MICHAEL ANTHONY BLOG
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LAST NIGHT, MY BOYS AND I TRANSFORMED OUR GUEST ROOM INTO A FICTITIOUS LAND OF BUBBLING LAVA AND CROCODILES. As we lay on the bed, I would give the suspenseful countdown signaling it was time to begin another round – ten, nine, eight, seven, six, five, four, three, two-and-a-half, two, one-and-a-half, one, GO! In our version of last man standing, each of us would then try and push each other off the bed (which had become a raft), and into the waters of the crocodile infested Amazon. When we grew weary of that version, the magical “raft” acquired heat-resistant qualities, and took us down a molten river of lava.
As our frenzied fun-fest began, we realized we needed to move all breakables into the hallway, safe from the harm of our havoc. Once we did, the fun went deeper. We yelled loudly (even screamed), and cried “uncle!” in despair – repeatedly. The sweat, pouring from our pores, coerced us to dig deeper and wrestle with greater fervor. We carried on, laughing hard as we slapped, pinched, and pushed each other off the bed and onto the floor that was only a “floor” in the real world we abandoned earlier. Never did a game of father-son conquest feel so good.
“Imagination is more important than knowledge,” said Einstein. “Knowledge,” he said, “is limited. Imagination encircles the world.” Brother, was he ever right.
Life is so serious these days – and we’re so accustomed to be being entertained from without – that we’ve forgotten the incredible power of the mind to relieve stress, deepen our relationships and help us live and love. For all our achievements in the modern era, I think one of the most tragic is how we look for amusement outside of us, when all along it is within.
Life is short, and time flies fast. Before you know it, it will be over. People, not things, are most important. What matters most is how we love, because one day, nothing else will matter.
Slow down. Use that great mind God has given you. Love, love, love. And stop treating time as if it were in abundance. It is the most priceless, irreplaceable resource we have at our disposal. Dispose of it wisely.
WHAT ABOUT YOU? ARE YOU MAXIMIZING YOUR IMAGINATION?
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.
When God breaks His silence, it’s because He has something big to say. One of the key traits of a Christ-follower is to develop the skill of listening to God – and to immediately adjust that part of life to what He says. If this is not a primary objective of your life, it’s a good indication you are not following Jesus Christ.
The word that summarizes this approach to life is “repentance.” It is to a lifestyle of repentance that Jesus calls everyone when it comes to being His disciple. Without a lifestyle of repentance, it is not possible to follow the Lord Jesus Christ.
In the final analysis, each day will take its place as a tile in the mosaic of our lives. We are either following Christ or someone –- or something –- else. The lie that we believe is that there is satisfaction apart from God. The truth is that God is the author of all satisfaction. To live a surrendered life is to live a life of divine satisfaction. When we compromise surrender, we forfeit fellowship with God, and with it the satisfaction that He alone gives.
There was a season when God was silent for 400 years. The silence of God was between the time of Malachi and the opening words of Jesus Christ, recorded in Mark’s Gospel. (Malachi was the last Old Testament prophet of the book that bears his name. You can find it at the end of the Old Testament, right before Matthew’s Gospel.)
When God is silent, it is only because He is preparing to say something significant. In other words, the silence of God is the silver platter upon which the golden apple will be set. Never, therefore, belittle the silence of God. The Master, even in silence, speaks.
Remember, Jesus is indeed God, and it was not merely the Father, but also the Son who was silent for centuries. Jesus’ first words in Mark’s gospel are staggeringly significant. It is the way God broke His silence that should stop us in our tracks – and as a result, move us forward. Jesus’ words reveal our need for the transforming touch of God, and how fundamentally out of alignment we are without it. His words are simple, but by no means insignificant. They are meant to change everything about us, from the inside-out.
Here are the words, carefully selected and masterfully delivered by Almighty God Himself, when He came on the scene and broke His 400 years of silence:
“The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand;repent and believe in the gospel.” – Mark 1:15 (ESV)
The verb tense in the Greek language that Mark used would be better translated into English as “repent and keep repenting” and “believe and keep believing.” This magnifies the significance of Jesus’ words. A richer, truer understanding of His words reads like this:
“The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and keep repenting, believe and keep believing in the gospel.”
FIRST STEPS, NEW LIFE
Everyone who is now following Jesus had an initial moment of repentance and belief. There is a first time when a person comes to terms with Jesus being God, Savior and friend. But that is simply the new beginning of an entirely new life – an entirely new way of living.
The life of a Christ-follower is to be characterized not merely by belief, but by daily, and moment-by-moment, repentance. Repentance, in brief, is a change of heart, mind and behavior. It is to do a “180,” walking away from the ways of the world, the desires of the sinful nature, and the temptations of Satan.
Everything a Christ follower does is to be marked by a continually turn from selfishness, worldliness and the pursuit of things that don’t matter, to selflessness and things that matter forever.
In short, we need to turn from the sins of self-glorification and of self-protection. All sin can be categorized into one, or both, of these practices. Everything we think, dream and do is to be marked by belief in the Son of God, Jesus, as our Master and Savior in everything. And, when we are really following Jesus, we can no longer take lightly the places we would otherwise go in our minds, hearts and walk. A newfound love for God compels the real Christ-follower to follow.
Surrendering fully to God never limits us. It sets us free. Perpetual repentance and belief are the new calling for the man, woman, boy or girl who has truly heard the Master’s voice and is responding in simple, but vital, obedience.
What about you? Are you repenting and believing throughout each day? I’d love to hear your thoughts. I’m sure others would, too.
Here’s a blog worth sharing on your Facebook wall. It may set your friends free . . .
IF YOU REALLY WANT TO CHANGE, YOU’VE GOT TO CHANGE FROM THE INSIDE-OUT. All other change is only temporary. When change comes at a heart level, in the deepest recesses of who we are, our behavior falls into alignment. I am continually amazed, even awestruck, that there is a book that cuts to the chase, reaches into my heart, and speaks to me every time I pick it up. Every time I read the Bible, I learn something new — or revisit something I used to know, but temporarily forgot. The Bible is unlike any other book because it is the handbook for character transformation — from the inside-out.
“Amazingly, when I confess my sin, I find that the distance between God and me vanishes — instantly. “
I don’t know about you, but I struggle with thoughts about God. I tend to blame Him, while all along He is innocent against my charges. I’m in a season in my life right now where I am struck by how wayward my thoughts are toward God. I’m struck by how, if I’m not attentive, my mind drifts into auto-pilot against God. But it’s not just my mind that struggles. My heart is the real source of my woes. What I need is to be changed from the deepest recesses of who I am. The only problem is that I find that I am incapable of changing myself. I need a heart surgeon to do the deep work within me, to rescue me from myself. Do you have this struggle, or is it mine alone?
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One of the reasons why I love the Bible is because it lays out the shortest distance between God and me. Whenever I read it, I am convicted of sin — but that’s not all. Through it, God also shows me how to stop sinning — and it all centers upon the attitude residing in my heart. This is significant, because I don’t merely need to be reminded of my shortcomings. I need to know how to straighten them out.
There is life-changing power in the Bible because it is not just a book. It’s a literal portal to the heart, mind and presence of God. As Isaiah was changed when in God’s presence (Isaiah 6), I find that I, too, am changed when standing before the King. The way to get there is through the Book of books, the Bible He provided.
Take Psalm 66:18, for instance. It says, “If I had cherished sin in my heart, the Lord would not have listened . . .” (NIV). Sin obstructs my ability to enjoy God. It will do that to you, too. It does for everyone. Sin is no respecter or persons — it affects all of us. But so does the Word of God, if we let it. This morning, as I read Psalm 66 (slowly, which I have to force myself to do in this fast-paced culture), I was reminded of how I had allowed myself to tolerate wrong thinking about God. How ironic, don’t you think? That I would accuse the One Who no longer accuses me, courtesy of Jesus’ sacrifice? How quick I am to turn on the One Who has turned His wrath away from me, when I really deserve its full weight. Amazingly, when I confess my sin, I find that the distance between God and me vanishes — instantly. This is good news for someone with a heart problem.
The more I am in the Word of God, the more my sin is confronted — head on — and the more my thoughts are conformed to what pleases God. I’d be in such a sorry state without the Bible and it’s unique ability to straighten out my crooked ways. I need God to do a deep work in my heart — and one of the key tools He’s given me for an “inside job,” a work from the inside-out, is His very Word, the Bible. It’s His remedy against sin, softening my heart so that I don’t become hardened against the Lover of my soul.
CAN YOU IDENTIFY? I’D LOVE TO KNOW THAT I’M NOT ALONE IN THIS . . .
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?
IF YOU THINK YOUR MARRIAGE IS ABOUT BEING FAITHFUL TO YOUR SPOUSE, YOU’RE WRONG. The longer you’re married, the greater the chances are that you will drift from understanding what your marriage is really about. This is counter intuitive, because one would think that as time passes, the more we would realize the number one secret to having a solid, growing, healthy marriage. Having counseled a lot of couples through more than two decades of ministry, I have seen couple after couple get it wrong about their marriage as time passes. Can I be honest? I’ve even seen myself tempted to miss what it’s all about. I bet I’m not alone. Your marriage isn’t about what you think it is.
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“I PROMISE TO LOVE, HONOR, AND CHERISH YOU — in good times and in bad, in sickness and in health . . . ’til death do we part.” We all made some sort of similar vow when we stood at the altar and pledged our love and faithfulness to our mate on our wedding day. If we’re honest with ourselves (and honest to God), you didn’t understand all that was involved in our marriage vows on the day you made them. If you did, you might not have have gotten married in the first place! It takes a lifetime of commitment to even begin to understand what we are really promising to do through the covenant of marriage. But that shouldn’t deter you. It should inspire you to discover the secret to a great marriage as quickly as possible so you can get busy enjoying its fruit. Here is the secret: You’re marriage will soar when you understand it isn’t only about being faithful to your spouse, but about being faithful to God.
STRUGGLE LESS IN YOUR MARRIAGE
If you struggle with loving your spouse, your real problem isn’t with your spouse — it’s with God. This is because marriage is not primarily about loving your mate. It’s about loving God. If you love God, you’ll love your partner. Love your spouse and keep your part of the bargain. If you understand that your commitment to be faithful to your spouse is really a byproduct of your commitment to God, you will bring renewed passion to your marriage — courtesy of God Himself.
Your spouse isn’t perfect — and neither are you. Imagine being God. He IS perfect, yet He is patient with you. If you keep waiting to find your fulfillment in your partner — to find fulfillment through your partner that can only come from God, today is a great day to recognize that and begin to ask God to do what only He can. Your spouse can certainly provide some of the fulfillment that can only come through marriage, but your spouse is not Jesus Christ. If you’ve made the mistake of making your spouse your savior, today is a good day to cut them some slack, repent, and get back to worshiping God, not your mate.
Your mate is fallen, limited, imperfect and yet loved deeply by God. The cross of Christ proves it. When you said “I do,” you said you would be faithful to God — and in the process be faithful to your spouse. If you know someone who is about to take the marriage plunge, help them understand what it’s all about, so that they can get their relationship off on the right foot. You’ll help set them up for success from day one.
Love your spouse and keep your part of bargain. Marriage isn’t just about being faithful to your mate, but about being faithful to God.
HAVE YOU MADE THE MISTAKE OF THINKING MARRIAGE IS ONLY ABOUT LOVING ANOTHER PERSON? HOW HAS THIS POST HELPED YOU?
IF YOU WALK WITH GOD TODAY, YOU WON’T FIND YOURSELF RUNNING FROM HIM LATER. Never was a nail more squarely hit on the head than the one John Bunyan nailed when he said, “This book will keep you from sin, or sin will keep you from this book.” He was speaking about the Bible. What we tend to forget is that to read the Bible is to have a personal encounter with God — every single time. How many of us would love to have just one clear word from God? The truth is that we can have repeated words from God — as often as we want, any time we want, simply by quieting ourselves down, opening our hearts and minds, and reading the Bible. This can be your reality throughout the entire journey of your life. You can have as much of God as you like, starting today.
Walking with God is not difficult, though it will seem strange at first. This is natural, as Romans 8:7 says: “The mind governed by the flesh is hostile to God; it does not submit to God’s law, nor can it do so.” I’ve found that the more I read the Bible, the more I want to read the Bible. The more I want to read the Bible, the more I want to follow God. The more I enjoy Him. I begin to think His thoughts, treasure the things that matter most to Him — and the way I live begins to change. It directly affects my attitudes toward people, and if you haven’t noticed, people are a huge part of life. Walking with God changes everything because it changes me.
“No one who truly surrenders to God will ever live to regret it . . .”
The same can be true for you, no matter who you are and what your past or your present. You can walk with God. Today will take its place as a tile in the mosaic of your life. Why not walk with God, today? If you make this your daily practice, you’ll find little time to run from God. Running from God only messes things up more. It’s worse than rubbing salt in the wound. At least, after rubbing salt, the chance of infection is diminished — but when we run from God we never make things better. Running from God always makes things worse — because when we run from Him we refuse to let the Miracle Worker do what He does best by straightening out what we’ve made crooked.
Yes, some things in life can take a while to straighten out once we’ve made them crooked. Walking with God doesn’t always mean there will be an instant fix (which is why it’s important to walk with God in the first place. It will reduce your need to start over, apologize, make amends, and get back on track). Walking with God is an ounce of prevention worth the pound of cure, and then some. But you shouldn’t let the thought that getting back on track (or getting on track in the first place) is not going to be worth the surrender.
Think of it this way: If you don’t walk with God now, what more painful problems will you be inviting into your life? Things always go better when we walk with God. Even if you made your path crooked, and that path may take a while to straighten out, the alternative of continuing to run from God will never lead you to the place of peace. Running from God always leads to more hardship, pain, difficulty, stress, loss and all kinds of negativity.
Ultimately, running from God costs us now and it can cost us forever. Consider these words of Paul the Apostle in 1 Corinthians 3:10-15 (NIV), who knew a thing or two about encouraging people to walk with God while they still had time:
“By the grace God has given me, I laid a foundation as a wise builder, and someone else is building on it. But each one should build with care. For no one can lay any foundation other than the one already laid, which is Jesus Christ. If anyone builds on this foundation using gold, silver, costly stones, wood, hay or straw, their work will be shown for what it is, because the Day will bring it to light. It will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test the quality of each person’s work. If what has been built survives, the builder will receive a reward. If it is burned up, the builder will suffer loss but yet will be saved — even though only as one escaping through the flames.”
There are eternally significant consequences of walking with God. Those consequences begin today. No one who truly surrenders to God will ever live to regret it. That’s a lesson I’ve learned the hard way — and it helps me moment by moment, throughout each day, so that I remember the best choice I can possibly make is to walk with God. The other option always leads to loss.
Walking with God is a topic I love to address when I speak to groups. Maybe your church or group would benefit hearing me address this personally through a live message. If so, click here and we can explore some possibilities for your people.
HAVE YOU BEEN RUNNING FROM GOD? TODAY IS A GREAT DAY TO REVERSE THAT TREND AND START WALKING WITH HIM. WHAT CAN YOU SHARE ABOUT YOUR JOURNEY THAT MAY INSPIRE SOMEONE READING THIS TO WALK WITH GOD? AND, DON’T FORGET TO SHARE IT . . .