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 “Matthew Kelly”

The Epiphany of Joy, Chapter 13: Joy in Obedience (1 of 3)

Blessed are all who fear the Lord,

   who walk in obedience to him.

                      –Psalm 128:1 (NIV)

 

My obedience to what I know to be right brings me joy. My disobedience to what I know is right brings me misery.

–Matthew Kelly, A Call to Joy, page 154

 

“Why are you so mean to me?!” Hannah yelled as she jumped out of her booster seat and stomped to her bedroom. “This just hasn’t been a good day!” Slam! The door smashing into the doorframe shook the house. Mary looked at me. I shrugged and shook my head. We both took another gulp of wine and continued eating in silence. Welcome to dinnertime at the Hughes house, where getting our six-year-old to leave the nutritionally-barren desert of meat, cheese, and Ranch dressing and venture into the verdant garden of rice, potatoes, and anything colored green is like getting our dogs to quit barking at jackrabbits: it’s been, uh, challenging.

For the most part, our household is a sanctuary of fun, learning, and family time, but when disobedience sailed in on the waves of Hannah’s blooming personality, peace has jumped overboard on more than one occasion. Some call it being “strong-willed.” Mary and I call it “Pour me another glass of wine.” First came the flat-out “No,” followed by copious applications of timeout. As the petals of Hannah’s personality continued to unfold, however, the ubiquitous “Why?” replaced “No.” Now acknowledgement of our imperatives results in one of three responses: “Yes,” deliberate ignoring, or nuclear meltdown.

“What did we do?” Mary asked as we finished dinner to the accompaniment of muffled crying coming from Hannah’s bedroom.

“Nothing,” I replied. “I blame Eve.” And, indeed, isn’t that where all this disobedience stuff started? You have to admit, Adam and Eve had it pretty good at the beginning. They walked with God, talked with God, hung out with God, and tended the Garden of Eden. Shoot, they even ran around naked without having to worry about what the neighbors thought! God provided for all their needs and all He asked from them in return was to keep their paws off the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. This was the first application of the well-known parental utterance, “Don’t touch the hot stove.” God desired worship, relationship, and obedience, and He lavished on Adam and Eve pleasure and every good thing. And what did our ancestral parents do? Eve caved in to a talking serpent. Just like we still do today. Why? Because we want to be in control. Some things never change.

Time and again Mary and I have explained to Hannah the difference between discipline and flat-out meanness in response to her question “Why are you so mean to me?” As she’s gotten older, her tendency to do as she’s told rather than blatantly disobeying us is improving, but, like her parents, she still clutches the fruit of the Fall. “If you’d only obey us,” we’ve pleaded, “we’d never have to spank your bottom or put you in timeout or yell at you.” Blessed peace would rest on our household, and Mary and I would be belting out Hosannas alongside the choirs of angels singing in blessed reverence. Nevertheless, Hannah still pushes against our will. Pride certainly goeth before the fall. And the spanking spoon. And timeout. And the daddy voice . . . .

When God speaks, He expects His people to obey, and the primary source of His commands and His will for us is Scripture. “If God tells you to do something, do it!” I’ve been told many times. Like the old E.F. Hutton commercials, when God talks, people need to listen! Why? Because God doesn’t just speak to hear Himself talk, like we sometimes do. No, when God tells us to do something, whether it’s through His word, other people, or directly through His Spirit, it’s for our own good. When we obey God, we honor Him. When we act on His directives, commands, and precepts, we glorify Him.

This very book is the result of obedience; God told me to write it, so I did. Despite the fact I lived in ignorance of the true meaning of joy and its very real and very practical manifestation as a fruit of the Holy Spirit, I obeyed God’s directive, stepped out in faith, and started researching and writing this work. Throughout this journey I’ve witnessed miracles resulting from obeying God’s commands. Despite leaving a well-paying job with a relatively secure future, God the Provider has “somehow” maintained my family’s financial well-being, leaving little doubt He’s managing all aspects of my new career. Despite my ignorance of the subject of joy, God has directed me to books, blogs, websites, and other folks living joy day-to-day, revealing bit-by-bit the potential of existing in a state of permanent joy despite circumstances. Don’t get me wrong, living a life of obedience to the Father sometimes isn’t easy–that darned old flesh still seems to get in the way–but I move forward knowing it’s what I’m being called to do. Indeed, it’s what we’re all being called to do.

(continued)

Copyright ©2014 by David C. Hughes

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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.

(continued)

Copyright ©2014 by David C. Hughes

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