MICHAEL ANTHONY BLOG
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Life of Christ
Vision of Life
Book of Acts
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LIKE YOU, I LEAK. In fact, I’m so good at leaking that if I could patent the process I’d be a millionaire capable of turning my profits into one charitable success story after another. I’d have money to feed the poor, clothe the needy, fight human trafficking and more. My problem is that I seem to be wired with an autopilot feature that steers me toward embracing a life of comfort and convenience more than anything else – including the glory of God and His agenda above all else. What’s the cure? The filling with the Holy Spirit. When you’re filled with the Holy Spirit, you’ll be charged, fired up, fearless and fruitful. We need the power of God coursing through our lives. In fact, it is only when we depend upon the Holy Spirit that we can truly live for Jesus Christ.
The Holy Spirit is God’s not so secret “secret weapon.” He transforms us from being walking contradictions into living sacrifices, people on fire for Jesus Christ, unafraid to stand up and speak out in a day of hate and fear. I’ve found that the real challenge begins with me, not what’s happening in the world. I need the Spirit of God to do a mighty work in me each day – moment by moment – so that sin in my own life is pushed back, and the agenda of God is somehow advanced through the most unlikely conduit – me.
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PEER PRESSURE PETER
The same is true for you. It’s true for everyone. One of the things all humans tend to do is think we are unique, but we aren’t. We all face the same problems, though to different degrees. The solutions, therefore, often have similar ingredients. When it comes to overcoming sin in my life, the same solution is effective in your life: the Holy Spirit. He is one of the greatest gifts God gives the believer. Are you enjoying that gift?
Like you and me, Peter the Apostle had a propensity to give in to peer pressure — and peer pressure hinders the flow of God’s Spirit. He denied Jesus three times because he was afraid of people. But Acts 4:8 is a testimony of his transformation, courtesy of the Holy Spirit. It says, “Then Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, said to them: “Rulers and elders of the people!” He went on to testify fearlessly for Christ.
Peter’s transformation is striking, because he was already filled with the Holy Spirit in Acts 2:4: “All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit …”
How quickly we forget what the first believers understood: the filling with the Holy Spirit is not something that happens once and for all. It’s something that must happen perpetually if we expect to be charged, fired up and fruitful for Jesus.
So, how are we filled with the Holy Spirit? One of the lessons I’ve learned from my own failures is that I not only leak, but I’m also a magnet that attracts other things to take the place of what only God can satisfy. I not only leak, but I also get filled up on things I need to resist – because those things take up space that is best taken only by the presence and power of God. I’ve found that I leak less when I guard myself against things that don’t align with honoring God.
HERE’S WHAT WE CAN DO
I need to watch what I watch. This is true not only for the internet and television, but also for what I allow to play in the theater of my mind. The Bible says, “We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ” (2 Corinthians 10:5). If this is true of my thought life, how much more true is it about what I allow my eyes and ears to feast upon?
Common sense tells us that garbage in will lead to garbage throughout. Do you allow yourself to watch, listen to, and think things that you wouldn’t if everything were out in the open before Jesus? Guess what? It already is. The good news is that the Holy Spirit can clean up our lives if we let Him.
In the end, we leak because we allow ourselves to fill up on things that don’t honor God. These are the things that end up coming our of us. The first step to being filled – perpetually – with the Holy Spirit, is to get into the daily and moment-by-moment practice of emptying ourselves of what dishonors God. When that happens, the leaks begin to take care of themselves.
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ABOUT ME: Most of the lessons I’ve learned in life I’ve learned through failure. I share them happily because doing so may spare you from making the same mistakes. I typically publish my blogs Tuesday through Friday, here and on Facebook. We welcome and read comments from readers just like you because they help us (and others) think and grow. Don’t be shy. Chime in.
My first book, published by Thomas Nelson, is slated for release in March, 2018. For more about me, click on the image or here. If you’d like to request an interview, or to explore the potential of my speaking to your group, click here.
WHY IS OUR EXPERIENCE OF JESUS, AND CHURCH, SO DIFFERENT FROM WHAT WE TYPICALLY SEE IN THE BIBLE? Take, for instance, the second chapter of Acts. Today, it seems like the best we can do is market a biblical brand of Jesus and Christianity – but when it comes to making good on the promise, we struggle with the delivery. I think it boils down to the fact that the first believers understood what it meant to be attached to Jesus. Today, we seem clueless.
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Acts 2:42 says,
“They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers.” — ESV
The Greek word translated as “devoted” has lost so much of its meaning today, in our individualistic, segregated, divorce-ridden world. We think we know what it means, but the truth is that we all need a refresher. The Greek word for “devoted,” could easily be translated as any of the following:
- To wait on
- To be faithful to
- To busy oneself with
- To hold fast to
- To persevere in
- To spend much time in
- To give constant attention to
- To attach oneself to
The phrase I love the most is that last one. Don’t you? When inserted, Acts 2:42 is resurrected with magnificent practicality:
“They attached themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers.”
I think a main reason we don’t experience Jesus the way the early believers did is because we’re not attaching ourselves to Him. Instead, we are attached to so many other things. What are you attached to more than Jesus?
We expect God to move in power on Sunday when we haven’t been attached to Him all week long. It’s time to take a second look at Acts 2:42-47 and land the plane. What I mean is that it’s easy to look at that passage as it applies to church life – but we have to remember that church life is a reflection of each of our lives. We need to look at Acts 2:42-47, not from the 50,000 foot view, but from the landing strip of our own lives:
“They attached themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. Everyone was filled with awe at the many wonders and signs performed by the apostles. All the believers were together and had everything in common. They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need. Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.” — NIV
We want God to show up in power in our churches on Sunday – and that can happen, but only if we refuse to live lives that are detached from Him throughout the week. I think we need to be discontent with God’s absence in our personal lives and families the other six days of the week. If you and I became attached to apostolic teaching (putting the Bible into practice), spending quality time with our family and friends, and drawing near to God in prayer, I think we’d see Jesus in our midst much more when we all gather together. It’s not magic. When individuals become attached to Jesus, and those individuals come together, the group is attached to Jesus, too. Jesus shows up.
Acts 2:42-47 isn’t socialism. It’s real, biblical Christianity. Socialism is merely Christianity stripped of the Holy Spirit’s power, without the presence of Jesus or His Kingdom agenda. If we want the impact of our money reduced to pennies on the dollar, we ask (and even welcome) the government to take and redistribute it. But government redistribution of money is no substitute for what God alone can do through people who are truly attached to Jesus. If we want the power of God manifest in ways that lead people to the feet of Jesus, we need to be attached to Jesus – individually and in our families. When that happens, the discrepancy between our experience of Jesus and church, and what we read in the pages of the Bible, will disappear.
I don’t know about you, but I’m hungry for the kind of Christianity that shaped history.
What about you, your family, and your church? Isn’t it time that you became attached to Jesus in the same ways the first believers were? Is there anything you or your family is attached to more than Jesus?
ABOUT ME: Most of the lessons I’ve learned in life I’ve learned through failure. I typically publish my blogs Tuesday through Friday, here and on Facebook. We welcome and read comments from readers just like you because they help us (and others) think and grow. Don’t be shy. Chime in.
My first book, published by Thomas Nelson, is slated for release in March, 2018. For more about me, click on the image or here. If you’d like to request an interview, or to explore the potential of my speaking to your group, click here.
IF THE TITLE OF THIS POST CAUGHT YOUR EYE, YOU MAY BE ABLE TO SEE — BUT IT DOESN’T MEAN YOU MAY NOT HAVE A SERIOUS VISION PROBLEM. I was there, in Portland, Oregon, for the “farewell tour” of the (in)famous rock band, KISS. If you’ve never seen KISS, and you claim to be a Christ-follower, I’m pretty sure you’re not as motivated for Jesus as you would be if you went to a show. Surprised? I bet you are, and that’s part of the problem.
You may be wondering why I, a pastor committed to accurate and practical Bible teaching and complete surrender to Jesus Christ, with a well-read blog, radio program, forthcoming book, and a large church (which I love), would dare attend (let alone brazenly admit) that I attended a KISS concert. Couldn’t such behavior and openness be undermining to my ministry? Not at all. In fact, attending that concert was one of the most devil-stomping things I’ve ever done in my life, for reasons that may surprise you. You see, I went to the show not because I’m a KISS fan, but exactly because I’m not. I wanted to learn a thing or two about success and motivation from four guys who were, arguably, among the most successful and motivated people in history.
WHAT KISS CAN TEACH US CHRISTIANS ABOUT VISION, PASSION AND BEING SOLD OUT FOR JESUS CHRIST:
- MONEY, SEX AND FAME ARE HUGE MOTIVATORS – BUT THERE IS AN EVEN BIGGER ONE YOU SHOULD EMBRACE. When KISS first formed, Paul Stanley and Gene Simmons knew they were not stellar musicians, and that they needed something to make them stand out from the crowded pack of rock ‘n roll wannabes.KISS took “whatever it takes” to an entirely new level – and we Christians can learn a thing or two about commitment to Christ by considering the commitment of KISS to sex, money and fame.If money, fame and sex can motivate people to dress up in crazy costumes and make-up, what’s our hang-up with doing whatever it takes to really live for God and reach people for Christ? The God of creation is the greatest of all motivators to live right, righteously, and with the greatest of all passions.
- IF PEOPLE WITHOUT THE HOLY SPIRIT CAN WRITE HISTORY, WHAT’S OUR EXCUSE? We Christians have been washed in Christ’s blood, fully forgiven and given the gift of the same Spirit Who raised Jesus from the dead. Through Christ, we have access to more power than the members of KISS did at the height of their career – but we often behave as if we’re powerless.
- VISION EVENTUALLY DETERMINES REALITY. The members of KISS had a vision to be superheroes, not simply rock stars. Knowing they were not the best of musicians, they set out to create an unforgettable live experience. KISS began with this vision and sustained it, letting it shape every album, every concert, and every single decision they made as a band. Their vision fueled their success.If you’re a parent, do you know where you want your children to arrive when they are done with the eighteen or so years they will have under your authority? If you’re a pastor or church leader, do you know what you want your church to look like 5, 10, 20 years from now?What’s your vision for your life, your career and your ministry – and does it truly glorify God?
- STOP STOOPING FOR LOW-HANGING FRUIT. KISS reached for the moon, and they became stars. Too often, we Christians settle for the bare minimum when it comes to God’s glory and living in line with His agenda. Of all people, we should be more motivated and committed to our God and our mission than anyone else for any other cause. Have you settled for far less than God’s best, or is your life a shining example to others of giving 110% to Jesus Christ?
- IF HANDLED PROPERLY, SETBACKS ARE ACTUALLY OPPORTUNITIES FOR COMEBACKS. KISS had many setbacks through the years, including the eventual loss of Ace Frehley and Peter Criss due to their abuse of drugs and alcohol. But Paul and Gene kept rocking. What setbacks have you allowed to hold you back, when, instead, they should be propelling you forward, enabling your comeback?
NOW IT’S TIME TO HEAR FROM YOU. HAVE YOU SETTLED FOR LESS THAN GOD’S BEST?
ABOUT ME: I hope my blogs give you a solid truth or two that encourage, challenge and inspire you to squeeze the most out of the only life you’ll ever have this side of eternity. I typically publish my blogs from Tuesday through Friday. Your comments are always appreciated because they not only encourage my family and me, but most likely others, too. Don’t be shy. Chime in.
 The tour was the last to feature the original line-up of Paul, Gene, Ace and Peter. Clearly, while the original lineup never toured again, it was not at all the “farewell” to KISS. Yup, Paul Stanley and Gene Simmons are master marketers.
THIS WEEKEND WILL ONLY LAST 48 HOURS, AND THEN IT WILL BE PART OF YOUR PAST. Here are 5 things you can do this weekend to spare you from burnout and enrich your life:
I. EASE OFF THE GAS AND SPARE YOURSELF FROM “KAROSHI.” The Japanese have a word for burnout called “karoshi.” A recent study in Japan revealed that rest is vital to every area of life. It even revealed that “sleep is a life and death matter.” When we don’t rest, we don’t work well — and every area of life begins to suffer. When it comes to the weekend, work is over rated. If God rested on one day out of the week, you’d be wise to do the same. If you don’t have time to rest this weekend, it’s most likely because you didn’t plan the past week as well as you could.
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II. SPEND SOME TIME LISTENING, FEELING, REFLECTING. Art, music and literature are great ways to develop all your senses and connect with real life. Our virtual world has become over-rated, and people are more disconnected than ever. Is there a book you’ve wanted to read, an album you want to listen to, or art you could feast your eyes upon? Art, music and literature stir both the heart and mind, and are great ways to develop the inner you so that you become a better person all-around.
III. BE WISE: PUT DOWN YOUR SMART PHONE AND INTERACT WITH PEOPLE FACE-TO-FACE. Smart phones have dumbed many of us down. The virtual world is over-rated. This weekend, you’ll have a chance or two to encourage someone, to laugh, to listen or to share your heart. Life is happening — don’t miss it because you’re glued to a screen. Americans spend more time in front of smartphones, computers, televisions and tablets than they do sleep – and it’s negatively affecting us. The virtual world is no substitute for the real one — unless you’ve believed the lie. Be wise: put down your smartphone and engage with real people, face-to-face.
IV. SET YOUR WEEKEND PRIORITIES IN LIGHT OF ETERNITY. Come Monday morning, this weekend will take its place as a tile in the mosaic of your life. What kind of mosaic do you want to create? Come Monday morning, what do you want to have done over the weekend so that when it’s over you can say, “I did that this weekend, and am so glad I did!”? Take five minutes before you kick off your weekend, and determine what you can prioritize so that when it’s over, you’ll be glad you did what you did.
I’D LOVE TO HEAR YOUR THOUGHTS. ARE YOU AT RISK OF KAROSHI? KNOW SOMEONE WHO IS, WHO NEEDS TO READ AND HEED THIS?
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.
(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.