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Wednesday, August 27, 2014

The Time of Our Sojourning Here Part 2

As so many other spiritually relevant words, the word fear has also been added to the list of taboo, never to be uttered words in the Christian dialect. We outright loathe the word fear, we despise it, and any time someone has the wherewithal to speak of conducting ourselves in fear, it sparks outrage of the highest order, replete with angry letters and please to retract such hateful speech lest I risk the individual never supporting my ministry again.

We do not want to be confronted with the word fear, nor do we like to be told we ought to conduct ourselves in fear. We all want to be snowflakes and butterflies floating about the breeze with not a care in the world, doing as we please, until the day we are snatched up and pressed against the Almighty’s bosom, rewarded at infinitum for saying the sinner’s prayer, or better still walking up the isle at a crusade when we were in our teens.

For many years now there has been a negative connotation attached to the word fear in the church, and due to this negative connotation, many choose to overlook the scripture passages dealing with godly fear, or the fear of the Lord, not realizing there is such a thing as good fear.

We have lost the fear of the Lord and it is to our detriment. We have lost the fear of the Lord and as a direct result the church is bursting at the seams with lawlessness and sin.

If the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, then, logically speaking, the absence of the fear of the Lord is the absence of wisdom altogether. Or am I missing something? Why is it we have stopped preaching the fear of the Lord when it is the first step in one’s lifelong journey of attaining wisdom? Why is it we have stopped preaching the fear of the Lord when we are admonished, instructed, and encouraged to conduct ourselves throughout the time of our sojourning here with fear?

There is such a thing as a healthy fear. I have a healthy fear of rattlers, cobras, and pretty much anything that can kill me with one bite. Does this mean that I start to hyperventilate when I see one in a magazine or on television? No, but I don’t go around poking at them with sticks to see if they’ll try to bite me either. So there is such a thing as healthy fear, there is such a thing as good fear, but to delve into this, for most preachers today, would be too complicated, too time consuming, and we wouldn’t want anything cutting into their golf game now would we?

And so we are told that we cannot fear, or ought not to fear someone who loves us, even though I feared my mom quite a bit when I was doing something naughty and knew I was doing something naughty, even though I knew she loved me, and I loved her back.

If the fear of the Lord were not good and wholesome for us as believers, then God would not have insisted upon it. If the fear of the Lord were not positive, and did not lead us to a more mature and thoughtful walk with God, then it is highly doubtful the Bible would have encouraged us to conduct ourselves with fear.

The notion that we cannot love and fear someone at the same time is childish and asinine on its face, taking away from the complexity of human emotion and sentiment.

Recently I saw a video of someone who forgot the fear aspect of their relationship with a lion. Apparently, from what I understood, this lion was a house pet, had been for some time, and it was loved and treated as a member of the family. Time passed, and everyone in the family lost the healthy fear they ought to have had for a wild beast that stalks, hunts, and eats its prey, until the day it attacked a member of the family, ripping into his back as though he were a paper doll.

Bad things happen when you remove fear from the equation, things we otherwise could have avoided if only we’d possessed a healthy dose of fear.

With love in Christ,
Michael Boldea Jr.

Sunday, August 24, 2014

The Time of Our Sojourning Here Part 1

1 Peter 1:17-19, “And if you call on the Father, who without partiality judges according to each one’s work, conduct yourselves throughout the time of your sojourning here in fear; knowing that you were not redeemed with corruptible things, like silver or gold, from your aimless conduct received by tradition from your fathers, but with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot.”

We are all keenly aware of the finite amount of time we have here on earth. Perhaps not at first, perhaps not when we are young and vibrant and in vigor, but with the passing of time and the graying of the temples, with the creaking of the knees and the wrinkling of the face, we realize all the more that we are just passing through. We are sojourners. We are temporary residents, and there is no permanence to be had on this earth. Even so, many of us grow attached, or get diluted into thinking we will take it with us when we shake off this mortal coil, and our entire lives become about amassing more and more, and acquiring vaster quantities of things that lose their appeal as soon as we acquire them.

Oddly enough, it is those who ought to understand the temporary nature of the human experience best that continue to insist we are to amass and hoard, and of course give them as much of it as our hearts will allow so that we might get more as a return on investment for having sent them the substantial check in the first place.

I find it strange that preachers live as though they are here for the long haul instead of just passing through, and if you bring up the topic be prepared for either fight or flight because things are bound to get tense if not downright ugly.

For Peter, being sojourners here on earth was a foregone conclusion. He did not dwell on the topic, he did not elaborate, because he assumed those who would read his words would have lived enough years to understand that men are born, they live, and they die. It is the way of things.

As such, Peter addressed how we should conduct ourselves while passing through this life, rather than attempt to convince anyone that this life was passing, and fleeting.

Again we are confronted with what the Word of God says regarding the way in which we ought to conduct ourselves throughout the time of our sojourning here, and what men say regarding our conduct while we journey through this life.

To hear some men tell the tale, whether or not your life mirrors the Word of God, or whether your conduct is different than that of the world, is irrelevant. We can dress like the world, act like the world, speak like the world, party like the world, curse like the world, be duplicitous like the world, and it’s peachy keen with God. He knows who you are, you know He knows who you are, so why live any different than how your flesh desires you to live?

God’s your buddy, He’s your pal, and He understands why you don’t take Him as seriously as perhaps He thinks you ought to, or why your life mirrors darkness more than it does light.

If this were the case, if God truly were this big, fuzzy, bearded fellow in heaven who just shrugged his shoulders and winked at our sins, why pray tell would Peter insist that we ought to conduct ourselves throughout the time of our sojourning here in fear?

When we look at certain scriptures without denominational blinders, and without filtering them through what someone else said they mean, we come to realize that reality is very different than the illusion many have fashioned for themselves, and as we journey through this life, we must do so with fear.

With love in Christ,
Michael Boldea Jr.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

The Holiness Conundrum Part 3

Having girded up the loins of our minds, and having become sober, we are then instructed to rest our hope fully upon the grace that is to be brought to us at the revelation of Jesus Christ. No, we ought not to rest our hope in our own abilities, or in our pastors, our denominations, or in our evangelists, but rather upon the grace that we receive at the revelation of Jesus Christ.

My hope is in Him. It is not in myself, it is not in my abilities, my hope is in Jesus, and in what He accomplished on Calvary.

‘But what about your whole holiness kick, and the things we are instructed to do? How does that fit into the hope we ought to have upon the grace we received at the revelation of Christ?’

Simply put, I know, without doubt, that if I do all that I am instructed to do via the Word of God, His grace is sufficient to carry me, no matter how far it must. I must obey the Word, and do the things it instructs me to do, knowing that in and of themselves the things I do will never get me to heaven, but also knowing that the grace I received through Christ Jesus, will.

It’s like someone with a heart condition going to the doctor and the doctor telling him he must eat better, start exercising, and watch his stress levels in order to improve his heart, and the individual saying to the doctor, ‘no I don’t, I don’t have to do any of those things, it will just get better on its own.’   

The Word of God tells us to gird up the loins of our mind, it tells us to be sober, it tells us to be holy that we might be able to rest our hope fully upon the grace that was brought to us at the revelation of Jesus Christ, and many believers today are simply responding, ‘no, no we don’t, we don’t have to do any of those things!’

How is it that these selfsame individuals are beside themselves when the emptiness gets to be too much, and no one answers when they call out in their time of distress?
How can you hope to have God’s favor, how can you hope to rest fully in the grace of Christ, if you did not do what you were instructed to do by the Word of God in the first place?

Another thing we are called upon to do, another thing we are instructed to do, is not conform ourselves to our former lusts, as in our ignorance, but rather to be holy in all our conduct.

‘But how can this be when we’ve been told time and again that we can just keep on sinning, and that grace will cover it up every time?’

How can we possibly be expected not to conform ourselves to our former lusts when preachers today don’t have the wherewithal to call even the most vile of practices sin anymore?

‘Be holy? But that would mean stop sinning wouldn’t it? That would mean not returning to our own vomit like dogs so often do. That would mean actually pursuing holiness in all our conduct wouldn’t it?’

Yes, yes it would, and that is exactly what God expects of each and every single individual who calls themselves a son or daughter of His. His expectation is that we not conform ourselves to the former lusts, whatever those former lusts happened to be, but rather to be holy.

So can holiness be like a part time job? Can we be holy half the time, and then do what the flesh wants the rest of the time? Can we be holy only when we’re around other Christians, or when we’re in church but then let our hair down when no one’s around?
I will let you decide what the word ‘all’ means, since we are instructed to be holy in all our conduct. Finally, as to why we ought to be holy, it is pretty simple: because it is written, ‘be holy for I am holy.’ Anything more would be superfluous.

With love in Christ,
Michael Boldea Jr.

Sunday, August 17, 2014

The Holiness Conundrum Part 2

1 Peter 1:13-16, “Therefore gird up the loins of your mind, be sober, and rest your hope fully upon the grace that is to be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ; as obedient children, not conforming yourselves to the former lusts, as in your ignorance; but as He who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, because it is written, ‘be holy for I am holy.’”

So here we are. Three verses, from the Bible, in their entirety, not taken out of context, insisting that it is incumbent upon us to actually do something, and not just sit there picking our belly button lint, or making ear wax sculptures to pass the time.

‘Heresy, I say, heresy! Are you actually saying what I think you’re saying? Are you actually putting forth the argument that Christians have to do something more than just raise a limp hand in a stadium and walk the isle in order to be forever and irrevocably saved? I’ve heard of people like you, you and your works salvation, you and your arrogant belief that man can actually do something, anything in order to facilitate holiness in his life.’

But it’s in the Bible! Right there! Didn’t change it, didn’t add to it, I quoted three verses from the first epistle of Peter that tells us we have to do more than one thing, and even more than two or three things.

First, we are instructed to gird up the loins of our mind. Granted, the meaning of this instruction has been somewhat diminished by history, but it is nevertheless understandable for anyone willing to take a breath and meditate on it. Sure, I can go into the whole Hebrews wore tunics, and they had girdles into which they tucked their tunics explanation, but what this expression actually means is to be ready, to prepare oneself, to be focused, and to be equipped.

One who has girded the up the loins of their mind will never be a reactionary. They will have prepared themselves for every eventuality, they will have steeled themselves for the attacks of the enemy, they will have equipped themselves for the fiercest of battles, and they will have disciplined themselves mentally wherein the distractions the enemy attempted were to no avail.

One who is uncertain as to what they believe, and why they believe it, one who jumps from denomination to denomination as though they were playing religious hot potato, does not have the loins of their mind girded up. They are not settled, they are not focused, and they are not prepared.

When I have done as instructed and I have girded up the loins of my mind, the enemy will never again catch me off balance or on the wrong footing. I will learn to anticipate his attacks, I will learn to anticipate his tactics, and through prayer, supplication, and perseverance the fiery arrows of the enemy will be quenched before they are able to do any damage.

The second thing we are instructed to do, is to be sober. In this context, being sober does not mean sober from alcohol – although we should be sober from alcohol as well – but rather be sober minded, or fully aware and alert. One who is sober is able to evaluate and assess things correctly. One who is sober is not easily swayed by phony arguments or half-truths, because he is alert and can deduce the truth from the lie.

Once again, it is incumbent upon us to be sober. It’s not up to you to make me sober, it’s no to me to make you sober, we are each, individually, called upon to gird up the loins of our minds, and be sober.

Yes, I know, this flies in the face of the do nothing Christianity, and to be perfectly honest, we’ve just scratched the surface of all that we are instructed to do by the Word of God. If you disagree, well, feel free to argue with the Bible.

With love in Christ,
Michael Boldea Jr.

Friday, August 15, 2014

The Holiness Conundrum Part 1

To those who subscribe to extra biblical teachings on the topic of holiness, whether or not it can be attained, or whether or not we ought to pursue it, the entire thing can be a real head scratcher. Because men would rather believe the words of other men than the Word of God, there are entire passages of Scripture individuals conveniently avoid, or refuse to read, because to do so would mean to be confronted with the reality that what they believe is contrary to what the Bible says.
Today’s modern, sophisticated, open minded, all inclusive, all embracing, tolerant Christian does not like the notion of holiness, nor do they take kindly to the idea that the Bible tells them they must be holy in all their conduct. As such, they’ve taken it upon themselves to put forth the idea that holiness is either that elusive, unattainable thing that we can get within reach of, but never quite acquire, or that man has no input, or contribution when it comes to the notion of holiness in his life.

To those embracing the new doctrine, holiness is not some restrictive thing wherein we are called upon to embrace such antiquated practices as self-control, mortification of the flesh, or self-denial, but in a mind bending feat of mental acrobatics, they insist that we are simply made holy without ever aspiring to holiness, and in spite of any habitual sin we might still be clinging to in our day to day lives.

You can live however you want, do whatever you want, conduct yourself in whatever vile manner you want, and you’re still holy, and nothing you can do can take away that holiness that you’ve done nothing to acquire, or changed nothing in your life to attain.

It’s basically the best of both worlds, wherein you can roll in the mud with the rest of the hell bound masses, and still sit at the King’s table pretending to have the whitest of garments on, enjoying the benefits of being called a son or daughter of the most High God.

Granted, we’ve become a generation which subsists on a steady diet of platitudes and one-liners, and have boiled intellectual discourse down to the 140 characters allowed by Twitter. Hence the reason things are going so smashingly in this country, and why so few are bothering to stir from their slumber to see the train nearing the brick wall.

I have no great expectations of the world. Those in darkness will live as those in darkness, but I do have some expectation of those calling themselves redeemed and sanctified, and one of the expectations I have is that they be diligent when it comes to the Word of God, and God’s expectations of them as His bondservants.

We can’t play it fast and loose when it comes to the Word of God, because there are eternal consequences and ramifications to deal with. We cannot embrace a certain doctrine or teaching just because it pleases the flesh, because there will be a day of reckoning for every lie we embraced as truth, and every truth we rejected as lies.

The church today has a real problem with holiness. Mention it and you’re quickly branded an extremist, someone to be avoided and rejected at all cost, because to insist upon holiness is to turn our back on progress and the new libertine gospel we’ve all come to love and embrace.

Holiness has become a dirty word, something to be snickered at, derided, and maligned, even though it is something the Word of God insist we ought to pursue, and can rightly attain as obedient children of God.

Would God be so petty as to tell us to pursue something He knew we could never acquire? Would God be so small as to make us seek after something we had no hope of ever attaining? Did He just include certain passages in Scripture because He likes to watch us fail, and chase our own tails endlessly?

With love in Christ,
Michael Boldea Jr.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

The Grace We've Been Given

I used to find myself wishing I’d been born in a different time. Especially in my younger years, when I was given to daydreaming, I would wish I’d been born during the time of Elijah, or David, or Samson. Even the time of Daniel didn’t seem so bad in spite of all the Babylonian unpleasantness. The power of God was evident in the men of God, and though the godless hated them they feared them even more. One need not guess at whether someone was a man of God during those days, one knew, offhand, because their lives mirrored their declarations, or in modern day parlance, they walked their talk.

I was an immigrant kid in a new country, with few friends and fewer hobbies. So, yeah, I guess I had reason to wish I’d been born in a different time.

Oddly enough I’ve run across many believers, who likewise wish they’d been born in a different time, a time less perverse, less jaded, less cold, less faithless, and less godless. If not for the grace we’ve been given, I would tend to agree with this desire of having been born in a different time, but we have, without doubt, been given the greatest of grace, and once we realize this beautiful truth we ought to be ever thankful to the Father for living in this time, even though the darkness continues to metastasize like an out of control cancer.

1 Peter 1:10-12, “Of this salvation the prophets have inquired and searched diligently, who prophesied of the grace that would come to you, searching what, or what manner of time, the Spirit of Christ who was in them was indicating when He testified beforehand the sufferings of Christ and the glories that would follow. To them it was revealed that, not to themselves, but to us they were ministering the things which now have been reported to you through those who have preached the gospel to you by the Holy Spirit sent form heaven – things which angels desire to look into.”

While those of our time wish they had been born in the long lost past, those of the long lost past wished they had been born further along the river of human existence because they had only prophesied of that which we have access to. Via the unction of the Holy Spirit men prophesied of the grace that would come, and testified before hand of both the sufferings of Christ, and the glories that would follow.

Even in these verses we see the pattern emerging, that before the glory there is the suffering, and the suffering is most often a precursor or predecessor of the glory.

It is an odd thing to foresee something, to prophesy something by the unction of the Holy Spirit, that you yourself will not see come to pass with your own eyes. These men of whom Peter speaks did just that. They prophesied of the Christ, of the glory, of the great and wondrous day when the Son of God was to be born in a manger, and also of the day He would redeem mankind by His blood and through His sacrifice.

These men prophesied these things, and I often ask myself if in the last moments of their lives here on earth they wondered where the fulfillment of the words they were given was. It is a hard thing to speak a message of future happenings and not wonder when it will come to pass, or not read into what’s going on around you and deduce that perhaps this is the precursor to what has been shown.

This is why it is best to deliver the word you’ve been given, and not speculate. Speak the words that were spoken, and allow that God in His perfect time will see the fulfillment of the words He inspired you to speak. It doesn’t have to be in your generation, it doesn’t have to be in your lifetime, it doesn’t even have to be in your century. Unlike man, God is not a forgetful creature, but rather brings to fulfillment all He declares.

With love in Christ,
Michael Boldea Jr.

Saturday, August 9, 2014

The Purposes of Trials Part 2

Another purpose of trials, one that is often overlooked and even derided by the more libertine among us, is that it produces discipline in our lives. Trials teach us discipline.  Trials teach us obedience. Trials teach us in ways that prosperity and good times never could.

Hebrews 5:8, “Though He was a Son, yet He learned obedience by the things which He suffered.”

This passage in Hebrews is speaking of none other than the Christ, and it tells us that even though He was a Son, even He learned obedience by the things which He suffered. If Christ learned obedience by His suffering, would logic not conclude that we too learn obedience by our suffering?

It is love that tests our faith through trials, making it stronger, and more grounded, before the enemy has a chance to attack and attempt to destroy us. The love of God tests our faith to teach us discipline, to teach us obedience, to teach us dependence, so that when we engage the enemy we are not infantile in our thinking or our strength, but soldiers of Christ in the truest most complete sense of the word.

If we had not learned, and grown, and matured in our trials, would we even stand a chance against the onslaught of the enemy? If we had not been taught to obey and to depend and to be disciplined soldiers in our afflictions, would we have known what to do when we found ourselves on the battlefield?

It is easy to make light of these things, to brush them off and say that was for another time, or God wouldn’t test us that way nowadays, but the Word remains true yesterday, today, and forevermore, just as God remains true.

When we perceive our trials for what they are, and understand their purpose, we realize God is not being mean, He is being loving. God is not being a cruel taskmaster, but an adoring Father whose deepest desire is to see His sons and daughters being welcomed into His kingdom.

Even Christ learned obedience through His sufferings. What lessons is our suffering teaching us? What lessons are our trials attempting to convey? These are important questions, because if we don’t perceive the lesson, if we do not grow, if we do not learn obedience, then the trial will repeat until the lesson has been learned, and we have gone beyond the level of wisdom we found ourselves in before the trial started.

Can we say suffering has taught us obedience? If not, then why not?

Is it perhaps because we saw the trials and suffering as something negative, something to be avoided, and circumvented at any cost? Is it perhaps because we see countless self-appointed teachers telling us that the testing of our faith is no longer a prerequisite, that God no longer attempts to teach us through our trials but rather only through our blessings?

Whether by small steps or large strides, if one continues in a direction long enough the destination is eventually reached. We need not embrace great deceptions. It is enough to embrace little ones time and again, and have them skew our understanding, and impression of how things ought to be. Once our impression is skewed, so are our expectations of how our lives should turn out, and we find ourselves almost bitter toward a loving God who allowed trials in our lives for the greatest of good, while we see them as the greatest of evil.

The enemy knows if he can shift our perspective and compel us to see trials as anything less than the blessings they are, we will enter them grudgingly, try to figure out ways out of them on our own, and rather than allow them to perfect us and glory in the knowledge that the genuineness of our faith is being proven, we will murmur and complain.

God also allows trials in our life to humble us. Yes, I know, we are all the picture of humility, at least in our own minds, but God does need to humble us from time to time just as He had to humble Israel of old.

Deuteronomy 8:3, “So He humbled you, allowed you to hunger, and fed you with manna which you did not know nor did your fathers know, that He might make you know that man shall not live by bread alone; but man lives by ever word that proceeds from the mouth of the Lord.”

Deuteronomy 8:2, “And you shall remember that the Lord your God led you all the way these forty years in the wilderness, to humble you and test you, to know what was in your heart, whether you would keep His commandments or not.”

With love in Christ,
Michael Boldea Jr.