MICHAEL ANTHONY BLOG
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Thoughts are things. They are either good, bad or neutral. Good and bad thoughts consume the same amount of energy – but one is priceless and the other costly. Why not use your limited energy to embrace good thoughts while disregarding the bad? What’s playing in the theater of your mind? It makes all the difference in the world. Here are some important things to consider about your thought life so that you turn it around, keep it on track, and live your best life for God right here, right now:
- What we do in public begins in secret.Before something is seen in public, it is thought about in private. The mind, in a very real sense, is the soil where we plant the seeds of life or death. We really do reap what we sow.
- “Neutral” thoughts are like sweets– they take up valuable space that could be used for good thoughts. “Neutral” thoughts take up valuable space that could be used for positive thoughts. In the end, then, a thought really isn’t “neutral” at all.
- Negative thoughts are neither neutral nor beneficial– they not only take up valuable space that could be used for good thoughts, but never result in anything good. Negative thoughts rob us of happiness, productivity, healthy relationships and progress in every area of life. There is no good that can come from a negative thought – so why tolerate even one? Have you been allowing your mind to run on auto pilot? If you have, there’s a good chance that negative thoughts have been wreaking havoc, ransacking your well-being.
- Positive thoughts are the only ones that are beneficial to you, others and God. They are the only thoughts that will move you in the right direction. Why not begin (or rekindle) the process of capturing every neutral or negative thought and replacing it with a positive one? Consider 2 Corinthians 10:5:
“We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ . . .”
Every single one of us has the moment by moment choice to determine what plays in the theater of our mind. Everything we do was first done in the mind. Everything. Are you bitter? You’ll behave like a bitter person. Unforgiving? You will be an unforgiving person. Generous? You will behave in generous ways with others.
Think about it. Literally.You’ve been spending mental energy on negative, neutral and positive thoughts. Have any of your thoughts – except the positive ones – been helpful to you, others or God? The amazing thing is that every one of us has the same answer to this question: “No.” But not every one of us will do something about it. You have the power to make a positive change right now. You have the power to take captive every thought, to get rid of negative thoughts and neutral, space-wasting thoughts – and replace them with good thoughts.
YOUR SOURCE FOR POSITIVE THOUGHTS
Looking for good thoughts to replace the negative and the neutral? The Bible is filled with them. Start your day with a bit of reading from the Bible. Fill it with the same. End your day, just before bed, with more reading from the Bible. Put into action whatever you read. You will begin to take captive every thought. Space that was previously taken up by negative, neutral thoughts will be overwhelmed by your new, positive thoughts. Your entire life will begin to turn around – and it will all be due to one simple, powerful thing: you made the choice to play good things in the theater of your mind.
What’s playing in the theater of your mind? Isn’t today a good day to play positive things? Have negative or “neutral” thoughts been sucking up valuable energy that could be spent on positive thoughts? You have the power to determine what you think. Why not take your thoughts captive throughout each day, so you move forward in every single way?
It’s everywhere – even when we’re not looking. My young sons and I were standing in the checkout line, and there it was, again forced upon us through the headline of one of those strategically placed magazines. A famous actor was boasting about his alleged all-night (and humanly impossible) romp with a woman. If you have young children, there is one thing you need to: learn how to talk with your children about sex. And, you need to talk with them about sex – often. If you don’t, others will. Don’t kid yourself: your children are either already thinking and talking about sex – or they would love to – with you.
“Be encouraged. Talking about sex with your children, like sex itself, gets better with time.”
It’s ironic, don’t you think? Our children are here because of a decision we made, yet we are unwilling or embarrassed to tell them how they got here. And, you most likely either enjoy sex or wish you did. If you love your child, don’t you want them to enjoy sex in it’s God-honoring context when the time comes for them to take the plunge? Don’t you wish someone did that for you? Stop kidding yourself. Most of us didn’t have parents who taught us the good news about sex – yet we wish we did. You can be the parent or guardian you wish you had.
Be encouraged. Talking about sex with your children, like sex itself, gets better with time. The truth is, you are more afraid to talk to your children about sex than they are. The more you do, in healthy, God-honoring ways, the more healthy a view they will have about sex and all of life. Unhealthy views about sex and self are the root of multiple problems in and throughout life. By instilling a biblical view about sex into your children, you lay the groundwork for a biblical lifestyle that enjoys God and everything He has given us.
Your children need to learn about sex from you. They need to know that sex and emotional intimacy are intertwined. Don’t you wish someone had explained this to you? Boom. You just became your own case study. Why not spare your children from the confusion and awkwardness you went through, love them, and help them avoid the problems you faced? After all, this is one of the primary roles of a parent.
“If you shun this responsibility, you will unintentionally force your children to learn about sex in places and ways that can distort the truth – and ruin their understanding of one of the greatest gifts God has given humanity.”
Part of what it means to disciple your child is to help them succeed by learning from your failures and successes. Disciple your children.Teach them about sex. Let them know youare their “go to” person for not only the facts but also the purpose and context of guilt-free, steamy, satisfying, God-given, emotionally fulfilling sex. When you do, you will also help them realize that life, contrary to what the world has us thinking, isn’t all about sex. How you handle or ignore the issue of sex will stick with them every day of their lives. It will shape the rest of their lives.
“I learned about sex through my friend, Harry, as we sat on hay bales in the hay loft of our big red barn at the end of a long, hot summer. It was a talk I would have loved to have with my father . . . And I could have, if only he hadn’t believed the lies that sex was dirty, difficult to discuss, and unimportant to the rest of life.”
Even when our children hear about sex from other sources, they need to know they can come to you as their expert – the person who will put sex in its God-honoring, fulfilling context. If you shun this responsibility, you will unintentionally force your children to learn about sex in places and ways that can distort the truth – and ruin their understanding of one of the greatest gifts God has given humanity.
This is what happened to me. I learned about sex through my friend, Harry, as we sat on hay bales in the hay loft of our big red barn at the end of a long, hot summer. It was a talk I would have loved to have with my father. And I could have, if only he hadn’t believed the lies that sex was dirty, difficult to discuss, and unimportant to the rest of life. The truth is, Dad knew more about sex and life than me – so that made him qualified to lead the discussion. The same is true for you and your children.
There isn’t much that’s private about sex any more. If you don’t talk with your children, someone else will. In fact, they already are. The question is whether or not what they are hearing is from God’s perspective, the world’s perspective or the devil’s perspective. This is why you need to be the “go to” person for your children when it comes to the most intimate, formative and life-influencing topic on earth. Sex is not a dirty word.
Does the thought of talking to your child about sex scare you? Don’t let it. You can learn how to talk to your child about sex – and, you can enjoy it. I’ll be sharing some suggestions here, in my blog, so stay tuned. And, there are many great resources available, too. Ask God to guide you, and He will.
Lubrication reduces friction and makes things move more easily. Your car needs it. I know this first-hand because the front wheel of my first car, a 1973 Plymouth Valiant, came completely off – right after I had been driving on the highway. Scary. I cringe when I think of what might have been if only I were on the highway a few minutes longer. You probably wouldn’t be reading this blog.
My car wheel came off because I didn’t keep it lubricated. But cars aren’t the only thing that need lubrication. Our lives need it, too. What is the “grease” of life – that one essential component that keeps us moving forward with God and with people? You may be surprised, but by the time we’re done, you’ll be convinced.
Life is relationships. Think about it. There is no area of life that is not in some way impacted by relationships, for better or worse. Even time we spend alone is impacted by what is happening between us and people, us and God. The quality of our relationships affects everything. When things are going well with God, things go better with people. And when things are going well with people and with God, all of life is wonderfully lubricated and things run smoothly. Haven’t you found this to be true?
Repentance is the “grease” of life. Without it, we don’t go anywhere with God – and we don’t go anywhere with people.
WHAT IS REPENTANCE?
Jesus’ first sermon began with these words: “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel” (Mark 1:15). Interestingly, the original language conveys continuous action, not a one-time event. It would be better translated as “repent and keep repenting and believe andkeep believing.” What a lesson! To “repent” means to continuously change your heart and mind to such a degree that behavior changes. Any simple study of repentance in the Bible will lead you to this same conclusion. It’s possible to change a behavior and not change an attitude of the heart or mind. But when change happens on the inside, at a heart and mind level, it makes its way to how we live.
“. . . repentance is what supernatural living is all about.”
WHAT PREVENTS REPENTANCE?In a word, repentance is prevented by pride. It’s the original sin, and we’re so very good at it. It’s our default mechanism, but that doesn’t make it right or good. That’s what makes it so deceptively devastating, so we must be on our guard against falling into what comes so naturally. Repentance, by contrast, is what supernatural living is all about.
Until repentance becomes a way of life (try being a Christ-follower without this), we are living out of character with our new identity, our new nature and our new direction as followers of “the way, the truth and the life” (John 14:6). Without the grease of repentance, life becomes an unnecessarily complicated uphill battle.
HOW DO WE REPENT?
Repentance requires honesty. We’ll never repent if we don’t acknowledge the truth. We need to be honest with God, ourselves and others. Jesus said “Everyone on the side of truth listens to me” (John 18:37, NIV). If you want a well-lubed life, a life that is easier, less stressful, more productive, more enjoyable and more God-honoring – a life that more positively impacts everyone you encounter and everything you do, repentance needs to become your new best friend. Without it, you’ll get . . . stuck. And, you’ll stay stuck until you add the grease of life, repentance.
Repentance happens when we deliberately recognize that it’s simply not good, wise, healthy or productive to go through life on autopilot. Repentance is agreeing with God about what He already knows. It’s a life of transparency before God and people. It requires apologizing and changing behavior to reflect the sorrow. 2 Corinthians 7:10 describes it perfectly: “For godly grief produces a repentance that leads to salvation without regret, whereas worldly grief produces death.”Repentance will set you free.
What about you? Could you use a little more lubrication in this journey of life? It’s all possible through the grease of life, repentance.
The National Week of Repentance is underway, this week.Lubricate your life with our free resources. They will help you, your family and your house of worship go deeper with God and further with people. We even offer tips on how to apologize.After all, repentance is the grease of life.
Eventually, we all meet this person. They say they know Jesus Christ as their Savior – but they never seem to walk in victory, with Jesus as Lord. They are constantly going from one person to the next for counsel, help, encouragement and inspiration – but they never seem to have anything to say that comes directly from the mouth of God. They don’t walk in victory. Why? How can a person who says they know Christ follow everyone but Christ? What about you? Are you this person? Every single one of us needs a counselor. A really, really good counselor. It’s good to read books about the Bible, and to seek godly counsel – but it’s best to go right directly to the source of wisdom – God Himself, and His teachings in the Bible. Secondary sources, while helpful in our spiritual journey, are no substitute for the counsel of God Himself.
“Are you listening, taking God up on His offer? One source of counsel creates a victorious life. All the other sources . . . will leave you wanting.”
When all is said and done, you will have either built your life on the words of Jesus, which come directly from His word, the Bible, or you will have built it upon secondary sources.
DIVINE COUNSEL FOR MERE MORTALS Psalm 119 is my favorite Psalm. It’s a real “magnum opus,” a masterpiece of heavenly insight. Though every verse within is rich, verse 24 is great to consider when it comes to who gives you counsel in the course of life:
“Your testimonies are my delight, they are my counselors.”
Who counsels you? The Psalmist explains that God, through His Word, provides counsel to anyone willing to listen. Are you listening, taking God up on His offer? Which would you rather have, unfiltered, pure counsel directly from the throne of God, or counsel that is processed, edited and watered down? One source of counsel creates a victorious life. All the others, if they are the primary places from which you get counsel, will leave you wanting.
I want to encourage you to read Psalm 119 all through this week. Take a month if you’d like. The more time you saturate yourself in it, the more you will be convinced that God is the best counselor you can ever have. He’s the best Counselor available – if only you make His Words the centerpiece of all you are and all you do.
Who is your counselor? Are you living a victorious life? It’s available if you will let God’s Word, the Bible, be your counselor.
Everything else in life can wait, but this cannot. It’s time. It’s time for a national week of repentance. Not next year, but in a few weeks, from October 11-18. We created and launched a new web site dedicated to this historic call. It’s RevivalMatters.com. Check it out for complete details, and start spreading the word . . .
All around us we see the signs. Moral decline. Racism. Financial collapse. Fear. Hatred. A leadership void. All of these are symptoms of a deeper problem. Our national woes are the sum of our personal and family problems. They are reflections of spiritual dryness. Our nation is broken, and we know it. The question is, “what can we do about it?”
Seventeen years ago I was pastoring my first church outside Portland, Oregon. It was a difficult assignment. One day, as I was out and about, I was driving out of the parking lot of a shopping mall. I quickly found myself in an unusually long line of cars on their way to the mall exit. At first, I was at the end of the line, but as more shoppers joined in, I took comfort in knowing I was not alone. I was absorbed into the growing mass of people in pursuit of their next task for the day. The line absorbed me, and as I inched along I realized this was no ordinary line. Something strange was happening up ahead.
“There, in the middle of the parking lot, someone had left an empty Starbucks Mocha Frappuccino bottle – neatly placed in an upright position. . . Seventeen years later, I still have that bottle, in all its filthy splendor.“
In the distance, I could see car after car do exactly the same thing when they reached precisely the same spot in the parking lot. Each car would slowly swerve to the right, cut back to the left, get back in line, then exit the parking lot. Car after repeated this odd dance, stirring my curiosity. As the feat was mimicked again and again, and we crept along at a turtle’s pace, my blood pressure rose and my emotions simmered. “What is going on here?” I demanded. When I finally came to the curious spot, I could see exactly why the line existed and why everyone was slowing down and swerving to the right. There, in the middle of the parking lot, someone had left an empty Starbucks Mocha Frappuccino bottle – deliberately placed in an upright position.
A DIFFERENT CHOICE
Now, it was my turn to do the dance, follow the crowd and swerve to the right. I had things of my own to do that day. After all, everyone else was doing the same thing. “Insanity,” said Einstein, “is doing the same thing and expecting different results.” The identical choice of driver after driver did nothing for the drivers who followed. In fact, the decision to swerve, rather than move the bottle, guaranteed a slow-moving, lengthening line. Insanity.
“Why doesn’t someone move that bottle?” I asked, as if conversing with an imaginary passenger. “What is wrong with people?” I followed up. I don’t know how many minutes or car lengths passed, but it wasn’t too long before I heard a still, small voice say to me “Why don’t you move the bottle?” The idea was revolutionary. I would swerve to the right, stop my car, open my door and pick up that Starbucks Mocha Frappuccino bottle. And that’s exactly what I did.
“Insanity,” said Einstein, “is doing the same thing and expecting different results.”
Seventeen years later, I still have that bottle, in all its filthy splendor. I purposely left it exactly as it was. It rests in my office, reminding me that in order for things to change, people must.
TALK IS CHEAP. REPENTANCE IS PRICELESS.
It seems that our talking heads and media outlets do nothing more than stir the pot. They share the bad news, shake their heads and point their fingers, declaring “Something’s gotta change. Things are getting so bad.” We know that.
If you’re reading this, you probably agree – and you’re absolutely right. Something needs to change. But in order for things to change, people must change. Change begins with you and me.
Sadly, we leaders in our houses of worship aren’t providing much leadership, either. We’re the first ones who need to repent. Many of us are sticking our heads in the sand, going on as if it were business as usual – during very unusual times. Others of us think we’re helping matters by reminding our people that things are really, really bad. Again, we know that. Still others are waiting for a divine bail-out. They are using the “Rapture” or the second coming of Christ as “escape clauses” for personal responsibility and leadership that they were never meant to be. God’s timing and work are up to Him. Our work – and what we do with our remaining time – is up to us. The truth of the matter is that we are acting out of our minds to keep doing things the way we’ve been doing them. It doesn’t take an Einstein to recognize that. What we haven’t tried is courage – and humility. Often, these two work together.
Our nation is broken because it’s a collection of brokenness. Broken lives. Broken families. Broken houses of worship. We’ve lost our way. It’s time for confession, apologies, forgiveness and repentance. It’s time for healing, restoration and genuine revival. The National Week of Repentance is designed to help you, your family and your house of worship experience God’s healing, renewing touch – but it is also far more. It’s a national week on purpose – because a single day just isn’t enough.
WE CAN NO LONGER WAIT. NOW IS THE TIME.
The first National Week of Repentance is scheduled for October 11-18, 2015 – because we just can’t wait any longer. Lord willing, additional weeks will follow in 2016, and more and more individuals, families and houses of worship will catch the vision. Why? Because repentance is an ongoing work. And right now, we could all use a lot of time to reflect on our ways – and then to change. That’s what repentance is all about.
More details are coming quickly. We will be scrambling to mobilize people. It’s time to spread the word. Everything else can wait. This cannot.
Join the movement. Be part of The National Week of Repentance, and spread the word. And, if you live in or near York, Pa, make sure you come and visit this Sunday and beyond at Grace Fellowship. I love pastoring this flock, and we’d love to have you join us.
Do you think America needs a spiritual awakening or two?
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 . . .