MICHAEL ANTHONY BLOG
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LIKE YOU, I LEAK. In fact, I’m so good at leaking that if I could patent the process I’d be a millionaire capable of turning my profits into one charitable success story after another. I’d have money to feed the poor, clothe the needy, fight human trafficking and more. My problem is that I seem to be wired with an autopilot feature that steers me toward embracing a life of comfort and convenience more than anything else – including the glory of God and His agenda above all else. What’s the cure? The filling with the Holy Spirit. When you’re filled with the Holy Spirit, you’ll be charged, fired up, fearless and fruitful. We need the power of God coursing through our lives. In fact, it is only when we depend upon the Holy Spirit that we can truly live for Jesus Christ.
The Holy Spirit is God’s not so secret “secret weapon.” He transforms us from being walking contradictions into living sacrifices, people on fire for Jesus Christ, unafraid to stand up and speak out in a day of hate and fear. I’ve found that the real challenge begins with me, not what’s happening in the world. I need the Spirit of God to do a mighty work in me each day – moment by moment – so that sin in my own life is pushed back, and the agenda of God is somehow advanced through the most unlikely conduit – me.
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PEER PRESSURE PETER
The same is true for you. It’s true for everyone. One of the things all humans tend to do is think we are unique, but we aren’t. We all face the same problems, though to different degrees. The solutions, therefore, often have similar ingredients. When it comes to overcoming sin in my life, the same solution is effective in your life: the Holy Spirit. He is one of the greatest gifts God gives the believer. Are you enjoying that gift?
Like you and me, Peter the Apostle had a propensity to give in to peer pressure — and peer pressure hinders the flow of God’s Spirit. He denied Jesus three times because he was afraid of people. But Acts 4:8 is a testimony of his transformation, courtesy of the Holy Spirit. It says, “Then Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, said to them: “Rulers and elders of the people!” He went on to testify fearlessly for Christ.
Peter’s transformation is striking, because he was already filled with the Holy Spirit in Acts 2:4: “All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit …”
How quickly we forget what the first believers understood: the filling with the Holy Spirit is not something that happens once and for all. It’s something that must happen perpetually if we expect to be charged, fired up and fruitful for Jesus.
So, how are we filled with the Holy Spirit? One of the lessons I’ve learned from my own failures is that I not only leak, but I’m also a magnet that attracts other things to take the place of what only God can satisfy. I not only leak, but I also get filled up on things I need to resist – because those things take up space that is best taken only by the presence and power of God. I’ve found that I leak less when I guard myself against things that don’t align with honoring God.
HERE’S WHAT WE CAN DO
I need to watch what I watch. This is true not only for the internet and television, but also for what I allow to play in the theater of my mind. The Bible says, “We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ” (2 Corinthians 10:5). If this is true of my thought life, how much more true is it about what I allow my eyes and ears to feast upon?
Common sense tells us that garbage in will lead to garbage throughout. Do you allow yourself to watch, listen to, and think things that you wouldn’t if everything were out in the open before Jesus? Guess what? It already is. The good news is that the Holy Spirit can clean up our lives if we let Him.
In the end, we leak because we allow ourselves to fill up on things that don’t honor God. These are the things that end up coming our of us. The first step to being filled – perpetually – with the Holy Spirit, is to get into the daily and moment-by-moment practice of emptying ourselves of what dishonors God. When that happens, the leaks begin to take care of themselves.
IS THERE ANYTHING MORE I COULD SHARE THAT MIGHT HELP YOU IN YOUR JOURNEY? WHAT STRUCK YOU AS YOU READ? WE’D LOVE TO HEAR YOUR THOUGHTS . . .
ABOUT ME: Most of the lessons I’ve learned in life I’ve learned through failure. I share them happily because doing so may spare you from making the same mistakes. I typically publish my blogs Tuesday through Friday, here and on Facebook. We welcome and read comments from readers just like you because they help us (and others) think and grow. Don’t be shy. Chime in.
My first book, published by Thomas Nelson, is slated for release in March, 2018. For more about me, click on the image or here. If you’d like to request an interview, or to explore the potential of my speaking to your group, click here.
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.
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.