Change

* God patiently waits for us to change

“They will live no more than 120 years” has been interpreted by some commentators to mean that God was allowing the people of Noah’s day 120 years to change their sinful ways.  God shows his great patience with us as well.  He is giving us time to change, quit living our way and begin living his way, the way he shows us in his Word.  While 120 years seems like a long time, eventually the time ran out, and the flood waters swept across the earth.  Your time also may be running out.  Turn to God to forgive your sins.  You can’t see the stopwatch of God’s patience, and there is no bargaining for additional time. (NLT)

Genesis 6:3 – Then the Lord said, “My Spirit will not put up with humans for such a long time, for they are only mortal flesh.  In the future, they will live no more than 120 years.”

* God can work a change in even the hardest heart

When Judah was younger, he showed no regard for his brother Joseph or his father, Jacob.  First he convinced his brothers to sell Joseph as a slave; then he joined his brothers in lying to his father about Joseph’s fate.  But what a change had taken place in Judah!  The man who sold one favored little brother into slavery now offered to become a slave himself to save another favored little brother.  He was so concerned for his father and younger  brother that he was willing to die for them.  When you are ready to give up hope on yourself or others, remember that God can work a complete change in even the most selfish personality. (NLT)

Genesis 44:16-34 – And Judah said, “Oh, my lord, what can we say to you?  How can we plead?  How can we prove our innocence?  God is punishing us for our sins.  My lord, we have all returned to be your slaves–we and our brother who had your cup in his sack.”  “No,” Joseph said.  “Only the man who stole the cup will be my slave.  The rest of you may go home to your father.”

Then Judah stepped forward and said, “My lord, let me say just this one word to you.  Be patient with me for a moment, for I know you could have me killed in an instant, as though you were Pharaoh himself.  “You asked us, my lord, if we had a father or a brother.  We said, ‘Yes, we have a father, an old man, and a child of his old age, his youngest son.  His brother is dead, and he alone is left of his mother’s children, and his father loves him very much.’  And you said to us, ‘Bring him here so I can see him.’  But we said to you, ‘My lord, the boy cannot leave his father, for his father would die.’  But you told us, ‘You may not see me again unless your youngest brother is with you.’  So we returned to our father and told him what you had said.  And when he said, ‘Go back again and buy us a little food,’ we replied, ‘We can’t unless you let our youngest brother go with us.  We won’t be allowed to see the man in charge of the grain unless our youngest brother is with us.’  Then my father said to us, ‘You know that my wife had two sons, and that one of them went away and never returned–doubtless torn to pieces by some wild animal.  I have never seen him since.  If you take away his brother from me, too, and any harm comes to him, you would bring my gray head down to the grave in deep sorrow.’

“And now, my lord, I cannot go back to my father without the boy. Our father’s life is bound up in the boy’s life.  When he sees that the boy is not with us, our father will die.  We will be responsible for bringing his gray head down to the grave in sorrow.  My lord, I made a pledge to my father that I would take care of the boy.  I told him, ‘If I don’t bring him back to you, I will bear the blame forever.’  Please, my lord, let me stay here as a slave instead of the boy, and let the boy return with his brothers.  For how can I return to my father if the boy is not with me?  I cannot bear to see what this would do to him.”

* Trusting God when tough circumstances don’t change

When Moses gave God’s message to the people, they were too discouraged to listen.  The Hebrews didn’t want to hear any more about God and his promises because the last time they listened to Moses, all they got was more work and greater suffering.  Sometimes a clear message from God is followed by a period when no change in the situation is apparent.  During that time, seeming setbacks may turn people away from wanting to hear more about God.  If you are a leader, don’t give up.  Keep bringing people God’s message as Moses did.  By focusing on God, who must be obeyed, rather than on the results to be achieved, good leaders see beyond temporary setbacks and reversals. (NLT)

Exodus 6:9-12 – So Moses told the people what the Lord had said, but they wouldn’t listen anymore.  They had become too discouraged by the increasing burden of their slavery.  Then the Lord said to Moses, “Go back to Pharaoh, and tell him to let the people of Israel leave Egypt.”  “But Lord!” Moses objected.  “My own people won’t listen to me anymore.  How can I expect Pharaoh to listen?  I’m no orator!”

* Don’t just pretend to change

After promising to let the Hebrews go, Pharaoh immediately broke his promise and brought even more trouble upon the land.  His actions reveal that his repentance was not real.  We do damage to ourselves and to others if we pretend to change but don’t mean it. (NLT)

Exodus 9:27-34 – The Pharaoh urgently sent for Moses and Aaron.  “I finally admit my fault,” he confessed.  “The Lord is right, and my people and I are wrong.  Please beg the Lord to end this terrifying thunder and hail.  I will let you go at once.”

“All right,” Moses replied.  “As soon as I leave the city, I will lift my hands and pray to the Lord.  Then the thunder and hail will stop.  This will prove to you that the earth belongs to the Lord.  But as for you and your officials, I know that you still do not fear the Lord God as you should.”

All the flax and barley were destroyed because the barley was ripe and the flax was in bloom.  But the wheat and the spelt were not destroyed because they had not yet sprouted from the ground.

So Moses left Pharaoh and went out of the city.  As he lifted his hands to the Lord, all at once the thunder and hail stopped, and the downpour ceased.  When Pharaoh saw this, he and his officials sinned yet again by stubbornly refusing to do as they had promised.

* Prayer can change things

God was ready to destroy the whole nation because of their sin.  But Moses pleaded for mercy, and God spared them.  This is one of the countless examples in the Bible of God’s mercy.  Although we deserve his anger, he is willing to forgive and restore us to himself.  We can receive God’s forgiveness from sin by asking him.  Like Moses, we can pray that he will forgive others and use us to bring them the message of his mercy. (NLT)

Exodus 32:9-14 – Then the Lord said, “I have seen how stubborn and rebellious these people are.  Now leave me alone so my anger can blaze against them and destroy them all.  Then I will make you, Moses, into a great nation instead of them.”

But Moses pleaded with the Lord his God not to do it.  “O Lord!” he exclaimed.  “Why are you so angry with your own people whom you brought from the land of Egypt with such great power and mighty acts?  The Egyptians will say, ‘God tricked them into coming to the mountains so he could kill them and wipe them from the face of the earth.’  Turn away from your fierce anger.  Change your mind about this terrible disaster you are planning against your people!

* God’s presence helps us handle change 

Those who travel, move, or face new challenges know what it is to be uprooted.  Life is full of changes, and few things remain stable.  The Israelites were constantly moving through the wilderness.  They were able to handle change only because God’s presence in the Tabernacle was always with them.  The portable Tabernacle signified God and his people moving together.  For us, stability does not mean lack of change, but moving with God in every circumstance. (NLT)

Numbers 10:21 – Next came the Kohathite division of the Levites, carrying the sacred objects from the Tabernacle.  When they arrived at the next camp, the Tabernacle would already be set up at its new location.

* Problems often solved by change of heart

Balak took Balaam to several places to try to entice him to curse the Israelites.  He thought a change of scenery might help change Balaam’s mind.  But changing locations won’t change God’s will.  We must learn to face the source of our problems.  Moving to escape problems only makes solving them more difficult.  Problems rooted in us are not solved by a change of scenery.  A change in location or job may only distract us from the need for us to change our heart. (NLT)

Numbers 23:27 – Then King Balak said to Balaam, “Come, I will take you to yet another place.  Perhaps it will please God to let you curse them from there.”

* Change doesn’t always come quickly

The conquest of much of the land of Canaan seems to have happened quickly (we can read it in one sitting), but it actually took seven years.  We often expect quick changes in our lives and quick victories over sin.  But our journey with God is a lifelong process, and the changes and victories may take time.  It is easy to grow impatient with God and feel like giving up hope because things are moving too slowly.  When we are close to a situation, it is difficult to see progress.  But when we look back, we can see that God never stopped working.  (NLT)

Joshua 11:18 – waging war for a long time to accomplish this.

* God is our foundation in midst of change 

Hannah praised God for being a Rock–firm, strong, and unchanging.  In our fast-paced world, friends come and go, and circumstances change.  It’s difficult to find a solid foundation that will not change.  Those who devote their lives to achievements, causes, or possessions have as their security that which is finite and changeable.  The possessions that we work so hard to obtain will all pass away.  But God is always present.  Hope in him.  He will never fail. (NLT)

1 Samuel 2:2 – No one is holy like the Lord!  There is no one besides you; there is no Rock like our God.

* Have you gone far enough in changing your actions?

 Joseph didn’t go far enough in removing sin from the nation, but he did much that was good and right.  When we aren’t sure if we’ve gone far enough in correcting our actions, we can ask: (1) Does the Bible expressly prohibit this action?  (2) Does this action take me away from loving, worshiping, or serving God?  (3) Does it make me its slave?  (4) Is it bringing out the best in me, consistent with God’s purpose?  (5) Does it benefit other believers? (NLT)

2 Kings 12:2 – All his life Joash did what was pleasing in the Lord’s sight because Jehoiada the priest instructed him.

* Repentance is changed behavior that produces sin

When Josiah realized how corrupt his nation had become, he tore his clothes and wept before God.  Then God had mercy on him.  Josiah used the customs of his day to show his repentance.  When we repent today, we are unlikely to tear our clothes, but weeping, fasting, and making restitution or apologies (if our sin has involved others) demonstrate our sincerity when we repent.  The hardest part of repentance is changing the attitudes that originally produced the sinful behavior. (NLT)

2 Kings 22:19 – You were sorry and humbled yourself before the Lord when you heard what I said against this city and its people, that this land would be cursed and become desolate.  You tore your clothing in despair and wept before me in repentance.  So I have indeed heard you, says the Lord.

* Inner change leads to faithful action

God moved the hearts of the leaders, family heads, priests, and Levites and gave them a great desire to return to Jerusalem to rebuild the Temple.  Major changes begin on the inside as God works on our attitudes, beliefs, and desires.  These inner changes lead to faithful actions.  After 48 years of captivity, the arrogant Jewish nation had been humbled.  When the people’s attitudes and desires changed, God ended their punishment and gave them another opportunity to go home and try again.  Paul reminds us that “God is working in you, giving you the desire to obey him and the power to do what pleases him.”  Doing God’s will begins with your desires.  Are you willing to be humble, to be open to his opportunities, and to move at his direction?  Ask God to give you the desire to follow him more closely. (NLT)

Ezra 1:5 – Then God stirred the hearts of the priests and Levites and the leaders of the tribes of Judah and Benjamin to return to Jerusalem to rebuild the Temple of the Lord.

* God never changes

David was hunted by those whose love had turned to jealousy, and this was driving them to try to murder him.  Trusted friends, and even his son, had turned against him.  What changeable love!  But David knew that God‘s love for him was changeless.  “His unfailing love continues forever.”  God’s mercy to all who trust him is just as permanent as his mercy to David.  When the love of others fails or disappoints us, we can rest in God’s enduring love. (NLT)

Psalm 59:10 – In his unfailing love, my God will come and help me.  He will let me look down in triumph on all my enemies.

In Jesus’ day the world seemed concrete, dependable, and permanent.  These days many people fear its destruction by nuclear war.  Jesus tells us, however, that even if the earth passes away, the truth of his words will never be changed or abolished.  God and his Word provide the only stability in our unstable world.  How shortsighted people are who spend all their time and energy learning about this temporary world and accumulating its possessions.  While neglecting the Bible and its eternal truths!  (NLT)

Mark 13:31 – [Jesus said] “Heaven and earth will disappear, but my words will remain forever.”

* Jesus may ask you to change life’s direction

After finding Jesus and worshiping him, the astrologers were warned by God not to return through Jerusalem as they had intended.  Finding Jesus may mean that your life must take a different direction, one that is responsive and obedient to God’s Word.  Are you willing to be led a different way? (NLT)

Matthew 2:12 – But when it was time to leave, they went home another way, because God had warned them in a dream not to return to Herod.

* A changed life is the result of true repentance

John the Baptist called people to more than words or ritual; he told them to change their behavior.  “Prove by the way you live that you have really turned from your sins” means that God looks beyond our words and religious activities to see if our conduct backs up what we say, and he judges our words by the actions that accompany them.  Do your actions match your words? (NLT)

Matthew 3:8 – Prove by the way you live that you have really turned from your sins and turned to God.

* What motivates your faith–fear of the future, or a desire to be a better person in a better world?  Some people wanted to be baptized by John so they could escape eternal punishment, but they didn’t turn to God for salvation.  John had harsh words for such people.  He knew that God values reformation above ritual.  Is your faith motivated by a desire for a new, changed life, or is it only like a vaccination or insurance policy against possible disaster? (NLT)

Luke 3:7 – Here is a sample of John’s preaching to the crowds that came for baptism: “You brood of snakes!  Who warned you to flee God’s coming judgment?”

* God changes people we consider unchangeable

God changed a situation that had been a problem for years.  Like the leper and the demon-possessed men, this woman was considered unclean.  Fopr 12 years, she, too, had been one of the “untouchables” and had not been able to lead a normal life.  But Jesus changed that and restored her.  Sometimes we are tempted to give up on people or situations that have not change for many years.  God can change what seems unchangeable, giving new purpose and hope. (NLT)

Matthew 9:22 – Jesus turned around and said to her, “Daughter, be encouraged!  Your faith has made you well.”  And the woman was healed at that moment.

* Have you changed on the inside

We work hard to keep our outward appearance attractive, but what is deep down in our heart (where others can’t see) is more important to God.  What are you like inside?  When people become Christians, God makes them different on the inside.  He will continue the process of change inside them if they only ask.  God wants us to have healthy thoughts and motives, not just healthy bodies. (NLT)

Matthew 15:16-20 – [Jesus said] “Don’t you understand?” Jesus asked him.  “Anything you eat passes through the stomach and then goes out of the body.  But evil words come from an evil heart and defile the person who says them.  For from the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, all other sexual immorality, theft, lying, and slander.  These are what defile you.  Eating with unwashed hands could never defile you and make you unacceptable to God!”

* Don’t ignore needed change in your life

Instead of accepting the truth, the Jewish leaders stirred up opposition and ran Paul and Barnabas out of town.  When confronted by a disturbing truth, people often turn away and refuse to listen.  When God’s Spirit points out needed changes in our life, we must listen to him.  Otherwise we may be pushing the truth so far away that it no longer affects us. (NLT)

Acts 13:50 – Then the Jewish leaders stirred up both the influential religious women and the leaders of the city, and they incited a mob against Paul and Barnabas and ran them out of town.

* How the Good News transforms lives

What a reputation these early Christians had!  The power of the Good News revolutionized lives, broke down all social barriers, threw open prison doors, caused people to care deeply for one another, and stirred them to worship God.  Our world needs to be turned upside down, to be transformed.  The Good News is not in the business of merely improving programs and encouraging good conduct but of dynamically transforming lives.  Take courage and ask God how you can help spread his Good News all over your world. (NLT)

Acts 17:6 – Not finding them there, they dragged out Jason and some of the other believers instead and took them before the city council.  “Paul and Silas have turned the rest of the world upside down, and now they are here disturbing our city,” they shouted.

* Should becoming a Christian make you change jobs?

We may become so concerned about what we could be doing for God somewhere else that we miss great opportunities right where we are.  Paul says that when you become a Christian, you should continue on with the work you have previously been doing–provided it isn’t immoral or unethical.  Every job can become Christian work when you realize that it can be an opportunity to honor, serve, and speak out for Christ.  Because God has placed you where you are, take advantage of every opportunity to serve him there. (NLT)

1 Corinthians 7:20 – You should continue on as you were when God called you.

* How to prepare for change

Timothy was in a time of transition.  He had been Paul’s bright young helper; soon he would be on his own as leader of a church in a difficult environment.  Although his responsibilities were changing.  Timothy was not without help.  He had everything he needed to face the future if he would hold on tightly to the Lord’s resources.  When you are facing difficult transitions, it is good to follow Paul’s advice to Timothy and look back at your experience.  Who is the foundation of your faith?  How can you build on that foundation?  What gifts has the Holy Spirit given you?  Use the gifts you have already been given. (NLT)

2 Timothy 1:13-14 – Hold on to the pattern of right teaching you learned from me.  And remember to live in the faith and love that you have in Christ Jesus.  With the help of the Holy Spirit who lives within us, carefully guard what has been entrusted to you.

* Christ can make a great change in a relationship

Paul urged Philemon to be reconciled to his slave, receiving him as a brother and fellow member of God’s family.  Reconciliation means reestablishing relationship.  Christ has reconciled us to God and to others.  Many barriers come between people–race, social status, sex, personality differences–but Onesimus’s relationship to Philemon from slave to brother Christ can transform our most hopeless relationships into deep and loving friendships. (NLT)

Philemon 1:25 – The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit.

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