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Tuesday, February 25, 2020

Uncomplicated


Life can get harrowing at times. At times it can be as complicated and difficult to unravel as a blind person trying to solve a Rubik’s cube underwater. The reason life can get overwhelmingly complicated more often than not is because no choice or decision is made in a vacuum. Every choice we make, every decision, every path, every crossroads, brings with it an almost infinite amount of ramifications that ripple outward throughout our lives.

From what career path to choose, to whom to marry, to what to name your firstborn, to whether or not you should buy that puppy your kids have been begging for even though you know they’ll never pick up after it or feed it the way they’ve been promising. Each choice bears consequence, and if we make the wrong choices often enough, we eventually find ourselves at the bottom of a pit, we dug with our own two hands.

How is it that some people get thousands of dollars in debt and unable to pay their bills? Simple answer, one bad choice at a time. How is it that some people get to the twilight of their existence without having had a meaningful relationship, been in love, gotten married, or held their newborn in their arms? Once again, one bad choice at a time. How is it that your stretchy pants don’t stretch anymore, and those few winter weight pounds turned into a few dozen winter weight pounds? You guessed it! One supersized combo of burgers and milkshakes won’t make you balloon to a record-breaking personal weight, but a few months or years of combo platters will.

Life is complicated. Anyone who tells you otherwise is living in blissful ignorance that is enviable only insofar as they can maintain the illusion they’ve created for themselves. Eventually, inevitably, the dam breaks, the illusion cracks, the ignorance is revealed for what it is, then nothing will ever be the same again from that moment forward.

I believe it’s because God knew life would be complicated that He made redemption and salvation so uncomplicated. We don’t have to stand on our heads, repeating a secret mantra while clapping our hands with one eye closed in order to be saved. Nor do we have to shave our heads, cut, self-immolate, or flog ourselves in the streets until we are a bloody pulp in order to attain salvation.  If we are willing to surrender, if we are willing to submit, if we are willing to fall at the foot of the cross in repentance, deny ourselves, pick up our crosses, and follow after Him, visionary or fool, it is a readily replicable process.

Salvation is purposefully uncomplicated because it is one less excuse man will have when he stands before God. There will not be a soul that stands before the great white throne of judgment who will accuse God of making it too complicated, challenging, difficult, or out of reach. No one will be able to surmise that they wanted to get saved, but the directions were just too hard to follow, so they gave up.

When men reject Christ, when men reject salvation, it’s not because the process is veiled in shadow, overly complicated, or impossible to decipher. Men reject Christ because they love their sin more than they love Him, they prefer their flesh over their spiritual man, and they make a choice to reject the gift that is salvation.

It was the selfsame Christ whom men reject that said if you love anything more than you love Him, whether your mother, wife, daughter, son, father, husband, mother, hobby, vice, position, possession, or sin, you are not worthy of Him. 

With love in Christ,
Michael Boldea Jr.

Tuesday, February 18, 2020

Tangible Evidence


Those of you living in Florida, California, Georgia, or anywhere with palm trees or cactuses may not be able to relate to the following. I spent the better part of two hours this morning shoveling snow. It wasn’t the Christmas movie kind of snow either, with the fat snowflakes falling gently, peppering the landscape with pristine white. It was half sleet, half snow, heavy, and wet, and each shovelful felt like I was tossing a three-month-old piglet.

No matter, I enjoyed every moment of it, as I do every time it snows here in Wisconsin, and I have to be outside by the break of dawn, shovel in hand so that the kids can get off to school on time. I find shoveling snow oddly therapeutic, in large part, because there is tangible evidence of progress.

You start the morning with a blanket of white a few inches deep, you put hand to shovel, and you begin to work. With each shovelful, you can track the progress that you’ve made; you can see the path that you cleared, the snow that you moved. You see the result of the work of your hands in real-time. You don’t have to wait six months for a crop like farmers do, or six years to lose that fifteen pounds you’ve been meaning to lose, it’s immediate, and the immediacy of it is oddly gratifying to me.

Before the e-mails start rolling in, I know I could take the easy way out and buy a snowblower, but I refuse to do it partly because I enjoy seeing the slow and steady clearing off of my driveway, but also because it’s forced exercise, something I don’t get nearly enough of especially in the winter months.

It also allows me to think, to meditate and to ponder, without the kids jumping on my lap, or insisting that we play hide and seek for the fifteenth time in as many minutes.

About an hour in, having worked up a good sweat, I looked back on the progress I’d made, and it was undeniable. That’s when I had this quasi epiphany of sorts, standing there leaning against my shovel. Our Christian walk is a lot like shoveling snow. You begin with your first step, your first day, your first shovelful, but if you are growing in Christ, if you are being perfected, if God is pruning and cleaning, the progress will be undeniable.

If your spiritual maturity is the same today as it was five years ago, then all you’ve been doing is spinning your wheels in the same place. If your understanding of scripture, of Christ, of grace, of holiness, of warfare, of the spiritual realm, and of yourself are the same today as they were when you first started out, you have not progressed, you have not matured, you have not grown, and though you might insist on the contrary, the evidence refutes your claims.

If I spent two hours outside this morning, came in with a big smile and declared that I was done shoveling the driveway, but when my wife peeked out the window the driveway was covered with snow as it had been when I first stepped outside, my wife would have some questions, and rightly so.

The amazing thing about growing in Christ is that you can track your progress. You can look back on the last few weeks, months or years, and see how you have decreased and He has increased. If it is not so then, you may consider this a reality check.

There’s one other thought that came to me as I was gauging my progress this morning. Sometimes when it snows, it is light and fluffy, and the process of clearing my driveway is almost effortless. Then you get the kind of snow we had last night, and by the time you’re done, everything’s aching, and all you want to do is lay down and take a nap.

Sometimes the road is easy, at other times, it’s a hard climb, but whether burdensome or light, you must press on because giving up is not an option. You’ll never reach your destination if you pitch your tent at the first rest stop you come across.

Your journey had a beginning, and it must have an end. Your destination is well determined, well defined, and you know the direction you ought to be traveling in. Set your eyes firmly upon Him, and let nothing deter you from putting one foot in front of another. It’s the only way you, or I, or anyone else will hear those blessed words, well done!

With love in Christ,
Michael Boldea Jr. 

Saturday, February 15, 2020

Omega


Everything that has a beginning has an end. The timeframe may differ, but all things end eventually. The mayfly gets twenty-four hours to experience life on earth from birth to death, a frighteningly short time to do anything other than see one sunrise, one sunset, and buzz around a few feet. No five-year plan here, no what are we doing with the kids this summer, no having to remember a dentist’s appointment three weeks out, or thinking about what to wear the next day. There isn’t even any time for the old mayfly to tell the young may fly any when I was your age stories.

On the other side of the spectrum, the sequoia tree has a ballpark lifespan of about 3,000 years, with some even reaching 3,500 years. To put that into context, it’s only been 2,000 years since Jesus walked the earth. A smidgen of rudimentary math will tell you that there were sequoia trees that were already a thousand years old by the time Jesus was born that are still around today. And yet, eventually, at some point, they too will die, because there is no escaping finality, there is no escaping the end, and the only one without an end because He had no beginning, is God.

Although the Bible speaks quite openly and poignantly about the end times, the last days, the end of days, or simply the end, whenever we broach the topic, it always seems to be in the abstract. We preach on, write about, and discuss the last days, but always within the context and with the underlying premise that it’s something some generation afar off will have to contend with at some point in the far off future.

Because our discussion is within the sphere of a far off future our children’s great-grandchildren might see up close and personal, there is never any urgency or motivation to contextually appropriate the telltale signs of the end times in the present.

Well, yes, there are false teachers, false Christs, and false prophets, and there have been rumors of war. There have been earthquakes in various places, some, in places which have never been documented to be prone to such things. There is pestilence, there are new diseases, and viruses that have the potential to take out a substantial percentage of the planet.

Even though we might not like to admit it, there is famine in various parts of the world, and there is a noticeable and undeniable uptick in the persecution of Christians throughout, but that’s just coincidence, they mumble. It’s happenstance; it’s the accidental fulfillment of end times prophecy, and by no means deliberate, and purposeful.

We can’t be living the times of which Jesus spoke, because the thing I believed had to happen in order for all the other things to happen hasn’t happened, even though the Bible doesn’t definitively say it will happen.

We cannot deny the reality of a thing simply because we believed some other thing had to precede it. If we discount what is happening and brush it off simply because it doesn’t fit our narrative, if we deny reality just because we feel like it, our mental stability is as questionable as those who think they can turn a boy into a girl simply because they say it is so.

So what’s the point of today’s musings? Quite simply, if you’re a mayfly thinking you’re a sequoia, you will squander the time you have left, thinking you have far more time than you really do. It’s a new day! For many on this earth, it will be their last day. Make all you can of this day, because another day is not guaranteed to anyone. 

With love in Christ,
Michael Boldea Jr.

Tuesday, February 11, 2020

Not Quite Right

Once in a great while, on a cold night, when the moon is bright and the snow is falling unabated, I like to sit by the window, watch it all unfold, and sip a cup of warm milk and honey. I know, edgy, rebellious even, but it is what it is. I’m a middle-aged man who’s been married to the same woman for twenty years, has two daughters and a mortgage, so it would be a hard sell for me to tell you I drink gasoline straight from the pump.

Yes, I like warm milk and honey, and I don’t care who knows it. It may be because it’s what my mother used to make for me when I was young, perhaps the nostalgia of it is more profound than first considered, but it’s one of those things that calms me, and for a few minutes, staring out that window watching snowflakes fall to the earth, all is right with the world.

Last winter, around the tail end of February we were having one of those nights, the girls were already asleep, and the wife was doing some work, so I went into the kitchen, warmed up some milk, then noticed a cup on the counter. It looked clean, so I poured the milk into it, squeezed some honey out of the bottle, gave it a good stir, and went to sit by the window and watch the snow.

From the start, something seemed off. Something wasn’t quite right. With each sip, there was a faint flavor to the milk that ought not to have been there, something that made my taste buds react and spoiled the entire experience.

I tried a few more sips, but still, the faint flavor of something that I knew shouldn’t be there was evident. I walked into the kitchen, intending to dump the milk into the sink when my wife noticed the cup I was holding.

“Did you rinse the cup before you put the milk in?” she asked.

“No,” I answered. “It seemed clean, and it was on the counter.”

“I just had hot tea and lemon in that cup,” my wife said. “Did something taste off?”

I nodded in the affirmative, went to the sink, dumped out the milk, rinsed the cup, and put it on the rack. Even though the cup seemed clean to the naked eye, it still had enough of the lemon residue to make the milk taste different than it ought.

Whenever you hear someone bloviating endlessly about how someone else is not righteous enough, saintly enough, up to their standards of decorum and piety, but something doesn’t feel quite right, when something is throwing off the entire flavor profile and making their words ring hollow, it’s hypocrisy.

Hypocrisy and self-righteous pontificating go together about as well as milk and lemon. Some people will choke it down because they’re hoping it gets better as they get to the bottom of the cup, but it won’t, it never does.

Funny thing how the only one without sin who was within His rights to cast the first stone didn’t, and how some folks today who are demonstrably guilty of the selfsame thing they are pointing out in others who never claimed to be spiritual authorities, preachers, or teachers, as they have.

A standard is no longer a standard when seeped in hypocrisy. Better to keep silent and repent of our own misdeeds than sanctimoniously declare that the mere consideration that someone’s past does not define their present or determine their future is Ichabod, especially when the person in question isn’t in spiritual authority over anyone. 

With love in Christ,
Michael Boldea Jr.

Saturday, February 8, 2020

Happy Warriors

I’ve had the honor of knowing a few in my life. They come in all shapes and sizes, ages, backgrounds, and ethnicities, differing in their style of delivery, temperament, and level of education, but the one thing they all have in common is that they answered the call to enlist in the brotherhood of the sword.

For the most part, they are unassuming men, even-tempered, slow to speak, but quick to act when it comes to defending the truth, the gospel, and the name of Jesus. Their words are seasoned, and direct, lacking pretense, ambiguity, or an underlying desire to please men. They don’t like talking about themselves, or their accomplishments, realizing that anything good, virtuous, or worthy of praise in them comes from God and does not originate with them.

Because they know the source of their authority, because they know the source of their power, because they know that the gifting they possess was gifted to them, they are humble, and self-effacing, and quick to brush off any hint of praise that may come their way.

You will never see a true warrior insist that you call him that, or go out of his way to let everyone know that they are one. If you have to walk around in full military regalia and let everyone you come in contact with know that you’re a warrior, chances are you’re only a warrior in your own mind.

A true warrior knows the hardships of battle and doesn’t fantasize or hope for it, but neither does he waver or falter in the face of it. If battle comes, they are prepared. If they must fight, they’ll fight to win, but until that time, they will be about the work of the kingdom, doing what they must to ensure that there’s something worth fighting for, something to come back to.

We cannot be so consumed with thoughts of battle, that we do nothing to maintain what we are going to battle to defend. If I am called upon to sacrifice, there must still be a people worth sacrificing for, otherwise, what’s the point?

If we do not raise our sons and daughters and train them in the way they should go, if we do not stand for decency and allow everything around us to go to rot, if we do not cherish those whom God gave us as life mates and push them into the arms of another, what exactly is it that we’re fighting to defend?

A man with nothing left to fight for will fight like he’s got nothing left to fight for.

Because there is a purpose, because they know what they’re fighting for, true warriors are also happy warriors. It’s the cheerleaders and the armchair quarterbacks that are morose and glum, always sullen and looking for others to join their misery choir. It’s those who would never dare strap on a sword, and who insist on preemptive surrender that act as though they have PTSD even though they’ve never been anywhere near a battlefield.

True warriors walk into battle with their heads held high, and a grin on their faces, and once the dust settles and the battle is won, that grin is still there. It’s not like it never left, but it always returns. They know that there will be another battle, another skirmish, another time they will be called upon to push back the hordes of darkness, but they do not dwell on it or fixate on it. When it comes, it comes. Until then, there is work to be done, and there is no time to waste. 

With love in Christ,
Michael Boldea Jr.

Wednesday, February 5, 2020

Small People


We’ve all known a few throughout our lives, and no I’m not talking about little people, I’m talking about small people. You know, petty, vindictive, malicious, resentful, mean-spirited, the kind of person that would hock a loogie into the punch bowl at your birthday party because they feel they were slighted in some form or fashion.

 No matter how they try to control their nature, no matter how under wraps they try to keep their basic instinct of pettiness and vindictiveness, if you watch a small person long enough, the mask will inevitably slip, and their true face will reveal itself in all its resentful, mean-spirited glory.

I used to get frustrated when small people would lash out. I used to react instinctively when I saw pettiness and maliciousness on display, but no longer. I realized that by reacting to their actions, all I was doing is demeaning myself and allowing their actions to rob me of my peace.

The thing about small people, in general, is that they want you to be as miserable as they are. Their singular desire is for you to become like them, to grow resentful and petty, and see every occasion as an opportunity to ruin someone’s day.

If you know what to look for, you can spot small people everywhere throughout society, from the customer at the local greasy spoon who feels the need to talk down a waitress because she didn’t bring his second helping of biscuits and gravy fast enough, or the cashier who goes on a rant over an expired coupon for ten cents off a dozen eggs, or the speaker of the house who theatrically rips up a speech one page at a time because she is seething inside.

All they are, are impotent fits of rage intended to hurt, demean, or otherwise ruin the day of another person. One would be better served by trying to swat away raindrops, or shovel snow with a toothpick, but you will never get a small person to see the futility of their actions.

The best thing you can do when you run across a small person is not engaging. Don’t react to their pettiness, don’t react to their vitriol, because if you do, at some point you will become that small person who screams at a mother for letting their toddler scribble on the sidewalk with chalk, or at a vendor for selling a bruised apple at a farmer’s market.

The best way to neutralize a small person, at least as far as I’ve found, is with joy. Joy is like a pesticide to small people; they can’t stand to be around it, and they’ll do almost anything to get away from it. Whether it’s because they are seeing something they know they do not possess, or are envious of the person who possesses it. Joy to the small person is like garlic to a vampire, or capitalism to a socialist.

So the next time you run across a small person who’s just trying to get under your skin, smile. The next time someone is being vindictive and petty, put on the joy of the Lord, and do not try to hold it back. Not only will it deescalate the situation, but it will also highlight just how small the person is being, and perhaps serve as a wakeup call as to their character flaw.

With love in Christ,
Michael Boldea Jr.

Monday, February 3, 2020

Predictable Outcomes


While nature may abhor a vacuum, the devil loves them. Whenever light removes itself from any arena, be it culture, society, politics, education, or yes, dare I say, even religion, the devil is quick to fill the vacuum with darkness.

I find it odd, that though we have chosen to surrender the battleground of culture, even going insofar as attacking those who would attempt to affect it as not being heavenly minded enough, we are still aghast at the filth and degradation the godless can generate and bring to the masses.

I woke up this morning, and upon checking my messages saw no less than ten e-mails from various individuals asking some variation of whether or not I could believe how bad the super bowl halftime show was. I didn’t watch it, or the super bowl. I was playing charades with my kids and reading bedtime stories. Time far better spent, in my humble opinion, but I digress.

To answer the question, yes, I believe it, even though I didn’t even see it. I would believe anything up to and including the sacrifice of a live goat at this point, so when I went to a couple of news sites to check what the hubbub was all about, I had to smirk and shake my head.

You’re beside yourself that a couple of has been so-called singers were gyrating hard enough to pop their artificial hips out of joint? This is what you’re surprised about? This is what has you all up in arms? This is what’s causing all this consternation?

What did you think would happen when you abandoned the battlefield of culture? What did you think would happen when the church insulated itself within its four walls and decided to keep its head low because they didn’t want to draw the ire of the godless?

Did we honestly believe that everything would remain the same once the light decided it didn’t want to do battle against darkness any longer? Did we honestly believe that the godless wouldn’t attempt to push the envelope and attempt to outdo themselves yet again?

Once we grew silent, the outcome became predictable. Once we waved the white flag of surrender and told the devil he could have culture, and he could have society as long as he left us to our four walls and wooden pews, it was all over save for the fat lady belting out a tune.

By the time we realized that the devil wasn’t one to keep up his end of the bargain, and that not even the church was off-limits, it was too late. He’d taken full advantage of our lethargy, he’d taken full advantage of our indifference, and he’d rooted himself so deep into every aspect of society that now our four and five-year-olds are being taught the glories of homosexuality in public schools, replete with cartoons depicting sex acts. But yes, it’s two over the hill clowns lip singing their long-forgotten songs that I should be out of sorts about.

When you think about it, it’s a brilliant strategy. Throw out some red meat once in a while, get some clowns to bang drums and make a ruckus, so that no one notices the grotesque things you are doing silently, in the shadows, and far away from prying eyes.

Get everyone talking about retiree crooners, and maybe they won’t notice that we are indoctrinating their children from the moment they’re old enough to crawl, turning them against anything wholesome and good, and normalizing aberrant perversions.

So, yes, let’s clutch our pearls, do our best chatty Cathy impressions with the ‘oh can you believe it’ chorus, then go back to doing nothing, like we always do, while brick by brick, anything of virtue or decency is being dismantled before our eyes.

And one last thing, just so I can avoid the ‘it’s God’s will’ e-mails, don’t lay at God’s doorstep something He had no hand in. Don’t blame God for something that occurred because you stopped watching, praying, fighting, warring, and speaking up. Don’t blame God for something that occurred because your inaction created a vacuum that the devil then filled with all manner of creepy, crawly things.

God’s will is that all should come to repentance. God’s will is that none perish. Nowhere in the Bible does it say that God’s will is for His servants to do nothing so that the devil can create a tortured hellscape on earth. 

With love in Christ,
Michael Boldea Jr.