Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Settled in Complacency

I’ve been doing some studies on the Minor Prophets, and this morning as I was rereading the book of Zephaniah, I happened upon a verse that is far deeper than a fleeting glance would indicate.

Zephaniah 1:12, “And it shall come to pass at that time that I will search Jerusalem with lamps, and punish the men who are settled in complacency, who say in their heart, ‘The Lord will not do good, Nor will He do evil.”

In order to understand the gravity of this particular verse and the book of Zephaniah in its entirety, we must realize that this harsh prophetic warning was given to the people of Israel after they had experienced what some would call a spiritual awakening. Josiah the son of Amon had come to be king of Judah at the tender age of 8, a kingship that had been prophesied three hundred years earlier with such specificity that the prophecy had even included the king’s name, this selfsame Josiah.

It was Josiah who in the eighteenth year of his reign ordered the High Priest to begin and renovate the temple Solomon had built, a temple that had been largely ignored and left to ruin. So neglected had been the temple, that as they began to clean it out the High Priest discovered the Book of the Law in the treasure room, a book whose existence had been forgotten by the passage of time.

The High priest brought the scroll that contained the Book of the Law to Josiah’s attention, and after having heard its words, Josiah ordered it read to the crows in Jerusalem, and also outlawed worship of any other gods. Josiah then proceeded to destroy the living quarters for male cult prostitutes who were in the Temple, as well as pagan objects related to the worship of Baal, Asherah, and other gods.

After having the living pagan priests executed, and the bones of the dead priests exhumed from their graves and burned on their altars, Josiah finally reinstituted the Passover.

So having seen all the good that Josiah had accomplished, having seen the restoration of the temple, the purging of the wickedness that had wormed its way within its walls, and the reinstitution of the Passover, why would God send such a strong word via Zephaniah to the people? Why the strong warning of the destruction that was soon to come upon them if the people were headed, seemingly at least, in the right direction?

The short answer is because the spiritual awakening we witnessed among Israel was only a superficial one. Yes, the idols had been destroyed, the altars had been demolished, they had turned from the worship of Baal, but they had not done away with the idols in their hearts.

The people did not return to the one true God of their own volition, they did not worship the one true God because they desired to know Him, because they hungered after Him, or because they wanted to fellowship with Him, but because failure to do these things would bring about the punishment of Josiah. Other than for Josiah himself, who had truly experienced a spiritual awakening and desired to know the fullness of the one true God, the worship of Israel was one of formality.

Israel had settled in complacency, they went through the motions of keeping Passover, of going to Temple, but in their hearts they did not believe in an omnipotent, omniscient God, but rather a god that did neither good or evil, a god that had no bearing or influence on the nation, or on individuals, a god of perfect neutrality and indifference.

Their hearts had not changed, their hearts had not turned toward God, they did what they did because they were told to do so by the king, and not because their conscience compelled them.

So what’s the point of all this? Why does this matter in the great scheme of things?

Because rather than praying for a true awakening in this nation, rather than praying for a true repentance, rather than praying for righteousness, many believers today are simply praying for a new political party to take over the leadership of the country in a few months’ time.

Yes, we need change; but we need a change of heart, a transformation and regeneration of the inner man. We need an authentic awakening, and not a superficial one, an awakening that is ignited out of hunger and desire to know God in the fullness of His glory, and not because we can’t afford to keep the new car.

Sometimes we can do the right things for the wrong reasons, and other times we can even deceive ourselves into believing that as long as we show up on Sunday, sing the songs and clap along, sit through the mini-sermon all the while suppressing a yawn, and speed on over to the local buffet afterwards so we can beat the crowds, there is nothing more that needs be done.

There must be an authenticity in our worship that cannot be mandated, one that can only come about individually, and by the conviction of the Holy Spirit.

We have settled in our complacency, we desire the form rather than the substance of God, believing that a little something is better than nothing at all.

In the whole of Israel, God saw the hearts of the people, and found Josiah to be pure of heart, his motives for seeking the face of God were pure and undefiled by veiled motives, or hidden agendas. Josiah desired to know God for the sake of knowing God, he desired to worship God in spirit and in truth because He knew that God was worthy of it.

‘But we have done so much for God! We have built mega churches we sent up satellites, we’ve grown to multinational corporations in the name of God. Surely this must mean something.’

This is the same mindset that Israel had as well.

‘The temple of the Lord, the temple of the Lord, behold all the good; behold what we have done to it! We cleaned the windows, and repainted the pews, and vacuumed the inside.’

The answer that God gives the people comes via Jeremiah, who was a contemporary of Zephaniah.

Jeremiah 7:2-7, “Stand in the gate of the Lord’s house, and proclaim there this word, and say, ‘Hear the word of the Lord, all you of Judah who enter in at these gates and worship the Lord!’ Thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel: ‘Amend your ways and your doings and I will cause you to dwell in this place. Do not trust in these lying words, saying, ‘The temple of the Lord, the temple of the Lord, the temple of the Lord are these.’ For if you thoroughly amend your ways and your doings, if you thoroughly execute judgment between a man and his neighbor, if you do not oppress the stranger, the fatherless, and the widow, and do not seek to shed innocent blood in this place, or walk after other gods to your hurt, then I will cause you to dwell in this place, in the land that I gave your fathers forever and ever.”

God sees the heart, God weighs the heart, God judges the heart, and though we may go through the motions of feigning worship, although we may point to the shiny buildings we have built, although we may itemize and list all the good things we have done, lest we amend our ways and our doings, lest we pursue righteousness wit zeal and commitment once more, the hand of God will still be outstretched against us.

With love in Christ,
Michael Boldea Jr.

Friday, July 16, 2010

The Cloak

I’ve been thinking about a cloak recently. There was nothing inherently special about it, it was just another piece of clothing that was worn during the times of Jesus, and which is still being worn today in certain parts of the world, but it was a cloak which in the twilight of his life Paul asked Timothy to bring to him because winter was approaching and the weather was turning. Paul had left this cloak with a man Carpus at Troas, and now he needed it for warmth.

The more I ponder this cloak, and the implications thereof, the more disgust is stirred up in me toward many of today’s so called evangelists, teachers, self proclaimed prophets, and apostles.

We are taught by many in today’s avarice driven society that coming to Jesus is like winning the lottery. You raise a hand, you say a prayer, then you buy yourself the biggest wheelbarrow you can find, and just start hauling sacks and sacks of new, crisp, never circulated hundred dollar bills for as long as your legs will carry you. If you need to take a break, why there’s always some island somewhere with palatial suites, twenty four hour room service, and a beautiful ocean view where you as an ‘apostle prophet evangelist teacher’ can rest for a couple weeks, every couple weeks (hauling wheelbarrows of money is tiresome business after all) because like American Express used to say, ‘membership has its privileges.’

‘Enough? No such thing! Joy in the Lord? That was before the greenback was introduced into civil society. Come on now, we all know the apostles were filthy rich, we all all know Jesus enjoyed the best of everything in life.’

Trust me I’ve heard every cliché in the book and then some. From the ever popular ‘we are the head and not the tail’, to ‘riches here are just a down payment for all the riches we’ll have in heaven’, and these are just a couple of the ‘nice ones’ the ones that don’t guilt you into sending a guy with two jet planes and a fleet of luxury cars your last few cents because ‘you’re robbing God’ if you don’t.

No matter how they try to minimize it however, no matter how much they would like to do away with the Word of God which contradicts their inventive, greedy and heretical doctrines, it still stands, and within its pages we see glimpses of the lives of the Apostles, glimpses of the life of Christ that suggests these men were not by any stretch of the imagination rich, well off, or rolling in shekels.

I know, I know, brother Jesse said Jesus was rich because He had a custom made, seamless robe, and the soldiers even cast lots for it. By the time Jesus was nailed to the cross, having walked the Via Dolorosa, having been whipped bloody, and having had a crown of thorns placed upon His head, that robe was in no shape to ever be worn again. The soldiers cast lots for sport, out of boredom, having to wait there until those nailed to the crosses eventually expired in agony. What fools we become when we let greed get the better of us!

In 2 Timothy chapter 4, we see that an aging Paul writes to Timothy to bring him a cloak he had left behind on one of his journeys. We see the great Apostle of Christ abandoned by all but Luke, we see him cold, and in prison, and even from his cell, he is doing his best to encourage the church. It was only after he made certain that the preaching of the gospel would have continuity through Timothy that he asked him to bring his cloak.

‘Well it was his fault, he didn’t believe in the prosperity gospel!’

To be honest, Paul, formerly known as Saul, was groomed for the prosperity gospel. His upbringing, his education, ensured that he would be a Pharisee, and since the religious system ruled the land in those times, one could easily compare a Pharisee in Paul’s day to a Senator today. The man had already been accepted into the Sanhedrin having graduated from the most prestigious theological school of the time. The Pharisees were the power brokers of the time, they were the bankers of the time, they were the most influential citizens of Israel, and as such they were among some of the richest men in the land. It wasn’t simply a title Paul gave up when he met Christ on the road to Damascus, it wasn’t simply a name that he surrendered, it was the entire system of corruption, greed and avarice that had become the religious system of that time.

Lest we forget, Paul was also a Roman citizen, and in those days a Roman citizen could travel as he pleased, wherever he pleased, he was single, well educated, on his way to a great career and much wealth, yet one moment changed his life, and here he was, in the twilight of his existence asking a young Timothy to please bring him the cloak he had left behind in Troas.

‘Perhaps the cloak had sentimental value brother Mike; maybe that’s why he wanted it.’

Seeing as this is the selfsame man who said, ‘indeed I also count all things loss for the excellence of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them as rubbish that I may gain Christ’, I highly doubt sentimentality played any role in Paul’s desire to have his cloak returned to him. The man was cold, and it was getting colder, and because of this he remembered he once had a cloak that he had left behind on one of his journeys, and if he had it he could use it to cover his shivering body in a damp prison cell.

We have so skewed the perception of servant hood in this present generation, we have so butchered and remade it to our own liking that we have come to believe that a servant is entitled to being served.

What pains me most of all when I look back on the final days of Paul the Apostle of Christ, is that shortly after requesting that Timothy bring him his cloak, the man died alone, all the brothers in Rome having abandoned him. What happened to all those individuals he named in Romans 16? What became of Priscilla and Aquilla, or Amplias his beloved in the Lord? What became of Urbanus and Herodion? Where were they in Paul’s time of need?

2 Timothy 4:16, “At my first defense no one stood with me, but all forsook me. May it not be charged against them.”

So what is my point in all this? My point is simple, even elementary, but one that much of today’s church seems to have forgotten. Serving God is not about fame, serving God is not about popularity, serving God is not about fortune, it is not about accolades, nor is it about being embraced by as many believers as possible. Serving God is about setting our gaze upon Christ and pursuing Him exclusively even when everyone abandons us, even when we end up cold and alone in a prison cell writing out final letter.

The question ought not to be ‘what do I get if I follow after Jesus?’ but rather ‘am I willing to give up everything that I may follow after Him!’

With love in Christ,
Michael Boldea Jr.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Are You Too Busy To Hear God?

Luke 3:1-2, “Now in the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar, Pontius Pilate being governor of Judea, Herod being tetrarch of Galilee, his brother Philip tetrarch of Iturea and the region of Trachonitis, and Lysanias tetrarch of Abilene, Annas and Caiaphas being high priests, the word of God came to John the son of Zacharias in the wilderness.”

So what’s so important about some old, long dead, and largely forgotten Romans, and a couple high priests anyway? John, the Son of Zacharias we can all understand, this is the selfsame John who went on to be known as John the Baptist, or John the Baptizer, but why are these other men forever remembered in the pages of scripture?

As with everything that is in the word of God, these men were included in the Bible to teach us a very timely and practical lesson.

As some of you might know by now I am a history dork. If I’d had a choice in my vocation, or what I would pick as a career, it would, ten out of ten times, without equivocation, be archaeology. I love history, and the idea that one can unearth something that someone last held hundreds or even thousands of years ago is strangely appealing to me.

One would think that the whole idea of archaeology, or unearthing long lost trinkets would have worn off by now, but even well into my thirties, I still take my metal detector once in awhile when time permits, and patiently wave it over long undisturbed earth near castles, or old churches. As far as worth goes what I end up finding most of the time has no value other than intrinsic, but holding an arrowhead or even a horseshoe that hasn’t seen the sun in centuries between my fingers is something indescribable.

So although Tiberius Caesar, Herod or Philip his brother might not be of much interest to most, I found them fascinating historical figures, and while researching this moment in time, this fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius even formulated a practical teaching that I believe will speak to some of you.

The fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius was not a good year for the man. Historically speaking, the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius wasn’t really a year in which he reigned. In what we would now refer to as 28A.D. Tiberius gave up control of his empire for fear of uprising, and assassination attempts, he then left the Roman throne, and isolated himself somewhere on the island of Capri. He entrusted all his imperial powers, and as such the welfare of the Roman Empire to one of his closest confidants, a man by the name of Lucius Aelius Sejanus. Once Sejanus becomes the de facto ruler of the empire, he promptly proceeds to abuse the authority he has been given by Caesar, and as consequence unleashes political chaos within the whole of the Roman Empire.

From what history tells us, this man Sejanus was neither a good, nor a noble man. He accumulated power by eliminating potential political opponents, including the Emperor’s own son, Drusus Julius Caesar.

It is oddly ironic that the man Tiberius chose to command Rome while he was away turned out to be the reason his worst fears were coming to fruition before his very eyes. It was due to fear of uprising, revolt, and assassination attempts that Tiberius left Rome in the first place.

Globally speaking, the entire political world was turned on its ear. It was chaotic, unpredictable, and men plotted against each other on a constant basis.

Throughout all this Israel wasn’t fairing much better either. Herod was tetrarch, or governor of Galilee, his brother Philip governor of two other regions, and since they didn’t like each other much they decided to go to war. Politically speaking, Israel was fragmented, and the sons of Herod the Great begin to do battle for supremacy. Fractured, and led by pagans, with the Romans by way of Pontius Pilate governing Judea, Israel was not in good shape. The Roman Empire was long past its zenith and was now in its decline, the priests were hirelings to anyone who would pay them, pagans were ruling the land, and everyone was busy doing something. No one could deny that all these men of whom the Bible speaks, all the men that the Word itemized for us were busy people, with buys lives, upwardly mobile and on a vertical trajectory, their fingernails bloody as they clawed, and fought their way to the top of some imaginary hill.

Yes, all these men were busy, their schedules packed, except for John who was in the wilderness. Other than surviving, and communing with God there isn’t much one can do in the wilderness, but it was here that the word of God came to John, and it was here that his ministry began. We see the clear contrast between John, and all the other men who were busy with running empires, warring with each other, and plotting against each other, and we realize that in order to hear God, one must make time for Him. God cannot speak to busy people, because busy people don’t take the time to be still and hear His voice. God is no longer a priority, and with each passing day He slips down the list a little further, other issues of life taking precedent over simply spending time with Him.

So why did God choose to speak to John in the wilderness? I believe the wilderness was the perfect representation of the spiritual dryness and death that had overtaken not only Israel, but even the house of God, the priests of His house and those who ought to have grown in Him.

God spoke to John in the wilderness because in a time when everyone around him was focused on their goals, and ambitions, on what they could achieve and what they could accomplish, John learned total dependency upon God in the wilderness. It is in the wilderness of life that we learn to be dependent on God. When all our safety nets have been removed, when all other options have long faded into the mist, it is then that we learn to be dependent on Him; it is then that He proves Himself to us.

God speaks when we are silent. He will not attempt to out-shout us; He will not vie or otherwise contend for our attention or our time. God is not in competition with the world, and if we treat God as though He were one of many contenders, seeing what He offers as opposed to what the world offers, He will simply go and stand at the door of another heart that is willing to surrender all to Him. It is we, who must knock, and it is He that opens; it is we who must ask, and it is He that will give.

In the wilderness God gave John a new understanding not only of Himself, but of society, religion, and his mission and calling. When all was silent around him, the word of God came to John, and spoke to him about his identity in Him. When all around him was silent, God spoke to John.

Throughout his ministry John was asked who he was, and without fail he had a precise and forthright answer each time he was asked this question. John knew his identity in God, he knew who he was without equivocation because God had spoken to him in the wilderness, and due to this dialogue there was purpose and certainty in John’s ministry, identity, and character. When a man is uncertain of who he is in God, when a man is uncertain as to his identity in Christ, he is easily swayed, easily moved, easily made to retreat and give up ground to the enemy. When however, we know who we are, we stand on that singular truth that we are sons and daughters of the most high God, then come what may, we are not moved.

Matthew 3:1-3, “In those days John the Baptist came preaching in the wilderness of Judea, and saying, ‘repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand!’ For this is he who was spoken of by the prophet Isaiah, saying: ‘the voice of one crying in the wilderness: ‘prepare the way of the Lord, make His paths straight.”

It was only by divine revelation that John knew who he was, it was only by God speaking to him that John would have the strength and boldness to say, ‘I am the one of whom the prophet Isaiah spoke, I am he, I am that man, that voice crying in the wilderness.’

We live in a time and amidst a society wherein great forces have been marshaled in an attempt to strip us of our identity. If the world had its way, we would all be a mass of faceless individuals, absent of identity, all wearing the same clothes, drinking the same soft drinks, eating the same food, and marching to the beat of the same drummer. The world has attempted to assimilate everyone, including the church, because people certain of their identity stand out like blood on fresh snow, and there is great strength in knowing who you are.

In addition to revealing his identity in the wilderness, God also revealed the condition of society as a whole to John. It is due to this revelation; it is due to this new understanding concerning the sinfulness of the times in which he lived that John was able to speak to tax collectors about corruption, to the Roman guards about injustice, to the Pharisees and Sadducees about hypocrisy, and to Herod about immorality. Why is John the only man to see these things during the first part of the first century? Why didn’t Annas and Caiaphas the high priests, the spiritual leaders, see the sin into which the nation had descended? Because in the midst of a chaotic time, filled with busy people, John takes the time to make time, he goes off into the wilderness to hear the word of the Lord.

If you desire for God to speak to you, make sure you make the time for Him to speak to you. It’s not God’s fault that we can’t hear Him over the tumult of our daily lives, it’s not God’s fault that we can’t hear Him over the chaos into which we daily plunge ourselves with abandon, God is speaking, but most today are too busy to hear His voice. It is only by taking the time, and hearing the voice of God that we will understand the times and the seasons we are living in, it is only by removing ourselves from the noise of the crowd that we will hear Him clearly, and know what we must do, where we must go, and what we must say. There are no shortcuts to spending time with God, there is no special prayer we can say, or special scripture we can read to replace simply being in His presence, and waiting to hear His voice. I realize for some who feel as though they are wasting precious seconds if they’re not doing something, trivial as that something might be, from the moment they awake to the moment they return to bed it might be difficult, but at least once a day, take a few minutes and just go be alone with God. You will see the benefits of this not in a year, or five years, but immediately, and profoundly, because as soon as we make time to hear God, we realize He’s been speaking to us all along.

With love in Christ,
Michael Boldea Jr.

Friday, July 9, 2010

10 Steps to a Successful Marriage (For Men)

Recently my wife and I celebrated ten years of marriage. The day after our anniversary a friend of mine who has been married less than a year came to me and said, ‘you’ve been married ten years, yet you guys still seem happy. How do you do it?’

I told him I’d get back to him, and that evening I sat down and wrote the ten things every husband must do, at least in my opinion, in order to ensure a successful marriage. I’ll be the first to say I’m no expert, but a decade is a decade, and we’re still madly in love, so something must be going right. As a gift to all husbands everywhere, here is my top ten list for a successful marriage:

10. Communicate!
I know, I know, cheesy. We’re men! We’re supposed to get through life with grunts and hand gestures, but sometimes we do need to talk, and daily conversations with your spouse, even something as mundane as hearing about the rude customer at work, or the lady who tried to exchange a used pair of shoes, allows for the interaction that is essential in a healthy marriage.

9. Know her favorite flower!
Not all women like roses. My wife’s favorite flower is freesia. I know, she could have picked something more readily available, but since freesia is her favorite flower, it’s freesia she gets.

8. Less is more!
Instead of giving her a dozen flowers once a month, give her one flower every few days.
As men we like bombastic things. We like cannons and high powered rifles, big explosions, and giant fireballs, and we attempt to extrapolate these things and incorporate them into our marriage. Well, bigger isn’t always better, and rather than quantity, in general wives appreciate frequency much more.

7. Tell her you love her at least once a day!
‘But she already knows.’ Well, it doesn’t hurt to remind her. Just as we already know certain things yet we like to hear them repeated to us, wives like to hear the words ‘I love you!’

6. Little things matter!
I’ll be the first to admit that even after ten years of marriage I don’t fully understand my wife. About a year ago I bought her a pair of earrings for her birthday, and although she said thank you, she didn’t seem all that impressed. A few days later, I noticed we were running out of toilet paper, and so I went to the store and bought some. When she saw what I’d done, her smile and reaction were such that one would think I’d just gone out and gotten her a diamond necklace. It’s the little things that wives remember most, those things that we might deem insignificant.

5. It doesn’t have to be a special occasion to do something special!
If it’s her birthday, or your anniversary, a wife expects that you will do something special. That expectation cancels out any sort of surprise or excitement. While my wife was still going to school, once in awhile I would cook a meal and have it ready when she got home. I could see in her eyes that the simple act of burning some chicken and overcooking some rice meant more to her than a candle light dinner on our anniversary. I am no culinary expert, by any stretch of the imagination, but after ten years, she still lights up when she finds that I’ve cooked for her.

4. Love her for who she is, not for whom you’d like her to be!
Every married man has uttered those fateful words ‘would you marry me?’ and when we did it no one forced us to do it. We entered the bond of marriage with our eyes wide open because we loved the person that was standing before us, and not some apparition of who we thought they could become. My wife is too skinny, and I knew this about her when I asked her to marry me. I am overweight, and she knew this about me when she agreed to marry me. We love each other for who we are, not for who we think we can make each other into. Would I like my wife to gain twenty or so pounds? Most definitely! Do I love her any less because after ten years she hasn’t gained an ounce? No!

3. Respect your spouse!
I have a very visceral reaction whenever I see husbands disrespecting their wives. If we understand the bond of marriage from a Biblical perspective, then the two have become one, and when a husband disrespects his wife, he is in essence disrespecting himself. We value and esteem our wives because they are a gift from God. And if we value them, we will not neglect them; we will not disrespect them, but see them through the eyes of Christ and cherish them accordingly.

2. Keep the marriage bed pure and undefiled!
You said ‘I do’, and from that moment until death does you part, there is no one else. Simple, to the point, and paramount for a successful marriage!

1. Love your wife just as Christ loved the church!
The day we said our marriage vows to each other, was the day I committed to the notion that I would readily and without regret lay down my life for my wife. If the Word commands us to love our wives just as Christ loved the church, then as Christ, we must be ready and willing to lay down our lives for them.

I’m sure there are more, but these ten things have kept us happy, fulfilled and in love for a decade now. Anyone that tells you a successful marriage requires no work either hasn’t been married, or doesn’t have a successful marriage. Without actively working at it, there is always the tendency to grow neglectful, forgetful, or indifferent, and these things can readily breed contempt in the heart of our spouse. I realize some of the things I’ve listed might sound sappy, but they work.

With love in Christ,
Michael Boldea Jr.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Rest In a Restless World

Even the most committed among the sunshine and lollipops crowd are starting to show stress fractures. Yes, as yet they are still smiling, but their chemically whitened pearly teeth are so forcefully clenched together that just an ounce or so more pressure and the veneers will crack. Even when the prosperity-positivity bus veered off track, suffered a couple flat tires and clipped a few cars by the side of the road, it seemed there were those who were still content with fastening their seat belts, sitting back, and waiting patiently to reach their final destination, having bypassed all the chaos of the world, having bypassed hardships and trials, and exiting the bus into the arms of a tolerant, all embracing deity who would usher them into their eternal rest, ever grateful that they gave him a try, and raised a limp hand in a church service.

Recently I attended a pastor’s conference, wherein the topic of discussion was whether we should give our people the truth, or give them hope instead. What many of the pastors in attendance failed to realize is that there is hope in truth, there is always hope in truth, but there is nothing but despair and agony in a false hope that never materializes.

The wise man prepares for the worst, the foolish man sits idly by and hopes against hope that things will either miraculously or magically turn around and get back on track.

We have been fed a lie for so long that when we hear the truth it unnerves us, it shocks us, and compels us to choose what to believe. Either we are hours or days away from being caught up into the great beyond, or we will have to brace ourselves and prepare for the chaos that is about descend upon the face of the earth like a whirlwind.

The stark, uncensored truth is that we are pulling pins on grenades faster than we can lob them, not only as a nation but the world in its entirety, and eventually, given enough time, when our arms get tired one of those grenades is liable to blow up in our faces.

It would be one thing if God were still with us as a nation, if every choice we made turned out to be the right one, and every turn we made at every fork in the road was the shortest route to our desired destination. As a friend of mine recently put it however, ‘it seems that God is angry with the world’, and calamity upon calamity is being visited upon the planet in its entirety. It’s one thing to withstand economic downturns, recessions, and negative outlooks on future earnings; it is something wholly different when God removes His hand of blessing from a nation.

What so many fail to understand is that what we are seeing is not the judgment of God poured out upon mankind, it is merely the removal of His blessing. Judgment hasn’t started yet!

All the positivity in the world will not spare us from the reality through which we will be living, and if we are caught unprepared it is no one’s fault but our own. We chose to stay on the bus as it was teetering on the edge of the precipice rather than diligently study the Word and actively strive to understand the times that we are living in.

I started this post with something else in mind, but as is often the case emotions got the better of me. No, I do not write out of anger, but rather out of a sense desperation because a frightening majority of believers today, sincere, honest believers, still cling to the idea that the worst is behind us, and we will shortly be removed from all the tumult and the brewing chaos of the world. I pray they are right! I pray with all my heart, and all my might that they are right!

Do I believe they are right? No, because the Word of God speaks of the times in which we are living, and if the Word was written exclusively for the children of God, then logic would dictate that those passages are in the Word as a warning to us that we might know what the future holds and not grow fearful. Another reason why God in His infinite wisdom forewarned us of the times and seasons that are upon us is so that we would not overreact as so much of the world has a tendency to, but rather trust, and implicitly so, that the One who foresaw these things also foresaw our means of shelter, protection and safety.

We must understand current events within the context of God’s word, and by doing so we see what will transpire next. Once again, and I must stress this because only I know how many e-mails I’ve gotten from believers looking for a place to hide, to escape, or otherwise flee, the purpose of knowing future events as presented in the Word of God, is not for our fear, but for our encouragement; not for our restlessness, but rather for our rest; not for our despondency but rather for our peace. God knew the future then, He knows the future now, and He will know the future tomorrow. If He is our Father, what have we to fear?

So back to the title of this post, and my initial intent for it: How can we have rest in a restless world? How can we see everything that is happening and still be at peace?

Short answer, trust in God and know that you are in His will. We must remember that although the Disciples of Christ were hysterical with fear, inquiring of Him if He did not care that they were perishing, all it took for Jesus to calm the windstorm and the waves beating into the boat and filling it were three simple words: ‘Peace, be still!’

It was after this that Jesus asked them a question that many believers should ask themselves today, ‘Why are you so fearful? How is it that you have no faith?’

Jesus did not ask His disciples why they had so little faith, or why their faith wasn’t strong enough, but rather He asked them why they had no faith at all. I realize I am not ingratiating myself to anyone by saying this, but it must be said, it is time some of us looked in the mirror and asked ourselves the same question Jesus asked of His disciples.

‘Why are you so fearful? How is it that you have no faith?’

From the e-mails I’ve been receiving lately it would seem that many believers are working themselves up into a fervor, each ‘alert’ or ‘breaking intelligence report’ more fear filled and imminent than the last. Ten different sources telling believers to do ten different things to avoid some calamitous event, whether the oil spill, the possible methane explosion, the coming earthquake, the New Madrid fault line, and the list goes on, but of all the ‘advice’ I’ve seen none of it was simply ‘peace, be still!’

We know these things are coming! We have known it for decades now, but this is no time for panic, but rather a time to dig deeper into our faith, to cement our relationship with God, and know His will for our lives as individuals. This is no time to cry out ‘do you not care that we are perishing’, but rather a time to say, ‘I have enough faith in my heavenly Father, I trust Him enough, that nothing will move me, nothing will shake me, nothing will hinder my stride toward eternity.’

We can have rest in a restless world precisely because the One we serve, the One who has saved us from the mire of sin and darkness has the power to speak to the storm and still it. We can have rest in a restless world because the One we serve is omnipotent and omniscient, all knowing and all powerful, and He promised His beloved that He would watch over them, protect them, and let no harm come to them.

This pace of alarming, disturbing, calamitous, and catastrophic ‘alerts’ is unsustainable, because we will all be shell shocked by the time the real trouble comes. God forewarned, not that you might fear, but rather that you might prepare, that you might have peace, be still, and know that He is forever and always, Alpha and Omega.

With love in Christ,
Michael Boldea Jr.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

The Good Old Days

And who said spy craft was dead? Just when we’d started growing oddly nostalgic of the good old days, the days of invisible ink, dead drops, and cloak and dagger passwords, it would seem we are once more revisiting a time largely forgotten by the Twitter, Facebook, and lady gaga generation.

I’ve been getting a ton of e-mails about the Russian spies masquerading as upstanding, taxpaying, American citizens, and all I can say is these are just the ones who got caught. What is not at all surprising is Vladimir Putin’s reaction to eleven of his deep cover agents getting burned, because let’s face it, a guy who had been in the KGB or the newer, less threatening sounding name FSB for twenty five or so years knows the cost of training an agent, stationing them in another country, and waiting patiently for his investment to yield returns.

It’s funny how shocked some Americans are by the fact that there are spies within the US. Just because we want to form a great big love circle and sing 60’s hippy songs with the world, it doesn’t mean the rest of the world shares this utopian vision of peace on earth and shiny, happy people everywhere. It is naïveté bordering on willful ignorance to think that we have no enemies, or that there are nations in this world who don’t hate us or wish us ill.

Personally, I think it is the narcissistic personality so many have adopted nowadays that compels them to believe the world must love them, the world must embrace them, and the world must bend to their will.

Surprise! There are nations in the world who don’t want to talk it out, there are nations in the world who don’t want to hug it out, who don’t want to see the world through your eyes, or understand your perspective.

Absent God, and the love of God, there is nothing on this earth more sustaining than hatred in the heart of man, and there are certain peoples on this earth that have long memories, whose traditions, experiences, slights, and enemies are passed down from father to son, whispered in their adolescent ear like some love song or sonnet. Such people learn to mask their hatred well enough, but deep in their heart the stories of their fathers and their grandfathers burn bright and fuel their desire to bring down the one enemy that vanquished them, and robbed them of their nationalistic pride and dignity.

I come from a people with long memories. There are still family feuds in certain villages that go back four and five generations because some great grandfather kicked mud on some other great grandfather’s dance hall suit in a time long forgotten by all but the families who still carry on the foolishness of feuding. Although I do not practice it, I understand it, and one can only understand it if they have lived it.

America is a young country, and as such in many respects it is an endearingly innocent and naïve country. We do not understand the notion of blood feuds, blood oaths, or the fact that when contemplating vengeance patience is an indispensible virtue. We’re still putting flowers in our hair, hanging out at the mall on Saturday nights, and wondering which outfit to wear to the family picnic, while others are plotting and planning, scoping out our weaknesses and formulating their next move.

This is not the last you will hear of foreign operatives being apprehended on American soil, because quite frankly, Russia is not the only nation that has spies within our borders.

On a completely unrelated matter, please keep Romania in your prayers. In the last week there have been 22 confirmed dead, 7000 displaced from their homes, and the rain has not stopped. The current flooding in our area has broken all records, and towns which were never under any threat of being flooded are now being evacuated. Thank you in advance for your prayers.

With love in Christ,
Michael Boldea Jr.