Dear Friends,

A friend of mine is experiencing some very difficult trials in several areas
of his life simultaneously with seemingly no real solutions in sight. I am greatly
encouraged by his unflinching commitment, love and obedience to the Lord even
though the trials have remained and in fact, have escalated in intensity. I
told him he reminded me of David, who had so many painful trials in his life
until his death and yet remained so passionately in love with the Lord until
the end.

Recently I taught on commitment and obedience from the Leadership Bible at
our Friday Morning Men’s Fellowship. Like my friend, we are called to
committed obedience to the Lord regardless of whether or not the Lord solves
our problems or takes away our pain. There is a deep inner joy that comes from
obedience that outweighs even the deepest pain. And, “Lord, I’m
totally committed to you if”, is not commitment but dealmaking and the
Lord isn’t in the dealmaking business but the covenant keeping business.
He keeps His covenant with us regardless and expects the same from us in response.
"The time is coming," declares the LORD, "when I will make
a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah. This is
the covenant I will make with the house of Israel after that time," declares
the LORD. "I will put my law in their minds and write it on their hearts.
I will be their God and they will be my people. This is what the Lord says who
appoints the sun to shine and the moon and stars to shine by night, who stirs
up the sea so that its waves roar– the LORD Almighty is his name: "Only
if these decrees vanish from my sight," declares the LORD, "will the
descendants of Israel ever cease to be a nation before me."" (See
Jeremiah 31: 31-36) "For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither
angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither
height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate
us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord." (Romans 8:38-39)

And we see a response to God’s commitment to us from godly people in the
Scriptures and throughout history that inspire us to radical obedience. People
like Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego: "Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego
replied to the king, "O Nebuchadnezzar, we do not need to defend ourselves
before you in this matter. If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God
we serve is able to save us from it, and he will rescue us from your hand, O
king. But even if he does not, we want you to know, O king, that we will not
serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up
." (Daniel
3:16-18; Also see Habakkuk’s great statement of commitment in Habakkuk

"Then Jesus said to his disciples, "If anyone would come after
me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever wants
to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will find it.
What good will it be for a man if he gains the whole world, yet forfeits his
soul? Or what can a man give in exchange for his soul? For the Son of Man is
going to come in his Father’s glory with his angels, and then he will reward
each person according to what he has done." (Matthew 16:24-27) "Jesus
replied, "No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for
service in the kingdom of God." Luke 9:62)
Jesus’ call to commitment
is cross-carrying, self-denial, no turning back, commitment. And our commitment
to Him is for our highest good. “The day you no longer see discipleship
(commitment) as God doing you a favor instead of you doing Him a favor, you
are a spiritual casualty waiting to happen.” (Walt Henrichsen) "And
now, O Israel, what does the LORD your God ask of you but to fear the LORD your
God, to walk in all his ways, to love him, to serve the LORD your God with all
your heart and with all your soul, and to observe the Lord’s commands and decrees
that I am giving you today for your own good?" (Deuteronomy

Have you ever regretted your obedience to God? Have you ever not regretted
your disobedience? God’s commands are always ultimately beneficial not
burdensome. And in the long run disobedience to God always produces more pain
than even “painful” obedience. For if God really loves us then He
will only ask us to do what is best for us. And if He is really sovereign, in
control, then He alone can order our circumstances to bring about what is best.
The cross proved His love and the resurrection proved His power and sovereignty.
And our obedience proves our love for Him. "This is love for God: to obey
his commands. And his commands are not burdensome." (1 John 5:3)

"Now fear the LORD and serve him with all faithfulness. Throw away
the gods your forefathers worshiped beyond the River and in Egypt, and serve
the LORD. But if serving the LORD seems undesirable to you, then choose for
yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your forefathers served
beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you are living.
But as for me and my household, we will serve the LORD." (See Joshua 24:14-27)

Choose this day (each day) whom you will serve, God or idols – sin, Satan
and self. As Bob Dylan reminds us: “You’re gonna serve somebody.”
God calls us to respond to His great commitment to us by being as committed
to Him and then to others. “Quality relationships are founded on the rock
of commitment not on the shifting sands of feelings.” (Ken Boa) Obedience
is learned by doing what we don’t want to do because we trust the person
who says it is good for us. Parents don’t have to command their children
to eat ice cream but they have to insist that they do their chores. We don’t
have to “live and learn” (i.e., learn from our mistakes) we can
“learn and live” by learning from others who have more wisdom than
we do – especially God and godly people in the Bible and in our lives.
We can also learn from the bad example of others. Only three out of forty-two
kings of Israel and Judah finished their lives walking in obedience. Learn from
their bad example. King Saul is a bad example of obedience to God. (See 1 Samuel
15:1-23) As some say, “everyone has a price”. Saul’s price
was desiring honor before men more than honor from God (v.12; also see John
5:44) What is your integrity before God worth to you? Can your obedience to
God be bought by money (cheating on taxes, etc.), sex (pornography), or power
(crushing your competition)? Saul simply rationalized his rebellion and disobedience,
thinking he could outsmart God. But we too can do that: “But God wants
me to be happy and she just isn’t meeting my needs.” Or, “The
Lord helps those who help themselves!” God never says He wants us to be
happy but He commands us to be holy, which in the long run is the way to happiness.
(I Peter 1:16) Consider the tragic consequences of Saul’s life (suicide
and the death of his son) to inspire you to not follow his example.

As we see with Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, obedience can be costly: “Obey
God and lose the deal!” For these three men it was “obey God and
lose your life.” Here obedience is not an issue of what will be gained
or lost but what is real. The fiery furnace was real but Almighty God was more
REAL. Thus they disobeyed the king’s order to worship him in order to
obey The King of Kings who says, “worship the Lord your God and serve
Him only.”(Matthew 4:10)
But there is One whose obedience cost Him
more than any human will ever experience and that was our Lord as He struggled
in the garden of Gethsemane to do God’s will. Vernon Grounds calls this
“the Gethsemane mindset.” It’s an attitude of trustful self-surrender
renouncing our own human feelings, desires, hopes, dreams, and ambitions so
that God’s purpose may be accomplished. “For the joy set before
Him He endured the cross.” (Hebrews 12:2)
We too can surrender our
will to God with confidence “knowing that beyond the pain and loss and
loneliness there is joy and blessing and glory which means unimaginable self-fulfillment.”
There is never a command in the Gospels for self-denial, without a promise of
greater gain in the end.

Have you committed yourself completely to God? If not, do it today. If you
have in the past but have not kept your commitment to Him recommit today by
agreeing to this pledge of commitment based on Romans 12:1-2: I, in view of
God’s mercy and unconditional, eternal commitment to me, offer my life as a
living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God. This (my commitment to love and
obedience) is my spiritual act of worship. I will not conform any longer to
the pattern of this world, but I will be transformed by the renewing of my mind
(through faithfully studying and obeying the Scriptures). Then I will be able
to test and approve what God’s will is for my life–His good, pleasing and perfect

Until He Comes,
Len and Kristen

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