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Change and Live

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What hinders you from living joyfully? Is a habit or a worry crippling you emotionally? God stands ready to help. Discover how.

Transcript

[Darris] I will call him “tattoo guy” because he had tattoos all over his body, down his legs, up both arms and up his neck. He had a couple of studs hung from his mouth, and the image was pretty fearsome.

I would see this gentleman working out most every day that I went to my local gymnasium. This guy was pretty serious about weightlifting. He worked hard. He worked fast and he took very few breaks. He ferociously pumped the iron and he had all the sound effects working.

One day in the locker room I struck up a conversation with him. He told me that the rush that he got from weightlifting was very similar to the rush that he got from doing drugs. I was quite shocked by what he said and so I asked further. He told me that he had done drugs. He had done meth, heroin, cocaine–they were all a part of his habit for years. And he had been in and out of drug programs, rehab and prison. But now he was clean, and he lifted weights to get the same feeling that he used to get from drugs.

I was curious. “What,” I asked, “caused you to kick your drug habit?” His answer surprised me, and it may surprise you. It gave me a vital key to understanding change.

Join us on Beyond Today as we look at what can make us “Change and Live.”

[Announcer] Join our host, Darris McNeely and his guests, as they help you understand your future on Beyond Today!

[Darris] What if you were diagnosed with a disease that could be reversed by changing your lifestyle? Something like heart disease.

Could you change? You say, yes? Maybe you should think again.

The odds are 9 to1 you wouldn’t change.

That’s right. In an article called, “Change or Die,” Alan Deutschman shares this surprising statistic. 9 to 1 that you would not make a lasting change to reverse the sentence hanging over your head.

Yet, there are many things about our life that every one of us would like to change. But how do we make the changes that are important to us? How can we begin to change habits and attitudes that have been with us for so many years?

When was the last time you actually changed something about your behavior?

Maybe it was to lose weight. Maybe it was to stop smoking. Maybe you really decided you needed to control you anger, or stop whatever other compulsive behavior that you know you have to get under control.

We all know how hard it is. We know we need to make changes and yet, every year millions make what are called “new year” resolutions of all kinds–most are never realized.

We have good intentions. We start off well and most of us truly desire to change habits and behavior that we know is not good and can actually harm our health. And yet, it is extremely difficult.

Let me give you an illustration. Let’s look at health care–a big issue in America, and most parts of the world. It consumes a lot of money. And yet a small percentage of the population consumes the majority of what is spent on health care in the United States. Usually for diseases that are by and large behavioral–this is, we cause them by things we do.

And 80 percent of the health care budget, of companies, is consumed by essentially five behaviors: smoking, drinking too much alcohol, overeating, stress, and not enough exercise.

Those five behaviors consume most of the problems that people have to pay for. Let’s look at one. Heart surgery takes a lot of time and claims the lives of a lot of people, today. People go through heart-bypass surgeries. They have stents put in because of any number of different reasons.

Studies show that two years later, 90 percent of those who have had that have really not changed their lifestyle. They may start off with good intentions, and change for a while, but time and circumstances cause them to revert.

It’s interesting. Knowing there is a disease that can kill and stats show that most people do not change. 

So again, I ask, why is it so difficult? And why do we fight change even when we know that it is in our best interest?

I was taught this a number of years ago. I learned it in one of my classes. I didn’t believe it. Years and years of experience have taught me just how difficult it is. You study behavioral science and they show you that change most often happens, most by people, when you speak to people’s feelings. That’s when change that is effective and usually long lasting take place.

When a person’s heart is reached at an emotional level, a person is more likely to make a lasting change.

The Bible–God’s Word–confirms this fact. God speaks to us through His Word and He speaks to us at a very deep emotional level. And when we react to it, it produces a lasting change.

But as we look at our life and all of these different habits that we have, what can make us change? What really pushes us in those directions?

There is a lot of myths about what may cause change. A crisis can hit and people will change for a period of time. They get a diagnosis and fear sets in. Fear can be a motivating factor–understandably so. Facts sometimes for some people, logical information, causes them to change. Sometimes people will change very gradually. Kicking a smoking habit is often attacked by people by making a gradual change, by cutting back on nicotine, over a period of time. Sometimes it works. I have seen it work with people.

There is another myth and that is, people just can’t change. And that is a big myth because we can change!

Now, any one of these, fear or a crisis, can produce change, a measure of change and in some cases, even a lasting change.

I look at my own father who was a two-pack-a-day smoker for all of his adult life. One day my dad woke up with a cough that wouldn’t go away. He thought he had cancer, and whatever or whoever he talked to, whatever diagnosis that came his way, he decided one day to stop smoking. And he quit cold turkey. He was fearful of what might have happened, and he did quit, and it was a lasting change.

But you know what? The statistics show nine others don’t always do that. And I have known a number of people who because of whatever going on in their life, really didn’t do it.

Behaviorists know that effective lasting change is often made by appealing to the emotion and reaching people at a deeper level than just facts, a momentary crisis, or even shock and fear.

I learned this a long time ago in my years in counseling with people in various situations. I would often run across people who were lonely and depressed. And they were in some self-destructive patterns by either additions, their eating habits, stress, or not getting enough exercise, and doing certain things that they could easily change. And, I would encourage them and in some cases, basically tell them what they needed to do in changing their lifestyle, and it wasn’t always motivational enough to create a change. And there was frustration, and it created challenges and difficulties.

It took me a long time to learn the lesson that a person who is lonely, a person who is depressed, or some other chronic emotional problem, and that cigarette, that bottle of Jack Daniels, that drug even, is a replacement for what is empty and what is missing inside their life. It is their crutch to get them through a day! And if they quit, and just went cold turkey off of it and it didn’t take care of that emotional need inside of them, they were still lonely and depressed, and they said what good is this? And they’d rather live a shorter life, at least happy because of the crutch of the addiction, rather than a longer life and not being able to deal with some of the other emotional problems which were at the real heart of what they were struggling with. It took me a long time to learn that lesson. 

At the opening of today’s program, I told you a story about a fellow that I called “the tattoo guy.” So, what happened to Tattoo Guy? I’m going to come back to that story, in just a moment. There is a very important lesson there for all of us.

This program is designed to help you make changes, to begin a process of changing and living, to help you to a better quality of life. We are offering a free study guide today, Transforming Your Life. This booklet contains a lot of valuable information and it is going to help you find your way to some improved habits that are lasting and effective. It’ll take a bit of study. It will take some work with the Bible, but it will help you. And I am going to tell you more about it in just a minute.

You can read this booklet, Transforming Your Life online at BeyondToday.tv. Or, you can request your free copy and it will be sent to your home by calling: 1-888-886-8632. You can call right now if you wish, jot the number down and call at the end of this program.

All right, let’s get ourselves back on track to find out what Tattoo Guy taught me.

Here is what behavioral scientists have learned about making changes in people. 

That joy is more powerful than fear. Joy is an emotion that runs deep into our reactions. Joy is a quality that is cultivated by deliberate choice. And joy is a quality of life that is spiritual. The Bible reveals that it is also a fruit of God’s Holy Spirit.

Joy is a quiet confidence, an unmovable confidence that God’s holding your hand and guiding you through life–during the good times as well as the bad times.

Joy is a deep feeling of contentment that flows from a choice that we make to live a better life because of someone or something beyond ourselves.

You see, when a person is convinced that they will feel better or have a better quality of life, they are more likely to change behavior. Let me take you back to the story of Tattoo Guy, the guy that I met in the gym. I told you about his story at the beginning of the program.

Tattoo Guy lifted weights. He would get a rush of adrenaline from lifting weights, pumping that iron most days of the week. And he said that he got the same rush that he would get when he used to do drugs. Now Tattoo Guy was a pretty scary looking guy with his studs in his face and the tattoos all over his body. One day we struck up a conversation and he began to tell me a story.

And as I listened to him, I could tell that there was a softness beyond his rough-looking, fearsome exterior.

Here was a man who had been in and out of drug rehab programs, and in and out of jail for his drug habit. Nothing in those measures–the drug rehab or the jail–caused him and convinced him that he needed to change the destructive habits of drugs. Yet something else did.

I was curious: “What caused you,” I asked, “to kick your drug habit?”

Without hesitation, he said, “My daughter. My daughter said she did not want to visit me in jail anymore.” He said, “My daughter convinced me I needed to change.”

I was stunned. But I was also pleased. And he was too. It was very obvious.

Tattoo Guy cleaned up his life because of the joy he felt being with his daughter, helping her grow up and being a better influence for her.

We all know that drug and alcohol addiction are vicious habits. They destroy countless lives, cost society billions of dollars every single year. We all know that whoever kicks those habits and makes permanent change does so because something happens at their deepest, gut-level of emotion.

Any program, any cure for those addictions to be truly effective must eventually reach an addict at their deepest emotional level.

There’s a song I like to listen to. It’s called, One Day at a Time. It is written by a recovered addict. There is a stanza from it that sums it all up.

“It was something I was too blind to see, I got help from something greater than me. And I have to learn to live my life one day at a time!”

My friend, Tattoo Guy, was willing to change because of his little girl. To him his daughter was “something greater” than himself. When he saw her and what his behavior was doing to her, he then took the steps to clean up his life.

Let me ask you. Is there a habit that is killing you but you just can’t change? What is it that might be crippling you maybe emotionally, or keeping you from living the life that you want to live, and becoming the person that God wants you want to be?

Is it drugs? Is it alcohol? Smoking? Overeating? Or a sexual addiction?

Maybe it is emotional pain? Fear? Anger? Maybe it is an abusive past that affects you so deeply today, you can’t shake. You can’t move away from it?

What is it that keeps you crippled, challenged and fighting for a sane, balanced and happy, joyful life–right now, today? What is it? What habit is keeping you from changing? What is keeping you from really experiencing life at the highest level? A happy, contented, safe, emotional life?

You see, Tattoo Guy was willing to change for his little girl. And I say, God bless him!

Here is the question: Who is your “little girl”? Who in your life is big enough and important enough to make you change and to help you start living life at a much higher level?

That’s who you need to find! Find that person, or find that cause that will make you change and to make you begin to live for something beyond today. 

Tattoo Guy was moved to change because of the love that he had for his precious little girl. You might not have a little girl, but you do have a God. Can you be moved to change because of God’s love for you?

What God offers to each one of us is not too far. It is not something that is unknowable. It can be known. You see, God has not taken His message, His instructions, His words to us and hidden them off some place in a secret vault way up in heaven or wherever, and only a few people can find it. You can find it! You can access it!

God’s message is close to you. It can be on your lips and it can be in your heart. And God’s message can change your life for the better. All you have got to do is to choose–today, to begin to make the choice and to make it so. And begin that process that can help you pull yourself out of the rut of life that you are caught and in which you are trapped.

There is a wonderful passage in the book of Deuteronomy 30. It says, from God–it is really a message to all of us:

“Today I have given you the choice between life and death, between blessings and curses. Now I call on heaven and earth to witness the choice you make. Oh, that you would choose life, so that you and your descendants might live! You can make this choice by loving the LORD your God, obeying him, and committing yourself firmly to him. This is the key to your life. And if you love and obey the LORD, you will live long in the land” (Deuteronomy 30:19-20 Deuteronomy 30:19-20 [19] I call heaven and earth to record this day against you, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing: therefore choose life, that both you and your seed may live: [20] That you may love the LORD your God, and that you may obey his voice, and that you may hold to him: for he is your life, and the length of your days: that you may dwell in the land which the LORD swore to your fathers, to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, to give them.
American King James Version×
NLT).

And so the question comes down to each of us, can we change? Can we change for God? Can you make a life change for the better to become like God in character and thought, and do it today?

This is really the essence of what our life is all about. When it is all summed up from what we read in the Word of God, and what the message of the gospel really is, it is that God is our Father and that He is building a family. That’s it! That is the essence of the message of the gospel of the Kingdom of God. It is at the heart of what Christ Himself brought, what He taught.

The Kingdom of God is about a divine, spiritual family that God is building. And He wants you and I to change when offered the opportunity and today to begin to live as a member of His family–now! And develop a relationship with Him today, in this life, to make this life better. There is no need for us to keep continually knocking our head against the wall.

Your life can be better as a result of that choice, to go with God. It’s this understanding that can be a catalyst for change and help you live.

I had a chance encounter in conversation with a former drug addict who looked into his daughter’s eyes and heard her plea for him to change. And he did. He made a change away from a destructive habit at the physical level. Deep down he saw that he had to do that. There are bigger changes that he will make I am sure at some point in his life when he has a chance to know God and make a change in that way.

For you and I today, can we look into the Word of God, hear His voice and change because He wants us to change and to live?

God holds out to us the hope of a present life that can be full of joy, and meaning and significance in this chaotic world. Today, we can share a taste of a life to come–a life that is good, a life that works to create joy in place of fear. A lot of people live life fearful of many things and as a result, it doesn’t work. God wants to give us a life that works; a life that can help us to get out of bed every morning with a desire to make a difference with our life. That type of life is a foretaste of a better world to come when Jesus Christ returns to establish the Kingdom of God on earth. And we can begin to get a foretaste of that life from that world today, right now! We don’t have to wait.

So stop condemning yourself to a life of futility and problems. Look at what life has dealt you, and yes, it may have dealt you a bad hand. But also look at what you may have dealt yourself–what you have done to yourself. And realize ultimately, whether life has dealt you a bad hand or you have made some bad choices, right now it is a time to draw a line and to make the choice. Draw a line over the past, make a choice, pull yourself out of that nosedive and start flying a straight and true course. Grab hold of God’s offer right there, very close, very near to help you live today!

And Christ is ready to intercede for you and to help you.

In Romans 8:34 Romans 8:34Who is he that comdemns? It is Christ that died, yes rather, that is risen again, who is even at the right hand of God, who also makes intercession for us.
American King James Version×
, one of the most beautiful passages in all of the New Testament, the apostle Paul wrote these words. He said, “Christ Jesus who died - more than that, who was raised to life - is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us.” And as a result of that, he asks the question, “Who shall seperate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword?” (Romans 8:34-35 Romans 8:34-35 [34] Who is he that comdemns? It is Christ that died, yes rather, that is risen again, who is even at the right hand of God, who also makes intercession for us. [35] Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword?
American King James Version×
NIV).

And right there at that verse, you can add in your own line or two of your own life of what you have created. Or what has been dealt to you that, in a sense, separates us from the life we truly want. Well Paul goes on in verse 37. He says, “No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us” (Romans 8:37 Romans 8:37No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him that loved us.
American King James Version×
NIV) because He is making intercession for us today.

And you can have access to that power, and to that life, and to God our Father. You are at a turning point. This message that we are giving you on this program today, and all of our programs and all that we offer on Beyond Today, can help you transition to a new mindset and a new lifestyle that can impact your life beyond today. It can impact your life for all eternity. And there lies the answers to help you answer the big issues of life that are in front of you at this time. And the choices you make can make a difference. And it’s all worth it!

Before we go to our panel discussion today, let me make you an offer to help your understanding of today’s subject.

It’s our free study guide of our booklet, Transforming Your Life. This booklet will give you specific and spiritual goals to begin making effective changes in your everyday life.

It’s a study aid that will help you change your thought process, and shows how our High Priest–Jesus Christ, could be working in your life today. If you’re ready for a change in your life, you should get this booklet, this study aid, now.

You can get it online at BeyondToday.tv. BeyondToday.tv.

And if you would like us to mail you a copy, we are glad to do so. You can request it right now by calling: 1-888-886-8632. 1-888-886-8632. And if you live outside of North America, you can also write us a letter at the address on your screen. Request the booklet. We will be glad to send it to you.

When you order Transforming Your Life, you’re also going to receive a copy of our Good News magazine–a bi-monthly publication put out by the United Church of God. You can have a deeper understanding of your Bible when you read The Good News.

The Good News will help you clearly see, with a biblical perspective, where world events are heading right now.

The Good News is paid for by the generous support of our donors, so we can offer it to you completely free of charge.

Call: 1-888-886-8632 or go online at BeyondToday.tv for the Bible study aid Transforming Your Life and our free magazine, The Good News.

We’ve been talking about making change in your life. And I gave the example of a friend at my health club, I called “tattoo guy” and what made him leave a life of drugs and addiction. Now I’m joined by fellow Beyond Today hosts, Gary Petty and Steve Myers, to continue this discussion.

Gentlemen, what are some examples of people that you have seen make dramatic changes, lasting changes in their life?

[Gary] You know Darris, I can talk a lot about examples from just counseling people but one that comes to mind is from my own family. When I was six years old, my dad was a chain smoker. And my mother actually prayed that God would help him overcome his smoking. And one day he had a headache so bad that he couldn’t even think. It was terrible. And he asked God that if God would take the pain away, if this is really because of his smoking, he would never smoke again. And the pain went away. So he never smoked again.

His motivation at the beginning was fear, fear that God would bring the pain back, but over time it changed. He made a permanent change because he had a relationship with God, and that was so important to him, that joy, that it kept him from going back.

[Steve] I met a young man in prison. He had made some terrible choices in his life, was serving out a ten-year sentence. And as we talked, and as he realized he needed to change, he wasn’t like that other eight out of nine that didn’t change. Especially many of those in prison don’t change their lives once they get out.

But he said a couple things that were really interesting to me. He said I don’t want to live this way. And he used the freedom that he finally obtained as a motivation. That freedom meant something to him. That he could finally have the freedom to make the right choices and it was something that inspired him in his life, and he learned to draw close to God and count on Him. And it inspired me too, to see that it was possible to change and make big changes in your life.

[Darris] I once had a couple that I was counseling. The husband was running around committing adultery on his wife and she got to the point where she told him that, that’s enough. And pack your bags and leave. And he got so distraught that he called me, and wanted to come and talk. And he showed up at my house late one night, and we sat down and talked for a couple of hours. And he was so shocked, again it as crisis. It forced him to make a choice. He changed. He said he wouldn’t do it any longer. And you never known in those situations because adultery is a pretty addictive situation that people get into. But, his change stuck because I think he rekindled a joy with a relationship with his wife, and a love developed that then made that change permanent.

I think that people have to come to a point where they make a choice and decide too, that they want, need and must do better. Be better, make a change and that leads then to that deeper emotional level at some point where the change becomes permanent. But, I think there are a lot of good programs, there are a lot of self-help plans that are out there for people making change, and we don’t discount any of that.

But lasting, deep change is going to come when you and I are emotionally involved and we feel the joy that that change brings in a relationship with that other person, something beyond ourselves and God Himself.

So please remember the free offers that we made to you today. You’re going to want to order a copy of the Bible study aid, Transforming Your Life. It covers in great detail key principles beyond what we have talked about here today to help you improve your life. And, you are going to also receive a free subscription to The Good News magazine. The number is toll free: 1-888-886-8632. You can read both, The Good News and Transforming Your Life online at BeyondToday.tv.

If you like our program, you can also watch Beyond Today and BT Daily anytime on YouTube or on our Roku channel.

Every time I think of Tattoo Guy, I smile and take heart. It reminds me that people can change–no matter how horrible the habit or the lifestyle. My chance encounter with a man who kicked his drug habit is a great lesson for each of us to remember. Tattoo Guy changed and he began to live for the sake of his daughter.

How about you?

Can you change and live because your Heavenly Father wants you to live well today and forever in His family? The choice is yours, and God stands ready to help you when you decide.

Thanks for joining us and don’t forget our free offers, and be sure and tell your family and friends about our program. Tune in again next week for another edition of Beyond Today and join us in praying, “Thy Kingdom come.” For Beyond Today I’m Darris McNeely. Thanks for watching.

[Announcer] For the free literature offered on today’s program, go online to BeyondToday.tv. Please join us again next week on Beyond Today!