Thursday, February 24, 2011

Principles of Judging Part 1

Nothing in this life is as simple as it seems. No, you can’t really lose thirty pounds in one month by exercising two minutes three times per week and eating everything you want, nor does it take less than ten minutes and no tools to assemble the kitchen cabinet you got your wife for her birthday at Ikea. While we’re on the subject, your hair follicles will not regenerate if you use the extra special shampoo made up of vinegar and chicken fat each time you shower, and all you get if you use the newly patented electronic abdominal chiseler is a nasty rash and the faint smell of burnt pork rinds that no amount of soap will wash away for at least a week. Life is complicated, nuanced, layered, and often times, due to our need for simplicity we fall into the snare of sliding toward one extreme or another forsaking the notion of balance because to achieve balance requires dedication, study, and a willingness to admit that we don’t really know it all, and sometimes that we might have even been wrong concerning a certain issue.

Today I want to tackle a sensitive subject, one that has been bantered about endlessly and absent of finality or conclusion within Christian circles for decades on end, namely that of judging.

Since every one of us has been confronted, at one time or another with judging I thought it only prudent to do a study on the topic that we might discover if we are biblically allowed to judge, when we are biblically allowed to judge, when we are not, and how we are biblically allowed to judge. As is the case with every endeavor wherein we seek to discover the heart and mind of God, we must allow the Word to have the final say, and the final authority on the matter.

There are two major camps when it comes to judging, both extreme, both unproductive, unhealthy and dare I say unbiblical.

The first major camp that we find within the church when it comes to judging is the judge everyone, living or dead, when you’re done judging them pass sentence, and then proceed to carry out the public execution crowd. This camp is great at striking out blindly at anyone who would dare call into question any one of their pet doctrines and summarily sentencing individuals to the bowels of Hades without a second thought or a moment’s hesitation. Yes, they will judge anyone, at any time, for any reason, except for the self-righteous mug staring back at them in the mirror every morning. Try to point out shortcomings, inconsistencies or false doctrine in their theology and their answer will be ‘how dare you attempt to judge a judge? You have neither the right nor the authority.’ The more imperious ones will even revert to King James speak, and ask ‘how darest though?’

The second major camp that we find within the church when it comes to judging is the judge nothing and no one, it’s none of our business, it’ll all come out in the wash crowd. Although this second camp is far less confrontational than the first, it is equally dangerous because when we fail to judge a doctrine, a teaching, or a message properly we run the risk of allowing harmful elements into our spiritual lives that eat away at our constitution and sow the seeds of doubt in our hearts.

So which camp is right? Are we allowed to judge, or ought we to keep silent and never judge at all?

What is troublesome and even tragic to me is that most of us read what we believe within the pages of scripture, rather than believe what we read. What do I mean by this? Well, rather than believing what we read in the Word of God, and adhering to it, a great many of us are predisposed to finding those scripture passages, those verses, and those fragments that merely back up what we already believe. It is dangerous to only read what we believe in the Word, and not believe what we read.

Many a spiritual shipwrecks are walking about today, absent of peace, absent of joy, absent the presence of God in their lives because they chose to read scripture through the prism of what they already believed, choosing to dismiss any passage that would contradict their preconceived notion on any given matter.

The truth of the matter is that the issue of judging, and whether or not we are biblically allowed to judge is not so simple. There are passages within the pages of scripture that allow us, and even encourage us to judge, and there are also passages in scripture that discourage and prohibit us from judging. As a foundation for this teaching series, since I already realize it will be too lengthy for one solitary post, I wanted to list a few of the scriptures, both pro and contra judging so that we might better understand the complexity of this issue.

First, we will go through a few scripture passages that prohibit judging.

Matthew 7:1-5, “Judge not, that you be not judged. For with what judgment you judge, you will be judged; and with the same measure you use, it will be measured back to you. And why do you look at the speck in your brother’s eye, but do not consider the plank in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘let me remove the speck out of your eye’; and look, a plank is in your own eye? Hypocrite! First remove the plank from your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck out of your brother’s eye.”

Romans 2:1-3, “Therefore you are inexcusable, O man, whoever you are to judge, for in whatever you judge another you condemn yourself; for you who judge practice the same things. But we know that the judgment of God is according to truth against those who practice such things. And do you think this, O man, you who judge those practicing such things, and doing the same, that you will escape the judgment of God?”

Now one thing I have to point out because it is worth noting, especially with the passage in Romans is that simply because you know what is right, and you can prove someone else is wrong does not make you any better. So often we give into this attitude that we are better, we are more righteous, we are more holy than another simply because we belong to a certain denomination, or we practice certain ceremonies. There is no holiness or righteousness in and of ourselves! Only by putting on Christ, by dying to the flesh and submitting to Him are we made righteous and holy in the sight of God.

Romans 14:1-4, “Receive one who is weak in the faith, but not to disputes over doubtful things. For one believes he may eat all things, but he who is weak eats only vegetables. Let not him who etas despise him who does not eat, and let not him who does not eat judge him who eats; for God has received him. Who are you to judge another’s servant? To his own master he stands or falls. Indeed, he will be made to stand, for God is able to make him stand.”

Romans 14:10-13, “But why do you judge your brother? Or why do you show contempt for your brother? For we shall all stand before the judgment seat of Christ. For it is written: ‘As I live, says the Lord, every knee shall bow to Me, and every tongue shall confess to God.’ So then each of us shall give account of himself to God. Therefore let us not judge one another anymore, but rather resolve this, not to put a stumbling block or a cause to fall in our brother’s way.”

Rather than simplifying the situation, it would seem these passages are making it all the more complicated; we have come to a crossroads of sorts because there are individuals who have interpreted these passages through the prism of hypocrisy saying ‘the brother is weak I cannot tell him the truth, as yet he is not mature enough, and so I will omit the necessary and vital truths that are mandatory for his growth.’ We use this passage and others like it to justify our silence, to justify our complacency, to justify our indifference, because, well, we’re just supposed to receive one who is weak in the faith and not rattle their cage. That’s not what this passage says, but once again through the prism of our preconceived notions we use it as a justification for our inaction.

The passage does not say do not speak the truth to one who is weak in the faith, but rather it says not to dispute over doubtful things.

Our duty as mature believers is to help those who are immature in the faith to likewise mature. It is to speak the truth in love, and as Paul so aptly suggests, not dispute over doubtful things. For some unexplained reason however, we have the tendency to go right into the bowls, and the seals, and the horsemen of Revelation with the babes in Christ, choosing to bypass the essential and fundamental teachings of the gospel such as repentance, and faith and holiness unto God. Babes drink milk, it is milk that nourishes them and sustains them, not steak and eggs.

1 Corinthians 4:1-6, “Let a man consider us, as servants of Christ and stewards of the mysteries of God. Moreover it is required in stewards that one be found faithful. But with me it is a very small thing that I should be judged by you or by a human court. In fact, I do not even judge myself. For I know nothing against myself, yet I am not justified by this; but He who judges me is the Lord. Therefore judge nothing before the time, until the Lord comes, who will both bring to light the hidden things of darkness and reveal the counsels of the hearts; and then each one’s praise will come from God. Now these things, brethren, I have figuratively transferred to myself and Apollos for your sakes, that you may learn in us not to think beyond what is written, that none of you may be puffed up on behalf of one against the other.”

James 4:11-12, “Do not speak evil of one another, brethren. He who speaks evil of a brother and judges his brother, speaks evil of the law and judges the law. But if you judge the law, you are not a doer of the law but a judge. There is one Lawgiver, who is able to save and to destroy. Who are you to judge another?”

If these were the only scriptures on judging, then there really would be no debate on the matter. None would be allowed to judge, for any reason, at any time, and this ongoing debate would be nonexistent. There are however just as many passages within scripture that approach the notion of judging from a different angle, some seeming almost contradictory and opposite of those we’ve just gone through, and since this installment has gotten a little long in the tooth, on the next post, we will get into the aforementioned scriptures subsequently allowing the Word to show us what it is that we are responsible to judge, what we are mandated to judge, how we should go about it, and the instances wherein we are prohibited from judging.

With love in Christ,
Michael Boldea Jr.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

6000 Words and Change

I don't usually write allot about our benevolance work since that is what is reserved for, but I just wanted to post another set of pictures from another outreach we did recently. Some brothers from Holland came to visit the orphanage here in Romania, and they brought a mobile cantina with them. We saw this as a great opportunity to be a blessing to various communities, and so we packed up and headed out without hesitation. The hot chocolate and hot sandwiches were a big hit, and even though it was brutally cold, entire villages still showed up to be blessed. We have always strived to be a balanced ministry, and this includes not only feeding the spirit but often times extending a hand of help or even something as seemingly trivial as a hot snack to those for whom such things are a rare occurance. Please keep this work in your prayers, and may you strive to be the heart and hands of Christ whenever the opportunity presents itself.

With love in Christ,
Michael Boldea Jr.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Project Love Covers

Today I decided to do something unprecedented, at least for this web log, namely post a few pictures. I will be writing an article for the next issue of the hand of help newsletter concerning project 'love covers' and its success, but since the newsletter is black and white, there are certain picture that will either have no impact or be irrelevant without a little color. And so, for all those of you who prayed for, or contributed to project 'love covers' here are a few snapshots of our lates ministry outing wherein we passed out some of the blankets you helped purchase. Thank you all for your prayers and support of hand of help ministries. It is in times of trouble and distress that the heart of Christ shines through all the more in His servants.

With love in Christ,
Michael Boldea Jr.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

A Sobering Passage

Ezekiel 22:30, “So I sought for a man among them who would make a wall, and stand in the gap before Me on behalf of the Land, that I should not destroy it; but I found no one.”

As I was doing my daily scripture reading this morning, I happened across this verse in Ezekiel, and for some reason it struck a chord with me. I read it once, twice, and a third time, my heart growing more contrite, and my mood more sober with each reading of this scripture passage.

I sat and meditated on the verse for a while wondering to myself why it had had such a profound impact on me, and as I began to pray certain nuances began to jump out at me concerning this passage that I wanted to share with you today.

The first thing that struck me is the fact that God was simply looking for a man. God did not quantify what kind of man He sought, He did not say He was looking for an intelligent man, an eloquent man, a handsome man, a learned man or a physically fit man, He was simply looking for a man who would be willing to stand in the gap before Him. What we fail to understand so often is that God is the one who does the equipping, God is the one who does the chiseling, God is the one who does the molding, God is the one who does the preparing, all we have to do is be willing to stand, to submit ourselves to His authority, to be willing servants of whatever He would desire of us.

Making us feel unworthy to serve is one of the enemy’s most despicable tricks, and one of his most successful.

“Lord, you deserve better than what I can do, Lord you deserve more than what I can give, Lord you deserve greater than what I can accomplish, so rather than make a wall and stand I will let someone who is more capable, more prepared, and more mature take the lead on this one.”

God however, never said He sought a man who was accomplished, He never said He sought a man who was capable, or prepared or organized, He simply said He sought for a man who would make a wall and stand in the gap. Now there’s nothing wrong in being accomplished, there’s nothing wrong in being capable or organized, but they are not prerequisites to serving, nor are they prerequisites to standing in the gap.

From a human perspective very few would have picked Moses to be the one to lead Israel out of bondage. He was slow of speech, by his own admission he was inadequate for such a task, he had a shady past having murdered a man in anger, yet all God required of Moses was the willingness to serve Him, and He would take care of the details.

The second thing that struck me is the fact that God is looking for someone who is willing to labor. God sought for a man who would make a wall. He did not seek for a man that would desire only to reap the rewards prosperity, He did not seek for a man that would desire only to be blessed and honored and praised by others, He did not seek for a man that would desire to sit in a comfy chair and command others to labor on his behalf, He sought for a man who would himself labor, and make a wall upon which he would then stand.

Today God is still seeking for men who with humility and sincerity of heart are willing to forfeit this present life, to pick up their crosses and follow after Him. Today God is still seeking for laborers who would readily roll up their shirtsleeves and not mind exerting themselves, getting out of their comfort zone, or getting a little sweaty. It matters not how you see yourself, it matters not how apt you consider yourself to be, it matters not what your past might look like, if the desire for more of God is ignited in you, if you are willing to first and foremost serve Him, then build the wall and stand and God will give you the strength to stand.

1 Corinthians 1:27-29, “But God has chosen the foolish things of the world to put to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to put to shame the things which are mighty; and the base things of the world and the things which are despised God has chosen, and the things which are not, to bring to nothing the things that are, that no flesh should glory in His presence.”

With love in Christ,
Michael Boldea Jr.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

How Wolves Are Made!

I don’t believe men are born wolves. Even for a guy like me, who always seems to see the glass half empty rather than half full, it would be too cynical, too jaded, to envision a world wherein wolves are born for the specific task of devouring sheep with no choice in the matter.

I do not subscribe to the doctrine of the nonexistence of free will, and so I believe that every sneering, malevolent wolf roaming about the earth today at one point in their existence stood at a crossroads, and chose of their own will, the way of predatory spirituality. Life or death, good or evil, are set before every man, and it is up to the individual to choose to obey the command of God, and love the Lord, and walk in His ways, and keep His commandments that they may live. It is also of one’s choosing and volition that the heart turns away from truth setting off a chain reaction in the soul beginning with the individual no longer hearing the voice of the Lord, being drawn away, subsequently made to serve and worship other Gods, eventually leading to destruction and the perishing of the individual.

This post however, is about wolves, and how they are made, and not about the role free will plays in individual salvation. Although it might not seem like it at first glance, free will, or choice also plays a large role in how a wolf is made. Although we have the freedom to choose, unfortunately we don’t always make the right choices, and if the enemy can convince us to compromise just a little, then he knows that eventually, given enough time, even though we might have started out with the best of intentions, we will become the dreaded wolf.

Unless otherwise convinced by empirical evidence, I continue to hold to the notion that most of the wolves roaming about Christendom today started out with the best of intentions. Long ago, in a time of innocence and first love, for most of the now wolves, there was one singular desire, that of preaching the gospel of Jesus Christ. This was a noble pursuit, a good beginning, and a solid foundation. If they would have remained in this mindset, if their purpose would have been this and no other, then this would be the end of the story, each would stand before God one day and receive their just reward, and the world as we know it would be a very different place.

The problem is that this is merely the beginning of the journey and not its finality. Time passes, the young minister faithfully preaches the gospel of Jesus Christ, but rather than keep his eyes upon the cross of Christ, he begins to look around and behold other ministers, who are far less intelligent and charismatic than themselves, but have a far larger ministry. The ego being what it has always been, it begins to whisper ever so gently into the year of the young preacher, ‘you deserve a bigger audience, you deserve a bigger ministry, think about it just a few tweaks, just a few minor changes, and you’ll be off and running.’

And so the wheels begin to spin, and the young minister begins to reason, and he concludes that it is wise to be wise, and as the wise fisherman often does the best way to catch fish is to bait the hook. His sermons begin to change, at first imperceptibly, highlighting this present life a little more than the life to come, talking about the flesh rather than the spirit just a little more than he used to and to his amazement the ministry begins to grow.

Some time passes, and once again the ego begins to whisper, ‘good first step, but we have far to go. Think how big your ministry would get if you stopped using all that antiquated Christian terminology, if you would stop preaching against sin, if you would be more tolerant and all-embracing and start telling stories with a message rather than preach from the Bible. You know how tiresome the Bible can be for some people; you wouldn’t want to turn anyone away now would you?’

And so, the young minister compromises a little more, and by now all the trappings of success have him mesmerized and enchanted. Jesus is long forgotten, and the gospel of Christ is a distant memory. Now it’s all about good music, good entertainment, making people feel comfortable, and content, and justified in their sin, because no one ever build a mega-church rebuking sin and calling people to repentance.

Slowly but surely the young minister is transformed, and soon enough he is confronted with the final stages of the transformation into a full blown wolf, that of being more of a motivator than a preacher, that of leading people to a life of success rather than a life in Christ, because Christ has become a way rather than the way, the Bible has become an alternative sacred text rather than the only sacred text, and faith, well faith is optional and the object of your faith is whatever you desire it to be.

How is it that one can stray so far from truth? How is it that one can stray so far from Christ? One step at a time! A little compromise today leads to a little more tomorrow, and before you know it, you look in the mirror stunned to see the feral eyes and glistening fangs of the wolf staring back at you.

Guard your heart; whoever you might be; guard your heart. Daily look in the mirror of the Word, daily search the inner depths of your heart, and make certain that your goal, and desire have remained unchanged, undiluted, and unadulterated, that your one and only longing is still to preach the gospel of Christ Jesus, and nothing more.

With love in Christ,
Michael Boldea Jr.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

High Time

Romans 13:11-14, “And do this, knowing the time, that now it is high time to awake out of sleep; for now our salvation is nearer than when we first believed. The night is far spent, the day is at hand. Therefore let us cast off the works of darkness, and let us put on the armor of light. Let us walk properly, as in the day, not in revelry and drunkenness, not in licentiousness and lewdness, not in strife and envy. But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to fulfill its lusts.”

The fact that many within the house of God continue to slumber is not new information, or breaking news. Although some continue to stand against the lethargy that has swept through every denomination, in every nation on every continent, most have given in, they’ve acquiesced, and found a comfortable place to sleep to their heart’s content.

As Paul encourages the church in Rome, and also the church in Thessalonica it is high time to awake out of sleep, for now our salvations is nearer than when we first believed. There is a component to being awakened that many choose to disregard, that if we do not awake, if we do not shake off the lethargy, if we do not wipe the sleep from our eyes and get about our labors, the day is coming when God Himself will awaken us. When God in His righteousness is moved to awaken His people, it will not be in a gingerly manner, or in a soothing tone, but with the sound of a trumpet, with lightning and thunder and great fury that are more likely to scare us into wakefulness, than delicately stir us from our sleep.

So why is it that we should awake out of our sleep? Why ought we to realize that it is high time we were once more vibrant and animated, fully awake, and about the Kingdom’s business?

The first reason we should awake out of our sleep is because Jesus is coming!

‘But brother Mike Jesus has been coming now for two thousand years, and every generation thinks it will be the generation that will see His return. It’s like the boy who cried wolf over and over again; eventually you learn to not pay him any mind.’

If not for the signs that are all around us, I would tend to agree. If however, we are wise in discerning the times, if however we are wise in seeing current events through the prism of the prophetic, we would come to the staggering conclusion that not only is the return of Christ Jesus imminent, it is nearer than we first believed.

The second reason we should awake out of our sleep is because Satan is at work.

Although we might not be laboring as intensely as we ought, I guarantee you the enemy is. He is focused, committed, unwavering, and never asleep. His desire is to keep us from the full knowledge of God, to keep us in a state of lethargy that does nothing to preach the gospel of Christ to the masses, that does nothing to show the love of Christ in action, but that feels justified in its indifference because well, those that are ‘supposed to get saved’, will get saved regardless, so why bother? If it were that simple, then Jesus would have never commanded His disciples to go and preach the gospel, nor would He have mandated us to do likewise. Faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the Word of God! If no one speaks that others hear, how can faith ever come?

Because we desire the least amount of responsibility possible, because we brush off any command that would require us to exert ourselves, we come up with pseudo doctrines that justify our complacency and indifference.

‘God will reach them somehow.’ But what if God had chosen to reach them through you?

We fill our lives with distractions, we are always busy doing nothing, all the while forgetting that Satan is at work, and tirelessly so, his objective being to keep you from praying, to keep you from reading the Word, to keep you from desiring more of God, and to keep you from experiencing more of His Holy Spirit.

If Sampson lost his strength because he slept in Delilah’s lap, today much of the church has lost its strength because it chose to sleep in Satan’s lap. We’ve calmed our jangling nerves by constantly telling ourselves that God is too loving, too merciful, and too good to leave anyone out of heaven, that eventually we’ll all get a pass, and rejoice for all eternity, but I submit to you that God is too just not to leave a great many individuals who call themselves believers today on the outside looking in. God will not fill heaven with the disobedient. God will not fill heaven with those who refuse to awaken from their sleep.

The church has lost its power, the church has lost its discernment, the church has lost its moral compass, and what’s worse is that these things are not missed. We’ve learned to do without the guidance of God; we’ve learned to do without the unction of the Holy Spirit, and hell rejoices.

‘We’ve got good programs, and our music minister is entertaining, and our pastor can tell a joke like nobody’s business, so we’re okay; big wheels keep on spinning, tithe money keeps on flowing, we must be doing something right.’

The third reason we should awake out of our sleep is because the world is lost.

We live in a world that seems to be doing everything it can to accelerate the speed at which it is barreling towards hell. There are some who have questions, but even when they do it seems the church is too timid to give a straightforward answer because it might seem unkind or unloving, and we’re all about tolerance rather than truth nowadays. Rather than messengers or mouthpieces of God we can more readily be likened to politicians running for office telling people what they want to hear, rather than what they need to hear.

If only the reality of hell would be ever present at the forefront of our minds, if only the reality of Christ hanging upon a cross and shedding His blood for mankind would be ever present at the forefront of our minds, if only the reality of the great commission to go into the world and preach the gospel would be ever present at the forefront of our minds, perhaps we would not be so timid, perhaps we would not be so fearful, perhaps we would not be so set on sparing people’s feelings while they march towards destruction, but rather we would be bold, and courageous and forthright, preaching a risen Jesus, and the consequences of rejecting Him.

It is high time to awake out of our sleep; it is high time to cast off the works of darkness; it is high time to put on the armor of light; it is high time to walk properly as in the day; it is high time to put on the Lord Jesus Christ.

With love in Christ,
Michael Boldea Jr.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

The One Thing

There are men who dream of greatness, men whose aspirations so consume them that they stay up night after night envisioning that which they will soon become. In their quest to attain and achieve their purpose, in their quest to make their dreams a reality, they neglect friends, family, themselves, and even God because the dream of what they desire to be has consumed all else in their lives like some malevolent malignancy that eats away at the healthy cells of the human body.

When such a one is taken over by the flight of fancy that is the vision of themselves some months or years down the road, their primary purpose is no longer to serve God, or bring glory to Him but rather to glory in their own accomplishments and be great in their own eyes. To better and more effectively highlight the self, such individuals lay claim to titles they have no business claiming, and insist that those around them refer to them as such. Pride consumes its host, and though the beginning of their journey might have been noble and pure and selfless, once the dreams of greatness have wormed their way into the heart, these individuals veer of the path of humility and obedience at breakneck speed.

What prompted this post was a chance meeting with a young man who having successfully graduated seminary, the ink on his theological degree not quite dry, now desired to become an internationally renowned orator and preacher or God’s Word. I knew this young man some years ago, I knew him before the dreams of greatness began pumping through his veins and animating his actions, I knew him when his only desire was to serve God and nothing more. He was different now, in every way conceivable, from the pressed suit and tie he wore on a Tuesday while shopping from groceries, to the impeccable hair parted to the side hairdo, to the air of superiority that wafted off him like stench wafts from an open sewer. My wife had sent me shopping for clementine, so I was dressed in a pair of jeans, a t-shirt and three days’ worth of facial hair, not exactly ‘International Evangelist’ material. Though he tried to hide it, his disapproval of my attire was evident on his face.

After the requisite hellos, I asked him what he had been up to, and with a smirk reminiscent of Joel Osteen he proceeded to tell me that he had graduated from theological seminary, and now wanted to start a worldwide ministry. He told me lots of things, after a while I sort of tuned him out, because every sentence began with ‘I want’ rather than ‘God told me’ or ‘the Lord is leading me.’ After his extended soliloquy I wished the young man well, but before parting ways I simply said to him, ‘make sure that what you want, and what God wants of you are one and the same thing. Would it not be a shame to live your entire life chasing after something God never wanted for you?’

The flesh is the flesh, and it will always attempt to rise up, to esteem itself, to see itself greater than it truly is, and aspire to the honors and adulations of men. There is one sure remedy, one surefire way to keep the flesh subdued, and that is to walk humbly with our Lord. The one thing that we should aspire to is not greatness in the eyes of the world or our contemporaries; it is to walk humbly and obediently with He who hung on a cross for our sins that we might one day walk with Him in glory, on streets of gold, in His kingdom.

With love in Christ,
Michael Boldea Jr.