MICHAEL ANTHONY BLOG
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I’m very grateful to be chosen as a guest writer for Patheos.com for the new movie Me Before You. The movie is a love story about a young couple – and the extraordinary challenges they face when things take an unexpected turn. What does it really mean to “live boldly” as the movie encourages? When is a live worth much – or not much at all? Here are my thoughts – which I’m sure will make you think about what it means to “live well” . . .
Have you seen “Me Before You”? What are your thoughts about when a life is no longer worth living? Who can make such decisions? What does it mean to “live boldly” and to “live well”?
How easy it is to diminish – in our minds – what we really have in Jesus Christ. The Bible says that in Christ are hidden “all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.” With the passing of time, you could be deceived into thinking there is wisdom and knowledge apart from Him. Many people are falling prey to “plausible arguments” that deceive them into thinking there is wisdom and knowledge apart from Jesus Christ. In so doing, many are ruining their lives – and they don’t even realize it.
Colossians 2:1-4 speaks to this:
Many people are in the process of ruining their lives – and they don’t even realize it while it is happening. I see this, especially, among young people who grow up in church. They come from “Christian” homes. They were taught the Bible. But somewhere along the way they did not understand that Christianity is not about memorizing Bible verses or being involved in a youth group or church functions. They were not taught about falling in love – and being in love – with Jesus Christ. Eventually, they begin to hear “plausible arguments” and they drift from God. Not quickly. This usually happens over a long time that becomes increasingly painful. Why painful? Because whenever we seek wisdom and knowledge apart from Christ – in whom all such things are embodied – we are seeking in the wrong place. Such searches are not only a waste of time, but also of life.
Remember Eve? She looked for wisdom and knowledge apart from God (Genesis 3). Adam followed suit. To this day, the whole world is paying a catastrophic price for his epic decision. The truth is, many people start off tasting and seeing that God is good – but they forget how good He really is. They wander. They search for what can only be found in Jesus Christ . . . and end up living a life that falls far short of what it could have been, and would have been, if Jesus were truly the center of their affections.
Be exceedingly on guard for “plausible arguments” that seem to offer knowledge and wisdom apart from Jesus Christ. Your caution should be marked with a daily diligence as if your life depends upon it. It does. You must take captive thoughts and attitudes, things you see and hear – everything must fall under the scrutiny of whether or not it promises to deliver wisdom and knowledge without Christ. Promises to the contrary are empty – but they are far more than this. They are devilish, deceptive and disastrous.
Have you been deluded into thinking there is wisdom and knowledge apart from Jesus Christ? Is there something or someone other than Jesus who is getting your affection these days? If so, it’s a clear sign that you have indeed been deluded. The remedy is found in returning to Christ – and in so doing, you get everything you really want and need.
MOST OF THE LESSONS I’VE LEARNED IN LIFE I’VE LEARNED THROUGH FAILURE. The profound truth is that we postpone our own success until we learn from our mistakes, sins and shortfalls. In fact, when you develop the habit of examining your failures, you accelerate and enhance your odds of succeeding. In order to do this, you have to learn to think counter-culturally – because our culture worships success without understanding the importance of failure.
Success requires that we learn to think deeply. This can be painful work when it comes to examining our own pitfalls. And, it’s exactly why so many don’t want to do it. In a culture where thinking deeply is a lost art (we are more often told what to think rather than how), you have to make a decision to swim up-stream if you really want to change. In the final analysis, change is exactly what success is about. It requires re-tooling, improving, refining . . . metamorphosis.
Eternal attentiveness is the price paid for real success. Deep thinking, introspection and personal evaluation have to be the new way of life – unless you don’t want to succeed. This is why embracing our failures, rather than running from them, ignoring them and pretending they didn’t happen in the first place, is one of the most foolish things you can do to undermine your own success.
“The unexamined life is not worth living,” said famous philosopher Socrates.[i] Another philosopher put it this way:
These words, penned by Paul in 2 Corinthians 13:5, help us understand the importance of constantly reflecting on our walks with God. Specifically, it’s not possible to walk with God until and unless we are walking with Jesus Christ. To have Jesus Christ within us, says Paul, is to have Jesus Christ leading us. In other words, true faith is lived from the inside-out.
The person who gets himself/herself into the perpetual practice of self-examination and testing, specifically in regard to obedience to Christ, is living an examined life. It’s the only life worth living. This is where all change begins – and it’s where all change deepens, broadens and becomes contagious.
There is nothing more contagious than a person who is truly walking with God. There are a lot of posers these days. You don’t want to be a poser. You want to be the genuine article. Remember that Scripture memorization does not mean a person is walking with Christ. Nor does the amount of time one spends in prayer or how one serves in church. If these were the measuring rods of walking with God, the Pharisees and Sadducees would have been prime candidates to pick up the mantle of Jesus. Alarmingly, Jesus did not choose one such man as an Apostle. We would do well to learn a lesson in Jesus’ selection: one can know the Bible – really know the Bible – and miss Jesus nonetheless. The Bible, without self-examination, will not change us. It is only when we do the hard work of self-examination and testing that we bring the Bible to bear against our sinful nature, bad habits, resistance to God and . . . failure.
Get into the practice of bringing the Bible to bear on all your failures. Ask yourself – often – if Christ is in you to such a degree that it’s not possible for others to miss Him when they find themselves in your presence. To be in the presence of a Christ-follower is to be in the presence of Christ. At least this is God’s intention. Is it ours?
I struggle with failure and I bet you do, too. HAVE YOU MADE THE MISTAKE OF VIEWING YOUR “FAILURES” AS ENEMIES RATHER ALLIES? HOW CAN SELF-EXAMINATION AND DEEP THINKING HELP YOU SUCCEED?
[i] This quote is attributed to Socrates, but not with absolute certainty.
Life is happening. Are you here while it’s unfolding? When you’re home, are you really home, or still at work? While at work, are you at home? When your children are talking to you, looking for attention and guidance, are you attentive, guiding? Is your spouse nurtured or neglected? Are you so adept at “multi-tasking” that you’ve lost the ability to be present in the present?
Many of us mistake distraction for living. We’ve developed the illusion of living, and lost the art of being there. I’m being honest – because this is one of my own struggles. I bet you can identify. When did we start thinking doing more meant living life better? I’m not sure it really matters if we understand when it all began. What matters is that we took the bait – and we’re missing out on life.
Recapture the lost are of being there. Here are some things I’m working on that may be helpful for you, too:
- Pay attention when people talk to you. Use eye contact. Stop what you are doing and pay attention.
- If you can’t give someone your full attention at the moment, simply explain you don’t have time at the moment, but you will next time.
- If you find that you have to resort to #2 repeatedly, you may be too busy, too distracted, too focused on things rather than people.
- Listen to, prioritize, spend time with and really be there with your spouse, making it obvious that nothing else on earth matters. Do this often, because your spouse is the most important person God has given you.
- Listen to, prioritize, spend time with and really be there with your children, making it obvious that nothing else on earth matters. Do this often, because your children are the most important people God has given you.
- Forgive people and move on. Stop being a fault-finder. If you don’t forgive, you won’t be able to be “here” in the present – because you’ll be stuck in the past. Forgive people the way you need to be forgiven and get on to the important things of life, like love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.
- Plan down time, or it will escape you. You have seven days in a week. One day should be a day of rest. Schedule it, guard it. Love it. If you do, it will even help the other six days be more productive. Try it for four weeks and see for yourself.
- Start and end your days in prayer, reading the Bible and making it your objective to put it into action each day. Ask God to help you. He will. Not sure where to begin? Start with the Gospels, observing how Jesus dealt with people, and follow in His footsteps.
I struggle with “being there” and I bet you do, too. I’m sure I will until my last breath. I need to be committed to recapturing the lost art of being there. Until our final moment, let’s do all we can to become the best version of ourselves possible. It think that’s a worthy endeavor, don’t you?
FEATURED BLOG ON PATHEOS.COM – SO MANY OF US HAVE IT WRONG TODAY. We think we are worthless heaps of rubbish and that God can only use perfect people. But Jesus would not die for junk – and there are no perfect people to use. The cross of Christ reminds us that while we are not worthy of Jesus’ sacrifice, we are worth a great, great deal to the Father. The cross reminds us that a perfect God deeply loves imperfect people.
Every single one of us is a sinner in the hands of a loving God. This discovery will spark a modern Great Awakening. And, brother, do we ever need it. What are we waiting for? Let the revival begin.
To love God is to resist evil. We’re very thankful to TownHall.com and Courtney O’Brien for publishing today’s interview with my comments about President Obama’s Constitutional over-reach in his Friday the 13th locker room decree. Click here to read the interview, and be sure and share your views below.
If you’d like to hear the message where I made those comments, and understand their context, simply click here. You may also be surprised to hear me rebuke Christians for being unloving, insensitive and hypocritical for our lack of compassion toward those who struggle with sexual identity issues.