MICHAEL ANTHONY BLOG
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Life of Christ
Vision of Life
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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.
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).
An Open Letter To America:
Let Our Bath Begin
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We’re grateful to TownHall.com for publishing another op-Ed. This one is an open letter to America. Would love YOUR comments, below, as well as in the original post, here, on TownHall.com. Your comments inspire others, and help spread the word . . .
At long last, our time of speculation about the next president and presidency is over. This election season served as a stark reminder that while we may be called the “United States,” we are, in fact, a very divided country. It’s time to heal and unite, but healing and unity are always byproducts of something else, a key ingredient so scarce in our all-consuming quest for self-gratification. Yes, the quest of our next president is over; now it’s time to focus on the King and His Kingdom. No president, no matter if elected by the popular or electoral vote, is a surrogate for the supernatural work that only the Almighty can perform.
Our nation is now in such a mess that it will take nothing short of a series of miracles to turn her around. Our country will be great again, and we’ll all be stronger together, when we rediscover the key ingredient for supernatural success. It’s where real hope and change begin – and how they are sustained. Our next president will need an enduring dose of divine wisdom and humble courage, because without these, our best days will truly be behind us.
“No president and no political party can do what only God can do. It’s time for genuine, historic movements of God to sweep across America, one person at a time. This is how America will change.”
Supernatural success is only possible when humble courage, which has been absent for far too long, becomes central to the mix. This would be true no matter who had been elected as our new Commander in Chief. Humble courage is the greatest need in our nation – because it is the greatest need in each of our lives, families and houses of worship. James 4:6 and 1 Peter 5:5 remind us that “God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble.” I don’t know about you, but I can’t afford to be resisted by God any longer – and neither can our families, houses of worship or nation. We need a massive outpouring of humility, at a grass-roots level around the country, with you and me at ground zero.
America, we have work to do, and lots of it. But this work begins with a hard look at what we’ve become, and for many of us, we’ve become hypocrites. Our hypocrisy needs to go the way of the passenger pigeon, which once accounted for nearly 40 percent of the bird population in the U.S.. Similarly, hypocrisy among Christians accounts for a great number of sins throughout our nation. The plank in the eye of most who claim to be following Christ is so large and so culturally acceptable that it is amazing we are even able to see the specks in our neighbors’ eyes – upon which we seem so fixated. Our fixation is wrong, nonetheless. It’s time we heed the command of Jesus and start pointing the finger at ourselves. That’s where hope and change begin.
Is it a coincidence that America’s first nation-wide “bath,” the first-ever National Week of Repentance, took place during the entire week before the election? It was the first time in American history that people in all 50 states, Washington, D.C., and Puerto Rico, took part in a simultaneous, week-long time of self-examination, asking God to do a mighty work – not merely “out there,” in the nebulous expanse we call “America,” but in the specific arenas of our personal lives, families and churches. I don’t think it was a coincidence at all. I think it was providential. Our nation needs a bath, a real and deep work of God in each of us, from the inside-out. That bath, I believe, has only just begun.
No president and no political party can do what only God can do. It’s time for genuine, historic movements of God to sweep across America, one person at a time. This is how America will change. This need is not for some distant time in the future, but now. If America is to be saved, the Church must accept her role as the healing balm of the Great Physician.
Never mind “America” for a moment. While many of us have pointed the finger at Mr. Trump and Mrs. Clinton for their character flaws, could it be that, through them, God has been trying to get our attention by reflecting back to us what many of us have become? It’s just like God to allow His people to have leaders just like themselves. If we want leaders of high moral character, we need to become followers who possess the same trait. Leaders, we must remember, arise from among the people.
Yes, Mr. Trump and Gov. Pence will undoubtedly face many hurdles as they make the transition to assume the presidency and vice-presidency of our nation. Mrs. Clinton and Gov. Kaine would have faced their own share of problems had they been elected. 1 Timothy 2:1-7 tells us we are to pray for our leaders, no matter who they are, that God’s agenda be advanced. But in our praying for our leaders, let’s not forget that they are a lot like most of us. It is this sobering realization that helps me realize that the American Church’s need for a bath, real revival and serious spiritual awakening, has never been more pressing. We have a need for a deep, cleansing work of God in our nation, and that cleansing needs to include each of us, right now.
DO YOU THINK AMERICA NEEDS A BATH? WHERE ARE YOU IN THE PROCESS?
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The rest, as they say, is history. In the aftermath of a stunning election upset, Donald Trump and Mike Pence will lead America, starting on Friday, January 20, 2017. One of the main reasons the Trump/Pence victory was so shocking is because many within the mainstream media kept talking about the Clinton/Kane lead, the polls that showed Trump/Pence behind, and how the electoral map heavily favored the Democrat ticket. So much for the experts. Now, the hard work of uniting a divided nation begins.
But how is unity possible, let alone imaginable, after such a stunning upset, where two vastly different visions for America were cast – with Hillary Clinton edging out Mr. Trump in the popular vote? Here are a few suggestions I’d like to toss out in what was one of the most bizarre, hard-fought, contentious elections in United States history:
1. It’s time for everyone in America to take a good, long look at themselves. Now that the smoke has cleared, I think it’s not too unreasonable to suggest that this election season was a referendum on American pop culture, where the pursuit of pleasure seems to have gotten the best – and brought out the worst – in each of us.
If we are upset with the candidates we were given, we have no one to blame but ourselves. If we want to have better choices, we need to be more intentional about encouraging moral, ethical, selfless people to pick up the mantle of leadership. We need to mind our own choices when no one is looking, because eventually the chickens end up coming home to roost.
2. It’s time to stop viewing public service as something for the elite. The best public servants know what it means to serve – not for self-seeking purposes, but for the betterment of others. What about you? Why can’t God use YOU to lead others in noble, ethical, humbly courageous ways – for such a time as this? Start small, and see what God might do through you.
We don’t just need people in leadership positions. We need selfless leaders who will have God’s Kingdom agenda in heart and mind – men and women who will put their own interests aside for eternally significant objectives. If not now, then when? If not you, then who? Stop waiting for someone else to do what God has called you to do. You, not someone else, are the agent of change our nation so seriously needs.
3. It’s time for people in the Church, the body of Christ, to arise – on our knees. Our nation is now at such a place of deep need that it will take a series of miracles to turn around. If we’re going to get a divine bail-out, it won’t happen without human hunger for supernatural intervention. It’s time that our hunger for real, mighty movements of God across America reaches a critical mass to lead us to the point of doing what we have not yet really begun to do across the nation: depend upon God like our future depends upon it. It does, now, more than ever.
The church is God’s “Plan A” for transformation. Our moral malaise and racial divide are things that are best addressed by an army of surrendered servants, men and women who have rediscovered the biblical call to be living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God (Romans 12:1,2). All people are equal at the foot of the cross. It’s time we, within the church, show the world that we really believe it.
4. We need a Second Reformation, a new Great Awakening in America, on an unprecedented scale. Only this will stem the tide of decline that abounds all around us. This new Reformation and Awakening must be characterized by a rediscovery of moral absolutes and humble courage among God’s people, where we are not at all concerned with the opinions of mere mortals, but with the will and agenda of the Son of Man, the Lord Jesus Christ.
We need a sweeping movement of humility across America, one where we rediscover and become convinced once again – with genuine humility – that God’s truths apply to everyone, beginning with ourselves.
I fear that many of us Christians have been trying to get others to follow a Jesus we haven’t been following very closely at all. Our hypocrisy, even if unintentional, must stop. Immediately, and on a massive scale.
Our nation and world are desperate for real, authentic, biblical Christianity where regular, ordinary people end up doing irregular, extraordinary things.
America will be great again, and we’ll all be stronger together, when you and I return to God with the humble ferocity we see modeled by real believers in the pages of Scripture. We’ve been trying everything else, and we’ve seen where that gets us. Lord help us, literally, if we don’t heed the call at this vital time of history to seek and serve God with all we’ve got. Most likely, we won’t get a second chance this late in the game to try again.
What about you? Are you ready for the real hope and change that only the Spirit of God can bring? It’s time.
 As of 6:00 p.m., November 9, 2016