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Monday, November 11, 2019

The Tenacity of Love

Try as the world might to make lust and love interchangeable concepts, it cannot. Try as the world might to convince you that love and lust are both branches of the same tree, evidence proves otherwise, because though lust is a temporary, fleeting, oftentimes worthless emotion rooted in desire, love is tenacious and lasting, and selfless.

Love is not basking in the afterglow of your happiest moments; it is being there, holding someone’s hand during their most desperate ones. Love is putting the needs of your spouse, your children, your parents, your grandparents, or even a stranger above your wants and desires, and making the requisite sacrifices.

Love is the Son of God praying for His tormentors. Love is the Son of God hanging on a cross.

Love allows for forgiveness. Love allows for redemption. Love allows for mercy and kindness.

Love is a safe harbor amid the storm, an immutable reality, as absolute and incontrovertible as God Himself.

Love is action. Love is not the momentary exaltation of your heart going pitter-patter, or the blushing of your cheeks; it is the anchor that keeps you steadfast and committed through the good and the bad, through the sorrow and the joy, through the pain of life that everyone walking the earth can relate to on some level.

What can bring someone joy varies depending on who they are and what they enjoy. I’ve known people whose most blissful moments are the hours on end they spend hoping to spot a Green Jay, or a Blue-Footed Booby in the wild. (The latter is a real bird. Look it up.) I’ve known others who get untold pleasure out of driving their car, or wading through the surf barefoot, or hearing their children saying a new word for the first time.

Pain, however, pain is pain, and we all feel it the same way. We may not react to it or deal with it the same fashion, but pain is the one commonality we all share to varying degrees. If pain is a singularly common trait, then love is the singularly common remedy for pain.

When someone is hurting, our first instinct is to point out their failures, and all the time, we told them that if they went in a certain direction, they would inevitably reach a predetermined destination. It’s hard to bite our tongues when what we knew would happen, happens, but it’s what we must do.

When someone has hit rock bottom they pretty much know where they are and how they got there. It’s not a surprise; it’s not as though they can’t retrace their steps and see where they wandered. It’s not as though they were on top of the world one moment, then found themselves at the bottom of the pit the next. Falling takes time, you get bruised and dinged along the way, and if there’s nothing to grab on to, if there’s nothing to stop your descent, then you keep falling until there’s nowhere further to fall. 

Love is the lifeline that can keep someone from hitting rock bottom. Love is what someone in freefall can latch onto, and begin pulling themselves up again. Be tenacious in loving others, because Jesus was tenacious in loving you. 

With love in Christ,
Michael Boldea Jr.

Saturday, November 9, 2019

Fickle Hearts

The road you’re on, whether you’re walking, driving, or biking, doesn’t care about your feelings. It doesn’t care that you’re tired, angry, frustrated, elated, or numb. The road remains the road regardless of how you feel about it, and if you want to get to where the road leads, then you must continue on your journey until your destination.

Much has been written about the heart throughout history. It has become the most notorious of body parts, not only because it pumps blood to the rest of the body thereby keeping it alive, but because it is very fickle. You can loathe one day what you loved the day before; your heart can turn to stone when once it was inviting and welcoming, and seeing the impermanence of it, Jeremiah even called it deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked.

Even for someone of Jeremiah’s penchant for strong words, calling the heart deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked seems overly harsh. On the surface, perhaps, but once you begin to look into your own heart with honesty and objectivity you realize that Jeremiah was right on the money when it came to understanding the nature of flesh, and the heart that often wanders aimlessly looking for something other than what it already possesses.

We find ourselves in the weeds because we’ve wandered off the path. We find ourselves stuck in quicksand, in the swamp, in places we ought never to have ventured because rather than following the road, we followed our heart. We allowed that whisper telling us that we’re smart enough to find a shortcut to become a roar, and off we went, following our hearts, veering off the path that is Jesus in an attempt to prove Him wrong.

After all the bluster, doublespeak, and faux sincerity, what it boils down to is men attempting to prove Jesus wrong, in that although He said He was the way, denoting singularity, they have found other ways, wholly bypassing Him in the process.

If we do not resist the urge to follow our hearts, the rest of us will inevitably follow where the heart leads, even though where it leads may be uninhabitable, and dangerous. That’s the reason Jeremiah saw the heart as both deceitful and wicked. Not only will its pull never be toward the light, but it will also attempt to deceive you into believing that the terrain towards which it is pulling you is an easier trek than the road you are currently on.

Paradoxically, it’s never the heart we blame when we find ourselves far off the road, going in the opposite direction of our desired destination. Somehow, with enviable mental gymnastics and not a little disingenuousness, we lay the blame at God’s feet for doing what His word tells us we ought never to do.
Feelings are not facts, the heart is not steadfast, emotions cascade, change, morph, intertwine, crescendo, and diminish, but the road is the road, there to be traveled, willing to accept anyone willing to make the journey.

The road doesn’t care if you’re rich or poor, famous or unknown, wise or just wise in your own eyes. The road doesn’t care what color skin you have, where your descendants hail from, or what you did before taking your first step on it. As long as you commit to walking the road faithfully, not looking to the left or the right, as long as you commit to pushing through even when you grow weary, or the climb gets exhausting, you will reach your destination because the road is not only the means but also the end. Jesus isn’t only the way to the Kingdom; He is the King of the Kingdom. 

With love in Christ,
Michael Boldea Jr.

Thursday, November 7, 2019

Insignificantly Significant

One of my eldest daughter’s favorite books is one by Dr. Seuss titled because a little bug went ka-choo. It goes through an entire plethora of unfortunate events that took place, all because, you guessed it, a little bug went ka-choo. There was a cascading effect, a ripple that grew bigger and bigger, and yes, more absurd, but it’s a fun read, and we always have a chuckle, especially when it comes to mimicking the sneeze that set all the events in motion.

In and of itself, the bug’s sneeze was insignificant. When you see the aftereffects it had, you realize that one small thing can set off a chain reaction concluding in something heretofore unimagined.

This past Sunday, I was asked to teach the Bible study class in the church I was attending, as well as give the sermon for the main service later that morning. I had spoken in this church before, and the pastor had made the same request, but time has a way of blurring our memories, so here I was, wholly unprepared to teach a class.

Thankfully, I’d woken up early that morning and had read my Bible diligently, and remembered something that had stood out. At first glance, it might have been a small thing, but I realized it could be fleshed out to actually deliver some wisdom to those who had arrived an hour early to be fed from the Word.

I realized this was not coincidental, because I don’t believe in coincidence, so I went to the book of Acts, and began to teach from the passage where the Lord spoke to Ananias, a man wholly unremarkable save for the fact that he was a disciple, and had cemented his relationship with God to the point of learning to hear His voice and identify it as such.

Shortly after Saul of Tarsus was blinded by the light on the road to Damascus, the Lord spoke to Ananias to go to the street called Straight, and inquire of Saul at the house of Judas. By this time, Saul had garnered a well-deserved reputation for hunting believers, and Ananias attempted to point this out to God, even though God already knew who he had been.

Then God said something to Ananias that highlighted just how significant this seemingly insignificant servant was to the plan of God: “Go for he is a chosen vessel of Mine to bear My name before Gentiles, kings, and the children of Israel.”

Here was a man of no renown, a man who was a simple disciple, who was being asked to go and lay hands on whom he knew was the enemy of God’s people so that the plan of God might be fulfilled, and His name be preached to Gentiles, kings, and the children of Israel alike.

Not only did Ananias’s obedience facilitate Paul’s ministry of preaching God to Gentiles, kings, and the children of Israel, it also allowed for the writing of 13 of the 27 books of the New Testament.

So what’s the point of this writing? To put it simply, insignificant as we might consider ourselves to be in the great scheme of things, we are not. For a body to function properly, every body part must perform its function. You might think yourself irrelevant, insignificant, able to do nothing more than pray for your neighbor’s salvation or give a cup of water to a thirsty traveler, but it’s not about the act itself; it’s never about the act. First, it’s about the obedience, and second, it’s about the chain of events that act of obedience might set off in someone’s life.

What if Ananias hadn’t gone to seek Saul out? What if he’d never entered the house of Judas and laid hands on him?

There is a greater purpose in everything God tells you to do, even if at the time you cannot see it. It’s not about the act; it’s about what the act will produce. 

With love in Christ,
Michael Boldea Jr. 

Tuesday, November 5, 2019

Missing Him

I don’t travel much anymore. I used to, once upon a time, long ago, before the children, but now I am very selective as to where I will go speak, and how many days I will be away. It was a choice made based on learning from the mistakes of others, men who were valiant and strong, well-spoken and passionate, but who in the latter years of their lives chocked down the bitter cup of seeing their families fall apart due to their not being present in the former years.

I’ve had this conversation with laymen and ministers alike, and no, I do not believe it is selfish, or rebellious of me not to be on the road nine months out of the year anymore. Nor do I believe it is something God requires of me. He gave a wife so that I might be a husband. He gave me daughters so that I might be a father, not so they would know me as the disembodied face on Skype.

This past weekend I spoke in Indiana and had to spend a night away from home. Since I had to speak on Saturday night, then again on Sunday morning, it didn’t make sense to drive the four or so hours back to do it again a couple of hours later. I started driving back right after Sunday service and was home by late afternoon.

As I walked through the door, my eldest came and gave me a big hug, and said, “I missed you, Tati,” while her little sister came and hugged my leg with a big smile on her face. I thought about that moment for most of the day yesterday, trying to figure out why it had the effect it did on me.

By early this morning, I think I’ve put enough of the pieces together to articulate why I believe my heart melted the way it did when my daughters came to hug me, and my eldest said she missed me.

Looking back at the moment I couldn’t help but note that my daughter didn’t say ‘what did you bring me.’ She didn’t look behind my back to see if I was hiding anything, she didn’t arch her eyebrows and put her hands on her hips waiting for me to produce something other than myself, it was me she missed. I would not love her any less if she’d asked what I’d brought her first; she is my daughter, and I love her to the moon and back. However, I don’t believe it would have warmed my heart to the extent it did either.

As I’ve said in the past, having children makes you understand the love of God on a whole new level, and this experience Sunday night gave me some insight into how God sometimes feels as well.

Do we miss Him, His person, His presence, His embrace, His voice, or are we just interested in what He may have brought us? Do we miss Him whenever we are not in fellowship with Him, or is whether or not he brought us the right toy our only concern?

It’s not that I didn’t bring anything for my daughters. I stopped at a store along the way and bought a couple of plush toys because I always bring them something when I’m away, but the fact that they were more interested in my being there than what I had perchance brought them made my heart sing to no end.

No, God will not love you any less if all you do is ask what He brought you, but I promise it will make His heart sing if rather than inquiring about things, you rejoice in His presence alone. He is enough; more than enough, and when our desire becomes singular, in that He is all we need, we come to realize that all these other things will be added on but are ultimately utterly irrelevant.

When you are satisfied with His presence alone, though He might bless you in other ways, the blessings will not be the focal point of your relationship, His presence will be.

With love in Christ,
Michael Boldea Jr.  

Saturday, November 2, 2019

Practical Warfare (Part 2)

So what are we to do? How are we to prepare? How are we to confront the darkness? Brass tacks, no fluff, simple, straightforward, actionable, but most of all effective. Effectiveness, I believe, is most essential, followed closely by practicality. This is why the guy who invented the ice scraper for car windows became a multi-millionaire, and the guy who invented the fifteen step surefire way to defrost your windows died broke.

The following list is in no particular order, but once employed, these practical means of warfare are thoroughly effective to not only combat the enemy but beat back the darkness.

1. Live Righteousness

We all know the wretched stench hypocrisy leaves in its wake, but living righteousness and not merely extolling its virtues goes far beyond you not being a hypocrite. Righteousness is your uniform. When you are clothed in righteousness, then you innately understand that others who are likewise clothed in righteousness are your brothers in arms, and fellow soldiers in the fight.

It is also how you can discern if someone does not belong on the battlefield, or worse if they are attempting to infiltrate the ranks to undermine the objective of the mission.

Righteousness is also your last line of defense against the slings and arrows of the enemy. If an arrow somehow gets past your shield, the breastplate of righteousness is there to keep it from causing harm, or worse.

When we live righteousness, we are clothed in it, imbued with it, and protected by it. It’s not an options package you can beg off because you think the price is high; it is a prerequisite for the effective warrior and a necessity for anyone that wants to make war against the darkness.

2. Speak Boldly

You are not a politician, so don’t speak like a politician. Your duty as a soldier of the cross is not to pander, pacify, placate, play to, or otherwise adopt an inoffensive position. Your duty as a soldier of the cross is to boldly proclaim the name of Christ, and speak the truth without reservation or hesitation.

Call sin by its name, call deception by its name, and don’t be double-tongued, or mealy-mouthed about it. We have become so averse to boldness, and to someone speaking boldly, that when we hear it, we don’t know how to react to it. Some scoff, some rage, some rejoice, but speaking boldly will elicit a reaction.

When it comes to Biblical absolutes or salvific issues, there is no room for the Socratic method, there is no room for give and take, nor is there room for personal opinion or feelings.

We see where compromise has gotten is. We see where trying to please everyone all the time at the expense of truth has gotten us, and we can all agree it’s not working. The devil is good at framing narratives, and if he senses weakness, if he senses a tendency to compromise the truth, he will pounce on the opportunity with all the vigor of the bloodthirsty fiend that he is.

Don’t leave the enemy any room to paint you into a corner, or force you into making concessions that ought never to be made.

This is what the Book says, my opinion mirrors that which the Book says, and if you have any objections, feel free to argue with God.

3. Act Decisively

Most decisions in life are binary. Up or down, left or right, pizza or fried chicken. Most decisions in our spiritual walk are likewise binary. We either choose to submit, or we don’t, we either choose to obey, or we don’t, we either choose to be faithful, or we don’t. The nuances, real or imagined, are tertiary, and I do not believe anything we can come up with to justify doing something we know clearly we ought not to have done will hold water when we stand before the great white throne of judgment.

One of the biggest problems within Christendom today is that, for the most part, we no longer act decisively. We have to weigh our options, look at every angle, see which position will benefit us in the long run, determine whether it will be a net benefit, then, finally, after protracted analysis, we act. 

Unfortunately, by this time, the action we undertake is more apt to be self-serving than in service to the Kingdom. Is it right or wrong? Is it the truth, or is it a lie? Determine the answer, then act accordingly.

If someone showed me a transcript of one of my sermons before I was to deliver it, there is a very good chance I would likely wince in a couple of places, or at least acknowledge that a certain point or reference might not go over well. This is why I trust the guidance of the Spirit and speak what I am given, without preamble or forethought of how it will be received. 

4. Fight Fearlessly

You are on the side of truth; fight like it. You are on the side of right; fight like it. You are on the side of God; fight like it. Fight like you’re fighting for something worth fighting for. No fear, no hesitation, no retreat, no surrender. When will we reacquaint ourselves with the mindset of a victor rather than that of the vanquished? When will we walk in the authority rightly ours, and use the weapons afforded us by our King to make war against the darkness?

It's sad to see that the threat of intimidation has silenced much of today’s church. What will it do when persecution comes? If you are not willing to be a fearless warrior, then it’s time to stop pretending, it’s time to stop playing games, and reacquaint yourself with who you are in Christ Jesus.

5. Pray Ceaselessly

What is it that you are lacking? Is it boldness? Is it courage? is it faith? Is it strength? Is it discernment? Is it power? Whatever it is, go to the Father and ask for a double portion. We cannot claim to know God if we spend no time in His presence. We cannot claim to have received clear direction when we have not been in contact with our Commanding Office since long before the battle began. Prayer feeds you, nourishes you, anchors you, and strengthens you. Every servant whose name is whispered in hushed, reverent tones was a man of prayer, and I cannot think of one whose service is memorable that was not.

More could be said, perhaps more needs to be said, but for a morning snack, this ought to suffice. As my grandfather was fond was saying, do the work; it’s the only way the work is going to get done. 

With love in Christ,
Michael Boldea Jr.

Friday, November 1, 2019

Practical Warfare (Part 1)

For the most part nowadays Christians of all stripes and denominations have become so heavenly minded they are of no earthly good. No matter how ghastly the latest bit of news, whether it’s post-birth abortions or transgender storytime to pre-pubescent children in church auditoriums, they shrug their shoulders, arch their eyebrows, and go back to whatever they were doing mumbling something about getting to heaven someday.

That’s their numbing agent and justification for inaction and apathy all in one. Jesus is coming, and we’re going, so what’s the point? The point is that until Jesus comes, we have to live in the rot and filth we’ve allowed to get out of control. The point is that if this keeps up, by the time our children are adults, this world will be unrecognizable even from this point in time.

You don’t allow trash and waste to pile up in your living room just because you plan on moving in a few years. You don’t allow yourself to go unwashed and filthy, because, well, you’re going to die someday anyway, so why bother. Why is it that we use this tired excuse only when it comes to pushing back against darkness? Yes, Jesus is coming, but we must occupy until He comes. We are not to surrender, or give up ground or retreat; we are to occupy!

What the apathetic and the indifferent fail to grasp, is that if darkness is not resisted, if darkness is not fought back, if darkness is not countered by light, it just continues to evolve and metastasize into something darker and more grotesque. Darkness is never satisfied with a part; it always desires the whole, and if a flicker of light exists anywhere, it’s singular purpose is to extinguish it.

While darkness marches undeterred, much of today’s church seems to care not a whit, and even celebrate it to a certain extent, believing that if they acquiesce to the demands of evil, evil will spare them. It will not. It may delay their destruction, but they will not be spared. Once their usefulness is exhausted, once evil has achieved all that it purposed to achieve, then the useful pawns will be dispensed with. Evil doesn’t carry dead weight. Evil does not allow for dissent. Evil is single-minded in its goal, and our apparent lethargy is making it that much easier for evil to achieve it.

The only option we have as believers, as sons and daughters of the Most High God, as ambassadors, soldiers, warriors, and representatives of the Kingdom, is to fight. Yes, I’ve seen some of your comments, I’ve read and responded to some of your e-mails, and those of you who have not checked out, those who have decided not to spend the rest of your time here on earth staring at your navel and encouraging others to do likewise, want to know what to do.

You see it just as clearly as I, you understand that if undeterred evil only grows more concentrated, but you are at a loss for what you can do about it all. I call it practical warfare. Something every believer can engage in, something every believer must be proficient in, because if you are of Christ, living in this world, you are on enemy territory, and battle is a foregone conclusion. 

With love in Christ,
Michael Boldea Jr.

Thursday, October 31, 2019

The Watchful Eye

Ever since I could remember and likely long before that, it has been said that you can tell a lot about a man by the company he keeps. This saying has evolved with the years, everyone adding something, tweaking it a bit, but the gist of it is if you can make a composite of a man’s friends, tease out some common character traits and practices, then you have a somewhat accurate snapshot of who the man is.

I believe it is exceedingly easier to understand a man and his character by the enemies he has made, than by the friends in his orbit at the time of your inquiry. Friendship is subjective. Someone might call themselves your best friend, and you see them as an acquaintance at best. Other people met you once, then if your name is of any prominence or note, will endlessly drone on how they spend winters in your chalet, and summers at the vineyards. Shocking, I know, but some people orbit other people to benefit from their influence or exploit their relationship.

Even if someone is your friend, are the just fair-weather friends, or something more, deeper, and lasting? Will they turn tail and run at the first sign that your fortunes are shifting, or will they strap on their sword and stand shoulder to shoulder to you against overwhelming odds? Can you count on them in difficulty, or are you only assured of their presence when the steaks are sizzling, and merriment is guaranteed?

The thing about your enemies is that they can’t help themselves. They wear their animosity like a mask, a shroud, an unmistakable telltale sign that bubbles to the surface and begins to consume reason itself. I’m less concerned about who loves you than I am about who hates you. Who hates you gives me far more information than discovering who loves you ever will.

If someone dislikes you or outright hates you, they will make sure everybody knows it. There is no ambiguity as to whether they might dislike you or not, as there can be with whether someone is your friend or not. Your enemies will go out of their way to set themselves apart and identify themselves as such.

Being the level headed man that I am, not one to jump to conclusions or proclaim something as irrevocably true before all the evidence is in, I’ve taken to keeping a watchful eye on who the enemies of certain individuals are, and the first question I ask myself is am I willing to align myself with that particular lot.

If I recoil at the thought of aligning myself with the enemies of someone I’m dubious about, the fact that his enemies would likely be my enemies too given a chance tends to tip the scales toward my giving the individual the benefit of the doubt.

If those you would inadvertently be aligning yourself with make your stomach churn, if their actions and positions are ghoulish and soulless and in diametrical opposition to what you believe, if even thinking of being in their camp makes you want to take a hot shower, then maybe the person you think you hate, or want to hate, or are told to hate, isn’t as vile and evil as you think he is, or they make him out to be. 

With love in Christ,
Michael Boldea Jr.