MICHAEL ANTHONY BLOG
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ASH WEDNESDAY . . . “By the sweat of your brow you will eat your food until you return to the ground, since from it you were taken; for dust you are and to dust you will return.” — Genesis 3:19 (NIV)
REMEMBER: TODAY WILL TAKE ITS PLACE AS A TILE IN THE MOSAIC OF YOUR LIFE. LIFE IS NOT SO MUCH ABOUT HOW LONG WE LIVE, BUT ABOUT HOW WELL WE LIVE WHILE WE’RE ALIVE. God formed man from the dust of the earth, and when we pass from this life, our bodies return to dust — at least for a little while. Ash Wednesday is a good reminder that death is inescapable. The real question, in the meantime, is are you really living the life God envisioned for you? Are you in any way:
- Limiting yourself?
- Living in the past?
- Settling for mediocrity?
- Allowing yourself to live a defeated life, when you could be walking in victory?
Today is the day to remember eternity — it’s where you’ll spend most of your time. What’s holding you back from living a life entirely surrendered to God? Why limit yourself, and God’s best? Why postpone living the kind of life Jesus envisioned for you when He hung on the cross? Too often, we allow the opinions of people to influence us, when all along the only opinion that matters is that of God. After all, we will not appear before the judgment seat of our mother and father. (We won’t even appear before the judgement seat of our mother-in-law. Isn’t that a relief?) 🙂
Each of us will appear before God and give an accounting of our lives (2 Corinthians 5:10). Are you living in light of this eventuality? It’s the only one that really matters. You and I should be living amazing lives — lives that greatly glorify God, enrich the lives of other people, and are personally rewarding. When we live in light of eternity, daily, this becomes a growing reality with increasing momentum.
Sadly, many of us allow our lives to be influenced by forces and factors that do not matter in the eternal scheme of things. The good news is that you can stop allowing yourself to be influenced by the wrong things — if only you will let God change your thinking and your heart, courtesy of the Bible. It’s God’s remedy for what limits us.
Remember your Creator in the days of your youth, before the days of trouble come and the years approach when you will say, “I find no pleasure in them”– before the sun and the light and the moon and the stars grow dark, and the clouds return after the rain; when the keepers of the house tremble, and the strong men stoop, when the grinders cease because they are few, and those looking through the windows grow dim . . .” — Ecclesiastes 12:1-3 (NIV)
WHAT ABOUT YOU? YOU HAVE ONLY ONE LIFE, AND SOON IT WILL BE PAST. ONLY WHAT IS DONE IN THE POWER OF GOD WILL LAST. HAVE YOU BEEN INSPIRED BY ANYTHING YOU JUST READ? I’D LOVE TO HEAR FROM YOU . . .
3 Tolerance Tips for Surviving
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.
(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.
Where are you when it comes to speaking the truth in love? Do you need to repent?
Falling Away Underway
“If you love me, you will keep my commandments.”
– John 14:15
“Righteousness exalts a nation,
but sin is a reproach to any people.”
– Proverbs 14:34
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I’m convinced that a great falling away is underway – not among people who don’t claim to be Christians. It’s happening from within, among those who say they are followers of Jesus Christ. It’s happening all around us, with growing momentum – and people within the church are applauding. Is this the great “rebellion” spoken of in 2 Thessalonians, which precedes the return of Jesus Christ?
“Any attempt to ‘worship’ and ‘love’ God apart from truth is misdirected, mistaken, miserable. Attempts to “disciple” others apart from God’s truth, Jesus’ commandments and the idea of objective truth existing apart from humanity, are likewise.”
Glennon Doyle Melton spoke this past weekend at the “Belong” tour, which my wife, Janet, attended. The tour is from the same producers as the popular “Women of Faith.” Others have said that Doyle Melton is “best known for is her unapologetic commitment to telling the truth.” Two days after speaking at the Belong event, she boldly announced that she was “in love” with another woman. Never mind that she is still married to her husband, and that they separated less than three months ago. Yes, her husband cheated on her, repeatedly. But do two wrongs make a right? Whatever happened to being true to your own word, regardless of when others may break theirs? Whatever happened to marriage being a commitment before God, not merely one’s spouse? The sacredness of the marriage covenant has been abandoned by a society bent on a “me first” mentality.
To be clear, my primary concern is not that she embraced lesbianism, that she fell “in love” while still married, just months after separating. My primary concern is that she confused relativism for truth and self-love as the primary purpose in life – and that she is unabashedly encouraging others to do the same.
Here is what Doyle Melton wrote to her followers, days after speaking at the Belong event:
“My loves, here is the good news: You are allowed to think and feel WHATEVER YOU NEED OR WANT TO FEEL! . . . I want you to grow so comfortable in your own being, your own skin, your own knowing — that you become more interested in your own joy and freedom and integrity than in what others think about you. That you remember that you only live once, that this is not a dress rehearsal and so you must BE who you are. I want you to refuse to betray yourself. Not just for you. For ALL OF US.”
Wow. Thinking and feeling “whatever” we “need or want to feel” are the aim in life? She wants us to grow comfortable” so that we become more interested in “our own joy and freedom” – and “integrity”? On whose authority is she speaking? Who is she, God? And what happened to the “integrity” she speaks of that should be modeled in the covenant of marriage, which she is shattering by announcing a lesbian affair while still married? Where is the integrity in that? Is she really modeling an “unapologetic commitment to telling the truth” or has she, like an increasing number of people, confused relativistic, emotional, self-serving ideology with truth? I think she has. Big time. And a great many people are drinking the Kool-Aid. Moreover, they are encouraging others to do the same, all along calling themselves Christ “followers.”
Yes, we only live once – but how we live matters for all eternity. Truth is eternal, and whether or not we align our lives with the Truth-Giver matters. A lot. It matters in this life and in the life to come.
“Sin is so self-deceptive that it is absolutely possible to reject absolute truth – God’s truth – and be convinced you are walking in “joy and freedom” when you are doing nothing of the sort. Yes, it may feel great – but that feeling may be a reflection of a seared conscience, the result of selfishly surrendering to sin, not the Savior from sin.”
Doyle Melton and her followers have confused relativism and self-desire for truth. By her relativistic, self-centered reasoning, one can justify nearly any action as appropriate if one’s personal joy and freedom are the objectives in life. It’s all about being “comfortable” and becoming “more interested in your own joy and freedom” than it is with loving God and honoring Him in obedience. The big lie: it is possible to be free and maximize one’s joy apart from loving surrender to God. That, my friends, is a massive lie many are embracing these days. Reject it with all that is in you. To do so is to love God. To not is to hate him.
Jesus said, “You will know the truth, and the truth will set you free” (John 8:32). Real freedom is found when we embrace God’s truth, not the relativistic, self-serving “truth” an increasing number of people are today embracing. In fact, when we reject God’s truth, we don’t at all find freedom. We find the exact opposite – even if we think otherwise. Sin is so self-deceptive that it is absolutely possible to reject absolute truth and be convinced you are walking in “joy and freedom” when you are doing nothing of the sort. Yes, it may feel great – but that feeling may be a reflection of a seared conscience, the result of selfishly surrendering to sin, not the Savior from sin. Consider this:
“Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the dishonoring of their bodies among themselves, because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever! Amen. For this reason God gave them up to dishonorable passions. For their women exchanged natural relations for those that are contrary to nature; and the men likewise gave up natural relations with women and were consumed with passion for one another, men committing shameless acts with men and receiving in themselves the due penalty for their error. And since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them up to a debased mind to do what ought not to be done” (Romans 1:24-28)
TIME TO ARISE, HUMBLY, COURAGEOUSLY
I am a fallen man, speaking to fallen people. I am no better than Balaam’s ass (Numbers 22, KJV language). In fact, I have lived more like an ass than my beautiful LORD for most of my life. But I cannot, as a recovering hypocrite and sinner, remain silent when such silence would result in others embracing hypocrisy and sin as a way of life in the name of love. Neither can you if you are a Christ-follower. Especially when God IS love, truth and holiness. He is all, not some, of these. It is your job, as a Christian – a real Christ follower – to speak the truth in love, and to remain true to God as you help others discover the beauty in His truth and love.
“The idea that a nation can be exalted for righteousness, or brought down for its absence, clarifies that there are standards of righteousness and sin that do not arise from mere mortals, but from God.”
To compromise on divine truth is, in the end, to turn your back on God. It is to not love people at all, but to actually have blatant disregard for their well-being. It is to derail them. It is to strip them of all the potential they would realize if only they were to embrace the God of truth and love. It would be a decision to not love God, but to oppose Him.
TRUE LOVE EMBRACES GOD’S TRUTH
Jesus calls us to love people – but to do it without compromising on the truth. That would be unloving toward God. Wouldn’t that be tragically ironic?
I want to clarify that my disagreement with Doyle Melton, and her followers, is done with respect for their opinion, and with love. This love, however, does not mean I must condone behavior. I can love and respect them with the understanding that I cannot endorse their twist on what God says must not be twisted. If I did, I would be unloving toward God – and you would be, too if you followed in Doyle Melton’s footsteps. I encourage you to learn how to speak the truth in love, and to do it with humble courage, because a great falling away is underway.
WHICH GOD, WHOSE TERMS?
“But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship him. God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.” – John 4:23,24
Any attempt to “worship” and “love” God apart from truth is misdirected, mistaken, miserable. Attempts to “disciple” others apart from God’s truth, Jesus’ commandments, and the idea of objective truth existing apart from humanity, are likewise.
The very notion of truth is that there are untruths, competing ideologies that cannot simultaneously be true. The idea that a nation can be exalted for righteousness, or brought down for its absence, clarifies that there are standards of righteousness and sin that do not arise from mere mortals, but from God. But we are a society – comprised of many who profess to know Christ – that is forgetting this at an alarming rate.
2 Thessalonians 2:1-7 says:
“Now concerning the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our being gathered together to him, we ask you, brothers, not to be quickly shaken in mind or alarmed, either by a spirit or a spoken word, or a letter seeming to be from us, to the effect that the day of the Lord has come. Let no one deceive you in any way. For that day will not come, unless the rebellion comes first, and the man of lawlessness is revealed, the son of destruction, who opposes and exalts himself against every so-called god or object of worship, so that he takes his seat in the temple of God, proclaiming himself to be God. Do you not remember that when I was still with you I told you these things? And you know what is restraining him now so that he may be revealed in his time. For the mystery of lawlessness is already at work. Only he who now restrains it will do so until he is out of the way.”
IS THIS THE “REBELLION”?
Is what we are seeing THE “rebellion” spoken of in 2 Thessalonians 2:1-7? I have no idea, and neither do you. What we’re witnessing may be nothing compared to what is on the horizon. The point, however, is that objective, absolute truth exists – and many are denying it because they are denying its Author, the Living and True God.
Is it possible to love Jesus without obeying Him? Is it possible to love Jesus if we don’t do it on His terms? Is it possible to help others love Him if we withhold the truth from them?
Because we now live in a society that has mistaken relativism for truth, and tolerance for love, it’s important that I take the guess work out of these questions. The answer to all three is “No.” It is not possible to love Jesus if we ignore His commandments. No, it is not possible to help others love Him if we don’t tell them what He seeks, and let Him find such things in our own lives.
 Jennifer Gerson Uffalussy, “Author Glennon Doylle Melton Announces New Love Abby Wambach in Inpsiring Blog Post,” https://www.yahoo.com/style/author-glennon-doyle-melton-announces-new-love-abby-wambach-in-inspiring-blog-post-174907562.html
*Bible verses courtesy of the English Standard Version (ESV).