MICHAEL ANTHONY BLOG
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Life of Christ
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If we’re not careful, life will . . . suck the life out of us. We can end up being alive without really living. Our tendency is to begin drifting rather than piloting. There is a world of difference, and that is what determines whether or not we really enjoy our journey. Pay attention – life is happening.
Think often about the brevity of time. Your time. Don’t let it discourage you. Let it inspire you. Consider, often, that you won’t be here forever, and neither will the people around you. Live like you mean it. Do this, and you’ll never be bored. Do this and you, while alive, will be truly living.
Here are a few quick thoughts that can yield long-term benefits if you apply them immediately and perpetually:
1. Pay attention when someone else is talking. Talk less. Listen more.
Why do you think James 1:19 says what it says? Because God knows how to help you live a life that satisfies, thrills, excites and impacts the world. Your world. Right now. Go get your Bible and read James 1:19. Let is soak into your way of living. Listening is a forgotten command from God Himself. Listen more. Talk less. Chain your chatterbox. If you do, you won’t just be alive. You’ll be living. Pay attention – life is happening.
2. Put yourself in the shoes of other people. Enter into their hopes, dreams, aspirations. You will learn things about them, things about yourself. Things about LIFE. You will be living the way you’re supposed to live, and you will be a better, happier, more fulfilled person.
Cell phones and “smart” devices have a way of making us dumber, clouding the real intentionality for which we were created. Live life by interacting with the people right in front of you, right now. What’s important is what and who you are around in real-time, face-to-face. Remember what it means to be engaged in a conversation? Maybe not. It’s become culturally acceptable to be disengaged. But that doesn’t make it acceptable or beneficial for you. In fact, it is a complete detriment.
Our default mechanism is to focus on ourselves rather than others. We’re more enamored with ourselves than we should be. There is beauty, there are lessons, there is life happening apart from us. When we have conversations, we tend to drift, seeking ways to insert our story, share our thoughts, express our hearts. Stop the drift. What about the other person? Ask them questions – and really listen. You’ll find this also makes you far less selfish, and far more happy.Do this with one relationship as an experiment, and see what happens to it. It will shock you. Begin doing it with everyone, and your revolution is on. Pay attention – life is happening.
3. Show people you love them, often – in ways they need to see, hear, feel it. Love people in the ways that mean something to them, not you. And mean it when you express it.
Love is the cure for boredom. When we “love” people in ways that mean something to us, but not to others, we miss the whole point of love itself. The best love is expressed in the language of the people. Some people feel loved when hugged. Others when told. Still, others feel most loved when we spend time with them. Who are the people who love you – and whom you love? How are you loving them? Speak their language, not your own, and you will find the rewards nearly overwhelming over time. Don’t aim meaninglessly in your expressions of love. Find out the kind of love others need, and give it to them on their terms, not yours. Pay attention – life is happening.
Being alive is not the same as living life. Live like you mean it. Right now, wherever you are.
There you have it. Three quick thoughts taken from a few of the observations from my own mistakes and failures that I hope will help you succeed. You can live like you mean it. I’d love to hear your thoughts.
“It happens to all of us eventually. We find ourselves dry, floating in a sea of doubt – or at least drifting toward one. What can you do? More than you think . . .”
The circumstances of life will pound you – or rock you into a state of indifferent numbness. Sooner or later you could find yourself in a position where you just don’t have the depth of faith you wish we had. It happens to all of us eventually. We find ourselves dry, floating in a sea of doubt – or at least drifting toward one. What can you do? More than you think. Here are a few things from experience that I’ve learned can build faith, and help overcome a faith crisis:
1. REMEMBER THAT YOUR FAITH IS NOT YOUR OWN, AND THAT IS A GOOD THING. Somebody other than you is the founder and the perfecter of your faith. His Name is Jesus Christ, and He is the original fire-starter.Hebrews 12:2 says that we are to look to Jesus, the “founder and perfecter of our faith.” If Jesus is the One who creates and matures your faith, which is what Hebrews 12:2 is saying, then the starting point of all faith is to ask Him – even if you don’t feel passionate about doing so – to intervene.
God is the original fire-starter. He can start a fire in you. You may recall the story of Elijah calling for the wood and sacrifice to be drenched with water – three times, but God still consumed the altar and the sacrifice. Here’s the story from 1 Kings 18:30-39:
Then Elijah said to all the people, “Come near to me.” And all the people came near to him. And he repaired the altar of the Lord that had been thrown down. Elijah took twelve stones, according to the number of the tribes of the sons of Jacob, to whom the word of the Lord came, saying, “Israel shall be your name,” and with the stones he built an altar in the name of the Lord. And he made a trench about the altar, as great as would contain two seahs of seed. And he put the wood in order and cut the bull in pieces and laid it on the wood. And he said, “Fill four jars with water and pour it on the burnt offering and on the wood.” And he said, “Do it a second time.” And they did it a second time. And he said, “Do it a third time.” And they did it a third time. And the water ran around the altar and filled the trench also with water. And at the time of the offering of the oblation, Elijah the prophet came near and said, “O Lord, God of Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, let it be known this day that you are God in Israel, and that I am your servant, and that I have done all these things at your word. Answer me, O Lord, answer me, that this people may know that you, O Lord, are God, and that you have turned their hearts back.” Then the fire of the Lord fell and consumed the burnt offering and the wood and the stones and the dust, and licked up the water that was in the trench. And when all the people saw it, they fell on their faces and said, “The Lord, he is God; the Lord, he is God.”
In other words, there is not enough water on the planet to quench a fire God wants to start – and God wants His fire burning in you. God is the founder and perfecter of your faith. Ask Him to mature your faith, and He will light the fire. It may not be instantaneous, but it will come – because God knows how to start a fire. Your job is to simply ask Him to start it in you, and believe that eventually the embers will be rekindled and become a fire once again.
2. UNDERSTAND THAT FAITH IS KINDLED AND RE-KINDLED IN PROPORTION TO YOUR TIME IN GOD’S WORD, THE BIBLE. Did you read that right? You sure did. Your faith is a consequence and a reflection of your time spent soaking up the Bible. Romans 10:17 says this:
So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ.
If you want to build your faith, read the Bible. Don’t skim it. Skimming is not the same as reading. Really read it. Soak in it. If you were admitted to the hospital with a critical illness, doctors would take extreme measures to bring about a change of health. If you find yourself in a faith crisis, take measures accordingly, to reverse it. Be urgent about your spiritual health, even if that means you are not emotional about it. Faith is not about feeling spiritual, but about doing what you should do regardless of how you feel. Feelings often follow actions. It’s not the other way around.
Don’t expect a deep, rich faith from a shallow skimming of the Bible. Take serious measures if you want serious faith. Make time to immerse yourself in the Bible in the morning, afternoon and evening – and make sure you put what you are reading into practice. Approach the Bible intentionally, seriously. To do so is to take God seriously. If you take God seriously, over time God will build you up with serious faith. That’s the way it happens.
Don’t make light of the power of God’s Word to overcome a faith crisis. In my own life, I have found that oftentimes my faith is weak and frail – only to find that my time in God’s Word has been likewise. A lack of faith is often the result of biblical negligence. Neglect the Word and your faith will be affected.
You don’t need a complex strategy to get results with God. He has made it so that He is easy to approach and easy to find. Why? Because He wants to be found by you. But you must take a step in His direction. You must call out to Him.He wants to have a true, deepening relationship with you.
Remember that God is the original fire-starter and He wants the fire of faith in Him burning in you. Remember that your faith will be built up as you soak in God’s Word, the Bible. Keep it simple. As James 4:8 says, “Draw near to God, and He will draw near to you.”
And by “you”, God definitely means you.
I’d love to hear your comments as we sojourn together.
It’s possible to serve Jesus and not enjoy Him. If you’re not careful, you’ll be so busy for Jesus you won’t have time for Jesus. But this doesn’t have to be your story. Here are some tips on how to enjoy Jesus the way you were designed.
It’s not only possible. It’s probable. With the passage of time, we begin to unwittingly start doing things “for Jesus” that He never asked us to do. And when that happens watch out – because it invariably means that we have stopped doing the one thing that we shouldbe doing.
It starts off wonderfully well. Jesus is in town, and a woman named Martha invites Him to her home. Martha does what you and I would do. She gets busy putting out a spread – for Jesus. And her seemingly lazy sister, Mary, does nothing to help. All she is interested in doing is sitting at the feet of Jesus. This frustrates the daylights out of Martha, who feels all alone in her service to Jesus. In fact, Luke 10:40 says that “Martha was distracted with much serving.” Martha’s service for Jesus actually wound up being a distraction from Jesus. Read it for yourself, again, for the first time.
Martha’s behavior is not spoken of fondly by Jesus. Mary steals the show. Jesus tells Martha “you are anxious and troubled by many things, but one thing is necessary. Mary has chosen the good portion, which will not be taken away from her” (Luke 10:41,42). And what was it that Jesus found so commendable? She “sat at the Lord’s feet and listened to his teaching” (Luke 10:39).
One thing is necessary in the life of a true disciple:sitting at the feet of Jesus and listening to his teaching. Everything else we do in life, in the Name of Jesus, is supposed to be an overflow from spending time with Jesus, and listening to His teaching. Martha was certainly serving Jesus – but Jesus didn’t ask her to serve in the ways that she chose. Could the same be true of you and me? You can bet your Vegas vacation that you and I are more prone to doing things for Jesus that He never called us to do than doing the “one thing” that Jesus says is “necessary” for a true disciple. If we do anything else for Jesus but neglect sitting as His feet and listening to His teaching, we’ve missed what Jesus says is necessary. It’s frighteningly easy to exchange what is necessary for what is dispensable. Here are some tips on how to prioritize the “one thing” that Jesus says is “necessary” in the life of a true follower of Jesus Christ:
1. Don’t confuse doing things for Jesus with spiritual maturity. The exact opposite could be true. If you think you are maturing in your devotion to Jesus Christ because you are doing more for Jesus, think again. Busy-ness is never a measure of spiritual maturity. Spiritually mature people may be busy, but being busy does not make a person spiritually mature. Don’t confuse being busy with growing in your walk with God.
2. Jesus says it is necessary, not beneficial, to listen to His teaching. This is important for you – not just the people to whom you are ministering and serving. If you don’t do what Jesus says is necessary, then what in the world are you doing, and why? You can be sure Jesus didn’t call you to do the secondary things if you neglect what He says is necessary.
3. Look through the course of your week and set aside appointments for yourself and God. Then, do your best to keep them. John 1:14 says “the word became flesh and dwelt among us.” Mary was spending time with The Word, Jesus. Doing so is what Jesus said was necessary. You can do the same today. This is not some mystical, esoteric endeavor. Get a Bible, read it – slowly – and take time to digest what it says. On some days you might spend more time than others, but the objective would be to daily read the Bible so that you walk away having learned something new about God and your relationship to Him. This is not an exercise merely for the mind, but for the heart and soul, too. If you do this, you’ll literally have the assurance of doing what Jesus is telling you to do, rather than doing what you think He might want. Start by praying, asking God to open the eyes of your heart, that you might know Him better, and love Him accordingly. God will answer your prayer. Then, consider how to put what you read into action.
4. Don’t be legalistic about your planned time with God, in His Word. God gave you grace, you can give it to yourself. The surest way to hit a target is to aim for it. If you don’t aim for it, you’re sure to miss it every time. Even some time in God’s Word is better than none. Get up 15-30 minutes earlier each day by going to bed 15-30 minutes earlier, so you can read the Bible, pray, and reflect on what God is teaching you. This simple exercise will dramatically alter – and altar – your life.
5. Listen to the Bible, and podcasts that teach the Bible, on your way to work, while exercising, traveling. Of course, I’m partial to the free Godfactor App, but I can’t apologize for a tool we created that will help you discover and enjoy God – deeply. Get the app, or listen to our messages on iTunes by searching for “Godfactor.” But if you don’t like my method of teaching, by all means, find someone whose teachings you love – someone whose teachings are true to the Bible, not merely motivational talks. With the Godfactor App, you don’t even have to listen to me – you can listen to the Bible being read by a guy with a voice far better than mine – any part of it – at any time you like. You just might create a positive addiction in doing so.
Well, there’s a start for you – and a much needed reminder for me. We all struggle with sitting still at the feet of Jesus, spending time in His Word, listening to His teaching. But if Jesus says this is the “one thing” that is “necessary”, then shouldn’t you and I do all we can to ensure we hit Jesus’ bullseye?
I’d love to hear your comments. Share them, and you just may encourage someone else in the process.
“Do you like to win? If you try to fight a spiritual battle with physical weapons, you will lose – every single time. Be smart when you fight and you will win – every single time . . .”
We’ve all done it – engaged in spiritual warfare while not being very spiritual in the process. In Italian, we call that “stunad” (pronounced stew-nod). It means “stupid.” You don’t have to understand Italian to realize that fighting a spiritual battle in the power of the flesh is not only stupid but also an exercise in futility. You’ll lose all the time. But you don’t have to be a loser. Here are a few thoughts on how you can fight like a “spiritual powerhouse” – and win a spiritual battle every single time.
- BE ON THE ALERT FOR “SPIRITUAL AMNESIA.” All of us suffer from what I call “spiritual amnesia.” An event in life – life itself – knocks us so hard that we forget who we are, who God is, and how to operate as His child. The event rocks our world so hard that we literally forget, even if temporarily, how to function in ways that unleash the power of God. The way to be smart is to perpetually remember that if you are a true follower of Jesus Christ, you are engaged in an epic spiritual battle that must be fought with spiritual weapons. Paul tells us “For the weapons of your warfare are not of the flesh . . . ” (2 Corinthians 10:4). Be on guard against spiritual amnesia in yourself and those around you. Remember who you are, what God has called you to, and that it is not in any way, shape, or form, a physical battle. Remember that if you are really following God, you are by default engaged in spiritual warfare – it simply cannot be fought by natural means.
- UNDERSTAND THAT WHEN YOU FIGHT GOD’S BATTLES WITH GOD’S WEAPONS, YOU WON’T WIN SOME OF THE TIME. YOU’LL WIN ALL OF THE TIME. God is not a loser. The second half of 2 Corinthians 10:4 (cited in #1, above), says the weapons God has given us have “divine power to destroy strongholds.” The imagery that Paul provides, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, is total, utter destruction against the enemy. When you fight with God’s weapons, what you are really doing is allowing God to fight for you – and when God fights, He never loses. 2 Corinthians 10:4 reminds the true follower of Jesus Christ that God doesn’t wound His enemies, He destroys them. Fight God’s battles with God’s weapons and you will win, because God is the Ultimate winner. When you do things God’s way, you win.
- BE CAREFUL YOU DON’T CONFUSE YOUR CONCEPT OF “WINNING” WITH GOD’S. I have seen this distract myself – and countless other people – repeatedly. I am constantly re-learning that my thoughts are not God’s thoughts, and my ways are not His ways (Isaiah 55:8). I remember kneeling in my dormitory room at Rutgers University, crying out to God, asking Him to give me something I wanted really badly. He didn’t do it – and I’m so glad! I’ve learned that man’s best often belittles God’s good. God’s plan for my life is infinitely better than I can dream or imagine – because it is based on His goodness. The goodness of God is so much better than what we can fathom, or create, that we must settle the issue in our minds and revisit it often. What we ask God for, even on our best days, is still short of what He has in store – not merely for us, but ultimately for Himself. And, isn’t this the real purpose of life, to advance the agenda and glory of God?
You must recognize that winning may not look the way you thought it would – but if you really fight God’s battles with God’s weapons, in God’s power, you have won, and will win. Not some of the time. All of the time. It’s been said that “he who laughs last laughs best.” God is a hearty laugher, because He always laughs last. Isaiah 54:17 says “no weapon that is fashioned against you shall succeed.” The original Hebrew, and the Septuagint (the Greek translation of the Hebrew) mean that there is literally nothing capable of success against God’s people. This comes across in the English as well, but somehow we seem to miss it. It’s not over until God says it’s over, and God will ultimately be glorified, get the last laugh and win. Align yourself with God’s vision of victory and you’ll not allow yourself to be let down.God always wins. Always means always. If you are frustrated, it could be because you have unknowingly replaced God’s vision of victory with your own. Don’t get ahead of God. Walk with Him and you will win His battles in His power, His way.
- MAKE SURE YOU ARE FIGHTING GOD’S BATTLES, NOT YOURS. When you fight your own battles, you fight alone. If you are fighting a battle God didn’t call you to fight, why are you bothering? He has bigger fish to fry – and so do you. A lethal mistake you can make in life is to waste time fighting battles that God never called you to fight. You must be extremely and perpetually careful you don’t get sucked away from the main purpose of your life which is to love Him, advance His Kingdom, and fight His battles. Enough said. Move on.
- SLEEP ON IT. Memorize – and apply – potent passages of the Bible that teach you how to fight and win spiritual battles. This cannot be emphasized too much. You might be intimidated by the thought of memorizing a Bible verse or passage, but let me tell you a secret how to do this much easier. Sleep on it. Read a passage of the Bible at night, just before you go to bed. (Not in-between texting or watching television). Really read it. Meditate on it and it alone. Pay attention to the words on the page. (I recommend not using an electronic device for this, bc you will be tempted to use it for something else). Note where it is in your Bible. Feel it in your hands. Ask God to help you hide it in your heart. Do this several nights in a row and watch what happens. Your mind will work on it when you are sleeping. You will begin to feel energized – because God’s Word hits you, by design, at the core of your being. Here is a sampling of some key Bible verses you should commit to memory, as means of directing you and protecting you so that you succeed in spiritual warfare:
- 2 Corinthians 10:4,5 – The Nature of Your Weapons
- Ephesians 6:10-20 – The Spiritual Weapons You Have in Your Aresnal
- Ephesians 4:17-32 – How Unresolved Sin Makes You Weak and Gives Satan Opportunity
- 1 Peter 5:6-11 – Humility as a Primary, Potent Weapon Against Satan
The above verses are simply a start – but a potent start at that. If you really put them into action, your whole life will dramatically change.
Do you like to win? If you try to fight a spiritual battle with physical weapons, no matter what those physical weapons are (intellect, physical strength, money, prowess), you will lose – every single time. Be smart when you fight and you will win – every single time.
I’m with you in this. But more importantly, God is with you. I guarantee you that if you fight God’s battles in God’s ways, you will win every single time. You have God’s Word on it.
Let me know your thoughts. I’m all ears . . .
What you believe about God is the single most important thing about you. Everything you do – everything – is a reflection of what you truly believe about God . . .
I SAY THIS OFTEN because I know it’s the one thing that determines everything: What you believe about God is the single most important thing about you. It eclipses everything else by a landslide. Nothing else is as strategic, as powerful, as life-changing as what you believe about God. Everything you did this past week, everything you do today – indeed, everything you have ever done, are doing now and will ever do, is a reflection of what you truly believe about God. How can I say this with such confidence? Because I’ve proven it true by my own failures.
Beliefs birth behavior. Take a look at your behavior this past week, and perhaps over the past year, and consider the following:
- WERE YOU KIND TO PEOPLE? DID YOU HELP OTHERS SOAR? Each of us is a living billboard, a social media campaign in the flesh. The way we treat people tells the world what we believe about God. When we’re not nice to people it’s because we don’t believe (or forgot that we believe) people are created in the image of God, the pinnacle of His creation (Genesis 1:26-31).* This means that nothing God created is more majestic than a human being. But many times, we treat people as far, far less. And when we don’t mistreat them, we may think wrongly about them. We may cover up our thinking with a forced smile, but underneath a dragon may be lurking.Here’s something you either don’t realize or forgot: It’s not just you who was created in majesty, a masterpiece of God. Everyone you meet is created in His image, in majesty, a personal masterpiece of God.This is true even the people you aren’t particularly jazzed about. (And, this will help you become more jazzed about those same people.)
Philippians 2:3 says “in humility count others more significant than yourselves.” What does your treatment of people say about your humility? We should sit up and take note at 1 Peter 5:5 and James 4:6: “God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble.” It’s not enough to say humility is important. Humility is imperative. Without it, we will experience the resistance of God. Do you know anyone who has resisted God and won?Resisting God is an exercise in futility – yet we do it all the time by treating ourselves as more significant than others.When we treat people as if they are just as significant as we are, we stop short of God’s best. We stop short of our best. And, we deprive others of God’s best.The truth is, all people are created in the image of God. Embracing this truth will revolutionize the way you treat people – because when you believe people are important to God, created in His image, every individual becomes important. What we need is an awakening to the truth that people are created in the image of God, the pinnacle of His creation. We can, and should, be nice to people. We can, and should, help others soar. Being nice to people is a practical way we can embrace the truth about how God designed us. Beliefs birth behavior.
- WERE YOU HURRIED, IN A RUSH MOST OF THE TIME? If so, it was because you didn’t believe you are worth more to God than you can imagine. Jesus says “Do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they?” (Matthew 6:25-26). Yes, we’re all busy, and have lots to do most of the time. But if our live are characterized by hurriedness, rush – the inability to enjoy life, it’s a very good sign that we really don’t believe God values us, and has our lives taken care of.When we really believe this, no matter how much is on our plate, we can handle it with peace and assurance – because God has our back. He also has the front, sides, top and bottom of the person who knows Christ as Savior. Stop hurrying and running around like a wild banshee. Trust God. Yes, work hard and be responsible – but stop worrying. Remember that beliefs birth behavior.
- DID YOU ENJOY, TOLERATE OR IGNORE OR BELITTLE YOUR SIN?This is a big one. We all sin – often. How often? I’m convinced that I sin so much I don’t even realize it. And so do you. There are things I realize are sin today that I did not realize were sin yesterday. I must therefore conclude that there are most likely things I am doing and thinking today that I will one day realize are sinful, displeasing to God and a hindrance to me and others. But this is no excuse to throw my hands up and quit. It motivates me to depend upon God, not myself, and to seek Him with a growing fervency. Sin is the undercurrent of life outside of Eden. Sometimes it’s blatant, but in many cases it’s cunningly subtle. In either case, it’s always dangerous, dastardly, deadly. Sin is our default modus operandi. Believing otherwise has catastrophic consequences. This is why perpetual repentance is imperative . . .This is why perpetual repentance is imperative. I’m thankful for the truths of 1 John 1:8-10: “If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he (God) is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleans us from all unrighteousness. If we say we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us.” One of the signs of truly being a child of God is that you acknowledge your sin, confess it – and forsake it. How often? Continually. This is to be the perpetual practice of someone who truly knows Christ as Lord and Savior. When we confess and forsake our sin, the weight of sin is removed supernaturally. This is an amazing miracle God does in the life of a believer – continually. When we confess and forsake our sin, moment by moment, throughout the day, we experience God’s freedom. We are cleansed from the baggage of guilt, shame and resistance to God that sin creates.
Sin hinders everything, not some things.But if you are sinning and you don’t really care about it, if you are enjoying your sin, it’s a clear sign that you don’t believe your sin is holding you back from being all you can be in God – and from the quality of life you would otherwise experience. Sin often seems enjoyable. That’s why we allow it, even pursue it. I’ve been deceived by sin on numerous occasions, and thought I was getting ahead. In reality, I was losing ground. Even subtle sin might seem beneficial for a season. We might think no one notices. But God notices. We might think we’re getting ahead – but we’re falling behind. Any time we willfully walk in sin, no matter how small – whether conscious or unconscious, there is hell to pay.Thankfully, the grace of God overwhelms our sin even when we are unaware, or we would have no hope whatsoever. But God’s grace is not a free ticket to be careless with sin. We must take sin seriously, realizing that it hinders the will of God, and all the blessings that come with Him, every single time. When we caress sin, when we tolerate, ignore or justify it, it’s because we don’t believe the truth about God, ourselves, and the life that overflows from the truth. It’s because we have been deceived into thinking life apart from God and His ways is more enjoyable than life with Him. Beliefs birth behavior.
- DID YOU PURSUE THINGS THAT REALLY DON’T MATTER, ETERNALLY SPEAKING. The pursuit of temporary pleasure reveals disbelief about our eternal existence. All people will live forever, one place or another. Revelation 20:11-15 makes this clear. Take some time to read it carefully, and to ask yourself if the things you’ve been living for are really worth the effort. They may be. But perhaps not. The day is coming when each of us will be judged by God. You may not believe this, but that will not change God’s mind.Consider 1 Corinthians 3:10-15. Here, Paul says “each one’s work will become manifest, for the Day will disclose it, because it will be revealed by fire, and the fire will test what sort of work each one has done. If the work that anyone has built on the foundation (of Christ) survives, he will receive a reward. If anyone’s work is burned up, he will suffer loss . . .” There is some work that is not worth doing.And there is some work that is definitely worth doing differently.If we’re engaged in things that really don’t matter, or doing things in ways that should be done differently, today is a good day to reverse the trend. You will live forever. It’s only a matter of where. Beliefs birth behavior. Live accordingly.
The list could go on and on. This truth remains, and is worthy of a lifetime of study: What you believe about God is the single most important thing about you. Our behavior reflects what we truly believe about God.
Change on the outside reflects belief on the inside. Change on the inside creates change on the outside. Change your thinking and you’ll change your life. Everything about it. Beliefs birth behavior. Every single time.
The single greatest thing you can do to change your behavior is to change your beliefs about God. Why not start by changing and reinforcing what you should believe, by learning God’s Word, the Bible? It contains the truth about God, about you, about life. The truth will set you free (John 8:32). And, if you’ve strayed, today is a great day to begin anew. Luke 15:11-32 is a great place to start.
Where are you in your journey? I’d love to hear your thoughts.
*Sometimes, the kindest thing you can do for someone is help them understand their faults they may not see. Done lovingly, this is one of the nicest things you can do for someone. It’s not loving to allow someone who has a bugger hanging from their nose to go through the day incurring embarrassment they would otherwise avoid – if only you loved them enough to say something. Being kind means being lovingly honest, even if it may cause temporary pain or embarrassment in the process. To be nice to someone is to be committed to their long-term benefit, in light of God’s very best for them.
SOME PEOPLE HAVE HOLY UNDERWEAR. LITERALLY.
“When the soldiers had crucified Jesus, they took his garments and divided them into four parts, one part for each soldier; also his tunic. But the tunic was seamless, woven in one piece from top to bottom, so they said to one another ‘Let us not tear it, but cast lots for it to see whose it shall be.’ This was to fulfill the Scripture which says,
‘They divided my garments among them, and for my clothing they cast lots.‘*
– John 19:23,24
A TUNIC was the first century equivalent of underwear. It was the long, robe-like garment worn between the skin and the outer garment, providing protection, comfort and functionality. Some have postulated that Jesus was wealthy, and use John 19:23 as their evidence. You see, Jesus was not wearing the common man’s underwear. The soldiers, in the midst of dividing Jesus’ clothes among them, were caught by surprise when they got down to His underwear. As the verse says, “But the tunic was seamless, woven in one piece from top to bottom.” This kind of tunic was considered valuable because of the way it was made. It was the kind of garment not often worn by poor or middle-class individuals. Some have therefore concluded that Jesus’s choice of underwear revealed his wealthy status. They then make the leap to suggest that His followers have a right to claim, pursue and embrace the same kind of material wealth. The thinking goes like this: “Jesus was rich, and and I’m a child of the King. Therefore, I should be rich, too.”
This kind of “theology” espoused by people who embrace the “prosperity gospel”, is askew for numerous reasons too lengthy to explain here, but certainly worthy of mention. The above conclusion royally misses the point of John recording the moment of surprise. If you’re not careful, you too might miss the lesson that applies to us even now, in the twenty-first century. Using John 19:23 as evidence of Jesus’ material wealth royally misses the point of the passage – and the point of Jesus’ intentionality. It demonstrates an extremely sloppy and poor treatment of the biblical text, and reveals the human tendency to pervert and twist the truth for personal gain, even if done unintentionally. (Indeed, one need not be intentional to be incorrect). Human intellect, apart from divine enlightenment, constantly misses the higher intentions of God.
So what was John’s reason for writing about Jesus’ underwear? And, what in the world was Jesus doing wearing a rich man’s brand of underwear in the first place? The point is clearly described in the very next verse (John 19:24):
This was to fulfill the Scripture which says . . .
Jesus’ underwear was set apart for a divine purpose, not merely earthly comfort. It was literally worn to point people to God. Jesus’ underwear was, in the most literal sense of the word, holy.
Still, some might persist about the passage affirming Jesus’ wealth, and the right of every disciple to follow in his footsteps. They could point to the fact that Jesus had a treasurer handling his money (Judas, the back-stabber). John 12:6 says that Judas had “charge of the moneybag”. They suggest that Jesus’ having such a full-time keeper of the moneybag, further supports the premise that Jesus was wealthy. But this conclusion is ignorant of historical fact. It was entirely common, not unusual, for a prominent rabbi to have someone handle his financial affairs. In fact, given the traveling nature of Jesus’ ministry, it would have been understood that someone, even multiple people, would be underwriting the expenses of his ministry. (The same can be said of current ministers who serve God well. Their ministries and lives are often entirely supported through the financial resources of others).
The fact is that we don’t know whether Jesus was rich, poor or somewhere in the middle during his 30 plus years of life on earth. That He was supported financially, through mere mortals, is a no-brainer. Of course He was. He had to be to accomplish what He did. We know from Scripture that Jesus had access to all the world’s riches as the Creator of the world (John 1:2,3). And, we also know from Philippians 2:6,7 that he “made himself nothing”. In other words, Jesus gave up His majesty and everything that went with it – and entrusted His well-being into His Father’s hands. His Father, therefore, ensured that even mere mortals took care of His Son’s needs. If we are to conclude anything about Jesus and money that is a timeless take-away for His followers, it’s this: Jesus knew how to put money to use not for mere personal comfort, but for the glory of His Father. The godly person knows how to convert money into deliberate, strategic vessels that point people to God. To use God’s blessings for merely material matters is to stop short of our God-given calling and potential. Money has a higher purpose than personal comfort. The mature Christ-follower uses money – and all their resources – for something that far outlasts personal comfort and material well-being: the glory of God and advancement of His Kingdom.
So, how did Jesus get his seamless tunic? For all we know, someone could have given it to Him as a gift. How many of us have received gifts from people who are about us? All the more appreciated would a nice pair of underwear be for someone who had an itinerant ministry in the kind of hot and harsh terrain Jesus frequented. For all we know, it could have been Jesus’ only such pair of underwear, reserved for the special occasion of His crucifixion at the hands of ruthless Romans. It wouldn’t be the first time we see the Master Communicator using the perfect prop at the perfect time to deliver the perfect message. We don’t really know how Jesus got it – but we know Jesus was masterfully strategic in its use.
All this leads us the real reason why Jesus was found wearing the expensive undergarment on the occasion of His death.Jesus was a strategist, entirely devoted to the glory of His Father.Everything He did, everything He owned, right down to His underwear, pointed people to His Father, the Scriptures, and the fulfillment of His earthly mission as the literal Lamb of God who would give His life for the forgiveness of your sins and mine. Jesus knew that the seamless tunic would surprise and interest the Roman soldiers. So much so that they would not destroy its value by tearing it up and dividing it. Instead, they would cast lots for it – and in so doing, fulfill the prophecy of Psalm 22:18. The seamless tunic was God’s “bait”, used to lure the Roman soldiers to act in a way that would fulfill the Scriptures and again present Jesus as the Promised Messiah, God’s Anointed, the Christ.
If there is a take-away for the modern Christ-follower, it certainly isn’t about one’s personal right to material wealth. It certainly isn’t about one’s claim, as a child of the King, to personal prosperity. Jesus’ use of his tunic helps us understand that there is no such thing as a meaningless possession when it comes to advancing God’s Kingdom.
If, as Luke 6:40 says, “A disciple is not above his teacher, but everyone when he is fully trained will be like his teacher”, then the take-away is stunning – hidden at first from the eyes of us mortals who are too often bent on foolish, trivial pursuits. If everything about Jesus, right down to His underwear, was deliberately done to point people to His Father, and to point people to Himself as the Messiah, then shouldn’t we who claim to follow Him, do the same? Shouldn’t everything we own, and everything we do, have this single purpose as the driving force behind our life and resources?
POINTS TO PONDER:
1. Jesus’ use of underwear was a display of creative, strategic brilliance.If you are a Christ-follower, are you following your Master’s lead? Do you seek ways to strategically use every part of your life, and all your resources to fulfill God’s divine purpose, as Jesus did?
2. Is there any area of your life that you thought was of no use to God, that you didn’t realize could be used to point people to Jesus as Master, Savior, Messiah?
What does your underwear say about God? If you’re like me, there’s a good chance it could say a lot more. I’m doing all I can to adjust my life, accordingly. I hope you’ve been inspired toward the same.
What do you think? I’d love to hear your comments . . .