You Can Change

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‘Lengthen your cords, and strengthen your stakes.’ Isaiah 54:2 NKJV

The desire to change is the key to growth in any area of life. Most of us desire improvement, yet at the same time we resist change. But you can’t have one without the other! Change is possible only if you want it badly enough.

As Fred Smith, the founder of Federal Express, observed: ‘You are the way you are, because that’s the way you want to be. If you really wanted to be any different, you’d be in the process of changing right now.’ Change is never easy. It takes lots of time, tremendous amounts of energy, perseverance, and—of course—desire. But the desire to change must translate into a decision to change. And you must make that decision day after day.

It’s said that Earl Weaver, manager of the Baltimore Orioles baseball team, was unhappy with a decision by the umpire so he charged out of the dugout and yelled at him, ‘Are you gonna get any better, or is this it?’

If you want to change, you must ask yourself a similar question. Are you going to keep working and trying to get better, or is this as good as it gets? The Bible puts it like this: ‘Enlarge the place of your tent; and let them stretch out the curtains of your dwellings; do not spare; lengthen your cords, and strengthen your stakes.’ Pay close attention to the words enlarge, stretch, lengthen and strengthen. What do they have in common? They all require commitment and persistence.

That’s what it takes to change your life. And the good news is that with God’s help, you can do it—starting today.

When God Calls You

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‘I have called him… and he will succeed in his mission.’ Isaiah 48:15 NIV

God told Jeremiah, ‘Before you were born, I set you apart for a special work.’ (Jeremiah 1:5 NCV) When God decides to use you, five things happen:

First, there is a call. God asks common people to do uncommon things, like Peter getting out of a boat and walking on water.

Second, there is fear. When God called Moses to stand before Pharaoh, he basically said, ‘I’m not a good enough speaker; use somebody else.’

Third, there is reassurance. The thought of filling Moses’ shoes must have shaken Joshua to the core, so God told him, ‘As I was with Moses, so I will be with you.’ (Joshua 1:5 NKJV)

Fourth, there is a decision. Sometimes we say ‘yes’ to God and sometimes we say ‘no’. When we say ‘yes’ we live with joy; when we say ‘no’ we forfeit that joy. But there’s always a decision.

Fifth, there is a changed life. Those who say ‘yes’ to God’s call don’t walk perfectly, not by a long shot. But because they say ‘yes’, they learn and grow even from their failures. Indeed, their failures often become part of their ability to minister to others. And those who say ‘no’ to God are changed too; they become a little harder, a little more resistant to His calling, and a little more likely to say ‘no’ next time. Is God calling you? Maybe it has to do with your work, or your relationships, or your money, or facing your biggest fear. God’s call will go to the core of who you are and what you do. Saying ‘yes’ to Him is the best decision you’ll ever make.

Lessons from the Life of David (5)

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‘These are the last words of David.’ 2 Samuel 23:1 NLT

Someday we will all die, and our last words are often considered some of our most important. The question is, have you lived to your highest potential and fulfilled God’s purpose for your life? The Bible says, ‘These are the last words of David.’

What will he tell us? His story is a checkerboard of good and bad, profit and loss, victory and defeat. During David’s lifetime his son raped his daughter, one son killed another, his wife turned her back on him, his friends betrayed him and took his kingdom, his mentor tried to kill him, his family rejected him, and he spent a lot of time hiding out in caves. Now David speaks to us one last time. Will he talk about Goliath? Or Saul? Or Bathsheba? No.

‘David, the man who was raised up so high… the man anointed by the God of Jacob… the sweet psalmist of Israel, [said], “The Spirit of the Lord speaks through me; His words are upon my tongue. The God of Israel spoke. The Rock of Israel said to me: ‘The one who rules righteously… in the fear of God, is like the light of morning at sunrise… a morning without clouds… the gleaming of the sun on new grass after rain.’ Is it not my family God has chosen? Yes, He has made an everlasting covenant with me. His agreement is arranged and guaranteed in every detail. He will ensure my safety and success.”’ (2 Samuel 23:1–5 NLT)

Why are these words recorded in Scripture? For the benefit of those of us, like David, who are less than perfect but whose hearts never cease to follow God.

Lessons from the Life of David (4)

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‘So the three mighty men broke through.’ 2 Samuel 23:16 NKJV

David knew how to develop other leaders. He didn’t ‘use’ people to get what he wanted. He recognized their talent, gave them opportunities to serve, then rewarded and honored them. And as a result they were willing to lay down their lives for him.

In 2 Samuel 23 we read: ‘David said with longing, “Oh, that someone would give me a drink of the water from the well of Bethlehem” …So the three mighty men broke through the camp of the Philistines, drew water from the well… and brought it to David.’ (2 Samuel 23:15–16 NKJV) It’s impossible to learn leadership without actually leading. After all, leadership is action. As leaders our natural tendency is to give others tasks to perform rather than leadership functions to fulfill. But if we don’t delegate leadership—with authority as well as accountability—our people will never gain the experience they need to lead well.

If you’re a leader, answer this question honestly: are you providing your people with leadership experiences? ‘But what if they fail?’ you ask. Count on it—they will! But if you’ve picked people with genuine leadership ability, they will learn from it.

Dr John Maxwell writes: ‘As I’ve grown older, I’ve come to think of myself as a lid lifter. That’s my main function as a team leader. If I can lift the leadership lids for the members of my team, then I’m doing my job. The more barriers I remove for my people, the more likely they are to rise up to their potential.’

David developed leaders who became known as ‘mighty men’, and you must invest in others too.

Lessons from the Life of David (3)

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‘They mobilized all their forces.’ 2 Samuel 5:17 NLT

Paul writes, ‘Fight the good fight of faith.’ (1 Timothy 6:12 KJV) Some of God’s promises have to be fought for.

The Jebusites who controlled Jerusalem told David, ‘You’ll never get in here!’ (2 Samuel 5:6 NLT) So expect resistance to your vision, especially when there’s no evidence yet to validate it. To make matters worse, Jerusalem was on a commanding height above David’s army and the only way up was through a water cistern, which meant wading through muck. ‘Nevertheless David took the stronghold of Zion.’ (2 Samuel 5:7 NKJV)

Understand this: if He has to, God will bring you up through the gutter to get you to the throne. Note the word ‘nevertheless’. When you’re up to your neck in problems and the enemy is saying you won’t make it, stand on God’s promises and declare, ‘Nevertheless.’ Rise up in faith and claim what God has promised you. ‘The people who know their God shall be strong, and carry out great exploits.’ (Daniel 11:32 NKJV)

God can show you how to exploit the circumstances for your good and His glory. But don’t expect everybody to be helpful. ‘When the Philistines heard… David had been anointed king of Israel, they mobilized all their forces to capture him.’ You’ll have to fight to get to your destiny, and fight to hold it. And with each new battle you’ll have to turn to God for fresh instructions. ‘David asked the Lord, “Should I go out to fight the Philistines? Will you hand them over to me?” The Lord replied… “Yes, go ahead. I will certainly hand them over to you.”’ (2 Samuel 5:19 NLT)

Today move forward knowing that God is with you.

Lessons from the Life of David (2)

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‘Imitate those who through faith and patience inherit the promises.’ Hebrews 6:12 NKJV

Here are three lessons from David’s life:

(1) God makes the choice. When Samuel the prophet came to David’s house to pick Israel’s next king, David wasn’t considered. But God chose him anyway—just like He chose Deborah to lead the nation in a male-dominated society. Stop trying to figure God out! And stop comparing yourself to others! We’d have rejected many of the people God used—which shows how little we know.

(2) God designs the plan. ‘Being confident of this… that He who has begun a good work in you will complete it.’ (Philippians 1:6 NKJV) Who designs the plan? Who performs it? Who should your confidence be in? God! His plan for David involved years of ducking Saul’s spears, living in caves as a fugitive, and working with six hundred misfits who redefine the word ‘dysfunctional’. God trains you through the difficulties you experience so you can handle the assignment He has in mind for you.

(3) God sets the schedule. ‘Imitate those who through faith and patience inherit the promises.’ Patience means standing firm under pressure. The prize belongs to the one who’s committed for the long haul. David was anointed king in his teens, but he didn’t take the throne until he was thirty. So be patient. God’s doing a work of preparation in your life so you’ll be ready when your time comes. Yes, waiting is hard. But if you run before the starter fires the gun, you’ll be disqualified from the race. Just keep your eyes on the prize and don’t give up.

Lessons from the Life of David (1)

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‘All things work together for good to those who love God.’ Romans 8:28 NKJV

God said, ‘I have found David… a man after My own heart, who will do all My will.’ (Acts 13:22 NKJV) When God says that about someone, you’d be wise to observe that person’s life. David started out as a shepherd and ended up as king. The chances of that happening were zero. Shepherds were so low on the social totem pole they couldn’t testify in a court of law because their word wasn’t considered reliable. Yet David ended up writing the most widely read psalms of all time.

Understand this: when you invite God into your life, He cancels the liabilities of your past and rewrites your future. But you must choose what God has chosen for you! There’s an interesting contrast between Paul and David. Paul lived his chapters of disobedience before he met Christ, then went on to live an exemplary life. David became king at thirty, and during his forty years in leadership experienced devastating failure, including adultery and murder.

There are two important lessons here:

(1) Don’t rush to judgment. It’s not over until God says it’s over! David’s story is a warning to the transgressor, a rebuke to the self-righteous, a verification of God’s justice that won’t allow you to escape your consequences, and a testimony to His love that will never let go of you.

(2) God can bring good out of what seems like a bad situation. He can take every experience you’ve been through and make it work for good—either your own good or the good of others. Bottom line: He can make ‘all things work together for good.’

Put Your Heart And Soul Into It

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‘Whatever work you do, do your best…’ Ecclesiastes 9:10 NCV

Solomon writes: ‘Enjoy life… enjoy the work you do here on earth. Whatever work you do, do your best…’ (Ecclesiastes 9:9–10 NCV)

Professor Howard Hendricks writes: ‘Recently I lost one of my best friends, a woman eighty-six years young. She was the most exciting lay-teacher I’ve ever been exposed to. The last time I saw her on planet earth was at one of those “Christian parties” where we all sit on eggshells and try to look pious. In she walked, looked at me and said, “Well, Hendricks, I haven’t seen you for a long time. Tell me, what are the five best books you’ve read in the last year?” (That’ll change the group dynamic in a hurry.) Her philosophy was, “Let’s not bore each other… let’s get into a discussion. And if we can’t find anything to discuss, then let’s get into an argument.” She was eighty-three years old on her last trip to the Holy Land. She went with a group of NFL football players. And one of my most vivid memories is seeing her out in front yelling back to them, “Come on, men, get with it!” Recently she died in her sleep at her daughter’s home. Her daughter told me that just before she died she’d written out her goals for the next ten years!’

So whether you are nineteen or ninety-nine, the word for you today is: ‘Whatever work you do, do your best…’ In other words: Put your heart and soul into it.

Choose Gratitude

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‘Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits.’ Psalm 103:2 KJV

He sat on the park bench so depressed-looking that a policeman tried to console him. ‘Something the matter?’

‘Yeah,’ he replied. ‘The month before last my grandfather left me $500,000 and some holiday resorts.’

The policeman responded, ‘That doesn’t sound like something to be upset over.’

‘Yeah, but you haven’t heard the whole story. Last month my uncle left me $1,000,000.’

The policeman shook his head. ‘I don’t get it. Why are you so unhappy?’

He replied, ‘So far this month, nobody’s left me anything.’

Seriously, he’s part of a group of people who are unhappy no matter what they have. The psalmist shows us how to overcome an ungrateful attitude by cultivating a spirit of thanksgiving. ‘Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits.’

Thinking and thanking go hand-in-hand. Memory is a catalyst for worship. An old hymn declares, ‘Count your blessings, name them one by one… see what God has done.’

The psalmist encourages us to do three things: First, think about what God has given us—His forgiveness, healing, protection, redemption, love, and compassion (Psalm 103:1–5). Second, think about what God has not given us—the punishment our sins deserve (Psalm 103:8–12). Third, think about what God is yet going to give us. ‘From everlasting to everlasting the Lord’s love is with those who fear Him.’ (Psalm 103:17 NIV)

God accepts you when you trust in Christ’s performance, not your own. So each morning look in the mirror and say, ‘Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all His benefits.’

Look for the Best in Others

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‘We have this treasure in earthen vessels.’ 2 Corinthians 4:7 KJV

One of the worst arguments recorded in Scripture took place between one of the most successful ministry teams of all time—Paul and Barnabas. What was it about? John Mark. Barnabas wanted to take him on their next missionary journey and Paul didn’t. Why? Because Paul was upset with John Mark for wanting to take time off to be with his family. (Sometimes passionate, purpose-driven people don’t see things clearly!)

But after consideration, Paul changed his mind and wrote: ‘Demas has forsaken me, having loved this present world… Get Mark, and bring him with you: for he is useful to me for ministry.’ (2 Timothy 4:10–11 NKJV)

There are three important lessons here:

(1) Everyone deserves another chance. After all, that’s what God repeatedly does for you. Now, in extending grace you can get hurt and disappointed, but if you’re going to be Christlike it’s a risk you must take.

(2) Not everyone has the same calling. The person you’re upset with may not be called to do what you’re called to do, or they may have been called to do it in a different way. Never make your personal preferences a condition for loving, accepting, and working with someone.

(3) Look for the best in others, not the worst. The Bible says, ‘We have this treasure in earthen vessels.’ That means everyone you deal with has ‘treasure’, but it comes in a flawed ‘earthen vessel’. It also means it’s your responsibility to look for that treasure and value it. Generally speaking, when people feel appreciated they try to rise and meet your expectations.