MICHAEL ANTHONY BLOG
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a Thick-Skinned Holiday Season
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- We’ve all seen the news stories – and the tweets that have prompted them. President-elect Donald Trump, a little more than a month from assuming the mantle of Leader of the Free World, taking a break from assembling a Cabinet and getting up to speed on the state of global affairs by calling out a critic as “terrible” and “dumb” or railing against Saturday Night Live for its parodies of him.
- The book on Trump in the wake of these Twitter rants is that he’s got a thin skin – hard to argue with when you consider SNL has been lampooning presidents since Nixon – and never before has once been goaded into publicly lambasting the series for it.
- But the president-elect’s troubles in holding his tongue – and his keyboard – when criticized can actually be instructive to all of us this holiday season. Alec Baldwin may not be launching into an unflattering impersonation of us at the dinner table, but the friends and relatives we will be sharing turkey and mistletoe with can give us a bad case of what I call “epidermis penetratus” – the ability to get underneath our skin.
Prophet, Priest & King
Part 1: Prophet
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“Jesus: Prophet of Prophets”
Catch my podcast, “Prophet, Priest and King, Part 1” tomorrow, right here . . .
There is so much wrapped up in the story of Christmas that it would take a lifetime to tell, and then some. If you’re like me, you need a Christmas “reset” to help you appreciate this season in fresh ways. What better way to do that than rediscover the identity of Jesus? I decided to study the Word for how Jesus is our Prophet, Priest and King, and share my studies with my readers. This is Part 1, exploring how Jesus is the Prophet of prophets.
There are three (3) characteristics that any true prophet must display, and Jesus Christ has them all. They are as follows:
1. A TRUE PROPHET MUST BE A FORTHTELLER. A forthteller is someone who knows and proclaims divine truth. Jesus did this repeatedly. A look through chapters 5-7 of Matthew’s Gospel will help you appreciate the forthtelling ministry of our Lord, rediscovering his uncanny, unparalleled ability to teach divine truth.
2. A TRUE PROPHET IS A FORETELLER. A foreteller is someone who predicts the future, and Jesus did this repeatedly. John 13:13-19 records Jesus’ foreknowledge of Judas’ betrayal, and Matthew 24 and 25 display some of the most profound predictions of future events ever told. The ability to fore-tell the future was a cornerstone of Jesus’ ministry, and helps us appreciate His unique role as a prophet.
3. A TRUE PROPHET PERFORMS MIRACULOUS SIGNS AND WONDERS. No mere mortal could teach as Jesus taught, predict the future as He did, or perform miracles at will, as Jesus did. A look through the Gospels helps us understand that miracles were a hallmark of Jesus’ life and ministry. Take a look, for instance, at chapters 5-8 of John’s Gospel and you’ll see just a few.
THE BIG DEAL IS REALLY BIG
It’s important to understand that Jesus wasn’t just a prophet. He was the Prophet of prophets. In Deuteronomy 18:15, Moses predicted that the LORD would send a prophet like him who the Jewish people were to follow:
“The LORD your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among you, from your brothers — it is to him you shall listen . . .” (1)
But that’s not all:
“But the prophet who presumes to speak a word in my name that I have not commanded him to speak, or who speaks in the name of other gods, that same prophet shall die.”
The test of a prophet was (and is) 100% accuracy. Failure, even once, would merit the death penalty. If someone was going to say “God says this,” the next words that came out of their mouth needed to be genuinely from God.
People who want to exercise prophetic gifting today need to understand that the test of a true prophet was never 99.9% accuracy. A true prophet had to be accurate 100% of the time, or the people were commanded to put him/her to death. Why? Because using the Name of the Almighty was no small thing (nor is it a small thing today).
Today, we have such a lax attitude toward the Name of God. For many, the death penalty seems so severe. What we don’t realize, however, is how severely devilish it is to misuse the Name of the LORD, to attribute something false to the One Who cannot lie.
We would do well in Pentecostal and Charismatic circles to rediscover the need to protect the Name of God in alleged “prophecies” so that His Name is not, in the end, profaned. (To be clear, I’m not advocating the death penalty. I’m advocating the rediscovery of using God’s Name in with the utmost respect).
God the Father spoke through Moses to predict the coming of the Ultimate Prophet, Jesus of Nazareth. He demonstrated a 100% track record of reliability, making Him a sure bet for personal deliverance from any and every sin – and direction for all of life – if only we call out to Him.
In Acts 3:22-26, we see the Apostle Peter affirming the view that Jesus was/is the One spoken of in Deuteronomy 18:15:
“Moses said, ‘The Lord God will raise up for you a prophet like me from your brothers. You shall listen to him in whatever he tells you. And it shall be that every soul who does not listen to that prophet shall be destroyed from the people.’ God, having raised up his servant, sent him to you first, to bless you by turning every one of you from your wickedness.”
The Apostles, those closest to Jesus and the ones entrusted with carrying His torch, understood Him to be the fulfillment of Moses’ prophecy. Are we, more than 2,000 years removed from that time, better suited to question their conclusion? Hardly.
PROPHET OF PROPHETS
Hebrews 1:1-2 helps us understand that Jesus wasn’t just a prophet. He was the Ultimate Prophet:
“Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world.” (2)
One of the biggest differences between Islam, Mormonism and orthodox, biblical Christianity is that there is no prophet after the Prophet, Jesus. It would be so anticlimactic to have someone come, in “these last days,” who is not the “Son,” who is not the “heir of all things,” and through whom the universe was not created. The whole point of Hebrews 1:1-2 – and the entire Bible – is to present Jesus unique among all other mortals, the immortal Himself who took on flesh and sought out people just like you and me.
The story of Advent is, in part, that God sent His Son as the Ultimate Prophet, so that by faith in Him, each of us could profit by having all our sins forgiven. And, because Jesus has a 100% reliability track record, you can entrust your past, present and future with Him.
Why not accept the gifts of forgiveness, wisdom, comfort and peace that the Father offers you through His Son, Jesus Christ?
In Part 2, I’ll be sharing about how Jesus is the Priest of priests. Y’all come back now, you hear?
Do you understand that Jesus is the Prophet of prophets, unique from anyone who ever lived – or will live? Has what I’ve written helped you appreciate Who He is? How?
1. All Bible verses are from the English Standard Version (ESV).
2. Bold and italics are added for emphasis.
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There is so much wrapped up in the story of Advent that it would take a life-time to even begin to appreciate. So, I’ve decided to do a personal study on Jesus being our Prophet, Priest and King, and share what I’m learning here, in my blog. My hope is that it will help us slow down and appreciate what Christmas is all about.
Tomorrow morning I’ll publish part 1, dealing with Jesus as the ultimate Prophet of prophets, and I hope it will help you have a meaningful Christmas season, rediscovering the amazing gift the Father gave us with His Son . . .
(Recipe for Success)
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We Christians in America need a refresher on what it means to speak the truth in love. Equal parts of truth and love must be applied in all areas of life if we expect to enjoy God’s recipe for success. It’s what I’m calling a “successipe.”
Truth and love must always accompany each other. They are sisters, part of the same family. Consider Ephesians 4:14-15 (NIV):
“Then we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of people in their deceitful scheming. Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of him who is the head, that is, Christ.”
APOLOGY NOT NECESSARY
Stop apologizing for Jesus. He calls us to follow Him and His teachings – and to teach others, without apology. This is the “Great Commission” found in Matthew 28:19,20. Why are we behaving as if it weren’t so great after all?
Relativism has ravished the church. We’ve stopped speaking the truth because we’re afraid of being rejected. Our personal comfort and convenience have replaced the taking up of our cross and following the biblical Jesus. We have forgotten that He says,
“Whoever acknowledges me before others, I will also acknowledge before my Father in heaven. But whoever disowns me before others, I will disown before my Father in heaven” (Matthew 10:32-33, NIV)
One of the ways we deny Jesus is by refusing to speak His timeless word. But it all begins by our refusal to first live it. This, our great “omission,” has neutered modern-day Christianity. We are a far cry from the magnificent, divine glory of our faith seen in the Book of Acts – and throughout the Bible.
We have forgotten that the way of Jesus is narrow. Get over it and get on with it. The great need of the day is for the Great Commission to be lived and taught – without apology or compromise. Truth still matters, because Jesus is still “the way, the truth and the life” and no one comes to the Father apart from Him (John 14:6).
We must stop apologizing for the truth. Live it. Speak it. Teach it to others. Doing so is the most loving thing you and I can do, because Jesus still says “You will know the truth and the truth will set you free” (John 8:32).
The most hateful thing you can do to yourself – and to others – is to withhold or reject the truth. Tolerance to falsehood is not love at all, it is the most diabolical form of hatred because it results in bondage, not freedom.
LOVE LETTERS SPEAK TRUTH
We must rediscover that nearly all of the epistles in the New Testament were written to people facing particular cultural, social, theological, and moral issues, about which, God speaks. In other words, God cares about every part of our lives – and speaks to it, too. We have, however, forgotten this.
A look at the modern pulpit, Sunday school class, the modern Bible college, and the modern seminary, reveals a very different approach. We are preaching, teaching – and living – as if God’s word needs to be sanitized. As if it exists in a vacuum. No, God’s word needs to be applied as the healing balm to the festering wounds that relativism, reverse intolerance and hatred have inflicted. People are bully God – and we Christians are, sadly, okay with it.
“But we don’t understand the modern application: God doesn’t need numbers to change the world. He needs unwavering dedication. In a word: worship.”
Our retooled “gospel” has no power. The apostle Paul said “For I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God that brings salvation to everyone who believes” (Romans 1:16). Today, we are ashamed – and powerless – when boldness and power are exactly what we all need.
If we’re not willing to bring the Bible to bear on the particular issues of the day by speaking the truth, then salvation itself is not possible. Freedom will escape us all.
FEAR OR FAITH?
We’re afraid to speak the truth because church leaders are afraid of losing their church’s nonprofit status. We’re afraid of losing members, and it all goes to prove that we have confused church growth and popularity with discipleship and loyalty to the Jesus we say we’re following.
This is where millennials may want to jump up and shout with affirmation – but we need much more than mere shouting. We need genuine spiritual awakening. We need a movement of repentance. This is the epicenter of every true revival, and where real hope and change begin.
We love the stories in the Bible of the heroes of our faith. We love the story of Gideon, where God had to pair down the size of his army. But we don’t understand the modern application: God doesn’t need numbers to change the world. He needs unwavering dedication. In a word: worship. But our understanding of “worship,” too, has been hijacked, mistaken nowadays for mere musical arrangements rather than the rearranging of our entire lives for God’s unfiltered, unhindered, unapologetic glory.
THAT LOVE THING
The second thing we need to do love people as we speak God’s truths. This does not mean we are to appear loving. It means we are to genuinely love people.
We should be doing all that we can to teach people God’s unadulterated, absolute truths, so that people everywhere can enjoy God here, now, and forever. Remember, truth sets people free. Falsehood sets them up for failure.