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 “Caroline Barnett”

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

NOTE: This will be the only post this week as I turn the crank on finishing the last chapter of The Epiphany of Joy prior to final update and submission to the readers.  Thanks again for supporting this effort, and I’ll keep everyone up-to-date on the latest status on The Epiphany of Joy and Melted Clowns as both books move forward to publication.

And now for The Epiphany of Joy, Chapter 13: Joy in Obedience, installment 3 of 3 . . . . . .

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Obedience to God’s commands also keeps you planted firmly in God’s presence, and this brings about a joy that cannot be taken away. “’If you do whatever I command you and walk in obedience to me and do what is right in my eyes by obeying my decrees and commands, as David my servant did,’” God promised Jeroboam through the prophet Ahijah, “’I will be with you. I will build you a dynasty as enduring as the one I built for David and will give Israel to you’” (1 Kings 11:38 NIV).

Disobedience to what we know to be right, on the other hand, has consequences of its own, and for the Hebrews of the Old Testament, it got ugly. God cast Adam and Eve out of the Garden of Eden after they ate the forbidden fruit. God turned Lot’s wife into a pillar of salt after the angels specifically commanded Lot and his family not to look back at the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah. God stripped away all but one of Solomon’s kingdoms after his fall from God’s favor. God allowed the Israelites to be captured and taken into exile to Assyria and to Babylonia: “All this took place because the Israelites had sinned against the LORD their God, who had brought them up out of Egypt from under the power of Pharaoh king of Egypt” (2 Kings 17:7 NIV). In both Leviticus 26 and Deuteronomy 28, God very clearly defined the consequences of disobeying the Law. The Israelites, for their part, very clearly defined the term “stiff-necked people.”

But it’s from the single act of obedience by a young Hebrew virgin girl named Mary that forever changed history and brought permanent joy into the world:

 

In the sixth month of Elizabeth’s pregnancy, God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a town in Galilee, to a virgin pledged to be married to a man named Joseph, a descendant of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. The angel went to her and said, “Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you.”

Mary was greatly troubled at his words and wondered what kind of greeting this might be. But the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary; you have found favor with God. You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you are to call him Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over Jacob’s descendants forever; his kingdom will never end.”

“How will this be,” Mary asked the angel, “since I am a virgin?”

The angel answered, “The Holy Spirit will come on you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God. Even Elizabeth your relative is going to have a child in her old age, and she who was said to be unable to conceive is in her sixth month. For no word from God will ever fail.”

“I am the Lord’s servant,” Mary answered. “May your word to me be fulfilled.” Then the angel left her.

–Luke 1:26-38 (NIV)

 

“May your word to me be fulfilled . . . .” Christian obedience to God’s commands under post-resurrection grace is just as relevant as Hebrew obedience to God’s commands while living under the pre-resurrection Law. Just as the moral spirit of the Law remains as fully alive today as it did 5,000 years ago, obedience to Jesus’ new command to “Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another” (John 13:34 NIV) encompasses “All the Law and the Prophets,” as Jesus responded when tested by the expert in the law in Matthew 22:40.

“If you love me, keep my commands,” Jesus told his apostles before his arrest (John 14:15 NIV). And as Adam and Eve’s disobedience in the Garden led to the Fall, Christ’s obedience to the cross led to humankind’s reconciliation with God. “Son though he was,” the author of the Letter to the Hebrews wrote, “he learned obedience from what he suffered and, once made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation for all who obey him and was designated by God to be high priest in the order of Melchizedek. . . . For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God” (Hebrews 5:8-10, 12:2b NIV).

From the obedience of a humble Jewish girl to the obedience of her Son, mankind has been reconciled with the Father. “And being found in appearance as a man,” Paul wrote in his letter to the church in Philippi, “[Jesus] humbled himself by becoming obedient to death–even death on a cross!” (Philippians 2:8 NIV). By Christ’s example, and by our willingness to step out in faith and become obedient to our calling to live as children of God, we are made righteous. By grace we have been freed, and it is by love that we are called to remain obedient to the God who loves us so much “that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16 NIV).

“There is an indescribable joy that comes from being obedient,” Caroline Barnett said in her book Willing to Walk on Water. “When all is said and done, you have willingly been part of a greater cause” (Caroline Barnett, Willing to Walk on Water, “Chapter 12: The Power of One,” page 218). Now if I could only get Hannah to listen to me when I tell her pick up her clothes and turn them right-side out, all would truly be right with the world.

 

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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