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The speed of life

“Watch out, Michael, life goes too damn fast. Before you know it, it’s over!”  These are the words of my father days before his last breath. The cancer had quickly gotten the best of him, but not his ability to speak his mind with blunt force trauma. He had an epiphany about life that seemed to come too late. In learning late, Dad taught me early. 

Be careful: the speed of life accelerates as we age. Not in real time, but in time as we experience it. The more I try to slow life down, the less I am able to keep up. Time evaporates so quickly. Why do we live as if we have an unlimited amount of the one resource that is most limited? Time is the one thing of which we cannot buy more – and yet we treat it as if we can. Why do we allow ourselves to be so self-deceived? And by the time we realize what we’ve allowed, it’s a bit too late. The best time of our lives has already slipped by.

Time is the one thing of which we cannot buy more – and yet we treat it as if we can. Why do we allow ourselves to be so self-deceived?

My children are growing in age and height. More wrinkles appear on my face, and my body cannot do the things it used to do with ease. This is everyone’s lot. Eventually, life catches up to us – and then it does an underhanded thing – it passes us in the speed lane. 

When I was younger I remember how summer vacation seemed an eternity. No responsibilities. No limit to how often I could play on our small farm, run in the fields, skip stones in our pond, or overturn large rocks in our stream in search of crawdads. But now those days are gone – and the mix of life’s temporal and eternal aspects stands before me like a winter’s day, cold yet beautiful.

It is, at times, easy to lose heart. I will one day have to say goodbye to my handsome sons and beautiful wife. I will most likely have to do this when I am not thoroughly prepared, no matter how well I may try to brace myself. Though none of us is ever truly ready to go, our going will come at God’s appointed time. The temporal will yield to the eternal. Cold will give way to beauty. Forever.

“So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day.” – 2 Corinthians 4:16 (ESV)

Time cannot steal what God gives to us so richly. 

The Psalmist prayed it well:

“So teach us to number our days that we may get a heart of wisdom.” – Psalm 90:12 (ESV)

The funny thing about wisdom is that the more we get it the more we realize how little we have. Life is short. Live like it.

“Lord, give me wisdom to number my days so that I may get the kind of heart that comes from You. Without wisdom, I will drift away from what really matters most.” More than ever, this is my prayer. Is it yours? 

Does life seem short to you? Are you living it with God’s wisdom? Why not ask Him for a heart of wisdom as you begin each and every day, and repeat that heart-cry each and every hour?

I’d love to know what you think. 

You’re Welcome. This will simplify your life.

There are five core values that you should consider adopting for your life, family and church. But you have to do more than simply adopt them, or nothing will change. You have to be very deliberate and fight really hard, with great wisdom, to ensure these five values shape everything – or they will shape nothing. If you are willing to adopt them and ferociously fight to make them rudders for your life, family and church, the impact will be positively staggering.
One such value worth fighting for isSIMPLICITY. If you’re not careful, the autopilot of life will lead you toward busy-ness, distraction and complexity. These three are enemies of the simple goal, found in God’s Word, for which you, your family and church should be aiming:

“But I am afraid that as the serpent deceived Eve by his cunning, your thoughts will be led astray from a sincere and pure devotion to Christ.” – 2 Corinthians 11:3 (ESV)

You’re welcome. This verse spares you years of trying to figure out the purpose of life. The purpose of your life, family and church is to make sure that Jesus Christ is sincerely and purely worshiped.

NEITHER ILLUSION NOR ALLUSION
That’s right. Jesus worship is not alluded to in the Bible. It’s blatantly, perpetually promoted – by every single New Testament author. In most cases they are even eyewitnesses. This is nothing to brush aside, because these authors/witnesses lived in the closest historical time to the life, teachings and miracles of Jesus. To ignore their writings is to place oneself above history itself, and to ignore the most practical and important starting point in any attempt to discover and embrace the Jesus of history.The real, true Jesus. To ignore or downplay the importance of such writings is to refashion Jesus into a non-Jesus. A Jesus in name, but a Jesus very different from the Jesus of history.If we’re not talking about the Jesus of history, why bother talking about Him at all? Doing so is not only unwise. It’s downright dangerous.
It’s significant to note that as early as twenty years after the death, burial, resurrection and ascension of Jesus, the Apostle Paul was promoting the worship of Jesus of Nazareth. That’s when 2 Corinthians (above) was penned. In other words, the idea of Jesus being God was embraced, promoted and practiced very soon after Jesus’ life. We see the deity of Jesus being taught and promoted throughout the New Testament:

“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.He was in the beginning with God.All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made . . . And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.” – John 1:1-3, 14 (ESV)

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One of the central points of the New Testament is that Jesus was not just a sage, not just a prophet, not just a miracle-worker. He was and is God. This is why Paul was telling the Corinthians to make sure their thoughts were centered upon sincere and puredevotionto Christ. Everything about our daily way of life should be centered around this simple, superior pursuit. Nothing else should overshadow it. But do our lifestyles betray our belief? If they do, we, like Eve, have been deceived.

If Jesus was not God, Paul, a devout Jew and scholar, was literally committing and promoting blasphemy. But what if Paul was right on the money? If he is right, along with the other writers of the New Testament, then the identity of Jesus as God should stop us in our tracks, literally, and cause us to carefully examine and rearrange everything we think and do.

GET BUSY – SIMPLIFY NOW
Simple is better. Less is more.Your life, family and church can and should be centered around sincere and pure devotion to Jesus Christ. It’s really that simple. Everything else must fade into the background.

One simple question will help you, your family and your church prioritize sincere and pure devotion to Jesus Christ:

  • Will doing this hinder or enhance the movement and glory of God through my life, family or church? Seek sincere and pure devotion to Jesus in all things. Pursue this powerful simplicity in all decisions. Do all you can to make it easier, not more difficult, to love, enjoy and honor God. Make decisions that encourage the glory and movement of God in and through you, your family and your church.

This one question is the stuff of which spiritual revolutions are made. Not in some nebulous future time and circumstance, but right where you are, right now. Your life, family and church may very well depend upon it.

I’d love to hear what you think.

Listen to the companion podcast called “Simple is Better, Less is More,” and download the free Godfactor app in iTunes or in the Google Play Store.

When a New Habit Becomes an Old Habit

Old habits die hard – and this can be a beautiful thing. When it comes to your thirty-day revolution of setting aside special time with God every day, to enjoy Him, read the Bible and to put what you are learning into action, developing an old habit is a great goal. It all begins by developing a new habit. If you simply focus on developing the new habit of meeting with God daily, in a set time and place, you will have a high probability of creating an old habit – a great habit – one that will change everything about your life. But that’s not all. When you develop the habit of walking with God, not only will your life change, but so will the lives of the people around you. The ripple effects of your personal walk with God will reverberate into every life you touch. When you walk with God, you cannot help but become a positive agent of influence everywhere you go. You literally become a world-changer – and an eternity-shaper.

STEAK AND JUICY FRUIT

I grew up on a farm where we raised our own grass-fed cattle. Once you sink your teeth into a juicy, grass-fed steak, the sky parts, the sun shines down and the world becomes a beautiful place. You are wonderfully ruined, forever. From personal failure, I can tell you that a return to God’s Word after a long absence is like biting into a tender steak from grass-fed cattle after all you’ve been eating was fast-food hamburgers. Yes, for a time you allowed yourself to miss out, to be duped, thinking life had nothing better to offer. But it does! The same is true when we go through life apart from God’s Word. God has so much to offer than what we tend to settle for, beginning with Himself. It all begins with a steady diet of His Word, the Bible.

Likewise, on the same farm where I grew up we had apple trees that offered Golden Delicious apples the size of grapefruits. It seemed as if each one could yield nearly a glass of cider if pressed. I have yet to taste apples as juicy, delicious and satisfying as those found on our farm. You may not know better, and may think supermarket fruit is fine – but only if you’ve never been to an orchard. The nectar that bursts from an orchard peach can’t be found in what’s sold as “fruit” in a typical grocery store. Once you bite into an orchard jewel, it becomes the standard by which all other fruit is measured. Again, the sky parts, the sun shines down and the world becomes a beautiful place. Wonderfully ruined, your whole life takes on new meaning, purpose, passion and focus.

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God’s Word offers far more! It’s the most delicious, revolutionizing food known to humanity – and you can have as much as you want, whenever you want! But so often we settle for far less than what we would taste if only we picked from the orchard of God’s Word – every single day. Yes, there are other books you could read for inspiration – but why not go to the Bible, the Source of inspiration, given by your Creator, Redeemer and Friend? Why not do so every single day, as a matter of priority? It will fill you up and overflow into everything about you. The Bible is God’s gift to you – to help you enjoy Him and live life in the overflow. When you walk with God, only then will you have the fullest life possible for His glory, your benefit, and the benefit of countless others.

To be sure, walking with God does not secure a trouble-free life. In fact, we are promised trouble as a direct result of following Christ (Matthew 5:11, 12). But consider this: you will have trouble in life whether you follow God or reject Him. Why not choose the kind of trouble that comes from following Him? When you have that kind of trouble you also have God’s provision, direction and peace. The worst thing in life is to have the kind of trouble that comes from rebellion against God. Those troubles are lonely, insurmountable and miserable. When you walk with God, you walk with God, cannot be overcome by anyone or anything (who is stronger than God?) and will be filled with supernatural peace (John 14:27). This is not a trouble-free peace, but it is literally God’s peace. Simply put, there is nothing like the peace of God.

God’s peace is a result of being in and walking with Him. Remember Philippians 4:6, 7. God and you make a majority. “I will never leave you nor forsake you” is Jesus’ promise to you, if you are His child (Hebrews 13:5). God’s peace is a gift, a fruit of walking with Him. When we get ahead of God or lag behind – when we don’t walk with Him – we miss what only comes when we keep in step with Him. Walking with God has benefits here and now, not only in the life to come.

When you begin to taste and see that the LORD is good (Psalm 34:8), you will realize that nothing else is a substitute for a steady diet of knowing Him through His Word and putting it into action. God’s Word is delicious, nourishing, transforming and invigorating. It’s the spiritual equivalent of grass-fed steak, an orchard-picked peach and so much more.

NEW WILL GIVE WAY TO A BEAUTIFUL OLD

Your new habit of meeting with God daily, for thirty days, will create an old, beautiful habit. This is precisely your aim. When you get into the habit of feasting on God’s Word, daily, for thirty days – and put it into action – and renew this decision every thirty days, the rest of your life will start falling into place. When you prioritize God this way, above everything else in life, you will see the fruit Jesus promises. It will be plentiful, juicy, delicious and eternal.

Don’t waste your days, because they will add up to years. Your life is happening, right now. The days of your life are your life. Get into the new habit of meeting with God every single day, through His Word, and you’ll develop a beautiful old habit that will revolutionize who you are and all you do. Remember Jesus’ promise: “If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.”

Forget about the years and focus on the days. Just thirty days at a time. The rest of life will take care of itself.

What to read next: Your 30 Day Spiritual Revolution or Hearing from God.

Fill Your Relationship Fuel Tank

 
If you find yourself feeling a bit empty, and can’t quite put your finger on exactly why, examine your relationships with people. Oftentimes, that empty feeling is the byproduct of an empty – or nearly empty – relationship “fuel tank.” Refill it, and you just might see a change in how you feel.

IT’S TOO EASY TO BE SIDE-TRACKED FROM LIVING LARGE. By “large”, I’m not talking about pursuing material things, like a bigger, better home, or car, or a lifestyle of luxury. I’m talking about being a big person who really makes healthy, rewarding relationships life’s highest priority. It’s too easy to go through the motions of work, and life, and have life itself elude us. After all, if we don’t have healthy, rewarding relationships with people, what have we really accomplished? No other “success” compensates for a void in the area of relationships.

If you find yourself feeling a bit empty, and can’t quite put your finger on exactly why, examine your relationships with people. Oftentimes, that empty feeling is the byproduct from an empty – or nearly empty – relationship “fuel tank.” Refill it, and you just might see a change in how you feel. The change might not happen immediately – but if you remain committed, over time you could see a marked improvement in your feelings. Here are some tips on developing healthy, rewarding relationships:

1. STOP APPROACHING GOOD RELATIONSHIPS LIKE “ACCIDENTS.” Yes, we’ve all met people with whom we immediately hit it off – but such relationships are rare, and that is the reason why they stand out in our minds. They caught us off guard, because they are not the norm of life. Good, growing relationships, no matter how easy they may begin, require intentional cultivation. Any garden, no matter how immaculate and productive, would begin to grow weeds and decline if it was not cared for. The garden of an “old” friendship must be weeded, fertilized and watered in order to continue bearing enjoyable fruits and vegetables. New, potential friends, cannot be taken for granted. You’ve got to tend to your relationships with the diligence of an eager gardener who wants to see the seeds he/she planted become beautiful vegetables and fruits. If you want to fill your relationship fuel tank, tend to the garden of your relationships, and stop assuming good relationships are accidents.

2. TIME DOES NOT EQUAL FRIENDSHIP. Working beside people will not make you friends with your co-workers. (And, yes, you can be friends with your co-workers). Being in close physical proximity to another human being does not make you friends with them. It only gives you the opportunity to become friends and cultivate the friendship.

In the same way that married people can assume that years of marriage makes for a strong marriage, you could wrongly assume that the amount of time you spend around another person makes you friends with them. Many people have worked side-by-side, and merely have, after many, many years, a working co-existence. They are not nearly as close, supportive, encouraging  productive – as possible. Granted, friendship is a two-sided venture. Both parties must be dedicated to the friendship – but are you doing your part? Are you doing all you can to be the best possible friend you can be? Remember the words of Jesus in Luke 6:38:

“. . . give and it will be given to you. Good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, will be put into your lap. for with the measure you use it will be measured back to you.”

When Jesus spoke of things being “shaken together, running over”, it was NOT ABOUT MONEY. It drives me nuts when I see televangelists and pastors reducing Jesus’ words about relationships to money. There is no mention of money anywhere in the context. Jesus is teaching us that the way we treat people will come back to us in the way they treat us. This leads me to the “boomerang principle”, my next point . . .

3. RELATIONSHIPS ARE LIKE BOOMERANGS.Eventually, you get what you toss. Generally speaking, that is. Of course, there are exceptions. Some people will not reciprocate no matter what you do for them. No, you can’t be friends with everyone. In general, people tend to treat us the way we treat them. Start tossing great things to the people in your life, and see what begins to come back to you. Be forgiving. Be gracious. Be kind. You will find these same things, eventually, coming back to you. You have Jesus’ word on it in Luke 6:38. Give and it will be given to you. And, don’t spend a lot of time fixating on the one or two people who are not reciprocating. Many people didn’t get the teachings of Jesus during His day. Many people won’t get the teachings of Jesus in our day. Press on, and you will find good people who will reciprocate for your efforts. You’ll know who they are as you toss good things their way and they return the kindness.

4. GOD CALLS YOU TO A BE A MINORITY IN A MAJORITY WORLD. In speaking of what the world will look like prior to His return, Jesus said “because lawlessness will be increased, the love of many will grow cold” (Matthew 24:12). The love of many will grow cold. These words are followed by Jesus’ admonition: “But the one who endures to the end will be saved” (Matthew 24:13). Part of that endurance is to not be like other people. Most people will be cold, unloving. Do you want to be among the majority, or among God’s minority? How is your life characterized? Again, a great degree of intentionality is required, because the natural state of things is to gravitate toward living life far below what God intends. Wake up. Be among the minority and live for Jesus by growing increasingly warm toward people while others are growing cold. This is a fight that is never over, and this leads me to the next point . . .

5. WALK CLOSELY WITH GOD. People who don’t love people don’t love God. This is frightening, sobering and motivating. The way to measure love for God is by your love for people. And the way to love people is to spend regular  time with God, in His Word, the Bible, and to surrender to Him perpetually. But it’s not merely reading the Bible that will bring transformation. You must apply what you read. The Bible is a relationship handbook. If you say you read the Bible, and that you are a Christ-follower, and your relationships are a shambles, something is wrong with you. Ouch, I know, that hurts. But it’s true. Isn’t the whole word of God summarized by loving God and people? Remember Mark 12:28-33? Read it again – for the first time. If you’re like me, you are continually forgetting Mark 12:28-33 and what it means for the daily grind of life. But this passage is the compass for LIFE. Memorize it, reflect on it often, and it will guide you into making perpetual decisions that shape everything you do here and now – and the quality of your eternity. (And yes, I’m purposely not writing out what Mark 12:28-33 says so that you get your Bible, open it up and spend time reading, reflecting, praying and applying).

6. STOP POSTPONING JOY. Life is best when experienced with people. God didn’t make a human being. He created human beings. By design, you and I were created to be in healthy relationships with other people. It’s not merely enough to be around people. We were created to be in relationship with other people. To go through life with  people. Too much of life these days is spent avoiding people. No wonder so many are running on empty. Much of the joy in life is missed whenever we try to live life apart from our design. If we avoid people we postpone joy. Don’t do that any longer. Prioritize joy by prioritizing good, healthy relationships. Don’t avoid people, pursue them. If this idea seems bizarre to you, or completely undesirable, it may be that you simply need to be a better discerner at who to pursue. But don’t throw the baby out with the diaper bucket and avoid everyone. That’s a recipe for a joyless life. The right people will bring joy into your life.

7. LOOK TO GOD, NOT PEOPLE. Be careful you don’t subtly begin to do things for people to get something in return. People will let you down if you put your hope in them rather than God. Don’t love people as a strategy to get love. Love people because they are loved by God, and because life is best when we live as God designed us.  Your reward is in doing what is right, period. The more people you are loving, kind and gracious toward, the higher your chances of people reciprocating, eventually. It’s only a matter of time. But all along the way, you must look to God, not people, for relational satisfaction. Only He can fill your fuel tank and keep it from running out.

Your thoughts? 

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Listen to podcasts, watch 3 minute inspirational videos  – and more – with the FREE GODFACTOR APP or on Godfactor.com. You can also listen on iTUNES, here. (Search iTunes for “Godfactor” or “Michael Anthony”). If you live in or near York, Pa, visit graceyork.com Sundays for life-changing inspiration. 

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About the Author: Michael Anthony is the President and Co-Founder ofGodfactor, the creator of the Godfactor App (search for “Godfactor” in your app store), and the Lead Pastor of Grace Fellowship in York, Pa. He believes that all of life is relationships.

The Bad Math of the Morning After

aaaaaaa plan b

Bad math? Does the morning after pill really provide a healthy option after a night of passion? Two poor decisions do not add up to one healthy outcome. Amazon.com now offers the “emergency contraception” pill. The online company has come a long way in what it offers to consumers.

[I]f you are considering this solution for a pregnancy you didn’t expect, or know of someone who is, here are some things to carefully consider in the midst of your unexpected “emergency.”

1. Many people have had “unwanted” or unplanned pregnancies and lived to be glad nonetheless. Life is full of surprises that cause pain at first, but have unexpected blessings. Are you more interested in controlling your life, or in rolling with the punches, and allowing God to make something beautiful out of chaos? He is a Master at doing this. Give Him a chance – perhaps more of a chance – than you have up to this point. My wife and I met because she extended her time in college to contend with her mother’s diagnosis of cancer. Had her mother never had cancer, she would not have protracted her stay in college – and we’d never have met. It’s not true to conclude that nothing good can ever happen after something unexpected, bad or painful. In fact, life teaches us that the exact opposite is often true. Good things often come after “bad.” Remember that one poor decision is not made better by another poor decision. This simply adds up to two poor decisions, and sets a precedent for more poor decision-making. 

2. One poor decision after another does not make for good math or reasoning.Instead of one painful decision, you may now be choosing to make two, and they may both haunt you for the rest of your life. Be careful you don’t add insult to your perceived injury by making a rash decision to abort the life within you. If you are pregnant, it means that life is inside of you. It may seem like the end of your world, but it isn’t. You may not be thinking rationally now, any more than you were when you did something designed to create life. But now is the time to think rationally, practically. It must not be forgotten that pregnancy means a human life has begun. A decision to end life is the most significant decision a person will ever face. Nothing is greater. 

3. Once life is terminated, the person making the decision will forever be reminded of it. The convenience sought by a termination of life will be overshadowed by a lifetime of perpetual reminders that someone, perhaps you, made that decision. Think about this, because if you terminate life, you will always, perpetually, be reminded of this – at inconvenient, unexpected times – forever.

4. Consider what trend you may be starting, or furthering, by a decision as drastic as ending a human life.If you are willing to do this, what pattern does this establish or reinforce in your own life? Are you willing to set that kind of pattern in stone, with the only life you have this side of eternity?

5. Consider the thoughts that will very possibly haunt you about the child you could have had.You may very well wonder what the child inside you would have become had you let him or her come into the world.

6. Consider another morning-after decision: adoption.Your unwanted, unexpected, undesired pregnancy could be the answer to prayer for a couple who wants, expects and desires a little boy or girl to raise, love and cherish. If you think abortion of any kind is the only solution, you are incredibly wrong. Your surprise could be the biggest blessing in the world for someone else. You have before you one of the greatest opportunities you may ever have in your life – to turn something seemingly tragic into something “magic.” You can make a decision that will be a huge blessing to others, to you, and to the life now inside you. The child could grow up to be a remarkable blessing to others as a teacher, a doctor, a social worker, a kind and loving person who is so needed in today’s world where only me, myself and I seem to be of importance. Your child can be part of a solution we all need so desperately at this time in world history.

Your thoughts? Don’t be rash in your decision. You have your whole life ahead of you, and another one – perhaps even two – within.

3 Tips On Creating Momentum

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Momentum = Driving power or strength.* Right now, you have momentum. It’s just a matter of what kind and to what degree. Creating and sustaining positive momentum takes careful, prayerful tending. Momentum, different than speed, takes time and attention.

We all want momentum – in the right direction. The question is: how do you create and sustain it? Here are three things you can immediately do to create and sustain positive momentum:

1. STOP LIVING LIKE IT’S ALL UP TO YOU. God usually births and develops momentum among groups, or teams, of people. Yes, you might be a key leader – and God may use you to spark momentum in your team or group – but it is not all up to you, alone. If you’re not a team player, you’re not on God’s side of history. The momentum is up to your team, not only you. Take a breath of relief and realize that insight into what comes next may not come from you. And that is a very good, healthy thing. Be open to solutions coming from others. Be open to God using someone else, not just you. In fact, you must do this if you are a leader. If you’re doing God’s work, it’s not just your work.

2. BEHAVE AS IF IT’S ALL UP TO YOU, AND THEN REST AS IF IT’S UP TO SOMEONE ELSE. If a team of people adopt this attitude, momentum is an absolute certainty. Act responsibly. Own up to your God-given potential. Do what you can with what you have. Do ALL you can, as if it ALL depends upon you. Then move on and rest. One secret to creating and sustaining positive momentum is to take personal responsibility for it, and to refuse to allow the outcome – for better or worse – to keep you up at night. Work hard. Work smart. Give it your ALL. And rest in the same way. When you rest, really rest. Rest hard. Give your times of rest ALL you have. Behave as if it’s all up to you, and rest as if everyone else has it under control. 

3. STOP RUNNING WIND-SPRINTS. Life is a marathon, not a series of wind-sprints. In 1 Corinthians 9:24, God says “Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one receives the prize? So run that you may obtain it.” Pace yourself. Run life like the marathon it is. Exchange your idea that momentum must be created quickly for the idea that momentum that lasts often takes time to create. Yes, there are certain things in life that must be started quickly, but the majority of things that are worthwhile take time to build, time to sustain, and time to enjoy. Pace yourself. If you don’t you’ll soon find yourself on the sidelines. You will have lost your momentum – all because you confused speed with momentum. Momentum is not about speed. Speed is about speed. Momentum is about forward motion. Think about that.

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