MICHAEL ANTHONY BLOG
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Lubrication reduces friction and makes things move more easily. Your car needs it. I know this first-hand because the front wheel of my first car, a 1973 Plymouth Valiant, came completely off – right after I had been driving on the highway. Scary. I cringe when I think of what might have been if only I were on the highway a few minutes longer. You probably wouldn’t be reading this blog.
My car wheel came off because I didn’t keep it lubricated. But cars aren’t the only thing that need lubrication. Our lives need it, too. What is the “grease” of life – that one essential component that keeps us moving forward with God and with people? You may be surprised, but by the time we’re done, you’ll be convinced.
Life is relationships. Think about it. There is no area of life that is not in some way impacted by relationships, for better or worse. Even time we spend alone is impacted by what is happening between us and people, us and God. The quality of our relationships affects everything. When things are going well with God, things go better with people. And when things are going well with people and with God, all of life is wonderfully lubricated and things run smoothly. Haven’t you found this to be true?
Repentance is the “grease” of life. Without it, we don’t go anywhere with God – and we don’t go anywhere with people.
WHAT IS REPENTANCE?
Jesus’ first sermon began with these words: “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel” (Mark 1:15). Interestingly, the original language conveys continuous action, not a one-time event. It would be better translated as “repent and keep repenting and believe andkeep believing.” What a lesson! To “repent” means to continuously change your heart and mind to such a degree that behavior changes. Any simple study of repentance in the Bible will lead you to this same conclusion. It’s possible to change a behavior and not change an attitude of the heart or mind. But when change happens on the inside, at a heart and mind level, it makes its way to how we live.
“. . . repentance is what supernatural living is all about.”
WHAT PREVENTS REPENTANCE?In a word, repentance is prevented by pride. It’s the original sin, and we’re so very good at it. It’s our default mechanism, but that doesn’t make it right or good. That’s what makes it so deceptively devastating, so we must be on our guard against falling into what comes so naturally. Repentance, by contrast, is what supernatural living is all about.
Until repentance becomes a way of life (try being a Christ-follower without this), we are living out of character with our new identity, our new nature and our new direction as followers of “the way, the truth and the life” (John 14:6). Without the grease of repentance, life becomes an unnecessarily complicated uphill battle.
HOW DO WE REPENT?
Repentance requires honesty. We’ll never repent if we don’t acknowledge the truth. We need to be honest with God, ourselves and others. Jesus said “Everyone on the side of truth listens to me” (John 18:37, NIV). If you want a well-lubed life, a life that is easier, less stressful, more productive, more enjoyable and more God-honoring – a life that more positively impacts everyone you encounter and everything you do, repentance needs to become your new best friend. Without it, you’ll get . . . stuck. And, you’ll stay stuck until you add the grease of life, repentance.
Repentance happens when we deliberately recognize that it’s simply not good, wise, healthy or productive to go through life on autopilot. Repentance is agreeing with God about what He already knows. It’s a life of transparency before God and people. It requires apologizing and changing behavior to reflect the sorrow. 2 Corinthians 7:10 describes it perfectly: “For godly grief produces a repentance that leads to salvation without regret, whereas worldly grief produces death.”Repentance will set you free.
What about you? Could you use a little more lubrication in this journey of life? It’s all possible through the grease of life, repentance.
The National Week of Repentance is underway, this week.Lubricate your life with our free resources. They will help you, your family and your house of worship go deeper with God and further with people. We even offer tips on how to apologize.After all, repentance is the grease of life.
Last week, Janet and I were in Atlanta with our sons for private time with Dr. Ravi Zacharias. We have a profound respect for him and are exceedingly grateful for the time he took to be with us in the midst of his incredibly busy schedule. We wanted to spend time with him because we are modeling our lives and ministry around his integrity and intentionality. What’s amazing is that he wanted to spend time with us. He’s the kind of man I hope to be when I grow up. 🙂 I’ll blog about the deep impact of our time with him soon, but today I’m writing about something that’s very heavy on my heart: Why you cannot afford to not pray.
“I don’t want a life that is humanly possible, do you? What I really want is a life that is only possible through the grace, mercy and power of God.”
This morning I awoke, while it would still be dark for many hours, with the overwhelming sense that I have so much to do that it cannot humanly be accomplished. Despair overwhelmed me and quickly morphed into overpowering insomnia. The blessing of a God-sized vision is the curse of human limitation. But the curse is also a blessing, because it’s what drives us to God. Until we are fully engaged in a God-sized vision, we will always default to reliance upon everything but God. This must grieve God’s heart – but it must grip our hearts as well – to the point of making some fundamental changes.
God’s work can’t be done in human power. How easily we deceive ourselves, put a Jesus “sticker” on things and say “Look what God did!” Not so fast. Life is fast, yes. But a life that’s filled with dependence upon God is not an accident – and if we’re not careful, we’ll miss it.
“. . . up until this point I’ve depended far too much on my own power to accomplish what can only be done in the power of God.”
This morning I was overtaken with the complexities of what needs to happen in order to accomplish everything on the spinning plates I seem to be juggling while walking a tight-rope. As the morning skies were still black, a ray of hope broke through the clouded weight of my worries: I really need God. This is a realization that cannot be fabricated. At the end of the day, I don’t want a life that is humanly possible. What I really want is a life that is only possible through the grace, mercy and power of God. What about you? Don’t you want that kind of life, the kind of life that is truly dependent upon Jesus Christ?
“Thus says the LORD: “Cursed is the man who trusts in man and makes flesh his strength, whose heart turns away from the LORD.” – Jeremiah 17:5
Until we are out of our element, we’ll keep relying on our own strength. There’s nothing eternal, nothing epic, nothing God-honoring and nothing exhilerating about that kind of life. Boredom and distraction may be signs of losing dependence upon God.
I’m now at the point in life where things are happening so fast that I can’t afford not to pray. Don’t think I’m spiritual or godly because I wrote that. I’m not at all, and that’s the point. Another way to say it is that up until this point I’ve depended far too much on my own power to accomplish what can only be done in the power of God.
What is more important than prayer? And, what is prayer? When properly exercised, prayer is complete dependence upon, and intimacy with, God. What on earth is more important than these? If we are accomplishing things without enjoying God, without being genuinely dependent upon Him, then what on earth are we doing?
The National Week of Repentance is here. Don’t miss it. Download your free resources at RevivalMatters.com now, and get back to what it means to enjoy God and be dependent upon Jesus Christ. Your life and family – and our nation, are at a crossroads. Only genuine dependance upon God will get us through.
Since Sunday is the kick-off for The National Week of Repentance, I thought it might be helpful to take a moment to explore something vital: how to apologize. It’s something we all need to do, often and genuinely. The problem is, we often don’t know how. The truth is that we make it harder than it really is.
“It’s a lie to think we can get real with God and not be real with people.”
People don’t often stop to consider that repentance and reconciliation are siblings. Unless your sin is only against God (which is rare), it also affects people. When repentance is real, we often need to make things right with people, not just God. This involves apologizing, accepting apologies, forgiving and asking for forgiveness.
It’s a lie to think we can get real with God and not be real with people. Consider Jesus’ summary of life in Mark 12:30-31:
“You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength. The second (commandment) is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.”
We’ve got to learn how to genuinely apologize, accept apologies, forgive and accept forgiveness. Here’s how:
- HUMBLE YOURSELF, PRAY, SEEK GOD’S FACE AND TURN. This is where it all begins. If you read the Bible, God’s Word, and really humble yourself before Him, He will so convince and empower you to do what is right that the rest of what you are about to read and do will fall into place. Put first things first. Spend time with God, get His heart and mind on the matter, and He will enable you to do what is right.
- BE COURAGEOUS AND SINCERE. DO IT. The best way to apologize is to reflect on your sin, repent of it and then be honest. The more you get into the practice of being honest with God and honest with yourself, the easier it will be to become honest with people. And, you will find that people will begin to see your authenticity and respond in kind. (No, not every time. But you greatly increase the odds if you set the example).
- MAKE IT UNCONDITIONAL. Leave the consequences to God, not your imagination or the opinions of people. God knows when an apology is sincere and when it is not. Don’t apologize with preconditions. Your reward in apologizing is doing what is right before God and people, not because it will be recognized or applauded by people. If you have preconceived expectations and wait for people to approve or respond to you, you will set yourself up for discouragement. Just do what is right – without conditions – and trust God.
- DON’T JUST APOLOGIZE, DO SOMETHING. If you have gossiped, slandered, lied or stolen, you may very well need to do more than simply apologize to the person(s) immediately affected. You may need to go to others and seek forgiveness to make things right. There may be consequences to confessing to a lie or returning something you have stolen. God honors truth and honesty. Do what is right and trust God for the consequences. Many people get stuck in life for no other reason than not doing what they know, deep down, needs to be done.
- DON’T GET DISCOURAGED. Apologizing may be new for you. Congratulations! That is what repentance is. It’s all about turning over a new way of living. Others may not believe you at first. But as you walk with God you will develop a new reputation with people. Keep doing what is right, and don’t let human comments discourage you along the way.
- TRUST GOD ALL THE WAY. Remember this simple saying: “The fear of man lays a snare, but whoever trusts in the Lord is safe” (Proverbs 29:25). At the end of the day, you’ll either follow God or people. Follow God, and leave the consequences to Him. Someday, perhaps sooner than you think, you’ll be glad you did. In this life you’ll experience a freedom and joy that only comes from truly trusting God. And in the life to come, you’ll be rewarded even more.
HOW ABOUT YOU? Is there someone who needs to hear your sincere apology? Is there someone you need to forgive?
The National Week of Repentance is for you, your family and your house of worship. Take some time to visit RevivalMatters.com, the official site for the week, and take your walk with God to a deeper, higher place.
My doctor warned that if the powerful antibiotic didn’t work, I was to go directly to the Emergency Room. That was Monday. Forty-eight hours later, I could swear someone was extinguishing a hot cigarette on my leg. The infection, throbbing and pulsing, now affected my ability to walk, having weakened my quadricep. I drove myself to the ER, thankful I didn’t have my five-speed stick. The pain would have been too much for the frequency of alternating between the gas and clutch pedals. My faith would be tested. Not once, but twice – in very painful ways.
You want expertise when it comes to having someone take a knife to you. You want a knowledgable doctor and staff on hand. The man standing before me Wednesday night, after I spent two and a half hours in the waiting room, was a young physician’s assistant who had just begun his residency. In other words, he had little practice with needles, knives and wounds. No one had to tell me that. I found out for myself within twenty-four hours, when I had to return to the ER – to have the entire procedure redone.
None of this was on the week’s agenda. But it turned out to be the most meaningful thing that happened to me in a long, long time.
“What happened to me? I could trust God for the “big” thing, the “big” test, but how was I handling the little thing, by comparison? Not very well at all.”
The red and white wound would have to be lanced again. More deeply than the first time. Then, it would need to be thoroughly washed again and repacked with gauze – all before my watching eyes. I knew this would hurt because the memory of the previous night was still as fresh as the wound itself.
The localized anesthesia, delivered by a four-inch needle, would not work 100% because the body is an amazing machine. Wounds protect themselves from everything – including attempts to numb them. I would feel enough pain during the procedure to know exactly what was going on – even if I had decided to turn the other cheek. But this wound, like the sting of sin, needed to be cleaned out thoroughly – or else it would surely worsen. I had no choice but to comply.
“Faith is a fresh infusion we need every single day.”
I’m in my sixth year cancer free. I had some of the worst chemotherapy available, along with radiation. If given a choice, I’d choose what I went through this week over cancer without batting an eyelash. It’s a no-brainer. But last night and the night before, when I was being pierced and sliced in ER, my world was being rocked in a way that surprised me.
Life is a series of events where we learn the same things, again and again, in deeper and deeper ways. Each time, when we learn, we go deeper with God and deeper with people. My faith had carried me through cancer – and God had clearly been gracious to me. But where was my faith in the ER these past two nights? What happened to me? I could trust God for the “big” thing, the “big” test, but how was I handling the little thing, by comparison? Not very well at all.
Me of little faith. Going through a large crisis does not mean we will handle the “smaller” ones better. Each stands on its own. The hardships of life come to remind us of our true dependence upon God – and when we’ve begun to think we can do things without Him. Faith is a fresh infusion we need every single day.
“Apart from me you can do nothing” says Jesus (John 15:5). “Never will I leave you, never will I forsake you,” he promises (Hebrews 13:5). I think He means what He said. He always does.
What’s rocking your world? Ever had a faith crisis? Maybe you’re in one now. What is God trying to teach you, and how can you trust Him fully?
Mass hypnosis is an amazing phenomenon, and we all seem to be experiencing it right now. We Americans appear to be hypnotized with the notion that sympathy is a substitute for action. It is not – but the delusion is killing us from the inside out.
You need to step out from the crowd, shake off the hypnotic trance that has seduced so many, and become a leader at this key time in your life, family and nation. If you don’t, you may very well be swept away. It’s time to wake up – and take action.
Imagine a family whose house is engulfed in a raging inferno. Shocked, and wanting others to recognize their crisis, the family runs frantically throughout the neighborhood, shouting, “Our house is on fire! Our house is on fire! Come and see for yourself – our home has been overcome by monstrous flames!”
“YUP, THAT’S SOME FIRE!”
The family’s social media-savvy teen decides to spread the word on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter. Soon, hundreds of people are following her and liking, retweeting and sharing her posts. Everyone resoundingly agrees, “Yup, that is some fire!” The news goes viral and a crowd quickly gathers at their once cozy home, now so overcome with flames that no one can get within thirty yards because of the intense, overwhelming heat. What’s worse is that the flames, doing what flames do when unchecked, have now jumped onto nearby homes, engulfing them, too. What was once the problem of a single family has now become the problem of the entire neighborhood.
“. . . the best we seem to do is resort to social media to get others to agree with our observations. We think we are so astute. I can think of at least a half dozen words that would more aptly reflect our response.”
In all the shock of what they were witnessing, everyone forgot that when the fire began it was well within their ability to put it out. It could have been doused by a simple garden hose. Someone could have used the same smart phone which the media-savvy teen used to reach out by social media – to call the doggone fire department. But the mesmerizing spectacle of the flames and the understanding that a house fire is really, really bad, led everyone to sympathize when they should have – and could have – taken decisive action. Welcome to the United States of America – a collection of broken lives, families and houses of worship.
SYMPATHY DISGUISED AS ACTION
The simple truth is that our house is on fire – yet the best we seem able to do is resort to social media to get others to commiserate with our observations. Lately, I’ve heard of calls for a rally or two with motivational speakers (who, in the end, didn’t motivate anyone to the point of action). It would be humorous to believe this was the solution if only it weren’t so tragic.
Do we really think our calls to “action” are astute? They are only calls to sympathy, not action. I’m pretty sure “astute” is not the best word to describe our behavior. I can think of at least a half dozen words that more aptly reflect our responses to our national predicament so far: cowardly, weak, fearful, irresponsible, passive and . . . disconnected.
Come on, folks, our house is on fire. It’s time to call in the Ultimate Fire Department. Merely Tweeting, Facebooking and Instagramming about the fire is the easiest – and most insignificant thing we can do – if all it does is help others recognize the obvious. Sympathy is no substitute for action.
THE SOLUTION IS . . .
Until we begin to cry out to God – really cry out – nothing positive will change. There is biblical precedent to reach this conclusion. 2 Chronicles 7:13-14, often quoted but rarely understood, should be moving us beyond the point of sympathy to the point of action:
“When I shut up the heavens so that there is no rain, or command the locust to devour the land, or send pestilence among my people, if my people who are called by my name humble themselves, and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land.”
Yes, the above passage originally applied to the nation of Israel, but it’s moral truths are timeless, applying to any of God’s people when the hand of God seems to be against them.
Do you know what time it is? It’s time for a National Week of Repentance. What do you think? Learn more, here, and don’t just be sympathetic. Do something about it and spread the word.
Podcast: Sellout or Sold Out? A Fresh Look at the Parable of the Ten Minas and the Talent God Has Given YOU
God’s given you talent – it’s time you MAXIMIZE it. Ten people are each given the same amount of money to make something of their lives. What happens? Who succeeds, who fails – and why? Sellout or Sold Out? will inspire you to maximize your life for the glory of God. Click here to listen. It’s podcast 81 in our Life of Christpodcast series through the entire Gospel of Luke. It’s the Parable of the Ten Minas as you never saw it before.
It’s time to use your talent like never before – for the glory of God.
PS: Don’t forget to get involved in the upcoming National Week of Repentance. Learn more, here.
Have you sold out to something far less than God’s best?