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 “Psalms”

The Epiphany of Joy, Chapter 2: Joy in God’s Word [3 of 3]

God’s Word is powerful and fully alive!  It’s like the Force in the Star Wars movies.  I remember Obi Wan Kenobi’s words to Luke Skywalker after Obi Wan rescued Luke from the Sand People and brought him back to his dwelling: “ . . . the Force is what gives the Jedi his power.  It’s an energy field created by all living things.  It surrounds us and penetrates us; it binds the galaxy together.”  Except God’s Word is real, penetrating us through the soul to the spirit, spirit to Spirit, binding not only the galaxy together but the universe.  “For the Word of God is alive and active, sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.” (Hebrews 4:12).  God’s Word is a divine Light Saber!

Two years ago I had a particularly bad day wrestling with myself and with God about whether or not I should quit my job to pursue this writing avocation.  I cracked open my notebook and wrote “What is my greatest fear?  Why am I so afraid to quit my job right now and pursue a full-time writing career?”

Under that I began to write a bulleted list (of course) of all my reasons, starting with excuse number one: fear of being poor. God thwarted that lie with Jeremiah 29:11: “‘For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘Plans to prosper you and not harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.’”  That was followed by fear of failure, resulting in becoming poor.  God stepped in and chopped that one up to bits: “I can do all things through Jesus Christ who strengthens me.” (Philippians 4:13).  Next I listed fear of disappointing my father, to which he threw three verses at me: Jeremiah 32:38, Galatians 4:7, and 2 Timothy 2:15.  The list grew: fear of not providing for my family, lack of confidence in my capability to actually do this job, fear of rejection by others who may think that what I did (quitting such a good-paying, secure job) was stupid.  One by one God revealed the lie in each one of the devil’s flaming arrows by flea-flickering me a scriptural reference to tackle each one.  The common thread of all of these lies was lack of trust in God, but He showed me the scriptural defense of this potentially incapacitating lie as well: “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding.  In all your ways acknowledge Him and He will make your paths straight.” (Proverbs 3:5-6).  He also revealed Job 42:2 and Philippians 1:6.

Whew!  No wonder the psalmist rejoiced in God’s precepts, God’s statutes, God’s Word.  It’s pure joy!  And for free!  In Psalm 119 the psalmist boiled down the wisdom of following the Living Word of God:

 

How can a young person stay on the path of purity?

    By living according to your word.

I seek you with all my heart;

    do not let me stray from your commands.

I have hidden your word in my heart

    that I might not sin against you.

Praise be to you, Lord;

    teach me your decrees.

With my lips I recount

    all the laws that come from your mouth.

I rejoice in following your statutes

    as one rejoices in great riches.

I meditate on your precepts

    and consider your ways.

I delight in your decrees;

    I will not neglect your word.

–Psalm 119:9-16

 

Hide God’s Word in your heart (in other words, memorize it) and I guarantee you’ll witness the amazing transforming power the Word will bring about.  As Caroline Barnett wrote in her book Willing to Walk on Water (page 14):  “It’s time for us to live out our lives like we believe God’s Word with all our heart, soul, and mind.  We must study and apply His promises every day.  We must use the Bible as a guide to living the abundant life He has intended for us.  God may not duplicate the same biblical miracles we read about, but He can and does perform new ones.”  Including filling your heart–and your life–with living joy.

 

Copyright ©2013 by David C. Hughes

Worship on a Morning Walk (2013-08-19 Daily)

WORSHIP ON A MORNING WALK

Being raised in a small-town Catholic church, I never knew worship, or at least I didn’t recognize it.  I learned the traditional prayers, the ups and downs of the Mass, and the discipline of being an altar boy.  I faithfully went with my family on Sunday morning, a compulsion which followed through my college years and into adulthood.  It wasn’t until I met my wife and we started dating that I had to embrace a new way of looking at and experiencing church.  You see, she was raised sort-of Baptist, and after we got engaged I asked her if she would be willing to convert to Catholicism.  She agreed to start the process, but when it came time to start filling out the paperwork to get an annulment from her first marriage, she slammed on the brakes.  “God and I talked about my divorce and He still loves me,” she emphatically told me.  “I’m not taking this to a panel of people I don’t know to judge that reconciliation.  What business is it of theirs?  This is between God and me.”  From that moment I had to give up my regimented thinking about what church was and open my eyes to a different way of experiencing God.  As a result, we started going to a non-denominational Christian church.  What an eye-opener!  I quickly discovered that, for me, this is what church was meant to be: fresh, unbridled, Jesus-centered, Bible-based, accepting, built on relationships with God and other believers serving each other and the community at large.  I fit right in!  I was home!  But worship is one aspect about this new way of doing church I still struggle to get my arms wrapped around.

One Sunday evening last spring, my wife, Mary, and I attended New River Fellowship’s “First Sunday,” a monthly night of worship and digging deeper into the Word.  An integral part of service which Spirit-filled churches like New River Fellowship in Hudson Oaks, Texas, have in common is a half hour or so of praise involving talented singers and musicians to set the atmosphere prior to the message.  Typically I listen to the music, sing the words . . . and let my mind wander all over the place.  Even after eight years of attending non-denoms, I have to admit I still don’t fully get it.  But that night something shifted.  It’s happened before, to a degree, but that night I lifted my hands above my head and closed my eyes during one song—and started crying.  I was overwhelmed by the Spirit as He poured into me, embraced me, loved me.  I stood there, hands held high, and received.  Soon after, the Spirit told me to pray for the guy sitting in the chair in front of me.  So, in unquestioned obedience, I knelt down and prayed for him.

The next morning I got up before sunrise, as is my habit, to take the dogs for a walk.  The pre-dawn morning embraced me in stillness and mid-spring warmth as I led the dogs out the front door and onto the sidewalk.  Something—movement, a flash of light, a disturbance—caught my attention and I turned toward the western sky just in time to catch the green-white streak of a meteor sacrificing itself in the atmosphere for God’s glory, a good morning kiss from Daddy.  Then I really noticed the sky: cloudless, black, painted with countless stars and the streak of the Milky Way running southwest to northeast.  The sliver of a waning crescent moon hung in the eastern sky.  The Milky Way glowed softly against the inky backdrop, more pronounced than I’d seen in recent memory, reminding me of those photos you see from the Hubble telescope of nebulae and galaxies.

I walked with my face pointed toward the sky and my head stuck in the clouds, barely glancing at the road, hardly checking on the dogs.  I Surrender All played over and over in my mind.  The flashlight was useless that morning, as I walked by faith rather than by sight. The immensity of God’s creation increased the awesomeness of my reality a bit, expanding my view of the infinite vastness of the universe by the arm of an immense galaxy.  I could feel God’s presence, palpable, real, alive.  I walked in peace, I walked fully loved, I walked aware of His Spirit.  “How could a God that created all of this take the time for me?” I wondered.  “But He does.  He does!”  A great horned owl called out a lonely hoot, hope cast into the darkness, waiting for a reply.  A bullfrog harrumphed its own hope across the pond still wrapped in quiet darkness.  I looked up into that depthless spiral of a billion stars and asked “God, teach me how to worship You.”  “This is how,” He seemed to reply.  “This is how.”

I may not “get” worship fully yet.  I may stand unmoving except for the pumping of my right leg to the beat of the music on Sunday morning.  I may look around in wonder at the folks who jump and wave their arms and shout at the ceiling, eyes closed, tears streaming down their cheeks.  But, as Mark Driscoll, Pastor of Mars Hill Church in Seattle, says: “worship is not merely an aspect of our being, but the essence of our being as God’s image-bearers.” (theresurgence.com, Worship and Idolatry series)  We worship because we’re made in God’s image, we pour out because God pours out.  Our life is one of continuous worship, whether of God or of something else.  It’s what we do, it’s who we are.  King David described in Psalm 22:3 that God is holy, “Enthroned in the praises of Israel.”  God dwells in the praises of His people!  God’s presence is real in the hearts of those who exalt Him.  I may not get worship fully yet, but as I continue to walk in His presence, even on a dark road with the Milky Way flowing over me, as I reach up to Him, hands open to receive, He opens my heart a little more with each encounter.  Who knows, someday you may see me turning cartwheels in the aisles at church too.

8/19/2013

Copyright (c) David C. Hughes

Post Navigation

%d bloggers like this: