Monday, September 27, 2010

Lessons from the Potter's House

Jeremiah 18:1-2, “The word which came to Jeremiah from the Lord, saying: ‘Arise and go down to the potter’s house and there I will cause you to hear My words.”

One day the word of the Lord came to Jeremiah and instructed him to go to the potter’s house. God did not instruct Jeremiah to go and see the mastery with which the potter fashioned clay, He did not instruct Jeremiah to go and see the process, by which a lump of clay became a vessel, but rather to go and hear His words. Jeremiah went to the potter’s house to hear the words of God, not to see a man molding clay. God wanted to teach Jeremiah certain truths, and today I wanted to discuss these truths that Jeremiah learned by visiting the potter’s house, if only briefly.

The first lesson that Jeremiah learned while at the potter’s house, was that of the absolute sovereignty of God. God is sovereign!

As Jeremiah beheld the potter at his wheel, and beheld the vessel that he had made become ruined, as he watched the potter take the selfsame lump of clay and make it again into another vessel, the Lord asked a truly profound question.

Jeremiah 18:6, “O house of Israel, can I not do with you as this potter?’ says the Lord. ‘Look as the clay is in the potter’s hand, so are you in My hand, O house of Israel.”

Just as the potter is sovereign over the clay that he molds, God is sovereign over His creation. When the potter sets about making a vessel out of the clay in his hands, the clay cannot demand anything of the potter. The clay cannot ask to be a bowl, a cup, a pitcher or a tray, the clay is simply at the potter’s discretion, and the potter does with it what he wills.

If there is veracity in the songs we sing, if indeed He is the potter and we are the clay, then how is it that so many today seem to demand of God rather than submit to Him? How is it that countless souls stand before a sovereign God, and begin to dictate terms to Him rather than simply obey, and yield to His molding and chiseling?

Our doctrine has become such that whenever the Potter attempts to mold us, whenever the Potter takes us in His hands and begins to form us, we bristle and resist, we defy and refuse to go along with that which He desires to mold us into, all the while forgetting that all we are, are lumps of clay.

Isaiah 45:9, “Woe to him who strives with his Maker! Let the potsherds strive with the potsherds of the earth. Shall the clay say to him who forms it, ‘what are you making?’ Or shall your handiwork say, ‘He has no hands?’”

Not only does the clay ask the Potter ‘what are you making?’ nowadays, but the clay goes one step further and demands that it be made into something else, something of its choosing.

‘I want to be prosperous, and handsome, and beautiful, and acne free, I want to have a big house and a nice car, and maybe a boat, that’s what I want You to mold me into, if not, then no deal!’

We have so distorted the relationship between Potter and clay, that there are even some calling themselves children of God, who teach that they are in fact little Potters, creators in their own right, no longer subject to the molding of the Great Potter, but having achieved the status of creators on a miniature scale.

Isaiah 29:16, “Surely you have things turned around! Shall the potter be esteemed as the clay; for shall the thing made say of him who made it, ‘he did not make me?’ or shall the thing formed say of him who formed it, ‘he has no understanding?’”

To anyone still under the misconception that we are little gods, sorry to burst your bubble, but we are nothing more than lumps of clay into which God in His sovereign mercy breathed life. It is God that molds us, it is God that forms us into what He desires us to become.

The second lesson Jeremiah learned while at the potter’s house, was the lesson of becoming. When the Potter takes a lump of clay and puts it on the wheel, it is with the specific intent that the lump of clay becomes a vessel. The Potter fashions the clay, he molds it in His hands knowing full well that the clay is becoming something other than what it was.

We are all being fashioned; we are all becoming, and just as a potter must press down upon the clay in order to give it its form, the Great Potter sometimes presses down upon us to form us into the vessel He desires us to be. Whenever God presses down on us, it is not toward out detriment but toward our benefit. He presses down on us because He is molding us, He is molding us because we are becoming, and what we are becoming is something that only He knows. We trust the Great Potter, because we know that His desire is to make vessels of honor. We trust the Great Potter because He takes the time to mold us, individually so, forming us into His image and likeness.

Throughout the Word we see how God has formed His vessels; we see the pressing down, the chiseling that took place before they could be used of God, before they could shine like the sun and bring glory to His name. From Joseph to Job, from David to Daniel, we see how heavily God pressed down on them that they might be made into the vessel God desired them to be.

The third and final lesson Jeremiah learned while at the potter’s house, was the lesson of resistance.

Jeremiah 18:4, “And the vessel that he made of clay was marred in the hand of the potter; so he made it again into another vessel, as it seemed good to the potter to make.”

Although it was just clay, something in that lump of clay resisted the potter’s first try, and the vessel that he made out of the lump of clay was ruined in the hand of the potter. No matter how much the potter pressed down, no matter how much the potter formed it, something in the lump of clay would not yield, it resisted the molding of the potter until it was ruined. If there are setbacks in our lives, it is not because God was impotent; it is because we resisted Him until we were ruined. So often we resist the plan of God, we resist the molding of God, and due to our resistance God just takes another lump of clay and begins to fashion a new vessel.

God is the potter, and we are His clay. He is sovereign and it is by His design that we are fashioned into the vessels we are becoming. A wise man does not resist the molding and the fashioning, he simply submits to it, knowing that the finished product will be something beyond his comprehension.

All men are molded, and if we resist God molding us and forming us into His image, the world will be more than happy to mold us and form us in its image.

With love in Christ,
Michael Boldea Jr.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

A Wortwhile Quote

I found the following quote in one of my notebooks, and it really spoke to me. I pray it does the same for you.

“We need to re-study our Bibles, and learn what real Christianity is. How holy, how heavenly, how spiritual, how loving, how morally and socially excellent a matter it is. What separation from the world, what devoutness, what intense earnestness, what conscientiousness, what enlarged benevolence, what unselfishness, what zealous activity, what unearthliness, what seeds of celestial virtue, our profession of godliness implies.

Having examined this, and obtained an impressive idea of it, let us survey our own state, and ask if we do not need, and ought not to seek, more of the prevalence of such a piety as this, which, in fact, is primitive Christianity.

Is our spiritual condition what it ought to be, what it might be, what it must be – to fulfill our high commission as the salt of the earth and the light of the world? A Christian, acting up in some tolerable measure to his profession, walking in the holiness of the Gospel – is the strongest and most emphatic testimony for God to our dark revolted world, next to that of Christ Himself.”

J.A. James
With love in Christ,
Michael Boldea Jr.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Old Ghosts

Numbers 32:23, “And be sure your sin will find you out.”

On my last night in Romania, before my flight back to the US I met up with my brother Daniel just to talk, and say goodbye. Since he was finishing up the last of his exams before becoming a tried and true dentist, and we only got to see each other sparingly while I was in Romania, we hadn’t gotten a chance to talk much over the past few months, and during our conversation he mentioned a book he had just come into possession of.

By all rights this book is incendiary, at least as pertains to the Romanian Christian community, because it contains the names of informants, paid or otherwise, who reported on believers during the Communist years. The informants this book names are not people of the world, but rather men and women who called themselves brothers and sisters in Christ, believers who betrayed the brethren and by their statements subjected countless individuals to unspeakable things.

The reason my brother brought up the book in question, was because he found our grandfather’s name in it, as well as the names of two of the individuals who informed on him to the secret police. From what my brother told me, the book is very well documented with the file numbers in the government archives, cross referenced and researched almost tediously at times.

The reason I bring this up is twofold. First, as next of kin, and direct descendants, we are now able to access our grandfather’s voluminous file, detailing all who informed on him to the secret police, the interrogations he was subjected to, and the incarcerations he had to endure. My brother Daniel has already commenced with the paperwork towards this end, and soon we will be able to fill in some of the missing pieces of our grandfather’s life, know who his true friends were, and also those who merely pretended to be his friends.

The second reason I brought up this event, is to make one simple point: Old ghosts don’t die, they just linger waiting to be uncovered. The sins of men eventually find them out, and though it has been over a quarter of a century since my grandfather was tortured and beaten to within an inch of his life, and those that signed affidavits, and informed on him have most likely long forgotten their cowardly acts, the truth of their actions still remained, and the evidence of their betrayal lingered these many years.

My brother and I talked at length whether it would be better to let sleeping dogs lie, to leave the past to its own murky waters, whether we would be able to forgive those who were directly responsible for the pain our grandfather endured if it turned out that they still feigned friendship after so many years, or if in this case ignorance was the best course of action. We concluded that there is no bliss in ignorance, just ignorance, and knowing a painful truth is by far more preferable than accepting a plausible lie.

Other than the two men already named in the aforementioned book, documented to have informed on him, we do not know how many other names we will find in our grandfather’s file, how many more sold their dignity for a handful of barley, or the many other things our grandfather endured but chose to spare us, but we feel that we must know.

With love in Christ,
Michael Boldea Jr.

Monday, September 13, 2010

The New Replacement Theology

The old replacement theology is simple enough. Also known as supersessionism, the old replacement theology teaches that the church has essentially replaced Israel in God’s plan, and all the promises made to Israel in the Bible have been transferred to the church. Some have even gone so far as to say that America is the New Jerusalem, and when Jesus returns with glory and power, it is on American soil that He will set foot and not on the Mount of Olives as prophesied by Zechariah.

The new replacement theology however is more complex because what we have attempted to replace is not a geographical location, or a nation of peoples, but the very essence of Christianity itself. We have attempted to replace the Christ! Until recently the new replacement theology attempted to replace Christ with prosperity, a hedonistic and self-centered ideology that placed the individual above all else, and as long as the flesh was made to feel good, as long as the physical was tended to and taken care of the spiritual man could readily be ignored, marginalized and disregarded.

“It’s all about you baby! You are the bee’s knees, and as long as you have a positive self image, as long as you have self esteem, then you have finally grasped that ever illusive understanding of what this present life is really all about. It wasn’t for your eternal soul, it wasn’t to save you from the pit of darkness and despair, nope, the Son of God came to earth, hung on a cross, died and rose again so you could have a positive attitude, and an optimistic outlook on life. We all know hell isn’t really real, and the few that still talk about hell within the context of Scripture are just gloomy Gusses, pessimists to the last, who don’t yet know the joys of looking into a mirror smiling broadly, and loving themselves.”

As with anything that is not built upon the true and lasting foundation that is Jesus, as with anything that is not rooted in the Word, this version of the new replacement theology has started to fizzle as of late. Sure, people are still trying to ‘stay positive’ people are still trying to be optimistic, but it’s kind of hard to smile through tears of anguish, and no matter how many mantras we repeat incessantly, it still doesn’t take away from the reality that times are changing, and not for the better.

Rather than turn to Christ in our season of uncertainty, rather than return to the tried and true path of humility, repentance, prayer and communion with God, we have found yet another thing to replace Christ with.

I already know this will rub some the wrong way, I am already bracing myself for the onslaught of unfriendly replies, but truth be known I’ve developed thick skin over the years, and I know that what I write today will prove itself out shortly.

Although in large part we’ve done away with the doctrine of prosperity, we have replaced it with the doctrine of patriotism. More and more, in recent months I’ve been hearing many people refer to themselves as ‘Christian Patriots’, and the simple truth is that one of these must have preeminence in one’s life; one of these must have the number one spot from whence come our decisions, our reactions and our conduct. The question is simple enough: when and if it comes down to it, which will you forfeit? Will you forfeit Christ for the sake of patriotism, or will you forfeit patriotism for the sake of Christ?

Now before labeling me an anti-patriotic heretic, since seemingly Christians like to throw this label around now more than ever before, I would urge you to read this post in its entirety, then through the prism of Scripture, and not our own preconceived notions, come to a conclusion.

Please don’t misunderstand me. The ideal of patriotism in its purest form is a noble and admirable one. As all ideals have a tendency to do however, patriotism too will get perverted by those who want nothing to do with the values of this ideal, but simply want to use it toward their own nefarious ends.

The cycle is easily recognizable throughout history. First there is a core group of sincere individuals who desire to see change, and then inevitably, seeing the power these sincere individuals are beginning to amass, the cunning and the power hungry attach themselves to the cause. Numbers are power, power is clout, and clout is leverage. Such individuals, those who can spot a train leaving the station and hop on it hoping to ride it all the way to its final destination care nothing for values, or ideals, their only concern and desire is power.

Since the church has been living with spiritual substitutes and surrogates in lieu of Christ for so long, once prosperity took a long leap of a short pier, we needed to find something new, and due to the context of the current political climate, many believers readily gravitated toward patriotism. Doing all we can to remove Christ from Christianity we’ve latched onto this new substitute for true spirituality like starving leeches on exposed skin.

I fear however that we are in for yet another rude awakening, and another disappointment of monolithic proportions. Our disappointment at seeing those we’ve helped elect to office turn out to be nothing more than compromising and duplicitous politicians will far exceed the excited and supercharged patriotic zeal we are currently experiencing.

Throughout the years we have failed to seize upon one crucial truth, that truth being the fact that change, true change, comes about not by our might but by His might, and the only way we can compel God to intervene is by repentance and prayer.

The remedy to our national dilemma is simple enough, we must stop attempting to replace Christ, and return to Him; we must stop looking for surrogates, and go to the source of true peace, unspeakable joy, and everlasting rest, finding our purpose and fulfillment in Him and Him alone.

Jeremiah 17:5-6, “Thus says the Lord: ‘Cursed is the man who trusts in man and makes flesh his strength, whose heart departs from the Lord. For he shall be like a shrub in the desert, and shall not see when good comes, but shall inhabit the parched places in the wilderness, in a salt land which is not inhabited.”

With love in Christ,
Michael Boldea Jr.

Friday, September 10, 2010

The Lion, the Wolves, and the Storms

There is a great misconception within the body of Christ today, one that is fostered, nurtured and promulgated especially among those new to the faith in Christ. For many denominations and evangelists it is the hook by which they attract people into those large, opulent buildings with steeples that are commonly known as churches but which can be more readily likened to social clubs wherein ten percent of your earnings gets you a couple hours worth of entertainment per week.

As convoluted as this misconception is, it is highly attractive to those who aren’t necessarily looking for a relationship with God, but rather a reason to feel hopeful and positive.

“Come to Jesus, and you will never again have a care in the world. Your wife will love you, your children will respect you, your boss will give you a raise, and you will ascend from victory to victory, never again to know the trials and tribulations of the godless, never again to feel the anxiety and vexation that is the cruel reality of this present life.”

Poetic license notwithstanding, what we are promising the unsaved is a carefree and prosperous life here on earth, and not eternity in the presence of the Creator of all that is. In the estimation of some, once we raise a hand, or say a prayer, we mount up on our white steeds, and with a glint in our eye and a smile on our lips we ride onward toward eternity, never again encountering danger, peril or enemies.

Because many are never taught to expect opposition, attacks and warfare, at the first sign of trouble, they waver in their convictions, retreat, and attempt to find a circuitous route by which they can avoid confrontation. The path toward eternity is not around trials, it is not around tribulation, it is not around warfare, but through them.

There are three things we must contend with in our journey toward eternity, three things that have the singular purpose of distracting us from pursuing Christ and marching ever onward toward our rest.

The first of these is the lion, or the devil, whose only desire is your destruction. The world and those of the world already belong to him, and so he takes no pleasure in seeing their demise, he takes no pleasure in seeing their slavish existence, shackled to the sins and desires that have robbed them of their dignity and humanity. It is the children of God that the enemy desires to destroy; it is the children of God that the enemy desires to once more enslave.

1 Peter 5:8-9, “Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour. Resist him, steadfast in the faith, knowing that the same sufferings are experienced by your brotherhood in the world.”

There are three crucial truths we must glean from these two verses, three truths that will give us strength and encourage us whenever the enemy’s attacks grow in scope and size. The first truth is that we must be sober and vigilant, living with the expectation of the enemy’s attack. When it comes to the enemy attacking the children of God, it is not a matter of if; it is a matter of when.

The second truth we must glean is that by resisting him, and being steadfast in our faith, we will overcome him by the power of the Holy Spirit, and the Word of God. The third truth is that we are by no means unique in our sufferings, we have by no means been singled out, but the same sufferings are experienced by our brotherhood in the world.

The second thing that we must be weary of, the second of the three that desires to distract us from pursuing Christ and cementing a true and lasting relationship with Him are the wolves.

Matthew 7:15, “Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravenous wolves.”

There are variations of many things in this world, but there can be no variation when it comes to truth. There is one truth, and His name is Jesus; there is one way, and His name is Christ; there is one life, and that is in Him, and no matter how men might attempt to find a different path, no matter how men might attempt to pervert the uniqueness of Christ, His singularity remains forever true.

A wolf eats sheep. A wolf does not teach, care for, nurture or otherwise desire the wellbeing of sheep; he just wants to fill his belly with their flesh. A wolf will do anything, and say anything to draw the sheep away from the Shepherd, because he knows the lengths to which the Shepherd will go to protect His sheep. If any man, whether highly respected within Christian circles, or someone holding a sign on a street corner attempts to distance you for Christ and place himself in His stead, run!

The last things we sojourners must contend with in this present life are the storms. Coming to Jesus guarantees no man exemption from the storms of this life. The only thing we are assured of is that our Captain, Christ, will steer us through the storms to a safe harbor. When we acknowledge the fact that storms of various sizes and intensities will come, then even in the midst of them we are at peace steadfast in the truth that Christ is also with us.

This journey of faith is by no means easy, God never said it would be, but regardless of how many attacks we will have to endure, regardless of how many wolves we will have to chase away, regardless of how many storms we will have to contend with in this present life, it will all be worth it when we stand before His glory and see Him face to face.

With love in Christ,
Michael Boldea Jr.