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 “New River Fellowship”

The Epiphany of Joy, Chapter 10: Joy in Our Calling (1 of 3)

We don’t do this for the money.  We do this because we love it.  The rest will follow.

–Amanda M. Thrasher, author and publisher


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 16:15b (NIV)


One cool November evening Mary and I invited Pastors Scott and Renee Crenshaw over to the house for grilled steaks.  After we finished dinner and enjoyed our slices of homemade Granny Smith apple pie slathered with equally homemade vanilla ice cream, I asked Scott, Senior Pastor at New River Fellowship in Hudson Oaks, Texas, if he considered himself living out his calling.  To me it was a rhetorical question; it was pretty obvious by the joy he exudes.

“I think so,” he responded, smiling and stroking his goatee.  “I really do.”  I nodded.  You see, I’d been struggling mightily with my calling for years, not so much in figuring out what my calling was–I knew exactly what it was–but with stepping out and answering that calling with a trust in God deep enough to pull the ejection handle on my tech job and parachute into a new career in writing.  I truly wanted to live out Goethe’s imperative, “Whatever you can do or dream you can, begin it.”  I’d only been at this writing thing fulltime for three months when I asked Scott the question.  The man obviously loves his job, and his spot-on sermons, his animated delivery, and his love for the flock he pastors reflect the passion, love, and joy he has in his calling.

“I was duck hunting one time,” he told me.  “It was freezing cold, I mean, it was miserable!  We got out there in the boat and we turned the heaters on and we’re waiting, and we got some poor dog sitting on the floor of the boat waiting to dive into the water.  And so we’re sitting there, and all throughout the morning, in the freezing cold, the water almost turned to ice, I’m hearing this sound, this thump-thump-thump-thump-thump, and I’m thinking ‘There must be an oil pump or something somewhere around here.’ Finally I realized it was that dog.  His tail was thumping.  What was he excited about?  He was excited about the moment when the guy goes ‘Cut ‘im!’ and the dog dives out into that freezing cold water.  But that’s what he’s made for.”  The Pastor laughed.

“And so at the end of the day I’m petting the dog and he’s living life, and I noticed his tail was literally bloody.  And the first thought that came to my mind was ‘God, that’s how I want to be.’  I call it bloody-tail passion.  I said, ‘I want to live in that.’”

I want to live in that . . . .  Who doesn’t?!  I want to be so caught up in fulfilling God’s will for me that I sit in the bottom of the boat, tail thumping, just waiting to explode with a bark of delight to scatter the ducks of joy all over Creation.  But so many people seem to just exist, to merely move through life joylessly, cowering like a beat dog, or floating around like a piece of driftwood on life’s ebb and flow, either never knowing their calling, or knowing their calling but never pursuing it out of fear.  And they seem unmotivated to do anything differently, like zombies going through the motions, dead but undead, losing body parts like hearts and souls along the way.  “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it,” philosopher George Santayana once said.  Those who cannot remember the past of their passions, those who cannot remember the past of what moved them, those who cannot remember the past of what brought joy into their hearts, all stand condemned by their own false truths, a parade of fools led by that king of lies: worldly security.

One of my deepest fears was getting to the end of life, looking back on not only what I’d accomplished but also the opportunities I’d passed up because of terror, and saying, “So what the hell was that all about?”  Rockford E. Toews, in his essay “One Less Accountant,” wrote, “Rather than purposefully living, the vast majority of people’s lives are little more than a series of reactions to events and forces outside themselves. That’s not truly living. That’s just survival. Yet most people willingly engage in simple survival today in the belief that they will get their chance at actual living tomorrow.  If they can earn enough money now surely they will be able to retire one day and enjoy life” (http://thoreau.eserver.org/oneless.html, retrieved 2/12/2014).

Jesus said as much in the Parable of the Rich Fool:


And he told them this parable: “The ground of a certain rich man yielded an abundant harvest. He thought to himself, ‘What shall I do? I have no place to store my crops.’

“Then he said, ‘This is what I’ll do. I will tear down my barns and build bigger ones, and there I will store my surplus grain. And I’ll say to myself, “You have plenty of grain laid up for many years. Take life easy; eat, drink and be merry.”’

“But God said to him, ‘You fool! This very night your life will be demanded from you. Then who will get what you have prepared for yourself?’

 “This is how it will be with whoever stores up things for themselves but is not rich toward God.”

              –Luke 12:16-21 NIV


Let me ask you something: Do you believe God wants you to actually enjoy the work He’s lined up for you  to do instead of being miserable in the job you’ve lined up for yourself to do?  Do you believe God has a plan for you, a gift of purpose tailor-made just for you, an avocation to live out with excitement, joy, and, dare I say, fun that will leave you breathless with wonder and smiling with contentment at the end of each day?  Do you believe God doesn’t intend for us to spend all of our energy chasing a dollar, but instead He intends for us to spend all of our energy chasing Him?


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.


Copyright ©2014 by David C. Hughes

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