Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Life in the Valley Part 5

Psalm 23 “The Lord is my shepherd I shall not want. He makes me to lie down in green pastures; He leads me beside the still waters. He restores my soul; He leads me in the paths of righteousness for His name’s sake. Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil; for You are with me; Your rod and your staff, they comfort me. You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies. You anoint my head with oil; my cup runs over. Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life; and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.”

If there is one thing that has consistently impressed me about David, it is his unparalleled poetic flair. Psalm 23, is one of those psalms that reaches the heights of poetry, the heights of encouragement, the heights of comfort, and the heights of faith and hope in God. If David would have written no other psalm, if David would have penned no other thoughts, this psalm alone would have been enough to count him among the most gifted writers the world has ever known.

We have journeyed through three valleys thus far, we have even seen the beauty of the mountaintop, but today we will, by the grace of God, and the unction of the Holy Spirit, discuss the final valley, the last valley, that valley that all of us must walk sooner or later.

What I want to reiterate, because it is necessary and relevant, is that all of us, without exception, will end up in the valley sooner or later, at one point in our walk. Whether the valley of hopelessness, the valley of warfare, the valley of fear, the valley of doubt, we all descend into these valleys. Not everyone’s valley is the same, but we all descend into the valley. Whether it’s the valley of mourning due to losing a loved one, the valley of hardship due to the trials we are facing, the valley of weariness due to the constant onslaught of the enemy, we all end up in the valley. There are no super Christians, no one is exempt from the valley, and so if someone says they’ve never had to descend off the mountaintop, they’ve never had to journey through the valley, they’ve been in the valley all along and just don’t know it. If one such as the Apostle Paul had his season in the valley, if one such as John the Baptizer had his season in the valley, do we truly believe that we are more mature, faithful, spiritual, or otherwise more obedient than they? I think not.

Yes, the valley is a certainty in the life of a believer, whatever your valley might be.

The important thing however, once we end up in the valley, is to have the desire, determination, will and motivation to return to the mountaintop. We cannot grow comfortable in the valley, we cannot deceive ourselves into believing that we will never again be on the mountaintop, because on the mountaintop is where we see the power, the deliverance, the grace and the beauty of our God.

If you find yourself in the valley, do not be content there, but desire and purpose in your heart that you will arise, and begin your journey back to the mountaintop.

Although valleys differ from one individual to another, there is one valley that all men without exception must journey through. It is the only valley that every one of us shares, it is a communal, a collective valley, and no man is exempt from it.

Psalm 23:4, “Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil; for you are with me; Your rod and your staff, they comfort me.”

There are countless things that this verse and this psalm in its entirety can teach us, but the first, and without equivocation the most important truth that we glean from this psalm is how to view our shepherd. If we understand this psalm, we understand how to view God, and how to see Jesus.

Out of the hundred and seventeen words in this psalm, one hundred and fifteen of them are used to describe the first two. The psalm begins with the Lord, yes, the Lord is my shepherd. The entirety of this psalm centers around the Lord exemplifying Him, describing His love, His attributes, His grace, His mercy, and His power.

The Lord is my shepherd, and I am His sheep.

There are so many misconceptions about God, and so many people view Him in so many ways that do not line up with the Bible. He is not a genie in a bottle, waiting there, patiently so, for us to make requests and demands upon Him; He is not a grandfatherly type, with a white flowing beard, with candy in his pocket and a gentle smile, sleeping in an easy chair, who gives good advice but does not make demands, who encourages, but never rebukes or commands.

God is not an absentee father either, or a father that comes home only on weekends, uninvolved with the discipline of his children the rest of the time. We act like it though; we act like it more often than we would like to admit to ourselves. Well, Monday through Friday, dad’s away, so we can do what we want, there’s nobody there to discipline us. On Sunday however, He comes home, so we need to act proper, and wear our Sunday best, be on our best behavior because dad’s home.

No our God is not a genie, He is not a grandfatherly type, and He is not an absentee father. Our God is a mighty God, our God is a consuming fire, our God is the great I am, our God is a loving Father, and our God is the omnipotent creator of all that is.

David was a man who knew God, he was a man who spent much time in the presence of God, and the best description that he was able to find, the one noun that would encapsulate the Lord in His heart, was that of shepherd. The Lord is my shepherd. The Lord is my caretaker, my guard, my guide, my leader, my protector, my teacher, and my watcher. These are all synonyms of shepherd, and if the Lord is your shepherd, then He is all these things and more to you and for you.

The second thing the twenty third Psalm teaches us, is how to view ourselves, how to see ourselves when we are shepherded by the Lord. We discover this great truth, in the second part of the first verse. The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want. Because He is my shepherd, because He is my provider, because He is my God, I shall not want, I shall not lack.

So in light of this verse, in light of this promise, and this affirmation that we shall not want, that we shall not lack, how should we view our lives?

First of all, I must view my life, and live my life without fear. If the Lord is my shepherd, if He promises that I will not lack, then why should I fear? Do not worry for tomorrow, the good shepherd is already there preparing a way, and providing for your needs.

When fear abounds, when worry overcomes us, there can be no joy of the Lord in our hearts.

Rest in the Lord, enter His rest, know that He is able to provide, know that He is able to carry you. Does this mean that there won’t be trials? No, it doesn’t mean that, what it means is that the Lord will see us through our trials; He will see us through our valleys, because He is good and merciful.

We can choose to see the crust of bread, or the One who miraculously fed five thousand with bread. We can choose to look into the future, and worry about it, or look to our God who already knows tomorrow, and the day after, whose promises to His children remain the same.

If the Lord is our shepherd, and we will not want, we either both believe Him and stand on His word, or we call God a liar to His face. That is what it boils down to. I cannot sugar coat it, I cannot make it seem less climactic than it is, we either believe God, and run to Him, trusting Him as our shepherd, as our provider, as our joy, as our peace, and our refuge, or we call Him a liar to His face.

The third thing that the twenty third Psalm teaches us is to walk in humility. It’s not because we deserve it, it’s not because we’re better than anyone, it’s not because we have special privileges, it’s for His name’s sake that He stands with us, that goodness and mercy follow us, that He prepares a table for us in the presence of our enemies. For His name’s sake, He does these things. He is the shepherd, and we are the sheep of His pasture.

When we appropriate this humbling insight, we will never again be able to say we did anything in and of ourselves. It was not you who succeeded in your ventures, it was the shepherd that led you to green pastures, it was not you who succeeded in making your marriage work, it was the shepherd who led you in the paths of righteousness. All we are, all we have, all we’ve accomplished can be directly attributed, and credited to God, the good shepherd who watches over His sheep. All we have to do in order to succeed in every area of our lives, is obey the shepherd, in humility and supplication, following after Him, and seeking true intimacy with Him.

I’ve often contemplated why we would be compared with sheep, why David, a man of such linguistic talent could not find a better descriptive. If you took a poll of what animal people compared themselves too, I am somewhat certain that a sheep would be at the end of the list. Chances are good that a wolf, an eagle, a bear, a lion, even a cheetah would all precede the sheep in people’s estimation of themselves, because quite frankly people see themselves in more a flattering light than they ought. Yet here is David comparing himself to a sheep.

So what’s so special about a sheep? It’s not as fast as a gazelle, it doesn’t bite like a dog or a wolf, it is not cunning like the serpent, nor is it ferocious like a lion. Seriously, are there any attributes that a sheep has that make it worth comparing ourselves to?

Realize it wasn’t only David who compared himself to a sheep, but even Jesus said that we are His sheep and He is our shepherd. So, what quality does a sheep have, that no other animal does? It is by all rights defenseless, it is a meek animal, it gets lost quite easily, it is na├»ve, yet here we are, being compared to sheep.

The reason we are compared to sheep, not only by David but also by Jesus, is because a sheep is wholly dependent upon its shepherd. A sheep is dependent upon its shepherd for nourishment, it is dependent upon its shepherd for protection, it is dependent upon its shepherd for shelter, and its dependency extends to every area of its life.

It is in this dependency, it is in this absolute trust in the strength, wisdom, provision and protection of our Shepherd that we find rest, that we find joy, and that we find peace. A sheep cannot take credit for fighting off a wolf, for it is impotent to do so. It knows that its shepherd protected it. A sheep cannot take credit for its shelter. It knows that its shepherd prepared the pen. A sheep cannot take credit for its food. It knows that its shepherd led it to green pastures.

What a glorious thing it is, to know that our shepherd would leave the ninety nine to go and search out the one, what a glorious thing it is to know that our shepherd will fight off the wolves and keep us from becoming prey.

Now although this magnificent Psalm teaches us how to view our shepherd, and how to view ourselves, it also teaches us how to view or perceive our valleys.

Psalm 23:4, “Yeah, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil; for You are with me; Your rod and your staff they comfort me.”

And so, we have come to this final valley, this valley of the shadow of death that is as fearful for some as it is unavoidable for all. Yes, many fear this valley, because they have not learned a right way in which to perceive it, they have not learned how to view it through spiritual eyes, rather than the physical eyes of a temporary being.

Men fear what they do not understand, at least this is the age old adage, and although we understand more today about this valley than ever before in the history of mankind, it is still one of these unknowns, one of these mysteries, at least for those who do not know God as the good shepherd.

We do not fear the valley of the shadow of death, not because in and of ourselves we are strong, but because He is with us. We each have an appointed time, wherein we will leave this earth, and although we are encouraged to walk every day, become vegetarians, let pigs die of natural causes and stop eating meat altogether, the truth of the matter is that eventually we will all return to the earth from which we came.

Now before you start writing, let me just say, there is nothing wrong with exercise. I do it from time to time; it relaxes me and is a great stress reliever. There is nothing wrong with vegetarianism, although I am a carnivore. There is however something wrong in the idea that our fate is in our hands, and if we do all these things we will somehow bypass the will of God, circumvent God’s plan, and live long after our appointed time has passed.

I do believe God’s sovereignty extends to our length of life, because of what I’ve experienced personally. I’ve been in a few car accidents that were so horrible, there was no logical way someone should have survived through them, yet every time I walked away without a scratch. While living in California some years ago, I was sideswiped by another car, and hit a pole hard enough that it cracked the engine block, no seatbelt, no warning, yet I walked away without a bruise. Another accident that comes to mind is one I had in Romania, wherein on a foggy night I hit a bridge head on going about sixty miles per hour. The car looked so mangled, that shortly after I got out of the car, people who had stopped to try and help were pulling on the doors trying to get the ‘victims’ out. Again, not even a scratch.

Then you hear these unbelievable stories, wherein someone drops a bottle cap from the fifth floor and ends up killing someone on their way home from the store.

So what’s my point? My point is a simple one. Those who trust in the Lord, do not fear this last valley, those who trust in the Lord do not fear their last day, because they know the Lord is with them. God is our comfort in times of trial, God is our Father in times of loneliness, and God is there ready to receive us into His heavenly Kingdom when we finally breathe our last upon this earth.

God may send angels to watch over you, He may send other brothers to encourage you, He may send preachers to teach you, but when it comes to that last valley, there are no more surrogates, there are no more intermediaries, it is God Himself, personally, who receives you. He who watched over you, and carried you while on earth, will be the One to receive you into His eternal home.

What a glorious truth this is, what an encouraging truth this is, God will be the one to walk with me through my journey through the last valley.

I want to end today’s post with the last verse of Psalm 23, a verse that has spoken joy, peace and hope into my heart more times than I can recall. It is one of the first verses I memorized when learning how to speak the English language, and I quote it often in my prayer time.

Psalm 23:6, “Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life; and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.”

This is the goal, this is the aim, this is the objective; that we dwell in the house of the Lord forever. Yes, there will be valleys, yes there will be warfare, yes there will be hardship, yes we will have to walk through the valley of the shadow of death, but even in our darkest hour, we have the promise of God that His goodness and mercy will follow us all the days of our lives.

With love in Christ,
Michael Boldea Jr.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Life in the Valley Part 4

I have a request for all who visit this blog. In your prayer time, I would ask you to say a prayer for the people of Romania as well. I'd heard it was getting bad from my father, my wife, and other family and friends, but until you are boots on the ground here, it's hard to get the full picture. Besides the cuts in pensions, and the raising of basic staples, there have also been an unprecedented amount of nasty storms, which caused the subsequent flooding in most parts of the country. So please say a prayer for the people of Romania, and if ever you are in need of prayer, I am certain they will say a prayer for you as well.

I’ve preached on this passage in 1 Kings many times, but I’ve never written a teaching centering on it. As promised when I began this series on life in the valley, today we will be exploring the beauty of the mountaintop as juxtaposition to the valley, so we can better understand the fullness of our spiritual experience on this earth. We are certain to traverse both valleys and hilltops, to one day be on the mountaintop, the next deep in the valley below, but we are also certain that God will be with us every step of the way.

We enter the scene at a very dark time in Israel’s history, about eight hundred and sixty years before the birth of Christ. The tribes of Israel were splintered, Judah and Benjamin being separated from the other ten tribes, and although they had a king that was from their own midst, a man by the name of Ahab, he was a weak man, who went and married an evil woman by the name of Jezebel. Jezebel had come to be queen, and she had brought all her idols and false gods with her. Although Ahab did not forbid her worship of false gods, and strange idols, there was an outcry from the prophets of the Lord, the men of God, the watchmen who saw the vileness of what Jezebel had brought into their land.

Seeing as there was constant opposition against her, and her false gods from the prophets of the one true God, Jezebel began a violent campaign against them, causing them to run and hide in caves, and causing them to flee from before her wrath.

Even in those dark and turbulent times of persecution, there were men such as Obadiah who saw to the safety of the prophets of the Lord, hiding one hundred of them in caves, and feeding them bread and water.

Among the many prophets of the Lord during that time, there was one man that stood out, one man that was fearless and unwilling to bend, or cower before the wrath of Jezebel. His name was Elijah the prophet, a man who consistently and emphatically admonished the people of Israel to return to God, to turn their faces toward Him, to abandon the idols and the false gods of Jezebel, and thereby be spared the judgment of God, that had already begun to manifest itself in the form of a great drought.

There is a finite lesson for us in the fierce reaction of Elijah to the false gods and idols of Jezebel. Here was a man who did not see the ‘go along to get along’ attitude as a viable option when it came to the truth. Remember, Ahab the king was a Jew by birth, he feared God, even feared Elijah, and so it would have been easy for Elijah to go and strike a deal with him, to say ‘if you let the prophets of the Lord alone, then we will look the other way when it comes to your wife’s idols and gods.’

We see the integrity of this man, who was unwilling to compromise just to make his life easier. We see the integrity of this man who was not willing to compromise even at the risk of being hunted, and if Jezebel’s desire came to pass, even murdered. Elijah understood that true worship is first and foremost the refusal to bow to other gods, the refusal to honor false gods, and the refusal to acquiesce and accept idols.

Food was scarce, times were hard, a severe famine had overtaken the land, yet the people of Israel still refused to obey the voice of the Lord, they still refused to humble themselves, repent and return to God.

The time for a showdown had come, and Elijah sent word via Obadiah that he would meet with Ahab.

1 Kings 18:17, “Then it happened, when Ahab saw Elijah, that Ahab said to him, ‘Is that you, O troubler of Israel?”

Although the people had turned their back on God, although Ahab’s own wife was openly advocating idol worship, here stood Ahab accusing Elijah of being the one who had fueled God’s judgment against the land. Although much time has passed since this encounter, it would seem the attitude of the worldly minded has not changed much. Whenever a judgment of God is visited upon the land, many are quick to blame the selfsame servants who warned of coming judgment if they did not repent. Sin begets death, and sin begets the judgment of God. In His goodness, God sends servants such as Elijah to warn, to compel and admonish to repentance, but such men are vessels embodying the mercy and goodness of God. If a nation chooses to remain in their sin, if a nation chooses not to repent and turn its face toward God, then God will send the judgment He forewarned them of. It wasn’t Elijah’s fault that there was a severe drought in the land, it wasn’t Elijah’s fault that the people were starving, it was their disobedience, and unwillingness to humble themselves that brought them to this place.

Not one to mince words, Elijah reminded Ahab who was to blame for what was happening in Israel.

1 Kings 18:18, “And he answered, ‘I have not troubled Israel, but you and your father’s house have, in that you have forsaken the commandments of the Lord, and you have followed the Baals.”

After clarifying the situation, and reminding Ahab where the guilt ought to have been placed, Elijah threw down the gauntlet as it were, and proposed a sure resolution to the people’s faltering between two opinions, and to the people’s having divided hearts.

Because he was a man of God, Elijah had both foresight, and understanding of the spiritual condition that the men and women of Israel found themselves in. Elijah knew that they would only grow worse, that their hearts would only grow darker, and as consequence, God would continue his righteous judgment against them. Elijah had the foresight to see where the people were headed, spiritually speaking, as well as the understanding that the enemy never stops pursuing, never stops tempting, never stops beguiling until his victim is his in totality. If you think the enemy is content with only part of you, think again. A little vice turns into two, a little habit turns into a full blown addiction, a little sin turns into a constant and habitual practice, and so the enemy ensnares, and continues to consume all that is good and wholesome in you.

Given enough time, you’ll find yourself not even resisting temptation anymore, and the sins, habits and vices that once satisfied, satisfy you no longer. As such something stronger, viler, and more dangerous needs to be pursued in order to get the same momentary and fleeting satisfaction. The enemy never stops, and Elijah knew this.

Elijah’s proposition was simple and straightforward enough.

1 Kings 18:19-20, “Now therefore, send and gather all Israel to me on Mount Carmel, the four hundred and fifty prophets of Baal, and the four hundred prophets of Asherah, who eat at Jezebel’s table. So Ahab sent for all the children of Israel and gathered the prophets together on Mount Carmel.”

Even though Ahab was heavily influenced by his idol worshiping wife Jezebel, there was still something inside him that wanted to see the truth, that wanted to see whether it was Baal and Jezebel’s idols that had the true power, or the God of Israel, and the God of Elijah. So Ahab agreed to gather all the children of Israel, as well as the prophets of Baal and bring them all together on Mount Carmel.

What happens next is very telling, and I believe it is something that broke Elijah’s heart.

1 Kings 18:21, “And Elijah came to all the people, and said, ‘how long will you falter between two opinions? If the Lord is God, follow Him; but if Baal, then follow him.’ But the people answered him not a word.”

So here they were, all the children of Israel, descendants of those who had seen the hand of God move on their behalf, descendants of those who had witnessed the parting of the red sea, descendants of those who had seen God miraculously bring them out of captivity, and as the man of God asked who they would follow, and who they believed was God, their only answer was utter and deafening silence.

They had strayed so far from truth, they had given their hearts over to the idols and to Baal to such an extent, that when asked which was the true God, when asked to choose, they could not answer definitively and they could not make a choice.

I realize you may be asking, what does Baal have to do with today, and why should we be discussing a long dead pagan god? The truth of the matter is that Baal is not dead he is alive and well, and even living in the hearts of many who claim to be Christians today. No, there are no longer altars, no erected statues, but we have made gods of our possessions, we have made gods of our nationality, and we have made gods of our sports teams. Yes, there are many Baals among us, and if asked to choose definitively, I fear we would hear a great silence coming from much of the church today.

The truth is painful but necessary. We are unwilling to part with those things that hinder our relationship with God. We are unwilling to cut ties with the idols of our hearts, and surrender our all to God. We still believe that we can have one foot in the world, one foot in the church, and make it all the way to heaven. I’ve said it before, but I will say it again, the worst kind of deception, is self deception. Do not deceive yourself into believing that you can give God half your heart, and still know the fullness of Him. Do not deceive yourself into believing that you can be a halfhearted, lukewarm, indifferent and apathetic Christian, yet still be welcomed into the kingdom of God.

We must choose, or the choice will be made for us. We either walk with God and follow Him, heart, mind and soul, or we follow our idols, our dead gods, and our own imaginings. The tragedy here is, that dead gods and false idols satisfy in part, only until we really need them, then we realize that they are dead, they are illusions, they were fashioned out of clay and wood and our furtive minds, and can do nothing to help us in any way.

The word continues, and tells us what happened next. As the people were all gathered before Elijah, one lone man, and four hundred and fifty of Baal’s prophets, silent before them, Elijah presents a test to the people, one that would decide, and definitively so, which was the true god.

1 Kings 18:22-24, “Then Elijah said to the people, “I alone am left a prophet of the Lord; but Baal’s prophets are four hundred and fifty men. Therefore let them give us two bulls; and let them choose one bull for themselves cut it in pieces, and lay it on the wood, but put no fire under it; and I will prepare the other bull, and lay it on the wood, but put no fire under it. Then you call on the name of your gods, and I will call on the name of the Lord; and the God who answers by fire, He is God.’ So all the people answered and said, ‘it is well spoken.’

Everything was done as Elijah suggested, two bulls were brought, and as the prophets of Baal were many, Elijah told them that they could go first. And so they did, the prophets of Baal preparing the bull, calling the name of Baal, crying aloud, and cutting themselves, but to no avail. No matter how hard they tried, no matter how much they cried out, no matter how much they cut themselves, there was no fire.

This is one of the main problems plaguing the modern day church. We have an abundance of teaching, we have an abundance of raised voices, we have an abundance of souls looking for something, anything, but with all the planning, and all the programs, with all the preparation and pomp there is still no fire. If there is no fire, all the screaming and yelling, all the barking and clucking, all the sweet words and fine buildings, mean nothing at all.

If there is no fire, if there is no Holy Spirit, are we any better than the prophets of Baal standing atop Mount Carmel crying out?

After the prophets of Baal had worn themselves out, tired and bleeding, angry at the mocking they’d had to endure from Elijah, it was Elijah’s turn to prepare the sacrifice, and call upon the name of the one true God.

1 Kings 18:30, “Then Elijah said to all the people, ‘Come near to me.’ So all the people came near to him. And he repaired the altar of the Lord that was broken down.”

There can be no hope of fire, unless the altar is first and foremost rebuilt in our lives. I realize to some the basics of the faith, the elementary principles of Christ, the foundation of what we believe and why we believe it might seem pedantic, dull, simple, or otherwise above them, but these are necessary in the life of every believer. We want to know more, get deeper, and we come to resemble those of which Paul spoke, who are ever learning, but never coming to the truth. Elijah’s wisdom shone in that first and foremost he rebuilt the altar, because he knew that without an altar there can be no sacrifice. Without having the foundation of our faith firmly established, there can be no relationship with God, there can be no growth in God, and there can be no spiritual maturity.

After rebuilding the altar, putting the wood in order, cutting the bull in pieces and laying it on the wood, Elijah said something that most likely shocked the prophets of Baal who were now standing there, tired and bleeding.

“Fill four water pots with water, and pour it on the burnt sacrifice and on the wood” Elijah said, and if that was not enough he asked that this be repeated two more times. And here was the sacrifice upon the altar, soaked in water, the wood having been drenched and water running all around the altar.

There is a very deep spiritual principle in what Elijah did. When the Lord opened my eyes to this, it caused me to see this present world in a very different light, and even caused me to alter my prayer life, especially those things that I asked of the Lord.

The spiritual principle is this: It is an insult to expect of our God, only what the world expects of their God. Yes, you read correctly. If your expectation of the one true God extends only as far as what the world expects of their gods, then it is an insult to the one true God.

It is the enemy’s desire to keep us focused on the material, to keep our eyes firmly planted on the things of this earth, and to keep us asking God for those things, rather than the spiritual gifts He has reserved exclusively for His children. The enemy dreads and fears the moment a child of God receives this insight, and rather than asking God for worthless passing things, begins to ask for priceless eternal ones. Oh the power the children of God would have if only they knew to ask for the truly worthwhile, rather than the worthless.

The prophets of Baal would have been content with a spark amidst the dry wood and the pieces of bull, they would have even been content if someone would have flicked a match into the sacrifice so that there be some kind of fire, but the man of God would not be content with such a thing.

Elijah asked that water be poured onto and around the altar and the sacrifice, that when the power of God was revealed and made manifest, there would be no doubt that it was the hand of God. There would be no doubt that God had moved, and in a supernatural fashion.

From a purely human standpoint there would have been no way that this water drenched altar, wood, and sacrifice could have caught fire, and all who were there knew this as fact.

1 Kings 18:36-38, “And it came to pass, at the time of the offering of the evening sacrifice, that Elijah the prophet came near and said, ‘Lord God of Abraham, Isaac and Israel, let it be known this day that You are God in Israel, and that I am Your servant, and that I have done all these things at Your word. Hear me, O Lord, hear me, that this people may know that You are the Lord God and that you have turned their hearts back to you again. Then the fire of the Lord fell and consumed the burnt sacrifice, and the wood and the stones and the dust, and it licked up the water that was in the trench.”

When a man is pure in the sight of God, it doesn’t take a long winded prayer, it doesn’t take them crying out, it doesn’t take them cutting themselves as the prophets of Baal did. It was a short and succinct prayer, but one that opened the windows of heaven, and when the fire came, it consumed everything, even licking up the water that was in the trench. At this point there was no doubt in the hearts of the people, they had seen the power of the God of Israel, they had seen the fire consume everything, while the prophets of Baal stood impotently by, their dead god and false idols silent in their death.

1 Kings 18:39, “Now when all the people saw it, they fell on their faces; and they said, ‘The Lord, He is God, the Lord He is God.”

That day the heart of the people of Israel was turned back to their God. The witnessed the power of God with their own eyes, the felt the heat of the flame on their faces, and there was no longer any faltering between two opinions, there were no longer any divided hearts.

It is on the mountaintop, once we have rebuilt the altar of worship that we are able to see the power of our God. It is on the mountaintop that we see the glory of being in His presence, that we witness His mighty hand, and that we see His enemies flee from before Him.

I realize this series of posts is called life in the valley, but one could not readily see the contrasts, until they get a good look at all the benefits that the mountaintop has to offer. Yes, it is worth the journey, it is worth the struggle, it is worth the self sacrifice, to pick ourselves up, and journey from the valley toward the mountaintop. When we are faithful and obedient, we know that the victory will come not from, or through anything we do, but from and through God Himself, who will be there when we call on His name.

With love in Christ,
Michael Boldea Jr.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Life in the Valley Part 3

Ezekiel 37:1-14, “The hand of the Lord came upon me and brought me out in the Spirit of the Lord, and set me down in the midst of the valley; and it was full of bones. Then He caused me to pass by them all around, and behold there were very many in the open valley; and indeed they were very dry. And He said to me, “Son of man, can these bones live?” Son I answered, “O Lord God, You know.” Again he said to me, ‘Prophesy to these bones, and say to them, “O dry bones, hear the word of the Lord! Thus says the Lord God to these bones: Surely I will cause breath to enter into you, and you shall live. I will put sinews on you and bring flesh upon you, cover you with skin and put breath in you; and you shall live. Then you shall know that I am the Lord.” So I prophesied as I was commanded; and as I prophesied there was a noise, and suddenly a rattling; and the bones came together, bone to bone. Indeed, as I looked, the sinews and the flesh came upon them and the skin covered them over; but there was no breath in them. Then He said to me, Prophesy to the breath, prophesy, son of man, and say to the breath, “Thus says the Lord God: Come from the four winds, O breath, and breathe on these slain, that they may live.” So I prophesied as he commanded me, and breath came into them, and they lived and stood upon their feet, an exceedingly great army. Then He said to me, “Son of man, these bones are the whole house of Israel. They indeed say, ‘Our bones are dry, our hope is lost, and we ourselves are cut off!” Therefore prophesy and say to them, “Thus says the Lord God: “Behold O My people, I will open your graves and cause you to come up from your graves, and bring you into the land of Israel. Then you shall know that I am the Lord, when I have opened your graves, O My people, and brought you up from your graves. I will put My Spirit in you, and you shall live, and I will place you in your own land. Then you shall know that I, the Lord, have spoken it and performed it”, says the Lord.”

Now before we get into the text itself, I want to give you a little background on the prophet Ezekiel. The prophet Ezekiel is counted among a small group of prophets known as the major prophets of the Bible. In fact other than Ezekiel, there are only three other major prophets, those being Isaiah, Jeremiah, and of course Daniel. I would encourage anyone who still believes that the life of a prophet is easy and carefree, to read the book of Ezekiel all the way through, and focus on what this man had to endure for the sake of God, and all the trials and hardships that he went through.

Since the topic of this teaching is not the prophet Ezekiel himself, but rather a vision he had of the valley filled with dry bones, I will only give you a few brief highlights of his life and time in ministry.

I think I relate to Ezekiel very much, because of the difficult and unpopular message he had to bring to the house of Israel. In essence Ezekiel prophesied the destruction of Jerusalem, the burning of the temple, and their being taken into captivity. It’s not easy preaching an unpopular message, it’s not easy going against the grain, and swimming against the current, but when God requires this of you, you have no choice but to obey.

Somewhere near the beginning of his ministry, God made Ezekiel’s tongue cling to the roof of his mouth, and for roughly seven years, until the destruction of Jerusalem he was not able to speak. This is why the book of Ezekiel is filled with symbolism, and with visions that God showed him.

Among the many things that God commanded Ezekiel to do, and which Ezekiel did faithfully were eat a scroll, build and destroy a model of Jerusalem, bake bread over a fire fueled with cow manure, then eat it, lie on his left side for three hundred and ninety days, then another forty days on his right, and all these things were used as symbols, types and shadows showing God’s displeasure with His people, the dark valley into which the people had descended spiritually, and forewarning them of their coming captivity.

Life was not easy for the prophet Ezekiel, and although God allowed Him to marry, to have this one small comfort and grace, his wife dies upon the destruction of Jerusalem.

This selfsame prophet is taken in a vision in the midst of a valley full of bones. The bones were very dry, representing the absolute lack of life among the people of Israel. We can readily extrapolate the vision that Ezekiel had to today’s modern age, and conclude that many today, even among the church, even among those who claim to belong to Christ, are merely dry bones, of no use to anyone. Absent of God, man is but a bag of bones, dry and useless.

What Ezekiel saw were not just a few bones scattered along the valley floor, but rather he saw very many bones in the open valley. Perhaps it would be more comforting to us if the Bible said, ‘Many are those who find the narrow road, and walk through the small gate’

But it does not. The Bible tells us in Matthew 7:14, that narrow is the gate, and difficult is the way which leads to life, and there are few who find it.

The dead dry bones are not few in number. Those who are dead in their sins, those who have no life within them, those who are dry and scattered across the open valley are larger in numbers than we would like to contemplate.

Statistics tell us that almost one hundred people die on this planet every minute, and the tragic truth is that a great majority of them die in their sins. Everywhere you go, if you have spiritual eyes, you will see the dry bones of Ezekiel’s vision, and your heart will be burdened with speaking life into them.

As Ezekiel passed by the bones, all around, God speaks to him and asks him a deceptively simple question.

‘Son of man can these bones live?’

Now Ezekiel was so taken aback by this question, that he did not know how to respond, and so he simply said, ‘O Lord God, You know.’

From a human perspective, using human reason there was no chance, and no way by which those dry dead bones could come back to life, there was no way that they could live. The human perspective is discouraging, but God is able to do what is impossible for man.

Although God could have done it himself, He chose to use Ezekiel, and commanded him to prophesy to the dry bones, saying, ‘O dry bones, hear the word of the Lord!’

I have often thought what the reaction of a congregation would be if I started out a Sunday sermon with this declaration. ‘O dry bones, hear the word of the Lord!’

Even if it is uncomfortable, even if we seem as fools in the eyes of the world, we must preach to the dry bones, we must preach to those who are still dead in their sins, we must preach to those who roam about in the darkness, we must preach to those who are desperate and hurting and hopeless and say, hear the word of the Lord. Not my words, not my ideas, not my doctrine, but the word of the Lord.

This is what I attempt to bring to you with every post and with every teaching, and this is what you should attempt to bring to those around you: The simplicity of the word of the Lord. Not stories, not traditions, not hyper spiritual ritualism, but the simplicity of the word of the Lord. It has power, it has authority, because it is anchored, rooted, and has its genesis in God. If you want the dry bones in your family to come to life, if you want the dry bones in your home to be made alive again, they must hear the word of the Lord. The Word clearly tells us that faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God. So how can we hope for our loved ones, our family, and our friends to come to the knowledge of truth, how can we hope that they come to faith, if they never hear the word of God?

Dear friend, if you want your spouse, your son, your daughter, your mother, your father to come to faith, they must hear the word of the Lord, and God commands you as He did Ezekiel, speak to the dry bones and say, “O dry bones, hear the Word of the Lord.”

Ezekiel prophesied as the Lord commanded, and after prophesying to the dry bones, there was a noise, and suddenly a rattling and the bones came together bone to bone. Ezekiel continued to look, and he beheld the sinews and the flesh, come upon the bones, and the skin covered them over.

Once more Ezekiel prophesied, this time that breath might come upon these slain, and that they might live. Because God had commanded it, and Ezekiel had carried out God’s command, behold an exceedingly great army came to life, all standing upon their feet. What a sight it must have been, that a valley once filled with dry bones, was now filled with a great army. What an amazing spiritual principle we can glean from this vision that Ezekiel had, that from dry bones, God can make an army.

Yes, God can make an army from dry bones, and this army now stood before the prophet Ezekiel.

There has always been something that has bothered me personally about this vision of Ezekiel’s, and that is the fact that the bones were very dry and also scattered upon the valley floor. Why was it that God waited for the bones to be dry and scattered? I’ve contemplated this question often, and the only answer is, when something seems all the more impossible, that is when the power of God is all the more glorious and evident. God could have shown Ezekiel a valley filled with comatose people, he could have shown him a valley filled with dying people, but He chose to show Ezekiel a valley filled with dry bones, wherein no sign of life remained, that when God brought the bones together, and the flesh and the sinews and the skin, then breathed life into them, the miracle of this act would be all the more glorious to behold.

We serve a God who can do the impossible. The impossible is His realm, and He begins where we end. When we see no possible remedy, when we see no possible cure, when we see no possible way out, that is when God begins to work, and show His great and awesome power.

If we hope to reach our loved ones, if we hope to reach our communities, if we hope to reach our cities and our nation, we must preach the word of the Lord that they might hear, and we must pray that the word takes root in the lives of the hearers, and that they bear much fruit.

Don’t lose hope dear friend, God can bring dry bones to life. Don’t give up on praying for those you are praying for, don’t stop interceding for those you are interceding for, God is able, yes, He is able to bring dry bones to life.

So there they stood, this exceedingly great army brought to life, what had only moments ago been a mass of dried bones scattered about in a valley. The breath of life, the breath of the Holy Spirit had breathed upon these once dried bones, and now they were animated and full of life.

So there are three distinct stages here that we must understand in order to get a better picture of the world, of the church, and those who are truly saved and sanctified, bought and made clean by the blood of the Lamb.

The dry bones scattered in the valley, represented the world, those who do not know God, those who have not repented of their sins, those who have not received Christ Jesus as Lord and Savior of their lives.

The lifeless bodies, those that had been reformed, and covered in flesh and skin, represent some in the church today. Yes, they are fully intact, but they are still inanimate, they are still lifeless, they are still without the stirring of the Holy Spirit. A church without God is nothing more than a dead body. It can be made up to look alive; it can even be adorned and made to look handsome or pretty, but in the end, a corpse is a corpse, it is a lifeless thing, that has already begun returning to the earth from which it came.

So often we are content with pretty corpses, so often we don’t inquire if the power of God is in a place, if the place looks nice enough; we don’t inquire if the Holy Spirit is with the preacher, if he tells enough jokes; we don’t inquire if there is life flowing in a congregation if they have enough programs and pizza nights; and so we grow tragically comfortable with attending a dead church, sitting through dead sermons, and being part of a dead fellowship.

When will we awaken to the reality that absent the breath of life, absent the Holy Spirit, absent the power of God in the midst of a congregation, the only thing separating us from the dead bones is time?

We need the Spirit of God, we need the wind of the Holy Spirit to blow on us, to blow on our families, to blow on our churches, and revive us. We need the Holy Spirit to bring us to life. It is not a hoped for thing, it is an assurance, a promise that God made to those who would receive Him.

“I will put My Spirit in you, and you shall live”, God said. If God said it, He will bring it to pass. If God said it, we can trust in His promise.

And what a great promise it is, that He would put His Spirit in us that we might live. Desire to live in God dear friend; desire to be alive in Him. Don’t be content with being just some inanimate body warming a pew, not just some scattered bones, dried by the wind and the heat of the sun, desire to live in Him.

This world is a valley, and the dry bones litter the landscape. Won’t you be that Ezekiel that will speak to the dry bones, and speak the Word of the Lord? Won’t you be that Ezekiel who trusts God to such an extent that they would do whatever is asked of them?

God needs servants today, perhaps more than ever before in the history of the world God needs servants today. No, He doesn’t need people that are in ministry for themselves; He doesn’t need people that believe godliness is a means of gain; He doesn’t need people that just want to build up their kingdoms; God needs servants who are willing to go and speak the word of the Lord to the dry bones of the earth. He needs servants who will preach the gospel of Christ; He needs servants that are shameless in proclaiming the truth of Jesus; God needs true servants.

There are already too many hirelings within the house of God, too many pretty corpses talking allot but saying nothing at all. God needs simple, committed, faithful, obedient servants.

Matthew 9:37-38, “Then He said to His disciples, “the harvest truly is plentiful, but the laborers are few. Therefore pray the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into His harvest.”

The harvest is truly plentiful, the valley is full of dry bones, what remains is for someone to speak the word of the Lord to them, that they might be brought back to fullness, then animated to life by the power of the Holy Spirit.

God is able to bring dry bones to life, God is able to pour out His Holy Spirit, He even desires to do these things, but He requires servants through which He can work.

With love in Christ,
Michael Boldea Jr.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Life in the Valley Part 2

I don't think there is a worse feeling when one is on a journey than standing in front of an empty, moving baggage carousel and not seeing your suitcase emerge from the mysterious bowels of the airport's luggage transfer system. After losing a connection in London due to bad weather, losing a bag somewhere in transit, and arriving home a whole 14 hours after I had intended, it's 3am and I can't sleep because of jet lag. I'm tired all over, but if I lay down in bed I just end up staring at the ceiling, so I thought what better time to post the next installment of the teaching series on life in the valley.

Joshua 17:11-18, “And in Issachar and in Asher, Manasseh had Beth Shean and its towns, Ibleam and its towns, the inhabitants of Dor and its towns, the inhabitants of En Dor and its towns, the inhabitants of Taanach and its towns, and the inhabitants of Magiddo and its towns – three hilly regions. Yet the children of Manasseh could not drive out the inhabitants of those cities, but the Canaanites were determined to dwell in that land. And it happened, when the children of Israel grew strong, that they put the Canaanites to forced labor, but did not utterly drive them out. Then the children of Joseph spoke to Joshua, saying, ‘why have you given us but one lot and one portion to inherit, since we are a great people, inasmuch s the Lord has blessed us until now?’ So Joshua answered them, ‘if you are a great people, then go up to the forest country and clear a place for yourself there in the land of the Perizzites and the giants, since the mountains of Ephraim are too confined for you.’ But the children of Joseph said, ‘the mountain country is not enough for us; and all the Canaanites who dwell in the land of the valley have chariots of iron, but those who are of Beth Shean and its towns and those who are of the Valley of Jezreel.’ And Joshua spoke to the house of Joseph – to Ephraim and Manasseh – saying, ‘You are a great people and have great power; you shall not have one lot only, but the mountain country shall be yours. Although it is wooded, you shall cut it down, and its farthest extent shall be yours; for you shall drive out the Canaanites, though they have iron chariots and are strong.”

In the last post we began talking about life in the valley, and how and why one ends up in the valley in the first place. Yes, God’s desire is that we always be on the mountaintop, always on fire for Him, always wholly devoted and committed to His work and His kingdom, but God also knew that there would be valleys throughout our journey, He knew that there would be times where we would feel as though we were of no use to the kingdom, of no use to the brethren, times and seasons of hardship and setbacks.

We serve an all knowing God, one who knows the end from the beginning, and knowing that we would have to traverse valleys once in awhile, He has placed encouragement, instruction, and direction in His holy word for us, that although we might find ourselves in the valley, we would endeavor to return to the mountaintop.

Today we go even further into this series of teachings, and tackle the topic of warfare in the valley. Yes, there is warfare in the valley; there is violent and unyielding warfare in the valley. I realize you may be thinking, ‘Brother Mike, but there is warfare in perpetuity. We are always at war with the enemy whether in the valley or on the mountaintop aren’t we?’

Yes, we are constantly at war with the enemy, but it’s one thing to fight the enemy on open ground when you are full of vigor and strength, when all of your energies are at maximum levels and you know the terrain, and it’s quite another to do battle against the enemy in the valley, where you are already weak and troubled, where the territory is unknown and the walls seem to be closing in.

Well, the children of the tribe of Manasseh came to Joshua and they were not at all pleased. Shortly after conquering the land, after crossing the Jordan, and taking Canaan, the topographers of the time got together and divided the land into twelve, for the twelve tribes of Israel. Each tribe was given a lot of land, and God was fully aware that there were smaller tribes among them, like the tribe of Benjamin who got a small lot of land somewhere in the midst of Canaan, yet He was also aware that there were larger tribes, such as the tribe of Manasseh. Manasseh received their lot, and their lot was in a valley beside a mountain. Manasseh was a large tribe, comprising of many people, and they came to Joshua, voicing their displeasure at the lot that they’d been assigned, informing him that they would like to have a larger lot, more land, since they were a large tribe.

Joshua, the newly anointed leader of the people, looked upon the children of Manasseh, and essentially told them, that if they were displeased with the lot they’d been given they should go up to the forest country and cut down the trees to clear a place for themselves. From there they could even take the mountain itself.

When the children of Manasseh heard this, they began to reason with Joshua informing him that the Canaanites who dwelt in the land had chariots of iron, thinking perhaps that Joshua would rouse the whole of Israel to go to war on behalf of Manasseh. Joshua however, refused their plea.

‘If you want to take the mountain, you must fight your own battle to obtain your own victory’ is the essence of what Joshua told them.

When you find yourself in the valley, no one can fight your battle for you. When you find yourself in the valley, you can’t have your pastor fight your battle, you can’t have your spouse fight your battle, it’s you and God against the enemy and you must stand your ground and march ever onward toward the mountaintop.

Whatever you do, don’t grow comfortable in the valley, I beg of you, for the sake of your eternal soul do not grow comfortable in the valley. The tribe of Manasseh had grown comfortable there, they had built cities, and after four hundred years of slavery, and forty years of wandering through the desert, even the valley might have looked good to them. However, they realized that the valley was not the optimum place to be, that there was yet a better place, a higher ground to which they aspired.

It’s such a dangerous thing for a Christian to grow comfortable or comfortably numb in the valley. It’s such a dangerous thing for a believer to talk himself or herself into believing that they’ve achieved what most other believers call normalcy.

“Well, I don’t pray as much as some, but others pray less than I do, so that puts me in the normal range. I don’t read my Bible as often as some do, but I do open it from time to time, unlike others, so I’m still ok.”

And so we lower the standard, and we try to get away with the barebones minimum we can do. Sure, if there’s any time left out of our busy day, we might think if God in passing, but whose got the time?

You see, there is no such thing as Christian normalcy. We must always be striving for more of God, we must always be striving to climb higher, and get deeper, to grow and mature in Christ Jesus.

We grow tragically content with not seeing miracles in the church any more, we grow tragically content with not seeing people coming to Christ anymore, we grow tragically content with not preaching the Word of God anymore, and we grow tragically content with trying to give God only half our hearts.

The motto of the tragically content is always, ‘well, I know someone who’s worse than me, I know someone who doesn’t go to church as often as I do, I know someone who doesn’t pray as often as I do.’

Since when are we to compare ourselves to other people? Since when are we to have other men as our standard and not Jesus? Do not be content in the valley; do not grow comfortable in the valley, because it is a dangerous, dangerous place.

The enemy loves to keep us in the valley until we become accustomed to it, until we get comfortable with it, until we begin to think there is no higher ground.

Yep, this is as good as it gets: No power, no Holy Spirit, no miracles, no words of prophecy, no impacting preaching, yep, this is as good as it gets.

You see, there are two very important things the enemy wants to take away from you while you are in the valley. The two things the enemy desires to nullify in you while you are in the valley is your identity, and your mentality, your attitude, your outlook or your way of thinking.

The enemy’s singular desire is for you to forget that you are a child of God, to forget what your attributes are, to forget the power that you have access to in the Holy Spirit, and to forget that God is omnipotent. He wants to nullify this burning truth in your heart that you are royalty, a child of the most high God, redeemed by the blood of His beloved Son Jesus Christ.

“What can I do? I’m a nobody. How can I contribute? I have nothing. What can I say? No one will listen anyway.”

This is the attitude of those who have forgotten who they are. This is the attitude of those who have forgotten that they are sons and daughters of God.

Don’t forget who you are. Don’t forget that a price was paid for you. Remember always who your Father is; remember always that your soul was redeemed.

Never be ashamed of who you are, never be ashamed of being a follower of Christ, a believer in Jesus, one who was plucked from the mire of sin, and washed clean in the blood of the lamb.

The tribe of Manasseh was aware of the danger that came with residing in the valley, they were aware of the danger of not being on higher ground, and this is why they came to Joshua in the first place. The only problem is, the tribe of Manasseh did not want to face the Canaanites because of their iron chariots. In this reaction we can see the attitude of the defeated believer, a believer who has forgotten who they are, and has shifted their attitude from one of victor, one who is victorious in Christ, to one of defeat. A defeated Christian always makes excuses for not confronting the enemy; a defeated Christian always makes excuses for not standing his ground. A defeated Christian thinks that he can strike a truce with the enemy, that he can live peaceably with him, not realizing that no truce can be had, that the enemy will not honor any agreement, that his desire is nothing less than their destruction. You cannot reason with the enemy, you cannot bargain with the enemy, you cannot give in to the enemy and still retain any semblance of relationship with God. Satan never takes prisoners. He doesn’t just want to keep you in the valley; he wants to kill you in the valley.

Before you react to the enemy’s chariots of iron as the children of Manasseh did remember the chariots of fire that surround you. Before you grow fearful of the enemy’s chariots of iron, remember that by faith you ride in a chariot of fire, with God by your side.

This spiritual apathy that has overtaken so many in this generation, makes many believers look at the mountain, and think to themselves they will never make it to the top.

These are difficult days, who can be that spiritual? These are hard times, who can pray, who can fast? And so we remain in the valley, looking up to the mountain, thinking of what could be.

Before we go further, I want to focus on this subject, and identify the iron chariots that the enemy attempts to distract us with. Yes, the enemy does have iron chariots, and countless souls get distracted by them.

The first iron chariot the enemy attempts to overtake us with, is the iron chariot of abundance. Look, it’s not a sin to want a nice house, it’s not a sin to want a nicer car, it’s not a sin to want to get a raise, but all these things become sin when they become your obsession, it’s a sin when they become your entire focus. Abundance leads to comfort, and comfort often times leads to spiritual apathy. I’ve heard of many Christians getting closer to God in times of great trial, but I’ve heard of very few that drew closer to God in times of great abundance. Don’t let the enemy overtake you with the iron chariot of abundance, know in your heart that whatever you have, is not yours but God’s, and whatever He gives you is good.

The second iron chariot the enemy attempts to overtake us with, is the chariot of lack of spiritual discipline. A spiritually undisciplined Christian is easy prey for the enemy. When we lack spiritual discipline, our prayer life becomes nonexistent, our reading of the word becomes irregular at best, and our relationship with God is but a distant memory. The enemy loves spiritually undisciplined Christians, because they pose no threat to him, and they are readily dispensed with when and how he desires.

Our view of what Christianity is must be in line with what the Bible tells us it is, and we must view ourselves in the context of God’s word, being ever ready, ever disciplined, faithful soldiers of Christ prepare to stand and fight the enemy and the forces of darkness, prepared to stand in the gap.

The third chariot the enemy attempts to overtake us with, is the chariot of fear of failure. If we read the passage that served as a backdrop to today’s teaching, we come to realize that the children of Manasseh had fought the Canaanites before and lost, being unable to drive them from the land, and now they were fearful that they would lose yet again.

Joshua 17:12, “Yet the children of Manasseh could not drive out the inhabitants of those cities, but the Canaanites were determined to dwell in the land.”

Their fear of failure due to past experiences, kept them from engaging the enemy again. Many times, fear is closely tied to how we view a certain challenge in our lives. A good example of this is Goliath, and how David viewed Goliath as opposed to Saul and the people of Israel. As Goliath stood before the people of Israel in all his imposing stature, fear welled up in the hearts of the Israelites, and they thought to themselves that there was no way any of them could defeat such a giant. David comes along, takes a look at Goliath, and thinks to himself that there was no way he could miss with his slingshot.

How we perceive a situation can be the difference between fear or boldness, between flight and courageously standing our ground. Israel saw Goliath’s size as something to be feared, David saw it as something to be exploited.

We cannot look at our current lot, we cannot look at our shortcomings and allow them to blind us to the reality that when we are weak, God is strong, and His strength is made perfect in our weakness. We cannot be moved or shaken by what the naked eye sees, but in faith step out of the valley of doubt and unbelief, in faith step out of our present circumstances, and draw ever closer to our heavenly Father.

There was one among the people who had faith, one who saw beyond the present circumstance of the children of Manasseh, one who believed, and that was Joshua. It was Joshua that gazed upon the children of Manasseh, and said: ‘the mountain country shall be yours. Although it is wooded you shall cut it down and its farthest extent shall be yours; for you shall drive out the Canaanites, though they have iron chariots and are strong.’

The enemy might have chariots of iron, the enemy might be strong, but the mountaintop will be ours if we persevere, if we trust in the hand of almighty God, and stand our ground against the enemy.

There is good news today. The enemy can be defeated. There is good news today. The mountaintop can be yours. There is good news today. In God you are more than the sum of all that you are, or ever hoped to be. There is good news today. In Christ we are more than victors, more than conquerors. Take hold of this truth dear friend, and do not be content in the valley. Do not be content with looking at the mountaintop and thinking there is no way to get through the enemy lines and advance onward. With God, in God, and through God all things are possible.

Joshua saw the need the children of Manasseh had, to ascend from the valley to the mountaintop, and gave them practical solutions to their problems. First, it was for them to fight their own battles. No one can fight your battles for you; you must stand, and set your face like flint. You must be ready to confront the enemy. The second practical solution Joshua offered the children of Manasseh was to cut down everything that stood in the way of their goal of taking the mountain. If the forest stands in your way, cut it down, and press forward. Don’t let the forests in your life keep you from seeing the mountain beyond. Cut them down, and get a better view of the glory of God.

Hebrews 12:1-2, says it this way, “Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.”

The last practical solution that Joshua offered the children of Manasseh was that they be united. Yes, they were a great people, yes they had great power, but they had to be united in order to achieve their objective.

Be as one, in your family, with your spouse, with your loved ones, be as one. There is strength in numbers. Pray together, read the word together, and have the singular purpose of ascending to the mountaintop.

It is not easy, and those who say it is have never really faced down the enemy, but by the power of God, the battle is winnable. We can’t hope to grow in God if we are unwilling to make the effort, to strive, to agonize, to seek His face, and love Him with all our hearts.

With love in Christ,
Michael Boldea Jr.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Life in the Valley Part 1

Tomorrow I am off to Romania, and a day after I get home I will be celebrating ten years of marriage. Those who know me, know I am not a sappy sort of fellow, I don't cry when I see puppies, or tear up when a butterfly lands on a rose, but looking back on the last ten years I am oddly emotional. Ten years is a long time, and the amazing thing is that I am still madly in love with my wife. I've always said I married far above my station, and each time I look back on my life I realize I am blessed, the wife that God has given me being one of the greatest of these blessings.
With this post, we begin a new teaching series entitled 'Life in the Valley' and my prayer is that that you are encouraged, edified, and challenged through it. Thank you all for your prayers, and may God bless you.

Deuteronomy 3:23-29, “Then I pleaded with the Lord at that time , saying: ‘O Lord God, You have begun to show Your servant Your greatness and Your mighty hand, for what god is there in heaven or on earth who can do anything like Your works and Your mighty deeds? I pray let me cross over and see the good land beyond the Jordan, those pleasant mountains, and Lebanon.’ But the Lord was angry with me on your account, and would not listen to me. So the Lord said to me: ‘Enough of that! Speak no more to Me of this matter. Go up to the top of Pisgah, and lift your eyes toward the west, the north, the south, and the east; behold it with your eyes, for you shall not cross over this Jordan. But command Joshua, and encourage him and strengthen him; for he shall go over before this people, and he shall cause them to inherit the land which you see.’ So we stayed in the valley opposite Beth Peor.”

Just in case it is still uncertain who the first person writer of these few verses is, it is none other than Moses, the man who had led Israel out of Egypt, the man who had crossed the red sea as if on dry land, the man who spoke to God, and who had, on the mountaintop, received the ten commandments from the hand of God himself. Now here was Moses, pleading with God, that God might allow him to cross over the Jordan, and see the land which God had given the people of Israel. Alas, God said no, but He told Moses to climb mount Pisgah, and lift his eyes toward the west, the north, the south and the east, that he might behold the land. After Moses saw the land into which the people of Israel were about to enter, he returned to the valley opposite Beth Peor where he and the people stayed.

Throughout the word of God we see the imagery of mountain tops and valleys readily used. There are countless places in the Word of God where we see God speaking to His servants on the mountaintop as was the case of Moses who climbed Mount Sinai that He might receive instruction from the Lord.

There are also places in the Bible wherein we see great victories being achieved on the mountaintop as was the case of Elijah on Mount Carmel against the prophets of Baal, and there are places in the Word, where we see great sacrifice, great deliverance, and a foreshadowing of Christ Jesus on the mountaintop as was the case of Abraham and Isaac on Mount Moriah.

There is no doubt about it, the mountaintop is a good place to be, it is the preferred place to be, it is even the ideal place to be, but in this life there are also valleys that we must traverse, where the warfare reaches its peak, where the enemy attempts to discourage and detour us as much as he can, valleys filled with fear, hopelessness and enemies lurking in the shadows. I’ve had to traverse such valleys, and I am certain that you have had to traverse such valleys as well.

God knew we would sometimes find ourselves in the valley, God knew that we could not reside on the mountaintop in perpetuity, and He reminds us today as He forewarned Israel of old that the land which we cross over to possess, is a land of hills and valleys.

When we are on the mountaintop, we feel invincible. When we are on the mountaintop in regards to our prayer life, when we are on the mountaintop in regards to our love of the brethren, when we are on the mountaintop in regards to our reading of the Word, when we are on the mountaintop in regards to our giving, we feel more energized, more animated, we feel like we can take on the world. There are however moments, when we are not on the mountaintop but rather in the valley, and it is these valleys of life that I want to focus on for this post, and the subsequent few posts.

I realize some of you might be thinking about John the Baptist’s echoing of the words of Isaiah, wherein he said that every valley shall be filled and every mountain and hill brought low, but he never said that it would be here on this earth, but rather in God’s heavenly kingdom.

Yes, there will come a time when the valleys will be filled in, and the mountain and hill brought low, where the crooked places will be made straight and the rough ways made smooth, but for now, we are still here, awaiting the return of our beloved Lord. For now, we still have valleys to cross, that we might once again reach the mountaintop.

So why is it that we have to make this undesired journey through the valley? Why is it that we see the signs of descending in the valley, and are unable to stop or slow down our descent?

In case you are wondering, yes there are sure and clear signs that we are either in the valley, or are descending off the mountaintop.

The first of these signs is spiritual lack. The term lack covers a wide array of things, from lack prayer, to lack of joy, lack of interior peace, to lack of love, lack of fellowship with the brethren, and lack of intimacy with God.

On the heels of spiritual lack, there is always a tendency to compromise. It is in our seasons in the valley, in our seasons of spiritual lack that we contemplate and consider things that we would not have considered while we were on the mountaintop. We begin to reason to ourselves that no one can see us in the valley anyway, it’s not like it was while we were on the mountaintop and everyone had a clear view, so why not compromise just a little, no one will know.

Throughout this series of posts I hope to answer the questions of why we end up in the valley in the first place, what to do when we find ourselves in the valley, the battles that we must expect while in the valley, how to react when we find ourselves among the dead bones in the valley, and also focus at least one post on the beauty of the mountaintop. It is always wise to see the contrast, to see that even though we might find ourselves in the valley presently, there is a mountaintop waiting for us as long as we persevere, as long as we press on, as long as we do not grow weary in the valley, and set our sights on higher ground.

There is no rest in the valley, yet we often find ourselves spending more time in the valley than we ought. There is no peace in the valley, but we often find ourselves pandering to the flesh in order to achieve some semblance of peace. There is no fellowship in the valley, but rather than run to higher ground we often compromise and set aside our beliefs that we might find a semblance of fellowship with the world.

So how do we end up in the valley? What are the causes, what is the causality that brings us into this undesired spiritual landscape, this spiritual valley where every aspect of our spiritual walk is difficult, and the enemy’s plots and devices all the more sinister?

The first cause, and one of the first signs that we are headed into a spiritual valley, is absence of dialogue with God. There are countless examples in the word, of men who lost their joy, who lost their peace, who descended off the spiritual mountaintop because they ceased communicating and fellowshipping with God.

Even going back as far as the first man and woman, we see the spiritual decline beginning, when dialogue with God ended. In the beginning they would readily communicate with God in the cool of the day, but at some point Eve’s communication and dialogue with God ended, and she began to dialogue with the serpent instead. When Even began dialoguing with the serpent, God ceased his dialogue with her. When the Bible warns us that we cannot worship two masters, it is not hyperbole but an absolute truth. God will not stand in line, and once we’ve finished our dialogue with the serpent, if we, per chance have any time left, give him a few minutes of our lives. We serve a jealous God, we serve a sovereign God, and we either fellowship, dialogue, and seek after Him exclusively, without reservation, or we don’t. This is one of the reasons so many don’t hear from God today, because their hearts are divided, and they still believe they can have ongoing dialogue with the serpent as well as with God. Once Eve began to dialogue with the serpent, it didn’t take long for her to be deceived into disobeying God, and convincing Adam to do likewise.

If we desire God to speak with us, we must cease all dialogue with the serpent. If we commune with the serpent, God will not commune with us. It is that simple. The instant you can no longer bend your knee, and just dialogue with God, the instant prayer and supplication become difficult for you and seem like a burden, know that you are already in the valley. This knowledge should serve to do one thing, and one thing only, to focus all your energies and strengths into regaining your footing and returning to the mountaintop.

God has ways and means by which He communicates with His children, and it is He that chooses how He speaks to us. Whether through the Word, through nature, through prophets, through dreams, through the manifested work of the Holy Spirit, through healings, through miracles, God does speak to His children, but only by the measure in which they speak and dialogue with Him.

God will not divide His glory, and God will not accept a divided heart. If we have no dialogue with Him, if we do not have a prayer life, if we are not daily in the Word, if we do not seek His face in humility and brokenness, we cannot expect that He will speak to us.

I have met so many people whose biggest complaint is that God is no longer speaking to them, and my question has always been, are you still speaking to Him? Is your prayer life as vibrant as it once was, do you find as much joy in fellowship and intimacy with God as you once did? If not, it’s time to take a step back and see where and when we stopped dialoguing, see where and when we stopped communicating with God, and remedy the broken link that we might once again hear His voice.

The second reason why many souls find themselves in the valley is compromise. Compromise is as dangerous as it is subtle in the life of a believer, and if we give in to compromise, it can have disastrous and often times irreparable effects. Although there are plenty of examples in the Bible as to how destructive compromise is, there is no better example than Lot.

We all know the sad tale of Lot, Abraham’s nephew, the man who ended up in the valley, void of any peace, void of any joy, void of any fulfillment, whose soul was continually vexed due to the sin that surrounded him.

Lot had separated from Abraham, and Lot had turned his gaze to the plains, to the valley, and it was Lot that chose Sodom. Abraham remained on the mountain with God, because it is on the mountaintop wherein we can build an altar to God, and have fellowship with Him.

What I’ve always found interesting, is that when the two angels came to Sodom, they found Lot sitting in the gate of Sodom. He was neither outside of Sodom, nor was he inside Sodom. Lot’s compromise had led him to having one foot in the world, and one foot in the church as it were, wherein he was not willing to give up the comforts of Sodom, but he also yearned for the fellowship and intimacy with God that one finds on the mountaintop. So there he sat at the gate, between two worlds, lonely and lowly, vexed in his heart, with the tentacles of compromise firmly fastened to his heart.

The most dangerous thing about compromise is that it is never satisfied with just a part of you. Eventually, given enough time, it will consume the whole. If you give the enemy a finger, be sure that he will first want the hand, then the entire arm. It is the way the enemy deceives people into compromise, and thus causes them to journey off the mountaintop and into the valley.

The third reason many souls find themselves in the valley, is disobedience, and this is where we return to Moses, the man who did not enter into God’s Promised Land, but was only allowed to see it.

What had Moses done to warrant such severe judgment? What sin had Moses committed that after decades of faithful service, he was not allowed to enter into the Promised Land?

We find the answer in the book of Numbers, a time when the people of Israel had run out of water, and as such had gathered against Moses and Aaron.

Numbers 20:6-8, “So Moses and Aaron went from the presence of the assembly to the door of the tabernacle of meeting, and they fell on their faces. And the glory of the Lord appeared to them. Then the Lord spoke to Moses, saying, ‘take the rod; you and your brother Aaron gather the assembly together. Speak to the rock before their eyes, and it will yield its water; thus you shall bring water for them out of the rock, and give drink to the congregation and its animals.”

God’s instructions were relatively simple. Moses was to take his brother Aaron, gather the assembly together, and speak to the rock before their eyes, and it would yield water.

What Moses does however, is something totally different. He gathers the congregation before the rock, and begins to rebuke them, “Hear now, you rebels!” he cries out, “Must we bring water for you out of this rock?” Then Moses lifted his hand and struck the rock twice with his rod.

Yes, the water did come out of the rock, and abundantly so, but Moses had disobeyed God. He had not followed the instructions. First, it was not he who was bringing water for them out of the rock, and second God never told him to strike the rock.

It would have been so simple just to obey, it would have been so simple just to do what God had instructed, but Moses took it upon himself to alter God’s instructions. God then rebukes Moses, and His rebuke was not for the speech that he made, or even that he struck the rock, but rather for the root cause of his outburst, that of unbelief.

“Because you did not believe Me” God says to Moses, “you shall not bring this congregation into the land which I have given them.”

We must obey! It is our duty, and we must obey. Even if something seems right in our own eyes, even if something God says goes against our mental reasoning, we must obey it, because failing to heed the voice of God, is just a lengthy way of saying that we were disobedient, or that we disobeyed.

We cannot pick and choose only those scriptures that suit us in God’s word, we cannot pick and choose only those scriptures that require no sacrifice of us, but we must obey the entirety of God’s Holy word.

The fourth reason men find themselves in the valley, is the forming of bad habits. We all know of Samson and his exploits, as well as his ending up blinded and in chains, but what some of us might have overlooked, is that Samson had a habit of going down into valleys. At first, he went down to Timnah, to see a woman, a daughter of the Pharisees, not once, but multiple times, and then he exchanged one valley for another, going to the valley of Sorek, to be with a woman known as Delilah. Samson made a habit of descending into the valley, he had formed a habit of being where he was not supposed to be, and this led to his ruination.

If you happen to find yourself in the valley dear friend, there is hope. The mountaintop is still there, the prayer life is still there, the intimacy with God is still there, all you have to do is pick yourself up, and begin the climb. All you have to do is desire to be back on the mountaintop, and not grow comfortable in the valley. There are many souls who find themselves in the valley, and become comfortable there. They talk themselves into not desiring to be back on the mountaintop, they talk themselves into not desiring to be closer to God, and so they remain in their disobedience, in their habits, in their unbelief, feeding themselves with the memory of what once was.

Have the will to get back on the mountaintop, and God will help you. He is a good father, a loving father, a father who desires that none perish but that all might have eternal life. If we are in the valley, it is of our choosing, and we can choose to be back on the mountaintop as well. Purpose in your heart that you will not waste another second in the valley, and begin your journey toward the fullness of what God has in store for His children.

With love in Christ,
Michael Boldea Jr.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Taking Heart

I recently finished filming a four part series entitled ‘lessons from a storm’. The entire series dealt primarily with the twenty seventh chapter of Acts, and the detailed sea voyage that Paul, Luke, and two hundred and seventy four other souls undertook. It was a journey beset with storms, with hardships, with the abandonment of hope itself, and when things were at their worst, when the men had not eaten nor seen the sun nor the stars for many days, Paul stands up in their midst and tells them to take heart.

Storms are a reality for every man, woman, and child in this world, and the only difference between the children of God and those of the world is how we react to the storms. The following is the transcript of an excerpt from one of the teachings, dealing with taking heart in the midst of trials, of taking heart in the midst of the storm, and why we as children of God should do just that.

Seeing all that is transpiring in the world, from the threat of a double dip recession here in America, to the threat of a bloody war in the Middle East this summer, to the general discontent that is blanketing the entire earth ready to spark into full on revolution in many countries, I felt it appropriate to post this as an encouragement to the body of Christ, and a reminder that we are not of the world, and as such should not react as the world. As children of God we must take heart, we must steel ourselves, and keep our eyes fixed on Jesus.

Acts 27:21-26, “But after long abstinence from food, then Paul stood in the midst of them and said, ‘Men you should have listened to me, and not have sailed from Crete and incurred this disaster and loss. And now I urge you to take heart for there will be no loss of life among you, but only of the ship. For there stood by me this night an angel of the God to whom I belong and whom I serve, saying, 'do not be afraid, Paul; you must be brought before Caesar’ and indeed God has granted you all those who sail with you.’Therefore take heart, men, for I believe God that it will be just as it was told me. However, we must run aground on a certain island.”

Even though they had not listened to Paul’s previous warning, it would seem that the men on the ship were readily willing to lend their ear to him now. They had gone through a great storm, had thrown everything overboard to lighten their load, had not eaten for days on end, nor had they see the sun or the stars, all due to the fact that they dismissed the man of God, and here they were, having abandoned hope, and at this moment Paul stands up and encourages them to take heart. It is easy to encourage someone to take heart when things are going well, it is even easy to encourage someone to take heart when one clearly sees that the storm has passed, but to speak to these men who saw no end in sight to their circumstances and tell them to take heart was a truly remarkable thing as far as I am concerned. It could only have been done by the unction of the Holy Spirit, and as Paul continues to speak he even informs the men on the ship that an angel of the Lord had stood by him. These men were not believers, these men did not know the one true God, and in fact Paul even tells them that the God to whom he belonged and served had sent this angel, yet these men no longer mocked, no longer laughed, and no longer dismissed his words. Sometimes it takes a great storm to get our attention, it takes a great storm to get us to listen to God, and hear His voice, and obey His will.

For the first two programs of this series, we discussed the storms that come upon all men, and the damage that these storms cause, but today we will discuss our attitude as individuals in the midst of the storm. Seeing as all men go through storms, we can only know the difference between those who are of God, and those who are not by their attitude in the storm, and their mindset as they go through it. Here was Paul, a highly intelligent man, whom even the centurion in charge respected, standing up and telling the men to take heart. In the natural there was no reason to take heart. These men were scared out of their minds, they hadn’t eaten for days due to the fear that overwhelmed them, they no longer saw any hope that they would be saved, yet Paul tells them to take heart.

There are seasons in every individual’s life wherein the storms get so overwhelming that we become like the men on that ship. We grow fearful, we grow uncertain, we grow hopeless, we see no way out of our circumstances, yet as Paul said to them, the Word says to us, take heart.

‘But how can you take heart when everything seems to be going wrong? How can you take heart when you don’t even catch your breath from the first wave, and the second wave slams into your vessel?’

The short answer is by seeing with eyes of faith, and believing God at His Word. We take heart because of God’s promise never to leave us or forsake us, we take heart because of God’s promise to always be there for us, and we take heart because of God’s promise to walk with us even when others refuse to. With eyes of faith we see beyond today, we see beyond the now, we see beyond the present circumstance, and into tomorrow when the storm has passed, and calm seas are once more on the horizon.

We also take heart in the midst of the storm by knowing the God we belong to and serve. Paul knew his God, Paul knew the power of His God, and Paul knew that if God told him he would be brought before Caesar, even if God would have to bring him back from the dead, he would eventually stand before Caesar. In the midst of this storm everything failed these men; their rudder gave out, their sail gave out, their ship gave out, hope gave out, their gods gave out, and at the end of it all only one God remained, the God to whom Paul belonged and served. When fair weather abounds, when all is well, when the sun is shining, the birds are chirping, and the butterflies are sailing on the breeze, any old god, any old idol, any old philosophy will do. When the storm comes however, only One will stand, only One will remain, and only One will save.

We must have complete trust in our God’s power to make a way, even when there seems to be no way. When we trust completely, then there is no fear because the most basic definition of trust is absence of fear.

One can know of God in theory and still not take heart in the midst of the storm, because theory and practice are two very different things. Why was Paul so adamant about the fact that they would not die? Why was his faith so strong? Because Paul didn’t just know God in theory, Paul knew God in practice. He knew that he belonged to the living God who can calm the seas, he knew that he belonged to the living God who can speak to the storm, and he knew that he served this living God. When Paul spoke of the living God, he did so from a position of relationship and intimacy with Him. He knew his identity, he knew that he belonged to God; he knew that he was a child of the living God, and that more powerful than the storm, more powerful than the tempest was the God he served.

Throughout the word of God we see the pattern of the men who trusted God, who knew their identity in God, who had a relationship with God and knew that they served a living God, do great exploits in His name. We tend to forget that these were just men, they were ordinary people, but what made them extraordinary was God working through them. In and of ourselves, we are given to doubt, we are given to fear, we are given to hopelessness in the midst of the storm, but when our faith is anchored in God, when we know that our God lives, when our relationship with Him is such that He sends his angels to encourage us and speak to us, than no matter how great the storm, no matter how large the waves, we take heart, we are of good courage, because we know that God will make a way.

When we refuse to see the storms of this life as God ordained seasons, we also have the tendency to overlook the spiritual benefits that the storms might bring, and as such fail to take heart, and see the hand of God and the plan of God in the midst of our storm. God may allow storms in your life for a variety of reasons, but most often it is to bring us closer to Him, to cause us to see the futility of trusting in things, of putting our hope in possessions, and surrender our all to Him.

Too many believers today want victory without confrontation; they want to overcome without being in battle; they refuse the designation of warrior for Christ because of all it implies and are content with forever being babes in Christ. We are babes in Christ but for a season, then we must mature, and grow, be seasoned and trained to become warriors because that is what God requires of us. Once we become that soldier of God, that warrior for Christ, then confrontation is inevitable because the enemy has us at the top of his list. When we are on the frontlines of the spiritual battle that we see waging all around us, then we are in the enemy’s crosshairs. The enemy does not bother himself with cheerleaders, he does not bother himself with spectators, the enemy goes after the soldiers, the warriors, those who are standing in the gap, those who are preaching Christ, those who are preaching repentance, because such men are seen as a clear and present danger by the enemy’s standards. When you begin to shake the foundations of the enemy’s kingdom, be prepared to be at the top of his hit list.

Now rather than be fearful or concerned about being a target of the enemy, we must instead take heart, we must be joyous and at peace knowing that his attack will come, and that God will fight on our behalf.

The third reason we take heart in the midst of the storm, is due to our assurance in God. As believers, we have a blessed assurance, a promise of God that gives us confidence in Him. If God promised that He would be with us, then we are assured that He will be. If God promised that He will see us through the storm, then we are assured that He will do as He promised.

So what was Paul’s assurance? Why was he so confident? Why did he encourage his fellow shipmates to take heart when to the human eye they had no hope of being saved?

Acts 27:23-24, “For there stood by me this night an angel of the God to whom I belong and whom I serve, saying, ‘Do not be afraid, Paul.”

Paul was able to take heart in the storm, because of the angel of God who told him not to be afraid.

‘But how can I not be afraid? The world seems to be spinning out of control; people are losing their jobs by the millions; uncertainty is growing every day; tensions are being fueled to the point of violence; how can I not be afraid? I’m not like Paul, I don’t see angels, they don’t visit me and tell me not to be afraid, they don’t visit me and encourage me in my time of distress. How can I not be afraid?’

Because you have something greater than angelic visitations to give you assurance, you have the word of God; Because the Bible is there to encourage anyone who picks it up and reads it and believes it; Because God told you not to be afraid; because God promised that though a thousand fall at your side, and ten thousand at your right hand, it shall not come near you. We are able to take heart in the midst of chaos because we have the assurance that God will do as He promised, that God will keep His word to His children and though in the physical it might seem impossible, nothing is impossible to our God.

Isaiah 43:2-3, “When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overflow you. When you walk through the fire, you shall not be burned, nor shall the flame scorch you; for I am the Lord your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior!”

This is the promise of God to His children. This is the promise of God to all those who call on His name. But how can we walk through fire and not get scorched, how can we go through the rivers and not get overflowed? God will make a way. It is that simple. God will make a way!

God is consistently and perpetually a present help for us. In the final verse of the gospel according to Matthew after speaking the great commission to His disciples, and by relation to all who would follow after Him, Jesus said something profound that should give us courage and boldness in the storm.

Jesus did not say, ‘I will be with you at a certain point in your walk’, but rather Jesus said, ‘I am with you always, even to the end of the age.’ Jesus is with you always, Jesus is with me always, Jesus is with all who follow after Him in perpetuity. What a great comfort those two words ‘I am’ bring to the heart of a believer. He is, presently, right now, in the midst of your trial, with you.

The fourth reason we are to take heart in the midst of the storm is because we have a sure and clear destination mapped out for us. Paul knew his destination he knew he would be brought before Caesar because the angel had confirmed it to him. If we are certain of our destination, then we will be certain that we will weather the storm. God does not establish a destination for us, only to cut our trip short, but He will make a way for us to reach our goal.

Our destination is not something made by the hands of men, it is not something orchestrated by denominations, our destination is the city which has foundations, and whose builder and maker is God. Knowing our destination, knowing that one day we will stand before the Master and maker of all, we go through the storms of this life with our heads held high, and our gaze firmly planted on the horizon before us. No matter how bad the storm might get, we have the certainty that we will make it through, because God promised us we would, and if He promised it, He will bring it to pass. When God gives His word, it is a certainty. God is not like men, who go back on their word as soon as keeping it becomes difficult or inconvenient. God is not like men, who sway to and fro in their convictions; He is forever faithful, forever true, a God who changes not from century to century and millennia to millennia.

There will come a day when we will forget the storms, there will come a day when we will forget the pain, and the sadness, the rejection and the mocking for the sake of Christ and the gospel. There will come a day when every tear will be wiped from our eye, and sadness will be no more. It is toward this day that we look afar off, and take courage in the storms of our lives.

Psalm 107:21-30, “Oh, that men would give thanks to the Lord for His goodness, and for His wonderful works to the children of men! Let them sacrifice the sacrifices of thanksgiving, and declare His works with rejoicing. Those who go down to the sea in ships, who do business on great waters, they see the works of the Lord and His wonders in the deep. For He commands and raises the stormy wind, which lifts up the waves of the sea. They mount up to the heavens, they go down again to the depths; their soul melts because of trouble. They reel to and from, and stagger like a drunken man, and are at their wits’ end. Then they cry out to the Lord in their trouble, and He brings them out of their distress. He calms the storm, so that its waves are still. Then they are glad because they are quiet; So He guides them to their desired haven.”

Give thanks to the Lord for His goodness, trust in the Lord with all your heart, and in the midst of the storm, when the waves mount up to the heavens and go down again to the depths, when the souls of men melt because of trouble, you will know the protection of God, and He will guide you to your desired haven. If your desired haven is in Him, you will know peace in the midst of chaos, you will know safety in the midst of war, you will know fullness in the midst of hunger, because He is able, willing and faithful to provide for His children wherever they might find themselves.

With love in Christ,
Michael Boldea Jr.