MICHAEL ANTHONY BLOG
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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?
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?
You Need to Master This
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It’s something we all need to do – often and genuinely. The inability to do it creates problems in nearly all aspects of life. The problem is, we often don’t know how. The truth is that we make it harder than it really is. I’m talking about how to apologize – and mean it.
People don’t often stop to consider that repentance and humility are siblings. Genuine apologies are central to a life of humility, because a humble person is someone who recognizes when they’ve done wrong, and owns up to it. If you have a hard time apologizing, you’re already having a hard time being humble – and a person who is not humble is at odds with none other than God. Opposition from God makes all of life much, much harder than it needs to be. Humility is the grease of life.
I know the temptation is to keep reading, but that last last paragraph you just read deserves a second look. In fact, nothing else you’re about to read will be more life-changing than what you’ve just read. The key, however, is in letting that last paragraph sink in until you begin to adjust the rest of life around its truth. Humility really is the grease of life.
Unless your sin is only against God (which is rare), it also affects people. When repentance is real, we usually need to make things right with people, not just God. This involves apologizing, accepting apologies, forgiving and asking for forgiveness. It means changing our ways.
It’s a lie to think we can get real with God and not be real with people. Consider Jesus’ summary of life in Mark 12:30-31:
“You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength. The second (commandment) is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.”
We’ve got to learn how to genuinely apologize, accept apologies, forgive and accept forgiveness. Here’s are some suggestions that I’ve found helpful, which I hope will help you, too:
1. HUMBLE YOURSELF, PRAY, SEEK GOD’S FACE AND TURN. This is where it all begins. If you read the Bible, God’s Word, and really humble yourself before Him, He will so convince and empower you to do what is right that the rest of what you are about to read and do will fall into place.
Put first things first. Spend time with God, get His heart and mind on the matter, and He will enable you to do what is right.
2. BE COURAGEOUS AND SINCERE. DO IT. The best way to apologize is to reflect on your sin, repent of it and then be honest. The more you get into the practice of being honest with God and honest with yourself, the easier it will be to become honest with people. And, you will find that people will begin to see your authenticity and respond in kind. (No, not every time. But you greatly increase the odds if you set the example).
3. MAKE IT UNCONDITIONAL. Leave the consequences to God, not your imagination or the opinions of people. God knows when an apology is sincere and when it is not. Don’t apologize with preconditions. Your reward in apologizing is doing what is right before God and people, not because it will be recognized or applauded by people.
If you have preconceived expectations and wait for people to approve or respond to you, you will set yourself up for discouragement. Just do what is right – without conditions – and trust God.
4. DON’T JUST APOLOGIZE, DO SOMETHING. If you have gossiped, slandered, lied or stolen, you may very well need to do more than simply apologize to the person(s) immediately affected. You may need to go to others and make restitution that reflects your sorrow.
There may be consequences to confessing to a lie or returning something you have stolen. God honors truth and honesty. Do what is right and trust God with the consequences.
Many people get stuck in life for no other reason than not doing what they know, deep down, needs to be done.
5. DON’T GET DISCOURAGED. Apologizing may be new for you. The truth is that it’s new for anyone who really wants to follow God. It’s all about embracing an entirely new lifestyle – one that turns from self and turns to God. Completely. Others may not believe you at first. But as you walk with God you will develop a new reputation with people, and a new freedom to follow God and leave your old ways behind.
Keep doing what is right, and don’t let human comments, fear of rejection, or emotions, deter you.
6. TRUST GOD ALL THE WAY. Remember this simple saying: “The fear of man lays a snare, but whoever trusts in the Lord is safe” (Proverbs 29:25). At the end of the day, you’ll either follow God or people. Follow God, and leave the consequences to Him. Someday, perhaps sooner than you think, you’ll be glad you did.
In this life you’ll experience a freedom and joy that only comes from truly surrendering to God. And in the life to come, you’ll be rewarded even more. A life that is truly surrendered to God is one that masters the lost art of asking for forgiveness and extending it, completely, to others.
HOW ABOUT YOU? Is there someone you need to ask for forgiveness? Is there someone you need to forgive? Why wait to postpone joy, freedom and happiness another second?
Deal With This Or It Will Deal With You
Strife is part of life – but much of the strife we experience can be minimized. This is especially true if you’re a leader, in any capacity, because leaders have to deal with people, and people have a way of not always agreeing with each other. If you want to reduce the strife in your life, and in the lives of others, there is something you must address head-on, or it will play head games with everyone within earshot. Never – and I mean never – let gossip go unaddressed. If you’re going to ignore gossip, you might as well participate in it.
Proverbs 26:20 speaks about the destructive power of gossip:
“Without wood, fire goes out;
without gossip, conflict dies down.”*
Gossip fuels conflict the way dry, seasoned wood feeds a campfire. Allow it to go unchecked and a small campfire can become a raging wildfire. While none of us can avoid all conflict in life, you are a poor (and foolish) leader if you don’t address the kinds of conflict created by the flames of gossip. Don’t debate the truth of God’s word. Gossip is a serious, destructive sin.
HOW TO PUT WATER ON THE FIRE OF GOSSIP
1. Get your facts straight; don’t make assumptions. Before you assume things, do your research. Find out if your suspicions about potential gossip are justified. If they are, take action. If they aren’t, move on.
2. Be humbly courageous. Make the decision to confront the person/people involved. Remember, if you do nothing when you know gossip has occurred, you are deciding to risk the potential of a small fire becoming a raging inferno. If that happens, even more of your time, energy and resources will be taxed. Small sins, left unaddressed, grow (See James 1:15). The lack of courage is a reason for many leadership wildfires. Pray for courage, then lovingly, patiently and firmly approach the person/people involved.
3. Begin by affirming the person/people. Then, ask questions; avoid making accusations. Let the person/people know you value them and their time, and care about their quality of life and the quality of the lives of others. Let them know the motive for your getting together with them, so they know you love them and people.
After doing this, ask questions about the details you discovered in your research. Allow them time to answer, and be open to the possibility that you may have received incorrect information. However, you must also be ready to confront the sin if your information is correct, and gossip did indeed occur. Good leaders don’t shy away from problems — they address them head-on.
4. If the person/people are sorry, lovingly hold them accountable and help them repent. If someone has gossiped, they need to not only be sorry. They need to make amends. Gossip is a sin with tentacles. Those tentacles need to be lopped off. The way this happens is for the person/people who gossiped to approach those they gossiped to and say, from the heart, “I am guilty of gossip. I sinned. I sinned against God. I sinned against you, others and myself by doing so. I am sorry, would you please forgive me?”
Of course, there can be variants of this, but not significant variants. The core of the confession and repentance must be present: admission of guilt/sin against God and people. Remorse for the sin. Asking for the person/people sinned against for forgiveness. Without these ingredients, the person/people have not dealt with the fire they started. It’s very important that humble repentance is manifest by the gossiper, or else the damage they started will spread. We have God’s word on it. Don’t forget Proverbs 26:20.
5. If the person/people who gossiped are not sorry and won’t take ownership of their sin and repent, follow Matthew 18:15-20. The Bible is God’s handbook for conflict resolution. Follow it. By doing so, you are following God, not just a book. Do the right things in the right ways. This is true when it comes to handling someone who has gossiped. Don’t skip steps and don’t compromise because to obey this process is to obey God.
6. Follow up and make time to thank God, personally, and with the person/people who gossiped. If the people involved repent and follow #4, above, wonderful. You have followed the LORD well, led people well, and they have followed well (especially the LORD). The fire will be doused. Take time to stop everything and thank God for His goodness, and commend the repentant person/people for taking godly steps to correct a godless act.
Yes, there may be consequences for the sin of gossip even after the guilty repent and apologize, but all you can do is all you can do – and great leaders are responsible leaders who don’t shy away from conflict. If you are a leader, you must address conflict and its roots, because without doing so, you aren’t going very far. And, neither are the people God called you to lead.
We have to get to the heart of the matter, and the heart of the matter is the human heart. Each of us needs to participate in The National Week of Repentance, coming October 30 – November 6, the week before the election. You don’t have to travel anywhere to jump in. RevivalMatters.com provides all the information you need to invite the deep change of heart and lifestyle that only God can bring.
*Scripture taken from the Holman Christian Standard Bible (HCSB).