Follow by Email

Monday, August 17, 2009

Still Here

Sometimes trying to rightly divide one's time can be likened to having six slices of pie and eight guests; there just isn't enough, no matter how you try. I haven't posted anything in about a week, but this does not mean I haven't been working. I'm trying to finish up a book before I leave Romania, and I am also working on a series called 'the loveliness of Christ' for our television show. The starting point is the verse in Isaiah 53:5 that says 'He was bruised for our iniquities.' I was still very young when I read that verse, and although I didn't know what 'stripes' were, I knew what bruises were well enough since I'd fallen off my grandfather's bicycle often while learning to ride it.
I realize most people quote the last part of the verse, that tells us that by His stripes we are healed, by I have always reacted more to the fact that He was wounded for our transgressions, and bruised for our iniquities. It is a four part series that I'm almost finished with, and will be filming once I return to the states.
I've also been traveling with my dad and visiting some of our ongoing projects in the surrounding communities, as well as passing out food and aid to the poor. Even though it has only been a few months since I visited, things have gotten visibly worse here as well. I hope to post something substantial sometime this week.
I try to push away the thought that if only I had more time I'd be able to do more, and make due with the time that I have. Thank you all for your understanding.

With love in Christ,

Michael Boldea Jr.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Spared Sheltered or Sifted

Whether for expediency’s sake, or due to the underlying fear that discovering the truth might contradict our own presupposed interpretation, a great majority in the church today have chosen to clump together the three distinct and independent ideas of judgment, wrath, and persecution, into one interchangeable and confusing mass of doctrinal amalgam.
Due to the blending together of these three individual concepts, many within the house of God today are either confused as to what the end times will be like in respect to the children of God, while others are wholly indifferent and apathetic concerning this topic, because to them it is nothing more than a futile intellectual exercise.
“We’re not going to be here anyway, so why bother discussing it? God has not appointed us to wrath, but to obtain salvation by our Lord Jesus Christ, so there, it’s settled.”
This is the danger of clumping together three very different concepts, and drawing our own conclusions. Judgment, wrath, and persecution are very different in and of themselves, and when we place all three under the same umbrella, we get a distorted view of what the future holds for us as children of God.
Of the three, one is reserved exclusively for the godless, one is reserved exclusively for the children of God, and one is interchangeable, poured out over unbelievers, as well as believers who have strayed, or otherwise dismissed the commands of God. In order to understand the difference between judgment, persecution, and wrath we must take each individual concept, and see what the Word of God would say about each of them. As always, the Word must have the final authority, and as such we must bend our will to conform to the truth of God’s Word, rather than bending the truth of God’s word to conform to our will.
We begin with the concept of judgment, since of the three it is mentioned earliest in God’s word. Judgment is also the only one of the three that is interchangeable. What I mean by this is that the righteous judgment of God can be applied to the godly and the ungodly alike, as evidenced in the Word of God.
The first mention of the judgment or judgments of God is recorded in the book of Exodus, as God reassures Moses that he will make a way for the people of Israel to be released from the bondage of slavery in Egypt.
Exodus 6:6, “Therefore say to the Children of Israel: I am the Lord; I will bring you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians, I will rescue you from their bondage, and I will redeem you with an outstretched arm and with great judgments.”
Before delving into the judgments of God against the Egyptians, and His faithful protection of the people of Israel in the land of Goshen, there are certain truths concerning the judgments of God that we must establish.
First, the judgments of God are always just, and based on truth rather than supposition. God does not guess when He judges. God does not suppose, nor does He harbor any doubt when He speaks judgment upon a person, a land, a people or the entire world. The Word tells us that justice, and judgment is the habitation of His throne, and as such go hand in hand in executing His righteousness. I realize it has become a popular pastime of many a Christians to second guess, or outright question God’s judgments, or the justice thereof, but the foolishness of such practices cannot adequately be described by a mind as limited as my own.
Romans 2:2, “But we know that the judgment of God is according to truth against those who practice such things.”
I hear comments such as ‘it was unfair for God to do that’, or ‘I think God should have shown a bit more grace’, and each time I find them both tedious and foolhardy. I shake my head, and wonder how it is that man has so elevated himself and his view of himself, that he stands ready to question God, or presume that God was not just, merciful or gracious. God’s judgments are just! God’s judgments are based on truth, and according to truth!
The second thing we must acknowledge when considering the judgment of God, is that it is impartial. God does not show favoritism, God does not show nepotism, He judges without partiality, and those who sinned without law will perish without law, while those who sinned in the law will be judged by the law.
God weighs the hearts of men, He judges based on what the eyes cannot see, He goes beyond the exterior shell, or the image we attempt to project, and everything from our intent, to our motivation, to our thoughts are an open book to Him.
Romans 2:11-12, “For there is no partiality with God. For as many as have sinned without law will also perish without law, and as many as have sinned in the law will be judged by the law.”
God’s judgment also begins in His house, and acts as a sifting mechanism, separating the wheat from the chaff, those who truly serve Him with a heart of worship and righteousness, and those who serve Him only in the hope of receiving earthly rewards.
1 Peter 4:17-18, “For the time has come for judgment to begin at the house of God; and if it begins with us first, what will be the end of those who do not obey the gospel of God? Now ‘if the righteous one is scarcely saved, where will the ungodly and the sinner appear?”
The judgment of God is very different from the wrath of God, because the wrath of God is reserved in exclusivity for the sons of disobedience. It is when God pours out His wrath that His children are sheltered by His omnipotence, and are safe under the shadow of His wing.
Although the wrath of God was provoked, stirred, and even waxed hot against Israel in the Old Testament, it was never poured out, at least not in the measure other passages in Scripture describe it. Even when His wrath was stirred and provoked, it was against those who sinned, committed idolatry, forsook God, mocked His messengers and despised His words.
Zephaniah 1:14-18, “The great day of the Lord is near; it is near and hastens quickly. The noise of the day of the Lord is bitter; there the mighty men shall cry out. That day is a day of wrath, a day of trouble and distress, a day of devastation and desolation, a day of darkness and gloominess, a day of clouds and thick darkness, a day of trumpet and alarm against the fortified cities and against the high towers. I will bring distress upon men, because they have sinned against the Lord; Their blood shall be poured out like dust, and their flesh like refuse. Neither their silver nor their gold shall be able to deliver them in the day of the Lord’s wrath; But the whole land shall be devoured by the fire of His jealousy, for He will make speedy riddance of all those who dwell in the land.”
I wanted to include this entire passage of scripture, because it paints a vivid portrait of what the day of the Lord’s wrath is. Yes, the day God’s wrath is poured out upon the world will be a frightful day indeed, a day of trouble, distress, devastation and desolation, for all those who have sinned against the Lord. It is not from judgment, or persecution that God will shelter us, but from His wrath. Of the three God’s wrath is the only one reserved for the ungodly, and the sons of disobedience, and His children will suffer no part of it.
Throughout the New Testament whenever the wrath of God is mentioned it is within the context of the disobedient, or those who have rejected God.
Romans 1:18-19, “For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who suppress the truth in unrighteousness, because what may be known of God is manifest in them, for God has show it to them.”
Now we come to the difficult part, the part that pertains exclusively to the children of God, that of sifting or the persecution of the saints. It is not a topic many are excited to talk about or expound upon, because the culture in which they were raised has excluded the possibility of persecution for them.
Every time I preach on persecution in America, I get more blank stares from the audience than any other topic, because they just can’t relate to the idea of persecution. I would most likely get the same blank stares if I were to go into a fully stocked supermarket and start talking about how we would stand in line for hours on end for such basics as oil, sugar and bread when I lived in Romania, with the very real possibility that they would run out before we got to the head of the line. Some things just don’t register yet, but they will with time.
Throughout the centuries we have seen the folly of living with the mentality of ‘it could never happen here, and if it did it would never happen to me.’ Things we thought would never happen in America are happening, and it would behoove us to remember that for two thousand years the followers of Christ have been persecuted throughout the world, and even now in many nations the selfsame persecution is raging. Why would we be spared when all others weren’t? If God judges without partiality what makes us special an exempt from that which countless brothers and sisters are even now enduring?
What we must acknowledge and accept, although it is difficult for some who have fashioned their own pseudo-gospel, is that the Word of God does not lie, and in it we are encouraged to live with the expectation of persecution. It does not speak of mere probability, or potential, but certainty.
2 Timothy 3:12, “Yes, and all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution.”
If one’s desire is not to live godly in Christ Jesus, but merely pretend when it is convenient for them, then they have nothing to worry about. Just as the pebble is moved along by the rushing river, so will Christians whose desire is not godliness be moved about, perpetually finding the path of least resistance, conflict, and sacrifice. The sad truth is that most would readily sacrifice more for their flesh than they would for their soul, and compromise their deepest held beliefs for the promise of an easy and hardship free life.
If however our desire is to live godly, then we must now and for the rest of our existence purpose in our hearts that we will not be moved, we will not be shaken, and we will not let go of Christ no matter the cost.
I believe the season of threshing has already begun within the house of God, and after the threshing comes the sifting. In order for God to do great and mighty works in and through the church during these end times, that the words of Christ might be fulfilled, He needs to first purge and purify the Bride that it might be that pure and spotless entity standing in stark contrast to the darkness of this present world.
In those days, the world will see your hope and hate you for it, they will see your steadfastness and despise you for it, they will see your protection and persecute you for it, but some will see the hand of God upon you, His light shining through you, and humble themselves falling at the foot of the cross in repentance.
God’s desire is not to spare us from being sifted! God’s desire is to mold our character, and strengthen our constitution, to grow our faith and mature us by way of sifting. Our perception of how God views us has much to do with whether or not we accept the idea of sifting as one that God not only endorses but employs frequently. While we tend to believe that God sees us as helpless, fledgling baby birds, who venture no further than the safety of the nest, God sees us as His ambassadors, as those who would be shining lights in a world of darkness, those who would stand for truth and confront the forces of darkness.
There is an exchange between Jesus and Peter in the gospel according to Luke that is very telling and sobering. Jesus forewarns Peter that Satan had asked for him that he might be sifted as wheat, but rather than say ‘I intervened, and it won’t happen’, Jesus says, ‘I have prayed for you, that your faith should not fail!’
If Peter had any hope that he might be spared sifting, that somehow his faith would not be tested, it is at this moment that the illusion is shattered.
Luke 22:31-32, “And the Lord said, ‘Simon, Simon, indeed, Satan has asked for you, that he may sift you as wheat. But I have prayed for you, that your faith should not fail; and when you have returned to Me, strengthen your brethren.”
This passage is a sobering reminder, that even the most mature of believers, even those who have been in ministry for decades, are not spared the sifting.
In conclusion, may we continually acknowledge that God’s judgments are just, His sifting no matter how violent is both purposeful and necessary, and His wrath against the sons of disobedience is long overdue.
Yes, God is love, God is mercy, God is grace, but He is also holy and righteous and just. We cannot divide His attributes and appropriate only the ones that suit us, or that appeal to our view of how we think God ought to be.
In His love, mercy and grace God sent His Son to die upon a cross for the sins of men, but in His holiness, righteousness and justice He will pour out His wrath upon those who rejected and despised the priceless sacrifice that was made on their behalf.

With love in Christ,

Michael Boldea Jr.

Monday, August 3, 2009

The Causes of Wrong Worship

Well, we made it back safe and sound. Saw more mountains in one week than the previous ten years put together, but Romania is a beautiful country, and I'm not just saying that because it is my homeland. We have allot of mountains, some with very interesting histories, and it is inevitable that one feels the weight of history bearing down upon their shoulders as they drive through a mountain pass, only to see an old Roman fort that has been standing for some two thousand years that used to house legions of Roman centurions and soldiers.
Contemplating the passing of time, and the generations upon generations that have come and gone is sobering, allowing us as individuals to acknowledge our own insignificance.
As I arrived home, after driving almost two thousand miles, I realized I missed writing. I missed the task of sitting down at my computer every morning and just sharing my thoughts. And so, I started writing again.....
I’ve been seeing a certain mindset creep within the house of God recently, and it has become prevalent enough that I thought it warranted a rebuttal of sorts. The way this new idea is being expressed within the church differs from place to place, but it can all be summed up in one short sentence.
“It doesn’t matter how you worship, just worship.”
This may sound gleefully liberating on the surface, but the Bible tells us there is a right way to worship God, and a wrong way to worship God. There is an acceptable sacrifice, and then there is a rejected sacrifice. Rather than list all the wrong ways in which men worship, today I want to deal with the causes of wrong worship. The list is long, from the ever present peacock feathers, to gold fillings, to irreverent and foolhardy manifestations with undeniable animalistic tendencies like barking or clucking, so listing all of them would be futile since new ways are being schemed up on a constant basis.
To me at least, causality has always been cleaner, clearer, and more relevant. You can know that your car is making a clunking noise, but until you know the cause of it, you can’t fix it. By the same token, we can know that unacceptable worship is taking place within the churches, but until we know the cause we cannot begin to remedy the situation.
The cause of wrong or unacceptable worship is fourfold. To a greater or lesser degree one can trace the genesis of such worship to one or all of these causes.
The first and most prevalent cause of wrong worship is absence of Biblical teaching. When the foundation is unstable and not built upon solid ground, the rest of the structure no matter how large or grandiose is likewise shifting and unstable. Because the source of the problem is the foundation itself, sooner or later the whole thing crumbles to the ground, no matter how many support beams one might have introduced with the passage of time.
We have strayed from the gloriously simple doctrine of true and undefiled worship into a new arena of mysticism that promises more excitement than it ever really delivers, playing on the fundamental flaw of all men to complicate something just for the sake of making it more complicated. What so few choose to acknowledge is that the guidelines set forth in the Word of God are there for a reason, and if we choose a different means of worship, we are no longer worshipping the one true God. It may be new and exciting to get golden dandruff, it may send a chill down one’s spine to wake up with new fillings, but this does not make it divine or sovereign.
The history of Aaron’s two sons is a well known and often discussed one. Each took his censer, put fire in it, and put incense in it, and offered profane fire before the Lord. For this, the fire of the Lord fell upon them and devoured them. At the time Aaron was the high priest of Israel, both Nadab and Abihu were grown men, around thirty years of age, and even if they would have been ignorant of how to bring a proper offering, ignorance is no excuse for the sin they committed. We take so lightly those things which ought to be of utmost importance to us, and take so seriously the trivial things that are fleeting and worthless.
The second cause of wrong worship is impatience. In an ever accelerating world, it is becoming increasingly more difficult to simply wait on the Lord.
“We prayed not one, but two prayers, we even took a day of fasting, and still no signs, no wonders, no stirring of the waters.”
Often we grow so impatient than rather than waiting on God and walking in His will, we get ahead of God and try to manufacture a miracle, a revival, or a word from the Lord. Impatience leads to imprudence, imprudence leads to disobedience, and disobedience leads to death. I know it is a difficult thing to contend with, seeing as so many are teaching that God is supposed to be our own personal errand person, there to be beckoned when we need some extra cash, or a shiny new car, but God is not on our time clock, we are on His. Our duty is to obey, to pray, to fast, and grow in Him. He knows when to work, how to work, and who to work through.
One of the most profound examples of impatience, due to the ensuing consequences was that of Saul.
Saul was a man under great strain. The armies of the Philistines had gathered together to fight with Israel, some thirty thousand chariots and six thousand horsemen, as well as foot soldiers as the sand which is on the seashore in multitude. When the men of Israel saw that they were outnumbered, and that there was no logical way they could win the war, they ran and hid, some in caves, some in thickets others in rocks, holes and pits. Saul began to see the whole of his army disbanding even before the first arrow was released from a bow, even before the first casualty was felled by sword or spear.
The prophet Samuel had told Saul to wait seven days, but those seven days had passed, his army was in disarray and now there was even news of some who crossed over the Jordan to the land of Gad in order to escape the coming slaughter. Saul was running out of options, his people were scattered from him, and attempting to unify them once more, to bring some hope to an otherwise hopeless situation, he hastily and impatiently said, ‘bring a burnt offering and peace offerings here to me.’
Yes, the Lord had been specific, through the mouth of Samuel God had told Saul to wait, but all the circumstances surrounding him told him he must act, and act quickly.
1 Samuel 13:10, “Now as it happened, as soon as he had finished offering the burnt offering, that Samuel came; and Saul went out to meet him and greet him.”
Rather than get a pat on the back for taking the initiative and bringing the sacrifices himself since Samuel had been delayed, rather than be praised for having a cool head under fire, rather than being lauded for standing in as a surrogate for Samuel, Saul was rebuked and harshly so.
The question Samuel asked Saul was deceptively simple, yet pregnant with implication: ‘What have you done?’
I’m certain that the tone in which Samuel asked the question was not a soothing or conciliatory one, and this is why Saul went on the defensive trying to justify his actions, his impatience, and his disobedience.
1 Samuel 13:11-12, “When I saw that the people were scattered from me, that you did not come within the days appointed, and that the Philistines gathered together at Michmash, then I said ‘The Philistines will now come down on me at Gilgal, and I have not made supplication to the Lord. Therefore I felled compelled and offered a burnt offering.”
Why is it that people who are feeling guilty about something always have a tendency to ramble?
‘Well you see, here’s the thing, you didn’t show up, and I felt compelled to disobey the Lord’s command since I couldn’t go to war without making an offering, plus the Philistines were about to descend on me.’
Samuel’s response to Saul’s attempted justification was not nearly as lengthy. Samuel simply said, ‘You have done foolishly. You have not kept the commandment of the Lord your God which he commanded you.’
What follows are the consequences to Saul’s impatience, ‘For now the Lord would have established your kingdom over Israel forever, but now your kingdom shall not continue.’
Due to one moment of impatience, this man’s entire trajectory had suddenly shifted. Not only would Saul’s kingdom over Israel not be established forever as God had intended, but his kingdom would not even continue for God had found another man after His own heart. Even though he was a king, even though Samuel was late, even though the enemies had gathered, none of these things excused Saul’s impatience.
The third thing that is sure to lead to wrong and as such unacceptable worship is compromise. We live in a society that compromise of one’s values, morals and even dignity is the price we pay for achieving success, or realizing our dreams. Compromise has become as common place and acceptable an option in the church today, as it is in the world.
“Your church isn’t growing at the pace you’d like? Maybe you’re too strict, too rigid, and too inflexible. Maybe you should do less preaching and praying and more pizza nights, bingo nights, and sharing sessions of which passages in scripture you feel are too harsh or unyielding. Is your ministry not bringing in enough to keep the lights on? Maybe you should start sending out glow in the dark miniature crosses, and gaudy trinkets, red and green handkerchiefs upon request, the red for healing the green for financial prosperity. Maybe you should ask more often, and pander to the big givers by making them feel like they’re exclusive and special, in a higher echelon of power and prestige.’
I’ve often found myself smiling mirthlessly at seeing all the books on church growth in the Christian bookstores. The recipe is simple if you’re willing to compromise the truth of Scripture, and your building will be full to the rafters if you focus on pleasing people more than pleasing God. It’s worded differently, but those are the major themes of every church and ministry growth manual.
‘Give the people what they want, not what they need!’ This is the cry of every wolf and sleazy pitchman masquerading as a preacher these days.
‘You want to be happy don’t you? You want to get rich don’t you? You want to have everything you ever wanted, and a little extra to boot don’t you?’
And the bleary eyed masses, as though suffering from a corporate delusion shake their heads in unison. ‘Ugh, I thought I was coming to church because I wanted to know Jesus, get saved, and go to heaven, but that stuff about money and straight teeth sounds good too.’
So often we fail to realize that the standards by which God judges those within His own house are much more stringent than those with which He judges those not of His house. I realize to some this is a shocking statement, but I can prove it Biblically.
At a certain point in Israel’s history the Ark of the Covenant had been captured by the Philistines. After some time, the Ark had been recovered, and preparations had been made to transport the Ark back to the City of David. God had already predetermined how the Ark should be transported, its very construction proving the fact that God had intended that it should be carried on the shoulders of men, by the staves that went through the four rings of cast gold on each corner of the ark.
It is obvious that the Philistines had neither Levites nor priests to transport the Ark in a rightful manner, so chances are they used a cart to carry it from place to place. Seeing as the Philistines had gotten away with transporting the Ark in a cart, Israel followed suit, built a new cart, and placed the Ark on the cart.
As the Ark was being transported in the new cart that had been fashioned, the oxen stumbled, and a man named Uzzah put out his hand to the Ark of God and took hold of it for fear of it stumbling to the ground. It was then that the Lord’s anger was aroused, God struck Uzzah, and he died beside the Ark.
It would be easy to go off on a rabbit trail and explore why it was that Uzzah was punished for doing a seemingly noble and good thing, how irreverence played a big part in Uzzah’s punishment, but I want to stick to the point.
What God didn’t punish the Philistines for, namely the improper transporting of the Ark, He punished Israel for, because Israel knew better, and God held them to a higher standard.
Israel had compromised that which they knew they ought not, because they thought God would overlook their compromise just as He had overlooked the irreverence of the Philistines.
Our view of God determines the seriousness with which we approach worship, and the reverence with which we stand before His omnipotent glory. Lest we forget, our God is a consuming fire.
The fourth cause of wrong worship is credulity or outright ignorance. Man wants to believe that he can impose his own criterion when it comes to worship, and as such as long as you think it’s good and acceptable, then it must be such. The problem arises when we realize that it is the Bible that sets the standard of worship, it is the Bible that establishes the criterion, and our duty is to be conformed to the word of God, rather than attempt to twist the Word to suit our desires.
During His dialogue with the woman at the well, Jesus says something profound that cannot be overlooked: “You worship what you do not know!”
Many today are guilty of the same offense, in that they worship what they do not know. The only acceptable means of worship is worship in spirit and in truth. It is only those who are willing to submit themselves, and worship God in spirit and in truth that He is seeking, for only such as these are willing to humble themselves, and let the Potter do what the Potter does, which is mold and place in the furnace that which is pleasing in His sight.
Credulity is faith without a filter. Credulity believes without diligently seeking the Word to see if it is acceptable to God, and as such wanders from experience to experience, from church to church, worshiping what it does not know, for it never took the time to discover that which is essential in acceptable worship.
When we choose to establish our own means of worship, placing the desire of the worshipper above the commands and guidelines of the Object of our worship, we become as Nadab and Abihu, Saul, and Uzzah, doing what we ought not to do, and worshipping in a manner that is displeasing and unacceptable in the sight of God.
If we worship, may it be in spirit and in truth, in obedience and humility, that our worship might not be in vain, but that it bear the fruit of intimacy and a lasting relationship with God.

With love in Christ,

Michael Boldea Jr.