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Monday, December 30, 2019

In Service


Everybody serves somebody. There is no way around it, and there’s no carve-out or exemption to the rule. Even those who beat their chest and insist that they are in service to no higher power or authority are in service to something because we do not get a choice in whether or not we serve; we only get a choice in whom we serve.

As Joshua was getting on in years, feeling that his time here was drawing to a close, he gathered the tribes of Israel together. This was to be his final goodbye, but instead of Joshua waxing poetic or nostalgic, it was the Lord who spoke through his mouth. Other than the final few words, the entirety of Joshua’s oratory at Shechem was prophetic, going into great detail as to how the Lord had saved and protected them throughout the years.

At the end of his prophetic utterance, Joshua looks back on the life he lived, and in the brief, direct way of a soldier and leader of men, implores the people to make a choice as to whom they would serve. Whether it was to be the Lord, or the gods of the Amorites, or the gods of their fathers, every man was called upon to make a choice.

We live amidst a generation of fence-sitters. More and more, people are comfortable with the notion of sitting at the crossroads and never picking a path. It is a mindset that has been growing of late largely because men of principle and discipline such as Joshua are few and far between. Add to this the reality that whom you will serve is the only choice given you is a truth rarely trumpeted in today’s church, and you have a perfect storm of indifference, where everything is trivial and banal, and whatever is right in your own eyes is right for you.

When Joshua spoke to the people, I can’t help but sense an urgency in his word choice. The instruction to choose was not something that could be delayed or put off. Joshua insisted that it was this day the people must choose whom they would serve because Joshua knew full well that not choosing was a choice in and of itself. He knew that being on the sidelines watching the battle unfold is the next best thing to choosing evil itself, as far as the enemy is concerned.

The time is now, and the choice is whom. That’s as simple as it gets, but we try to complicate it to no end, mostly because the flesh resents the finality of having to choose the Lord once and for all.

We choose light or we choose darkness. We choose the Lord or we choose gods of our own making. No, the gods of the Amorites are no longer prominent figures as far as deities go, but we have replaced them with other gods; gods as pernicious as those of old who require blood and pain, chaos, and oppression to be satisfied.

The Lord is good and merciful, gracious and kind, yet so many choose to run into the arms of gods who will savage them, brutalize them, and leave them wounded and dying. You choose. This day, no tomorrow, or in a year, or when you’ve sown your wild oats, choose today whom you will serve because not choosing is not an option. 

With love in Christ,
Michael Boldea Jr.

Thursday, December 26, 2019

Shy of Heaven


Giggles and laughter floated through the house. They were the giggles and laughter of innocence, of children playing, or doing something they found exceedingly entertaining.

My wife was in the kitchen teaching them how to knead cookie dough, and I was in the living room catching up on some messages and correspondence.

The laughter broke only long enough for my eldest daughter to say, “eww, yucky,” quickly followed by her little sister parroting the phrase. Then the laughter resumed, and I just closed my eyes and listened to it with a smile on my face.

Maybe it’s the time of year, but that laughter sounded like angels singing. I knew it wasn’t heaven yet, but that moment, that blissful innocence of finding uttermost joy in something as common as kneading cookie dough was likely as close as I’m going to get while on this earth.

Such moments are necessary for life. Not only do they serve to foreshadow what awaits us, but they give us the strength to press on toward the prize, even when life gets messy, and the road gets hard.

I do not know what the future holds, at least not with specificity regarding myself as an individual, but I know I can close my eyes and relive that laughter whenever I grow weary.

Yes, Jesus said that in this world we would have tribulation, but He never said we wouldn’t also have joy. Just because you have one thing, it does not mean you cannot also have the other. Hold precious times of joy. Hold precious times of merriment. Hold precious the times of laughter and glee and your kids kneading cookie dough while still in their pajamas. Understand that those moments are often fleeting, short bursts of memories that will keep you warm during the cold dark nights of hardship.

At the risk of sounding cheesy and cliché, all we have is this moment, and what we choose to do with it. Will I spend this moment embracing joy, or trying to stifle someone else’s? Will I spend this moment being thankful for the gift of Jesus, whatever day he happened to be born on, or will I, fueled by caffeine and self-importance, do my utmost to sow a little bitterness in the lives of others just because I feel like it.

Yes, theological debates and discussions are good and necessary, they have their place, and are encouraged, but zeal without wisdom will more often than not have a negative effect, and achieve the opposite of what you were trying to accomplish.

If for everything there is a season, then perhaps this moment might more readily lend itself to faith, family, joy, and thankfulness than bitter outbursts about how anyone who says Merry Christmas is an agent of Satan, hell-bound and irredeemable.

Oh, and just so we’re clear, a belated Merry Christmas to all. 

With love in Christ,
Michael Boldea Jr.

Saturday, December 21, 2019

Among You


One of the most surefire ways to defeat an enemy or conquer a foe is from within. It may take some planning, it may take some time, but if you can successfully get inside, past the walls, past the watchtowers, and past the watchmen, a small force can wreak havoc on a massive scale, especially if those within are too busy, distracted, or otherwise preoccupied to notice.

While the Greeks threw rocks at Troy until they either got tired or ran out of rocks, it took a wooden horse and a handful of cutthroats to bring the city to ruin from within.

As Paul writes his farewell to the Ephesians, he does not lament that soon he would shuffle off this mortal coil, but rather than when he is gone, savage wolves would come among them and would not spare the flock. Not only that, but even from their own number, Paul foresaw that men would rise up and distort the truth to draw away disciples after themselves.

Yesterday I was running errands for most of the morning. We needed some things for the house and decided to pull off the band-aid sooner rather than later, knowing that the deeper we get into the week, the worse it’s going to be.

As I was driving home, my phone started buzzing, and it didn’t stop until I pulled into my driveway and got a chance to see what all the hubbub was about. Apparently, a man who once referred to God as a divine drama queen, wrote a scathing op-ed in Christianity today as to why this president should be impeached, and why any Christian who still supported him was doing the bidding of Beelzebub.

When a dog’s barking this loud, the first thing you need to do is determine if he’s on a leash. Once that’s been determined, the next thing you need to determine is who is holding the other end of it.

Individuals with more free time than I did just that, and wouldn’t you know it, the person holding the leash of this particular barker as well as a handful of others in prominent Christian circles insisting that it would be the height of immorality not to vote for the limitless funding of murder mills, is George Soros.

Through grants, donations, and other means of influence, George Soros has created his own Trojan Horse, placed it within the church, and now his paid stooges are attempting to wreak havoc.

These are not noble, virtuous men standing on principle at the risk of losing it all, they are groveling lickspittles doing their master’s bidding, nuzzling his age-spotted, decrepit hand hoping for another treat with a handful of zeroes attached to it.

We should be smarter than the devil, but it turns out he’s outwitted the church yet again. We should have the wherewithal to perceive intent, but alas, our wits have been dulled, our guard has been lowered, because we thought our walls impenetrable and our defenses sure.

When supposed servants of the light encourage you to align with the darkness, it should set alarm bells blaring to the point that you are unable to ignore them. When good is called evil and evil is called good, then it’s time to take a step back, look at the bigger picture, and discern the motive behind why a certain narrative is being pushed.

We underestimate the devil’s tenacity, shrewdness, and desire to tear the household of faith asunder at our peril. 

With love in Christ,
Michael Boldea Jr.

Friday, December 20, 2019

Fallout


The biggest problem with exploding ordinance is that you can never fully predict the fallout pattern. Sure, there are shape charges with which you can affect the explosive’s energy, but even when you can reasonably predict the general area of the blast, you can’t account for every piece of shrapnel, or create a model for the exact perimeter of the fallout.

Even in a controlled environment, with professionals at the helm planning and executing the detonation, and taking all necessary precautions to reach an optimum outcome, the best they can do is determine a blast radius. They draw an imaginary circle and conclude that the fallout should be contained within that perimeter, but just to be safe, we’ll move a few hundred yards beyond that.

If under the best of circumstances detonating ordinance is sketchy, what’s been happening in the government of these United States recently, and especially the House chamber can be likened to a blindfolded rodeo clown throwing lit dynamite sticks while riding a bucking bronco. You know it’s not going to end well.

I’m not writing these words to try and change any minds, or because I feel pressured into taking a position. For the most part, the die is cast as far as changing minds, and as far as taking a position, right is right, and as long as my hands are clean before God, I am unconcerned as to people’s faux outrage, pearl-clutching, or self-righteous machinations about how it would be better by far to have individuals who advocate for the wholesale slaughter of the unborn and recently born in power, than the current administration.

I understand that some of you are conscientious objectors, and I can respect that. You are a-political, take no sides, and are neutral in every way. I may disagree with your position since I believe that as Christians, we should engage and participate - and yes, I have a Biblical basis for my belief, but that’s another topic for another time – but I can respect your stance nevertheless.

What I cannot respect are some individuals who have been sanctimoniously demagoguing about the evils of the bad orange man for the past three years, insisting that theirs was a righteous cause, now gleefully celebrating the fact that the House approved two flimsy articles of impeachment that will go nowhere in the senate.

Sorry, but if you’re popping champagne corks and throwing confetti, the reason for your sanctimony was not nobility or righteousness, but something as pedestrian and ordinary as hate. It is because you hate the man, for whatever reason, that you cloak your hatred in a thin layer of hyper-spirituality, and insist that anyone who does not see it your way is in league with the darkness itself.

Hate is keeping you from acknowledging that at least in this country, the burden doesn’t fall on the accused to prove their innocence; it falls on the accuser to prove guilt. Because you’ve so dehumanized a man, imperfect as he might be, to the point that you flippantly call him worse than Hitler, you’re perfectly comfortable with sham trials, absence of due process, withholding of exculpatory evidence, and outright lies about the strength of the case against the president.

Hate does strange things to people, and one of the worst things hate does is it makes people myopic. They can no longer see beyond the instant gratification of getting their way momentarily, and they have no concern or foresight for the fallout of their actions; it is an animalistic urge that must be satisfied at all costs.

So let me clue you in on the fallout: this will end very badly for those exuberantly celebrating this sham of a circus. Think Haman, think Mordecai, and remember that history has an odd way of repeating itself. And as for the faux-outrage crowd lurking on the internet looking for a reason to clutch their pearls and rush to the nearest fainting couch, open your eyes, and get over yourself. 

With love in Christ,
Michael Boldea Jr.

Wednesday, December 18, 2019

The Work of Your Hands


It is a far easier thing to destroy than to create, to tear down than to build up, doubly so if you had no hand in the creation of building of whatever it is you are attempting to tear asunder.

Building something up, whatever that something might be whatever for it may come in, requires time, effort, planning, execution, and determination. Whether it’s a home, a building, a business, or a sculpture, consistent dedication is required, and follow-through is paramount if one hopes to finish what they’ve started.

Destruction requires neither planning, execution or determination. Tearing down what someone else has toiled to build is frighteningly easy nowadays. All it requires is a bit of time and effort. Some brute force, some well-placed blows, a gallon of gasoline and the striking of a match, and what someone spent weeks, months, or even years building up is so much ash in less time than it takes to cook a roast in the oven.

I was watching my daughters play yesterday. The older one was playing with a set of building blocks I bought her last year, building a castle of some sort, meticulous and detail-oriented. The younger one was doodling on some coloring paper, but then she got bored, walked over to her sister, and said, “play with me.”

A few weeks ago, she started expanding her vocabulary, and now it’s like a brushfire in high winds. It is ever-growing, with new words every day, and it’s an awe and wonder to see how quickly they develop, grow, learn, and mature.

The first time she asked her sister to play with her, her sister ignored her. She waited for a breath, then repeated, “play with me, sissy.”

This time her sister acknowledged her, looked up from her building blocks, and said, “give me a minute, I want to finish this.”

Apparently her answer was unsatisfactory because the youngest, quick as a cat, swiped at the building blocks sending them scattering all over the floor. What had taken my eldest daughter a good hour to build, was laid to ruin in less than five seconds.

“That wasn’t very nice,” Victoria said to her little sister, but her sister either didn’t understand or didn’t care about what she’d done.

Our hands can be used for either building up or tearing down. It is a choice we make as to which of these two diametrically opposed avenues we will pursue, and depending on what we choose, we will either leave something beautiful or a trail of destruction in our wake.

Some have dedicated themselves to tearing others down, not out of a sense of nobility, or because they have a righteous cause, or because of anything as magnanimous as doing the right thing, but because they’re not getting the attention they think they deserve.

They strike out blindly because they feel ignored, or hurt, or sidelined, not bothering to consider that what they’re attempting to destroy in their anger and frustration is something that someone else built with love, patience, and tenderness.

The work of your hand will speak on your behalf louder than anything. What you leave in your wake will either confirm the truth of what you claim to be or expose you as a liar.

Maybe some of us need to learn that there is a difference between tearing down strongholds and tearing down other people. Then, maybe, just maybe, we will have enough awareness to identify the true enemy and go on the offensive. 

With love in Christ,
Michael Boldea Jr.

Friday, December 13, 2019

The Altars of Men


Every man builds an altar to something. Every man shows esteem and deference to someone or something, even those who insist that they are atheists. To hear them talk, however, you realize that atheists worship atheism. It has become their de facto god, and they are tireless in their struggle to convert as many souls to their side as they can.

Men build altars. It’s what we do, whether we realize it or not. It is an inherent driver, perhaps because in the purest recesses of our beings, within that spark, that breath of life, that sliver of the divine that animates this creaky flesh, we all acknowledge the existence of God, whether the intellect wants to submit to Him or not.

Once a man builds an altar, he must bring sacrifice upon it. If no sacrifice is had, it’s just a rock formation, stacked stone upon stacked stone, that means nothing.

What we come to realize is that the altars of men require far greater sacrifice than the altar of the One True God ever will. The gods of men are merciless, and because they are merciless the sacrifices they require at the hands of their faithful are trauma-inducing.

Whether it’s spilling the blood of the unborn on the altar of choice, sacrificing every ounce of individuality and independent thought on the altar of socialism, or doing away with any semblance of morality and decency on the altar of perversion, the gods of men are cruel taskmasters, demanding heavy tolls.

For some, the pain is too much so they resort to pills by the fistful to numb it, then when the pills no longer take the edge off, they crawl into a bottle to drown the pain altogether. Ever wonder why the most prosperous country in the world is also the leader in antidepressant consumption? Ever wonder why in a nation such as this, where there is no famine or war thousands upon thousands are dying of drug overdoses every year?

It’s not because they are happy. It’s not because they are pleased as punch at the choices they’ve made, and the sacrifices they’ve carried out on self-made altars to self-made gods. They are drowning in misery crying out to dead gods, waiting for an answer that will never come, and growing all the more despondent for it.

The gods of men desire their destruction. The God of the Bible desires to give them life and life more abundantly. The God of the Bible will not ask you to hoist dead carcasses upon a stone altar in order to please Him. The God of the Bible asks you to surrender your life that He may transform you, renew you, and perfect.

What He asks you to surrender, what He asks you to sacrifice, what He asks you to lay down are things detrimental to your wellbeing. Serving Him, and not a god of your own making will never lead you to darkness, emptiness, or death. Serving a god of your own making, however, will inevitably lead to disillusionment and despondency given enough time.

This is why the whole notion of serving God on your own terms, in the way you see fit, and giving yourself a license to go beyond the written Word in what is deemed acceptable unto God will always end badly. When you add to the Word, what you have done is created your own god, build your own altar, and commenced with the bringing of sacrifices. God is God, His Word is clear, and He is not mocked. Sin is sin because God said that it is. Whether men say it is or it isn’t, it does not change the reality of what God said. 

With love in Christ,
Michael Boldea Jr.

Tuesday, December 10, 2019

A Roaring Lion


If I were to give credence to some of the theories being disseminated among Christian circles via the interwebs, I would have to conclude that the devil is some perfect mixture of Wile E. Coyote, Elmer Fudd, and Mr. Bean. Always stepping on rakes, shooting himself in the face, scheming, and orchestrating perfect plans only to come up short and get stuck holding the lit stick of dynamite while falling off a precipice.

I would have to believe that although the devil revels in the defiling of innocence, the shed blood of the unborn, and the descent into hedonism so deep and profound that it does away with the last shreds of one’s humanity, he so muddles his plans that he and his minions end up shutting down abortion clinics, waging war against human trafficking, and redirecting society toward morality and Christ.

Maybe we are all suffering from some sort of mass Stockholm syndrome. Maybe we’ve been so brainwashed and desensitized that we will take the devil at his word and throw stones at those trying to stand in his way, but if the people certain blowhards insist are evil really are evil, they are pretty bad at being evil.

We will give the benefit of the doubt to those who trumpet the virtues of post-birth abortion, and celebrate the murder of babies both born and near term, but when someone who has been demonstrably proven to stand against the darkness and the unpopular stance they take is undeniably noble and Scriptural, we can’t wait to stab at them blindly, trying to tear them down and turn them into the monsters we’ve talked ourselves into believing they are.

We want to battle the darkness, push back evil, fight the devil on his territory, but no one seems to be up to our standards. They show up on the battlefield, swords at the ready, and we summarily chase them away because we don’t like the color of their sash, or their boots aren’t shiny enough. We come up with arbitrary reasons as to why they’re not good enough to fight alongside us, then seem surprised when we find ourselves surrounded by the enemy with no one to watch our back or fight alongside us.

“Ah, but we have God on our side!” That may be true, but God also sends others to fight alongside you, and there’s a good chance that if you think you’re the only one among seven billion that has God on his side while all others fall short, you probably don’t.

We love to quote Jesus when it suits us, but we hopscotch over His words when they don’t align with our prepackaged narrative. It was Jesus who said that a house divided against itself could not stand, and this was within the context of being accused that He cast out demons by Beelzebub, the ruler of the demons. Jesus said that’s not the way the devil operates. Jesus said the devil wouldn’t cast out the devil because, in so many words, he would knowingly be tearing down his kingdom. The selfsame kingdom he has worked tirelessly to build up.

No, the devil is not Wile E. Coyote, Elmer Fudd, or Mr. Bean. The devil will not undermine his own work or labor against his purposes. The devil is not a bumbling idiot working feverishly to undo his own works. He is as a roaring lion, precise, focused, intent, fierce, waiting for the children of God to let their guard down, to slip up, to come out from under the authority of Christ, that he may devour them at will.

So, please, before you hit share on another idiotic trope about how it is the work of evil when good is being done, how the devil himself is responsible for saving the unborn, and it’s nothing more than a smokescreen, or how it is the work of darkness when light is being promoted, consider the words of Jesus and how nonsensical a theory you are promulgating. 

With love in Christ,
Michael Boldea Jr.

Friday, December 6, 2019

A Long-Forgotten Kindness


Since my wife went back to work, we’ve been alternating picking up the girls from kindergarten and daycare. Depending on which day it is, I either pick up the younger one first, then go pick up her older sister or if she has a short day, I’ll pick up my oldest first, then go pick up her baby sister.

More often than not, when I pick up my eldest first, we stop at a gas station that is on the way to her sister’s daycare and pick up some chocolate milk. It’s a special treat, and she enjoys it, and I am the father of two little girls, so spoiling them once in a while is par for the course.

We walked into the gas station talking about what she’d learned in school that day, made a beeline for the cooler, took out two chocolate milks, and proceeded to go to the counter. As my daughter put the bottles on the counter waiting for the cashier to scan them, the man looked down at my daughter and said, “Your daddy’s a good man.”

“I know,” she said in a frank, matter of fact tone only a five-year-old can pull off without sounding condescending, then turned to ask me if she could have some candy, to which I answered no.

All the while, I was looking at the cashier, and noticing my confusion, he said, “you don’t remember me, do you?”

“Should I?” I asked, “Do we know each other?”

“You bought me a pizza once,” he said and broke out in a smile.

“Are you sure it was me?” I asked him.

“Yes, sir, sure as day, in Watertown, at the Little Caesar’s, about three years ago, I wasn’t doing so well back then, I was homeless, and you walked out of the store and handed me a pizza without me even asking for anything.”

I’m not sharing this story with you in the hopes that someone nominates my name for consideration for sainthood. It was a six-dollar pizza, and I can honestly say I don’t remember the man or the incident, even though I’ve been known to avail myself of the delicacies Little Caesar’s offers, delicacies only the most refined of palates can truly appreciate. I’ve also been known to purchase a few pies for people who tend to congregate by the recruitment center next door in the same little strip mall, so the man’s story rang true even if I didn’t remember him.

The reason I’m sharing this story with you is because three years in, this man still remembers a random act of kindness long forgotten by myself. For me it was six dollars; for him, it was something so impacting that he remembered my face all this time later.

Your daily interactions with the world around you matter. They will have an impact more far-reaching than you can possibly imagine, and touch the lives of others in ways you can’t even fathom.

I paid for our chocolate milks and walked out of the gas station shaking my head at how small the world is. As I was strapping my daughter into her car seat, she asked, “Tati, why did you buy that man a pizza?”

“Because he was hungry,” I answered. 

With love in Christ,
Michael Boldea Jr.

Wednesday, December 4, 2019

Unsavory


The preeminent complaint I hear from anyone visiting from the old country is that nothing tastes the way it ought to, especially vegetables. Having lived on both continents, it is not an unwarranted complaint. One of the first things I do every time I fly back to Romania, especially if vegetables are in season, is go to the local farmer’s market, buy a handful of farm-grown tomatoes, some feta cheese, and have myself a one-person picnic on one of the rusty iron tables they provide for their customers.

I realize that part of it has to do with the nostalgia of it since this was something I used to do with my grandfather and little brothers some two decades ago when we first started going back to Romania, but the flavor profile of homegrown vegetables is undeniably different than that of industrialized farming.

It’s not that flavorful vegetables don’t exist in America, but you’d have to take out a second mortgage on your house to buy three tomatoes, half an organic chicken, and a handful of carrots. To paraphrase a young man trying to sell me apples for five dollars each at a local farmer’s market, ‘organic ain’t cheap.’

For the most part, people make do with rubbery tomatoes and flavorless carrots, rather than shell out their retirement savings for some vegetables, or bypass vegetables altogether for highly processed foodstuffs colored and made to look like tasty peas, carrots, and broccoli.

There is always an alternative if you are not willing to pay the price for the real thing, and that’s the thought that kept making its way to the forefront of my mind as I was heaping pepper and salt on a tomato that was less than savory to the taste recently.

Today’s generation doesn’t have the true manifestation of the power of God or the gifts of the Holy Spirit not because they do not exist. They do not have these things because they are unwilling to pay the cost to attain them. They find alternatives to true power because the alternatives are less costly to the flesh, less time consuming, and less exacting.

They are willing to make do with half measures, they are willing to feign satisfaction with some emotional exaltation, or a tingly feeling once in a while, but as far as pressing in, going deeper, surrendering more that more might be attained, the answer is always a firm no.

Deep down they understand that what they’ve settled for is not anywhere as good as the real thing, but in their minds, it’s better than nothing.

If my dissatisfaction with tasteless tomatoes becomes unbearable, I know I can put in the time, and build some raised beds, plant my own tomatoes, tend to them, and watch them grow, and when they are ripe eat them off the vine, but I’m not quite there yet. I’m still okay with using condiments to mask the lack of taste, and until I’m no longer okay with it, I will not put forth the effort necessary to change the dynamic.

The same goes for spiritual fullness, or the lack thereof. Until the lack of the presence and power of God become unbearable, men will do nothing to remedy it. As long as they can mask the absence of true power with exuberance, excessive animation, shaking, dancing, crawling, or jiggling, they will.

It is when that moment of desperation is reached and surpassed that all pretense is set aside, and we surrender, humble ourselves, and cry out for a true move of God, not for a day, not for a month, not for a season, but until it is made manifest.

If you are fed up with the unsavory, with the tasteless, the powerless, the visionless, it’s up to you to do what it takes to acquire the real. Substitutes will not suffice, and this is a truth more and more are waking up to every day. 

With love in Christ,
Michael Boldea Jr.