MICHAEL ANTHONY BLOG
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“It happens to all of us eventually. We find ourselves dry, floating in a sea of doubt – or at least drifting toward one. What can you do? More than you think . . .”
The circumstances of life will pound you – or rock you into a state of indifferent numbness. Sooner or later you could find yourself in a position where you just don’t have the depth of faith you wish we had. It happens to all of us eventually. We find ourselves dry, floating in a sea of doubt – or at least drifting toward one. What can you do? More than you think. Here are a few things from experience that I’ve learned can build faith, and help overcome a faith crisis:
1. REMEMBER THAT YOUR FAITH IS NOT YOUR OWN, AND THAT IS A GOOD THING. Somebody other than you is the founder and the perfecter of your faith. His Name is Jesus Christ, and He is the original fire-starter.Hebrews 12:2 says that we are to look to Jesus, the “founder and perfecter of our faith.” If Jesus is the One who creates and matures your faith, which is what Hebrews 12:2 is saying, then the starting point of all faith is to ask Him – even if you don’t feel passionate about doing so – to intervene.
God is the original fire-starter. He can start a fire in you. You may recall the story of Elijah calling for the wood and sacrifice to be drenched with water – three times, but God still consumed the altar and the sacrifice. Here’s the story from 1 Kings 18:30-39:
Then Elijah said to all the people, “Come near to me.” And all the people came near to him. And he repaired the altar of the Lord that had been thrown down. Elijah took twelve stones, according to the number of the tribes of the sons of Jacob, to whom the word of the Lord came, saying, “Israel shall be your name,” and with the stones he built an altar in the name of the Lord. And he made a trench about the altar, as great as would contain two seahs of seed. And he put the wood in order and cut the bull in pieces and laid it on the wood. And he said, “Fill four jars with water and pour it on the burnt offering and on the wood.” And he said, “Do it a second time.” And they did it a second time. And he said, “Do it a third time.” And they did it a third time. And the water ran around the altar and filled the trench also with water. And at the time of the offering of the oblation, Elijah the prophet came near and said, “O Lord, God of Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, let it be known this day that you are God in Israel, and that I am your servant, and that I have done all these things at your word. Answer me, O Lord, answer me, that this people may know that you, O Lord, are God, and that you have turned their hearts back.” Then the fire of the Lord fell and consumed the burnt offering and the wood and the stones and the dust, and licked up the water that was in the trench. And when all the people saw it, they fell on their faces and said, “The Lord, he is God; the Lord, he is God.”
In other words, there is not enough water on the planet to quench a fire God wants to start – and God wants His fire burning in you. God is the founder and perfecter of your faith. Ask Him to mature your faith, and He will light the fire. It may not be instantaneous, but it will come – because God knows how to start a fire. Your job is to simply ask Him to start it in you, and believe that eventually the embers will be rekindled and become a fire once again.
2. UNDERSTAND THAT FAITH IS KINDLED AND RE-KINDLED IN PROPORTION TO YOUR TIME IN GOD’S WORD, THE BIBLE. Did you read that right? You sure did. Your faith is a consequence and a reflection of your time spent soaking up the Bible. Romans 10:17 says this:
So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ.
If you want to build your faith, read the Bible. Don’t skim it. Skimming is not the same as reading. Really read it. Soak in it. If you were admitted to the hospital with a critical illness, doctors would take extreme measures to bring about a change of health. If you find yourself in a faith crisis, take measures accordingly, to reverse it. Be urgent about your spiritual health, even if that means you are not emotional about it. Faith is not about feeling spiritual, but about doing what you should do regardless of how you feel. Feelings often follow actions. It’s not the other way around.
Don’t expect a deep, rich faith from a shallow skimming of the Bible. Take serious measures if you want serious faith. Make time to immerse yourself in the Bible in the morning, afternoon and evening – and make sure you put what you are reading into practice. Approach the Bible intentionally, seriously. To do so is to take God seriously. If you take God seriously, over time God will build you up with serious faith. That’s the way it happens.
Don’t make light of the power of God’s Word to overcome a faith crisis. In my own life, I have found that oftentimes my faith is weak and frail – only to find that my time in God’s Word has been likewise. A lack of faith is often the result of biblical negligence. Neglect the Word and your faith will be affected.
You don’t need a complex strategy to get results with God. He has made it so that He is easy to approach and easy to find. Why? Because He wants to be found by you. But you must take a step in His direction. You must call out to Him.He wants to have a true, deepening relationship with you.
Remember that God is the original fire-starter and He wants the fire of faith in Him burning in you. Remember that your faith will be built up as you soak in God’s Word, the Bible. Keep it simple. As James 4:8 says, “Draw near to God, and He will draw near to you.”
And by “you”, God definitely means you.
I’d love to hear your comments as we sojourn together.
“Do you like to win? If you try to fight a spiritual battle with physical weapons, you will lose – every single time. Be smart when you fight and you will win – every single time . . .”
We’ve all done it – engaged in spiritual warfare while not being very spiritual in the process. In Italian, we call that “stunad” (pronounced stew-nod). It means “stupid.” You don’t have to understand Italian to realize that fighting a spiritual battle in the power of the flesh is not only stupid but also an exercise in futility. You’ll lose all the time. But you don’t have to be a loser. Here are a few thoughts on how you can fight like a “spiritual powerhouse” – and win a spiritual battle every single time.
- BE ON THE ALERT FOR “SPIRITUAL AMNESIA.” All of us suffer from what I call “spiritual amnesia.” An event in life – life itself – knocks us so hard that we forget who we are, who God is, and how to operate as His child. The event rocks our world so hard that we literally forget, even if temporarily, how to function in ways that unleash the power of God. The way to be smart is to perpetually remember that if you are a true follower of Jesus Christ, you are engaged in an epic spiritual battle that must be fought with spiritual weapons. Paul tells us “For the weapons of your warfare are not of the flesh . . . ” (2 Corinthians 10:4). Be on guard against spiritual amnesia in yourself and those around you. Remember who you are, what God has called you to, and that it is not in any way, shape, or form, a physical battle. Remember that if you are really following God, you are by default engaged in spiritual warfare – it simply cannot be fought by natural means.
- UNDERSTAND THAT WHEN YOU FIGHT GOD’S BATTLES WITH GOD’S WEAPONS, YOU WON’T WIN SOME OF THE TIME. YOU’LL WIN ALL OF THE TIME. God is not a loser. The second half of 2 Corinthians 10:4 (cited in #1, above), says the weapons God has given us have “divine power to destroy strongholds.” The imagery that Paul provides, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, is total, utter destruction against the enemy. When you fight with God’s weapons, what you are really doing is allowing God to fight for you – and when God fights, He never loses. 2 Corinthians 10:4 reminds the true follower of Jesus Christ that God doesn’t wound His enemies, He destroys them. Fight God’s battles with God’s weapons and you will win, because God is the Ultimate winner. When you do things God’s way, you win.
- BE CAREFUL YOU DON’T CONFUSE YOUR CONCEPT OF “WINNING” WITH GOD’S. I have seen this distract myself – and countless other people – repeatedly. I am constantly re-learning that my thoughts are not God’s thoughts, and my ways are not His ways (Isaiah 55:8). I remember kneeling in my dormitory room at Rutgers University, crying out to God, asking Him to give me something I wanted really badly. He didn’t do it – and I’m so glad! I’ve learned that man’s best often belittles God’s good. God’s plan for my life is infinitely better than I can dream or imagine – because it is based on His goodness. The goodness of God is so much better than what we can fathom, or create, that we must settle the issue in our minds and revisit it often. What we ask God for, even on our best days, is still short of what He has in store – not merely for us, but ultimately for Himself. And, isn’t this the real purpose of life, to advance the agenda and glory of God?
You must recognize that winning may not look the way you thought it would – but if you really fight God’s battles with God’s weapons, in God’s power, you have won, and will win. Not some of the time. All of the time. It’s been said that “he who laughs last laughs best.” God is a hearty laugher, because He always laughs last. Isaiah 54:17 says “no weapon that is fashioned against you shall succeed.” The original Hebrew, and the Septuagint (the Greek translation of the Hebrew) mean that there is literally nothing capable of success against God’s people. This comes across in the English as well, but somehow we seem to miss it. It’s not over until God says it’s over, and God will ultimately be glorified, get the last laugh and win. Align yourself with God’s vision of victory and you’ll not allow yourself to be let down.God always wins. Always means always. If you are frustrated, it could be because you have unknowingly replaced God’s vision of victory with your own. Don’t get ahead of God. Walk with Him and you will win His battles in His power, His way.
- MAKE SURE YOU ARE FIGHTING GOD’S BATTLES, NOT YOURS. When you fight your own battles, you fight alone. If you are fighting a battle God didn’t call you to fight, why are you bothering? He has bigger fish to fry – and so do you. A lethal mistake you can make in life is to waste time fighting battles that God never called you to fight. You must be extremely and perpetually careful you don’t get sucked away from the main purpose of your life which is to love Him, advance His Kingdom, and fight His battles. Enough said. Move on.
- SLEEP ON IT. Memorize – and apply – potent passages of the Bible that teach you how to fight and win spiritual battles. This cannot be emphasized too much. You might be intimidated by the thought of memorizing a Bible verse or passage, but let me tell you a secret how to do this much easier. Sleep on it. Read a passage of the Bible at night, just before you go to bed. (Not in-between texting or watching television). Really read it. Meditate on it and it alone. Pay attention to the words on the page. (I recommend not using an electronic device for this, bc you will be tempted to use it for something else). Note where it is in your Bible. Feel it in your hands. Ask God to help you hide it in your heart. Do this several nights in a row and watch what happens. Your mind will work on it when you are sleeping. You will begin to feel energized – because God’s Word hits you, by design, at the core of your being. Here is a sampling of some key Bible verses you should commit to memory, as means of directing you and protecting you so that you succeed in spiritual warfare:
- 2 Corinthians 10:4,5 – The Nature of Your Weapons
- Ephesians 6:10-20 – The Spiritual Weapons You Have in Your Aresnal
- Ephesians 4:17-32 – How Unresolved Sin Makes You Weak and Gives Satan Opportunity
- 1 Peter 5:6-11 – Humility as a Primary, Potent Weapon Against Satan
The above verses are simply a start – but a potent start at that. If you really put them into action, your whole life will dramatically change.
Do you like to win? If you try to fight a spiritual battle with physical weapons, no matter what those physical weapons are (intellect, physical strength, money, prowess), you will lose – every single time. Be smart when you fight and you will win – every single time.
I’m with you in this. But more importantly, God is with you. I guarantee you that if you fight God’s battles in God’s ways, you will win every single time. You have God’s Word on it.
Let me know your thoughts. I’m all ears . . .
SOME PEOPLE HAVE HOLY UNDERWEAR. LITERALLY.
“When the soldiers had crucified Jesus, they took his garments and divided them into four parts, one part for each soldier; also his tunic. But the tunic was seamless, woven in one piece from top to bottom, so they said to one another ‘Let us not tear it, but cast lots for it to see whose it shall be.’ This was to fulfill the Scripture which says,
‘They divided my garments among them, and for my clothing they cast lots.‘*
– John 19:23,24
A TUNIC was the first century equivalent of underwear. It was the long, robe-like garment worn between the skin and the outer garment, providing protection, comfort and functionality. Some have postulated that Jesus was wealthy, and use John 19:23 as their evidence. You see, Jesus was not wearing the common man’s underwear. The soldiers, in the midst of dividing Jesus’ clothes among them, were caught by surprise when they got down to His underwear. As the verse says, “But the tunic was seamless, woven in one piece from top to bottom.” This kind of tunic was considered valuable because of the way it was made. It was the kind of garment not often worn by poor or middle-class individuals. Some have therefore concluded that Jesus’s choice of underwear revealed his wealthy status. They then make the leap to suggest that His followers have a right to claim, pursue and embrace the same kind of material wealth. The thinking goes like this: “Jesus was rich, and and I’m a child of the King. Therefore, I should be rich, too.”
This kind of “theology” espoused by people who embrace the “prosperity gospel”, is askew for numerous reasons too lengthy to explain here, but certainly worthy of mention. The above conclusion royally misses the point of John recording the moment of surprise. If you’re not careful, you too might miss the lesson that applies to us even now, in the twenty-first century. Using John 19:23 as evidence of Jesus’ material wealth royally misses the point of the passage – and the point of Jesus’ intentionality. It demonstrates an extremely sloppy and poor treatment of the biblical text, and reveals the human tendency to pervert and twist the truth for personal gain, even if done unintentionally. (Indeed, one need not be intentional to be incorrect). Human intellect, apart from divine enlightenment, constantly misses the higher intentions of God.
So what was John’s reason for writing about Jesus’ underwear? And, what in the world was Jesus doing wearing a rich man’s brand of underwear in the first place? The point is clearly described in the very next verse (John 19:24):
This was to fulfill the Scripture which says . . .
Jesus’ underwear was set apart for a divine purpose, not merely earthly comfort. It was literally worn to point people to God. Jesus’ underwear was, in the most literal sense of the word, holy.
Still, some might persist about the passage affirming Jesus’ wealth, and the right of every disciple to follow in his footsteps. They could point to the fact that Jesus had a treasurer handling his money (Judas, the back-stabber). John 12:6 says that Judas had “charge of the moneybag”. They suggest that Jesus’ having such a full-time keeper of the moneybag, further supports the premise that Jesus was wealthy. But this conclusion is ignorant of historical fact. It was entirely common, not unusual, for a prominent rabbi to have someone handle his financial affairs. In fact, given the traveling nature of Jesus’ ministry, it would have been understood that someone, even multiple people, would be underwriting the expenses of his ministry. (The same can be said of current ministers who serve God well. Their ministries and lives are often entirely supported through the financial resources of others).
The fact is that we don’t know whether Jesus was rich, poor or somewhere in the middle during his 30 plus years of life on earth. That He was supported financially, through mere mortals, is a no-brainer. Of course He was. He had to be to accomplish what He did. We know from Scripture that Jesus had access to all the world’s riches as the Creator of the world (John 1:2,3). And, we also know from Philippians 2:6,7 that he “made himself nothing”. In other words, Jesus gave up His majesty and everything that went with it – and entrusted His well-being into His Father’s hands. His Father, therefore, ensured that even mere mortals took care of His Son’s needs. If we are to conclude anything about Jesus and money that is a timeless take-away for His followers, it’s this: Jesus knew how to put money to use not for mere personal comfort, but for the glory of His Father. The godly person knows how to convert money into deliberate, strategic vessels that point people to God. To use God’s blessings for merely material matters is to stop short of our God-given calling and potential. Money has a higher purpose than personal comfort. The mature Christ-follower uses money – and all their resources – for something that far outlasts personal comfort and material well-being: the glory of God and advancement of His Kingdom.
So, how did Jesus get his seamless tunic? For all we know, someone could have given it to Him as a gift. How many of us have received gifts from people who are about us? All the more appreciated would a nice pair of underwear be for someone who had an itinerant ministry in the kind of hot and harsh terrain Jesus frequented. For all we know, it could have been Jesus’ only such pair of underwear, reserved for the special occasion of His crucifixion at the hands of ruthless Romans. It wouldn’t be the first time we see the Master Communicator using the perfect prop at the perfect time to deliver the perfect message. We don’t really know how Jesus got it – but we know Jesus was masterfully strategic in its use.
All this leads us the real reason why Jesus was found wearing the expensive undergarment on the occasion of His death.Jesus was a strategist, entirely devoted to the glory of His Father.Everything He did, everything He owned, right down to His underwear, pointed people to His Father, the Scriptures, and the fulfillment of His earthly mission as the literal Lamb of God who would give His life for the forgiveness of your sins and mine. Jesus knew that the seamless tunic would surprise and interest the Roman soldiers. So much so that they would not destroy its value by tearing it up and dividing it. Instead, they would cast lots for it – and in so doing, fulfill the prophecy of Psalm 22:18. The seamless tunic was God’s “bait”, used to lure the Roman soldiers to act in a way that would fulfill the Scriptures and again present Jesus as the Promised Messiah, God’s Anointed, the Christ.
If there is a take-away for the modern Christ-follower, it certainly isn’t about one’s personal right to material wealth. It certainly isn’t about one’s claim, as a child of the King, to personal prosperity. Jesus’ use of his tunic helps us understand that there is no such thing as a meaningless possession when it comes to advancing God’s Kingdom.
If, as Luke 6:40 says, “A disciple is not above his teacher, but everyone when he is fully trained will be like his teacher”, then the take-away is stunning – hidden at first from the eyes of us mortals who are too often bent on foolish, trivial pursuits. If everything about Jesus, right down to His underwear, was deliberately done to point people to His Father, and to point people to Himself as the Messiah, then shouldn’t we who claim to follow Him, do the same? Shouldn’t everything we own, and everything we do, have this single purpose as the driving force behind our life and resources?
POINTS TO PONDER:
1. Jesus’ use of underwear was a display of creative, strategic brilliance.If you are a Christ-follower, are you following your Master’s lead? Do you seek ways to strategically use every part of your life, and all your resources to fulfill God’s divine purpose, as Jesus did?
2. Is there any area of your life that you thought was of no use to God, that you didn’t realize could be used to point people to Jesus as Master, Savior, Messiah?
What does your underwear say about God? If you’re like me, there’s a good chance it could say a lot more. I’m doing all I can to adjust my life, accordingly. I hope you’ve been inspired toward the same.
What do you think? I’d love to hear your comments . . .
There are many things that Christians are being known for these days. Ironically, crucifixion is not one of them. A Christian who is not living a crucified life is not a living sacrifice, but a walking contradiction . . .
The trend today is to be fashionable, modern, relevant, cutting-edge. Attractive. But what does God find attractive? Have we recreated God in our own image? For Jesus, nothing was (and is) more cutting edge for a disciple than living a crucified life. Crucifixion was an appalling concept to the crowd in Jesus’ day – and it’s at odds with much of what is being preached, written about and replicated among many Christ-followers today. (I include myself when I talk about the struggle to embrace a crucified life). If we really want to be like Jesus, then crucifixion is the most happening, current, relevant and cutting edge pursuit possible. Sure, we can separate crucifixion from following Christ – we do it all the time, mostly without even realizing it. But that’s not Jesus’ doing. It’s ours. And, it’s tragic. Not only are we missing out, but so is God.
Rather than blog at length today, I thought I would point you to yesterday’s message delivered at www.GraceYork.com. You can find it on the Godfactor App, in the “Catapult” area of our “Flight Lounge”, in the “Current Series”. It’s message #40 in my series through the entire Gospel of Luke, entitled Dabbler or Disciple: Crucifixion and the Christ-Follower. (Also available at www.Godfactor.com and on iTunes). The message still has me thinking about my own cross, my own following after Jesus, and how very far – and deep – I have to go. Still, I must go there. If I don’t, I’m no follower of Jesus Christ.
Would love to hear your comments as you sojourn with me. And, I covet your prayers, that God would help me live a crucified life . . .