Thursday, April 29, 2010

Learning from the Blind

It was to be Christ’s last trip to Jericho, for His time was soon approaching. By now the news of Jesus had spread far and wide, and everywhere He went, there was a crowd that followed Him everywhere. As Jesus was coming near Jericho, and the multitude along with him, there was a certain blind man named Bartimaeus son of Timaeus who sat by the road begging. It would seem that Bartimaeus was well known by the people of Jericho and the surrounding communities, because they had actually given him the nickname ‘blind Bartimaeus’.

Today I would like to explore this encounter between Jesus Christ, and blind Bartimaeus, and see what we can glean from their dialogue and the subsequent after effects of having met the great healer. I would however like to discuss Bartimaeus not in the context of the man who was saved, but rather in the context of the man who saw. He was a man who knew what he wanted, and a man who was practical in his faith. Bartimaeus was a man who needed something, knew how to go about getting what he needed, and once he got what he needed, he knew what to do with it. Bartimaeus knew what he needed, and as we will see in this teaching, he let nothing stand in the way of getting his need met.

Jesus often said that the blindness of the mind and the blindness of the soul are greater than physical blindness. He said to the Pharisees that they had eyes and did not see, calling them blind to the spiritual reality standing before them. Oddly enough because they were spiritually blind, the Pharisees wondered among themselves what it was that Jesus meant when He called them blind, for surely they saw as well as any other, they had eyes after all, surely Jesus had been mistaken.

There is something about blindness that tugs at the heart of even the coldest among us. When we see a blind person we can’t help but feel empathy, even though we can never truly understand what it is to be blind. As tragic as we might consider physical blindness to be, spiritual blindness is all the more tragic and horrible.

Today I submit to you that those with perfect vision, who cannot see the spiritual truths of God, are more lamentable than those who suffer from physical blindness. Spiritual truths cannot be seen by the physical eyes; they must be viewed through spiritual eyes.

I’ve had the pleasure of meeting those who were physically blind, and though they do not possess the gift of sight, they possess an insight that is far more profound than the average person. By the very tonality of one’s voice, by the pitch and the cadence, some who do not possess the sense of physical sight, are able to tell without seeing the facial twitches, or expressions, whether someone is telling the truth, or lying; By touching someone’s face they are able to get a mental image of what the person looks like, using their fingers as their means of gaining insight.

There was even one young man who was blind with whom I played chess on a regular basis, and while he played by touch alone, and I had eyes to see, more often than not I would lose. He would take his time in considering every move, he would analyze the boards with his fingers, until he would make his choice, while I, seeing only what was before me and not taking into account what would happen three or four moves down the line would fall into his well conceived and well concealed plans.

But back to Bartimaeus; Jesus was leaving Jericho, after having had dinner with a tax collector named Zacchaeus, after the people murmured that He had gone to be a guest with a man who was a sinner since Zacchaeus was a tax collector, when the blind man sitting by the side of the road saw his last chance to reach out, to cry out, to get the attention of the one known as Jesus.

Surely Bartimaeus was not the only blind man in Jericho. Blindness was very common in the Middle East during the time of Jesus, but among all the blind of Jericho only one had grace on that day, because he knew what he wanted.

Some sit in the house of God for years on end and are still unable to see great truths. Some attend church service regularly for most of their lives, and yet do not perceive the greatness of the gospel, the sacrifice of Jesus, the debt that was paid on their behalf, and the eternal life that awaits us. I could not say with any specificity, what the percentage of those suffering spiritual blindness might be in the church today, those souls who have no need of glasses, or contacts, who have perfect physical sight yet do not see the miracles of God, do not see Jesus Christ, and do not see the eternal life to which they have been called, but what I can say definitively is that the percentage is much higher than most would have imagined it.

By the lights of the crystal chandeliers, countless souls sit in abject darkness within the house of God. These are souls whose eyes are shut, souls whose spiritual eyes are blinded, and souls who do not see, who do not perceive and who do not understand.

But Brother Mike how can you make such a statement? What do you mean men and women within the house of God are spiritually blind?

In simple terms, when men refuse to see the hand of God, the providence of God, the leading of God, and the influence of God in their lives, they are spiritually blind. All of us have been guilty of this at one point or another, where we do not acknowledge the presence and the power of God in our lives. If the doctor was able to treat a pain, well it was because the doctor was good; if we were shown favor at work, or got a promotion, well it was because of our intellect; if we haven’t gotten sick, and we have our health, well it’s because we take such good care of ourselves; if we have when others are lacking, well it’s because we made provision; we refuse to acknowledge the goodness and blessing of God, we refuse to give God the glory for the health, and the raise, and the promotion, and the provision. We do not see God in every sunrise or sunset; we do not see God in every brother, in every thought, in every good decision. We do not acknowledge God in our tears or in our sickbeds either. No, when things are going well we take the credit; we take the glory, when things are going bad however, we are quick to blame God.

We have become a generation that needs to see the spectacular. We need to be amazed and shocked. We need to see grand and majestic miracles, all the while dismissing all of God’s miracles in our lives. We are a generation that is led by its sense of sight, and we go where we see the most audacious and amazing thing; forgetting that these eyes of flesh deceive, and they do so with great regularity.

I see an example of this more often than I would like when counseling young people who want to get married. No matter how much you emphasize the fact that they should choose their mate by their character, and their relationship with God rather than what they see with their eyes, that the spirit of a man or a woman is more important than the outwardly appearance, the advice is brushed aside, and foolish choices are subsequently made. What do you mean the heart is more important than the appearance? That’s not what the world focuses on! No, the world does not focus on the heart, but the children of God ought to. While we’re on the subject, and this has turned into a teachable moment, what you see with your eyes today, will not be what you see five years from now, or ten years from now. The picture will shift, the image will change, and if you choose your partner due to the lust of the eyes rather than because of their inner character, you will end up a statistic, one of the over fifty percent that couldn’t make their marriage work. Pretty and handsome, isn’t always good and wholesome. Just a thought!

So what did Bartimaeus do in order to see well, to have not only his physical eyes restored but his spiritual eyes as well?

First of all, he found his appropriate place. The word tells us that Bartimaeus was sitting by the road. The great multitude that followed after Jesus was on the road, walking with Him hoping to see a miracle, hoping to witness something out of the ordinary, but Bartimaeus did not walk with the crowd, he didn’t care for the multitudes, he was separate, sitting by the road, just begging. As blind as he was, living in a world of perpetual darkness, Bartimaeus knew that his problems, the big issues in his life, could never be remedied in the midst of the crowd. He had to separate himself, and be alone with God. If you have not seen, and experienced God, alone, you will never experience him in the crowd. The beauty of our relationship with God is that it is intimate, and personal, not part of a collective.

The crowd is not conducive to intimacy with God. The multitudes are there for their own reasons, and most that were following after Christ did not desire to know Him, but to see what he could do. The crowds are noisy; they have a certain mindset, and God is telling His children, not to see through their eyes, not to perceive the spiritual through the prism of the crowd’s eyes, but see through His eyes.

Every profound moment of spiritual insight in my life, every memorable moment of the presence of God, was experienced alone, in intimacy with Him, not amidst the multitudes.

It is not sin if you cannot find your peace amidst the crowd, because the crowd cannot offer peace. We have adopted a flock mentality and this is to our detriment. We often go along because of the multitudes rather than a sincere desire to experience God.

Bartimaeus was sitting by the road, because he knew that the multitude passing by could not offer him what he desired. God is discovered in our quiet time, in our prayer closet, in those moments when it’s just us and Him. Upon meeting another blind man in the midst of the city, Jesus actually took him by the hand and led him outside the city, because spiritually speaking, we can only have a true, meaningful, and deeply rooted relationship with Him when we learn to experience Him personally, one on one, absent of the noise of the crowd distracting us.

You know what your prayer closet is, you know that place where you go before God and unburden your heart, where you weep, where you laugh, where you allow God to fellowship and minister to you. It could be by the side of your bed, it could be your kitchen table, it could be that wooded area behind your house, you know where your secret place is, your quiet place, that place where you go just to be alone with Him.

When we are alone with God, away from the multitudes we can be ourselves. Unhindered by the thoughts of what the person in the next pew will think if we pray a little louder, or we shout a hallelujah, unconcerned with whether the makeup is running if we shed a few tears, when we are alone with God, we are uninhibited.

To Bartimaeus the crowd was inconsequential, it didn’t matter. He was sitting by the side of the road, most likely caked in dust, he wasn’t trying to put on a show, he wasn’t trying to seem like something he wasn’t; he was just waiting for Jesus, and when he heard that Jesus was passing by, he laid all civility aside, and cut to the front of the line. He didn’t wait until everyone else’s problems were resolved, Bartimaeus didn’t take a number and patiently wait until it was called, he had a real, and pressing need, and when he got his chance, he cried out.

The second aspect of Bartimaeus’s experience that we cannot overlook is that he heard only what he needed to hear. He heard that Jesus of Nazareth was passing by. Now we’ve all been in a crowd, we know how a crowd can be, and here were hundreds of people walking down the road. Everyone’s talking about something; everyone is offering an opinion, sharing the gossip they heard concerning Christ. We all know how people can be.

‘Yeah, I heard he’s a friend of Lazarus. Of course He’s a friend of Lazarus, he’s there all the time, and what about Mary and Martha, two sisters, is He really as holy as He says?’

‘I heard He let a sinner wash His feet, and then dry them with the hair upon her head, did you hear that? I could never have done that. That’s just unbecoming.’

‘What do you think about this casting out of demons? Yeah, I don’t know either; you know the Pharisees say he casts them out because he’s one of them?’

All these snippets of conversation that Bartimaeus might have heard as the multitude was passing by, but the one thing he locked upon, the one thing that he needed to hear, was that Jesus of Nazareth was passing by. If he would have received everything he heard as the multitudes were passing by, if he would have believed the gossip and the slander, surely he would not have desired Jesus anymore.

May we be as wise as Bartimaeus and brush aside the gossip we hear about our brothers and our sisters, and concentrate upon the most essential truth of all, that Jesus of Nazareth is passing by. As Paul so aptly put it so long ago, I determined not to know anything among you except Jesus Christ and Him crucified.

The third thing that Bartimaeus did, was he cried out, he prayed. As he began to cry out the crowd tried to silence him. “Jesus has more important things to do, leave him alone; he’s too busy for you.” But Bartimaeus didn’t care, he was not deterred. His prayer was not long or elaborate, but his prayer was fueled by faith. Blind Bartimaeus knew what he needed, and he was not ashamed of crying out to Jesus and asking. “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!” That was the extent of his prayer. “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!”

He could have started a long winded prayer that stretched on for ages beginning with asking the Lord’s blessing upon the land, then upon the missionaries, then upon the farmers, and the teachers, and the firemen. He could have pointed to his own condition, saying, “Lord you know that I am sitting by the side of the road, blind, and unable to provide for myself, but my heart is pure before you”, and so on. Bartimaeus got to the point, and in the eight words that his prayer entailed, he told Jesus everything that was on his heart.

By the length of his prayer it may not seem like it, but Bartimaeus was a man of prayer. He said everything he needed to say, in eight words. A sincere prayer, a heartfelt cry, is what gets God’s attention, it is what caused Jesus to stand still, and call on Bartimaeus.

The fourth thing that Bartimaeus does is he obeys Jesus. All he needed to be told is that Jesus was calling him, and Bartimaeus threw aside his garment, and rose, and came to Jesus. Why would he throw aside his garment? Because the attire of the time was a long tunic, with a sash, and whenever someone needed to run they would tuck the tunic in the sash. Bartimaeus was blind, he knew he would most likely trip on his own tunic if he tried to run to Jesus and so rather than keep Him waiting Bartimaeus threw aside his garment. The Lord called, and Bartimaeus obeyed.

In the context of this teaching, I must ask a question. What is the garment that is keeping you from running to Jesus? What is that thing that is inhibiting you from coming to Him when he calls? Whatever it might be, it is not worth keeping it on. Whatever is hindering your pursuit of Christ must be thrown aside like Bartimaeus’s garment. All of us want a closer walk with God, all of us want greater revelation, all of us want more intimate fellowship, but few are willing to throw aside their old garments, those things which hinder them from walking in the fullness of what God has for them.

When he heard Jesus had called him, realizing that it would be quicker to just disrobe than to get tangled up in his tunic, or have people step on it has he made his way toward the Savior, this man wasted no time. Bartimaeus was not afraid of looking ridiculous, having thrown aside his garment, he didn’t care what the multitudes thought, he just wanted to go to Jesus when He called, and would let nothing slow him down.

So what if others think us ridiculous, so what if others think us mad? So what if the world doesn’t understand that it was worth giving up the vices, the addictions, the pleasures of this world, those things which hindered our walk for the glory that would be revealed in us? By throwing aside our garment, by throwing aside that which would hinder our walk, we have achieved the most noble and desired pursuit of human existence, that of knowing God, and having God call us His friend.

There are some who choose to keep their garment on, and take their time getting to Jesus, and today becomes tomorrow, tomorrow becomes next week, next week becomes next year, and they never get to meet Jesus face to face while on this earth. Do not terry, do not delay; quicken your pace toward the saving grace of Jesus.

Bartimaeus also knew to ask for something of value. I cannot say when he had the inward revelation, because up until then he simply had the right to beg, by law. The blind in Israel were allowed to beg, and so he would sit and wait for people to throw a shekel his way.

All his life his expectation was a little coin, until he heard that Jesus of Nazareth was passing by, then his expectations changed. He no longer desired the trifles of this life, he no longer desired fleeting temporal things, but with the cry of his heart said, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me.”

He did not ask for the worthless, but the priceless, he asked for that which he knew only God could give him. Bartimaeus asked for his sight, and once he received his sight he followed after Jesus. Oh that we would learn from blind Bartimaeus who by his willingness to be ridiculed by others, and cry out to God, received true sight. Oh that we would learn to ask for priceless things, rather than worthless things. Oh that we would desire the glories of God rather than the things of this earth.

The steps that this blind man took are as simple as they are profound: be where you need to be, hear what you need to hear, say what you need to say, obey when Jesus speaks, and ask of Him only those things that He can give you, and no one else!

Bartimaeus received his sight, and Jesus said to him, ‘Go your way; your faith has made you well.’ Rather than going his own way however, Bartimaeus followed Jesus on the road, because he knew there was no place he would rather be than in the presence of the one who can heal, restore, make new, and reconcile us unto God.

With love in Christ,
Michael Boldea Jr.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

The Goodness and Severity of God

I have always believed that if you preach and believe a balanced gospel, you will be a balanced believer. If the gospel you believe and the gospel you preach is out of whack, if it is not proportionally balanced, then there is a very real possibility that your spiritual man will likewise be out of whack and disproportional.

Today we will be discussing the goodness, and the severity of God. I realize you’ve probably heard more than one sermon or read more than one teaching on the goodness of God, but chances are good that you haven’t heard or read too many on the severity of God.

The Bible speaks of both attributes, it speaks of God being a good God, and it also speaks of God being a jealous God. The Bible also speaks of His goodness, as well as His severity. When we pick and choose only a certain attribute and run with it, we become disjointed, and our view of who God truly is, is limited and one dimensional, as opposed to the reality of His multi dimensional personality.

Today’s teaching will not be a lighthearted one, but it will be Biblical, true, forthright and challenging. I believe with all my heart that as believers we need to be challenged from time to time, we need to be instructed in the ways of the Lord; we need to be shown the narrow path of faith that we might follow it faithfully. Yes, even chastening is good for us as believers, because the Lord chastens those whom He loves.

Yes, God has a standard, yes, God has requirements, and although playing the ‘build your own religion’ game is very popular nowadays, when you build your own religion, you end up inventing your own god, who has nothing in common with the one true God. You know what I am talking about; you’ve seen these aberrant doctrines sprouting up everywhere, one more heretical and foolish then the last. The reason these things occur, is because we pick and choose only the scripture passages that suit us, we pick and choose only those verses that don’t challenge us, and with a handful of verses, we fashion our religion, dismissing the rest of God’s holy Word. If we want to be with Him in His kingdom, we must run the race by adhering to the rules that He set forth. It is that simple.

As a backdrop to today’s teaching we will be focusing on a passage out of the gospel according to Luke, as well as one verse out of Paul’s epistle to the Romans.

Luke 13:1-9, “There were present at that season some who told Him about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mingled with their sacrifices. And Jesus answered and said to them,
‘Do you suppose that these Galileans were worse sinners than all other Galileans, because they suffered such things? I tell you, no; unless you repent you will all likewise perish. Or those eighteen on whom the tower in Siloam fell and killed them, do you think that they were worse sinners than all other men who dwelt in Jerusalem? I tell you no; but unless you repent you will all likewise perish.
He also spoke this parable: ‘A certain man had a fig tree planted in his vineyard, and he came seeking fruit on it and found none. Then he said to the keeper of his vineyard, ‘Look, for three years I have come seeking fruit on this fig tree and find none. Cut it down; why does it use up the ground? But he answered and said to him’, ‘Sir, let it alone this year also, until I dig around it and fertilize it. And if it bears fruit, well. But if not after that you can cut it down.”

Romans 11:22, “Consider the goodness and the severity of God: on those who fell, severity; but toward you, goodness, if you continue in His goodness. Otherwise you also will be cut off.”

Although these two passages come from two different books of the Bible, they both have a common thread running through them. That common thread is the goodness and the severity of God. Although the passage in Romans comes right out and is very clear on these two aspects of God’s nature, the passage in Luke gives us a parable consisting of a fig tree that would not bear fruit, even though it was planted in the vineyard.

What I find amazing is that although some two thousand years have passed since this encounter between Jesus and those who told Him of the Galileans that had been murdered by Pilate, men’s proclivity to spread bad news hasn’t lessened or ceased. Bad news still travels fast, as it did in Jesus’ day, and rather than inquire or request greater detail, Christ’s only answer was,

‘Do you suppose that these Galileans were worse sinners than all other Galileans because they suffered such things? I tell you, no; unless you repent you will all likewise perish.’

At first glance this would seem like an overly harsh rebuke, since these men had only passed on some news they had heard, but what Christ was trying to relay to them, was that if they were not presently suffering, if they were not presently mourning, it was not due to their good works, it was not due to their own righteousness but rather it was due to the grace of God.

Consider that these men that Pilate killed, were not evil men, they were not drunkards or murderers, they were men who were in the temple bringing sacrifice to God when Pilate came in and slaughtered them.

So what does this mean? Well, it means that death is general in its essence. All men must die, it is a debt that all men pay; the only aspect of death that is variable is its form. Some perish at Pilate’s hand, others because the tower of Siloam fell on them, others die of old age, starvation, or some disease, or some accident, so the form is variable, but the essence is general.

So how do we escape death? How do we escape perishing? We find the answer in the words of Jesus. We escape perishing, by repenting. Jesus said that unless we repent, we would all likewise perish. Now taking this statement to its rightful conclusion, we discover that those who repent will not perish, but rather they will have everlasting life.

Another thing that is worthy of note, is that only the gospel according to Luke relates this particular exchange, and if we study the Word carefully we discover that this exchange took place during the last week of Christ’s life on this earth. So what is the relevance of the fig tree? Why is it important that we discover its privileges, and why it was in danger of being cut down?

Why would Jesus, during the last week of His life on earth speak this parable?

As always, whenever Jesus spoke, it was to teach, to open the eyes of His hearers, and by way of the Word our eyes as well, to certain truths and realities that we must understand so that we might grow, mature, and be His fruitful ambassadors.

The first privilege of this fig tree, planted in the vineyard, was the fact that it was a fig tree. It could have been a thorn bush, it could have been a reed, but it was in fact a fig tree. It was not some wild bush, it was a noble tree. We were all as thorns and thistles; we were all ignoble, unable to produce any good fruit.

Absent of Christ in one’s heart, there is no such thing as a good person.

Titus 3:3-7, “For we ourselves were also once foolish, disobedient, deceived, serving various lusts and pleasures, living in malice and envy, hateful and hating one another. But when the kindness and the love of God our Savior toward man appeared, not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us, through the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit, whom He poured out on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Savior, that having been justified by His grace we should become heirs according to the hope of eternal life.”

We are not what we once were dear friends. We were once foolish, disobedient, deceived and hateful, but then something glorious and wonderful happened. The love of God toward man appeared, through the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit, and abundantly so through Jesus Christ our Savior. We have been justified by His grace, and have become heirs according to the hope of eternal life. We are no longer thorns, we are no longer thistle, we are noble trees, planted by the waters, and as such must produce good and noble fruit.

Because we have been made children of God, regardless of the denomination we belong to, God has greater expectations of us, than He has of someone who never knew Him, someone who never experienced His love and His grace. There is a standard that comes with being a child of God that we must uphold, and this standard was not established by men, but by God Himself.

The second great privilege that the fig tree had, (and if we understand the spiritual implications, the privilege that we have as children of God), is that it was placed there with a purpose. The fig tree was planted in the vineyard that it might bear good fruit. It was the only reason that it was planted in the vineyard, it was the only reason that the ground was dug up.

We were planted in God’s vineyard for one reason as well, that reason being, to bear the fruit of righteousness, to posses the spiritual fruit that is evident in a life that is wholly surrendered to God.

Jesus never said you will know them by their denominational affiliation, Jesus never said you will know them by what kind of car they drive, Jesus never said you will know them by the nifty cross lapel pin they have on their sports coats, Jesus said you will know them by their fruit.

It is our fruit that distinguish us between those who are still thorns and thistles, and those who were planted of God to be a noble tree in His vineyard.

So what is this fruit that we ought to possess, what is this fruit that we ought to produce?

Galatians 5:22-23, “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self control. Against such there is no law.”

These attributes of Christian character and of the Christian life must always be with us, and in us, shining through us that the world might see Jesus in our conduct, actions, words, and life.

We need to go on from the theory of spiritual fruit, to the practical application, and visible results of spiritual fruit. Otherwise, we are but trees absent of true life.

The third great privilege that the fig tree had is that it occupied a piece of earth in the master’s vineyard. Another tree could have readily been planted in its place, one that would bear fruit, and so, even being rooted in the vineyard, even occupying the piece of earth that the fig tree occupied was a privilege in and of itself. You are blessed because you are planted in God’s vineyard; you are privileged because you belong to the family of God. Just consider all the time that it took to plant this fig tree, all the labor that went into making sure that it would be fruitful, from being planted, to being watered, to being taken care of, yet after three years, there was still no fruit.

Another aspect of the fig tree that we must take into account is that it was indebted to the master of the vineyard. The master of the vineyard planted it, watered it, and the fig tree was indebted to bear fruit.

So how do we bear fruit for the master of the vineyard? By reaching out to the hurting, the hungry, the desperate, the lonely, and showing them the love of God. When we show benevolence to the least of these, the Word says we have done it unto Him.

Another question that arises is what are the practical lessons that we can learn from this parable of the fig tree? We have learned that simply being part of the family of God is a privilege in and of itself, we have witnessed the goodness of God, in that He planted us and watered us, but now we must also behold the severity of God.

The first lesson we learn concerning the severity of God, is that when we are fruitless, when we produce no fruit, we run the risk of being cut off, of being cut down. The opposite of fruitfulness is not fruitfulness in the sight of God, but rather death. The master of the vineyard did not behold the fig tree and say, ‘leave it; it might serve as shade to a weary traveler.’

The master of the vineyard did not behold the fruitlessness of his labors and say, ‘at least it looks good in my vineyard, we should let it be’, he told the keeper of his vineyard to cut it down.

We need to be aware of, and acknowledge both the goodness and the severity of God. Our God is a jealous God, and His expectation of His children extends to nothing less than their all.

The second lesson that we learn concerning the severity of God, is that there is no justification, or excuse for our being fruitless. We cannot justify our apathy; we cannot justify our indifference before an all knowing God.

The excuses that we can come up with are wide ranging, from not having enough time, to just not feeling like it, to having other things to do, but at the end of the day, all it is, is an excuse. God does not accept excuses as justification for our fruitlessness, this is a lesson many of us must take to heart.

When God calls the only acceptable response is to answer His call, when God commands the only acceptable response is to obey His command. If God has called you to be fruitful, then He will equip you that you might be fruitful.

Throughout the Bible, we see a running theme whenever God called one of His servants, and that was they answered the call without delay. Whether it be the apostle Matthew, or Andrew and Simon, they did not offer up a reason why they should not follow after Christ in that instant, they did not attempt to delay their following after Christ, but in an instant they left behind everything they knew, they left behind family, friends, jobs, and business and followed after Jesus with their whole hearts.

If we still stand it is by the grace of God, if we are still here, it is by the grace of God. It’s not because we are better than our peers and contemporaries, it is because the grace of God has encompassed us; it is because the goodness of God has been evident in our lives.

The danger however arises when we take God’s goodness for granted and even abuse it. When we behold the goodness of our God, in all its many facets, and in our hearts consider it trite and banal, when we are unwilling to bear fruit because we believe we are simply entitled to everything we ever wanted, it is then that God stands ready to cut down the tree, to remove us from His vineyard.

It is a sad truth, a tragic truth that those who worship dead gods and false idols are often times more committed than those of us who worship and serve the one true God. I know this might seem unkind, this may strike a chord, but it is the truth, and you know it, and I know it.

The world is more committed to its idols, than believers are to the cause of Christ. The world is more committed to promoting sin and evil, than the children of God are committed to promoting the truth and righteousness of God.

Every time God calls us, we shrug our shoulders and say, ‘Lord, find another. I’m too busy, I’m too stressed, I have other things to worry about.’ Every time we are called to bear fruit, we shrug our shoulders and say, ‘maybe next season, when life won’t be so hectic, when distractions won’t be so plentiful.’

There is no next season dear friend, there is no next year, now is the only time that we are guaranteed, now is the only season that we have to bear the fruit of the Spirit, to be the walking, talking, giving, loving embodiments of Christ Jesus.

If we do not start bearing fruit, the bramble will, and the fruit that the bramble bears is neither good, nourishing, wholesome nor life giving. What am I referring to? Well, a parable that a man by the name Jotham spoke in Judges chapter nine, wherein the trees once went forth to anoint a king over them. First they approached the olive tree, but the olive tree turned them down because it did not want to cease giving its oil, then they went to the fig tree, but the fig tree turned them down because it did not want to cease giving its fruit, they then approached the vine, but the vine turned them down because it did not want to cease giving is wine. Finally the trees went to the bramble, and said you come reign over us.

Why is this parable important? Because the bramble that the Bible is speaking of is nothing more than a prickly shrub or bush, that chokes off other vegetation. Something will fill the void! If it’s not the truth, if it’s not spiritual fruit, the enemy will be more than happy to fill it with deception and bramble.

The last lesson that we must learn concerning the severity of God, is that the axe is at the root of the tree. It was only due to the keeper of the vineyard’s pleading that the fig tree was allowed one more year. It was only because the keeper of the vineyard begged the master of the vineyard to allow him one last chance to try and make the fig tree fruitful that it survived yet another season. We do not learn what happened to the fig tree, but we know what will happen to us as individuals if we continue to dismiss and take lightly the grace of God, if we continue to wave off the pleas of those who cry out not for our money, not for our credit card numbers, not for our seed offerings, but for our hearts and repentance.

The master of the vineyard approaches once more. Once more He comes to see the fruit, once more He comes to see what we have produced. Are you fruitful? That is the question that only you can answer for yourself.

With love in Christ,
Michael Boldea Jr.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010


A tick made its way onto the back of an elephant one evening as the elephant was sleeping. As morning came, the elephant awoke and went about doing what elephants do for the rest of the day. The tick held on for dear life, and as morning became noon and noon became dusk, the elephant lay down once again for his nightly slumber. With a proud cry the tick yelled out, ‘I knew I’d wear you out eventually!’

The next morning, the elephant awakens stirring from its slumber once more, and caught unaware, the tick flies off the elephant’s back.

Although we like to deceive ourselves into believing we are the elephant in this story, the truth of the matter is that we are the ticks. Even though we beat our chests, walk tall, and have a better opinion of ourselves than we ought, thinking ourselves the elephant, it takes something quite miniscule and insignificant to show us the true measure of our impotence and remind us that we are not in control.

Some have warmed to the idea that this present generation has managed to wear God out, that He has finally acquiesced and no longer demands righteousness or holiness, that He readily accepts or at least overlooks the sin in our hearts and the blood on our hands because intelligent as we are, we’ve managed to show Him the error of His ways. Some truly believe that this present generation has managed by its ingenuity and prowess to change God’s mind, while others, reminiscent of the fools at Babel simply attempt to reach heaven that they might dethrone Him. Then, once in awhile something happens; God stirs; the earth that is His footstool does the unexpected and throws us into a tailspin, showing us just how powerless we truly are.

If the earth is His footstool, as the Bible says, then we are but mere specks upon His footstool. All He has to do from time to time, to show us who is still in charge is move a toe, or simply twitch it imperceptibly, and the earth shakes, volcanoes erupt and we are brought back to the realization of just how fragile and passing a creature man is.

There is one transcendent worth in man, and that is the grace and love of God that He has so mercifully bestowed upon us. When we forget this, when Kong like in our insolence we begin beat our chests and thumb our noses at Him, He sends small reminders that we are in fact creation, and He is eternal and omnipotent Creator.

With love in Christ,
Michael Boldea Jr.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Lessons from The Ark

Genesis 7:1-9, “Then the Lord said to Noah, ‘Come into the ark, you and all your household because I have seen that you are righteous before me in this generation. You shall take with you seven each of every clean animal, a male and his female; two each of animals that are unclean, a male and his female; also seven each of birds of the air, male and female, to keep the species alive on the face of all the earth. For after seven more days I will cause it to rain on the earth forty days and forty nights, and I will destroy from the face of the earth all living things that I have made. And Noah did according to all that the Lord had commanded him. Noah was six hundred years old when the flood of waters was on the earth. So Noah, his sons, his wife, and his son’s wives, went into the ark because of the waters of the flood. Of clean beasts, of beasts that are unclean, of birds, and of everything that creeps on the earth, two by two they went into the ark to Noah, male and female, as God had commanded Noah.”

Today we look back at a sad moment in mankind’s history. A time when the population of the world had grown, and multiplied, blanketing the earth. With the great growth in numbers however, there came an explosion of evil, and as the population grew, it seemed so did the evil they did in the sight of God. As God beheld His creation, as God beheld their continual evil, as God looked into their hearts and all He saw there was evil intent, He was grieved in His heart and decided to destroy the whole of His creation. This time He would do it by water, and although some men who are educated beyond their intelligence continue to claim that it was only a partial flood, the Word is very clear that God’s intent was to destroy man from the face of the earth, both man and beast, creeping thing and even the birds of the air.

There is this misconception that God no longer loved His creation, but this is not the case. God was grieved, and the fact that He was grieved, proves that He loved His creation tenderly and deeply. One cannot grieve, over what one does not care for. Although He loved His creation, His righteousness demanded that He judge righteously, because God cannot contradict His own nature.

Parallels can be made at this juncture, but I believe the readers of this blog are of above average intelligence, and can readily make the comparisons, and draw the parallels themselves.

Now that God had come to this decision, He looked across the span of the world, and found one man. There was one man who found grace in the eyes of the Lord, one man who was perfect in His generation, one man that still walked with God. It would seem that every time God begins a work, every time God is preparing to do something out of the ordinary, He seeks out that one man.

One thing that we must understand is that Noah didn’t find grace in the eyes of God because he was perfect, he was found perfect, because he found grace in the sight of God. I realize you may be wondering what the distinction is, and I assure you, it’s a big one. Noah didn’t earn his perfection in the sight of God it was God’s grace that made Him perfect.

If Noah is considered by most to be the master carpenter of the Old Testament, Jesus Christ is the master carpenter of the New Testament. Two carpenters, separated by millennia, yet both changed the history of the world in very dramatic fashions. If through Noah the lineage of the human race was able to continue existing, through Christ, mankind was able to be reconciled unto God, for Christ overcame both sin and death, taking our burdens upon Himself and making us sons and daughters of God.

God comes to Noah, and lays out a blueprint for him. Although it had never rained, God tells Noah to build an ark, which theologians estimate was four hundred and fifty feet long, seventy five feet wide, and forty five feet high. It was to be a three storied structure, and it was to be inhabited with all manner of animals, two of some, seven of others, as well as Noah and his family.

Although the way the ark would have looked has been romanticized over the years, if we look at the measurements, we get the idea that it was just big and boxy. So, what can we learn from this ark that took Noah one hundred and twenty years to build? What practical lessons can we take away from it?

The first thing we learn, the first lesson that leaps off the pages of Scripture, is that God’s plan was only one ark. Yes, God had a plan, and it was for one lone ark.

Even though in our modern age it has become popular to point to other faiths, other religions, and even systems of philosophy and say they too can save you, the truth is that as God prepared one ark to save Noah and His family thousands of years ago, He prepared only one ark to save mankind today, and that ark is called Jesus.

Acts 4:12, “Nor is there salvation in any other, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.”

Jesus is the only way to salvation; Jesus is the door through which we must walk to enter into God’s eternal kingdom. Anyone other than Jesus, any other faith than faith in Jesus is nothing more than an illusion, a mirage that will never materialize; a baseless hope that will one day lead to destruction. God has prepared a way for you to be saved, and that way is Christ Jesus, the Son of God, who hung on a cross, who bled and who died for your sins and mine.

Don’t miss out on your opportunity to enter the ark, don’t miss out on your opportunity to be saved, because no man is guaranteed another chance, no man is guaranteed another opportunity to enter into a relationship with Jesus.

The ark was black. In fact the Bible tells us it was covered with pitch both on the outside and on the inside, so it was not pleasing to the eye, it was not sparkly; it was not exciting to look at. It was big and boxy, covered in pitch, most likely having a very unpleasant smell. This was no cruise ship, this was no sailboat; it had no characteristics that would attract someone to it.

Often times, the truth is neither shiny, nor pleasing to the eye, it is not enchanting or attractive, but the truth, like the ark will save your life. Only the devil polishes his lies, and makes them shine brilliantly in the midday sun, only the enemy wants to make a hideous thing look pleasing to the eye, so that it would attract men to it.

Let’s be honest, the truths of God are not enticing, as some would define it. To humble yourself, to pray, to spend your free time with other believers, to go visit the sick, to crucify your flesh, to be giving and charitable, to many these things are not attractive at all. No the truths of God are not enticing for the flesh, but they are glorious and fulfilling to the Spirit.

So many believers today waste their time chasing mists, so many spend their days chasing clouds without water, because to them, these things seem more entertaining, attractive, or enticing than the simple, direct, unpolished truth of God’s holy Word.

‘Well, yes, we know that the Bible tells us to fast, and pray, and read the Word, we know it says that we ought to be holy as God is holy, but those things just sound so boring. We want entertainment, we want to be dazzled, we want to be wowed, we want to laugh, and be complemented, not rebuked and be told to repent.’

And so, because we don’t like being challenged, because we would rather hear someone flatter us undeservedly than tell us the truth in love, we chase after illusions that do nothing to bring us into a right standing with God, and that do nothing to reconcile us unto God.

More could be said on this topic, but since we are discussing the lessons we can learn from the ark, I will refrain and continue with the teaching.

The second lesson that we must learn from the ark, as well as from Noah’s experience, is that you and I, all of us should obey God even if we are retired. If Noah was six hundred years old when he got on the ark, it means that God called him to build it when he was four hundred and eighty years old, since it took him one hundred and twenty years to complete it.

Because God found pleasure in Noah, He called him at four hundred and eighty years of age, to build an ark for one hundred and twenty years. God called Noah to labor, not to enjoy the twilight of his existence, and Noah obeyed, because he both knew and trusted the voice of God. You are never too old, or too young for that matter to be useful to God and His kingdom. You are never too old or too young to labor in the harvest field of souls.

Enoch was sixty five years old when God called him, Abraham was seventy five when God called him, Moses was even older; he was eighty when God called him. When we speak of serving God, we often eliminate the young and the old. The common thinking, as far as the young are concerned, is that they are too young to serve.

‘Let them grow, mature, become seasoned’, is what one readily hears. Once they grow and mature, well, then they’re too seasoned; they are too old, not as quick and limber as they once were.

So what we have in essence, is this small wind of time between youth and old age, wherein we are supposed to get married, have children, get a mortgage, buy a dog, and serve God, somewhere between twenty five and forty five years of age. When we eliminate the young and the old from serving God, that’s essentially what we get. A twenty year time span in which serving God will compete with earning a living, naming our firstborn, buying a newer car, and the myriad of other things that come with starting a family.

You are never too young to serve God, nor are you ever too old to serve God. When God calls you to serve Him, serve Him with all your heart. I was twelve when I first started in ministry as my grandfather’s translator, and after his passing, at the age of twenty two I began preaching on my own. There were countless people who encouraged me to wait awhile, to take a break, to get a little older, but all I knew was that God had called me, not for a future time, but for that present time. If God is calling you, obey dear friend, obey.

The third lesson we learn from the ark, is to serve God even when it isn’t fashionable or popular. Walk with God even if no one else is. Consider the fact that God looked over the face of the earth, and found only one man who was perfect in his generation. It was not popular to walk with God in Noah’s day, just as it isn’t popular to walk with God in our day. It’s popular to pretend to serve God, it’s popular to want to use God to get that new house, or that new car, but true faith, that faith that transforms you wherein you are no longer conformed to the world, that faith that causes you to fall to your knees with true repentance and brokenness of heart, that faith is not popular today.

Noah was not a man in fashion, he was not in step with the social norm, and while the hearts of his generation were filled with evil continually, his heart alone was filled with the grace of God.

When we walk with God, our singular desire is to please Him; our singular desire is to worship at His feet.

The instant Noah got off the ark, the instant the waters receded enough so that they could disembark Noah built an altar to the Lord and worshipped Him. His heart belonged to God, and it did not concern him that others had mocked him; it did not concern him that others had turned their backs on him; it did not concern him that others had rejected him, Noah had God, and God was more than enough.

The fourth lesson that we learn, is obey God, even if what He requires of you is beyond your understanding. It had never rained before, yet here is God telling Noah to build an ark, because not only would it rain for the first time, but it would rain with such abundant ferocity that it would flood the entire earth. Noah didn’t start asking God what rain was, he did not start inquiring as to how there could be so much accumulated water that it would flood the earth, he set about obeying the voice of God.

I could only imagine how ridiculous his contemporaries thought him, as Noah began to build the ark, and as they came by and asked what he was doing, he would tell them, ‘it’s going to rain, the earth is going to flood.’

Then once the ark was finished, and God told Noah to go inside with all of his family, I imagine there was another moment of mocking and scorn, wherein they were in the ark for seven days before the first drop of rain fell upon the earth. Seven days, the ark stood open, and people mocked. Seven days Noah and his family were inside, and the people of his time were outside laughing at them and ridiculing them. Given that people have been mocking our ministry for over twenty years, in fact up until about a year or so ago when we would say judgment was coming, the economy was going to flounder, civil unrest would be visible, and natural disasters would increase, seven days doesn’t seem like allot, but I’m sure it was plenty for Noah.

Noah obeyed God, because he trusted God. Learn to obey God, even when you don’t fully understand why He is asking something of you.

When you walk in obedience, you walk in assurance and authority. When you walk in obedience of God’s instruction, you’re no longer concerned with what people might think or say about you, because you know that you are simply doing what God has instructed you to do. It’s not men that will give you the passing grade; it’s not men that we must impress or attempt to please, but God and God alone.

So often we miss out on what God has for us, because we back away from what He is asking of us. The reason that we back away, most often, is because we don’t wholly or fully understand why God would ask a certain task of us, we cannot reason it out in our heads, and so we begin to doubt.

Consider the fact that it had never rained before. Noah had never seen a raindrop in his entire life, yet when God told him to build the ark, and that it would rain until the entire earth was covered over, he did not doubt, he simply obeyed, and did as God requested. It was not an easy task, it wasn’t like God asked him to chop down a tree, or give his neighbor a glass of water, this was a hundred and twenty year long labor intensive task, yet Noah completed it faithfully.

Another worthwhile lesson that we learn from the ark, is that we are all in the same boat. If we are servants of Christ, we are all in Christ. All the animals were in that ark, the lion and the tiger, the wolf and the lamb, yet none of them attacked each other, the wolf did not eat the lamb, the lion did not attack the zebra. We sail upon the dark seas of this world, and we are all in the same ark. There is no other hope dear friend, there is no other means of salvation, and there is no other ark, there is only Jesus, and if we are in Jesus we are new creatures, transformed in mind and heart, anxiously awaiting the return of our Lord.

The last lesson that we must learn from the ark, and the experience of Noah and his family throughout their entire ordeal, is that there is always a rainbow after the storm. After every storm, after every torrential downpour, the rainbow appears. Noah waited one hundred and fifty days for the waters to recede, but when God opened the door to the ark, it was all worth it. Noah saw a new world, with new priorities, and he was the man that was used of God.

If it is raining today, if it is storming in your life today, remember that once the storm passes, the rainbow will appear. We must remain in the ark of salvation until the rainbow appears, and not a minute sooner.

There are many today who say that God promised us sunshine, but all He promised us was heaven. He promised us an eternity with Him, in His kingdom. He never promised that while on this earth, while on this journey, we would not have dark clouds and stormy days.

If today it is dark and cloudy, if today the storm seems ominous and long, remember that after the dark clouds pass, the sun will appear in the skies, and we will know the warmth of it once more. The day is near dear friend, and the enemy is attempting to steal the joy of our salvation, when we are so close to the finish line.

Cling to Jesus, remain in Jesus until you see the rainbow, until you stand before Him and behold His face. Don’t let go, because there is nothing in this world that can compare with what Jesus has for you, there is nothing in this world that compares with what God has prepared for His children, for His beloved, for those whom he finds righteous and just in their generation.

Remember, that there is only one ark, remember that when God calls you must answer, remember to serve God even when it’s not fashionable of popular, Remember to obey even if you don’t fully understand, and last but not least remember that there is always a rainbow after every storm.

With love in Christ,

Michael Boldea Jr.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Why Men Reject Christ

When I first started doing the outline for the following teaching, I did not imagine it would be as heart wrenching as it turned out to be. At certain times in my studies, I even contemplated scrapping the entire teaching, telling myself that I had bitten off more than I could chew. I pressed on however, because I believe today’s teaching is an important one, especially given the spiritual climate of our present age.

Today, we will attempt to answer a question that has been on the minds and hearts of many believers, but rarely verbalized.

The question is this: Why do men reject Christ?

I realize this is not a comfortable topic, and it’s not supposed to be, but we can’t just bury our heads in the sand and deny that it is happening just because we’d rather not talk about it than actually confront it. The tragic truth is that even today men are rejecting Jesus, and men are forsaking Him, just as readily as they did two thousand years ago. This does not promise to be a lighthearted teaching, but it is a necessary teaching.

John 6:60-68, “Therefore many of His disciples, when they heard this, said, ‘this is a hard saying; who can understand it?’ When Jesus knew in Himself that His disciples murmured about this, He said to them, ‘does this offend you? What then if you should see the Son of Man ascend where He was before? It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh profits nothing. The words that I speak to you are spirit, and they are life. But there are some of you who do not believe.’ For Jesus knew from the beginning who they were who did not believe, and who would betray Him. And He said, ‘Therefore I have said to you that no one can come to Me unless it has been granted to him by My Father.’
From that time many of His disciples went back and walked with Him no more. Then Jesus said to the twelve, ‘Do you also want to go away?’ Then Simon Peter answered Him, ‘Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.”

There are two things that disturb me each time I read, or teach out of this passage of scripture. The first, is the fact that those who rejected the words of Christ, rejected both the spirit, and the life, meaning that they remained dead in their sins and trespasses, and the second thing is that those who rejected Jesus, who went balk and walked with Him no more, were not few, but rather many in number. In fact the word infers that only the twelve remained.

To understand the gravity of these people’s rejection, we must get a glimpse of the timeline of when this event took place. It was shortly after Jesus took five loaves and two fish, and fed five thousand men with them. Since we know that by Jewish custom it was only adult males who were counted and accounted for, when we include women and children the number could have been allot higher than five thousand. These people had seen Jesus bless five barley loaves, and two small fish, then proceed to feed the entire crowd that had gathered there. It was also within the context of this passage that we see Jesus standing amidst the people, giving thanks, His disciples going away in boats, and Jesus appearing in Capernaum, on the other side of the sea, without having ever gotten into a boat.

When the crowd saw that Jesus was no longer among them, they too got into their boats, and came to Capernaum. Once they arrived, their one question was ‘Rabbi when did You come here?’

The answer Jesus gave them should humble every heart that seeks after Christ for the wrong motives. I know that this will hit close to home for some, but it is the truth of God’s word, and not my own words, that I am declaring to you today.

John 6:26, “Then Jesus answered them and said, ‘Most assuredly I say to you, you seek Me, not because you saw the signs, but because you ate of the loaves and were filled.”

At this point I could picture Jesus shaking His head in dismay. What He spoke to these men that had sailed across the sea in their boats, was nothing less than a severe rebuke. They sought Him not because they believed He was the Son of God, not because they had seen the power with which He had been endowed, but because their bellies were full. There are many people today who serve God with ulterior motives in their hearts. There are many people today who serve God just because they get to eat loaves and fish, and have their bellies full. It is not because love compelled them to fall at the foot of the cross in repentance it is because they believe they can get something out of coming to church every once in awhile. If the reason we serve Jesus is anything less than true worship, if the reason we serve Jesus is not anchored in spirit and in truth, then when the loaves stop appearing, and when trials begin to descend upon us, we will walk with Him no more, just as the many who rejected Him.

Search your heart today, look into the mirror of God’s word, and be certain that you are serving Him because of who He is and what He has already done for you, and not for what you hope He might do for you.

I’ve talked to enough people throughout my twenty two years of ministry to have heard some real interesting answers to the question, “Why are you a Christian, and why do you worship Jesus?”

Since time does not permit me to go into detail I will just give you what I believe are the top three most interesting or foolish answers I’ve received to that question. These answers took me by surprise, and even shocked me to such an extent that I even remember the time and place I heard them.

The third most interesting or foolish answer I heard when I asked why someone was a Christian, and why they worshiped Jesus, came from a young lady in Pensacola Florida. Her answer was, ‘because I want to find a good husband!’ Now in and of itself there is nothing wrong with this desire, but when you feign serving God just so that He would make this desire come to pass in your life, it’s time to search your heart and really see where you are in your relationship with Jesus.

The second most interesting or foolish answer came via another young lady in Mission Viejo California, and her answer was, ‘because I want to be successful in my music career.’

And the number one, all time most interesting or foolish answer to the question why someone was a Christian, came from a middle aged man in Colorado Springs Colorado, who with a straight face, said, that he became a Christian so that he could win the lottery.

God sees your motive, and your motivation. He sees the intent of your heart, just as readily as Jesus saw the hearts of those who had tracked Him down in Capernaum. If our heart’s desire is only to be served by Him, but not to serve Him, then we do not really know Him, nor have we surrendered our hearts to Him.

So why do people reject Jesus? Why did most of His disciples go away and walk with Him no more and why do some continue to do it to this day? The first reason people reject Christ is because His teachings are radical. What Jesus was saying was so new, and it surpassed what they were able to understand with their human intellect and reason. Here He stood before them, and told them He was the bread of life, and if anyone ate of that bread they would live forever. They couldn’t process what Jesus was speaking to them, because they had no spiritual eyes to see the truth of His affirmation.

God’s Word is radical! God’s teachings are radical! The Word of God is not intended to please everyone, but it is intended to challenge the sinner to repentance, to compel the wayward to return to Him. This faith in Christ, this path that we follow is not a religion of circumstance, wherein as long as we are doing well then we will serve Him, but as soon as the clouds begin gathering on the horizon we disavow ourselves of Him.

Jesus is not a go along to get along Lord, and it is time some of us understood this truth. Remember the parable of the marriage feast? Remember when the king came in to see his guests and he saw a man there that had no wedding garment? What did the king do? Did he look upon the man and say it’s alright you can stay? Did he look upon the man and say maybe you should go change? Did he offer the man one more chance to go put on his wedding garment?

Matthew 22:13, “Then the king said to the servants, bind him hand and foot, take him away, and cast him into outer darkness; there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.”

The man had already been given a second chance when the King sent his servants into the highways and byways, inviting as many as they could find to the wedding. There were no more chances for him, and the king ordered that be bound and cast into the outer darkness. It is well to speak of the goodness of God, but we must be ever mindful of the justice and righteousness of God as well.

Human reason and our own wicked pride so often reject the message of the cross. We think ourselves too wise, we think ourselves too advanced, we think ourselves too civilized and progressive to humble ourselves and seek His grace and mercy. Before we get full of ourselves, before we consider ourselves the pinnacle of human intellect, I would encourage you to find some writings from two thousand years ago, from eighteen hundred years ago, of great men of the faith that came before us, and see the wisdom that flowed through their quills. For some reason we have a stunted view of those who came before us, and are surprised to learn, that those in Jesus’ day, who were the Pharisees and Sadducees of the time actually had the first five books of the Bible memorized. Can you say that about yourself? I know I can’t say it about myself.

As pride rejected the message of the cross two thousand years ago, it rejects the message of the cross today.

So why is the message of the cross so radical? Why is it that so many reject it?

Because of the compulsory requirements that must be met when we humble ourselves at the cross of Christ.

First, the cross of Christ demands a total renunciation of self. It presupposes that we surrender our all to Him. Our intellect, our pride, our wisdom, our flesh, our hearts, everything must be laid upon the altar.

Second of all, the cross of Christ demands unconditional service. Jesus never promised that if we followed Him He would make us all senators; Jesus didn’t promise that if we followed Him he would make us all millionaires, Jesus simply said, “Take my yoke upon you and learn from Me. For my yoke is easy and My burden is light.” There was no job description, Jesus never specified whether you or I would be management or labor, there was no discussion of a compensatory package, it was simply a command, to take His yoke, and learn from Him. Jesus never modified the message of His teaching to suit the hearer. He didn’t have one gospel for the rich and one for the poor, one gospel for the wise men and one for the less intelligent. He spoke the same message of repentance and of being born again to one as Nicodemus who came to Him by night, as well as the woman at the well who was in sin.

Men also turn away from Jesus, reject Him, and walk with Him no more due to fear of other men. We can’t identify with Jesus too much, because we’re embarrassed of others. We can’t talk about Jesus too often, because the neighbors might get the wrong idea about us, or the people at work might mock us, or our family might disown us. So we’ll be chameleon Christians, we’ll blend in, we’ll yell the ‘hallelujah’ when everyone else is doing it, or be as quiet as a church mouse when everyone around us is mocking Jesus and blaspheming His name.

Proverbs 29:25, “The fear of man brings a snare, but whoever trusts in the Lord shall be safe.”

We are so afraid of what others might think that many of us would rather keep silent and watch people marching toward destruction, than tell them about the love and grace of Christ. Yes, the fear of man brings a snare, it keeps you from being a light to those who are in the darkness, it keeps you from proclaiming Jesus and testifying of all that He has done for you and in you.

Too many Christians today prefer to come to Jesus, but only like Nicodemus at night when no one can see them. Too many Christians today act as though they are ashamed of Jesus. When I was younger, I would read this one verse in the gospel according to Mark, and wonder how it could ever be? How could someone be ashamed of Christ? Why would Jesus see it as such an issue that he would take the time to comment on it? The scripture I am referring to is found in:

Mark 8:38, “For whoever is ashamed of Me and My words, in this adulterous and sinful generation, of him the Son of Man also will be ashamed when He comes in the glory of His Father with the holy angels.”

I believe that’s pretty much self explanatory. I don’t need to comment on it, they are the words of Jesus, and stand as warning to all believers, especially in this generation which is as He described, adulterous and sinful. What a tragic thing, that creation is ashamed of its creator. What a tragic thing that we minimize the sovereignty and divinity of Jesus to such an extent that we consider other men’s opinions more important than His. We try to be relevant, cutting edge, impacting, and all the other buzz words you hear verbalized in Christian circles today, but what about just being Christians? Why don’t we start by not being ashamed of Jesus? Why don’t we start by declaring and proclaiming that Jesus is Lord? You can be cutting edge and relevant and still be leading people to destruction if you don’t preach Jesus.

We’ve been duped into believing that in order to get the world to respect us, we must become more like the world; We’ve been duped into believing that in order to get people to come to Jesus, we must make Jesus less controversial; We’ve been duped into believing that in order to reach the lost we must act, and speak like the lost. Show me that compromise has led to true converts, show me that these tactics we are employing were employed by the primary church, and I will be silent.

“But we have to change with the times brother Mike, you just don’t get it.”

Believe me, I get it, I get it all too clearly. The only problem with the theory of changing with the times is that we serve a God who changes not. We serve a God who is the same yesterday today and forever, and whose children have access to the same power and authority as those of the first century church did. The reason we are not reaching the lost, is because there is no power in our churches any more. The reason people aren’t encountering Christ, is because we’ve watered down the gospel to the point that it is unrecognizable. I realize I’m not endearing anyone to this ministry by saying these things, but somebody has to preach the truth, somebody has to stand up and say, “I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God unto salvation for everyone who believes”, as Paul did so long ago.

Call me a fool if you must! I will gladly bear the title. Yes, I am a fool for Christ.

Why are we so faint hearted? Why have we grown so lukewarm? Why have we become so apathetic and indifferent? Why are we unwilling to take a stand for truth anymore? What is holding us back? Is it shame? Is it indifference? Is it apathy? Whatever it is that has caused this lethargy in the house of God must be found and summarily removed. We must repent, we must draw nearer to God, and we must once more walk in confidence, and assurance, proclaiming Jesus with boldness and passion.

Yet another reason why men abandon or reject Christ is because they do not posses abiding faith, and so give in to doubt when difficulties arise. It’s not sin to ask questions. It is however sin to doubt God’s intentions.

If you’ve ever read the book of Job, you know all that he went through. Here he was having buried his ten children, having lost all his material possessions, sitting on a dung heap, his flesh caked with worms and dust, his wife encouraging him to curse God and die, having come to the point of loathing his life. In his darkest hour, in his moment of agony, Job poured out his heart, and cried out to God, hoping to receive some understanding as to why God had allowed all these things in his life.

Job 7:20, “Have I sinned? What have I done to You, O watcher of men? Why have You set me as Your target, so that I am a burden to myself?”

It was this selfsame Job however, who having poured out his heart, retained his faith in God, who continued to trust the providence of God, and who continued to serve and worship God.

One of the most beautiful scripture passages in the entire Bible to me, especially when I am going through trials, is something Job said after begging God to speak to him.

Job 13:15, “Though He slay me, yet I will trust Him.”

Cling to Jesus in your trials, cling to Jesus in your hardship, cling to Jesus in your sadness, cling to Jesus in your tears, because He is worthy of your trust and your devotion. May you posses that abiding faith that sees beyond the valley; that faith that sees beyond the trial into the land of victory. Remain anchored in the Lord, cling to Him, and you will see His hand in your life, even in the midst of your trials.

The last reason that people abandon or otherwise reject Christ, and perhaps the most painful to see given all that it entails, is love for the world. One of the most noteworthy examples of this that we find in the Word is a man named Demas, whom Paul referred to as having forsaken him having loved this present world.

Demas was a trusted member of Paul’s ministry team, and Paul even mentions him twice both in Philemon and in Colossians, both positively, but then about five years later, something happens, and Demas, the once trusted laborer, the man who most likely preached sermons, and led people to Christ, was overtaken by the love of this present world and forsook Paul.

The question that we must ask ourselves as individuals is do we love this present world, or do we love the world to come. We cannot serve two masters, and one must have preeminence, so no man can say they love this world and the one to come equally.

It is wisdom itself that compels us to surrender the fleeting and passing things of this life, in order to obtain the lasting and eternal things of the life to come. There is no way around it dear friend, the friendship of the world, and love for the world is enmity with God. Eternity beckons with each breath we take, may we be found ready to stand before the God of all creation, and may we hear those blessed words, ‘well done good and faithful servant!’

With Love in Christ,
Michael Boldea Jr.

Friday, April 2, 2010

Either Or

Perhaps it was the close proximity to Passover, or the recent buzz about digitally remaking the face of Christ from the impression left on the shroud of Turin, but this past week I had two almost identical and protracted conversations about Jesus with two individuals who held to the same position.

The position they held to was what I have dubbed ‘the safety lane argument’ or the copout, wherein they believed Jesus was a good man even a prophet, but by no means the Messiah, the Savior, the Son of God come in the flesh to redeem mankind.

Those of you who are familiar with my writings know that I will leave the hatchet in the toolbox when a scalpel will do, so if the following seems controversial, know that it was necessary.

Either Jesus was and is everything He said, either He was and continues to be the Son of God, the Truth, the Way, and the Life, or He was a monster on par with some of the cruelest villains to ever grace the pages of history.

If He was not the Son of God, then He was not a good man. If He was not the Messiah, then he was no prophet. If He was not the Christ, then He possessed not one ounce of love or compassion in His heart.

There can be no safety lane argument when it comes to Jesus. There can be no middle of the road philosophy when it comes to Christ. Either He was everything He said He was, or He was the embodiment of cruelty, with not an ounce of compassion in Him.

Just consider that twelve men who were His closest friends left their families, their businesses and their homes to follow after Him for three years, all the while being persecuted, mocked, heckled, and despised. Eventually all but one of these twelve men were martyred for the sake of Christ. Would a good person allow such a thing to happen to those he considered friends if he knew that the entire thing was a gigantic hoax?

If Jesus was not everything He claimed to be then by the very fact that these men forfeited their lives for Him disqualifies Him from being a good, decent or noble person. Most men, flawed as they might be would not wish such a life upon their enemies, never mind those he considered friends.

When men are confronted with absolute truth, they are forced to make a decision; they are forced to pick a side. Either Jesus is Lord, in which case we must worship Him as such, or His cruelty and heartlessness knew no bounds. One or the other! We can’t have it both ways, and there is no third option. This fallacy that Jesus was a good person but not the Son of God, are merely excuses and justifications for man’s own unwillingness to face the truth.

A man who once persecuted the followers of Christ with the ferocity of a wild beast was once confronted with this truth on his way to Damascus. Later he would go on to write some of the most moving and challenging words concerning the deity, nature and sovereignty of Christ ever to be penned.

1 Corinthians 15:14, “And if Christ is not risen, then our preaching is vain and your faith is also vain.”

Paul did not pen these words from a position of doubt, but rather from a position of full assurance, that Christ is risen, that He conquered death and the grave, that He was and is and forever shall be the Son of the living God, who came to this earth and hung on a cross for the sins of mankind. Christ is risen! It is the unshakable hope we carry in our hearts, which extends beyond this present life into eternity. Christ is risen, and knowing that He is risen, may we worship at His feet, may we obey His voice, and may we praise His holy name.

With love in Christ,
Michael Boldea Jr.