In the last blog I pondered the IF and THEN statements in 2 Chronicles 7:14. The IF statements spell out changes we need to make. Why would God ask us to remember we are called by His name, character and reputation rather than our labels? Why surrender our agendas and desires? Why does He challenge us to pray in alignment with His plans, not our own? What happens when we seek His presence and stop trying to live by our own strength, or our opinions, agendas, and plans? This sounds like change to me.
We love getting new things. And we certainly look forward to winter changing to spring, especially this year! But it isn’t so easy to love most major changes we didn’t initiate. How can we embrace this change concept?
Peter’s description of change results in refreshing times in the presence of the Lord. That sounds like change that might be interesting. He said: 19 So repent (change your mind and purpose); turn around and return [to God], that your sins may be erased (blotted out, wiped clean), that times of refreshing (of recovering from the effects of heat, of reviving with fresh air) may come from the presence of the Lord; Acts 3:19 (AMP)
From the presence of the Lord. Two steps. Repent or change your mind and purpose. Return to God. This is more than a sin we have committed. God would draw us back to relationship, one built on quality time together and trust. Partners working together as one. A relationship that enables us to see Him as one who sees us, hears us, cares about us and responds to and for us.
I’m struck by the stories of some of the “start-up” guys in this Christ-follower journey we are on. Abram, as he was then known, would certainly understand significant change. Acts 7:2-8 describe his significant change. He didn’t know all the details of this major upheaval to his life, only that it involved discarding some things he had held dear, and that there was a promise of descendants and a blessing. He must have had some experience with the Living God that enabled him to make such a change. But it was still a big change.
What did the LORD say to Abram? His journey gives us clues. What makes change worthwhile? What will change involve or require?
1 Now the LORD said to Abram, “Go forth from your country, And from your relatives And from your father’s house, To the land which I will show you; Genesis 12:1 (NASB)
Our confidence in making the change increases as we pay close attention to who spoke to him. The LORD. Yahweh. I’m learning to pay close attention to who God is in any specific situation. The meanings of the many names of God in Scripture reveal specific details about who He is. His actions in any given situation always perfectly flow from who He is. Here He is LORD. The one who envisions the future, and has a plan to bring it about. The future involves far more than choices about where we will live, who we might marry, a career choice, what organization to be part of or where to go to school.
The future for each of us involves our personal role or part in the kingdom of God. When we pray the Lord’s Prayer, we pray these lines: “Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” Those are potent words. What would need to change in our lives if we were going to see that actually happen? Honestly, we prefer to advance our own kingdom as evidenced by our reluctance to change our thinking. Or consider all the fighting we have done in the last couple years. We adamantly defend our own agendas, opinions, plans and assessment of what needs to happen.
Jesus challenged His disciples about such an approach to life. The Amplified Bible clarifies His point in Matthew 16:24: “Then Jesus said to His disciples, If anyone desires to be My disciple, let him deny himself [disregard, lose sight of, and forget himself and his own interests] and take up his cross and follow Me [cleave steadfastly to Me, conform wholly to My example in living and, if need be, in dying, also].”
Hard words, aren’t they? Let’s return to Abram’s story. What did change require of him?
The changes Abram had to make give us clues about what we need to consider.
First, he had to go from his country. His country of origin. In Middle Eastern thinking, the land represents far more than an address. It still represents promise intertwined with purpose. We have to let go of what we have always had, what we have believed we would always have. Our comfort zone. How have we drifted into a comfortable zone that is difficult to leave? We believe it is safest and enables us to be who we are. If we are determined to stay in what we have always known, we limit our potential because God’s dream for us is far bigger than our own dream. And He stands ready to help us achieve His dream. (Ephesians 3:20)
Second, he had to go from his relatives or his extended family. For us, it would be like leaving our tight-knit community. Our community includes friends, church or organizations, workplace, school, neighbors. All these have shaped our thinking, opinions and how we view our world. What we deem most important and worth fighting over. The kingdom we want to maintain.
Finally, Abram had to go from his father’s household. Our family is the first source of our identity. As such, it may become the source of our false labels, inner wounds and pain. Joseph was sold by his brothers and eventually was sent to prison. Being second in command for all of Egypt didn’t come immediately. In the waiting and suffering, Joseph learned well the importance of leaving our father’s household. His lesson is revealed in the name of his firstborn: 51 Joseph named his firstborn Manasseh and said, “It is because God has made me forget all my trouble and all my father’s household.” Genesis 41:51 (NIV)
Why be willing to change? Joseph had to leave his homeland, his community, and an identity that perhaps made him cocky and spoiled. Because he left that behind, he succeeded in what God had for him, even in prison. And blessing beyond description came.
As Acts 3:19 points out, part of moving from something is moving to something else. The Passion Translation accurately phrases Psalm 92:13: “You’ve transplanted them into your heavenly courtyard, where they are thriving before you.” I love the word, “thrive.” Change enables us to thrive in the presence of God, to become who we were uniquely designed to be.
Joseph thrived, even though life wasn’t comfortable for many hard years. His lesson underscores that we move into something even better! Joseph realized what that would look like when he named his second son.52 He named the second Ephraim, “For,” he said, “God has made me fruitful in the land of my affliction.” Genesis 41:52 (NASB) Walking away from what holds us back will be well worth it! Fruitful. Accomplishing what God has for us.
The Psalmist cuts to the chase, gets right to the point: 10 Listen, O daughter, give attention and incline your ear: Forget your people and your father’s house; Psalm 45:10 (NASB) The Passion Translation encourages us to be willing to put behind us every attachment to the familiar. Attachments to our comfort zone, to how we view many things today. God’s kingdom and purpose are far bigger than our thoughts and opinions, whether political views, theological and denominational attachments, or everything we think we have learned well.
The Psalmist went on to explain why it is worth it.
11 Then the King will desire your beauty. Because He is your Lord, bow down to Him. Psalm 45:11 (NASB)
Our King will greatly desire our beauty. Beauty because now we reflect His image.
What made this journey worth it for Abram? The promise.
2 “I will make you into a great nation and I will bless you; I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing.” Genesis 12:2 (NIV)
Think back to the challenge from Acts 3:19. If God asks us to let go, will He make it worth it? Our answer to that question reveals what we know of Him. Is He an angry God? A wimpy God? A doting God? He wants to show us He is a God who loves us and forgives us, yes. He wants to show us He is a God who provides for us, yes. But He also wants to liberate us from anything that holds us back.
My answer to that question has evolved over the last 25 years. My relationship to God is much closer, even intimate. I know what it means to experience refreshing times in the presence of the Lord. Are you open to change He may invite you to make? If you say, “Yes,” you will discover how He blesses and enables you to be a blessing. Change is worth the risk!
Carol Boggess, author and speaker at A Healing Journey
Carol Boggess © 2021
Rivers – A Journey of Restoration From Broken to Breakthrough and God Sees Broken Hearts
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