MICHAEL ANTHONY BLOG
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To kick off the new year, we have a brand new message to help you go deeper and higher with God – and succeed in every area of life. It’s called 4 Life ALTARing Questions. There are four questions you can ask that will absolutely transform everything. They will positively, radically change everything. This message is designed to help you ask the right questions at the beginning of the year, so that when it’s over, it will have been eternally significant for you, your family and your church.
There are 4 life ALTARing questions you need to start asking all the time. Do you know what they are? You will after you listen to this life ALTARring message. And, so will someone else – if you share this message with them.
To help spread the word, share this message onyour Facebook page or Twitter account.
I loved giving this message at the church where I serve, Grace Fellowship. If you live near or in York, Pa, make sure you join us this Sunday.
Keep Looking UP. There’s nowhere else worth looking!
SHUNNING GOD & BANNING BUTTER KNIVES:
THE ROOT DETERMINES THE FRUIT
The hair on the back of your neck stands up. You’re sitting in a nice restaurant on Friday night with friends and family, laughing, enjoying a great time together. It’s been a long, difficult week, and you’ve looked forward to this evening for days. As you unwind, enjoying some of the most important people in your life, a man and a woman walk in. There is nothing overtly suspicious about them, but your “spider sense” kicks in, telling you something is wrong. Rationalizing your senses, you regain composure and mentally rejoin your party – until everything unravels. Your hunch was right. The suspicious man pulls out a large, stainless steel butter knife, approaches an unsuspecting diner and takes the diner’s life. The suspicious woman follows, pulling out her own butter knife and takes out another diner. In an instant the once happy scene turns into one of carnage, as one-by-one, the butter knife wielding couple go from table to table, repeating their terror. It’s obvious that if you do nothing, your fate – and the fate of your friends and family – will be the same. What do you do?
“A huge movement is underway to ban God and faith. We have been attacking God – and we are surprised at the rise of evil? We should not be shunning God. We should be flocking to Him.”
There’s a great deal of talk about new gun legislation and gun confiscation. Some people should not have guns – but some people absolutely should. No doubt, we could use a more detailed look at some of the loop holes on gun laws. But there are also a great deal of loopy ideas about gun laws and gun confiscation that miss the point entirely. Cain killed Abel – and no mention of a gun is found anywhere in that account(Genesis 4). People who want to kill people will find ways to kill people. What we need to do is promote love so that it overcomes hate. The best way to do this is to focus on the cause of violence, not the symptoms. History teaches us that the cause of evil is the human heart.
“Murder begins in the heart – and the best way to deal with the heart is to get God involved.But we keep making it clear that we don’t want anything to do with Him. Ironically, we’re getting what we want.”
So, what would YOU do in the above scenario?
FIRST, let’s deal with the obvious obstacle: it’s hard to believe that a butter knife would be the cause of such terror. (It’s hard to believe a butter knife could be the cause of such terror). You’re right. Truth is, butter knives are not the real problem. This is proven by the fact that they are issued as standard dining hardware for diners around the world, and the overwhelming majority of people know how to handle a butter knife. This is because they are law-abiding, level-headed people who simply want to get down to the brass tacks of conversation and dining. Is the butter knife really the problem?
SECOND, you could close your eyes and recite “serenity now” over and over again. You could try to take a trip to your “happy place,” but that won’t transform the current scene into a happy place. People other than you are being taken out. Closing your eyes and turning your head won’t help any of the victims. If you really care about other people you will immediately think about their lives, not just your own. Closing your eyes would be irresponsible and completely selfish. If you don’t care about your fellow diners in this scenario, you should be ashamed of yourself. And, if I can appeal to our selfish motives, that butter knife wielding couple will eventually make their way to your table, and you will be next.
THIRD, you could devote your life to anti-butter knife legislation, butter knife confiscation and the demonization of butter knives. You could also devote yourself to legislation banning martial arts, boxing, wrestling, archery and more. But would doing so address the heart of the matter – which is the human heart? And, will your philanthropic plan do anything to change the urgent, pressing scene you and fellow diners now face?
Suppose, in a perfect world, you succeeded in banning the purchase, manufacture and possession of all butter knives. This would make you feel some sense of satisfaction, for a while – but would it keep people from getting butter knives illegally? And, suppose people intent on hurting others simply shift their methodology and begin using forks to take out innocent lives. Are you then going to shift your focus to the banning of forks, too?
Where does it stop? Evil is an exceptionally creative force. We kill people every day, not with butter knives, but with the weapon of our words – and even thoughts. Jesus said, “If a man even looks with lust at a woman, he has committed adultery with her in his heart” (Matthew 5:27-28). The heart, teaches Jesus, is the real weapon. And this is precisely the point.
FOURTH, you will do what you surely won’t enjoy doing, but you will do it for the sake of others, not merely for yourself. Given the painful choice between allowing overtly evil people to harm those who are innocent, you will intervene – with your own butter knife. But then you realize that this is impossible – because you pushed for the ban on butter knives and succeeded. Instead, you reach for your fork – until you recall that you were successful in banning forks, too. In your frantic quest to protect the innocent, and to fend for your own life, too, you reach for the bread, realizing it’s still legal and widely available. But the slices of french bread are no match against the illegally obtained butter knife that came against the other diners and is now coming against you. If you had focused on the heart of the matter, which is the human heart, you might have found a butter knife in the moment you really needed one. And, you may have even reduced the instances of people seeking to obtain butter knives and forks illegally.
Here’s the point, my friends:we need a massiveand thorough shift in where we are placing our attention and efforts. While we keep de-emphasizing the importance of God and faith, we are experiencing a rapid rise in the instances of evil. Why? Because we are fixating on the fruit and not the root. We are focusing on and attacking the wrong thing. Murder begins in the heart – and the best way to deal with the heart is to get God involved. But we keep making it clear that we don’t want anything to do with Him. Ironically, we’re getting what we want.
A huge movement is underway to ban God and faith. We have been attacking God – and we are surprised at the rise of evil? Come on, people, this should be obvious. Our problem is that we are fighting God when we should be running toward Him and promoting Him like never before. Come on, people, the problem should be obvious. We should not be shunning God. We should be flocking to Him.
All fruit comes from the root, and the root issue is the human heart. Banning and demonizing butter knives is to miss the point, entirely, at a time when we really can’t afford to miss the point at all. Is a hand gun merely an offensive weapon? And suppose, we banned all handguns, rifles and ammunition everywhere. Would that address our real issue? Remember, Cain killed Abel with his heart and hands. Cain had a human problem because he had a God problem. The same is true of us.
WHAT DO YOU THINK? Are guns our real problem? As we see growing hostility against God, Christianity, the Bible and nearly all public expressions of faith, is it a coincidence that society is becoming increasingly angry, hateful and violent? Or, could it be, that the heart has always been – and will always be – our greatest adversary? Could it be that the real need of the hour is actually a return to God – or perhaps a turning to God for the very first time – so that we really get to the heart of the matter?
Recent events in San Bernadino and Paris have our heads spinning. They also have kicked the “spin machine” into high gear. Emotions are raw, loud and proud. A good number of people are offering what they claim the Bible says is THE stance on guns, ammo, owning firearms, carrying and potentially using them. Many are offering what they insist is the ONLY position every Christian should have about guns and ammo in these turbulent times. Some propose stricter gun laws and even confiscation, while others advocate not only owning firearms, but also carrying them at will, being ready to respond should a situation merit the use of force. Who is right and who is wrong? What does the Bible say about guns, ammo and carrying a firearm? What is a Christian to do – especially in the midst of these crazy, increasingly violent times? And, what does the Bible say about the Second Amendment to the United States Constitution? Moreover, does God even care about the Second Amendment?
The truth is, none of the extremist views circulating about guns, ammo, carrying firearms, or the Second Amendment, have overtly biblical support.All of us need to stop hiding behind our Bibles in the thick of the arguments. We need to stop being pompous proponents of our views in the name of God. It drives me batty (and perhaps it drives you batty, too), when I see liberal and conservative Christians blasting each other, speaking in condescending, arrogant ways toward each other. We are embarrassing ourselves – and moreover, we are embarrassing the Jesus we all say we’re representing.
Each side claims their views stem from a “love” for others and that they are “concerned” for the well-being of everyone – but in the process they often slam, slander and shame the other side. The manner of our talk often betrays the claims of love. If we have to remind each other that we love each other, it’s a pretty good indication that we don’t really love each other.
A Few Things to Bear In Mind As We Debate the Right (Or Lack of a Right) to Keep and Bear Arms:
- Just because there is not overt biblical teaching about gun ownership and gun usage doesn’t mean the Bible is silent on the matter. When the Bible is silent, common sense and wisdom are imperative – and biblical principles are to be followed. What we need is a LOT of common sense and wisdom, not smart-aleck quips that drive up Follows and Likes on our social media platforms. Under scrutiny, extremist views about guns aren’t biblical – at all. They are filled with emotion, personal bias, and a good measure of misunderstanding and stereotyping that all converge for a perfect blend of . . . confusion. This only ends up exacerbating an already blazing debate.The heart of the matter is not a bullet or a firearm. The heart of the issue in the gun debate is . . . the human heart. There are biblical principles and examples to guide us in thisdiscussion. God is the author of common sense and the very embodiment of wisdom. To reject these is completely contrary to our being created in the image of God (Genesis 1:27). Those who follow God – in humility – will demonstrate both common sense and wisdom. And, they will do so without slamming, slandering and shaming opponents.
- There are significant, life-and-death lessons from history we should be investigating and revisiting – with eyes and minds wide-open. But it seems that today we are more prone to forget history. We are not letting history teach us – and those who forget history are bound to repeat her errors. Are we paying attention to the lessons of history, or pretending we live an an altruistic, fantasy world that exists in movies, novels and poetry? Lessons from history are lessons for life. Think long and hard about who is going to make the decisions about gun ownership. Who will determine who owns guns, how many guns can be owned and under what circumstances – if at all? What happens if the decision-makers, while beginning with noble motives, go astray? What if we find out down the road that their preliminary, persuasive talk about love and peace was actually a ruse to gain control and obliterate all opposition? It wouldn’t be the first time this has happened. In fact, it happens all the time.
- We can – and should – have courageous, healthy, humble, common sense, wisdom-filled debates about guns and ammo at this key time in world history. But if the debate keeps raging as it has begun, we’ll only fan the flames of fear, hatred and division – none of which are productive, God-honoring or reflective of what it means to be a Christ-follower, or anyone else for that matter.
- Understand that your conclusion about guns, whether or not a person can own and/or carry a firearm, and who makes these decisions for the masses, may one day directly affect your own life and perhaps the lives of people you know and love. This is no place to be cute, arrogant or stupid. Your participation in the debate must be marked by tremendous humility, reverence for God and reverence for the life He created. It must be marked by a clear understanding of history and the heart of humanity. To do otherwise would betray the very reason we’re supposed to be having the gun debate in the first place – out of love for God and love for each another. Without these, we’re already on the wrong road.
For the rest of this week I’ll be blogging about what the Bible says about guns, ammo and the potential use of firearms. I’ll be blogging about the Christian response in an increasingly violent world. You may be surprised, irked, upset and comforted. But by the time we’re done, you may breathe a little easier. You may even be converted, for the best.
What do you think about guns, ammo and owning firearms? What about their use? What’s a Christian to do? Who should make the decisions? Who will hold the decision-makers accountable – and how?
My son was caught high up in a tree today. I mean really caught. Up HIGH. He didn’t plan for this. In fact, he let the allure of the tree cloud his judgment, so he kept climbing and climbing, higher and higher. He was so enamored that he forgot something pretty important: he’s afraid of heights. Guess who had to go and rescue him? You guessed it. And, guess who else is afraid of heights? Yup, you’re batting 1,000 today. I’m scared to death of heights. To live your best life, you’ve got to get out of your comfort zone. And, one of the surest ways to do that is to help someone who’s out of theirs.
Life happens to us – not the life we planned, but the life that simply . . . happens. Lots of people are afraid, and find themselves in situations they never dreamed of. They need to be rescued – by other people who are similarly afraid, inexperienced and not quite sure what to do. You know what I’ve found that I bet resonates with you? We never get out of our comfort zones when we focus on ourselves. I’d have never climbed the imposing tree my son was in – until I realized he was in trouble.
Trouble has a way of stretching, maturing and strengthening us – unless, of course, we avoid it at all costs. That’s no way to live your best life.Adversity, not comfort and convenience, is the way we really grow. It’s time to live your best life. Not tomorrow, but right now. Get out of your comfort zone. Until you do, you’re wasting more than your time. You’re wasting your life.
Have you been protecting yourself from the very things that could take your life to the next level? What can you do to get out of your comfort zone, help someone, and grow?
A mere generation ago, seventy-six years to be exact, the world faced a series of crises of biblical proportions. It was what came to be known as World War II, a dangerously dark time in human history. Were it not for the courage of millions of men and women, and the prevailing sense of responsibility embraced by so many, we’d all be speaking German, Italian or Japanese. Far more than the issue of mere language, fascism, “a governmental system led by a dictator having complete power, forcibly suppressing opposition and criticism,” nearly won the day. The more things change, the more they stay the same. Today, we’re facing a series of crises equally as epic – but in a very real way, things are very, very different. Complacency reigns. Courage and responsibility have gone the way of the Dodo Bird. One of my good friends recently shared For Want of a Nail with me, and I’d like to share it with you:
“For the want of a nail the shoe was lost, For the want of a shoe the horse was lost, For the want of a horse the rider was lost, For the want of a rider the battle was lost, For the want of a battle the kingdom was lost, And all for the want of a horseshoe-nail.”
Exactly. It amazes me how so many of us Christians are more enamored with what I refer to as “the Evangelical escape clause,” the “Rapture,” than the God we say we’re waiting for. In fact, we’ve become so heavenly minded, we’re of little earthly good. Yes, I believe in the rapture – but at the end of the day, it’s irrelevant to me when it comes to how I live for Christ. I think it should be the same for you, too. In fact, if we don’t all begin to stop using the “Rapture” as our escape clause, we’ll never reverse the trend of complacency that has become the new characteristic of the Evangelical community.
Rapture or not, we Christians believe Jesus Christ is returning. The problem is that we all seem to be sitting on the side-lines at this epic time in history, when it’s being written, waiting for Him to do what He says is our part in the battle. Since when did complacency become the Christian battle cry? Complacency and battle are enemies. They have nothing to do with each other. Truth is, we Christians have lost our pulse on the battle between good and evil. We want Jesus to fight all our battles, to such an extent, that all we care about is the comfort of our lives.
There was a time when courage and faith marched together. There was a time when to be a Christian meant you were the agent of change in a distasteful, dark world. Complacency? Well, that would have been akin to being lukewarm. But lukewarm is the face of the typical American Christian. Lukewarm has so much become the norm for us that we think material blessings, not persecution, are the measure of mature, God-honoring faith.
We love to preach and hear the stories of Daniel in the Lion’s Den, David and Goliath, Gideon and his 300 men and the boldness of Peter and John when they were opposed by the Sanhedrin (Acts 4). But do we realize that in every one of those instances those folks had their backs against the wall to such a degree that they (and others) were facing extinction? They didn’t throw it on God’s back. They didn’t just wait for God to show up – they stood up, with courage, against the tide – and did so because it was the right thing to do, as if the battle were up to them, not merely God.
Today, we are leaving everything up to God – and it’s killing us. Literally.
Gone is the idea of the divine partnership to which God has called us. If we don’t wake up now, the next generation will look back at us and wonder what happened to the faith that was once synonymous with courage, valor, honor, beauty and determination, no matter what the cost.
Where’s your faith at this epic time in American and world history? Is your life more characterized by living comfortably or courageously? If the course we’re currently on continues, where will that leave us?
Thoughts are things. They are either good, bad or neutral. Good and bad thoughts consume the same amount of energy – but one is priceless and the other costly. Why not use your limited energy to embrace good thoughts while disregarding the bad? What’s playing in the theater of your mind? It makes all the difference in the world. Here are some important things to consider about your thought life so that you turn it around, keep it on track, and live your best life for God right here, right now:
- What we do in public begins in secret.Before something is seen in public, it is thought about in private. The mind, in a very real sense, is the soil where we plant the seeds of life or death. We really do reap what we sow.
- “Neutral” thoughts are like sweets– they take up valuable space that could be used for good thoughts. “Neutral” thoughts take up valuable space that could be used for positive thoughts. In the end, then, a thought really isn’t “neutral” at all.
- Negative thoughts are neither neutral nor beneficial– they not only take up valuable space that could be used for good thoughts, but never result in anything good. Negative thoughts rob us of happiness, productivity, healthy relationships and progress in every area of life. There is no good that can come from a negative thought – so why tolerate even one? Have you been allowing your mind to run on auto pilot? If you have, there’s a good chance that negative thoughts have been wreaking havoc, ransacking your well-being.
- Positive thoughts are the only ones that are beneficial to you, others and God. They are the only thoughts that will move you in the right direction. Why not begin (or rekindle) the process of capturing every neutral or negative thought and replacing it with a positive one? Consider 2 Corinthians 10:5:
“We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ . . .”
Every single one of us has the moment by moment choice to determine what plays in the theater of our mind. Everything we do was first done in the mind. Everything. Are you bitter? You’ll behave like a bitter person. Unforgiving? You will be an unforgiving person. Generous? You will behave in generous ways with others.
Think about it. Literally.You’ve been spending mental energy on negative, neutral and positive thoughts. Have any of your thoughts – except the positive ones – been helpful to you, others or God? The amazing thing is that every one of us has the same answer to this question: “No.” But not every one of us will do something about it. You have the power to make a positive change right now. You have the power to take captive every thought, to get rid of negative thoughts and neutral, space-wasting thoughts – and replace them with good thoughts.
YOUR SOURCE FOR POSITIVE THOUGHTS
Looking for good thoughts to replace the negative and the neutral? The Bible is filled with them. Start your day with a bit of reading from the Bible. Fill it with the same. End your day, just before bed, with more reading from the Bible. Put into action whatever you read. You will begin to take captive every thought. Space that was previously taken up by negative, neutral thoughts will be overwhelmed by your new, positive thoughts. Your entire life will begin to turn around – and it will all be due to one simple, powerful thing: you made the choice to play good things in the theater of your mind.
What’s playing in the theater of your mind? Isn’t today a good day to play positive things? Have negative or “neutral” thoughts been sucking up valuable energy that could be spent on positive thoughts? You have the power to determine what you think. Why not take your thoughts captive throughout each day, so you move forward in every single way?