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Sunday, September 30, 2012

Sunday Musings

Leafing through the news of the day, I happened upon an article which highlights some of what I was trying to say in regards to men shaking their fists at God.

Apparently a man in Minnesota vandalized six churches because ‘he was mad at God.’ From breaking doors, to throwing rocks through stained glass windows, this thirty year old man exhibited his anger at God by resorting to violent outbursts.

Now imagine a million, five million, ten million, or twenty million people angry at God, lashing out in similar fashion as this lone individual.

Another story that caught my eye, not so much for its gruesomeness although it is plenty gruesome, but more for the reaction people are having to it, is a fourteen year old in Florida who choked her newborn baby boy to death after prying him out with a pair of scissors, then put him in a shoebox.

People are all aflutter, disbelieving of the fact that this could happen here.

Really you can’t believe it could happen here? What did you expect when we’ve sexualized everything from hamburgers to automobiles, then talked ourselves into believing a human life is worth no more than a metal coat hanger and a hefty bag?

This is the society we the children of God have created by our silence, and the society the world has created by its surrender to lawlessness and hedonism. Yep, you’ve come a long way, baby.

Tomorrow we continue our series on prayer, and new audio will be up on the hand of help website as well.

With love in Christ,
Michael Boldea Jr.

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Loose Ends

I knew I’d be opening a can of worms even before I popped the top. There are only a handful of hot button issues within the church nowadays, and besides the timing of the catching away, we have the debate over eternal security, and of course the debate as to whether or not the gifts and baptism of the Holy Spirit are still among us.

To those of you who exhibited such a level of Christian character that I could not post your comments for fear that someone reading them might take offense at your choice of words, I forgive you, and God bless you. What you do not seem to grasp is that when I first began studying the topic of the catching away, or the rapture, I did so desiring wholeheartedly to discover that the Bible supported and backed up a pre-tribulation catching away.

I’m not one of those guys who wants to suffer for suffering’s sake, but only insofar as it brings glory to God. I am not looking forward to, or desirous of seeing those times, and as I said in yesterday’s post, I pray every day that I be counted worthy to escape.

As far as judging my pre-tribulation believing brothers, you might be surprised to know that I pray for them more than I pray for myself, that their faith would endure and not fail during the coming days. I’m not judging anyone, and if I’ve come off as ‘judgy’ it was unintended. I will, however, stand on the word of God, and believe the words of Jesus as He spoke them without attempting to reinterpret them or filter them through the prism of human understanding.

I know all the scriptures used to support a pre-tribulation rapture, I’ve studied them, collated them, meditated upon them, and everyone is peripheral to the primary topic. Only when one has predetermined what they will perceive in a particular scripture passage, whether Amos 5, Daniel 7, Daniel 9, or 2 Thessalonians 2, is the notion of a pre-tribulation rapture supported.

What I mean by this, is that if I go into the word of God intent on finding Scripture passages to support my position on any given topic, if I interpret and reinterpret a certain verse long enough, it will eventually mean what I want it to mean.

‘You who love the Lord, hate evil! He preserves the souls of His saints; He delivers them out of the hand of the wicked.’

‘For God did not appoint us to wrath, but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ.’

See, there! Pre-tribulation supported by Scripture.

Where?

These along with the other verses used to support this stance are peripheral scriptures, given to interpretation, tangentially relational to the primary topic.

Jesus said, ‘then the sign of the Son of Man will appear in heaven,’ meaning ‘after’ which is a lot more conclusive than the indirect scriptures used to defend this position.

We’ve already established we will not suffer the wrath of God, but being spared persecution would make God unjust, and His word a lie, since it was in His word we are told ‘all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution.’

I’m sorry; I don’t have a seminary degree, or the penchant to twist scripture into a pretzel just to make it support my denominational edicts. I read the Book, I read the words of Jesus, and I believe them. To me black is black. It is not white which has, through time and the process of oxidation turned a darker shade of white yet is not black as we understand black to be.

The Book is simple; we complicate it.

As far as Christ saying to His bride ‘hey let’s get married – I’ll beat the daylights out of you then we’ll go out to dinner!' It’s when we attempt to superimpose our thoughts upon God’s thoughts and filter His heart and intent through the prism of human understanding that we get such gems.

It is in hardship, affliction and persecution that the power and presence of God in us and through us is all the more evident. When God allows us to suffer persecution, He’s not beating the daylights out of us, He is facilitating the perfect environment in which we, His bride, will walk in the authority and power rightly ours.

When we are weak He is strong, for His power is perfected in weakness.

2 Corinthians 12:9-10, “And He said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities, than the power of Christ may rest upon me. Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in needs, in persecutions, in distresses, for Christ’s sake. For when I am weak, then I am strong.’”

What we perceive as God beating the daylights out of us is in fact God preparing His bride for her wedding day.

With love in Christ,
Michael Boldea Jr.

Friday, September 28, 2012

Freeform Friday Week 17

I think it’s because many believers live with the misconception that they will have to suffer the wrath of God during the tribulation that they are so averse to being open to the possibility of going through the tribulation.

We know by way of Scripture that it is the ungodly who suffer the wrath of God, and not the saints. I believe wholeheartedly, without doubt or equivocation that though we might be physically present during the tribulation, we will not suffer the wrath of God which is being poured out.

Will times be hard? Yes, undoubtedly they will be, but they will also be times of supernatural provision, supernatural protection, and supernatural experiences.

If the days will come when the just will live by faith, then it is faith that will sustain us, and keep us. I realize some of us might like to think we’re currently living by faith, but there are safety nets and insular protocols we have in place wherein we’re close to living by faith perhaps, but not truly living by faith alone.

Whenever discussing the tribulation, and the role of the children of God in the midst of it, I always return to the land of Goshen in the midst of Egypt. It is the place where the people of God were during the time of the plagues, and consequently the only place within the whole of Egypt which did not suffer the plagues, or the wrath of God.

If we do not believe our God is able to protect us from His own wrath, then the image we have of God in our hearts and minds is one of impotence and not omnipotence.

As children of God we are as lights in the darkness, and there will be no darker a time than what is to come. As such there has never been a greater need for light than during those days wherein the cup of God’s wrath is being poured out.

What greater testimony could there be than to see the children of God spared and protected, while the godless endure His wrath?

What we must steel ourselves against is not the wrath of God for we will be protected from it, but from the persecution of the ungodly which we will undoubtedly endure during those days.

Those who fell away from truth for not having been prepared spiritually will be among the ungodly who will persecute the righteous, the elect, and the remnant of Christ.

Although the timing of Christ’s return is not a salvation issue, I do believe it is a ‘will you stand?’ issue.

If in my heart and mind I live with the full and unwavering expectation of Christ returning before tribulation descends and He does not, then although it’s my fault for believing something that was not biblically based, I will still shake my fist at God for not bringing to pass the lie I believed.

When speaking of the season of His return, Christ warns us that ‘many will be offended, betray one another, and hate one another.’

Feeling betrayed for not having been caught up before the coming of tribulation is as good a as any for many to be offended, and proceed to hate and betray one another.

If I live with the expectation of having to endure, if I live with the awareness that sooner or later ‘all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution,’ then I live my life in such a way that I am not tethered to anything of this earth, and will willingly lay down my life for my Lord and King.

We will only realize the true measure of destruction the current breed of doctrines has wrought upon the household of faith when we see persecution descend, and see how few continue to stand.

I realize that to a certain extent I’m whispering in a windstorm here. The hardest segment of people to convince of something once they’ve made up their mind is believers.

Even when you show them the word of God, and prove that their doctrine is contrary to what the Book says, they’ll still shake their head, give you a pitying smile, and tell you that you just don’t understand, and haven’t yet received the revelation, whatever that’s supposed to mean.

All I can do is stand on the truth of God’s word.

I realize my stance has upset some of you, and I will likely lose supporters and readers, but it won’t have been the first time. If I am not willing to suffer the loss of some readers or supporters of the ministry for the sake of truth, how will I lay down my life when it’s required of me?

I will say the following, then just let the word of God make my case for me: I pray every day that God will count me worthy to escape these things, but I prepare every day as though I will have to endure to the end, just in case He doesn’t.

Our God is able to save us from the burning fiery furnace, but if not, He’s still God. In the end, it’s about what He’s already done for us through Christ, not what He will do for us. We have been reconciled unto the Father, through the death, burial and resurrection of the Son. We have a place in His home, in His presence, beholding His glory for all eternity. If need be that I must suffer in this present life, what is it to me when I know what awaits in the life to come?

2 Timothy 3:12, “Yes, and all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution.”

1 Peter 1:6-9, “In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while, if need be, you have been grieved by various trials, that the genuineness of your faith, being much more precious than gold that perishes, though it is tested by fire, may be found to praise, honor, and glory at the revelation of Jesus Christ, whom having not seen you love. Though now you do not see Him, yet believing you rejoice with joy inexpressible and full of glory, receiving the end of your faith – the salvation of your souls.”

Matthew 24:21-25, “For then there will be great tribulation, such as has not been since the beginning of the world until this time, no, nor ever shall be. And unless those days were shortened, no flesh would be saved; but for the elect’s sake those days will be shortened. Then if anyone says to you, ‘look, here is the Christ!’ or ‘there!’ do not believe it. For false christs and false prophets will arise and show great signs and wonders, so as to deceive if possible, even the elect. See, I have told you beforehand.”

1 Corinthians 15:51-52, “Behold, I tell you a mystery: We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed – in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised incorruptible and we shall be changed.”

More could be said, but I leave you with these three questions: If the elect are already gone, why would those days be shortened for their sake? If the elect are already gone, how could the false christs and false prophets attempt to deceive them? If we shall all be changed at the last trumpet, how many trumpets after the last trumpet?

Bonus Scripture:

Matthew 24:29-30, “Immediately after the tribulation of those days the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light; the stars will fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens will be shaken. Then the sign of the Son of Man will appear in heaven, and then all the tribes of the earth will mourn and they will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory.”

With love in Christ,
Michael Boldea Jr.

P.S. In the last two days I've had a wisdom tooth extracted, as well as endured a root canal. As such, the audio on the hand of help site will be a little late in coming. It's hard to talk with a mouthful of blood, and around what feels like a pound of gauze. Yeey tooth decay!

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Lord, Teach Us To Pray! Part 176

Prayers of the Old Testament
The Prayer of Hannah continued...

Although this entire series is about prayer, from what it is, to learning from those who came before us and their prayer lives, when there are practical lessons we can learn and teachable moments we can grow from in the life of one of these biblical figures, I would be remiss if I didn’t highlight it and mention it, if only in passing.

One of the most powerful lessons we can glean from the life of Hannah is that in our time of grief, of sadness, of desperation and hopelessness, we ought to run to God.

When trials descend, far too many believers have the tendency to withdraw themselves from among the children of God, to stop coming to the house of the Lord, and be on their own, by themselves, growing in their depression due to their isolation, and waxing worse.

The house of the Lord and the people of God aren’t there just for the good times. The household of faith isn’t there just for the potlucks and birthday parties, it is a family, one body, which feels with the hurt and sadness of its members and helps in times of need and desperation. At least that’s how it ought to be, and how Christ intended His church to be.

If you are hurting, if you are sorrowful, if trials abound in your life and you have no support or comfort from those you would call your brothers and sisters in Christ, then perhaps you should seek another church body, another fellowship which understands the true meaning of being one in Christ.

It is dangerous and self-destructive to withdraw and isolate ourselves when hurt threatens to overwhelm us. Even though it is dangerous, it is nevertheless what many of us are predisposed to doing.

Both when my grandfather and my mother passed away, my reaction was to withdraw and isolate myself from everyone else and mourn alone. I continued in this manner until my wife came to me one day and said, ‘you know everyone’s feeling loss, and mourning just as much as you are. Perhaps it would be a good thing for everyone to be together during such a time.’

It was hard. I had to physically drag myself out of my apartment and go be with the rest of my family, almost against my will, but after a few hugs and a few tears, and a lengthy conversation I realized the wisdom of my wife’s words.

Hannah knew the house of the Lord was the place to be when everything was going wrong and when sorrow overflows. Though she wept, she wept before God, and prayed for resolution.

Pain and sorrow compel us to pray, and if they do not bring us to our knees, if they do not cause us to seek the face of God, nothing else will.

Hannah understood the true meaning of prayer. She understood that true prayer was the pouring out of one’s soul before the Lord, and these are the exact words she used when explaining to Eli what it was she had been doing.

When we pour our soul out to the Lord, we hold nothing back. We can’t be selective as to what we pour out to the Lord when we pour our soul out to him. When we try to hold things back, we are as successful as trying to pour ice water into a glass without getting any of the ice cubes to spill over the edge. Tip the pitcher at enough of an angle, and everything will pour out, ice cubes and all.

Hannah had no one else to pour her heart out to but the Lord. Her husband didn’t understand her pain, her husband’s other wife was the source of her pain, and the priest thought she was drunk…but Hannah still had the Lord.

No matter where you are, even though you might be far away from family and friends, even though you might be far removed from those you know, you can still go to the Lord, you can still pour out your soul to Him, and He will hear you.

All Hannah was doing was moving her lips. Her voice was not heard, for she was speaking in her heart, and still pouring her soul out to the Lord. Eli, having been a priest of the temple for many years, still found this behavior odd, so much so that he assumed Hannah was drunk, and this is why she could not speak the words she desired to speak.

Not everybody pours their soul out in the same manner. Some do so using words, some speak with the heart; some shed tears, others don’t; some come before God with groaning, while others just fall on their face before Him.

There is no wrong way to pour your soul out before the Lord!

No one on earth heard Hannah’s cry, for it was a cry of the heart, but God in heaven did. The purpose of our prayers is not to be seen or heard by men. It is to be heard of God. So often we hear well-tailored prayers being prayed in churches, prayers from which the passion and emotion has been long removed, because they are prayers intended to impress, and not prayers intended to touch the heart of God.

Be as Hannah in your prayers. Do not pray with the hope or expectation of being heard by anyone else, except for God. Do not pray to impress, do not pray to draw attention to how poetically you petition God, pour your soul out before the Lord, and He will hear and answer your pleas.

Hannah was unconcerned as to who might be watching her, or seeing her cry out to the Lord. She was unconcerned as to the image she was projecting, or what others might think of her. It was her, and God, and all that mattered was that God was listening.

With love in Christ,
Michael Boldea Jr.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Lord, Teach Us to Pray! Part 175

Prayers of the Old Testament
The Prayer of Hannah continued...

Hannah is another in a long line of relatable biblical figure, because family issues are plentiful and frequent even among believers. Although we might not relate to Hannah in regards to the specificity of her issue, that her husband’s other wife was making her life miserable, we can nevertheless understand heartache and sadness and sorrow.

No two problems are ever identical. There will always be a different nuance or a different context, but pain is pain, and everyone understands it.

Hannah was a woman in anguish. Sorrow was her constant companion, and Peninnah would not let up, or miss an opportunity to remind her of her barrenness.

Peninnah’s provocations were not isolated to the homestead either. She continued mocking and attempting to make Hannah miserable even when they went to the house of the Lord.

So vile and set upon malicious intent was this woman, that even being in the house of God did nothing to deter her from her singular task.

1 Samuel 1:7, “So it was, year by year, when she went up to the house of the Lord, that she provoked her; therefore she wept and did not eat.”

We realize this was no back and forth banter, this wasn’t needling someone in good humor; this was a vile and malicious woman attempting to squeeze the joy out of every moment of Hannah’s life.

This goes to show how ugly a thing jealousy can be, and why as individuals we must guard our hearts against it. Peninnah was jealous that Elkanah preferred Hannah over her, and in her jealousy she lost sight of both reason and humanity.

What was to be for Hannah a celebration of joy and of worship in the house of the Lord, turned into a season of sorrow and tears.

Even her being in the house of the Lord is admirable, since many have a tendency to turn their backs on God when things aren’t going their way, or when what they thought they were entitled to never materializes in their lives.

Hannah was a woman who was barren, who suffered continually due to her husband’s other wife, who was not even allowed to have some time alone with the Lord and even in His house Peninnah managed to open the wound afresh, yet here she is, weeping and praying and crying out to God. Hannah did not abandon the house of the Lord when things didn’t turn out as she’d hoped, she pressed in, and sought the face of the Lord all the more, knowing He was her only refuge and safe place.

Here she was, weeping and speaking in her heart with only her lips moving, and Eli, having watched her for a while concluded she was drunk.

1 Samuel 1:14, “So Eli said to her, ‘How long will you be drunk? Put your wine away from you!’”

Few things in life are more hurtful than when we go to a spiritual authority for compassion and instead we find them judging and jumping to conclusions. Hannah was heartbroken, weeping, and praying silently, and Eli assumed she was drunk.

There is also a practical lesson we can glean from this entire exchange, one that will serve us well throughout life, that is, to never assume.

If we are honest with ourselves, we will readily conclude we assume many things about many people throughout our lives. Even though we are taught from early youth not to judge a book by its cover, the first thing to make an impact – often times a permanent one – is an individual’s appearance.

If they are well kept, wearing a suit or an evening gown, we assume one thing. If they are a bit rough around the edges, or wearing a certain kind of garment, we assume something else.

There have been instances in my life wherein certain individual had a picture of me in their mind, and when their mental picture did not match the reality thereof, they grew disillusioned and distanced themselves.

We assume, and we expect, and we have a notion of what we think something ought to be like, and when it isn’t, we don’t admit we were wrong or that we judged harshly, but merely conclude that the individual wasn’t wise enough to know better.

It’s inhumane to kick someone when they are down, and rather than assume the worst of an individual, it is wiser by far to take the time and listen to their sorrow, listen to their pain, and be a comfort if we can.

Even with the sorrow and humiliation Hannah was suffering, it is fascinating to see her spiritual state, and her character in the face of her trial and Eli’s false accusation.

1 Samuel 1:15-16, “And Hannah answered and said, ‘No, my lord, I am a woman of sorrowful spirit. I have drunk neither wine nor intoxicating drink, but have poured out my soul before the Lord. Do not consider your maidservant a wicked woman, for out of the abundance of my complaint and grief I have spoken until now.’”

Imagine for a second if this scenario had played out in a modern day church. A woman, weeping by the altar, moving her lips, praying silently to God, and the pastor or elder coming up to her and asking her how long she’d be drunk, and advising her to put her wine away from her.

You and I know full well it would likely result in a lawsuit, citing defamation of character and other grievous things, and the pastor or elder would likely pay for their remark for the rest of their natural lives.

Instead of snapping at Eli, instead of starting to scream or make a scene, Hannah’s answer was the epitome of spiritual maturity. ‘No my lord, I am a woman of sorrowful spirit. I have drunk neither wine nor intoxicating drink, but have poured out my soul before the Lord.’

Hannah’s soft spoken words did more to pierce the heart of Eli, than twice the screaming and stomping and acting out would have.

With love in Christ,
Michael Boldea Jr.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Lord, Teach Us To Pray! Part 174

Prayers of the Old Testament
The Prayer of Hannah

Hannah the mother of the prophet Samuel lived during the last days of the Judges of Israel. It was a very turbulent time for God’s people, a season wherein everyone did what was right in their own eyes, making it up as they went along, and having no regard for the law of God or His commandments.

Lawlessness reigned, and men were no longer concerned as to what the will of God was, or what the law of God said, but did as they saw fit, as benefited them, or pleased them in some way.

In other words, it was allot like today except for all the technology and motorized vehicles. Men stray from God. It is a painful truth which we must acknowledge, and knowing it as truth, we must individually do our utmost not to be among those who stray. The way we do this is by continually keeping God’s word in our heart, and trusting the lamp that is the Scripture to illuminate the path before us, and prevent us from stumbling.

Men stumble when they begin to do what is right in their own eyes, rather than remain within the well-defined boundaries of scripture. There has never been nor will there ever be an individual who having walked in obedience to the word and will of God, found themselves far from truth and off in the desert, away from the path of righteousness.

It is rebellion in men’s hearts that leads them to think they know better than God and assumes that by doing what is right in their own eyes they will still reach the same destination as having followed after God would have them follow.

The decline of a nation goes hand in hand with the decline of its spiritual leaders, and we see the sons of Eli, being corrupt and doing things unbecoming of priests. They did not know the Lord, yet they performed the tasks of the temple, out of habit, or due to it being an easy and rewarding career.

Tragically, much of the Old Testament, especially the negative aspects mirror our day and age to an almost eerie degree. Today, as in the days of old we have our own version of the priests of the temple, whether we call them pastors, evangelists or preachers, and many of them, as was the case long ago, do it because they see it as a career rather than a calling.

Many of these men know not God nor do they know the power of God, yet they preach a version of spiritualized humanism which attracts many a soul because humanism requires neither righteousness or holiness of the individual…just a cult of personality and a gift offering once in a while.

As those tasked with upholding the truth, the sons of Eli failed as miserably as many preachers and teachers are failing today. They did not teach truth, they did not preach the whole council of God, they were corrupt men just going through the motions, and because of this the whole of society became more debased, lawless, and vile.

The spiritual condition of those who call themselves God’s people, and the spiritual condition of the nation wherein they reside, are linked and interconnected. When those who ought to be the people of God abandon righteousness, holiness, and even morality, it is only a matter of time before those of the world begin to wax worse.

Judges 2:10-12, “When all that generation had been gathered to their fathers, another generation arose after them who did not know the Lord nor the work which He had done for Israel. Then the children of Israel did evil in the sight of the Lord, and served the Baals; and they forsook the Lord God of their fathers, who had brought them out of the land of Egypt and they followed other gods from among the gods of the people who were all around them; and they provoked the Lord to anger.”

It was within this context that Hannah, the wife of Elkannah – by all accounts a godly man, who nevertheless had another wife by the name of Peninnah – comes before God with an ache in her heart, and a prayer of petition unmatched in passion and emotion.

The crux of Hannah’s heartache was barrenness. In those days being barren was considered a curse for any married woman. Although Elkannah preferred Hannah over Peninnah, Peninnah tormented Hannah for years for not having any children, and not being able to bear sons.

There are many things we can glean from the prayer of Hannah, as well as the attitude and faithfulness of this amazing woman. Without doubt, Hannah is one of the noblest Hebrew women in the entire Bible. Even in her time of sadness and sorrow her faith and commitment to God are unwavering. She comes before God exhibiting not only faith, but an understanding of the divine in an age when her contemporaries had neither an understanding of God, nor a desire to serve Him.

The people of Hannah’s day, just as the priests of Hannah’s day were going through the motions, feigning worship, doing what they considered to be the bare minimum to still remain in God’s good graces, all the while being corrupt and immoral in their conduct and lifestyle.

It takes character to go against the tide, and to remain faithful when others around you are breaking faith. It takes character to intercede and plead with God from a position of hurt and pain, and still have the wherewithal to stand on His promises even when everything suggested the contrary.

Hannah was a woman who stood, and her prayer is a testament to faithfulness and obedience unto God.

With love in Christ,
Michael Boldea Jr.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Lord, Teach Us To Pray! Part 173

Prayers of the Old Testament
The Prayer of Samson continued...

There are moments in our life when God attempts to awaken us. He sees us beginning to stray, He sees us beginning to subvert His authority, He sees us beginning to give our heart over to another, and in His love and mercy He stirs us in the hope of awakening us.

It was in Samson’s isolation and suffering that God attempted to awaken him. Lest we forget, Samson had his eyes put out, and it wasn’t in an operating room, or with anesthesia. Samson was now a regular, everyday human being, and the Philistines put out his eyes. Whether with a sword, a knife or a stick we don’t know, but what we can be certain of is that Samson was suffering.

His dignity was likewise taken from him as this once feared man, this judge of the people of Israel was now made to be a grinder in a prison.

Samson’s days and nights were now restricted to contemplating how far he’d fallen, sitting in a prison cell, and grinding at the mill like an ox, or a beast of burden.

God would never make us grind at the mill, but the enemy surely would. When we abandon God, and forsake Him thinking the grass is greener on the other side, it’s only a matter of time before we realize how much we took for granted while working for God.

God is not a cruel taskmaster, but the devil is, and Samson was finding this out firsthand.

It was here, when all hope had abandoned him, when what he had once been was a long ago memory that Samson begins to cry out to God.

Judges 16:28, “Then Samson called to the Lord, saying, ‘O Lord God, remember me, I pray! Strengthen me, I pray, just this once, O God, that I may with one blow take vengeance on the Philistines for my two eyes!’”

God hears when we call out to Him. Possessing this knowledge, knowing with certain that He hears when we cry out, is one of the most comforting things for us as children of God. God is never busy, He is never out of reach, and He is never distracted by something else. Whenever you call on Him, He will hear.

Samson called out to God in the midst of his despair. Here he was, once great, now made to perform for the Philistines, who gave the credit for Samson’s capture to their god Dagon.

This once proud man, this man for whom nothing seemed impossible, now humbles himself, he capitulates, and realizes he can’t do it on his own. Samson became aware of his own impotence, and in humility cried out to God to strengthen Him once more.

Samson is one of those biblical figures we can all relate to in greater or lesser fashion, because there are times in everyone’s life when we fail to pray and call out to God until we come to the end of our rope, and have no one left to turn to.

Up until this moment in his life, where Samson found himself a prisoner, blinded and mocked, he did not employ prayer as he ought to have. He did not pray and ask of God whether to marry the Philistine, or whether he should go to Delilah, he did not enquire of God whether he should trust her or share his secret with her, but now, his eyes were finally opened even though they had been put out, and Samson cried out to God.

Samson was wise enough not to attempt to blame God for his predicament. He did not ask God why He had allowed him to come to this, or why God had not saved him from the hand of the Philistines. Samson was well aware he had done this to himself, by his rebellion, disobedience, and discounting of the calling to which he had been called.

Many a time, we get ourselves into situations solely of our own doing, then turn around and blame God for having allowed us to. It wasn’t God’s fault Samson was now without sight, bound and powerless. It was entirely Samson’s doing.

God counsels us, He shows us the way, but we must go in the way He shows us. If we set out on our own path, following our own heart, listening to the voice of another rather than God, then we cannot blame Him when we come to ruination.

‘Strengthen me, this once,’ was Samson’s cry. When he had strength in abundance, he took it for granted, abused it, and used it unwisely, but now, seeing himself powerless, Samson cries out to God for the strength he once had.

Judges 16:30, “Then Samson said, ‘let me die with the Philistines!’ And he pushed with all his might, and the temple fell on the lords and all the people who were in it. So the dead that he killed at his death were more than he had killed in his life.”

Thus ends the life of this man known as Samson, a man of contradictions, shortcomings and repeated failures.

Perhaps in eternity we will be able to unravel the mystery of this man’s life, and understand when forgiveness was granted him, since he is counted among the heroes of the faith long after his passing.

Some things are difficult to understand, and in those moments when human reason is not enough, we must trust in the wisdom of God, and realize He knows best.

Samson prayed that he might die with the Philistines, and though it was a tragic and destructive prayer, though it was a prayer of vengeance, God answered it and restored his strength. Because his strength was restored, Samson was able to carry out what he’d purposed in his heart, and those he killed at his death were more than he had killed in his life.

May we learn from the life of Samson, and not wait as he did until the final moments to cry out to God. May we learn from the mistakes of others, and not repeat them ourselves, seeing the aftereffects of their disobedience and rebellion as object lessons and teachable moments.

With love in Christ,
Michael Boldea Jr.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Lord, Teach Us To Pray! Part 172

Prayers of the Old Testament
The Prayer of Samson continued...

From being a man blessed of God, Samson becomes a man from whom the Lord departed. From seeing the power of the Lord coursing through him, Samson is now as impotent as any other man as the Philistines take him, put out his eyes, and bring him down to Gaza.

There is only pain, sorrow, loss, and hurt in rebellion. No good can come of forsaking God, no good can come of ignoring His commandments, and every man who has attempted to do so, has seen the folly of his way only when it was too late.

Belatedly, all those who take the grace of Christ for granted, and who take lightly what He did on the cross come to realize the foolishness of their way. One day, as we stand before He who was, and is, and always shall be, even the most ardent of atheists will know He lives. They will look upon the One they mocked, and ridiculed, the one they denied and blasphemed, but they will not be able to remedy their rebellion, nor will they have another occasion to repent of their lawlessness.

Tragic as the unfolding of Samson’s life may seem to us, in the end, he did have an opportunity for repentance. He did have an opportunity to cry out to God, something that many simply don’t get as they put off having a relationship with God until it’s too late.

There is no doubt in that Samson dealt treacherously with God, and as such he was ashamed, and brought low.

When we compare Samson’s actions and David’s actions in regards to one’s enemies, we see the difference in temperament as well as approach. While Samson trusted in himself, and went to confront the Philistines on his own, thinking it would be as before, David waits on the Lord to deal with his enemies.

Psalm 25:1-3, “To You, O Lord, I lift up my soul. O my God, I trust in You; Let me not be ashamed; Let not my enemies triumph over me. Indeed, let no one who waits on You be ashamed; Let those be ashamed who deal treacherously without cause.”

Even with the extent of Samson’s fall from grace, even with the Lord having departed from him, God still extended grace to him, attempting to remind him of all he’d lost, and bring him back to a state of repentance.

God was attempting to wake Samson up through his imprisonment and the taking of his eyesight, so he might remember from whence he had fallen. During an individual’s descent into rebellion it is very difficult for them to see from whence they fell. Their entire focus and purpose is to descend ever deeper, until they reach the bottom. Once they’ve reached the bottom, they can retrace their steps, look back up, and see just how far into the pit they’d descended.

Samson had reached the bottom. The Philistines had already taken his dignity, they’d already taken his pride, they had shaved his head and put out his eyes, and the only thing left to do, that would be as a mercy to Samson, was to take his life.

It was at this low point, at the absolute bottom, that God once more tries to awaken him to the reality of his rebellion, disobedience, and transgression in the hope that he might repent.

If we don’t make time for God in our freedom, the situation will most likely arise when God will be all we have time for. Whether in a Philistine cell, or in the belly of a fish, God finds ways of humbling us, and bringing our focus back on Him.

Up until the moment he got swallowed by the fish, Jonah was busy doing other things, like running away from God. In the belly of the fish however, Jonah wasn’t distracted by other things, he wasn’t trying to hatch other plans, or find an escape route, so from the depths, he cried out to God, and God heard him.

Why must it take prison, or the belly of a fish for some to cry out to God?

It is easier to live in obedience of God, than suffer the consequences of rebellion. It is easier to maintain a relationship with God during the good times, than grope about for Him in our desperation. When we maintain relationship with God we know where He is, and He knows where we are at all times. Not a second will go by wherein He will not be standing beside us, guiding us, keeping us, and protecting us.

When we allow distractions to dictate our actions, when we allow rebellion to take root in our heart, when we disobey God even though we know better, then God will depart seeing as He is not wanted, and being the gentleman that He is, God doesn’t stay where He isn’t welcome.

Anything we place before God in our hearts is an idol, and God will not abide it. If God and He alone is not on the throne of the heart, then whatever else is there – whether our possessions, our position, our spouse, or our children – is our surrogate God.

Often times, if we are honest with ourselves, we will be stunned to discover the self, sitting merrily where only God should reside. The pride of flesh is a tricky enemy, one who knows our weaknesses and exploits them with every opportunity. If we allow ourselves to be swayed by the honey pride pours into our ear, we will find ourselves facing our enemy alone, for God has long departed.

When we keep God in our hearts, when we live in obedience of Him, and in remembrance of what Jesus did, then we will not run the risk of allowing idols to invade our heart, nor will we willfully usurp His throne and give it to another.

In all things, the preeminence of God must be evident and visible, and then all will know we are His children, and He is our Father.

With love in Christ,
Michael Boldea Jr.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Lord, Teach Us To Pray! Part 171

Prayers of the Old Testament
The Prayer of Samson continued...

Judges 16:20, “And she said, ‘The Philistines are upon you, Samson!’ So he awoke from his sleep, and said, ‘I will go out as before, at other times, and shake myself free!’ But he did not know that the Lord had departed from him.”

After all he had done, Samson still assumed the Lord would still be with him. One of the reasons we must continually bring to remembrance all that Jesus has done for us, is so it remains fresh on our minds, and constant in our awareness. We can never perceive what Jesus did on the cross as something usual or ordinary, because once we do, we begin to take His presence in our lives for granted, and assume as Samson did, that He will always be with us regardless of what we do.

Although Samson knew he had been consecrated to God, and knew God had endowed him with special power, what he lost sight of along the way is that God can take away just as readily as He gives.

Rather than have the understanding of Job, and say ‘the Lord gives and the Lord takes away,’ many today have presumed, without any Biblical foundation, that the Lord simply gives, and gives, without ever taking away, no matter the reason or cause.

The Lord not only gives, the Lord also takes away. When we are not faithful in the little we’ve been given, He takes it away and gives it to another who will be.

‘What about the gifts of God being without repentance? How can God depart from one such as Samson in one breath, and then say His gifts are without repentance?’

In order to understand how both can be true, we must understand what the word repentance means. Repentance means regret, sorrow, or remorse, and yes, the gifts of God are without repentance. He is not sorry for having called or gifted someone; He does not feel sorrow or remorse for having endowed an individual with special gifting. By the same token, He cannot allow His gifting to reside in a heart that has willingly given itself over to rebellion and lawlessness. If this was the case, then He would not be the righteous, holy God, before whom nothing wicked or defiled can stand.

Without repentance does not mean irrevocable, it just means God is not sorry for having done it!

Samson is not the only individual from whom the Lord departed in the Bible. Saul, the first king of Israel, also had the Spirit of the Lord depart from him, and the Spirit of the Lord was replaced by a distressing spirit which troubled him.

Both Samson and Saul disobeyed and rebelled against the commands of the Lord, and as consequence of their disobedience the Lord departed from them.

What could be more horrible than thinking the Lord is with you, when in fact He has long departed?

I cringe when I counsel individuals, and their excuse for not repenting and continuing in their habitual sin is that they feel the Lord is still with them. Samson felt the Lord was still with him, until he discovered otherwise.

You cannot live in sin, circumvent repentance, speak, live, act, and do as the world does, and expect the Lord to be with you. In many a life, the Lord has long departed, and they haven’t even noticed.

2 Chronicles 15:1-2, “Now the Spirit of God came upon Azariah the son of Oded. And he went out to meet Asa, and said to him: ‘Hear me, Asa, and all Judah and Benjamin. The Lord is with you while you are with Him. If you seek Him, He will be found by you; but if you forsake Him, He will forsake you.’”

The Spirit of the Lord had come upon Azariah, and what he was doing, was prophesying, speaking a message from God to Asa, all of Judah, and Benjamin. The message was simple, straightforward, and highly controversial in our day and age.

‘The Lord is with you while you are with Him.’

‘But that can’t be…nope, don’t believe it. I raised my hand in church, and the pastor said I didn’t have to do anything whatsoever after that, ‘cause if I tried to live different than before it would be works and stuff.’

Although a large percentage of the church today might discount the scripture passages that speak of striving to enter through the narrow gate, repentance, holiness unto God, and other unpopular and circumvented doctrines of the faith, they are, nevertheless, still in the Book, a perpetual thorn in the side of those who insist that raising a limp wristed hand in a church service gets us a one way ticket to Paradise.

‘If you seek Him, He will be found by you; but if you forsake Him, He will forsake you.’

Tragically, the church has long distanced itself from the notion of reciprocity when it comes to a relationship with God. For the past few decades we have been taught that God will essentially kidnap us, and force us to love Him, even if our hearts continue to be in a state of rebellion, and we consistently choose to ignore His word. Love is reciprocal, and reciprocity is essential in any relationship. Yes, He first loved us. This He proved on the cross beyond doubt, but we must also love Him if we desire a relationship with Him.

If we seek Him, He will be found. He is with us while we are with Him, but if we forsake Him, He will forsake us.

Samson forsook God, and God departed from Samson. After giving Samson multiple opportunities to repent, after allowing him to see the error of his way in the hopes that he would return to the path for which he had been consecrated, the Lord departed, and Samson lost his strength.

With love in Christ,
Michael Boldea Jr.

Friday, September 21, 2012

Freeform Friday Week 16

I’ve got some good news, and I’ve got some bad news. Since I can’t give you the option of choosing which you would prefer to hear first, I’ll choose for you.

It has been established and extensively so, that man, in general, prefers to hear the good news before the bad, sort of like a shot of novocaine before having a molar pulled. As such, we begin with the good news.

Jesus is coming! Best news you’ll ever hear, bar none. There is nothing I or anyone else could ever say that could stand shoulder to shoulder with this greatest of all realities. Jesus is coming…Jesus is coming.

Now, for the bad news: Jesus isn’t coming on Rosh Hashanah.

For the past few days, I’ve had individuals write to me, excited as adolescents on Christmas morning, asking me if I was ready for the big trip, and if I’d tied up all my loose ends. Since I was pretty sure I hadn’t planned on going anywhere quite yet, I respectfully wrote back inquiring as to the trip they were referring to, and the hurried reply I would get back, as though they were being counted down and had not a second to spare, was: The Rapture!

It’s as though we are a bunch of children with learning disabilities, and every few months a new someone comes along to pull the wool over our eyes, and get us overly excited over the prospect of Christ’s return.

Before the hate mail starts pouring in, (I’ve been told I won’t be in the rapture because I deny the rapture, and rapture deniers won’t make it to heaven) I do not deny that there will be a catching away, because the Bible tells us there will be a catching away.

What I deny, and vehemently so, is the possibility that this catching away will take place before tribulation is poured upon the world as we know it.

I realize it’s not breaking news or anything, but there are countless believers throughout the world, especially in places like Sudan, Egypt, Afghanistan, Indonesia, Iran, Libya, Turkey, Syria, Pakistan, North Korea, China, India, Algeria, just to name a few, that are currently, at this moment, being persecuted for the sake of Christ and the cross. Some are being burned alive in their own churches; others are being beheaded, or imprisoned. These brothers and sisters in Christ are already enduring persecution.

Their tribulation has already begun, and Christ has not reappeared. They are already laying their lives down for the sake of Christ, but as far as I can figure, that’s all irrelevant, because as soon as it starts getting a little too hot for comfort in America, Jesus is mandated to return and rescue this bloated, pampered, lukewarm, duplicitous, hypocritical, lawless, ungodly, and corrupt entity we call the American church.

It’s okay if other believers in the world are suffering and dying for the cause of Christ, as long as we won’t have to. It’s okay if other believers in the world are being beheaded and set on fire, as long as we’re not having to stand for the faith, or suffer the loss of anything. As soon as it starts here though, well, look out, Jesus better be coming, ‘cause this isn’t what we signed up for.

We’ve been told we’re special for so long, we’ve actually started to believe it.

For some reason I have as yet been unable to grasp, much of the American church truly believes that they get a special dispensation from suffering, from persecution, or from having their faith tested.

That whole thing about there being no partiality with God, well that’s for everyone else in the world. We’re special ‘cause brother Joel told us we’re special, and we look in the mirror every morning and say ‘hey you special, handsome, capable, victorious, ingenious thing you.’

If anyone has heard me speak over the last few years, then you know the central message has been prepare for persecution. I get as many strange looks from the audience when I speak of this today, as we used to get twenty years ago when speaking of the collapse of the American system, and a subsequent revolution within its own borders.

That, at least, doesn’t sound so off-the-wall anymore, because even people who have no relationship with God, are beginning to echo what we were saying twenty five years ago. It’s almost surreal hearing individuals speak of civil unrest in America, when we’ve been saying it for a quarter of a century.

The thing about prophecy and the prophetic is that God reveals certain things to certain individuals before they are probable, or readily visible on the horizon. Hence the reason I take the new breed of ‘prophets’ with a grain of salt, because they’re prophesying obvious things, things that are readily discernible by the naked eye, and things that require no supernatural or divine revelation.

‘Things will get worse in America,’ wow, no kidding, really? God told you that? Why did He bother when the ten o’clock news could have told you the same thing?

I’m not bitter. If you think I am, then you misunderstand my intent, my heart, and the reason I do what I do. What I am is sad, because the selfsame newly anointed prophets of today were those who mocked and ridiculed the true men of God speaking of the things we are currently seeing, decades ago.

It was all a joke to them; sport and nothing more. An aging, semi-paralyzed Romanian and his husky grandson talking about civil unrest in America, and the end of the American dream...how could you take something like that seriously? You could read the disdain on their faces, and even though some of them were quite successful at holding back their condescending smiles, you could always read it in the eyes.

Now these selfsame individuals are telling you tribulation is coming, but you have nothing to fear because Jesus is going to show up on Rosh Hashanah, and whisk you away.

I guess it all boils down to the following question: whose report will you believe?

And no, it’s not between me and a handful of others telling you to prepare for persecution and those telling you not to prepare because the heaven bus is on the way. It’s between the words of Jesus, the word of God, and those telling you not to prepare.

I’m just a messenger. I’m not even that good at it, and if I had a choice I’d walk away from the whole thing in an instant.

As business folk like to say, there’s no upside for me in all this. I tell people what they need to hear instead of what they want to hear, and that’s no way to make friends.

We either keep holding our breath from one date setter to another, while growing more despondent as to what is happening in the world, increasing in our agitation as we see no chariots of fire on the heavens even though the man to whom we gave our life savings assured us His return was imminent because he had hidden knowledge not even the angels possessed, or we prepare for the long haul, steeling our hearts, defining our purpose, and living with the expectation of having our mettle tested and our faith proven.

(Since I’ve decided to open this particular can of worms, next week we discuss the difference between tribulation and persecution. Hint: We’re sheltered of God from one, but not from the other.)

With love in Christ,
Michael Boldea Jr.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Lord, Teach Us To Pray! Part 170

Prayers of the Old Testament
The Prayer of Samson continued...

Do we view sin as God views sin? Do we view sin as the dangerous, destructive force that it is, or as the harmless dalliance it presents itself as being?

We have seen the scattered remains sin has left in its wake. We have seen the broken homes, the ruined lives, the premature deaths, and yet, many still choose to flirt with sin as Samson did, treating it lightly.

The second step in Samson’s downfall was allowing himself to be drawn toward, or attracted to the forbidden things.

Judges 14:1-3, “Now Samson went down to Timnah, and saw a woman in Timnah of the daughters of the Philistines. So he went up and told his father and mother, saying, ‘I have seen a woman in Timnah of the daughters of the Philistines; now therefore, get her for me as a wife.’ Then his father and mothers aid to him, ‘is there no woman among the daughters of your brethren, or among all my people, that you must go and get a wife from the uncircumcised Philistines?’ And Samson said to his father, ‘get her for me, for she pleases me well.’”

So what was wrong in this? Samson was just following his heart, he had seen a girl, she was pleasing to the eye, and wanted to marry her. On the surface, it seemed like a love story. Many today would applaud Samson for thinking outside the box, for taking the initiative, and for not being swayed from love by the disapproval of his parents.

When digging deeper however, we come to realize that the Philistines, the people from which the girl who pleased Samson well came, were idol worshippers of the worst kind, and sworn enemies of the people of God. Samson’s only criterion was that the girl pleased him well, focusing on the momentary pleasure of beauty, instead of obedience to the will of God in regards to comingling with idol worshippers.

Deuteronomy 7:3-5, “Nor shall you make marriages with them. You shall not give your daughters to their son, nor take their daughter for your son. For they will turn your sons away from following Me, to serve other gods; so the anger of the Lord will be aroused against you and destroy you suddenly.”

Samson knew the law of God. He knew the commandments of God, and he chose to disregard them.

In every act of rebellion, in every act of disobedience, in every sin, there is a dose of pleasure. The Philistine Samson had chosen, the woman he wanted as a wife pleased him well, and for no other reason than that she pleased him well, he wanted her for a wife.

Because Samson opened the door, the enemy came in, and from seeing a Philistine who was pleasing to his eye, he sees another, who happened to be a harlot, and this time does more than look.

Judges 16:1, ‘Then Samson went to Gaza and saw a harlot there, and went in to her.”

From allowing for the possibility of taking a Philistine for a wife, Samson has now fallen to the lows of being with a woman of ill repute.

Samson’s entourage also contributed to his downfall. Instead of surrounding himself with men of God, he surrounded himself with revelers and partiers whose only desire was to see the continuation of their good time.

Judges 14:10-11, “So his father went down to the woman. And Samson gave a feast there, for young men used to do so. And it was so, when they saw him, that they brought thirty companions to be with him.”

It was not the custom of the Jews to give a feast, it was the custom of the Philistines, and Samson has started to follow their customs in the giving of the feast. The celebration lasted for seven days, and the man who was consecrated unto God, the man sworn never to touch alcohol, or even anything that might be construed as alcohol, imbibed and reveled along with the thirty companions that had been brought to be with him.

We have also been consecrated unto God. We have also been set apart, sanctified and made holy unto Him. When we choose disobedience and rebellion over humility and subservience, we are doing what Samson did, with the full knowledge that it displeases God.

Somewhere near the last moments of Samson’s downfall, he also opened his heart to those he ought to have kept it hidden from. Placing our trust in the wrong individuals can be catastrophic and have lasting repercussions. Samson told Delilah all his heart, and because of this the Philistines knew the one secret that could undo him.

Micah 7:5, “Do not trust in a friend; Do not put your confidence in a companion; Guard the doors of your mouth from her who lies in your bosom.”

Because Samson did not guard his heart, because he did not heed the warnings of God, because he disregarded the commandments of God, he finds himself impotent, powerless, without the ability to defend himself against the Philistines.

It used to be so easy for him. It used to take almost no effort for Samson to defeat entire regiments of Philistines, but now that he had revealed his heard and had subsequently been betrayed, what was once easy, and requiring little effort, now became impossible.

We take for granted the presence of God in our lives. We take for granted our ability to overcome certain obstacles, until God is no longer there. Until His strength no longer goes before us, and only then do we realize the true measure of our impotence.

Samson believed himself capable of overcoming the Philistines even after his hair was shaved off. Even after he had trampled upon his covenant with God, Samson expected to shake himself free as at other times, only to discover that the Lord had departed from him.

All the strength Samson perceived as his own, all the power and the ability he had believed were at his whim, disappeared in an instant when the Lord was no longer present.

With love in Christ,
Michael Boldea Jr.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Lord, Teach Us To Pray! Part 169

Prayers of the Old Testament
The Prayer of Samson continued...

The judges of Samson’s day were such individuals. They were called of God to a greater calling than the contemporaries of their day, and we see other judges during the same time period being imbued with the Spirit of the Lord that they might carry out the duties assigned to them.

Although Samson was not alone in having the Spirit of the Lord move upon him – as within the same book of the Bible we see both Othniel, the first of the biblical judges, as well as Gideon being endowed with the selfsame Spirit – the supernatural physical strength he exhibited was unique to Samson in the entirety of Scripture.

Samson was a man upon whom the Spirit of the Lord moved. The exploits Samson did, the physical strength he exhibited, were not of him. They were not due to his pedigree or genetics, they were due to the power of God residing in him, and working through him.

It is a glorious thing to be led by the Spirit of the Lord and to have the Spirit of the Lord move upon us, but it becomes dangerous and oftentimes destructive when we begin to see what the Spirit does as our doing, our exploits, and our accomplishments. When we start to believe we are doing it on our own, rather than the Spirit working through us, we begin to take the work of God for granted, as well as the gifting with which we have been endowed.

Samson was strong because God made him strong. Somewhere along the way Samson forgot this simple truth, and paid a dear price for it.

Not only was Samson blessed of the Lord, not only did the Spirit of the Lord move upon him, he knew he had been set apart as a Nazarite unto God since before his birth. Samson lived with the awareness of what had been invested in him. He lived with the awareness of the great and high calling he had been called to.

Judges 16:16-17, “And it came to pass, when she pestered him daily with her words and pressed him, so that his soul was vexed to death, that he told her all his heart, and said to her, ‘No razor has ever come upon my head, for I have been a Nazirite to God from my mother’s womb. If I am shaven, then my strength will leave me, and I shall become weak, and be like any other man.’”

Samson knew he had been set apart as unto God, and he also knew the consequences of having his head shaven. Samson knew he would be like any other man if his head were ever to be shaved.

We know the consequence of rebellion, and we know the consequence of disobedience. We are not blind as to what will occur if we do contrary to the word and will of God. Even so, more often than we would like to admit, we choose disobedience and rebellion as Samson did.

How does one who is chosen of God, and knows he is chosen of God, come to pray to God in a pagan temple, blind, and surrounded by his enemies?

What leads a man who had all the potential in the world, all the strength he would ever need, the highest position in the land, and the inherent capacity to do good, to throw it all away for momentary pleasure and worldly lusts?

It is important to know what led to Samson’s downfall, because any one of us is susceptible if we are not watchful, prayerful and obedient toward God. Any man or woman walking the earth today is susceptible to temptation if they have not learned to resist temptation, and resist the devil himself that he might flee.

Very rarely is it one single, solitary thing that leads to the downfall of an individual. More often than not, it is an amalgam of little things, small steps, which eventually lead one over the edge of the precipice altogether.

The first step Samson took toward his downfall is that he started to flirt with sin. For Samson sin was not a dangerous thing, it was not a destructive thing, it was something he flirted with, and mocked at, until it eventually destroyed him.

Proverbs 14:9, “Fools mock at sin, but among the upright there is favor.”

As so many do today, Samson underestimated the power and danger of sin. He did not see sin for what it was, but rather Samson saw sin as how sin chose to present itself. Sin never reveals its true face; it is far too hideous for any man to embrace it. Sin camouflages its true nature; it camouflages its true intent, focusing on the momentary pleasure itself, rather than the inevitable lifelong ramifications and consequences of the momentary pleasure.

When we disregard the warnings of God throughout the scriptures concerning the danger of sin, we are doing ourselves a disservice, while simultaneously inferring that God somehow exaggerated or didn’t really know what He was talking about.

God speaks of sin in the scripture admonishing us to flee the very appearance of evil, because He knows how much of a sway sin will have over the heart of man if it is allowed to fester and take root therein. God knows how completely and utterly sin destroys, He knows how it befouls every heart it resides in, and in love, He warns repeatedly that as children of the light and pursuers of righteousness, we must break ties with sin altogether.

Although Samson knew better, he did not heed the warnings of God, he did not treat sin with the seriousness with which sin ought to be treated, and his ongoing flirtation with sin led to something infinitely more damaging…something even the strength of the strongest man to ever live could not overcome.

With love in Christ,
Michael Boldea Jr.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Lord, Teach Us To Pray! Part 168

Prayers of the Old Testament
The Prayer of Samson continued...

Judges 16:28, “Then Samson called to the Lord, saying, ‘O Lord God, remember me, I pray! Strengthen me, I pray, just this once, O God, that I may with one blow take vengeance on the Philistines for my two eyes!’”

Minutes after uttering this prayer, Samson would be dead, along with three thousand Philistines. Samson knew his time was at hand…of this he had no doubt. Yet, there was no prayer for forgiveness in regards to the Philistines and what they had done, but rather a prayer of vengeance, for God to remember him, and strengthen him once more that he might deal justly with the Philistines for his two eyes.

Having the distinct honor of never whitewashing individuals, or airbrushing their wrinkles, the word of God presents Samson to us in his true light, revealing his unequaled strength, and speaking of his exploits, but also revealing his weaknesses, and what his weaknesses led him to.

Samson was a man of controversial character. Although he is lauded by many, even admired by some, he continues to be misunderstood to this day.

One thing is certain; Samson was chosen of God and destined for a great plan.

Seeing as this is the case, and it is irrefutable that God chose Samson and destined him, the question which begs to be asked, is: did God fail? Did God make a mistake in choosing Samson as judge?

No, God did not fail. No, God did not make a mistake, because God does not make mistakes. There was, however, the element of human choice in this entire scenario, and though God might have a plan, though God might choose an individual for a specific task and purpose, the individual can still stray, the individual can still refuse God, becoming disobedient and even rebellious to the voice and unction of the Lord.

We are not automatons. We are not preprogrammed robots who have no choice in whether or not we obey, serve, or fulfill our duties before God. We have choice, and will, and God would have it no other way, for His desire is that we serve out of love, not because He compelled us or forced us to do it.

The next time you hear another individual say that man has no say in whether or not he serves God, and or that man is utterly incapable of choosing between right or wrong, point him to Samson, to what the angel of the Lord had testified of him and his life before he was even born, and then to the life he lived, more in rebellion of God than in obedience of Him.

God has a plan and a purpose for each of us. He has a calling to which He has called us as individuals, but whether we walk in our calling, or obey the unction of the Lord is entirely up to us.

Yes, I know the notion of personal accountability is a bitter pill for many. We would rather believe we have no choice in whether we follow after Christ or not, than believe we are accountable for our choices, and that our rebellion toward Him was a choice on our part.

When we come to believe we are not accountable for any of the choices we make because our existence has already been predestined and no matter what we do we cannot follow after Christ if it was not so foreordained, then when we stumble, fall, and don’t get up again, we just shrug our shoulders and think to ourselves that perhaps we were not among the chosen to begin with.

Believing that man can no more accept or reject God on his own than he could reconfigure the stars in the heavens, takes away from man’s personal responsibility and accountability toward God. Grace is offered freely; man must receive it.

Samson was supposed to begin delivering Israel out of the hand of the Philistines, and he ended up being delivered into the hands of the Philistines who made sport of him.

God’s plan for Samson was different than the outcome of his existence, but Samson chose rebellion rather than obedience with consistency, and drew further away from God with each subsequent act of rebellion.

Destined for greatness, destined to be the instrument of God’s salvation in regards to His people, Samson ends up dying along with the lawless, the Philistines, those who served other gods and worshiped idols.

Samson did not start out as rebellious. He did not start out doing that which God had commanded him not to do. His descent, as most descents are, was gradual, and one thing led to another until Samson surrendered his heart to sin.

Samson began as one blessed of God. He ended up as one whom the Philistines mocked and ridiculed.

Judges 13:24, “So the woman bore a son and called his name Samson; and the child grew, and the Lord blessed him.”

Samson wasn’t blessed in the temple, by a preacher, by a priest, or by a pastor. The Lord blessed Samson, and the Spirit of the Lord began to move upon him. From early youth, Samson had everything going for him. He enjoyed every benefit one can enjoy from the hand of God, from being blessed of the Lord, to having the Spirit of the Lord move upon him. Yet, something happened along the way, and the man Samson became, and the man he was supposed to have been were two very different individuals.

We realize Samson was special, because of certain things highlighted in his biography. One of the most telling signs that Samson was special is that the Spirit of the Lord moved upon him.

Since Pentecost the Spirit of the Lord moves upon all the servants of the Lord. Before Pentecost it was not so. In the days of old, during the time of Samson, and up until the advent of the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of the Lord moved only upon those with a special calling, or those called to a higher calling.

With love in Christ,
Michael Boldea Jr.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Lord, Teach Us To Pray! Part 167

Prayers of the Old Testament
The Prayer of Samson

Ask ten different people what they know of Samson and chances are you will get ten different answers. Perhaps some will say he was a judge, but more likely you will be regaled with stories of his strength, and reminded that he killed a thousand men with a jawbone.

Although all these things are true of Samson – he was a judge, and he did kill a thousand Philistines with a jawbone – he was also a child of promise, foretold of by an angel, whose mother was given very specific instructions as to how he ought to be brought up, and what he would become.

Even with his many flaws, and woefully self-destructive decisions, Samson was still a man who had faith in God, to the extent that even the author of Hebrews mentions him among such notables as Enoch, Abraham, Moses, Gideon, Isaac, David and Samuel.

It is no small feat to be mentioned in the same breath as such heroes of the faith, yet here Samson is, mentioned among them nonetheless.

Samson was a judge among the people of God. A man chosen of God from before his birth to be a Nazirite to God, meaning one who is consecrated, separated, or holy unto God.

The Nazirites were those who voluntarily took a vow of abstinence from wine, refrained from cutting their hair, and did not become impure by coming in contact with corpses or graves.

The angel of the Lord spoke to Samson’s mother, informing her that he would be one such Nazirite, a man consecrated unto God.

Judges 13:4, “For behold, you shall conceive and bear a son. And no razor shall come upon his head, for the child shall be a Nazirite to God from the womb; he shall begin to deliver Israel out of the hand of the Philistines.”

Although the life of Samson teaches us many things, one of the most practical things it teaches us is that potential can be, and often is readily wasted. Just because someone has potential and is even foretold of by an angel of the Lord, it does not mean that they will live up to it or even do their duty before God, as Samson so clearly shows us.

It is always more tragic to see a life brimming with potential being thoroughly wasted, than to see an average or less than average individual not striving to excel.

The angel of the Lord specifically told Samson’s parents that he was to do a great work for God by delivering Israel out of the hand of the Philistines. He confirmed this time and again, and in order to help Samson accomplish this task, God would even give him supernatural physical strength.

Anyone who is even tangentially familiar with the story of Samson knows that rather than fulfill God’s plan, Samson grew up to waste his strength by fulfilling his own lusts, desires, and penchants.

At the end of his twenty years of judgeship, Delilah, a harlot, finally convinces Samson to part with his long held secret, and reveal the source of his strength, his long hair. Although a discussion concerning the secret of Samson’s strength not being his hair, but rather his unique relationship with God as symbolized in his pledge not to cut his hair would be a fascinating one indeed, we will table that particular discussion for now and focus on the prayer of Samson instead.

The prayer of Samson we will be discussing comes near the end of his life. His prayer comes as he is surrounded by his enemies, defeated, blinded, and made to be a grinder in the prison.

Here was a man who was judge over the people of God, who had the power of God coursing through him to such an extent that thousands of years later he is still known as the strongest man to ever live, yet he threw it all away for the passing pleasures of this present life.

The life of Samson is a tragic one. It is a life worthy of contemplation because his personal failures led him to the point of causing God to take away his power, having his eyes put out, and being made to perform for the Philistines.

Even during the last moments of his life however, Samson still found the wherewithal to cry out to God, praying a prayer very different from the prayers of Jesus or Stephen of the New Testament.

The prayer of Samson was not conciliatory in nature, he did not ask God to forgive the Philistines for what they had done, but rather for the strength to take vengeance on the Philistines who had taken his eyes.

What is more interesting than the prayer itself, is the fact that God answered it, and though we will be discussing the prayer of Samson and the context thereof, we will also be discussing why God would answer a prayer of vengeance and revenge.

One thing is certain: God does as He wills, and in our attempt to understand certain actions God takes, this must perpetually be at the forefront of our minds. Although God Himself said vengeance is His, here we have a man who having lost his way, comes before God once more and asks for the strength to take vengeance upon the Philistines, and God answers his prayer granting him the strength to do just that.

We can never fail to understand that there are exceptions to certain rules within the word of God, but these exceptions are not made by men, but by God Himself. Why God makes certain exceptions at certain times, is something known only to Him, but we can try to glean and understand the nature of a situation and what led to a certain action God took based on Scripture and the entire context of the situation as it stands.

With love in Christ,
Michael Boldea Jr.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

On the Road!

Thought I'd make it back by now, but still traveling. Visited some ministries we support financially some five hundred kilometers away. Tomorrow we start on Samson and his prayer life. Please keep us in your prayers as we travel, and we will do likewise.
Perhaps I'll post some pictures later this week. We shall see.

With love in Christ,
Michael Boldea Jr.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Lord, Teach Us To Pray! Part 166

Prayers of the Old Testament
The Prayer of Joshua continued...

In God’s estimation Israel sinned, even though only Achan committed a trespass regarding the accursed things. God saw His people as a whole, and the trespass of one, as the trespass of all.

Ecclesiastes 9:18, “Wisdom is better than weapons of war; but one sinner destroys much good.”

One man sinned, but through Achan’s disobedience the whole of God’s people was seen as impure. There are consequences to sin beyond the individual, especially when that individual belongs to a body, and is counted among its members.

Although some are quick to point to the Old Testament and say ‘different times, different rules,’ the notion that sin within the body compromises the entire body, is found in the New Testament as well.

1 Corinthians 5:11-13, “But now I have written to you not to keep company with anyone named a brother, who is a fornicator, or covetous, or an idolater, or a reviler, or a drunkard, or an extortioner – not even to eat with such a person. For what have I to do with judging those also who are outside? Do you not judge those who are inside? But those who are outside God judges. Therefore ‘put away from yourselves that wicked person.’”

Within the framework of this passage we understand that spiritually speaking, God sees those who are on the inside, and those who are on the outside. God judges those who are on the outside; God judges those who are of the world.

What the Bible tells us we are not to keep company with, is anyone named a brother who continues in their sin, be they a fornicator, covetous, an idolater, a drunkard or a reviler. It is not speaking of those of the world whom it is our duty to preach Christ to, it is speaking of individuals calling themselves brothers in Christ, living like the world they are supposed to have been unshackled from.

Our duty as children of God is to make certain that those who are on the inside walk the straight and narrow path of faith, being obedient to God, and bringing glory and honor to His name. We are accountable to each other as members of the Body of Christ, and as such ought to not only rebuke in love when necessary, but be a shoulder to lean on when the road gets hard.

With what the church has become, or what it has been redefined as, it is difficult to understand the beauty of the interconnectedness Jesus intended His church to be in.

Both in the spiritual, as well as in the physical our duty is to be there for each other, feel with each other, and carry each other if need be.

Having grown up in a communist country where at any given moment half the men in our congregation were being tortured, imprisoned, or sent off to labor camps, it was easy to see the interconnectedness I speak of in action. If a brother was in jail, the rest of the church pitched in and helped his family however they could, from bringing groceries, to doing farm chores, to giving counsel to their children if the need arose.

In their hearts and minds, in word and in deed, they were one body, and they understood that if one member of the body suffers, the rest of the body will suffer as well.

One man had brought dishonor to the entire nation, just as by their actions, certain individuals bring shame to the household of faith today.

The essence of Achan’s guilt was that he had taken an accursed thing into his house. Is there something inherently wrong with silver, gold, or garments, since these are the things Achan took and hid in his tent? No, there is nothing inherently wrong with these things, but they became accursed the moment God commanded that such things not be taken by any of the Israelites.

We know what God calls sin. We know what God calls accursed. His word is explicit in regards to what He deems as sinful, what He deems as a trespass or transgression. There is no getting around the word of God, there is no denying the veracity thereof, and we will suffer the selfsame defeats as Israel did, until these things are removed from our midst.

Joshua 7:13, “Get up, sanctify the people, and say, ‘sanctify yourselves for tomorrow, because thus says the Lord God of Israel: ‘There is an accursed thing in your midst, O Israel; you cannot stand before your enemies until you take away the accursed thing from among you.’”

Until the people were sanctified, and until the accursed thing was removed from among them, God would not hear the prayer of Joshua. Not only would God not hear the prayer of Joshua until these things were done, Israel would not be able to stand before its enemies either.

It goes without saying God loved Joshua. It was God after all, who handpicked Joshua to take the place of Moses as leader of God’s people, but God cannot overlook sin even among those He loves, or better still, especially among those He loves.

He is a holy God, He is a righteous God, and His love in no way nullifies or abolishes His holiness and righteousness.

Because He loves He chastens, for He chastens those He loves, and because we love Him in kind we are obedient toward His voice, and do as commanded sanctifying ourselves and putting away the accursed thing from among us.

God can be both holy and loving, both righteous and merciful, because His nature is not isolated to one attribute. He isn’t just love, He isn’t just mercy, He isn’t just holiness or righteousness…He is all these things, not just one of these things.

It was only when the sin was dealt with that God gave victory to Israel once more. It was only when the accursed thing was removed from the camp that God heard the prayers of Joshua, and continued to give him victory, even against enemies much more imposing than the citizenry of Ai.

With love in Christ,
Michael Boldea Jr.

Friday, September 14, 2012

Freeform Friday Week 15

"I will make you a great nation; I will bess you and make your name great; And you shall be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and I will curse him who curses you; And in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed." - God

No more need be said about our recent decision to throw Israel under the bus. God already said everything worth saying. Pray as never before, pray for yourselves, pray for your loved ones, pray that you might stand and walk in faith, for many will fall by the wayside.

The days are indeed upon us.

With love in Christ,
Michael Boldea Jr.

P.S. New Audio is up at www.handofhelp.com

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Lord, Teach Us To Pray! Part 165

Prayers of the Old Testament
The Prayer of Joshua continued...

Suffering defeat is a consequence of disobedience. Whether individually or as a nation, when we are in obedience toward God we are under His protection. When we choose the way of disobedience however, God’s hand is removed and our enemies encamp around us unhindered.

God made both paths clear to His people. He told them what would become of them if they chose rebellion and disobedience, but He also told them what their lot would be if they chose to obey.

Deuteronomy 28:2, “All these blessings shall come upon you and overtake you, because you obey the voice of the Lord your God:”

Deuteronomy 28:7, “The Lord will cause your enemies who rise against you to be defeated before your face; they shall come out against you one way and flee before you seven ways.”

Because you obey the voice of the Lord, He will cause your enemies who rise against you to be defeated before your face. This is the promise of God, contingent on whether or not obedience was a reality in the lives of the people.

The people knew both the goodness and the severity of God, and though they knew His warnings as well as His promises, one among them chose to disregard God’s command, and take for himself the unclean and accursed thing.

Sin metastasizes. If allowed to thrive unchecked, sin will invariably develop secondary malignant growths, spreading out from the primary site, and destroying everything in its path.

We, as children of God, are not doing anyone any favors by treating sin with kid gloves, or by doing our utmost not to challenge those openly living in sin to repentance.

Some just can’t be bothered to get out of their comfort zones, others are inhibited by cowardice, and others still don’t think sin is such a big issue that it has to be confronted in the church. Because these mentalities are prevalent within the household of faith, sin is running rampant and where there was one in rebellion, there are now four, and where there are four there will soon be eight.

Sin is not content with being static. Sin grows, it multiplies, it infects, because its sole purpose is the destruction of the house of God, and it does not rest until it has reached its objective.

The sin of one man had spread, and it now affected the entire nation.

It takes some doing to wrap our minds around the fact that one singular solitary sin, caused an entire nation to grow discouraged, and fearful of its enemies, to spurn the wrath of God, and see themselves defeated in a most complete and undeniable way.

The sin may be singular, but the consequences of that singular sin are multiple. One sin caused defeat, discouragement, fear, the wrath of God, the absence of God’s presence, and God’s rejection of Joshua’s prayer.

After Joshua’s heartfelt plea, after he tore his clothes and put dust on his head, God’s answer was, ‘get up! Israel has sinned, and they have also transgressed.’

Before God could answer Joshua’s prayer, the sin had to be removed from among the people, and the people had to be sanctified.

Sin keeps prayer from being answered. No, Joshua had not committed trespass, Joshua had not sinned, but one who was under his authority had, and God held the entire nation responsible. Until that one individual was dealt with, until the accursed was destroyed from among the people, God vowed not to be with His people anymore.

How serious is sin in the sight of God? Serious enough to reject the prayer of His faithful servant Joshua until the sin was dealt with.

If God rejected the prayer of Joshua for a sin someone else committed, what makes us think He will not reject our prayers when we ourselves willfully persist in our sins without repentance or contrition?

This is one of the reasons why the doctrines which insist that you need not stop sinning, you need not repent, you need not amend your ways, but simply raise a limp wristed hand in a church service are so dangerous.

Because individuals are never told they must repent, they never do, and because they continue in their sin their prayers are never answered. Because the individuals in question never receive an answer to their prayers, because they never know true intimacy with God due to the sin that stands as a wall between Him and them, they grow disenchanted with the faith, bored even, and leave God in their rear view looking for more exciting and stimulating experiences.

Repentance must be preached within the household of faith, for only when we have put away the accursed things from among us, will God answer our prayers, and give us victory.

In order to put away the accursed thing from among us, we must first identify it, isolate it, and then remove it from within the congregation.

If an individual refuses repentance, then that individual has no desire to live for God, or be obedient to God, but rather they want the assurance of salvation while living whichever way they please.

As tempting as this path might be for many, beware, God is not mocked and what a man sows a man will surely reap. We cannot sow rebellion, disobedience, habitual sin and indifference toward the word of God, and reap eternity with Him in paradise.

It matters not how many individuals tell you otherwise, first you have the Scriptures to contend with, then reason itself invalidates such a ludicrous premise.

You belong to the one you serve, the one you’ve given your heart to, and the one you spend your time with. Since no man can serve two masters, each one of us is either committed wholeheartedly to God, living in obedience of Him, and worshipping Him alone, or to Satan, living in rebellion towards righteousness and following after the desires of the flesh.

It is that simple; that black and white; that cut-and-dried.

With love in Christ,
Michael Boldea Jr.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Lord, Teach Us To Pray! Part 164

Prayers of the Old Testament
The Prayer of Joshua continued...

Joshua 7:10-12, “So the Lord said to Joshua: ‘Get up! Why do you lie thus on your face? Israel has sinned, and they have also transgressed My covenant which I commanded them. For they have even taken some of the accursed things, and have both stolen and deceived; and they have also put it among their own stuff. Therefore the children of Israel could not stand before their enemies, but turned their backs before their enemies, because they have become doomed to destruction. Neither will I be with you anymore, unless you destroy the accursed from among you.’”

Israel suffered defeat at the hands of Ai because they had sinned, and transgressed the covenant of God. God wasn’t picking on Israel, He wasn’t being mean, and He wasn’t having a bad day. Israel had sinned, and God said He would neither be with the people or with Joshua himself anymore, unless the accursed was destroyed from among them.

One of the most obvious, yet simultaneously most overlooked lessons during this moment in Israel’s history is the way in which God perceives sin.

Admittedly, even much of Christendom has adopted the mantra ‘if it’s not hurting anyone else, it’s none of my business,’ but especially when it comes to the household of faith, and those who identify themselves as sons and daughters of God, the notion that your individual sin will not affect the entire camp is foolish and false on its face.

It was not as though half of Israel had sinned or transgressed. It was not as though half of Israel had taken some of the accursed things. One man named Achan committed a trespass regarding the accursed things, and now God tells Joshua that all the people had become doomed to destruction.

Many a preacher today chooses not to preach against sin because they have talked themselves into believing that individual sin does not affect the body as a whole. What they have done, is talk themselves into believing a lie.

If we are all members of the same body, then with every member that is not performing optimally, with every member that is hurt, wounded, diseased or numb, the entire body suffers, and withers and loses vitality.

The word of God, both in the New and Old Testament, attempts to teach those who would follow after Christ the importance of individual sanctification, and the impact it has on the entire body.

One man had sinned, and God was holding the entire nation responsible for it. One man had sinned, yet God said until such a time as the accursed thing was destroyed from among them, God would no longer be with His people.

Either the sin is removed from the camp, or the camp removes itself from the sin, but either way, God expects and even demands a clean, righteous, holy people, who place His will above their own, and His commandments above their desires.

It wasn’t as though God had not made His will clear to His people. It was not as though they were ignorant concerning the accursed things or that they ought not to take them.

This was not the first time God spoke to His people, it was not the first time He had warned them of the consequences of disobedience, but as is so often the case, the passing of time had dulled their memories, or they had chosen to disregard the word and message of God altogether.

Deuteronomy 28:15, “But it shall come to pass, if you do not obey the voice of the Lord your God, to observe carefully all His commandments and His statutes which I command you today, that all these curses will come upon you and overtake you.”

God had spoken. God had been explicit. God had warned of what would happen if they did not obey his voice and carefully observe all His commandments. Among the many things God listed as consequence to their disobedience, we also find what happened when the three thousand went up to defeat Ai.

Deuteronomy 28:25, “The Lord will cause you to be defeated before your enemies; you shall go out one way against them and flee seven ways before them; and you shall become troublesome to all the kingdoms of the earth.”

Two ways are set before every man: the way of obedience or the way of rebellion. Each man, and nation chooses the way they will follow, and either reap the reward of their obedience, or suffer the consequences of their rebellion.

In His love God warns. In His love God instructs. In His love God shows us the outcome of our rebellion vividly, and without reservation, yet in our hard heartedness, we still choose the way of rebellion thinking we know better, and that we will succeed where others have failed, because we are wiser than our predecessors.

Obedience to God makes us victorious even when we are one against a thousand. Disobedience and rebellion cause our defeat even before the first blow is struck.

In reading the passage in Deuteronomy, one can’t help but notice that defeat will not come because your enemies are better equipped, have the high ground, are more experienced soldiers, or are greater in number, but rather the Lord will cause the defeat.

It might seem harsh to some, seeing that the Lord Himself will cause defeat when we are disobedient, but the takeaway lesson in this is how unacceptable disobedience and rebellion are seen of God, not how harsh God can be.

God’s love, mercy, peace and goodness are extended to all who obey, to all who bow before Him and worship Him. He keeps those who are His, He protects them, and He guides them, and gives them victory even when victory is unexpected.

To live with the expectation of God’s providence while being in active, open, and ongoing rebellion against Him, is not only foolish but illogical and absent reason. We cannot do what God abhors, shake our fist toward heaven, pretend He does not exist, and still, somehow demand He bless us, keep us, and give us victory.

With love in Christ,
Michael Boldea Jr.