Are you truly serious about allowing the power of God to transform your life? If you are, then prepare yourself for an incredible, life-changing experience. Change is difficult, but it's made even harder without practical guidance on how to do it. You will find that guidance in Lord, Change Me. James MacDonald is serious about the business of change according to God's Word. While many tell us that we should change and be more like Christ, MacDonald actually teaches us how to do it. Lord, Change Me is split into three sections as the model for approaching change:
- The Preparation for Change: choosing the right method and partnering with God to select the areas in need of change in your life.
- The Process of Change: exploring the biblical method of saying 'no' to sinful patterns and 'yes' to the things God desires for you.
- The Power to Change: explaining how to experience the power of God personally and continuously.
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About the Author
JAMES MACDONALD is the founding and senior pastor of Harvest Bible Chapel in Rolling Meadows, Illinois. Pastor MacDonald has written many books, including Lord, Change My Attitude...Before It's Too Late and Gripped by the Greatness of God. Pastor MacDonald's teaching can be heard on Walk in the Word, a daily 30-minute radio program heard on outlets across North America. Pastor MacDonald and his wife, Kathy, have three children and reside in the northwest suburbs of Chicago.
Read an Excerpt
I really want to change ... So, Help Me God
By JAMES MacDONALD
Moody PressCopyright © 2000 James MacDonald
All right reserved.
Chapter OneTAKE OUT THE GARBAGE
SAY IT IN A SENTENCE: True life change comes only through partnership with God and begins by rejecting all self-centered change methods.
I love to tell stories of change-dramatic, detailed accounts of the transforming power of almighty God. Have you ever heard of Chuck Colson? Now there's a guy who got changed! He was on President Richard Nixon's political team. He was the most brutal, ruthless, get-out-of-my-way-or-I'll-kill-you kind of guy. As a gung-ho presidential aide, he once said, "I would walk over my grandmother if necessary to assure the president's reelection."
In the early 1970s, however, Colson's whole world came crashing down. He pleaded guilty to obstruction of justice in the Watergate case and served seven months at Maxwell Federal Prison in Georgia. He was shamed before the whole world.
In the midst of that, Chuck Colson found a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. As he went into prison and began to articulate and grow in his faith, many people thought, "Yeah, right. Chuckie's got religion. What a joke. It'll never last." But you know what? It did.
Colson said, "I don't just want to be saved. I don't just want to be forgiven. I want to be changed." He has been changed and has emerged as one of the greatest Christian leaders in our world today. He is a powerful force. His life touches hundreds of thousands of men and women in prison every year through a ministry he began and leads called Prison Fellowship. He's an author, writer, and leader who is tireless in his effort to get out the good news about Jesus. Colson has received many awards for his impact upon our world.
Chuck Colson went from ruthless political hatchet man to loving selfless minister of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Transformed! And you can be too!
"Take out the garbage!" It was never a gentle command at my house growing up. Instead, it was a harsh order, barked at high volume, designed to produce an action that everyone loathed. Amazingly, in a family of four boys, each child usually remembered somehow having taken his turn at the dreaded task just the previous week. To this day I loathe taking out the garbage. Why? Simply because nothing was in those bags that I wanted to save, just gross food remains and wrappers and things that ... well, garbage.
In this chapter we have to take out some garbage, and you may not like it. It's going to be somewhat negative. The reason for the negativity is really quite simple: I believe and have observed that the number one reason we don't change is because at some time in the past we have attempted to change, then failed, and in the process have been deeply hurt. After trying that a few times, we give up. We conclude that the only pain worse than needing to change is trying to change and failing.
Now I need to let you know: When we pursue God's plan for change, it always works. If you've tried to change and failed, it's because you've tried to change according to an unbiblical method. That's the garbage we need to take out: faulty change methods! We need to uncover the faulty change methods, and then we need to sweep them off the table and into the trash so that we can once-and-for-all focus exclusively on God's program for change. It's ugly work, but it's gotta get done if we're gonna change.
I've heard someone say, "If I keep doing what I've always done, I'm going to keep getting what I've always gotten." That's right, isn't it? We're going to look at three faulty psychological methods for change and three faulty spiritual methods for change-the things we've always done. We'll see how they're just trash, worthless. Are you with me? Let's do it together. Let's take out the trash!
FAULTY METHOD #1: ENVIRONMENTAL CHANGE
Environmental change is an approach made popular by John Watson and later by B.F. Skinner. You might recognize this concept as behaviorism, which is a very popular-but faulty-approach to change. Behaviorism is the idea that the environment conditions a person to behave in certain ways, that you are the result of the environment that you have come from. Therefore, change the environment and you will change.
Skinner and Watson relied heavily upon the findings of an experiment conducted by a Russian psychologist named Pavlov. You may have heard of the experiment or of Pavlov himself. He was the dude with the slobbering dogs. Pavlov would put food in front of a dog and the dog would begin to salivate. Then Pavlov rang a bell just seconds before the food appeared. After countless repetitions of hearing the bell followed by getting tasty food, the dog would salivate simply upon hearing the bell, even when no food was laid out. Pavlov concluded that the dog had been changed by his environment and called it conditioning.
From these findings, Pavlov, and later Skinner and Watson, concluded that most, if not all, human behavior is the result of conditioning.
As with most psychological theory, there is some validity here. Certainly behavior is influenced by patterns of thinking formed over a long period of time. The problem with behaviorism is twofold:
1. A cause/effect relationship does not necessarily exist between environment and change. In fact, studies have been done on identical twins from the exact same environment. You would expect them to grow into very similar adults but often they turn out as different as day and night. Though it may be a factor in who you become, environment is not the determining cause in character formation or in transformation.
2. Changing the environment does not automatically change the person. A perfect environment does not lead to a perfect person. Wasn't that the original setting? Adam and Eve had a pretty good environment in Eden, a beautiful and bountiful garden setting. God Almighty Himself said that it was perfect (Genesis 1:31), and yet Adam and Eve sinned! So environment does not control whom I become.
Consider the story of the prodigal son in Luke 15. Now there was a guy who said, "You know what? I'm going to change my environment. I'm not really liking my dad these days. I'm so tired of working on this stupid farm. My brother's getting on my nerves. And their lifestyle is way too restrictive for me. I'm blowing outta here." (I'm paraphrasing now.)
You can read the story yourself in Luke 15:
"A certain man had two sons. And the younger of them said to his father, 'Father, give me the portion of goods that falls to me.' So he divided to them his livelihood. And not many days after, the younger son gathered all together, journeyed to a far country, and there wasted his possessions with prodigal living. But when he had spent all, there arose a severe famine in the land, and he began to be in want." (verses 11-14)
He finally found a job at a farm. There he ended up feeding pigs and wanting to eat what the pigs were eating. "But when he came to himself," verses 17 and 18 report, "he said, 'How many of my father's hired servants have bread enough and to spare, and I perish with hunger! I will arise and go to my father, and will say to him, "Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you."'"
Now here's the point: He thought the problem was his environment: his family, the way he had been brought up, the lifestyle that he had been given. So he took off and got a new environment. The Bible says, "When he came to himself" he figured out that he was the problem, not his environment. Maybe you have been struggling to change and tempted by the notion that a change of environment will change the way you're feeling. A new job or a new city or a new spouse. "Out with the old and in with the new and then I will be happy." It's a lie!
Our problem is inside us, not around us. We are the ones who need to change, not our environment. That's going in the trash. Behaviorism is window dressing; it does not work.
FAULTY METHOD #2: CHANGE BY DIGGING UP MY PAST
A popular notion today is "I am the way I am because of my past." The psychological theory that seeks to remedy our problems from the past is psychoanalysis. An Austrian physician named Sigmund Freud developed it more than one hundred years ago. Freud taught that human behavior is determined by painful memories that are buried in our subconscious mind. Freud believed that we force from our conscious mind any awareness of thoughts, needs, or experiences that are unacceptable to us or to others and try to bury them deep inside ourselves. What psychoanalysis says is this: "There's something back there. You're not aware of it, but it's back there and it's very dark. You may not remember it, but it's controlling you. It's your past. It's your parents. It's some painful experience. And it's making you fearful. It's making you angry. It's making you depressed."
Psychoanalysis teaches, "You've got to dig it up and spill your guts! Figure out what that thing is and get it out. And until you do, you will never really change."
The problem with all of this is that the biblical message is quite the opposite. Here's God's message:
Consider the life of Joseph. If anyone was a candidate for ten years of therapy because of a painful past, it was Joseph. This guy was coddled by his father, pampered as the youngest, and ridiculed and ultimately rejected by his brothers. Finally, at one point his eleven brothers stripped him naked, threw him into a pit, then hauled him out and sold him as a slave in Egypt. Now would that mess with your mind? Then Joseph got a job in Egypt; he was working hard and trying to build a life for himself when his boss's wife flipped out and falsely accused him of trying to have sex with her. Sounds like the Jerry Springer show. Unable to defend himself, Joseph was chained up in some rat-infested prison and completely forgotten for several years.
Now you would think that Joseph would be messed up for life or certainly would need endless hours of therapy to process all that pain. Yet the Bible teaches something quite different. In all of it, Joseph saw a sovereign God who was at work. Was Joseph devastated at times? Yes, but he was not destroyed. Was there pain and loneliness and heartache and, at times, despair? Yes, but Joseph found a better way to deal with his pain. He would forget the injustice, trust a wise and sovereign God, and move ahead with his life.
In Genesis 45:8, Joseph looked into the eyes of the brothers who did so much to hurt him and said, "It was not you who sent me here, but God; and He has made me a father to Pharaoh, and lord of all his house, and a ruler throughout all the land of Egypt."
Just to make sure the point is made, the Scripture quotes Joseph affirming that message once more in Genesis 50:20. "But as for you, you meant evil against me; but God meant it for good." Did they sin against him? Yes! Was it evil? Yes! But did God use it for Joseph's good? Yes! God did. As a confirmation that Joseph found healing by forgetting his past, he named his first son Manasseh, which means "the Lord made me forget."
There's a lesson on change right there: asking God for the grace to forget my past. This digging-up-the-past thing is a worldly and faulty method of change. Transformation is not about remembering, and it's not about digging up things that may or may not have even happened! It's about forgiving and forgetting. It's about trusting a sovereign God. It's about focusing in on my own need to change and saying with the apostle Paul, "forgetting those things which are behind" (Philippians 3:13).
Is it important to deal with your past? Absolutely! God doesn't want us to pretend. He wants us to face our past and to deal with it by focusing on forgiveness, and putting it behind us. The answer is not in the past and no process of examining our past will lead to the change our heart desires. Have you been seeking personal transformation by digging up your past? Find a big green plastic bag and put that approach to change where it belongs.
FAULTY METHOD #3: CHANGE THROUGH SELF-DISCOVERY
Even psychologists themselves began more recently to criticize behaviorism and psychoanalysis, realizing that it was not helping people. (Research shows that those who get into this kind of therapy have a statistically worse chance of seeing personal transformation than if they did nothing at all.) More recently (circa 1960), Abraham Maslow and Carl Rogers proposed a third faulty method for helping people called humanistic psychology. Humanistic psychology teaches that people are controlled by their values and choices. The goal of this approach is for people to discover and then achieve their own potential. In North America, this is the most popular faulty method for change. We see this message every day in many forms, from TV infomercials to the Internet: "The answer is within you. Find yourself. Love yourself. Help yourself. You have the answer. Pump it up, baby! Find it inside. You're OK. Be all that you can be." And on and on.
I began to wonder just how pervasive this concept was, so I logged on to Amazon.com, the number one Internet bookseller, and typed into their search engine the word self-help. There they were: 12,223 book titles on self-help. By contrast, there were 11,329 on God and 11,414 on marriage. Here are just three of the titles I found:
101 Ways to Transform Your Life
100 Ways to Motivate Yourself and Change Your Life Forever
31 Days to High Self-Esteem: How to Change Your Life so You Have Joy, Bliss, and Abundance
I suppose I understand why people who don't know any better might think that they have the power to change themselves. What troubles me, however, is to see people who claim to believe in the power of almighty God turning to pagan philosophies and ignoring the transforming ministry of the Holy Spirit, which is available to every one of us who comes to God and asks in faith.
The biggest problem with promoting self-esteem as the road to personal growth and fulfillment is that it doesn't work. I was watching Chicago TV news the other day and heard a statistical report on how the self-esteem movement has affected public education. The reporter announced that after spending multiplied millions of dollars and man-hours on building kids' self-esteem at school, "Self-esteem scores have never been higher and educational test scores have never been lower." Or, to put it another way, "The better I feel about myself, the worse I do."
Excerpted from I really want to change ... So, Help Me God by JAMES MacDONALD Copyright © 2000 by James MacDonald
Excerpted by permission. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Table of Contents
Foreword / 9
Acknowledgments / 11
An Invitation / 13
Introduction: How to Make the Most of This Book / 17
PART 1: The Preparation for Change
1. Take Out the Garbage / 25
2. Sign Me Up / 43
3. Let's Get Specific / 61
PART 2: The Process of Change
4. Step One: Repentance / 79
5. Step Two: Now I Can Choose / 99
6. I'm Dead to That / 119
7. Lord, I'm Yours / 135
PART 3: The Power to Change
8. The Power Source / 155
9. The Power of Faith / 175
10. The Power of Biblical Friendships / 197
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
What this reviewer needs to realize is that the 'alternative therapies' that he/she 'I'll say she for sake of brevity' is speaking of have done NO GOOD for her. Or else why would she still be searching for an answer from James McDonald's book? This is probably not what you want to hear, 'No Real Help', but YOU are the problem! Depression is a selfishness problem. Not only that, it's a lack of disciplined thinking problem. How do I know? Because I have had this problem all my life too! We all choose our thoughts. We can choose to think God's thoughts and be kept in peace, or we can choose to call Him a liar by disbelieving Him and think thoughts contrary to His word and be imprisoned in turmoil. Either way, we choose. 'No Real Help' I hope you see this and realize it's the truth. It will set you free.
I read your review concerning the book and the struggles that you shared. Unfortunately I have no words great words of wisdom, other than you too have victory in Jesus Christ. I am learning that it is up to me how willing I am to allow and let the WONDER WORKING OF JESUS INTO MY ME AND MY LIFE. I am deeply sorry for the emotional struggles that you have. And although I may not have the same struggles, we all have our emotional struggles with our selves and with our relationship with the Lord. I just want to say 'BE ENCOURAGED AND BE OF GOOD CHEER, FOR JESUS CHRIST HAS OVERCOME THE WORLD' GREATER IS HE THAT IS IN YOU, THAN HE THAT IS IN THIS WORLD. For there is power, wonder working power in the Blood of the Lamb.
If you are a Christian, or a non-Christian seeking God... if you are a set value Christian or a Christian whom has lost his/her inspiration for God somewhere along the line... Read this book and revive the Glory and Grace of God through your daily life!!! A book well worth reading!
I saw this book on the B&N shelf and, being like every other human being and having things about me that I want to change, I purchased it. It sat on my shelf for months before I finally opened it. I regret waiting so long. The author has done a marvelous job of presenting elementary information and reasoning for salvation without ignoring the mature Christian. He then progresses into why to change, on what and how to focus, and how to change it. His personal examples and real-life stories increase the credibility of his writing. He is a talented writer and I would like to hear him speak also. Most importantly, he does not focus on himself and his own opinions but presents the word of God (with quotes and references) and then supports scripture with evidence from experience and knowledge. A great book for an unbeliever, a new believer, a 'questioner,' or a mature Christian. Be prepared to take notes--there is a lot to learn and refresh with this book.
As a born-again Christian of over twenty years who is struggling with emotional issues, I found this book useless and stopped reading after the first couple of chapters. I have been struggling with the author¿s recommended methods of change for over twenty years and they have not allowed me to overcome my covert depression tendencies. To so cavalierly disregard other methods of help as he does in Chapter 1 does nothing to further along the process of helping those truly in need. What he is doing is telling a drowning person to swim harder, rather than throwing them a life preserver. I found the advice similar to that of a misguided individual who told a friend that their child died of cancer because they did not pray hard enough. Yes, I believe in God and Jesus Christ as my savior. However, I do not believe an individual unskilled in alternative therapies, as the author appears to be, should disregard meaningful help that can be used in addition to a solid belief in God and His tender mercies. Any one struggling with covert depression tendencies or trying to make sense of emotional distress will find the author¿s suggestions simplistic and a retread of what can be heard from the pulpit on Sunday.