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 month “April, 2014”

The Epiphany of Joy, Chapter 13: Joy in Obedience (2 of 3)

Throughout the Old Testament God is clear about the results of obeying His commands: things will go well. “Walk in obedience to all I command you, that it may go well with you,” God said through His prophet Jeremiah (Jeremiah 7:23b NIV). Here Jeremiah was reminding the Hebrews of God’s promises in Leviticus 26 in return for their obedience. In the Book of Deuteronomy, Moses wrote: “So be careful to do what the Lord your God has commanded you; do not turn aside to the right or to the left. Walk in obedience to all that the Lord your God has commanded you, so that you may live and prosper and prolong your days in the land that you will possess” (Deuteronomy 5:32-33 NIV).

Several years ago one of our church small group members described an epiphany he experienced while driving. “If you stay within the speed limit,” God told him, “you remain under my covering of protection. But if you speed, you move out from under that covering.” Speed limits have been imposed in an effort to protect folks from the consequences of irresponsible driving; God’s precepts have been given to protect folks from the consequences of sin. Remain obedient and things will go well for you.

When Hannah disobeys us then asks why we’ve disciplined her, Mary and I sometimes paraphrase what the apostle Paul wrote to the church in Ephesus, regarding the Fifth Commandment: “Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. ‘Honor your father and mother’–which is the first commandment with a promise–‘so that it may go well with you and that you may enjoy long life on the earth’” (Ephesians 6:1-3 NIV). The alternative, we tell her, is for us to eat her. A little hyperbole never hurt anyone, but it sometimes leads Hannah to paraphrase back to me Paul’s next line: “Fathers, do not exasperate your children . . .” (Ephesians 6:4a NIV). Smart aleck.

Obedience to God’s commands also leads to power. In Deuteronomy 11, Moses instructed the Hebrews “If you carefully observe all these commands I am giving you to follow–to love the Lord your God, to walk in obedience to him and to hold fast to him–then the Lord will drive out all these nations before you, and you will dispossess nations larger and stronger than you” (Deuteronomy 11:22-23 NIV). And in Deuteronomy 28:1, God promised to raise Israel “high above all the nations of the earth” as long as they heeded His voice and obeyed His commands. In Deuteronomy 28:9 (NIV) Moses reiterated this truth: “The Lord will establish you as his holy people, as he promised you on oath, if you keep the commands of the Lord your God and walk in obedience to him.”

As we keep God’s commands as grace-covered children of the New Covenant, as we yield ourselves to God’s authority, as we love Him and fear Him, we open our hearts and our lives to receive His unlimited power for His Kingdom, His glory, and our joy. As Jesus said to his apostles before His arrest, “Very truly I tell you, whoever believes in me will do the works I have been doing, and they will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father. And I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. You may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it” (John 14:12-14 NIV). And later He promised the disciples, “Ask and you will receive, and your joy will be complete” (John 16:24b NIV).

Obedience to God’s commands also results in prosperity. “Walk in obedience to him, and keep his decrees and commands, his laws and regulations, as written in the Law of Moses,” David told his son, Solomon, before he died. “Do this so that you may prosper in all you do and wherever you go” (1 Kings 2:3 NIV). In the Second Book of Chronicles, the Chronicler described Hezekiah, one of the most upright kings of Judah, as a man who “did what was right in the eyes of the Lord” (2 Chronicles 29:2 NIV). And as a consequence of “doing what was good and right and faithful before the Lord his God,” Hezekiah flourished. “In everything that he undertook in the service of God’s temple and in obedience to the law and the commands, he sought his God and worked wholeheartedly. And so he prospered” (2 Chronicles 31:21 NIV).

Obedience to God’s commands also leads to long life. After Solomon asked God for wisdom instead of long life and wealth, God told him “if you walk in obedience to me and keep my decrees and commands as David your father did, I will give you a long life” (1 Kings 3:14 NIV). And again, the Fifth Commandment says “Honor your father and your mother, as the Lord your God has commanded you, so that you may live long and that it may go well with you in the land the LORD your God is giving you (Deuteronomy 5:16 NIV). Whenever Hannah questions the wisdom of what we’re asking her to do, Mary and I remind her that obedience leads to things continuing to go well for her. Then we throw in Bill Cosby’s famous line for punctuation: “I brought you in this world, and I can take you out” (Bill Cosby, Himself).

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Copyright ©2014 by David C. Hughes

The Epiphany of Joy, Chapter 13: Joy in Obedience (1 of 3)

Blessed are all who fear the Lord,

   who walk in obedience to him.

                      –Psalm 128:1 (NIV)

 

My obedience to what I know to be right brings me joy. My disobedience to what I know is right brings me misery.

–Matthew Kelly, A Call to Joy, page 154

 

“Why are you so mean to me?!” Hannah yelled as she jumped out of her booster seat and stomped to her bedroom. “This just hasn’t been a good day!” Slam! The door smashing into the doorframe shook the house. Mary looked at me. I shrugged and shook my head. We both took another gulp of wine and continued eating in silence. Welcome to dinnertime at the Hughes house, where getting our six-year-old to leave the nutritionally-barren desert of meat, cheese, and Ranch dressing and venture into the verdant garden of rice, potatoes, and anything colored green is like getting our dogs to quit barking at jackrabbits: it’s been, uh, challenging.

For the most part, our household is a sanctuary of fun, learning, and family time, but when disobedience sailed in on the waves of Hannah’s blooming personality, peace has jumped overboard on more than one occasion. Some call it being “strong-willed.” Mary and I call it “Pour me another glass of wine.” First came the flat-out “No,” followed by copious applications of timeout. As the petals of Hannah’s personality continued to unfold, however, the ubiquitous “Why?” replaced “No.” Now acknowledgement of our imperatives results in one of three responses: “Yes,” deliberate ignoring, or nuclear meltdown.

“What did we do?” Mary asked as we finished dinner to the accompaniment of muffled crying coming from Hannah’s bedroom.

“Nothing,” I replied. “I blame Eve.” And, indeed, isn’t that where all this disobedience stuff started? You have to admit, Adam and Eve had it pretty good at the beginning. They walked with God, talked with God, hung out with God, and tended the Garden of Eden. Shoot, they even ran around naked without having to worry about what the neighbors thought! God provided for all their needs and all He asked from them in return was to keep their paws off the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. This was the first application of the well-known parental utterance, “Don’t touch the hot stove.” God desired worship, relationship, and obedience, and He lavished on Adam and Eve pleasure and every good thing. And what did our ancestral parents do? Eve caved in to a talking serpent. Just like we still do today. Why? Because we want to be in control. Some things never change.

Time and again Mary and I have explained to Hannah the difference between discipline and flat-out meanness in response to her question “Why are you so mean to me?” As she’s gotten older, her tendency to do as she’s told rather than blatantly disobeying us is improving, but, like her parents, she still clutches the fruit of the Fall. “If you’d only obey us,” we’ve pleaded, “we’d never have to spank your bottom or put you in timeout or yell at you.” Blessed peace would rest on our household, and Mary and I would be belting out Hosannas alongside the choirs of angels singing in blessed reverence. Nevertheless, Hannah still pushes against our will. Pride certainly goeth before the fall. And the spanking spoon. And timeout. And the daddy voice . . . .

When God speaks, He expects His people to obey, and the primary source of His commands and His will for us is Scripture. “If God tells you to do something, do it!” I’ve been told many times. Like the old E.F. Hutton commercials, when God talks, people need to listen! Why? Because God doesn’t just speak to hear Himself talk, like we sometimes do. No, when God tells us to do something, whether it’s through His word, other people, or directly through His Spirit, it’s for our own good. When we obey God, we honor Him. When we act on His directives, commands, and precepts, we glorify Him.

This very book is the result of obedience; God told me to write it, so I did. Despite the fact I lived in ignorance of the true meaning of joy and its very real and very practical manifestation as a fruit of the Holy Spirit, I obeyed God’s directive, stepped out in faith, and started researching and writing this work. Throughout this journey I’ve witnessed miracles resulting from obeying God’s commands. Despite leaving a well-paying job with a relatively secure future, God the Provider has “somehow” maintained my family’s financial well-being, leaving little doubt He’s managing all aspects of my new career. Despite my ignorance of the subject of joy, God has directed me to books, blogs, websites, and other folks living joy day-to-day, revealing bit-by-bit the potential of existing in a state of permanent joy despite circumstances. Don’t get me wrong, living a life of obedience to the Father sometimes isn’t easy–that darned old flesh still seems to get in the way–but I move forward knowing it’s what I’m being called to do. Indeed, it’s what we’re all being called to do.

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Copyright ©2014 by David C. Hughes

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