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TEACHING

And the Bell Rang -- "Change, Change"

By Michael Cooper
Guest Columnist

CBN.comIn my mind the word rang like a bell - "change", "change", "change". It was December 26, 2002 and I was in prayerful meditation as I drove to work. My thoughts and prayers were flowing together for changes in my life when the word began to ring. The repeating of the word was like the ringing of a bell. With resonance and lingering sound it rang - "chan..ge". Say the word to yourself right now and let it ring.

What did this mean? Why the sound and the symbol of a bell? Was it a call to change or a warning about change?

Change is difficult whether imposed or initiated. If, in 2003, God is calling you to personal change and growth, how can you cooperate and what can you do to facilitate positive growth changes? Or, if in 2003 God is warning you of changes that will be imposed upon you, how can you prepare for them?

In answer to these questions I propose several change agents or additives to the change process that can help bring about positive, rather than negative, adjustments. I will call these "Power Ps."

Prophecy

The nature of prophecy is often strategic, providing objectives, goals, warnings and direction. God initiates change through his word. I believe it was a prophetic impression that "rang" in my mind - "change" "change" "change". I believe it was the Word of God in a strategic sense - having implications for my life. It was a prompter to seek for His answers to the questions it implied.

There is both a harshness and melodiousness to the sound of a bell. As the clapper strikes the bell the initial sound may be harsh, alarming, or irritating. But quickly the bell's vibrations smooth out the sound. Often this is the way prophecy may "sound". God's prophets often came with stinging words that were harsh and alarming, sometimes irritating, but God's peace and love was the intention and followed any rebuke. God spoke through me to one of my congregations in the first sermon to them, that if they would receive God's Word, "though it hurt, it will heal them." Prophecy is a resonating and lingering sound ringing out God's call to change. Its penetrating tonal "attack" is mellowed by the melodious timbre that follows the blow of the clapper.

A bell sounds out a call. It may be used to announce the time to assemble, as in the case of a church bell. It may announce someone's presence, as the bell that hangs on a door. It may announce a notable event, as when the bells of a community ring when the prince and princess are married.

According to the Prophet Amos, God announces change through the prophets.

"Surely the Sovereign LORD does nothing without revealing his plan to his servants the prophets" (Amos 3:7).

Amos began chapter three by admonishing his generation to "Hear this word the LORD has spoken. . . " To the Churches of Asia Minor the Prophet said "He that has an ear to hear, let him hear . . ." When Jesus told the disciples to cast their nets on the other side they despairing stated that they had fished all night without a catch. "Nevertheless," they said, "At thy word we will" (Luke 5:5).

Prayer

Change flows out of prayer. Prayers offered in agreement with God's word facilitate change and empower change. Even Christ Himself was fashioned by prayer. What we pray for not only activates God but also activates ourselves.

What I pray about and for is not trivial but significant and a priority I have placed in my life. If I pray for my children's spiritual needs I will be focused on those needs and will be poised to work towards those goals. Sometimes we are guilty of not putting "legs" to our prayers, but certainly, if we are not even praying about something, or putting "knees" to our needs, then what chance will there be that we will act in a way that may facilitate answers to our needs. Change can come through the alignment of prayer.

Patterns

That alignment includes our behavior. Change is lived out and followed through by behavior patterns. Much of our behaviors are lumped together in patterns. We have our morning routines, our work routines, our family routines, even our devotional routines. These clustered behaviors may need to be changed. If one aspect of the cluster is changed it may change the pattern.

People who struggle with bad habits often will identify the "trigger" behavior or event. If I smoke when I am driving or after I eat, what can I do to break up these relationships. If I need to pray more or change an attitude, what patterns can I interweave to establish change?

Purpose

Change is meaningless apart from purpose. Purpose gives direction to change. Closely related to the previous point, prophecy, purpose is necessary if change is going to last. Many changes are sought but lack enough purposefulness to continue. A whim or a trend, a fad or an impulse, will not last.

Much of our society requests changes to us of this type. Thinness, beauty, and some successes are often without real purpose. The Bible says that exercise profits little but godliness has eternal benefits. With the pursuit of change ought to be the question, Why? When change is being imposed, should we yield or not yield, can also be answered by the question, Why?

Perspective

Change passes through one's perspective - what I am seeing or not seeing. We can change through learning, by changing our understanding. As I age I recognize that I want to see things as they were and not as they can be. I find that my perspective stiffens and the ability to look at the world differently fades.

I told a mentor pastor one time that I admired his ability to yet be creative and flexible at his age. Though, in time, the ability to change will slow down, a key to remaining young is in the thinking. You can teach an old dog new tricks.

Positioning

Change needs outside assistance sometimes. Positioning yourself for influence and opportunity is important. Building networks of people who can help you reach goals, motivate you, teach you, etc., cannot be overlooked. You are a part of a community and personal growth is attached to that community.

Pain

Another "power P" for change is pain. Unfortunately, pain is an effective change agent. Perhaps it is due to our fallen natures that we will not change while we are comfortable. But with pain comes the acceptance and the pursuit of change. Someone has said that we change when we learn enough or when we hurt enough.

Persistence

I understood in prayer recently that the merging of the word change with the ringing of the bell means an activity on my part. As one is required to ring a bell and to ring it frequently and "religiously" (with patterned repetition), I am to call myself to change by the preceding behaviors - prayer, patterns, purpose, perspective, etc. Each day I am to ring the bell - "change". Not just once a day, perhaps, but maybe twice or three times.

Changes will come. Are you ready for them? Changes need to come. Are you willing to make them happen? The prophets are ringing the bell of change. It is a part of their calling to do so, to announce "change."


Michael Cooper is pursuing a Doctor of Ministry degree in the Regent University School of Divinity. You can send your e-mail comments to him at michco1@regent.edu.

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