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 “Synoptic Gospels”

The Epiphany of Joy, Chapter 14: Joy in Everyday Miracles (2 of 2)

In all three of the Synoptic Gospels, Jesus concluded several parables with the phrase, “Whoever has ears [to hear], let them hear” (Matthew 11:15, 13:9, 13:43; Mark 4:9; Luke 8:8, 14:35).  And in the Book of Revelation, Chapter 2, Jesus said, “Whoever has ears, let them hear what the Spirit says to the churches” (Revelation 2:7, 11, 17, and 29). As the Spirit opens our spiritual eyes to see beyond the natural, He likewise opens our spiritual ears to listen to, comprehend, and witness the reality of the supernatural, the Kingdom of God on earth, where miracles are an every-moment occurrence.

Miracles happen all the time; I know–I’ve witnessed countless, both large and small, and I’ve heard stories from others that can only be caveated as miracles.  Why does God still dole out miracles?  For our joy and encouragement, and for His glory.  As a daddy myself, there’s nothing like hearing the squeal of surprise and unfettered joy erupting from my daughter as she opens up a gift she’s been nagging us about.  At six years old, Hannah’s at the age where nothing’s subtle, especially asking for something she wants.  She doesn’t drop hints, she just asks, asks again, asks yet again, asks continuously, like the persistent widow in Luke 18, until we either yell “no,” sigh “yes,” or begin plotting for the delivery of the gift wrapped in surprise.  Hmm, sounds a little like God when we pray, eh?

As Mary prepared for Hannah’s sixth birthday party, we asked her what she wanted.  “I want a magic kit!” she told us.  And during the weeks leading up to the party her desire never wavered, so we passed the information on to Grandma and Grandpa, who set out to fulfill the mission.  Mary had hired a professional magician to entertain Hannah and the dozen little girls at the party, so after the magic show ended, the cake and ice cream were consumed, and the piñata was smashed to confetti, we herded the sugared-up girls back into the living room so Hannah could open her gifts.

After Hannah had torn off the wrapping paper from a few boxes, Grandma handed her a long package.  I pointed the video camera at her and stood in anticipation of the incipient culmination of weeks of expectancy.  Hannah began peeling off the paper, and the instant she realized what she held in her lap, she squealed with joy.  I mean, squealed!  That is why God still performs miracles!  That is why Daddy still hands out fish instead of snakes, and eggs instead of scorpions.  He’s a good Daddy, and He loves it–loves it!–when we not only recognize His miracles with joy, but when we make known His marvelous deeds to the world.  Like Hannah, the more we squeal about our magic kits, the more we glorify the gift Giver.

Like I said, I’ve witnessed countless miracles, many small, some extraordinarily large, and it’s funny: I seem to remember the small miracles more than I do the large ones, maybe because they seem to happen so often now.  These are little signs He’s intimately involved in my moment-by-moment existence, that He cares about me more than I’ll ever realize.

In the fall of 2012 Mary and I (well . . . Mary) decided to replace the worn out, stained carpeting in our living room and hallway with laminate flooring.  We’re do-it-yourselfers, so we ended up in the flooring department at Lowes poring over various types and styles of laminate, asking for advice, and comparing colors.  Both of us quickly arrived at the same color and style: Pergo Hand Scraped Heritage Hickory.  Independently deciding on the same style and color at the same time could be considered a miracle in itself!  On that day, all the various colors in the Pergo style we wanted sold for $2.99 per square foot.  When we got home that afternoon, I calculated how much it would cost to cover our entire living room and hallway.  The laminate, vapor barrier, trim boards, and the flooring itself exceeded our $1,350 budget.  We’d planned to install the flooring over Christmas break, but put off buying the material until we came up with a more affordable alternative.

A day or two later a Lowes flyer arrived in the mailbox.  I opened it and casually flipped the pages to see if there was anything we couldn’t live without.  As I turned to the flooring page, I noticed the ad featured Pergo laminate for the original $2.99 per square foot.  Then I saw it: Pergo Hand Scraped Heritage Hickory, $2.49 per square foot, the only style that had been discounted.  What the–?!  I quickly calculated the new cost to redo our living room and hallway: $1,350, give or take!  We rushed to Lowes, secured a whole pallet at the sale price, and got to work.  Three days later (which was another miracle in itself!) we hosted Christmas at our house featuring a brand-new Pergo Hand Scraped Heritage Hickory laminate living room floor.  Oh, and you know what’s even cooler?  Both of the saws I used to cut the wood–the table saw and the compound miter saw–had been given to us by generous neighbors.  For free.  Yet another miracle!  Praise God and pass the vapor barrier!

God reveals Himself every moment of every day, and He loves it when we not only recognize Him in the everyday miracles, but when we squeal with delight when we open the package and recognize the gift as coming from Him.  And what’s even better?  When we store up those stories of God’s awesomeness in our hearts and then tell those stories to the world.  “Declare his glory among the nations,” urged the psalmist in Psalm 96:3, “his marvelous deeds among all peoples.”  God gets the glory and we get the pleasure and the joy.  As the psalmist sang in Psalm 107:21-22 (NIV):

 

Let them give thanks to the Lord for his

  unfailing love
and his wonderful deeds for mankind.
Let them sacrifice thank offerings
and tell of his works with songs of joy.

 

Be blessed, keep your eyes and ears open for those miracles, and tell of His works with songs of joy!

 

Copyright © 2014 David C. Hughes

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

 

Once I relinquished legalism, once I let go of my Pharisaic mindset, once the Spirit convinced me that, as an adopted son of the Most High God, heaven was indeed my destiny and eternal life my reward, the terror of hell, which had preoccupied my mind for so long, gradually released its power, and I became free to live the life God intended for me. “It is for freedom that Christ has set us free,” the apostle Paul wrote to the Galatians.  “Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.” (Galatians 5:1 NRSVCE).  And to the Romans he wrote “The Spirit you received does not make you slaves, so that you live in fear again; rather, the Spirit you received brought about your adoption to sonship. And by him we cry, ‘Abba, Father.’” (Romans 8:15 NRSVCE).  Abba is the Aramaic word for “Daddy,” and once I let go of the terror of hell and climbed up into my Daddy’s lap with awe and wonder, faith and hope, my heart opened to God’s continuous presence, and with it the potential and reality of the Spirit’s fruits of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.  Because, as Paul wrote in Galatians 5:23, “There is no law against such things.”

“The fear of the Lord delights the heart,” Ben Sira wrote in The Book of Sirach, “and gives gladness and joy and long life.” (Sirach 1:12 NRSVCE).  And as fear of the Lord brings joy and celebration to our hearts, “the Lord delights in those who fear him, who put their hope in his unfailing love.” (Psalm 147:11 NIV).  Growing up Catholic I experienced this fear in the reverential atmosphere of every mass, and especially in the Easter Vigil mass and midnight mass on Christmas Eve.  In those celebrations we sent our prayers and praises to the Father on the rise of incense and the lowering of eyes, in the solemnity of hymns and the hush of Eucharist.  I knew God sat on His throne, but at the time I didn’t comprehend I could “approach the throne of grace with boldness, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.” (Hebrews 4:16 NRSVCE).  It’s no accident the three Synoptic Gospels record that, at the moment Jesus gave up His spirit, the curtain of the temple “was torn in two from top to bottom.” (See Matthew 27:51, Mark 15:38, and Luke 23:45).  This tearing of the curtain separating the Holy Place from the Most Holy Place–the Holy of Holies–symbolized the initiation of direct access to God (starting from the top) by anyone (ending at the bottom) through the blood sacrifice of the Jesus, the atoning Lamb of God, because “without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sins.” (Hebrews 9:22b).

Now I have no fear, no terror, no phŏbŏs, of God’s judgment, because I have been bought for a price, and have been found blameless in His sight as I walk in His righteousness willingly given and humbly accepted.  “For we know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body ruled by sin might be done away with,” Paul wrote in his letter to the Romans, “that we should no longer be slaves to sin–because anyone who has died has been set free from sin.” (Romans 6:6-7 NRSVCE).

With this realization, the door to a satisfying, exciting, and joyful relationship with the Most High God, the Lord of lords, the King of kings can begin by letting go of your chains of slavery to servile fear and putting on the garment of filial fear, bowing your head, and opening your heart to the love, gifts, and promises of the One who deserves the focus of our entire being.  As the Psalmist wrote in Psalm 33:8: “Let all the earth fear the LORD; let all who dwell in the world revere him.” (Psalm 33:8 NASB).  Alleluia!

 

Copyright ©2013 by David C. Hughes

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