Thanksgiving, I took the liberty of jumping ahead to Chapter 8 of The Epiphany of Joy: “Joy in Gratitude.”  I want to thank each and every one of you for faithfully following my blog and for keeping this project in your thoughts and prayers.  Without you, this blog and all it represents would be meaningless.  May God bless you and your families this Thanksgiving and every moment of your lives.  I appreciate you!


The Epiphany of Joy, Chapter 8: Joy in Gratitude, Part 1 of 2


Joy is the fruit of appreciation.

–Matthew Kelly, A Call to Joy, page 124


And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.

–Colossians 3:17 (NIV)


One Saturday afternoon Mary kicked Hannah and me out of the house so she could host a baby shower for a neighbor.  Because we hadn’t visited Grandma and Grandpa in a while, I decided to head up to New Fairview, Texas, to help Mary’s Dad work on his 1926 Ford Model T coupe.  The trip takes about an hour, but can sometimes seem like five, depending on Hannah’s level of engagement and the mood I’m in; some days a road trip can be fun, other days I’d rather pawn her off to the Leapster GS, or play the “Quiet Game” for the whole hour.

The instant Hannah hears the seatbelt click into place, one of two phrases invariably rolls out of her mouth: “Dad, can I have a piece of gum?” or “Dad, let’s play the ________ game,” filling in the blank with a selection from the made-up-game library in our heads.  At that time, we had quite an extensive repertoire: “Tell Me a Story, Dad,” “Sing Me a Silly Song, Dad,” “The Rhyming Game,” “What Machine Makes this Sound,” “What Animal Makes this Sound,” “What Shape is It,” and “The Color Game” were some of her favorites.  But the one game she loved the best was the “Let’s Make Up a New Game Game.”

So on that cool March afternoon, as we drove up the farm road toward the interstate, I managed to get about three miles after the seatbelt clicked before Hannah asked the all-too-familiar question: “Dad, can we make up a new game?”

“Yes,” I replied. “How about the ‘Thank You God Game’?” I hoped that by immediately taking control of the situation I wouldn’t be sucked into one of her imaginary games fraught with a myriad of rules requiring the Rosetta Stone and an Enigma cipher machine to decode. That, and I’m a control freak.

“How do you play that, Dad?” she asked in her sweet little voice.

“Well,” I answered, “you think of something you’re thankful for and thank God for it.”

“Okay,” she said.

“I’ll go first,” I called.  “Let’s see . . . Thank You, God, for my job,” I said.

Hannah caught on instantly: “Thank You, God, for trees, because we can sit in the shade.”

I continued: “Thank You, God, for our cars.”

“Thank You, God, for heaven.”

“Thank You, God, for my family,” I said.

“I’m thankful for dirt, so we can dig in it and play in it,” Hannah said. “And I’m thankful for all the different colors, I’m happy for our whole entire planet, and I’m happy for our whole entire house, and for our whole entire neighborhood.”  She was even thankful for the floor in our house and our church family!

And as we continued to play I realized something: my thank you’s focused mainly on possessions, while her thank you’s encompassed not only material objects, like our house and our dog, but more subjective and sublime things such as her experiences, her spirit, her Creator and His Creations.  I choked up when she said “I’m thankful for my heart,” and I sat in awe as I realized my four-year-old daughter understood gratitude, thankfulness, and appreciation better than I did.  In those few minutes of imagination, her expression of pure gratitude revealed the difference between the junk-filled head of an adult and the spirit-filled heart of a child–while I focused my thankfulness on “stuff,” she focused her thankfulness on God and His gifts.  Whew!  Talk about a life lesson in the form of a 25 pound preschool kid! This experience helped to remind me, again, of the joy and freedom of just being thankful.

One of the most influential books I’ve experienced is Norman Vincent Peale’s The Power of Positive Thinking.  To say this book has reset my perspective more than once is an understatement. I’ve read The Power of Positive Thinking more times than any other book I own, including, I confess, the Bible.  If I was ever stranded on an island and had to choose only two books to wash ashore with, I’d clutch the Bible in my right hand, and The Power of Positive Thinking in my left.  This book helped form my perspective on the power of gratitude, the authority of God’s Word, and the power of attitude and prayer to align heavenly will with earthly reality.

In one particularly memorable anecdote from the book, a 52-year-old man consulted Dr. Peale because he believed “everything he had built up over his lifetime had been swept away.” The man had let the “dark shadows of hopelessness” distort his thinking. Dr. Peale challenged the man’s wretched, self-defeating beliefs by taking out a piece of paper and writing down the values the man had left.  With Dr. Peale’s prompting, the man ended up listing seven good assets he still possessed.  When Peale shoved the list across the table, the man grinned and said “I guess I didn’t think of those things.” (Norman Vincent Peale, The Power of Positive Thinking, Chapter 1: “Believe in Yourself”).

The negative influence of what we’ve forgotten, or what we’re taking for granted, can kick the piers out from under the foundation of what we remember, experience, and actually possess. Whenever I’m facing a challenging day, or when my mind wanders down the path of self-pity or negativism, or when I’m walking the dogs around the neighborhood at 5:30 AM immersed in my thoughts and the Holy Spirit’s loving whispers, I often just start thanking God for anything and everything which pops into my mind, challenging myself to play the “Thank You God Game” for 45 minutes straight. Believe me, it can quickly put things into perspective.  You’d be amazed at the smallest details your imagination can conjure to be thankful for! And you’d be amazed at how such a simple prayer of gratitude can quickly turn your mourning (or morning) into joy!


Copyright ©2013 by David C. Hughes

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