MICHAEL ANTHONY BLOG
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The problem with us mortals is that we continually limit God. As a result, we don’t just limit God, but also ourselves and everyone around us. When we limit God it affects how we live. Three years ago, today, I led my dad to personal faith in Jesus Christ as his Savior and Lord. But three years and one day ago, I thought that moment would not happen, because of something I heard him say as he sat on the side of his hospital bed, unaware that I had entered the room. His words were so devilishly daunting that I hesitate to even share them here. But I will, because I think doing so may encourage you or someone you know when you see how things turned out. You see, no one is beyond reach when it comes to the transforming power of Jesus Christ.
“I’m just like Hitler. Whatever I say, people have to do.” These are the words that slipped from my father’s lips – the very day before he gave his life to Christ. That was a dark day in his life – and mine as well. Neither of us knew he was just 10 days from death. Who, in their right mind, would say such a bizarre thing? Dad was in his right mind – humanly speaking – but spiritually, he was as distant from God as every single one of us before we have the veil removed and we see the Light. It was that day I began to think “Maybe Dad will never give his life to Christ. Maybe it just won’t happen.” I thank God that He would not let my stinking thinking limit Him from what He wanted to do in the life of my father.
“. . . in the end, God won and my relationship with dad was powerfully, gloriously enriched.”
Dad had served his country in the Air Force, with great dignity and success (I included his basic training photos, when he was just 20 years old, with this post). But dad struggled being a father, as his father had struggled, too. He and I were estranged for over a decade, and all through my childhood he and I struggled to get close to one another. Until the moment he accepted Christ, dad never seemed to show an interest in God, and he rebuffed repeated attempts by me and others help him realize he needed to repent and to be forgiven.
God can do the impossible. That’s what God does, and He does it exceptionally well.
There is a lot more to the beautiful story of reconciliation between my dad and me. There is a lot more to the beautiful story of his reconciliation with God. My relationship with my Dad was one of the most amazing, healing and powerfully transforming things in my life. God did such an amazing work that when I think of my dad I have fond affection, and great joy knowing that in the end, God won and we were powerfully, gloriously enriched. I’ll share more on those details in future posts, but for now, I have two important questions you might want to ask yourself, and then adjust your life, accordingly:
- Have I given up on someone on whom God has not given up?
- Have I begun to limit God?
I sure would love to hear your thoughts. Share away . . .
It’s a misunderstood word. A really misunderstood word. But it’s not just the word that is misunderstood – it’s also the entire concept that goes with it. Since it has everything to do with what it means to follow Jesus Christ, it’s a pretty big deal. It’s the first thing Jesus commands the people to do when He shows up on the scene in Mark 1:15, smashing the 400 years of silence since God had spoken through the prophet Malachi. Understand the word – and the concept behind it – and your whole life will change for the best. Misunderstand it, and you’ll never reach your fullest potential in Christ. In fact, you won’t even understand what it means to be a genuine follower of Jesus Christ.
If we want to follow Jesus – really follow Jesus – we need to understand the word He uses in Mark 1:15:
“The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.”
The word of the day, every day, is “repent.” If you understand what it means, and how often it should happen, your entire walk with Christ will change.
YOUR BREAKTHROUGH Our understanding of what it means to “repent” is typically limited. We think it means to simply be sorry or to apologize. We think it’s what we do when we make that initial decision to give our lives to Christ and ask Him to be Savior and Lord of our lives. But the definition of the word “repent” – and its daily application, has much richer meaning.
Your break-through will come when you understand the definition of the word “repent,” – and how often we’re supposed to do it. It’s from the original Greek word “μετανοέω” (metanoeó). There are two things you should note about this word: the definition and the tense. Miss these and you won’t be able to do what Jesus says we must.
DEFINITION To “repent,” as Jesus uses the word, is “to change one’s mind, to fully align one’s heart, to have a particular kind of remorse that actually changes behavior.” In other words, until our remorse moves us to a change in behavior, we haven’t really repented. If we really repent, we change our thoughts, our hearts and our behavior. Jesus doesn’t want crocodile tears. He wants lifestyles that increasingly become like His.
TENSE The verb tense used for this occurrence of “repent” is not a one time, once-and-for-all application. It’s something that is to be continual, every day, every moment. The teaching? We are not only to repent initially, but perpetually. The new walk of a follower of Jesus Christ is a walk of continually changing one’s mind and heart to the point of a different way of living.
Granted, none of us has an instant, complete change in behavior – but this is precisely the point: the aim of a disciple, a Christ-follower, is to be on a new journey through the remainder of one’s life.
QUESTIONS TO CONSIDER Have you repented, given your life to Christ as your Savior from sin and Master (Lord) of your life? It’s not difficult. Even a child can do it. Wherever you are, right now, you can give your life to Christ.
Are you repenting every day – throughout each day, as manifested by a change in thinking, a change in the affections of your heart, and a change in your behavior? This is what we do when we make it our ambition to follow Jesus Christ.
Repentance, for the Christ-follower, is a new way of life. Share your thoughts. You’ll help me, and others, by sharing.
The longer something is around, the greater the odds it will break. Take relationships, for instance. The longer a relationship lasts, the greater the odds that it will undergo “stress tests.” These tests are brought to us courtesy of different personalities, the different ways in which we respond to similar circumstances, financial hardships, you name it. Eventually, the stress of life can produce cracks. The cracks can spread, deepen and cause greater and greater damage. Before we know it, a relationship is broken. The question is, how do we fix a broken relationship?
Broken people heal broken relationships. Think about this for a moment, because it is counter-intuitive – yet entirely true. Brokenness heals. The Bible teaches this repeatedly. This is true personally, in our families and in our nation. Without brokenness, we simply can’t be whole. Brokenness is the first step toward becoming whole. In other words, without brokenness you and I aren’t going anywhere.
“The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.”Psalm 51:17
In other words, God is not put off by brokenness; He actually finds it quite attractive. To heal any relationship, start with yourself. Not with a fixation on healing, but on brokenness. Are you honest with God, honest with yourself, honest with others? Brokenness begins with honesty. Without honesty, there is not brokenness.
1. Do you expect people to do for you what only God can do? In other words, have you put people on pedestals where only God can stand? It’s a common tendency that we all succumb to with time. We want people, in some capacity, to take the place that only God can take.
2. Do you expect yourself to be who God alone can be, to do what God alone can do? Remember, if you could live this life outside of Eden without divine help, the Divine Helper would not have offered you Jesus Christ and the corresponding gift of the Holy Spirit who comes along with faith in Jesus. God is God, not you. By definition, you and I need to lean on Him fully, not partially.
3. Do you expect God to do things for you that He is not under obligation to do? To be broken is to be humble, and a humble person doesn’t boss God around, telling Him how to perform. For many of us, God has become super-sized genie. We come to Him with our wishes, which we think He must grant. The best way to know – for sure – if what you are asking God to do is something you have a right to ask Him to do is to make sure your heart and mind are saturated with the Bible. The Bible is the heart and mind of God. This is what 2 Timothy 3:16 means:
“All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man (or woman) of God may be competent, equipped for every good work.”
When we really saturate ourselves in God’s Word, the Bible, we get the heart and mind of God – and then we really know what and how to pray – and live.
LET ME HEAR WHAT YOU THINK.
I’M TRAVELING WITH YOU.
Not all stars have big heads. There are many who have big hearts, and can teach us a lesson or two about walking with God. This is what I discovered during my recent interview with TobyMac (@officialtobymac) before a concert he performed at our church (@gfyork). You can listen to the interview here or on iTunes.
Here’s what I learned from my time with TobyMac that will encourage you to walk with God:
1. Don’t love the ministry, love Jesus. TobyMac seems to be genuinely humble, with a real private walk with God. He was honest with his struggles. His body language was just as earnest and sincere as his comments. He seemed to be a man who was genuinely interested in knowing Jesus Christ, not simply producing songs. The same can be true for each of us. Rather than being in love with our ministries or careers, we can be in love with Jesus, and keep our pursuit of Him the #1 passion of our lives.
2. One need not rest on the past to have a bright future. TobyMac had huge success with DC Talk – but his success nowadays seems to have grown exponentially. In other words, past success can be repeated. TobyMac obviously has a passion for Jesus Christ that has created ongoing momentum for Christ that is bearing much fruit. What success have you had in the past? Are your best days over? They need not be. If you are passionate about Jesus and pursue HIM, rather than “success,” you will have ongoing, true success. No one who pursues Jesus is a failure. Yes, we may fail at times, but our lives are resounding successes when we pursue Jesus.
3. To be real with people, be honest to God. The more success we have, the more dangerous it is to become phony. TobyMac is the real deal, and has obviously worked hard to be real with God. Being real with people should be natural – because we are honest with God. One of the primary traits of humility is honesty. If we’re not honest with God, then what are we?
Is your life honest to God? Do you struggle with being real with people?Give the interview a listen – and be encouraged.
I’d love to hear your thoughts…
“The tendency of fire is to go out. Therefore, watch the fire on the altar of your heart.”
So said William Booth, founder of the Salvation Army. He understood what every Christ-follower will come to understand as time passes: our walks with God need renewal. Left alone, our fire goes out. So, here are three practical things you can do, immediately, to rekindle your fire for God.
Keep a Bible bed-side and read it first thing in the morning and last thing at night. Before you even get out of bed, reach for your Bible and read it. At the end of each day, make that same Bible the very last thing you read before turning out the light. But make sure you pay attention when you read. Don’t let yourself be distracted. Remember the Pharisees. They read the Old Testament and memorized it.
Before you read the Bible, pause and ask God to help you pay attention, get what He wants you to get, and put it into practice. Praying this prayer, genuinely, will help you read the Bible meaningfully. God will help you as you seek Him and His help.
Rust and ritual are best friends. Shake up your “ritual” with God by changing how you do things. Go for a prayer walk in the morning, or at the end of the day. You can read a passage of the Bible, then go for a walk, literally, with God. On your walk, talk to Him about what you just read, ask Him questions – listen. Be still as you walk, reflecting on the passage you read. If you do this, God’s word will begin to saturate you – and you will begin to think and behave differently, in ways that honor Him and benefit you.
Consider how the things you watch, listen to and think about affect your ability to focus on, follow and enjoy God. Are the television programs you are watching honoring to God? What about your time on social media? Do you really need to be on the computer or your phone as much as you are? What kinds of things do you allow yourself to ponder throughout the day, and do they really demonstrate a love for God and for people? Consider this potent passage of the Bible and how you can apply it to the things you watch, listen to and think:
“We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ.”2 Corinthians 10:5
Start taking your thoughts captive by being more attentive to what influences your thinking in the first place. You were created as a masterpiece by God, in His very likeness (Genesis 1:27). You’re not junk, and Jesus would not have died for junk. Live like the masterpiece you are. Don’t let stinking thinking ruin your life. Destroy all “arguments” that compete with who you really are, created in the beautiful, magnificent image of God.
If you take the above three suggestions, you can absolutely rekindle your walk with God. Why not share these with a friend or two, and help them, too?
Why wait to fulfill your destiny? Today is a great day to walk with God.
When we gossip or slander, we kill at least three people. We kill ourselves, we kill the person who listened to us and we kill the person about whom we spoke. Naturally, if we speak to more than one listener, or about more than one person, we will inflict greater damage. We’ve all done it at one time or another. That doesn’t make it right. That makes it alarming. The most dangerous weapon you will ever possess isn’t one you can go out and purchase. Nor is it one for which you need a conceal/carry permit. It was given you to in your mother’s womb, before you even knew how to wield it. I’m talking about your tongue.
What is “gossip”? The Greek word in the New Testament that is translated into the English word “gossip” means “whisperings” or “tale-bearings.” It is to speak in ways where the speaker does not want to be easily identified because of the inappropriate, less than honorable subject matter and/or manner in which it is shared. When we “whisper,” we don’t want others to hear what we have to say – especially the person about whom we are speaking. A gossip “whispers” in order to protect their own identity while damaging that of another. It’s classically hypocritical, which should wake us up. In Matthew 24:42-51, Jesus speaks with great force against the sin of hypocrisy:
“Therefore be on the alert, for you do not know which day your Lord is coming.
“But be sure of this, that if the head of the house had known at what time of the night the thief was coming, he would have been on the alert and would not have allowed his house to be broken into.
“For this reason you also must be ready; for the Son of Man is coming at an hour when you do not think He will.
“Who then is the faithful and sensible slave whom his master put in charge of his household to give them their food at the proper time?
“Blessed is that slave whom his master finds so doing when he comes.
“Truly I say to you that he will put him in charge of all his possessions.
“But if that evil slave says in his heart, ‘My master is not coming for a long time,’ and begins to beat his fellow slaves and eat and drink with drunkards; the master of that slave will come on a day when he does not expect him and at an hour which he does not know, and will cut him in pieces and assign him a place with the hypocrites; in that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.” (ESV)
Slander is gossip on steroids. One of the Greek New Testament words translated into “slander” means “to defame,” and “to injure the reputation.” A slanderer is not merely sharing information, but sharing it in such a way as to destroy another person or people. Like gossip, slander often takes place in secrecy, with the slanderer taking great measures to ensure their own protection. Again, it is hypocrisy in classic form.
The Greek word in the famous Matthew 4 account of Jesus’ wilderness temptations is translated into the English word “devil.” Amazingly, it is the same root word used for the word “slander” and “slanderous” found in other parts of the Bible, like 2 Timothy 3:3, where people in the last of the Last Days are said to be “slanderous.”
Gossip and slander are forms of verbal suicide. When we engage in gossip or slander – or tolerate it when practiced in our presence (which is to be a “listener”), we hold the devil’s hand and speak his language. Enough is enough. It’s time we begin to be a catalyst for healthy conversations, and fulfill the greatest of all commandments, to love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength (Deuteronomy 6:5), and to love your neighbor as yourself (Leviticus 19:18). This teaching is just as relevant as it was in Old Testament times, or in the day when Jesus referenced both of these commands and said they were inseparable (Mark 12:28-34). When we gossip or slander, or tolerate those who do, we condone verbal suicide and collateral murder. Murder by mouth is a serious sin. It’s time we get serious about loving God and loving our neighbors.
Do you gossip or slander? Do you tolerate people doing it in your presence? Why? When you do, you are neither loving God nor your neighbors.
Listen to the companion podcast, Murder by Mouth, with iTunes, on Godfactor.com, or the free Godfactor App, available in your app store. If you live near York, Pennsylvania, come visit us at GraceYork.com. We’d love to have you enjoy God with us.