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 “Jason Hoffman”

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.”

 

(continued)

 

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 (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

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