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 “The Original Sanctuary”

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

The Epiphany of Joy, Introduction [2 of 2]

In January 2011 I attended a Fully Alive men’s weekend with Marc Owings, Pastor of Elevate Him Ministries in Fort Worth, Texas, and author of The Original Sanctuary and All In.  The men on the retreat were given the opportunity for one-on-one time with God, in a spirit and environment of quietness, protection, and expectation.  During that time God spoke to me in the form of a letter penned by my own hand, directed by the Spirit.  “Set your heart right,” God wrote to me, “set your eyes on Me, and KNOW, KNOW, in your heart of hearts that you are going down the right path, that you are fulfilling My plans, and the plans are to give you joy, fun, and to prosper you in ways you can’t even imagine.  You’ll know when it’s time to transition; trust that I am right now creating these paths and opportunities to you.  You’ll know.  And write to your (and My) heart’s content!  Enjoy and be filled with joy!  This is the path.”  The scales fell off my eyes as I realized I’d been on the right road, the Road to Damascus, all along.  I cried a lot that weekend.

Fast-forward six months.  While on a business trip to Buffalo, New York, to engage with one of my suppliers, the Lord whispered to me in the hotel room: “I want you to write a book about joy,” He said. “I want you to become a joy expert.”  Me?  Write a book about joy?  In my past life my writing focused more on short horror stories, a “Twilight Zone” type novel, and poetry rather than Christian non-fiction.  Who was I to talk about joy, let alone write a book about it?  What did I know?

Turns out, I didn’t have to know anything, I just had to be obedient to God’s request.  As Caroline Barnett says in her book, Willing to Walk on Water, “You need to follow God’s voice.  And if He gives you a desire to do something, He will find a way to make it happen.” (page 161)

But a week after that trip to Buffalo, Satan attacked my mind with a full-on frontal assault:  “You’ll never finish the book,” he tormented.  “Who are you to write about joy?”  I stood in the shower, water splashing over me, praying to God and rebuking the devil.

“Lord,” I pleaded. “How am I going to write this thing?”

“All you have to do is be creative and organize it,” He replied.  Ha!  That’s all?!  And at that moment I made a commitment to not only write the book, but to disengage the project from the spirit of mammon: Since this is God’s book, I decided that, as the first fruit of many more to come, all profits from its sale will go to New River Fellowship, my home church in Hudson Oaks, Texas.  This book is my Jericho!

As Scott Crenshaw, Senior Pastor of New River, said “There is something when the winds of persecution blow on the flames of God in your heart.”  Satan’s rancid breath tried to blow out my joy completely.  But instead, he inadvertently helped fan the flames into an inferno of hope.  Through researching and writing this book, I’ve discovered how God means for us to live, not in slavery to expectations but in the freedom of who He created us to be.  God opened my eyes and heart to what it means to lead a joy-filled life alive with the Spirit, despite circumstances and past choices.

As I started writing The Epiphany of Joy, I was far from being a joy expert, and I concurred with my friend Stephen Erwin when he told me, “Joy is a decision–it doesn’t come naturally to me.”  It doesn’t come naturally to me either, although by the smile on my face, my persistence, and my sense of humor you’d never guess that.  That’s the funny thing about joy: it shows even when it’s not felt.

This joy thing continues to be a journey for me, a journey from despair and depression and hopelessness to trust and hope and praise.  I know this will be a lifelong adventure, a continuous education, and a reminder that joy is a gift planted in me by the Spirit of God; I need to remember to unwrap that gift and receive it daily in my heart.  Like the tattoo on my arm declaring my sonship with the King of Kings and Lord of Lords, it’s there, I just gotta show it!

So . . . what is joy?  I mean, what is it really?  Is it equivalent to happiness?  Why is it so elusive in today’s world?  Why do so many people rely on Things and Feelings and Money and People for joy, and never really experience it at all?  Joy is in my daughter’s squeal of delight as she runs across the back yard and launches herself into her inflatable swimming pool.  It’s climbing up to cloud base in a sailplane on nothing but the breath of heated air.  It’s continuing to go to work every day because I can be confident the Lord has put me in these jobs to train me for a mission way bigger than myself. It’s shouldering my cross and pressing through the depression, knowing Jesus’ power is made perfect in my weakness.  It’s the birth of a baby, the first moment of contact between her and me, despite the fear.

Despite.  This is a key word.  Joy is despite.  Joy is in the trials.  Joy is in the calmness.  Joy is in the seeing what others can’t see, doing what others think is strange, maybe even foolish, living a life focused on obedience to God rather than centering around myself.  “Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world,” Paul said in Romans 12:2, “but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.”  This command is prefaced in Romans 12:1 with the offer of our bodies–ourselves–to God, wholly and completely, without reservation.  Joy is a renewing, an attitude provided by grace by the Spirit who moves in us, by a God who loves us more than we’ll ever know or could even fathom.  As Bob Hamp, Freedom Pastor at Gateway Church in Southlake, Texas told me: “Joy is a way of looking at the world; it may not be okay now, but it will be.”  So step out in faith with me and let’s learn about this thing called “joy” together.  We don’t have to worry about taking the wrong path; it’s not the ending that counts, but the way we get there.

Enjoy!

 

Copyright ©2013 by David C. Hughes

 

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