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Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Saul of Tarsus Part 4

Before we return to the teaching of Saul's conversion, I want to thank the VanHoutan family for the books, and the picture. I tried e-mailing you, but it got rejected, and I could think of no other forum to say thank you than this. So, thank you.
Acts 9:6, “So he, trembling and astonished, said, ‘Lord, what do You want me to do?’ And the Lord said to him, ‘Arise and go into the city, and you will be told what you must do.”
I realize full well I may offend or otherwise alienate some with the following comment, but it must be said. Butterflies in his stomach do not precede the true beginning of repentance in the heart of a man, a sense of calm or a surreal feeling of euphoria does not precede it; true repentance is preceded by trembling and astonishment. When one sees their fallen condition for what it is, when one acknowledges just how deep and dark the pit of sin has become in his or her life, there can be no other reaction but trembling and astonishment. Those who tremble in the beginning will not tremble at the end.
This verse, and Saul’s reaction to the light and the voice, as well as the inward searching of his own heart has made me question the legitimacy of many so called dedications at crusades or church meetings. True repentance is a profound experience in a person’s life, not taken lightly or accomplished by the wave of a hand amidst a sea of people. True repentance brings out the tears and the emotions, and it produces the groaning of the soul.
One encounter with Christ forever changed not only the course of Saul’s life, but his entire way of thinking. Christ, the fire of truth burned out all the rubble, all the notions, all the formulated theories, and preconceived ideas that Saul might have had, making him ready for the infilling that would soon come upon him.
Christ reveals Himself to those seeking truth, dependent on their natures, and temperaments alike. There isn’t just one way by which Christ reveals himself to men, although He is the only way. The experience Cornelius had was different than that of Jacob, whose experience was different than that of Moses, whose experience was different than that of Saul.
Christ revealed Himself to Saul of Tarsus in such a manner, that it struck fear in him, transforming him in the span of a few moments from enflamed persecutor, to fiery defender, a man who would change the course of human history.
Saul’s heart was for the truth, but the spirit that had led him thus far was not the Spirit of truth. When Christ intervened, when the light shone, and the truth was made known to him, everything changed, and now everything Saul was sure of, became a mystery to him. He had to learn anew those things, which he believed had been established, and with trembling and astonishment asked his second question of this encounter, ‘Lord what do you want me to do?’
In this question we see clearly that Saul was now a man willing to obey, a man willing to do anything that God would command or require of him. At this specific juncture, Saul is the perfect portrait of a sinner who desires to know God, who is experiencing repentance, and who is willing to deny himself that truth may be revealed in him.
If up until his journey toward Damascus Saul had been certain of everything, now, stripped of self, stripped of pride, he was certain of nothing, and humbling himself asked, ‘Lord what do you want me to do?’ It is the second time Saul uses the term ‘Lord’ in the context of this conversation.
Although I have already made this point, it bears repeating, Saul was a man sincere in his convictions, and sincere in his fight against those he perceived a threat to the status quo. Saul believed he was serving God, and considered his struggle against those of the Way, a worthwhile endeavor, perhaps even virtuous. The omniscient and omnipotent Father knew young Saul’s qualities, and knew that it was out of the darkness of ignorance that he was persecuting the Church, and chose to meet him on the road to Damascus in such a dramatic way that it would change Saul’s life from its very foundation.
On the surface Saul’s response seems simple and straightforward enough, asking Lord what do You want me to do, but it speaks volumes coming from a once self assured and controlling man. He no longer desired to lean on his own understanding, to do what he thought was right, but submit himself to the will of God, and simply obey.
Saul’s first question was, ‘who are you Lord?’ His second question, ‘Lord what do You want me to do?’ This is the essence of how a new life in Christ begins. Only those who know Christ by faith and repentance can ask, ‘Lord what do You want me to do?’
Saul the Pharisee had been broken and shattered on the way to Damascus. The haughty exaltations of al life once considered pleasing in the eyes of God had ceased, the prideful boastings of accomplishments and sacrifices, abandoned. No one had hated Christ as Saul had, and no one was as furiously opposed to the Church of Christ he, until that instance when the truth had been revealed to him. There was no longer mention of his good conduct while he was under the law, no self-glorying remarks found on his lips. From the hollow husk of a man who once believed he knew it all a cry rings out, ‘Lord what do you want me to do?’ This is the first sign of humble submission before God. With these words his own will had been conquered and overcome, and now Saul desired to know the will of God. It is often out of inward brokenness that the most beautiful moments in our lives arise, like a phoenix from the ashes.
Those who have experienced such moments in their lives know the trembling and astonishment that Saul felt. These are things that can only be perceived if they have been personally experienced.
There is no better way to begin every day, every journey, every endeavor, and every ministry than to first and foremost ask what the Lord would have us do. If we place His will first and foremost in our lives, if we make our decisions based on God’s guidance, we will not err, we will not be overcome, for we will walk in the light and perfect will of our heavenly Father.
To some Christ’s answer to Saul’s query might seem strange. Why didn’t Jesus just tell him to raise his hand and say the sinner’s prayer? Why didn’t He just give Saul the three-step plan to achieving enlightenment? Why rather than tell him directly the things he must do, did Christ say, ‘arise and go into the city, and you will be told what you must do?’
In order to understand why Christ sent Saul into the city, rather than convey the things he must do directly, one must first understand they mystery that is the bond of brotherly love, and the true importance of the body of Christ.
If someone enters the body of Christ, that person will be taught to live and labor by the laws of the Spirit through the lives of those already existing within the body. The spiritual implications of being told to go into the city, cannot be overlooked in this instance, for even though Christ was telling Saul to physically go into Damascus, He was also telling him to spiritually enter in, to become part of the body of believers.
Revelation 21:2-3, “Then I, John, saw the holy city, New Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice form heaven saying, ‘Behold, the tabernacle of God, is with men, and He will dwell with them, and they shall be His people, and God Himself will be with them and be their God.”
Hebrews 12:22-23, “But you have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, to an innumerable company of angels, to the general assembly and church of the firstborn who are registered in heaven, to God the Judge of all, to the spirits of just men made perfect, to Jesus the Mediator of the new covenant and to the blood of sprinkling that speaks better things than that of Abel.”
Once Saul entered in, all would be made known, he would perceive, and understand all that he must do. Since no man can be in two places at once, when we enter the city of God, we must come out of every earthly city. A divided heart cannot stand before the righteousness of God. God not only frowns upon, but also wholly rejects the idea of dual citizenship, compelling us to choose whether we desire to be citizens of heaven, or citizens of earth.
If we still possess divided hearts, may we do as Christ said, and arise from our uncertainty, duality, and halfhearted worship, may we arise and go into the city of God, that church of the firstborn who are registered in heaven, and submit wholly to His will. If one never enters in, one will never understand, and due to lack of understanding will be easily swayed from one teaching to another, from one doctrine to another all the days of his or her life. Truth, life, and the path we must walk are not found in the teachings or testimonies of men, but within the pages of God’s holy Word. May we endeavor to put first things first, to prioritize our lives and give God His rightful place, being diligent to study the Word thereby receiving the necessary wisdom and understanding that will carry us through, comfort us, and protect us from the ungodly and unscriptural practices of so many today.


With love in Christ,

Michael Boldea Jr.

Monday, April 28, 2008

Saul of Tarsus Part 3

It's cold again, and it has been raining on and off for the past few days. I have not forgotten about this web log, it's just that every time I sit down to write a few thoughts, something always comes up, a phone call, a radio interview, and at the end of the day, I always regret not being being able to squeeze in at least a few words. We have been doing a study on the conversion of Saul, better known to all as Apostle Paul, and I have been getting fed spiritually as much if not more than some of you by penning these few thoughts concerning this mighty man of God and his experience. I realize I am not one of those bloggers who answers every comment individually, but I do appreciate your feedback and encouragements, as well as your prayers for myself, my family and this ministry. So, to all of you who have commented, thank you. To those of you who just read but don't leave a comment, God bless, and I hope you come away with a greater understanding of the love, mercy, greatness and beauty of God, our Lord Jesus, and the faith.
Acts 9:5, “And he said, ‘Who are You, Lord?’ And the Lord said, ‘I am Jesus, who you are persecuting. It is hard for you to kick against the goads.”
Long ago in the country of my birth, I was witness to an interaction between my mother and brother Sergio. Sergio was only five years old, still discovering the world around him, when the neighbor’s cat ended up in our yard. It was not a house cat; it was dirty, mangy, and most likely heavy with fleas, mud covering its head and tail, and after a prolonged chase through the yard my brother managed to catch it. With pride in his eyes and a smile on his face, my brother brought the cat into the house, hugging it tightly to his chest, and said, ‘look momma I got you a present.’
When my mother saw the cat, she put her hand over her heart, and sternly said to my brother, ‘take it outside and don’t you dare come into the house with that cat again.’
Sergio looked up at my mother, and still smiling asked, ‘if I bring it back in, will I get a spanking?’
‘Don’t ask questions to which you don’t want the answer,’ my mother answered, taking Sergio by the shoulder and ushering him outside.
I still remember the incident after all these years, because of my mother’s answer to my brother’s question. If you are unprepared for the answer, do not ask the question. It was obvious that if he disobeyed, he would get a spanking, it was the rule of the house, and between my mother and grandmother there wasn’t much we three boys were able to get away with.
Paul asked ‘who are you Lord?’ because he wanted an answer. He was not being coy, of facetious; the desire of his heart was to know the source of the light and the voice that was speaking to him.
Questions that arise from a sincere heart are of great importance to the spiritual growth of many Christians. The revelation of truth, and knowledge thereof is dependent on the questions we ask and the answers we are willing to receive and accept, and since life is dependent upon the knowledge of truth, it is neither wrong or a sin to ask questions when we are uncertain, but rather a practice to be encouraged in those whose query is birthed in sincerity.
While Saul found himself laying on the ground, unable to answer the question as to why he was persecuting the person behind the voice he was hearing, he in turn asked a question of his own: ‘Who are you Lord?’
Saul’s question is the question of a soul that has been overthrown from its perch upon the throne of pride, a soul that has been converted, for only such a soul is able to recognize that Jesus is Lord. If we analyze Saul’s words carefully we come to the conclusion, that indeed even before the voice answered his query Saul recognized the authority, and divinity of its owner, by not merely asking who are you, but asking who are you Lord?
Sincere questions, will always receive simple and clear answers. Christ reveals himself to those whom with sincerity seek to know the truth of Him, even if they were once His sworn enemies. Sins committed in ignorance forgiven, if they are repented of once the light breaks through the fog of doubt, and unbelief.
Once Saul asked his question, his answer came speedily. ‘I am Jesus.’ Such a simple answer yet so profound. The world today is on a never-ending quest to complicate the answers, even to the simplest of questions. Even the church is not without its culpability in this matter, filling endless pages with irrelevant absurdities, when one word would suffice, ‘repent.’ We have programs, and steps, classes and symposiums, workshops and marathon weekend conferences, seminars and conventions, all producing little to no tangible fruit in the lives of those who shell out their money, sit in the seats, and listen to what amounts to a pitch to buy the entire program, since only by getting your hands on all the material will you make the much desired change.
We have discounted, dismissed, and rejected simplicity, because well, it’s too simple. It doesn’t cost anything to get on your knees before God, it doesn’t cost anything to spend time in prayer, it doesn’t cost anything to read your Bible, to declare a fast, to desire true holiness in your life, and if it doesn’t cost anything, at least from a material standpoint, than it must not be worth anything. The bigger the price tag, the bigger the reward, at least that’s what some people would like you to think.
Take it from me dear friend, simplicity works. Jesus did not go into a long drawn out speech, theologically rich in the King James vernacular, expounding upon the lineage of His physical birth, pointing out all His accomplishments here on earth, trying to prove to Saul by the sheer body of work during three years who He was, He simply said, “I am Jesus who you are persecuting.”
Do you desire salvation? He is Jesus the Savior, merciful and loving. Are you going through trials, are you troubled, and uncertain concerning the future? He is Jesus, the faithful friend, the provider, complete in His wisdom and always there to carry us through our journey through the valleys of life. Have you been unfaithful or disobedient, and now return to Him weary and repentant? He is Jesus, the one who promised to always receive us, heal us, and rejoice on our behalf as would the shepherd who has found his wayward sheep.
It matters not what changes come, it matters not how our circumstances might differ from one day to the next, He remains forever unchanged, He remains Jesus, the One who is moved with mercy and compassion for mankind, the One who stands ready to forgive and restore.
Saul, this young rabbi, would have expected any other answer except the one he was hearing. How can it be Jesus? Is He not the figment of a mass delusion? Is He not merely a legend? Is He not just another impostor and blasphemer? How can Jesus still live, and now be speaking to him from the heavens? Was He not dead? Had He not expired upon a cross, and now lay in a tomb? All these questions stirring in the mind of a man once certain of his place in the world, and his duty toward the Sanhedrin.
When Jesus spoke these words to Saul, even though they were a mere handful, the deeper message He was attempting to impart was concerning not only the person of Christ, but also His nature. Those who refuse to accept the nature of Christ, those who resist being transformed, are persecuting Him. Saul did not love the nature of Christ, because His work and ministry sprang up from His nature. As a person, Saul did not know Jesus, but he despised His teaching and His nature, the essence of Christ, which now resided with His followers.
One can only imagine the reaction of the man once known as the persecutor of Tarsus, to the things that he was hearing. The reject One, the crucified One lives, He is alive in His heavenly glory. He is alive in His followers, those despised and hated by the Pharisees. It goes without saying that after such a profound revelation the life of Saul changed, irrevocably, and forever from that moment onward. We come to witness the life of Paul, once Saul, in the pages of the Bible and realize that he devoted himself in his entirety to the service of Jesus his Lord. We see that Paul loved Christ with the same burning intensity if not greater, as was his hatred toward Him before this great revelation.
Saul was stopped suddenly. Repentance is also done suddenly. The decision to submit to God, to repent, to relinquish the old ways, or to continue groveling in the mire of sin and desperation, comes about in a moment, in the blink of an eye. Delaying one’s decision is one of the greatest tools the enemy uses against mankind, a tool that is as effective as it is dangerous. If a man delays one day, he will be tempted to delay another, and before he knows it a lifetime has gone by, and he is still uncommitted, knowing that he must make a change, that he must repent, that he must kneel at the foot of the cross, but always finding a reason or an excuse to put it off just one more day.
For Saul there would be no delay, there would be no request for some time to think, to ponder, to weigh his options, to sow his oats, to live his life until finally with his final breaths he would acknowledge the Christ. Saul made his decision suddenly, and without any postponement.
Again we return to the words that Christ spoke to Paul, and peer deeper into the richness of their simplicity. ‘I am Jesus who you are persecuting!’ Consider for a minute the present tense affirmation of these words. The voice did not say, I am Jesus who you were persecuting, or I was Jesus who you are persecuting, it said, ‘I am Jesus, who you are persecuting.’
Although Jesus had left this world, He had not forsaken it. Unseen as He was, He was still present, sharing in the pain and the heartache of the faithful, for He is one with them. If I am a disciple of Christ, of I am a follower of Christ, then I must take comfort in the knowledge that He feels my suffering, and knows my pain. If by the same token I cause harm to His beloved, if by my actions, conduct, speech or teaching I do damage to the body, I am in effect doing it against Him as well.
When we ask with sincerity as Paul did, ‘who are you Lord?’ He will answer clearly, that we may understand Him, know Him and obey Him.
The Savior often reveals Himself based on the current condition and state of one’s soul as pertains to Him. To Saul He said, ‘I am Jesus who you are persecuting’, but to another He might say, ‘I am Jesus who you are rejecting, or I am Jesus who you refuse to believe, I am Jesus who you are presenting in a different manner than how I am, or I am Jesus who you are seeking for your own selfish interest.’
Once this has been established, the Savior then reveals the truth that He revealed to Saul. ‘I am Jesus; I am one with those who believe in Me. Your attitude toward them, translates into your attitude toward Me. The way you treat them, translates into how you treat Me, because I am one with them. I am not a respecter of persons, I do not love only those who love you, nor do I hate those who do not think like you. I am above the divisions of men, divisions that are caused by sin, self-interest, or the spirit of denomination. I love the pure of heart, the repentant, and those who aspire toward righteousness.’
For Saul to remain in his current condition after his experience would truly be like kicking against the goads. A goad is a stick with a pointed piece of iron fastened to the end of it, and it is used to prod oxen on when they are plowing. When a stubborn ox attempts to kick back against the goads, it actually ends up wounding itself. Just like an ox kicking back against the goads, hurting itself, so is a unrepentant sinner, hurting only himself or herself by its refusal to embrace the love of Christ. As long as one is an enemy of Christ, by either their action or inaction, all they are really doing is hurting themselves repeatedly, damaging their mind, their spirit, their soul, and their future life.
For Saul there was no going back, no kicking against the goads, for truth had been revealed to him, a truth that would open his eyes, and reveal not only his own impotence, frailty, and wrongdoing, but also the love, mercy and restoring power of Christ Jesus.

With love in Christ,

Michael Boldea Jr.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Saul of Tarsus Part 2

Acts 9:3, “And as he journeyed he came near Damascus and suddenly a light shone around him from heaven.”
There is no such thing as an insignificant scripture. Since the Bible in its entirety is divinely inspired, every verse, every line, every word has a lesson to teach, a message to relay, an encouragement, exhortation, or warning to pass on to the diligently faithful among God’s children. Some lessons are found on the surface, while others must be pondered and sought out, like precious stones beneath the firmament.
In the depth of his heart, Saul’s desire was sincere and true. He believed with all his might that what he was doing was in fact the right thing to do, the only thing to do, considering those who followed Christ merely another heretical movement that threatened his beloved faith. If one truly desires truth, if one truly desires light, they will not be left in darkness or ignorance. Here was a man who had furiously, viciously, and violently persecuted the Christians out of sheer ignorance, but his ignorance would soon come to an end.
Saul left Jerusalem journeying toward Damascus, accompanied by a guard, who would aid him in fulfilling his plan and the Sanhedrin’s will. It is close to a one hundred and twenty mile journey from Jerusalem to Damascus, and in those days it would have taken a good five days of travel to go from one place to the other. Saul had his plan, but God had His plan as well. Sometimes our plans, and God’s plans conflict with one another, for it is often the case that our ways are not His ways and our thoughts are not His thoughts. When such a situation arises, all we can do is submit, fall to our knees, and bend to the will of the heavenly Father.
I am certain that as would be the case with any man on a mission, throughout his journey toward Damascus Saul made plans and plotted, thinking of ways by which he could more readily subdue the followers of Christ, arrest them and have them brought back to Jerusalem. By the same token, Christ was also beginning to implement His plan, by which he could subdue Saul and bind him in the chains of His love, thereby making him a vessel, worthy of being entrusted with His light, wisdom and power.
Saul’s life had come to a crossroads. He had reached the peak of his darkened state, and this was the time when God would step in and intervene. In this we can see, and be encouraged by the fact that God is never late. He knows exactly when, and how to intervene, never allowing the lions to tear us asunder, but shutting up their mouths before they have a chance to do us harm.
By Paul’s recollection in other scripture, we are told that it was about noon, when suddenly a great light from heaven shone around him. This light was no mere reflection, or a chance occurrence wherein the clouds parted, but one that shone brighter than the sun, a light originating from God, more powerful than the stars in the heavens.
When the light of His love shines down upon us, the darkness must flee, for it has no choice in the matter. Only the light of God can free man from the darkness of sin, and only the blood of Christ can wash him, cleanse him, and make him whole. One encounter, would forever change the life of Saul, one glimpse of the light would set him on a new course, a course that was in diametrical opposition to his former life. The most feared among the brethren, the persecutor who knew no mercy, would become the greatest among the brethren, one who would devote the rest of his life to compelling all who would hear to reach out and embrace the love that is Christ Jesus.
Acts 9:4, “Then he fell to the ground, and heard a voice saying to him, ‘Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting Me?”
There comes a time in every man’s life when every preconceived notion concerning himself, is irrevocably shattered. No matter how strong, authoritative, or courageous Saul thought himself to be, he could not stand in the presence of the light that shone from heaven, and fell to the ground. It is often the case that before God can raise us up, we must first be brought low, that the true measure of our impotence be made clear to us. An old parable says that the man who trusts in himself trusts in a fool, and before we can be of service to God, we must learn the painful lesson that trusting in ourselves is a sure road to ruin. By striping us of our pride, by stripping us of our ego, by causing us to fall to the ground, God is attempting to teach us reliance in him rather than ourselves, and trust in His strength rather than our own.
I realize this may sound strange, even obvious, but a man cannot fall upward. Whenever a man falls, he always falls to the ground, to the things of this earth, to the sins of vices of his former life, with one significant exception. When we fall before the feet of Christ, when we kneel before Him and surrender, submit, and yield ourselves, it is the only time when we can actually fall upward. Such was Saul’s fall to the ground, for he fell before the love of Christ. When we fall in such a way, when we fall upward for lack of better terminology, we hear the voice of truth, we hear Christ. If we have fallen to the ground, yet still fail to hear the voice of Christ, then we have not truly fallen at the foot of the cross, we have not subjugated or surrendered the self. Only when we fall to the ground, and do away with ourselves, when we separate ourselves from the flesh that once ruled us, and the pride that once fueled us, are we prepared to hear the heavenly voice, the voice of truth.
This is the reason that falls are sometimes necessary for those who have strayed so far from the light of truth that they are no longer able to hear the voice of God. When one journeys unhindered, he or she is unconcerned with taking the time to listen for the voice, so sure in and of themselves that it takes an event such as seeing a light, and falling to the ground, to get their attention, to cause them to stop in their tracks and acknowledge the error of their ways.
Although in subsequent verses we will delve deeper into the mystery that is the body of Christ, the words the voice spoke puts into context the way God views the persecution of His beloved. The voice did not say, ‘why are you persecuting the Christians? It did not ask why Saul was persecuting or those of the way, but asked why are you persecuting Me?
Amidst the persecution Saul had unleashed, the first to suffer was Christ Jesus, the Head of His Church. When the body of Christ is persecuted, He is also persecuted because He is one with us.
One of the great mysteries of God, revealed to us in His holy Word, is that of the body of Christ here on earth, the fellowship of the redeemed, who by faith in the saving sacrifice made on the cross, binds us together and makes us one.
This fellowship of the redeemed, is called by many names throughout the Word, be it little flock, a spiritual house, a royal priesthood, His own special people, a holy nation, the bride, but none more clearly shows the unity between the redeemed and their Redeemer, than the title of body of Christ.
1 Corinthians 12:12, “For as the body is one and has many members, but all the members of that one body, being many, are one body, so also is Christ.”
These words penned by the great apostle, was the first truth that Christ revealed to him on that road to Damascus, namely the unity and cohesion of Christ, and His faithful. “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting Me?”
This is a fundamental truth, and one that cannot be glossed over. Christ, is one with the body. Those who persecute the followers of Christ are in essence persecuting the person of Christ. The attitude we have toward the redeemed is by the same token the attitude we have toward Christ himself.
I heard it said once, that we often persecute the Savior, by striking out at the smallest and weakest of His disciples. We show anger toward the Redeemer, by showing anger toward His followers, and every time we judge the weak among God’s house, we are judging Jesus. In light of this wisdom, may we pursue justice, tempered with mercy and love.
So tight is the bond between Christ, the Lord of glory, and His suffering here on earth, that whatever we might suffer, he also suffers. He feels our pain, and knows our struggle. Even if we are only sinners saved by the grace of God, we are precious in the sight of the Lord, for we are the fruit of His sacrifice. Hence the reason for His protection, His grace, His carrying us when our strength has been exhausted, and His infusing us with strength when trials and tribulations befall us.
For Saul the persecutor, the heavenly voice was as a two edged sword. Pierced by the voice and the light he fell to the ground where his only choice was to submit and surrender to the One he had been persecuting. A heavenly mercy and compassion descended upon him, and the persecutor becomes the greatest witness and declarer of Christ the world has ever seen.
Laying on the ground Saul shook, not only due to the brightness of the light, or the authority of the voice, but also due to the gravity of the words he heard coming from heaven. Him, Saul, accused of persecution? No, that was not possible; all he was doing was defending tradition, fighting for the beliefs of old. Yet the accusation was too precise, too direct, and there was no mincing of words.
The root of persecution against the followers of Christ has most often been the defense of tradition, or a different religious system. The body of Christ however, persecutes no one. Truth is never the persecutor, and it prepares neither sword nor prison cells.

With love in Christ,

Michael Boldea Jr.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Saul of Tarsus Part 1

It is inevitable that throughout one’s journey through the Word he or she will come upon something penned by the Apostle Paul. Having written fourteen of the books attributed to the New Testament, this translates to a little over half of the entire body of work, or of the 27 books contained therein. The epistles attributed to Paul are as follows: Romans, 1 & 2 Corinthians, Galatians, Philippians, 1 & 2 Thessalonians, Philemon, Ephesians, Colossians, 1 & 2 Timothy, and Titus. Although there has been some difference of opinion among scholars as to Hebrews having been penned by Paul, one need only look at the substance of the book, acknowledge the deep and burning love for Christ as in all his other writings, to come to the conclusion that indeed the same hand and the same heart authored this book as well, inspired by the Spirit of God.
For a man who began his journey persecuting the followers of Christ, one who breathed threats and murder against them, seeing his transformation is perhaps the greatest example ever recorded as to what the love and grace of God is able to accomplish.
Before he was known as Paul, the Apostle of Christ, he was known as Saul of Tarsus, the persecutor of the brethren. There is much to be learned from the conversion of Saul, and his transformation into Paul. Today we begin to study this transformation, as well as fill in some blanks concerning the life of this man who became arguably, the greatest hero of the faith.
It had been close to a year since Saul had consented to Stephen’s death. Although the Word does not go into specifics concerning his vote, the fact that his consent is prominently noted denotes the fact that it was important, perhaps the deciding voice in what was to be the martyrdom of Stephen.
Even if you do not commit the act personally, even if Saul never picked up a stone and hurled it at the defenseless man kneeling before him, his consent put him in league with the murderers. Whether toward good, or toward evil, when one consents to a certain act, even if he or she did not personally commit it, he is still culpable in the eyes of God.
It would seem the death of Stephen did not slow Saul down in his pursuit to eradicate the followers of Christ. He made havoc of the church, entering every house, and dragging off men and women, committing them to prison.
This young man, born of the tribe of Benjamin, groomed from early youth to become a Pharisee, the son of a Pharisee, quickly rose among the ranks becoming the leader of the movement whose aim was nothing less than total annihilation of Christ’s followers. Merciless in his endeavor, Saul’s action contributed greatly to the scattering of the early church, which went everywhere preaching the word. Even in times of peril, the true followers of Christ know their duty, their mission, and are unaffected.
Acts 9:1-2, “Then Saul, still breathing threats and murder against the disciples of the Lord, went to the high priest and asked letters from him to the synagogues of Damascus, so that if he found any who were of the Way, whether men or women, he might bring them bound to Jerusalem.”
In order to understand the source of Saul’s zeal and motivation one must travel back to the time of his early adolescence. Born of a deeply devout and religious house, Saul’s path was chosen for him in early youth. As rabbinical tradition teaches us, the education of Jewish children who were destined for a religious pursuit began at the tender age of five.
Saul’s parents wanted him to have the best education possible, and so after completing his education in Tarsus, he was sent to Jerusalem somewhere between the age of thirteen to fifteen, to attend the most respected school of the time, to study at the feet of Gamaliel, a teacher of the law held in respect by all the people.
Young Saul desired to consecrate himself to the office of Rabbi, in order to aid his contemporaries in keeping the traditions of their religion. Being born into a family of Pharisees, he became ever more zealous for this path through all that he learned at the feet of Gamaliel. At the time, the Pharisees were seen as the hope of Israel, as well as the hope of keeping the true religion alive.
In his desire to defend Israel, and promote his religion, Saul desired to do away with every teaching that was not the Law of God, given by Moses. Christians were seen as criminals, enemies of the Jewish people and their religion, and so were sought out, and persecuted with hatred never before seen among the religious authorities in Jerusalem. The Sanhedrin, which held the religious power firmly in their grasp, used every means at their disposal in order to obliterate the followers of Christ.
In this context young Saul arose as the chief persecutor of Christ’s followers, feeling all along that by destroying those who were of the Way, he was doing a valuable service to God. In his later writing, what to some might seem as confessions, we see this very clearly.
Galatians 1:13, “For you have heard of my former conduct in Judaism, how I persecuted the church of God beyond measure and tried to destroy it.”
Like a small fire that goes unchecked, eventually growing into a full-blown inferno, it would seem that after the martyrdom of Stephen, the persecution against the Christians intensified exponentially. Consenting to and supporting the plans of the Sanhedrin to do away with the followers of Christ, Saul set about his duties with great zeal and conviction. This was not a man satisfied with half measures, and his passion to rid the world of the Christian ‘heresy’ drove him on incessantly. In him was found the catalyst that served to further stoke the fires of persecution, for he was young, and of enviable intelligence, possessing a somewhat volcanic temperament. The term ‘breathing threats’ shows us clearly that he had become thirsty for Christian blood, and sought to use all the religious authority he could get to aid him in his pursuit. A wise man once said that far worse than foolishness, is diabolical intelligence, and young Saul had such intelligence in spades.
It is wise to remember that all of Saul’s actions were a result of his deep religiosity. Yes, Saul was a very religious person. Religious fanaticism blinds the minds of men to such an extent, that it can readily transform them into executioners of the brethren. Religiosity causes many a man to breathe threats of murder.
This is the preeminent reason why I do not subscribe to the idea of defending, proclaiming, or promulgating a certain denomination in lieu of defending, proclaiming and promulgating Christ. We are to be, first and foremost Disciples of Christ, who worship in spirit and truth, being defined not by our denominational credentials, but by the Spirit of Christ indwelling in us.
In his burning zeal to defend tradition and religion, Saul planned to follow and destroy the followers of Christ even beyond the borders of Israel, as he would later confess with his own lips, persecuting them even to foreign cities. It was toward this end that he requested letters from the high priest to the synagogues of Damascus. It is very likely that the high priest of the time was Caiaphas, who had also been present at the murder of Stephen. All the synagogues in the whole of the Roman Empire were under the supervision of the high priest of Jerusalem, and the synagogues of Damascus fell under this category as well.
Damascus is one of the oldest cities in the world. Eliezer, Abraham’s most faithful servant was originally from Damascus. David had a military contingent stationed in Damascus, and shortly one other event would be forever tied in with the name Damascus, namely the conversion of Saul.
The Jews in Damascus had a very strong relationship with the Sanhedrin of Jerusalem, and they sent alarming news concerning the explosive growth of Christianity in their city. Learning of this, Saul planned to go to Damascus with a great show of force, and do what he did best. He had become the voice of the Sanhedrin in Jerusalem the right man to carry out the ideal of the elders of Israel.
Someone once said that when foolishness is written upon parchment, it remains so forever. Although Saul changed, the letters he requested remained. It is the same with the traditions, customs, and teachings of men, which do not line up with the Word of God.
In order to mask their hatred against those who are not of like mind, men often ask for such letters from their particular synagogue, or religious denomination, covering their true intent with dogmas and ceremonies.
As those of the Way were persecuted in the days of old, by religious men, and the world alike, so too are those seeking only to serve Christ, to carry their crosses faithfully day by day, looked down upon and dismissed by both the church and the world. Though time passes, some things never change. It is still the noble hearts and the pure souls that are most frequently exposed to slander and backbiting.

With love in Christ,

Michael Boldea Jr.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

The Key to Victory

2 Corinthians 2:14, “Now thanks be to God who always leads us in triumph in Christ, and through us diffuses the fragrance of His knowledge in every place.”
We all want to live victorious lives. I don’t believe there has ever been a man or woman in this world who began their journey thinking to themselves that they would be vanquished by the fiery arrows of the enemy, that they would succumb to the snares, or that they would end up being conquered rather than conquerors.
However optimistic the genesis of their journey, one need only look at the current condition of the church to realize that although none started out planning to succumb, untold numbers have done, and are doing just that.
History teaches us that having the benefit of numbers on your side, or being in the majority is in no way a guarantee of victory. One need only be reminded of Gideon’s small band of warriors utterly decimating the overwhelming numbers of the Midianites, or Elijah executing some four hundred and fifty men by the brook Kishon, to realize that when it comes to spiritual matters numbers are irrelevant. The enemy could outnumber you, they might possess the high ground, their stratagems of attack might be impeccable, yet if God is on your side, the battle will be yours, and victory within your grasp.
The reason so few are living truly victorious lives, and so many struggle day in and day out seeing little progress for all their efforts, is that very few today, even in the church understand the paradox of victory.
First we must surrender, and then we will overcome. First we must submit, and then we will have victory. In order to become victorious over sin, and over our own hearts, we must begin by allowing ourselves to be vanquished by our Lord and Savior. True victory begins with defeat, a vanquishing of the flesh, of our preconceived notions, of our selfish desires, for only in Christ will we perpetually be led to victory and triumph.
Once we have been conquered, once the flesh has been vanquished we no longer approach battle thinking of trusting in our own strength, we are no longer boastful of our own prowess, but limp like Jacob after his defeat at Peniel, having to trust in the sovereignty and power of our God and Father. Often we fight with God, not realizing our impotence until He merely touches the socket of our hip and it pops out of joint. In order to obtain victory our ego must not only be bruised but rather shattered and our own will not merely bent but broken, replaced by His will, and His power.
It is when all seems lost that victory is closest. When only darkness and distress surround us, the certainty of victory is surer, for the power of God is revealed in us and through us in our weakness.
Today God is looking down from the vastness of heaven, seeking out those whose hearts are wholly His, those who have discovered the key to victory, and no longer trust in themselves, but in Him, who have surrendered the illusion of control, and opened their hearts giving God His rightful place there.
If only we would realize that in and of ourselves we are nothing, and can do nothing. If only the true measure of our impotence were revealed to us as it was to Jacob, if only we would submit to Christ, who has the power to destroy every sin, break every chain, and give us a victorious life in Him.
When the power of God is made manifest through us in our weakness, in our trials, and in our suffering, when in spite of our circumstances we continue to have joy and peace, to trust and obey God, the fragrance of God is diffused in every place.
True and lasting victory, consistent overcoming of both temptation and trials, is only possible when we surrender our all, when we allow ourselves to be vanquished by the love and grace of Christ Jesus our Savior.

With love in Christ,

Michael Boldea Jr.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Neutrality

I believe it was yesterday I read a comment from a brother George, sharing how as a minister of the gospel the enemy's attacks have been more frequent and pronounced as time continues its march. The following is a roundabout way of putting my two cents in, and hopefully encouraging those of you that are going through similar situations. I believe all those who strive for holiness have felt the enemy's attacks growing in frequency and outright force, which should only serve to encourage us, as we realize the enemy is getting desperate, and he is well aware his time is soon at an end.
For many Christians today, neutrality is a lifelong pursuit, an endeavor, which robs them of intimacy, fellowship and solid relationship with the heavenly Father. Many choose to pursue neutrality for the simple reason that spectators are never in danger of being wounded when the battle is raging. If the enemy attacks, it will most likely be those standing on the frontlines, those who have come not for a day of relaxation, ego stroking, or ear tickling, but to wage war against the darkness, to stand true and strong, unflinching in the face of the enemy.
In large part the church today has become a great mass of spectators, rooting on their favorite preacher or evangelist, unwilling to put for the effort, to get into the battle, because it would be too exhausting, and time consuming. We watch as the great debaters of our time attempt to convince and persuade people as to the veracity of their denominations, and even though we see them as doing battle, their constant struggle to sway people to their way of thinking rather than guide, lead, and direct them to Christ and Christ alone, shows the deficiency of their endeavor.
When it comes to the great commission, we cannot have individual agendas, or attempt to promote ourselves, because any hidden agenda, will inevitably lead to compromise in order for the individual to reach his or her desired result. Christ must be our all in all! Anything less is unacceptable.
The enemy is unconcerned with the neutral among us. Those who have chosen not to bother with putting on their armor, who never learned how to use the weapons of their warfare, are not those with whom the enemy has quarrel. It is those who strive and endeavor to live according to the Word, those who have learned to trust in the Father, and have established a foundation of truth that the enemy makes war against, it is they against whom the enemy rages.
What many who have chosen neutrality when it comes to their faith fail to understand is that one cannot have victory absent of conflict and battle. Absent the sufferings of Christ in us, we will never know consolation and comfort through Christ.
2 Corinthians 1:5, “For as the sufferings of Christ abound in us, so our consolation also abounds through Christ.”
By our continued attempts to make this present life easier and more comfortable, by our unwillingness to stand for truth for fear of men’s opinions and the enemy’s retaliation, we are living in the midst of a generation that has grown dull, static, inactive, and indifferent toward the fact that God’s scale is impeccably calibrated, flawless and beyond dispute in both execution and outcome. Only upon hearing the words booming with the authority of a sovereign and omnipotent God saying “you have been weighed in the balances, and have been found wanting”, will some realize the error of their ways, and the consequences of choosing neutrality over obedience, choosing the comforts of this present life over the consolation that abounds through Christ.
There is no suffering, no hardship that a child of God will endure in this world of trial, for which he will not also experience the comfort and grace of God. An abundance of suffering births an abundance of comfort and consolation. It is the means by which the grace of God works. We would never know God’s comforting embrace, if we had not first known the sufferings of Christ.
The most beautiful rainbows are those that have dark clouds for a backdrop. In fact there could be no rainbow absent of rain. Rainbows are produced by the refraction of sunlight going into and coming out of raindrops, with reflection of the light inside the drops. The darker the clouds of suffering for Christ the more hardship one endures, the more beautiful and vibrant the rainbow of God’s comfort.
When great trials abound, the grace of God abound evermore. The more difficult our labors, the more we will see the hand of God aiding us, strengthening us and comforting us.
Even when clouds surround the summer sun, it gives the earth more warmth than the winter sun at its zenith. The smallest consolation or comfort that comes from the throne room by way of the Holy Spirit is greater and more priceless than the greatest joys this earth has to offer. Though trials abound in the lives of believers, their inner peace is always greater in their trials, than the world’s in their debauchery.
We rejoice in suffering, we rejoice in sadness, we rejoice in tribulation, for the consolation that comes through Christ is never far behind. As we are partakers of sufferings, we will also partake of the consolation. This knowledge gives us strength to persevere, boldness to stand, and endurance to press ever onward toward the prize.

With love in Christ,

Michael Boldea Jr.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Feedback

Lately the feeling that I should begin posting some expository teaching on this web log has been heavy on my heart. We live in a world of abundance, but one thing is sorely lacking and that is the pure truth of God's Holy Word.
I would like to get some feedback from you, the regular visitors of this site, as well as those who visit it infrequently. I would greatly appreciate your opinions on this matter, and await your comments.
Though the road we travel may get difficult from time to time, it is always the destination that keeps us faithful and moving ever onward.

With love in Christ,

Michael Boldea Jr.

Monday, April 14, 2008

The Reaction To Truth

John 8:59, “Then they took up stones to throw at Him; but Jesus hid Himself and went out of the temple, going through the midst of them, and so passed by.”
He stood before an assembled crowd of Pharisees and learned men, and spoke the truth of the Kingdom to them. Love compelled Him to reveal His true nature, in the hopes of reaching their hearts, in the hopes of causing their eyes to be opened to the reality that the Son of God was standing in their midst.
Although He was attempting to reach them, He did not water down His words, for His desire was not to beguile them or entice them, but to speak the uncompromising truth to them. Often times the price of speaking the truth is rejection, and on some occasions it is even met with violent outbursts and retaliation. Some would question why Christ would hide Himself, and the answer is not because He was fearful of the stones, or afraid for His life, but merely because His time had not yet come.
The greatest pain for a man of God who is called to be in a public arena and preach the Word, is not death, but rather indifference toward the truth, and rejection of the message of repentance and salvation he preaches. This is the most noble of pain, because it is not fueled by personal interest, or one’s ego.
It was not failure that preoccupied the apostles when they were persecuted, but the baseness of those who rejected the good news, unwilling to open their hearts and minds. Martyrs do not bemoan their own deaths, but that of their persecutors.
Today the Pharisees are still throwing stones, still defending their preconceived notions, their denominations, or certain brand of doctrine. Unwilling to see the truth before their eyes, they resort to the one thing they can, violence, in the hopes of silencing the messenger.
Time is the great equalizer, and has a way of vindicating the truth sooner or later. One who speaks with the authority of God, knows that eventually the word will come to pass for they were not his words, but the words of He who is eternal. Though for a season they may suffer rejection and even persecution, the eventuality of fulfillment is as sure as the sun rising every morning.
It is easy to grow discouraged, and if not for the wall of prayer and fasting that accompanies the life of every true believer, being met with constant rejection can have an impact on your heart, until finally one considers throwing in the towel, justifying his actions by saying 'I have no vested interest in continuing on, I gain nothing from my labors, my only reward is scoffing and rejection.' But then you gaze upon the One, the Christ, and see His witness, see His perseverance, see His steadfastness, and it gives you the strength to go on one more day, to write one more article, to preach one more sermon.
All one can do is press on in faith and obedience, knowing that the reward of obedience is by no means a small one. The path is never easy, and the reaction to truth runs the gamut, so much so that even after decades in ministry one is still often surprised. Truth will outlast us all, and when we are but dust and ashes, brittle bones hid beneath the ground, truth will still abide.

With love in Christ,

Michael Boldea Jr.

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

The Awakening

I was awakened this morning by a powerful dream. There were no angels, no out of body experiences, just a prayer. In fact I dreamt I was praying one phrase over and over again: “Revive us Lord, lest we all perish.” I woke up with tears on my face, and this one phrase echoing in my ears, and for some unexplained reason I felt a great sadness, as though a physical weight was pressing down upon me.
For too long the house of God has been in what I have coined as standby mode, awaiting revival. Our expectant hopes have given way to disinterest and indifference allowing the tendrils of slumber to grab hold of our hearts, dragging us into an ever-deeper sleep. While we sleep the sleep of the indifferent, Christ still agonizes in the garden of Gethsemane. Under the watchful eye of our blemishes we slumber hoping that eventually we will be awakened. Nothing stirs us any longer, nothing disturbs our fitful sleep, and with a wave of a hand we dismiss the signs that are all around us.
We have fallen asleep in the warm bed of strange doctrine, each more comfortable and tolerant than the last. The security of our salvation is eternal. We will not go to judgment, but merely pass from death to life. Salvation is by grace, and our works matter not. We will traverse the wrath of the end days unaffected, flying high above them like eagles soaring above the clouds. The rapture will come, of course before any sign of tribulation is apparent, and the seal of the Spirit will ensure our coming into possession of our entire inheritance, after having received our first installment here on earth by way of material excess and a life of opulence.
The new Jesus not only heals our diseases, but fills our wallets too. Our preachers speak in monotone, monotonous and unconvincing clich├ęs hoping only to induce an even deeper slumber so no one notices as they pick clean the pockets of their flock.
If some pathetic appeal to righteousness, repentance, holiness and sanctification attempts to disrupt our sleep, we have hundreds of well practiced, impeccably delivered, un biblical comebacks to silence those who would be rude enough to stir us from the static state we have so come to be comforted by. Slowly but surely we are becoming an inert mass, useless and powerless, a sleeping giant content only with a full wallet and a full stomach.
What I wonder will be that which stirs us from our slumber, that which brings about the awakening so many are hoping for? Will it be a new doctrine, a new crisis, suffering, perhaps persecution? My honest answer is I do not know. Perhaps all these things at once, perhaps a perfect storm of unexpected events that will bring us to our knees that will stir in us the spirit of humility, or perhaps something else none of us has thought of. Only God knows. What I do know is that we need an awakening.
We have become materialists not through our philosophy, but by the vocation of the tangible, wherein we have become more interested in the blessings of God, than the God of blessing. False teachers have called us to His banquet table for the love of the goods that are upon it, not for love of the One who sits at the head of the table. They have spoken to us so often and eloquently about the miracles of the Lord, that they have overshadowed the Lord of miracles. Trusting, we followed, seeking prosperity and health rather than fellowship and intimacy with Him, which would have been enough, sufficient, more than any man could have asked for. Even if His grace were sufficient for one such as Paul, it would seem that it is no longer the case in this generation. Grace was all well and good, but what we really wanted was prosperity, and cars, and homes, and boats, health and diplomas, big names, adoration and popularity.
Our prayers have become an expression of our own egotism, and rarely have we sinned against God in a more deplorable manner than when we prayed in such a way. The sacred time, the time reserved for being in His presence, and having fellowship with Him, has been transformed into a time of begging.
Where is the love for God in the church? When was it that we abandoned the notion of foregoing gold and silver for His love? When will we once more thirst for Him? When will we once more run to Him as a child runs to its mother? When will He, and not the toys and the trinkets of this world once again satisfy us?
Overcome by the frigid cold of indifference, a cold that has settled into our very bones, we realize, perhaps now more than ever that the only path to a new awakening is by way of the fire of Christ’s love. Nothing will scatter the darkness faster, or chase away the paralyzing cold from our hearts, than the light of His face shining down upon us. He will transform us only when we seek Him for what He is, not for what He can give us.
Revive us Lord awaken us, lest we all perish, caught in the undertow of this world and all its false idols. Revive us Lord, and awaken us that we may live for you and you alone.

With love in Christ,

Michael Boldea Jr.

Saturday, April 5, 2008

A Family Legacy Part 3

Often that which God allows in our lives, or in the lives of those close to us is beyond our understanding. Our minds cannot grasp the plan of God in its entirety, but must trust nonetheless that God has a plan, that He knows what tomorrow holds and why we had to endure hardship today. Only the sovereign hand of God could bring to fruition a plan conceived in the heavens and carried out on earth concerning the young man we know as Joseph. Only God could envision a good end and even a useful and glorious one when up to this point there had been hatred, murderous betrayal, being sold, slavery, greed, false accusations, and prison, never mind all the other sufferings endured along the way.
It takes chiseling to bring out the detail in a slab of marble, and it takes repeated stints in the furnace for a vessel made of clay to grow strong. Only in God’s furnace can the slag be burned out of a man, so that only what is good can be poured out into the final mold. Without having gone through his season of suffering Joseph would have never matured to the point of forgiving those who sold him, loving them, and caring for them when their lives were in danger.
I don’t often draw comparisons, but there are certain times when they become much too obvious to ignore. It is no accident that the final crescendo of this drama, when Joseph was once more face to face with the very brothers who sold him into slavery, would take place upon Joseph’s thirtieth birthday, the same age Jesus was when He began His ministry, and this is just the first of many coincidences we see when comparing the lives of these two.
Both were good sons, both beloved of their father, overcoming temptation and hardships, both having been sent to their brothers, both having been met with betrayal, disrobed of their distinctive attire, sold for silver, and in the end becoming a blessing of their brothers, and for entire nations, saving them from death.
In Joseph’s case, once the thirteen-year ordeal reached its rightful end, once the culmination of the experience was at hand, he was recognized, prized and rewarded by the highest power in the land at the time, Pharaoh. Pharaoh recognizes at once the indisputable qualifications that Joseph possesses, and entrusts him with a unique duty, one as important today as it was then, that of saving millions from death. Although it was starvation, that Joseph was entrusted to spare the people from then, it is a far greater thing that the children of God are entrusted with today, that of sparing souls from eternal judgment.
Because he overcame the hardships, the trials, and the dark times in his life, Joseph was exalted, rewarded, dressed in fine linens, given to wear Pharaoh’s ring, honored with authority and power. It is a lesson that serves us well, even in this age, for only by victory can one obtain a crown, only by overcoming can one be rewarded for their perseverance and faithfulness. When God has His hand upon the life of an individual, when He begins to work in them and through them, the evidence is undeniable, and men see this clearly. Jacob saw that God was speaking to his son Joseph through dreams, and that he has a special plan for his life. Potiphar recognized that everything Joseph did was met with great success. Pharaoh acknowledged the wisdom and light with which Joseph unraveled mysteries, thereby offering a solution far in advance of the problem sweeping over his lands. It is wise to prepare before the famine sweeps through the land, more so spiritually, that during the times of famine the fruit of our wisdom might be visible to all. Men see because God opens their eyes to see, and seeing, the act according to God’s instruction.
The enviable positions, which Joseph obtained in his family, in Potiphar’s home, and the very throne of Egypt, although coordinated by God and made possible wholly by Him, were contingent and conditional upon Joseph’s attitude in all three circumstances. Joseph’s attitude illustrates the Biblical principle that both apostles Peter and James expounded upon, that when humility is superimposed upon obedience, they would be transformed into exaltation and glory.
Obedient to his elderly father, to his new master in a faraway land, and to the kingly authority of the Pharaoh, Joseph is the embodiment of a truth that is extremely difficult to accept. Theoretically we all accept it, but very few apply it practically to their lives. How many of us submit with a joyous hear to the authority that was placed over us, especially when said authority presses down upon the most sensitive areas of our constitution?
In the end whether it’s the obedience of a child toward its parents, or our obedience toward our heavenly Father, one thing is certain, obedience and humility will always be rewarded and exalted both here, and in the age to come.

With love in Christ,

Michael Boldea Jr.

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

A Family Legacy Part 2

I was born in a Christian home. I saw the example my parents and grandparents set forth, I witnessed their faithfulness and devotion to God, yet there came a time when I had to choose the path for myself. An example is necessary, but so is the choice to follow said example.
For a young person to truly grow more is required than the artificial environment of a family that spoils them. Most young men and women today are in a greenhouse of sorts, sheltered from the elements, so much so that they grow either unconcerned or indifferent toward that which is happening outside. They take for granted the fact that although the winds are howling, and the sleet is pelting mercilessly, they are safe within the confines of their home, protected from the elements.
God allows the tunic made of many colors to be stripped off the still young and fragile body of a seventeen-year-old adolescent, and be sent home to his parents, torn and dipped in blood. Jacob’s heart was broken that day, and for some fifteen years he was inconsolable at the loss of his son, having thought him dead, only to receive him back, accomplished, mature, tried and tested, just as God had wanted him. Jacob receives Joseph back as one who has risen from the dead, but having learned his lesson during the hard years of separation, that his son was no longer his.
Is this perhaps too cruel a method on God’s part? Knowing that you are unable to build a righteous character in them, or that while they are sheltered by your love they will not change, God takes the child and enrolls him in the school of life, where suffering is the only teacher, his tears are his comfort, where his brothers are his enemies, and his enemies his friends.
Will you understand when that time comes for you, that God is educating your offspring that he is being chiseled, molded, prepared, so in due tine God may work through Him toward the saving of not only you and your family, but countless others as well?
Are you prepared to sacrifice his fragile life on the peeks of Mount Moriah, that you may receive him again one day with gladness, knowing that your offering was what God expected, and his return is confirmation that your offering was received? Will you understand that your sons or daughters were not given you merely for your enjoyment, to dress them up in multicolored tunics of parental love, and lavish them with your best, which can impede moral growth and inward beauty, keeping them from being prepared for service?
The relationship between a parent and a child is a lasting one. There is nothing that can diminish the bond and the love a parent has for the child it brought into the world. A wise parent understands that eventually the child will leave their side, that he or she will venture out into the unknown, and all a parent can really do is prepare and pray. There are circumstances however, when a parent must endeavor beyond basic wisdom, and begin to discern with godly wisdom the course of their offspring’s life, to understand that God’s purpose is a destiny longer than the span of one human life, and greater than any hypothetical and illusory happiness their child might have sheltered under the shadow of parental wings.
Remember Joseph when God will allow the multicolored tunic to be torn off your offspring, when they will be stripped of all that the tunic can symbolize: perhaps a good education, an assured future from a material standpoint, a profitable career, a dream dear to your heart which you yourself were unable to fulfill, and many other things that men have the tendency to place their trust and hopes in.
By the time adulthood had been visited upon Joseph, he was already being covered with a second tunic, this time the tunic of slavery in Potiphar’s home, the master who had purchased him. This was not a tunic of many colors, it had not been custom made, or sown to specifications. Slaves are not taken to tailors, their measurements are not taken, nor are their clothes made to fit. Slaves are made to wear a tunic they have not chosen, realizing the fit only when they have put it on. This was a heavy tunic for a once spoiled boy who until recently had everything he desired, this new tunic now requires labor, devotion, submission, obedience, humility, in other words, integrity. Integrity toward whom one might ask? His master of course, but is it possible to require integrity of a simple slave?
To whom much is given, much is also required, and Joseph continued to be given much even in his current state. He had been shown favor by his master, and this favor needed to be honored. God had made Joseph a wellspring of blessing for Potiphar’s home. There was only one thing for Joseph to do, one path to pursue, that of being worthy of the trust his master had shown him, not earned of his own merits, but given of God. In the end he understood that he must remain accountable before the Great Master. Absent of testing, absent of being tried, integrity in and of itself doesn’t mean very much. Daily, Joseph is offered a myriad of options, every one offering an easier path, tempting avenues that promise much but in the end lead nowhere.
Not long after his being established in his master’s house, we are told by way of the Word that the Egyptian’s wife notices Joseph and begins to make advances each more insistent and direct than the last. By way of this lascivious woman, the enemy attempts to compromise Joseph’s integrity, knowing full well that if he succeeds in ruining his reputation he would have reached his desired result, destroying the good work God was planning to do through Him, and neutralizing his good testimony.
Someone once observed that three fiery arrows of the enemy most often target men of God, and it only takes one of these arrows to hit their mark to fatally wound the man of God if it happens to find him defenseless, without his armor, and even for a few moments lacking in integrity. These three arrows are known as the three G’s, glory, gold, and girls. There are countless examples wherein of one of these three has fatally wounded a man of God, and if it were not so painful to recollect those that have been felled by the enemy’s attacks, we could readily go into detail, naming the names of the fallen.
A good reputation is easier to maintain than once having stained it, reacquire it’s previous purity and luster. Joseph’s tunic, formerly the tunic of a slave had now been transformed into the white garment of innocence, of a character beyond reproach, a heart untouched by the filth of unfounded accusations, which refused under any circumstance to compromise, to give in, no matter the consequences. Joseph never forgot the promises of God, and even in the darkest hour waited patiently upon the Lord. A foundation laid in suffering, for a future glorious work.

With love in Christ,

Michael Boldea Jr.