Huggins, Jan. 2018

 
Onward, soldiers.
 

“You will be made rich in every way so that you can be generous on every occasion, and through us your generosity will result in thanksgiving to God.” ——- 2 Corinthians 9:11

  • Got $2,200 in assets? You’re in the top 50% of the world’s wealthiest.
  • If you made $1,500 this past year, you’re in the top 20% of the world’s income earners (see there, teens?).
  • If you have sufficient food, clothes, live in a house/apt, and have reliable transportation, you’re in the top 15% of the world’s wealthiest.
  • If you earn $25,000 or more annually, you’re in the top 10% of the world’s income earners.
  • If you have any money saved, a hobby that requires some equipment or supplies, a variety of clothes, two cars (in any condition), and live in your own home, you are in the top 5% of the world’s wealthy.
  • If you earn more than $50,000 annually, you are in the top 1% of the world’s income earners.
  • If you have more than $500,000 in assets, you’re part of the richest 1% on the face of the planet.

 

It is humbling to ponder and receive the massive and inordinate amount of blessings we have been given – our heritage, our citizenship in the wealthiest country in the world, our placement in this time in history with all of the modern advancements for health, leisure, comfort, travel, pleasure, and the filling of our bellies. Most people in the world don’t a vehicle, much less a luxury one of our choosing and multiple ones at that. On top of this, we also have ‘houses’ for our cars.

 

I do not mention these things to toot anyone’s horn or gratify a sense of hard work. Quite the opposite, actually. Reading these statistics, in light of our knowledge and faith in God’s mercy, it wreaks havoc on our pride and re-calibrates our souls in how to best walk our days out… our very numbered days. Our Christian worldview girded in scripture and the life of Christ guides us in this in several ways. 1.) We have not earned any of it. Nothing we have done or ever could accomplish would warrant what has been given to us. We are poor beggars who deserve wrath and death. 2.) Whatever we have, wherever we are, whoever we’re with, whatever we do, it is meant for glory: not ours, but Christ’s alone. It is all designed and meant to drive the Gospel in to hearts and change lives for His will to be done on earth, as it is in heaven. 3.) We are charged with taking what we’ve been given, and giving it back to God. If we will consecrate our possessions and circumstance and positions (however stately or meager), they become more than temporary avenues for the ‘id impulse’ to drown; they become divine investments that yield eternal dividends for the sake of souls being saved and the earth being restored.

 

So this new year, as we embark on the journey once again, our charge is ‘Onward, soldier!’ May we fight the good fight, keep the faith, and win the race.

 

In the Light,

Huggins~

 



Huggins, December 2017

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Mas Christ.

 

Ever since performing in the 1987 production of “The Nutcracker” at High Springs Elementary School, I have loved the Nutcracker. Everything about it left an indelible mark on my psyche and soul – the music, melodies, global traversing of cultures, colorful and picturesque scenescapes, and plotline; they all seem like a story exactly what it is: ostentatiously fantastical. To listen to the musical compositions of Tchaikovsky is to take a magical exploration where sounds become visions and wavelengths and frequencies paint pictures and cast colorful canvases. It is a sensory inundation that combines memories with imagination. Mostly though, it is a beauty all its own and within my personal experiences, it holds a nostalgic meaning and reminiscent quality.

 

Isn’t it strange then, in all of its heralded epic-ness, that I only really get around to listening to it during the holidays each year – say, from late October through the new year. It’s greatness is mostly appreciated within the larger paradigm of the Christmas season; it is subject to the bigger, larger, deeper, richer Advent that encompasses it. It’s like that for a lot of things in our lives – family gatherings, feasts and extravagant meals, special outings and events, shopping and gift giving and receiving, garland and pine, festive lights and décor, flavors of peppermint and cinnamon, ugly sweaters, cinematic traditions, and those oh so indulgent Hallmark movies. I just flat out love it all.

 

But I have to be conscious and forthright and intentional and adamant that all of it – ALL. OF. IT. – means not one roasted chestnut, without the true meaning propelling it all forward. The exuberant joy, the sustaining spirit, the introspection and appreciation, the selflessness, the generosity, the sense of celebration, the HOPE that even if life is amuck right now, or that my heart feels three sizes too small, that there is a light in the darkness and a resolution to the madness. Many are high this time of year; others are low. Our prayer is that wherever you are, as you step in to this ‘most wonderful time of the year’, that you let Jesus lead you. Let Him be your catalyst to truly cherish the time deeply and meaningfully (opposed to superficially and materially), and to impose His Spirit upon you – the very Spirit that drives all of the celebration around us. It really is all about Jesus, whether we realize it or not. Always has been. Always will be.

 

“Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to those on whom His favor rests.” ——- Luke 2:14

 

In the Light,

Huggins~

 

 


Huggins, November 2017

ThanksLiving.

 

There is a quote by Melody Beattie that goes like this: “Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life. It turns what we have into enough, and more. It turns denial into acceptance, chaos to order, confusion to clarity. It can turn a meal into a feast, a house into a home, a stranger into a friend. Gratitude makes sense of our past, brings peace for today, and creates a vision for tomorrow.” Though Beattie’s work is largely self-help and not overtly connected to Christian Biblical teaching, I think we can glean insights to this perspective when we view it in light of the gospel and God’s redeeming work in both the world and our lives.
 
Basically, look around: we see a world starved for not just admiration, but validation, affirmation, and recognition. The advent of social media has released new avenues for the ego to spawn geysers of unmitigated thoughts, feelings, emotions, opinions, and an indulgent showcase for possessions, trips, awards, accomplishments, and even cynicism. Ask any missionary who has ventured to a poverty-stricken country (or anyone who grew up in actual poverty here in the States) and they will share with you the disillusionment that takes place when the scales come off our eyes at our Western American culture of excess – and how it leaves us so richly and existentially satisfied? Uhh, No.

 

I’m thankful Jesus gave us clear guidance on how we are to live thankfully:

  • to not worry about our lives (“And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life?” Matt. 6:27)
  • what to focus on (“Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal,but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” Matt. 6:19-21), and
  • knowing our worth (But even the hairs of your head are all numbered.Fear not, therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows. So everyone who acknowledges me before men, I also will acknowledge before my Father who is in heaven” Matt. 10:30-32).

 

As we embark in to another glorious holiday season, may the foundation of our living with gratitude (ThanksLiving) be not based in what we have or think we have earned, but a broken humbleness that proclaims reverently, but loudly and freely, “God, ALL that is within my grasp is YOURS. Use it all for YOUR glory and not my own. Amen.”

 

In the Light,

Huggins~

 

 
 


Huggins, October 2017

QUESTION. ANSWER?

 

I recently found out about a young man in his late 20’s who, after many years of trying to “prove” God, felt like he failed in his search; and that God did not prove Himself as real, even after asking over and over. And so, he has given up on the Christian faith – calling it an illusion, a façade, and basically, not real. He used the basis for his rejection of Christianity in science, literature, history, and any other avenue from which we also seem to derive our evidence in favor of it. Though my heart breaks for his seemingly new “awakening,” I cannot help but wonder about the sources he drew from to gather his facts, data, and intel. Did he rummage and binge through YouTube videos chock-full of errant and misguided sophistry? Did he consume himself in people, ideas, and tactics utilized for centuries to sway minds susceptible to find truth in comfort, or comfort in truth? Was he subliminally wanting all along to arrive at the conclusion he has recently affirmed? Was he ever really ‘objective?’ Could he ever really be?

 

The scriptures are able to make account of historical events and people; they are also able to guide us in ways that transcend beyond mere logic and reason. Is it important to ask questions? Absolutely. Is it important to listen after posing them? Just as imperative. So many times we make queries in to our lives, hoping for the answer we crave, or adjusting our thinking and behavior to arrive where we ‘think’ or ‘feel’ we need to be. The Bible says “the heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?” (Jer. 17:9). Jesus also said that those who listen to his voice are the ones who know the truth (John 8, John 10). He said he is the living water, the well that doesn’t run dry, the good shepherd, the bread of life, the light of the world. When He is our source from which we begin, though we have questions, He is able and willing to give us the sustenance we need for our souls – not only to survive, or satisfy our ponderings, but to also live abundantly. May we always run first to Jesus, His words, and trust in His plan that the work He began in us will be faithfully completed (Philippians 1:6). For every question, there is an answer. THE answer. Do you know Him?

 

In the Light,

Huggins~

 



Huggins, September 2017

Embrace The Tie

Blessed be the tie that binds, our hearts in Christian love. The fellowship of kindred minds is like to that above.”
 
Growing up in church as a kid, each week after the benediction and right before our departure, our congregation would hold hands all across the isles and sing these words to this old hymn. As usual, for most children, as we grow older from primary grades to adolescence, the tradition of what we do each week begins to be pondered and contemplated. That happened in so many ways in my faith life, and this one remains profound as ever. I remember when these lyrics started to bloom in my own life – looking around and noticing the physical representation of an artistic expression:
we were bonded, we were tied together, we were one in kindred spirits.
 
I already believed and trusted Jesus as Savior. But, because I was able to have the gospel teachings poured in to my life each week through church connection, it was enriching the soil of my heart. With rich soil, the seeds could begin to grow and blossom and flourish – and I could begin to interpret the meanings of not only the lyrics of the songs, but also their empirical manifestations in the lives around me.
 
See, it’s never the seeds that hinder the growth. God’s word is always able to nurture and spring forth – but it does need soil that is not rocky, shallow, or among bristling thorns. I believe consistent church fellowship brings about that deep, rich “good” soil Jesus spoke of – soil that produces “a crop – 100, 60, or 30 times what was sown” (Matthew 13). I love the timeless examples Jesus gave about who we are in Him that are still relevant 2,000 years later: light of the world, salt of the earth, good soil that produces a crop. May we make it a top priority to be in community with one another, so that God will be our Tie that binds.

 

In the Light,

Huggins~

 



Huggins, August 2017

 

 

 

 

 

 

Life vs. Death:

“Now we have this treasure in clay jars, so that this extraordinary power may be from God and not from us. We are pressured in every way but not crushed; we are perplexed but not in despair; we are persecuted but not abandoned; we are struck down but not destroyed. We always carry the death of Jesus in our body, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body. For we who live are always given over to death because of Jesus, so that Jesus’ life may also be revealed in our mortal flesh.” ——- 2 Corinthians 4:7-11
 
From early on, children learn about “good guys” and “bad guys.” They seem to have little difficulty understanding the fact that there are competing ideologies at work in the world – some people with a vision to protect and live in harmony, some with a goal to harm and conquer. Our popular culture has no problem exploiting this reality to stoke imagination in regard to storytelling, moviemaking and film, television, and other creative and artistic outlets. Even music consistently sings about the struggle between good and evil, and the tension of living among it, dealing with its consequences, and reconciling its presence in the world.
 
The Bible is the ultimate standard on revealing these truths because its whole narrative revolves around the idea of good and evil, sacred and profane, light and darkness. If Hollywood or Nashville think they’re doing anything original, they should be reminded that it is our human nature as a world in rebellion to God to observe and be conscious of all that is wrong on the planet, and why we feel hurt and loss and pain. The original story was written by God, with us as his prized creation amid a pristine perfection, only to be held captive by the antagonist of sin. But this story is neither comedic nor tragic, as the true superhero, the protagonist whom from the beginning was destined to surrender his life for our rescue, Jesus – the light of the world – conquers the darkness of death, not only in the life to come, but here in our present reality as well.
 
He gives everything we dream we could ever need, like peace in a storm of a loved one dying, rest in a frantic pace of hurried life, love in a world of divisive and bitter resentment, and grace for a soul that is selfish beyond measure. If we’re quick to point out that we’re the good guys in a world turned heel, may we be reminded that we also were once the bad guy or gal, in need of saving, and that it is nothing we have done ourselves, it is the gift of God.

 

In the Light,

Huggins



Huggins, July 2017

 

Soul Freedom:

 
The Broadway musical Hamilton has received rave reviews the last couple of years, as its fusing of modern pop, hip-hop, soul, and rock genre elements have bonded so well to a contemporary theatrical biopic of one of our country’s founding fathers. Regardless of our opinions on the present political climate, it offers one man’s glimpse in to the story of some of the conviction, strategy, planning, and courage that propelled our country’s formation throughout the Revolutionary War – which took place AFTER the signing of the Declaration of Independence.
 
Wait, after? Why was there war after a declaration of freedom?
 
The rebellion and protests began in Boston in the spring of 1775 and initially were thought of as separate and isolated incidents and not necessarily indicative of the rest of the colonized seaboard.
 
But the Second Continental Congress’ signing of the Declaration of Independence over a year later signified the representatives’ collective bond behind the idea of a revolution. They would hit the reset button, per se. They were “ALL IN.” Resources began to flow and a common idea was clung to, even amid battles, fear, division, and doubt. Alluding to an attack, though false, of British-occupied New York City, covert operatives infiltrated and passed intelligence that led to George Washington’s successful attack at Yorktown, and the British General Cornwallis’ surrender. The Treaty of Paris, which solidified peace with the British Empire still did not take place for another 2 years, which meant Washington had to maintain the morale and presence of strength throughout that time – ultimately culminating in favorable terms for the United States of America.
 
When I read history and think about the great men and women who have fought for the freedoms we enjoy and even sadly, often take for granted, my heart is humbled. Do we view our souls as liberated? As Independent from the tyrannical rule of a foreign entity that only seeks to use, control, and exploit us? Indeed, an

eternal spiritual declaration of independence was fought and won for us on a cross in Jerusalem some 2,000 years ago. Though the bloodshed of the battle paid the debt, the treaty of peace between us and God was signed 3 days later when Christ rose from the dead.

 

There is still a spiritual war raging, though our freedom has been granted; but we have the One, Jesus, who stands in the gap, pleading our case, defending His cause for the purpose of our lives. To all those who are citizens of the sovereign state of Christ, we are the freest of the free, from sea to shining sea. God shed His grace on thee.

 
 

In the Light,

Huggins

 

 

 
 
 


Huggins, June 2017

 

The Temporary & Eternal:

 
A great rock vocalist recently passed at the young age of 52. I didn’t know the man personally, but oftentimes in art a connection is held between the creator and the enthusiast; his band was that medium by which we held a bond, and one that I have enjoyed thoroughly through the years.

 

I’m reminded of the fragility of life in the book of James (4:14) when he wrote, “You don’t even know what tomorrow will bring—what your life will be! For you are like smoke that appears for a little while, then vanishes.” Other translations use the words, “mist” and “vapor” to describe a seemingly meaningless existence. But the good news that has infiltrated humanity the last couple millennia is that life is not meaningless for those who base their identity in Christ. We are people who see our existence far beyond mere biological and molecular composition. Novel author Jack Higgins was asked what he learned through his ascent to fame and success. His response? “When you get to the top, there’s nothing there.” In the ways of the world, the mist dissipates quickly. But a quote by the missionary Jim Elliot, who lost his life, ultimately, for the gospel, puts this in perspective: “He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose.” May we lose our lives, only to find it truly, in Christ.

 

In the Light, Huggins

 



Huggins, May 2017

 

Good Mourning, Love.

 

“We don’t mourn like those who have no hope.” That’s a paraphrase of what Paul said in his first letter to the church at Thessalonica, Greece (1 Thess. 4:13). I have always clung to that verse in times of grief, mourning, and loss, because it is a fundamental perspective of the Christian worldview. We are different, as “The Called Out Ones,” because everything about our lives is meaningful and purposed when known as a life created by God to know Him. There’s a quote Pastor James used in a sermon back in the fall that says, “If it matters to you, it matters to God.” I love that! A simple statement, but one of such profundity that it traverses countless experiences – and God wants us to know it matters to Him. When Jesus said, “Come to me all you who are weary and heavy laden, and I will give you rest,” (Matt. 11:28) he was offering a genuine invitation to know that the tension between our sense of being weighed down is alleviated not by a specific set of instructions or life-coaching platforms or do-it-yourself enlightenment endeavors, but by knowing Him personally. He completed his invitation by saying, “take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light” (Matt. 11:29-30). So when we lose something, or someone, that loss is acknowledged by our God who says, yes, that is real, and I know it hurts… let me carry that for you. There’s no condemnation of saying, “Suck it up!” Or, “What’s wrong with you?” or, “You’re not over that yet?”… It is simply, “Here, I’ll take that for you, and give you rest. Would you let me have it?” It may not all make sense in the way that we tend to demand a rational explanation or logistic reconciliation, but that was never offered or guaranteed. What was stated personally by God incarnate was, “Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted” (Matt. 5:4). That right there has given millions over the centuries new breath, new joy, and new hope because God makes ALL. THINGS. NEW! (Rev. 21:5). So then, may we in our hearts boldly declare, even when it doesn’t seem to align with what we had originally hoped, that “Lord, truly, it is well with my soul, because there’s a well in my soul, THE well that never runs dry.”

 

No matter what.

 

It is well.

 

In the Light,

Huggins

 

 



Huggins, April 2017

 

Prepared to Persuade

 

When you think about it, every profession, vocation, career, and even hobby is really like an endeavor to persuade or influence an outcome in some aspect or regard. Think about an artist – they paint to summon a hopefully emotional (or at least a cognitive) response. A musician plays an instrument to evoke feelings, or at least auditory sensory delight. A law enforcement officer strives to promote adherence to the law, and military personnel certainly aim to restore, or at least maintain order and peace, even if there’s no “fighting” taking place. There are active and passive ways in which “what we do” are indeed connected to “who we serve.” I suppose you could take each job and frame it within the context of who or what is being persuaded and in what regard. But each path we think about requires getting dirty in some way, doesn’t it? An artist is unconcerned with getting paint on their hands or clothes, because the primary objective is ultimately the beauty of the canvas, right? That’s the cost. A musician forms calluses on the fingers so the strings are not painful to the touch. They are unbecoming, take time and dedication to form, and go away if they’re not utilized consistently. Officers who submit to simulation training and firing range hours keep their chops refined… just in case. Military personnel are evaluating data and intelligence constantly to adjust and modify strategy so that they can be ready at a minute’s notice. There’s a cost to being able to influence the outcomes of the callings to which we are placed into – at least if we’re devoted to that calling.

 

At Easter, we meditate on the cost Jesus paid in order to persuade us in the way of Truth. I think submitting to torture and crucifixion is the ultimate calling, and one that Jesus allowed not because that was his career path, but because that’s who he

IS

. In fact, I think the only way to truly grasp the weight and agony of all that constituted a Roman execution by crucifixion is by examining ourselves: our own depravity, our own sin, and understanding the sacrifice it would require to clean it all up. Once and for all. Forever. White as snow. In fact, every good deed ever done in the history of mankind by every person who has ever lived on the planet combined couldn’t atone for one single sin from one single person. We are born dead in our sins. But then Jesus. Jesus came to give life, through death; to give life abundantly, through death abhorrently, but temporarily. May the dreary path to Golgotha, and the glorious borrowed tomb be the single greatest influence on our lives – one that has eternally persuaded us out of darkness, and into light. And light abundantly.

 

“The secret of the kingdom of God has been given to you, but to those outside, everything comes in parables so that they may look and look, yet not perceive; they may listen and listen, yet not understand;

otherwise, they might turn back—and be forgiven.” Mark 4:11-12

 

In the Light,

Huggins