MICHAEL ANTHONY BLOG
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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 . . .
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…
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.
There are three words you should get into your vocabulary that will revolutionize your life and the lives of everyone who hears them. You need to use them in your personal life, as a leader and in every relationship you have. They are rare words, nearly forgotten in the hectic, distracted pace of life. If you resurrect them you will get more out of life – and breathe life into every relationship you have. The three words I’m speaking of are “I am sorry.” You may be tempted to use the contraction “I’m,” reducing the phrase to “I’m sorry,” but resist doing so. So many things are abbreviated these days – but the one thing you shouldn’t speed through, which you should never abbreviate, is communicating when you are sorry for hurting someone. Apologies are a forgotten kindness these days – but they mustn’t be in your journey toward success.
The most common ways we offend someone, and need to apologize, are numerous:
- Words spoken
- Words neglected
- Failure to provide worthy acts of affection and appreciation
- Failure to respect, love and appreciate another person, their ideas or their efforts
While there are many ways we can offend others, there is one sure way to offer healing, restoration and kindness. It’s done with a sincere apology by using these three, simple words, “I am sorry.”
Who have you hurt? And if it was unintentional, it doesn’t mean the hurt was insignificant. Some of the most significant hurts are those we inflict without intention. Get into the practice of saying “I am sorry,” and mean it. Own up for you failure and you will be back on the road to success. Simply saying the words won’t have the maximum impact they otherwise will if you look the person/people in the eye and say it slowly, deliberately, “I am sorry.”
Get “I am sorry” into your vocabulary, mean them from the heart, and use them often. You will be amazed at the incredible power they have to transform any relationship, making it better. You may wonder “How can I do that when it feels so awkward?” You do it by – doing it. Don’t wait for the other person. Reach out, right now, and say “I am sorry.”
Once you let those three words rise up from your heart and roll off your tongue, the response is up to the person or people to whom they are offered. But ultimately, it’s up to God. Leave the consequences up to Him. Don’t let speculation about the possible outcome paralyze you and keep you from doing your part by apologizing. In the meantime, just do your part. In doing so, you will be fulfilling the greatest of all commandments, as clarified by Jesus Himself: love the Lord your God with all your heart, mind, strength and soul (Mark 12:28-34).
To whom do you need to apologize? You have three powerful words in your vocabulary. Use them, and let love take root. Let the healing begin.