MICHAEL ANTHONY BLOG
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Everything the devil does is reactive. The best he can do is react to what he sees God doing. But that’s nothing to belittle. It’s serious. You need to understand the devil’s tactics – and your own – which seek to undermine the abundant life God has in store for YOU. All of us have our own understanding of what an “abundant” life is, but God’s definition is the one we need to embrace and enjoy.
GOD STILL DOES MIRACLES, and yesterday we witnessed a real one at GraceYork.com. To relive it, listen to the companion podcast to today’s blog post (see below). You’ll be blessed, significantly. It involves the true story of a woman who stole money from the church offering basket on two occasions – and was caught. She repented, and then experienced the blessing of God in a dramatic, life-changing way. In turn, we were all blessed. It was a huge win for everyone, as repentance often is. Repentance opens the door to reconciliation, healing, wholeness and the blessing of God. Try it and you’ll see what I mean. I’m still jumping with joy over the black eye the devil got yesterday as God’s people at Grace Fellowship did the right thing, the right way, and pursued the glory of God in a difficult scenario. Had we not, the abundant life that is found only in Jesus Christ would have eluded not only the person who stole, but also our whole church.
Most of the time we hear of church “discipline”, and it’s more akin to a church brawl than “discipline.” I prefer the word “restoration” over “discipline” because only God can really discipline His children. It’s our job to pursue restoration and reconciliation. Restoration and reconciliation are hard work – but they are God’s work, and therefore the most important work. There is nothing more important in life than restoration and reconciliation. Life is relationships. Try to separate any area of life from relationships and you will see that it is difficult to do. Eventually, everything in life has a way of impacting relationships, for better or worse. When we prioritize healthy relationships, everything in life gets better.
Some of us have a hard time with Jesus’ words in In John 10:10. This is where Jesus says something that should stop us in our tracks. We may have heard it before, but that’s the problem. The more familiar we are with the words of Jesus, the more we think we understand what He means – when we really are only scratching the surface. Jesus’ words deserve to be read, re-read, applied and re-applied perpetually – or we will miss out on God’s best. Read the words of Jesus, again, for the first time:
“The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.”
We have a problem with the word “abundant.” But we need to get over it, and embrace God’s deepest desire. God’s desire is, indeed, to give you an abundant life. To really understand what that looks like, you really need to read and apply the blueprint for living that He authored, the Bible. It’s where God’s definition of abundance is defined and offered to us again and again and again.
What about you? Do you want an abundant life – the kind of life Jesus envisioned for you before the beginning of time? How badly do you want it? It’s yours for the taking. Jesus wouldn’t offer you something He can’t deliver. Read the Bible – but don’t stop there. Put it into action. This is what makes all the difference in the world, and the world to come. The Bible is God’s blueprint for an abundant life. Why wait to fulfill your destiny?
If we’re not careful, life will . . . suck the life out of us. We can end up being alive without really living. Our tendency is to begin drifting rather than piloting. There is a world of difference, and that is what determines whether or not we really enjoy our journey. Pay attention – life is happening.
Think often about the brevity of time. Your time. Don’t let it discourage you. Let it inspire you. Consider, often, that you won’t be here forever, and neither will the people around you. Live like you mean it. Do this, and you’ll never be bored. Do this and you, while alive, will be truly living.
Here are a few quick thoughts that can yield long-term benefits if you apply them immediately and perpetually:
1. Pay attention when someone else is talking. Talk less. Listen more.
Why do you think James 1:19 says what it says? Because God knows how to help you live a life that satisfies, thrills, excites and impacts the world. Your world. Right now. Go get your Bible and read James 1:19. Let is soak into your way of living. Listening is a forgotten command from God Himself. Listen more. Talk less. Chain your chatterbox. If you do, you won’t just be alive. You’ll be living. Pay attention – life is happening.
2. Put yourself in the shoes of other people. Enter into their hopes, dreams, aspirations. You will learn things about them, things about yourself. Things about LIFE. You will be living the way you’re supposed to live, and you will be a better, happier, more fulfilled person.
Cell phones and “smart” devices have a way of making us dumber, clouding the real intentionality for which we were created. Live life by interacting with the people right in front of you, right now. What’s important is what and who you are around in real-time, face-to-face. Remember what it means to be engaged in a conversation? Maybe not. It’s become culturally acceptable to be disengaged. But that doesn’t make it acceptable or beneficial for you. In fact, it is a complete detriment.
Our default mechanism is to focus on ourselves rather than others. We’re more enamored with ourselves than we should be. There is beauty, there are lessons, there is life happening apart from us. When we have conversations, we tend to drift, seeking ways to insert our story, share our thoughts, express our hearts. Stop the drift. What about the other person? Ask them questions – and really listen. You’ll find this also makes you far less selfish, and far more happy.Do this with one relationship as an experiment, and see what happens to it. It will shock you. Begin doing it with everyone, and your revolution is on. Pay attention – life is happening.
3. Show people you love them, often – in ways they need to see, hear, feel it. Love people in the ways that mean something to them, not you. And mean it when you express it.
Love is the cure for boredom. When we “love” people in ways that mean something to us, but not to others, we miss the whole point of love itself. The best love is expressed in the language of the people. Some people feel loved when hugged. Others when told. Still, others feel most loved when we spend time with them. Who are the people who love you – and whom you love? How are you loving them? Speak their language, not your own, and you will find the rewards nearly overwhelming over time. Don’t aim meaninglessly in your expressions of love. Find out the kind of love others need, and give it to them on their terms, not yours. Pay attention – life is happening.
Being alive is not the same as living life. Live like you mean it. Right now, wherever you are.
There you have it. Three quick thoughts taken from a few of the observations from my own mistakes and failures that I hope will help you succeed. You can live like you mean it. I’d love to hear your thoughts.
What you believe about God is the single most important thing about you. Everything you do – everything – is a reflection of what you truly believe about God . . .
I SAY THIS OFTEN because I know it’s the one thing that determines everything: What you believe about God is the single most important thing about you. It eclipses everything else by a landslide. Nothing else is as strategic, as powerful, as life-changing as what you believe about God. Everything you did this past week, everything you do today – indeed, everything you have ever done, are doing now and will ever do, is a reflection of what you truly believe about God. How can I say this with such confidence? Because I’ve proven it true by my own failures.
Beliefs birth behavior. Take a look at your behavior this past week, and perhaps over the past year, and consider the following:
- WERE YOU KIND TO PEOPLE? DID YOU HELP OTHERS SOAR? Each of us is a living billboard, a social media campaign in the flesh. The way we treat people tells the world what we believe about God. When we’re not nice to people it’s because we don’t believe (or forgot that we believe) people are created in the image of God, the pinnacle of His creation (Genesis 1:26-31).* This means that nothing God created is more majestic than a human being. But many times, we treat people as far, far less. And when we don’t mistreat them, we may think wrongly about them. We may cover up our thinking with a forced smile, but underneath a dragon may be lurking.Here’s something you either don’t realize or forgot: It’s not just you who was created in majesty, a masterpiece of God. Everyone you meet is created in His image, in majesty, a personal masterpiece of God.This is true even the people you aren’t particularly jazzed about. (And, this will help you become more jazzed about those same people.)
Philippians 2:3 says “in humility count others more significant than yourselves.” What does your treatment of people say about your humility? We should sit up and take note at 1 Peter 5:5 and James 4:6: “God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble.” It’s not enough to say humility is important. Humility is imperative. Without it, we will experience the resistance of God. Do you know anyone who has resisted God and won?Resisting God is an exercise in futility – yet we do it all the time by treating ourselves as more significant than others.When we treat people as if they are just as significant as we are, we stop short of God’s best. We stop short of our best. And, we deprive others of God’s best.The truth is, all people are created in the image of God. Embracing this truth will revolutionize the way you treat people – because when you believe people are important to God, created in His image, every individual becomes important. What we need is an awakening to the truth that people are created in the image of God, the pinnacle of His creation. We can, and should, be nice to people. We can, and should, help others soar. Being nice to people is a practical way we can embrace the truth about how God designed us. Beliefs birth behavior.
- WERE YOU HURRIED, IN A RUSH MOST OF THE TIME? If so, it was because you didn’t believe you are worth more to God than you can imagine. Jesus says “Do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they?” (Matthew 6:25-26). Yes, we’re all busy, and have lots to do most of the time. But if our live are characterized by hurriedness, rush – the inability to enjoy life, it’s a very good sign that we really don’t believe God values us, and has our lives taken care of.When we really believe this, no matter how much is on our plate, we can handle it with peace and assurance – because God has our back. He also has the front, sides, top and bottom of the person who knows Christ as Savior. Stop hurrying and running around like a wild banshee. Trust God. Yes, work hard and be responsible – but stop worrying. Remember that beliefs birth behavior.
- DID YOU ENJOY, TOLERATE OR IGNORE OR BELITTLE YOUR SIN?This is a big one. We all sin – often. How often? I’m convinced that I sin so much I don’t even realize it. And so do you. There are things I realize are sin today that I did not realize were sin yesterday. I must therefore conclude that there are most likely things I am doing and thinking today that I will one day realize are sinful, displeasing to God and a hindrance to me and others. But this is no excuse to throw my hands up and quit. It motivates me to depend upon God, not myself, and to seek Him with a growing fervency. Sin is the undercurrent of life outside of Eden. Sometimes it’s blatant, but in many cases it’s cunningly subtle. In either case, it’s always dangerous, dastardly, deadly. Sin is our default modus operandi. Believing otherwise has catastrophic consequences. This is why perpetual repentance is imperative . . .This is why perpetual repentance is imperative. I’m thankful for the truths of 1 John 1:8-10: “If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he (God) is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleans us from all unrighteousness. If we say we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us.” One of the signs of truly being a child of God is that you acknowledge your sin, confess it – and forsake it. How often? Continually. This is to be the perpetual practice of someone who truly knows Christ as Lord and Savior. When we confess and forsake our sin, the weight of sin is removed supernaturally. This is an amazing miracle God does in the life of a believer – continually. When we confess and forsake our sin, moment by moment, throughout the day, we experience God’s freedom. We are cleansed from the baggage of guilt, shame and resistance to God that sin creates.
Sin hinders everything, not some things.But if you are sinning and you don’t really care about it, if you are enjoying your sin, it’s a clear sign that you don’t believe your sin is holding you back from being all you can be in God – and from the quality of life you would otherwise experience. Sin often seems enjoyable. That’s why we allow it, even pursue it. I’ve been deceived by sin on numerous occasions, and thought I was getting ahead. In reality, I was losing ground. Even subtle sin might seem beneficial for a season. We might think no one notices. But God notices. We might think we’re getting ahead – but we’re falling behind. Any time we willfully walk in sin, no matter how small – whether conscious or unconscious, there is hell to pay.Thankfully, the grace of God overwhelms our sin even when we are unaware, or we would have no hope whatsoever. But God’s grace is not a free ticket to be careless with sin. We must take sin seriously, realizing that it hinders the will of God, and all the blessings that come with Him, every single time. When we caress sin, when we tolerate, ignore or justify it, it’s because we don’t believe the truth about God, ourselves, and the life that overflows from the truth. It’s because we have been deceived into thinking life apart from God and His ways is more enjoyable than life with Him. Beliefs birth behavior.
- DID YOU PURSUE THINGS THAT REALLY DON’T MATTER, ETERNALLY SPEAKING. The pursuit of temporary pleasure reveals disbelief about our eternal existence. All people will live forever, one place or another. Revelation 20:11-15 makes this clear. Take some time to read it carefully, and to ask yourself if the things you’ve been living for are really worth the effort. They may be. But perhaps not. The day is coming when each of us will be judged by God. You may not believe this, but that will not change God’s mind.Consider 1 Corinthians 3:10-15. Here, Paul says “each one’s work will become manifest, for the Day will disclose it, because it will be revealed by fire, and the fire will test what sort of work each one has done. If the work that anyone has built on the foundation (of Christ) survives, he will receive a reward. If anyone’s work is burned up, he will suffer loss . . .” There is some work that is not worth doing.And there is some work that is definitely worth doing differently.If we’re engaged in things that really don’t matter, or doing things in ways that should be done differently, today is a good day to reverse the trend. You will live forever. It’s only a matter of where. Beliefs birth behavior. Live accordingly.
The list could go on and on. This truth remains, and is worthy of a lifetime of study: What you believe about God is the single most important thing about you. Our behavior reflects what we truly believe about God.
Change on the outside reflects belief on the inside. Change on the inside creates change on the outside. Change your thinking and you’ll change your life. Everything about it. Beliefs birth behavior. Every single time.
The single greatest thing you can do to change your behavior is to change your beliefs about God. Why not start by changing and reinforcing what you should believe, by learning God’s Word, the Bible? It contains the truth about God, about you, about life. The truth will set you free (John 8:32). And, if you’ve strayed, today is a great day to begin anew. Luke 15:11-32 is a great place to start.
Where are you in your journey? I’d love to hear your thoughts.
*Sometimes, the kindest thing you can do for someone is help them understand their faults they may not see. Done lovingly, this is one of the nicest things you can do for someone. It’s not loving to allow someone who has a bugger hanging from their nose to go through the day incurring embarrassment they would otherwise avoid – if only you loved them enough to say something. Being kind means being lovingly honest, even if it may cause temporary pain or embarrassment in the process. To be nice to someone is to be committed to their long-term benefit, in light of God’s very best for them.
Taking yourself too seriously? It’s time to lighten up . . .
If you’re like me, you can unintentionally gravitate toward taking yourself waaaaay more seriously than you should. In fact, it’s not only a drag to take yourself too serious – it’s also not very healthy. Consider the negative consequences of taking yourself too seriously:
1. It’s a Form of Idolatry. Though unintentional, it’s idolatry nonetheless. This is biggest negative of taking yourself too seriously. Without realizing it, you can begin to arrange the rest of the world around yourself. Isn’t that the same as idolatry? Worshipping God – good. Idolatry? Bad. The only One who is supposed to be front and center, around Whom your whole life should be centered, is God. Anyone, anything else is a diversion and perversion. Stop taking yourself so seriously, and get God back to the center of your life. He should be the center of your life, not you.
2. It’s a Killjoy. People who take themselves too seriously have an imbalanced understanding of what it means to “maximize” life. It’s possible (and more enjoyable) to make the most out of all aspects of life, not just the aspects of productivity and perfection. If productivity and perfection are your aim, you will take yourself too seriously – and be a real killjoy. When you take yourself too seriously, you miss the fact that life is not only to be maximized, but also enjoyed. A large part of the enjoyment of life comes from laughter, playfulness, humor and relaxation. Don’t be a killjoy. Stop taking yourself so seriously, and lighten up a bit. In some cases, you may need to lighten up a lot.
3. It’s Unattractive. How often do you dream about, crave, and gravitate toward people who are intensely serious about themselves? That’s what I thought – never. Truth is, being overly serious about yourself is a great way to isolate yourself. One of the reasons people may not be drawn to you could be your imbalance in taking yourself too serious. If you would spend as much time trying to encourage other people as you do in being serious about yourself, you’ll become an interpersonal “magnet”. People always gravitate toward others who make them feel welcome, loved and appreciated. When you take yourself too serious, you’re wasting valuable energy on the wrong thing. Focus on yourself and you will miss the important people God has placed around you.
Want to take your life to a higher, deeper place – with God and people?Stop taking yourself so seriously, and lighten up. There’s a whole other world out there where you are not at the epicenter at all. You just need to wake up to it, so you can really start living.