People Change

Have you heard the old adage, “The only thing that will never change is — things change!”  Well, I guess that’s at least one thing you can count on; for better or worse, everything IS, eventually, going to change.  I am sometimes amazed at how much things can change just over the course of a given day.  Exactly one year ago, I woke to a beautiful day full of happy potential, surrounded by family and friends, and looking forward to some celebration.  My three beautiful granddaughters were to be officially “adopted” the very next day and we were in high jubilation at the thought of the impending court proceedings.  My wife and I walked Kailua Beach hand-in-hand together that wonderful morning; our hearts filled with joy.  But later that afternoon I received a phone call from my doctor informing me that I had been diagnosed with cancer.  Within 45 minutes of that call, I received another call from close friends telling me that a young man I loved dearly, Tim Schulz — only in his twenties — had just been killed in a car accident.  Later that afternoon, we received word that another family friend, Ryan Woods — also in his twenties — had died of cancer.  I remember my wife and I walking Kailua Beach hand-in-hand together that evening at sunset, and me saying to her, “The whole world seems to have changed since last we walked this beach, only hours ago!”  And the world, at least our world, had changed; as it does for all us everyday, I guess — usually only incrementally, but sometimes “big time!”

But what really astounds me, sometimes, is how much “people” can change; often for the better, but sometimes, not so much.  Listen to this incredible prophecy, given through the prophet Ezekiel, as God warns His people not to take their relationship with Him for granted:

“The person who sins will die. The son will not bear the punishment for the father’s iniquity, nor will the father bear the punishment for the son’s iniquity; the righteousness of the righteous will be upon himself, and the wickedness of the wicked will be upon himself. But if the wicked man turns from all his sins which he has committed and observes all My statutes and practices justice and righteousness, he shall surely live; he shall not die.All his transgressions which he has committed will not be remembered against him; because of his righteousness which he has practiced, he will live. Do I have any pleasure in the death of the wicked,” declares the Lord God, “rather than that he should turn from his ways and live? But when a righteous man turns away from his righteousness, commits iniquity and does according to all the abominations that a wicked man does, will he live? All his righteous deeds which he has done will not be remembered for his treachery which he has committed and his sin which he has committed; for them he will die. Yet you say, ‘The way of the Lord is not right.’ Hear now, O house of Israel! Is My way not right? Is it not your ways that are not right?When a righteous man turns away from his righteousness, commits iniquity and dies because of it, for his iniquity which he has committed he will die.Again, when a wicked man turns away from his wickedness which he has committed and practices justice and righteousness, he will save his life.Because he considered and turned away from all his transgressions which he had committed, he shall surely live; he shall not die. But the house of Israel says, ‘The way of the Lord is not right.’ Are My ways not right, O house of Israel? Is it not your ways that are not right? Therefore I will judge you, O house of Israel, each according to his conduct,” declares the Lord God. “Repent and turn away from all your transgressions, so that iniquity may not become a stumbling block to you. Cast away from you all your transgressions which you have committed and make yourselves a new heart and a new spirit! For why will you die, O house of Israel?For I have no pleasure in the death of anyone who dies,” declares the Lord God. “Therefore, repent and live.” (Ezekiel 18:20-32, NASB).

I hope, beloved, that none of us are taking our relationship with the Lord for granted.  I remember the Lord’s admonition to the church at Ephesus when He said to them through the Apostle John, “I know your deeds and your toil and perseverance, and that you cannot tolerate evil men, and you put to the test those who call themselves apostles, and they are not, and you found them to be false; and you have perseverance and have endured for My name’s sake, and have not grown weary. But I have this against you, that you have left your first love” (Revelation 2:2-4, NASB).  And later, to the church at Laodicea, He says, “I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot; I wish that you were cold or hot.  So because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of My mouth” (Revelation 3:15-16, NASB).

People change.  I can think of quite a few people, some of them pretty close to me, who seem to have mellowed over the years.  They are a whole lot more pleasant to be around than they once were, and their faith and love for the Lord seems to be growing exponentially.  Others, hummmmm…  I love the example we see in the Apostle Paul.  He was a persecutor of the church.  People died because of him.  And, when he first became a Christian, people just couldn’t believe it and still feared him.  The Bible says, “When he came to Jerusalem, he was trying to associate with the disciples; but they were all afraid of him, not believing that he was a disciple. But Barnabas took hold of him and brought him to the apostles and described to them how he had seen the Lord on the road, and that He had talked to him, and how at Damascus he had spoken out boldly in the name of Jesus.  And he was with them, moving about freely in Jerusalem, speaking out boldly in the name of the Lord” (Acts 9:26-28, NASB).  Praise God for kind Barnabas.  Sometimes, you know, people just need a chance to show us how much the Lord has been at work in us; and we need to give them that chance.

Tonight I’m asking myself, and you, “how has my life changed?”  When God looks at my heart, my words, my actions, my lifestyle, is He pleased with what He sees?  Does He smile?  I don’t want to be like that “one talent man” (Matthew 25:14-30) who buried the resources that his master had entrusted to him.  I want the talents, gifts, and resources that God has invested in me to give Him a good return and to bring Him glory.  Don’t you?

We are all changing.  The only question is, “how so?”

~ Philip ~

Luke 17:10

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