Tuesday, February 28, 2023

Greater

 I discuss overconfidence a lot because when it comes to spiritual matters, being overconfident in oneself can be detrimental. Not to split hairs, but confidence in oneself and confidence in the One who is in you are two different things. If I am confident in myself, I will likely fall flat on my face. If I have confidence in Him, then I know I can overcome because He is greater than he who is in the world. I don’t have to guess whether God is greater because it has already been established. I don’t have to wonder if I can overcome the world because He promised that in His strength, I can.

1 John 4:4, “You are of God, little children, and have overcome them, because He who is in you is greater than he who is in the world.”

It matters what you are confident in. Oftentimes it’s just because we’re stiff-necked and proud that we refuse to acknowledge that our confidence in ourselves is what brought us to the low points of life. Everyone’s either telling us that we can do it, or shoe companies insist we just do it to the point that we start believing that we can. Do you have club feet and need oxygen to climb stairs? Sign up for a 25K marathon today; you can do it!

We gloss over the cautionary tales of those who came before us, who were confident in themselves to the point of calling Jesus a liar, only to flinch and flee at the sound of a rooster crowing. It’s a long way to go from saying you are ready to go to prison and even to death to denying Christ before random people.

I’m sure Peter meant it when he said it, but a man’s strength will only take him so far. A man’s determination will only last so long, and his willpower is not a limitless resource that can be pulled from whenever needed.

In conversation with warriors who’ve had to endure protracted torture for the cause of Christ, one constant was the admission that it was not their strength that kept them or carried them through but the indwelling presence of God. God gave them the strength they needed to persevere, endure, and overcome. Even the best of men are still men, but the inward presence of God makes them something more than mere men.

The same man who ran away after denying Christ three times did not request leniency, a pardon, or a stay of execution, only that he’d be crucified upside down when the time came because he felt unworthy to die in the same manner as Christ. When he stood in his strength, he failed. When he stood in God’s strength, he brought glory to the name of Jesus.

Revelation 12:11, “And they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony, and they did not love their lives to the death.

Those who overcame possessed two identifying characteristics and one attribute that allowed them to succeed. Those who overcame had the word of their testimony, and they did not love their lives to the death, but what gave them the strength to overcome was the blood of the Lamb.

You can have the best intentions until you are placed before the fiery furnace. If you do not have a good testimony or have not committed to not loving your life to the death, then you will fall to your knees and worship whatever you are commanded to worship without resistance or hesitation. There's a clue for those asking why there will be a great falling away during the last days.

Those who overcame did not love their lives even unto death. What this means is that they were willing to die for the cause of Christ, and many did. Juxtapose that mindset with the attitude of the contemporary church, and you’ll see the disconnect.

While the Bible tells us the way to overcome is to not love our lives even unto death, our esteemed faux-theologians insist that our best life now is all that matters. While the Word insists that they overcame by the word of their testimony, much of today’s church is so libertine as to make the Marquis De Sade blush.

The blood of the Lamb, the word of your testimony, and not loving your life unto death work in tandem to ensure that you overcome the enemy and his many snares. If anyone of these three is absent, then your victory is no longer guaranteed, and the enemy will figure out a way to hobble you.

Will your testimony be that you tried to do it by yourself and failed or that you did it by the blood of the Lamb and overcame? The latter is not as self-congratulatory and ego-stroking as the former, but one works, and the other doesn’t. We cannot allow the pride of life to keep us from overcoming just because it’s God that would get the glory and not us.

There are those who’ve been attending church for decades and have yet to overcome. They have yet to taste victory over their flesh because, for all those years, they tried to do it on their own, by themselves, not realizing that what is needed to overcome is outside of themselves.

The presence of God is more than enough for you to overcome whatever temptation the devil lays in your path. The power of God is more than enough to vanquish the enemy where he stands because He who is in us is greater than he who is in the world. We just have to make sure He is in us.

With love in Christ,

Michael Boldea, Jr.  

Monday, February 27, 2023

Islands

 Some people are consumed by the desire to feel unique and special—especially the mediocre ones. I almost typed need, but it’s not a need. At best, it’s a compulsion, but just like the mediocrity they stew in, wanting to be different and unique is as ordinary as they are.

If there is anyone left to write the history of this generation, they will conclude that the reason certain movements became so popular is that they allowed mediocre individuals of no discernable skill, gravitas, or intellect to transform into brave, beautiful, extraordinary figures by doing nothing more taxing than putting on a dress. The sad reality is that mediocre people are usually lazy as well, so they want maximum results with minimal effort. It doesn’t get more minimal than trying to walk in heels or smear lipstick over your mustache.

The Christian version of this is individuals beginning a sentence with the Lord told me, then proceeding to say things that contradict the Word of God, and therefore be things that God would never say. Being that every generation must get more brazen than the last, you now have newly minted prophetesses insisting that they stood face to face with God and braided His beard, even though the Book says no one can see God and live. It’s good to know God has a beard, though.

As far as the current climate is concerned, it doesn’t matter if someone is more qualified; by the very nature of being a cross-dressing kleptomaniac, you get pushed to the head of the line and rise to the position of deputy assistant secretary in the office of nuclear energy. Only if he was going up against a cross-dressing kleptomaniac with an eye patch would the young man with the penchant for stealing luggage in airports have been pushed out.

The same can be said of the newest crop of prophets-who-aren’t. The only way they will get pushed out of the limelight is if another prophet-who-isn’t comes along with more fanciful tales than theirs, so fanciful in fact that it would make the hippies of the sixties tripping on acid and having visions of the cosmos within the cosmos seem like child’s play.

I could go on a rant about meritocracy and the disaster we create for ourselves when we hire individuals based on their inclinations and perversions rather than their real-world qualifications, but that ship has sailed, and all that’s left is to wait and see how big the iceberg we hit will be. Do you think it will be any different in Christendom just because they claim to be of Christ? Different kind of iceberg, same kind of result. What’s clear from all the available data is that the things people think make them special and unique are neither. At least Tolkien didn’t try to pass off his imaginings as prophecy.

There’s no new scam, just new suckers. I like the ring of that. It would make a nice shirt. Even someone as seasoned as Elijah was belting out his version of all by myself before it was a hit until God reminded him that he wasn’t. Cold comfort as it might be, you are not the only one with an enemy, you are not the only one being tempted, and you are not the only one commanded to resist the devil. You are not an island, neither am I, and the road we travel is well-worn with the footprints of the others that came before us. Your temptation might be unique to you, but it is not unique.

One undeniably comforting truth is that if they successfully rebuffed the enemy, you can too. After Roger Bannister broke the four-minute mile back in the fifties, sixteen hundred other people managed to do it as well because they knew it could be done, making it that much easier for them to pursue the goal. God is not asking you to do the impossible. What He’s asking has been done repeatedly; you can do it too.

I think what has changed in recent years is the docility with which we see the sworn enemy of our soul. We continually make concessions thinking that concessions will pacify the enemy. Every time we are shocked that it didn’t work; the enemy wasn’t pacified, and he just came back emboldened and wanting more.

Persistent enemies are the worst. I heard it said once that an enemy will continue to storm your gates until they breach them or until you open them up. When they do get in, they’re not there to celebrate you. They come to destroy what you built or take it over.

Evidently, the devil has rebranded to the point that those tasked with standing on the parapets and defending against the enemy were fooled into believing that if they opened the gates wide and welcomed the hordes with fanfare and smiles, they wouldn’t turn around and attempt to destroy them once they got in. What’s worse is that those asking why the gates were opened to the enemy in the first place are belittled and derided as though surrendering to one’s mortal foe was the sensible thing to do.

Through it all, we must remember that collectivism didn’t work for the communists, and it isn’t going to work in the church. The Bible is clear that the soul that sins will die, and we are each responsible as individuals to individually work out our salvation with fear and trembling and walk humbly with the Lord. You can give counsel and take counsel, but when you stand before God, it won’t be in a group. It will be you standing before God, and He won’t be asking about your denominational affiliation.

The excuses are only working because we’re telling them to ourselves. When standing before God, insisting that your denomination was permissive of something the Bible wasn’t, or your pastor said God understands, or the ever-popular everyone else was doing it, won’t hold any weight. You had the Book; you should have read it. Having read it, you should have done what it said you should do.

With love in Christ,

Michael Boldea, Jr.  

Sunday, February 26, 2023

Mastery

 People who’ve been doing one thing for a long time make it look easy. Seeing as repetition is the mother of skill, whether it’s carving a piece of wood or blowing a blob of molten glass into something beautiful that most people would call art, some men make it seem effortless.

My dad was a glass blower. It’s a learned skill that allows you to improve over time, given enough practice and dedication. Some of the things he could create with nothing more than a blowpipe and some molten glass are nothing short of breathtaking. No, he couldn’t do it the first day or the first year, but a few years in, his skill level was such that whatever he decided to create would be noteworthy.

Granted, when it comes to certain skills like playing an instrument or solving equations, some are naturally gifted and can attain mastery in short order. Still, the going theory is that it takes an individual 10,000 hours of intensive practice to achieve mastery of complex skills.

Some have balked at this idea, and some swear by it, but wherever you land, you still need to dedicate a year and change of your life to intensively practicing whatever you’ve elected to master. I’ve been trying to find the time to master the ukulele or the kazoo, but I don’t think I’m passionate enough about them to dedicate a year of my life to the pursuit.

Sure, it would be impressive and something I can hint at in casual conversation, but spear-hunting squirrels will likely have a better return on my investment of time than the ukulele or the kazoo—just a feeling.

Whether you think you can achieve mastery by doing something for 10,000 hours or not, remember that the devil has been doing the same thing for six thousand years. His only mission, purpose, passion, and focus have been to destroy, devour, and derail the children of God in their pursuit of Him. Whichever way you slice it, six thousand years is more than enough time to get really good at something, whatever that something might be.

When we consider that human nature, instinct, and inclination have not changed during all this time, you could rightly conclude that the devil has achieved mastery when it comes to temptation, whether subtle or otherwise. He knows which buttons to push because he’s been pushing the same buttons for six thousand years.

The devil is not an enemy we can underestimate. He’s racked up enough of a body count that you should be weary and aware of his schemes and machinations. When you take into account that this present generation is both spiritually malnourished and overconfident simultaneously, a recipe for disaster is plain for all to see.

My wife does Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. She has been for some time and has worked herself up to a blue belt. She enjoys it, and it allows her to get some exercise. With each new belt she gets, I always remind her that the belt doesn’t make her bulletproof, and if ever a situation arose where violence was implied, if at all possible, walk away.

Even though we are warned repeatedly about the dangers of allowing temptation to take root in our hearts, even though the Bible warns us that our enemy is persistent and single-minded, we still flirt with sin as though it were not fatal. We still entertain thoughts we shouldn’t and go down roads that lead to destruction because we think ourselves strong enough to pull out of the nosedive.

Why would I put myself in a situation where I had a fifty-fifty shot at walking away unscathed when simply avoiding it would bump my chances to 100%? Sin is the only thing we’re willing to play those odds with. If I handed you a glass of water and told you there was a 50% chance it was poisoned, and you would die, would you drink it? Of course not! Yet, with sin, many professing Christians take those odds regularly, and many don’t live to tell the tale.

Because most would rather hear about how God is ready to prosper them than rightly divide the Word of truth, there are misconceptions floating about regarding temptation, and specifically its origins, that are simply not true.

The most popular, and one I hear more often than I’d like, is that God is tempting an individual. Sorry, Maury, God doesn’t tempt His children.

James 1:13, “Let no one say when he is tempted, “I am tempted by God”; for God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does He Himself tempt anyone.”

Notice it doesn’t say you won’t be tempted or that it is probable. It’s not an if but a when. When you are tempted, James instructs us, don’t say it was God that did it because God can neither be tempted by evil nor does He tempt anyone with it. It’s your two biggest enemies, the ones that have made a pact to see you hounded by temptation, the devil, and your flesh.

Although your flesh is amateurish when it comes to temptation, the devil isn’t, but they can both be repelled and rebuffed if you are willing to use the weapons afforded you by God’s promise to overcome. You can’t have victory without a battle, and you can’t be an overcomer without having had something to overcome. Heroes are those others tell stories about, not those who tell stories about themselves, and anyone who’s been to war will tell you that underestimating your enemy never led to victory.

With love in Christ,

Michael Boldea, Jr. 

Saturday, February 25, 2023

Glitter

 I used to watch my grandmother lead chickens to the butcher block when I was young. She’d pick the one that would be dinner later that day and throw a few kernels of corn on the ground in front of it. Glad for the free snack, the chicken would peck at the corn, and while she walked toward the stump with the axe embedded in it, my grandmother would continue tossing a kernel or two to keep the chicken engaged. Even though I’d come to call it the executioner’s block, it wasn’t anything fancy. It was just an old tree stump that was the right height to do the deed, and it’s usually where our chickens met their fate. When it was close enough, she’d throw a handful of kernels on the ground, the chicken being so enraptured with the thought of a full-blown meal that it wouldn’t notice the hands reaching for it until it was too late.

To some folks who think milk comes from the store and not from cows, the idea of seeing a chicken getting duped into willingly marching toward its demise seems coldhearted and mean. I hate to break it to you, but none of the chicken you’ve eaten in your life volunteered to be your meal. If you ever find yourself cornered by a lion, you’ll know the feeling all too well.

What my grandmother did with the chickens isn’t much different from what the devil does with men the world over. He throws out a morsel here or there, leading in one inexorable direction. By the time they realize what’s happening, their head is on the chopping block, and all those morsels that seemed delicacies moments prior are revealed to be nothing more than stale corn kernels that weren’t worth the price. In case you were wondering, there is always a price.

The devil isn’t into doing anyone favors. He’s not the charitable sort. If he offers you a morsel, be sure that what he requires in return is worth exceedingly more than the morsel he offers. If that weren’t bad enough, the devil always collects on what he is owed. You can’t tell him the check is in the mail when it isn’t.

We’ve seen people who bragged about making deals with the devil end their existence in the prime of their youth when everything seemed to be going their way, and by all accounts, they were on top of the world. I could sit here and rattle off names, but you likely know a handful yourself, from musicians to movie stars to financiers, to athletes, and every other competitive field.  This life is a battlefield, and to survive, you must war as though your life depended on it because it does.

2 Corinthians 10:3-6 “For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war according to the flesh. For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal but mighty in God for pulling down strongholds, casting down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ, and being ready to punish all disobedience when your obedience is fulfilled.”

It’s one thing to watch a flock of seagulls pass overhead; it’s another to actively encourage them to make a nest in your hat. It’s a saying from the old country, and it does sound better in the old tongue, but the point is still valid.

The goal isn’t to never have another thought again once we’re saved. We’re not automatons, robots, or machines. If you continue to have thoughts, chances are, at some point, you will have a thought that is neither wholesome nor beneficial to your spiritual man. When that occurs, you bring the thought into captivity without allowing it to find a home, make a nest, and multiply. Evil thoughts are malignant. They grow and metastasize until they overtake the host altogether unless they are excised.

For lack of a better analogy, think of evil thoughts as a melanoma, your basic, garden variety skin cancer. If you catch it in its early stages, a scalpel or a laser should do the trick, and you’ll likely have a story to tell about how you’re glad you caught it early and feel like you dodged a bullet.

If you don’t catch it early, or worse still, if you see the mole growing and changing color, but you refuse to deal with it because you deem other things more important, then that thing that could have been taken care of in five minutes or less can now become fatal.

Don’t let the thought you could have brought into captivity by pleading the blood of Jesus become the monster that threatens your survival. It’s easier to resist the urge to peck at the first corn kernel thrown in your path than try to wriggle free of the experienced hands trying to wring your neck.

You’re not a fish; you’re not dumb, nor do you have a brain the size of a pea, so the glittery stuff shouldn’t rob you of your senses or make you lose your mind. ‘Ooh, what’s that over there it’s shiny’ should never be a thought you should entertain. It’s glittering for a reason, especially if you’re in an environment where there should be no glitter.

You know how the enemy operates. You’ve seen his playbook, and you know what to look out for. Whether it’s feeding your ego, fueling your lust, or exploiting your emotions, there are only so many plays he can run. There is a counter to everyone, and there is an escape, but you must resist the devil so that he might flee, not walk hand in hand, hoping to achieve the impossibility of serving two masters.

With love in Christ,

Michael Boldea, Jr.  

Friday, February 24, 2023

Search

 You can’t not know what’s in your heart and what can proceed from it. If you’re old enough to read these words and understand them, you know by now that the heart is deceitful above all things and desperately wicked, yet the advice I hear Christians give other Christians is to follow their heart or some variation thereof. But why? Why would you tell someone to follow something so deceitful and wicked when it will likely lead them further from the truth and the light?

In my younger years, I gave people looking for the devil behind every tree and bush the benefit of the doubt. I'd tell myself they might be overly zealous, but they’re not hurting anyone. The more I thought about it, the more I realized some folks would do anything but deal with their own hearts and the things lurking therein.

It’s like washing the dishes after dinner. I’ll find an excuse to put it off for as long as possible, including going to the store for milk when there’s still a half gallon sitting in the fridge. We procrastinate when we don’t want to do something we know will be taxing, unpleasant, difficult, or compel us to confront the flesh once and for all. That’s the one some will try to avoid at all costs, even though they know they cannot mature spiritually until they’ve dealt with it.

I would crucify the flesh today, but I don’t have the right hammer. Tomorrow you won’t have the right nails, and the day after just doesn’t work because you have too much on your plate. That’s the game the enemy’s always playing, hoping that if you put it off long enough, one day turns into a week, a week turns into a month, and eventually, a pattern emerges wherein there’s always an excuse handy because putting the old man to death takes work, and procrastination doesn’t.

It’s a binary choice, and one that we each make consciously, with full awareness of what the choice means and what the ramifications are. We choose either God or the world because we can’t have both. Love of the world is enmity with God. By the same logic, the love of God is enmity with the world. God’s not willing to go halfsies, and neither is the world. They’re both proprietary but for different reasons. While God wants you to have life and have it more abundantly, the world desires to steal, kill and destroy.

If it’s so cut and dry, why isn’t everyone running into the arms of Jesus? There’s no one size fits all answer to that question, but for the most part, it’s because instant gratification is more enticing to many than eternity. Pretty boxes with naught, but emptiness inside draw the eye more readily than the cross does. There’s also a good portion who do not believe they deserve forgiveness, some who are self-loathing, and some who are comfortable in the dungeon and chains they’ve fashioned for themselves. The reasons vary, but the result is the same. They know God offers them the power to overcome sin, but they love the sin they’re in and so reject His offer.

1 John 2:15-17, “Do not love the world or the things of the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world – the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life – is not of the Father but of the world. And the world is passing away, and the lust of it; but he who does the will of God abides forever.”

The second source of temptation for the believer is the world. This is why we are told not to love the world or the things thereof. John makes it clear that if you love the world, the love of the Father is not in you. It doesn’t say unless you sing in the choir, teach Sunday school, or play the tambourine in church. If you love the world, the love of God cannot reside in your heart. It doesn’t matter how one might try to compensate or do good work to balance the scales; the only way that the love of the Father can reside in a heart is for the love of the world to be absent.

How is it that the Bible tells us that the lust of the eyes and the pride of life are of the world, but the best-known preachers of our day insist that your best life now is all that matters? Look good, feel good, and have the most toys! That’s the message of the hour, but it’s not the message of the Bible.

The world endorses and promotes that which keeps the masses focused on the world. It despises and attempts to destroy that which draws the eye away from the here and now and fixes it on eternity.

As I tell my youngest daughter whenever we go out for breakfast, “you have to pick one. You can’t have an omelet, waffle, and French toast; you have to pick one.”

God tells us the same thing. We can’t have Him and the world; we must pick one. Rather than go searching for nonexistent boogeymen in hedges, perhaps that time would be better spent searching our hearts and making sure that nothing of the world is still hiding in some dark corner. The best way to do that is to let the light of truth shine bright to the point that there are no dark corners, there are no inky shadows, there is no place for the world to hide any longer, for all things have been brought into the light and dealt with judiciously.  

With love in Christ,

Michael Boldea, Jr. 

Thursday, February 23, 2023

Aware

 Since temptation is the acorn that can turn into the oak tree of sin, which in turn requires men with chainsaws, stump grinders, root saws, loppers, and grub hoes, to pull from the soil of one’s heart, it is wise and prudent to be aware of where temptation comes from, and how it settles upon the heart.

If the temptation that leads to sin that leads to death weren’t fatal, you wouldn’t have detox, rehab, Alcoholics Anonymous, Sexaholics Anonymous, or Overeaters Anonymous, although, for that last one, everyone knows already. You can’t be an anonymous overeater. The spray-painted tent you use as a dashiki kind of gives it away.

I get it. I’m one of those people that can’t trick his mind into believing that kale is good and quinoa tastes just like chocolate if you close your eyes and imagine it. It’s like the people who rave about tofurkey. With enough alcohol and salt, you almost believe it’s the real thing. Why not just eat the real thing? It’s not as though turkeys are extinct, and now all we have is the memory of what turkey tastes like. Sure, Butterball’s gotten into their heads that a turkey’s worth a hundred bucks, but you save your pennies, go halfsies with a neighbor, and have the real thing.

There’s a reason warm peach cobbler with a scoop of vanilla ice cream is popular; it tastes good. No one is debating whether or not it does; there’s somewhat of a consensus on that. Although I’ve never had one, I’m sure fried banana and peanut butter sandwiches with bacon are a treat for the gustatory system, just a fancy way of saying taste buds, but too many of those, and they’re wheeling your bloated corpse out of Graceland at the tender age of forty-two.

Sin is temporarily pleasurable but ultimately fatal. Some choose to focus on the temporary pleasure rather than the death spiral they’ve just started and talk themselves into believing it won’t happen to them even though it’s happened to everyone else. Once in a while, enough self-awareness is present that when they see their haggard, toothless face in the mirror, they realize this isn’t the joy and freedom they thought it would be, but for the most part, they continue to spiral downward, because climbing back up to the surface is too exhausting.

Sin takes most folks because they just stop fighting it. It takes effort to stand against the tide and no effort at all to go with the flow and let the river take you where it will. That’s when you surrender autonomy and are no longer in control of you, but your sin is. It becomes everything, your purpose, your identity, and your world suddenly becomes very small. All there is, is that sin, that vice, that addiction, that practice. Your every waking hour is spent in service to it, but you still try to tell yourself this is freedom.

There are three sources of temptation that the Word identifies, two from without and one from within. Yes, sometimes the call is coming from inside the house, and those are the ones that people have the hardest time with because you can’t walk away from yourself. If I see a warm batch of double fudge brownies in a bakery or a grocery store, I can walk out, hold my breath until I’m far enough away where I don’t smell the chocolaty goodness, and keep going on with my day. No, I won’t do anything as unseemly as try to eat a rice cake and pretend it’s a brownie; I just remove myself from the presence of whatever is tempting me.

The temptations that stem from within are more challenging to avoid because the battle with the flesh, the self, that carnality that still lingers, is an ongoing one that you must undertake daily.

Mark 7:20-23, “And He said, “what comes out of a man, that defiles a man. From within, out of the heart of men, proceed evil thoughts, adulteries, fornications, murders, thefts, covetousness, wickedness, deceit, lewdness, an evil eye, blasphemy, pride, foolishness. All these evil things come from within and defile a man.”

From evil thoughts to fornications, adulteries, thefts, wickedness, deceit, lewdness, pride, and others still, all these stem and proceed from the heart of men. They proceed from within. It’s not the internet, the television, your neighbor, or your workmates; it’s from within.

These were the words of Jesus. He says that all these evil things come from within and defile a man, and the only way to avoid them is to be emptied of what was, be washed clean by the blood of Jesus, and filled anew with His Spirit.

Once you have mastery over yourself, once the inward parts of you are sanctified, the temptations that come from without will be easier to resist and escape. That’s not to say that vigilance isn’t required or self-discipline is not necessary. The enemy will try because that’s what He does. Your flesh will attempt to revive itself because it’s what it does.

Even after fifty years of being sober, those in Alcoholics Anonymous say, ‘my name’s Bob, and I’m an alcoholic.’ They haven’t had a drink in five decades, yet they know that all it takes is one misstep to go back to what they were, what they came to loathe and deem so unbearable that they sought a change.

We are redeemed, sanctified, and washed in the blood of the Lamb. Whenever the flesh attempts to remind you of sin’s temporary pleasures, remind yourself of all the long-term misery, pain, tears, and destruction it wrought. Remind yourself that the devil is a liar, and his singular desire is to convince you to stray from beneath the covering of God’s protection so that he might devour you at his pleasure.

With love in Christ,

Michael Boldea, Jr. 

Wednesday, February 22, 2023

Overcome

 It would be both vicious and uncharacteristically cruel for God to expect you to overcome something He knew you were incapable of overcoming. It would be akin to watching one of my children struggling to bench press three hundred pounds. I know they could never do it, but because I insisted, they would try until their energy was spent. I would never do that. I love my children too much to see them struggle with something they could never hope to accomplish. God would never do it, either.

Knowing that God is neither vicious nor cruel allows us to conclude that though we might be tempted, there will never be a time wherein He will allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able. God doesn’t set His children up just to watch them fail. He does not engineer scenarios and situations He knows you will never get out of intact. That’s not how God operates, and His Word reassures us of this.

That’s not to say we will never be tempted. On the contrary, the Bible is explicit in that each one is tempted, and each one, in turn, must resist temptation. It’s a fight we can win if we are willing to fight. It’s a victory that can be had if we are fighting to win.

Although the Book never promises that the children of God will never be tempted, it does promise that God is faithful and will always make a way of escape for you whenever you are tested, tempted, or otherwise sifted by the enemy. Don’t believe me? Well, it’s in the Bible.

1 Corinthians 10:13, “No temptation has overtaken you except such as is common to man; but God is faithful who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will also make the way of escape, that you may be able to bear it.”

You can resist temptation, you can flee temptation, you can escape temptation, but you can never avoid temptation. It is common to man, and as such, your duty is to overcome it when it presents itself. If anyone tells you they’ve never been tempted, it’s a lie. Even ascetics living in the crags of rocks, not coming into contact with other human beings for decades, are faced with temptation however it may present itself.

Everyone will encounter temptation during their walk because temptation is never chasing after you; it’s always lying in wait ahead of you. You can never outrun temptation in that you can avoid it throughout your life because it is light-footed and will outpace you, so you must learn to identify it when it rears its head and overcome it because you have God’s promise that you will be able to do so.

That whole nonsense about the devil making people do things is just that, nonsense. What the devil does is offer the opportunity to sin, he tempts, and some people give in because their hearts are divided, and their flesh is not mortified. Perhaps if people had the proper understanding of what sin does, they would avoid the beginning stages of it, which is the temptation.

James 1:14-15, “But each one is tempted when he is drawn away by his own desires and enticed. Then, when desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, brings forth death.”

This is not a game of semantics that we’re playing here. The Word tells us that the ultimate end of giving in to temptation is death. Temptation is the genesis, it is the beginning of the road that leads to death, and this is why we must resist it and overcome it because we have been given the promise that God will not allow us to be tempted beyond what we are able.

When you feel the tug of temptation, you don’t allow it to pull you the way it desires you to go because you are curious, or only plan on going halfway because the seriousness of the situation and potential for death should keep you from toying with sin, or thinking it a game.

Many a soul has been felled because they thought they could toy with sin or that they’d be able to course correct after a certain amount of time. This far no further becomes just a little more, and before it’s over, dazed and distraught, they wonder how they went so far in such a short amount of time.

It is your duty to identify temptation. It is your duty to resist it, to flee from it, to acknowledge that it can lead to ruination if you entertain it or allow it to grow. God offers the escape, but you must avail yourself of it.

God cannot resist temptation on your behalf. He cannot do for you what you can do for yourself. Far too many put it on God to extricate them of situations that a little common sense would have avoided altogether.

Some people do the equivalent of turning on the gas in their kitchen, sitting at the counter, and flicking lit matches at the burners, then expecting to be saved before it goes boom. Why would they put themselves in the situation to begin with? Surely they were aware of what happens when you combine gas and an open flame. Surely what they expected wasn’t anything good or pleasant.

There are no cheat days with sin and temptation as there are with diets. Even with diets, we all know that a cheat meal turns into a cheat year, but that’s beside the point. The temptation not resisted leads to sin, and sin leads to death. It’s not a matter of staying on the wagon or falling off the wagon; it’s a matter of falling off the wagon, getting run over by it, and being left on the side of the road for vultures to pick at.

With love in Christ, 

Michael Boldea, Jr.  

Tuesday, February 21, 2023

Needed

 The devil always has a plan, and he adjusts on the fly. When he saw he couldn’t get Jesus to turn stones into bread, he took Him to the pinnacle of the temple and encouraged Him to throw Himself off, reminding Him of what was written. When that didn’t work, the devil offered Christ all the kingdoms of the earth and their glory if He would but bend the knee. It wasn’t a baseless offer or something he couldn’t make good on. He knew it, Jesus knew it, and it was a last-ditch attempt to avoid what he knew was coming.

To think the enemy does anything by chance, or to give his minions the benefit of the doubt, is a sure path to ruination. There is always a reason for why he does what he does and why his minions do what they do.

For the longest time, the enemy has woven a narrative that the only thing the graying and aged have to offer the younger generation is stories of what a rotary phone was. That, and perhaps explaining what a sarsaparilla is, but nothing of any real note or value. You’d think that until the advent of the man bun and men using moisturizer, all were but barbarians and brutes, eating with their fingers and not knowing how to use cutlery.

Fast on the heels of that well-fashioned lie came the narrative that fathers of all shapes, sizes, races, and upbringings were nothing more than bumbling buffoons who blundered through life until they slipped on a banana peel or fell down a well. If not for the smarmy, know-it-all kid and the condescending, angry wife, you’d think those poor men couldn’t find their way out of a wet paper bag, nevermind survive, thrive, build infrastructure, and skyscrapers and lay mountains flat just to build roads across them.

It didn’t matter where you turned. Whether in sitcoms, movies, magazines, or books, all dads were deadbeat losers in stained wife beaters, belching up the meatball sub from the morning’s breakfast and falling asleep in front of the television in their recliners.

The targets were clear: fathers, men of moral character, and those old enough to have gleaned some experience from life that they could pass on to those who came after. The message was likewise clear: the old have nothing to teach you, and the government will make a better father for your children than your worthless, no-good husband.

Rather than stand up and defend the calloused hands and bent backs, the church went along to get along, and men swinging hammers and axes before sunrise and long after sunset were demonized as uncaring, unfeeling workaholics.

Perhaps those men listened to the stories of their fathers, and they stuck. Maybe they remember their elders with similar calloused hands and determined looks insisting that they’d arm wrestle the devil in hell before they saw their children going hungry again and took it to heart. Maybe that’s why they worked so hard, so long, so fiercely. Because there was someone there to remind them that if you don’t work, you don’t eat, and sometimes there’s no work to be had, so work while you can.

They’ve been trying to convince you that if you have some gray in your beard, you are obsolete. That’s it, pack it in, go sit on your porch and wait for the grim reaper to pay you a visit. You’re done, son. Why they do this is insidious and will prove to be catastrophic for the next generation.  They do it because they do not want wisdom passed down from generation to generation any longer. They want to control what the young hear, see and believe as being true to the point of indoctrination. It’s the only way you can have teenagers having nervous breakdowns because melting ice caps will kill us all in less than a month, even though Al Gore’s been spouting that same nonsense going on three decades.

You are needed more than you know. Your wisdom, experiences, counsel, and direction are necessary if the next generation is to have any hope of a normal existence and not some dystopian nightmare with everyone living in hovels, having sworn off gas stoves, eating crickets, and debating what the hundredth gender should be. It’s special, after all, it’s number 100!

Someone needs to teach the young how to change a tire, bait a hook, skip a stone, use a torque wrench, be principled, have values, and love God. Someone must teach them the importance of family and that getting a splinter doesn’t justify taking a week off work. Someone needs to speak up and say that we shouldn’t coddle laziness or validate insanity. It’s not going to be any of them; it has to be one of us. The grays, the scruffs, the ones who understand that skipping breakfast doesn’t mean you’re going hungry and that the metaverse is not a real thing.

It is your duty as a warrior to teach those coming after you that some things are worth fighting for, but by the same token, you shouldn’t go looking for a fight just to say you got bloodied. Don’t be shy about telling the younger generation that a life in service to God is a life well lived, and His presence throughout it all will keep your head above water and sheltered through the storms of life. If you do not teach them the truth, the devil will happily teach them a lie. If you do not offer them hope in the form of Christ, the enemy will be more than happy to provide them with bleakness and despair.

With love in Christ,

Michael Boldea, Jr.  

Monday, February 20, 2023

Retired

 I have yet to find someone in the Bible that retired after serving God for however many years. In most places, you put in your time, however long was predetermined by your employer, retire, and get your pension. I know people who retired young enough where they pursued a wholly different career for another thirty years and now draw two pensions from two different employers. I guess it all depends on how young you start and how many years you have to put in. The more dangerous the job, the fewer years you have to put in, but there has to be some sort of incentive to risk your life on a daily.

We must focus not on whether you can retire from serving God but on whether serving God is a job. If someone sees it as a job like any other and not a lifelong relationship, and companionship, then I’d understand where the question might get a bit of traction. Most people, after all, really don’t like what they do for a living, and if offered a way not to work and still keep a roof over their heads, they would take it most of the time.

Serving God is not a job, however, and whether nearing a century or just getting your feet wet in your early twenties, you are guaranteed to have the wherewithal to carry out whatever calling God has called you to. Whether young and strong or old and feeble, it’s not in your strength that you carry out the work of the Kingdom; it’s in His strength that you do it.

Once you start trusting in your strength, whether strong as an ox or fragile as an earthworm, you will eventually grow weary and fail. Only in His strength can we overcome and stand firm against the enemy. It is only in His strength that the work which was begun can be completed.

One of the benefits of growing older in the Lord is that you can draw on past experiences and remain steadfast when others, either younger or less experienced, are shaken and retreat. Sometimes all they need in order not to waver is to see you not wavering, knowing that if you came through the fire unsinged, then they, too, can do likewise.

The way of things is that the old warriors teach the young warriors how to wage warfare, but in order for that to happen, there need to be enough old warriors around to teach the young ones, and the young warriors need to be humble enough to receive direction from the old. If one of these two factors is missing, then the next generation of warriors will be nonexistent.

It goes a long way to explaining why with every generation, the church grows weaker, and those claiming to be warriors look at the weapons of their warfare with a confusion akin to a squirrel assessing the beauty of a Monet.

How did we get here? As with most things, it wasn’t just one thing. Due to their vanity, the young warriors pushed out the old because they wanted to bask in the spotlight, the old warriors discovered golf, laying down their swords in exchange for clubs, and the warrior mindset was marginalized because it was too toxic for this fragile and effeminate generation. Harsh? Perhaps. True? Most assuredly.

It’s hard to thrust and parry in skinny jeans, I guess. It’s hard to strap on your armor and go forth to battle when those you’re trying to defend are looking their noses down on you, decrying your very existence because you’re making them feel uncomfortable.

Unless you’ve got some battle scars, I can’t take you seriously if you start discussing warfare. Reading about war is all well and good, but waging war is another thing altogether. There’s the theory of fisticuffs; then there’s getting punched in the nose. I can’t tell how you’ll react to battle by watching you read the art of war, but I’ll know with certainty by how you respond to an uppercut.

I’ve sat and listened to the war stories of those who came before me, those who are now in the twilight of their existence or have already passed, and I couldn’t help but be humbled. Their appearance did not do their experiences justice, but these were true warriors who didn’t try to make it about themselves or take credit for the battles that had gone their way.

Looking at them now, you couldn’t tell how brave they’d been when they didn’t break under torture or give up the names of what was commonly known as their co-conspirators. Seeing them as they are, old and feeble, you could hardly imagine that these men set up underground networks, preached the gospel in secret, baptized converts in frozen lakes, smuggled bibles, and grew the church when entire governments brought everything in their arsenal to bear against them.

I’m sure the story of the trauma you suffered at the hands of the barista who switched your soy milk for almond milk is fascinating, but the days of the dainty and hyper-emotional farceurs behind pulpits are at an end.

Adapt or die. Learn to fight or get trampled underfoot. Know what it is to endure to the end or don’t begin at all. Whatever you decide to do, have the decency to respect the labors of those who came before you and the battles they fought on behalf of the Kingdom. It’s the least you can do.

With love in Christ,

Michael Boldea, Jr.  

Sunday, February 19, 2023

Sustainability

 Some people confuse fireworks with fire. It’s likely the same people that confuse temporary with eternal. Even though the Word tells us that the things which are seen are temporary and the things which are not seen are eternal, we’re still trying to reenact Thomas poking his finger into Christ’s side because it’s a far more engaging story to tell than walking with Him.

Which would make the better blockbuster? A lifelong journey of Jesus leading and you following, or getting to stick your finger in His side? One is fireworks; the other is fire. One is a good story, and the other is the fullness of His presence, growing daily and bringing you into a deeper understanding of who He is.

Fireworks are entertaining enough, people clap with glee at seeing the bright lights in the sky, but they fizzle out, and after the show is done, back to the darkness of night you go. Fire, on the other hand, keeps you warm at night and keeps you from freezing to death. A fire, whether a torch or a lamp, helps you see where you’re going and allows you to navigate treacherous terrain. Fireworks just ruin your night vision, and once they’re over, you’re worse off than when you started.

If you stoke a fire, it will burn in perpetuity. The same cannot be said for fireworks. Once they’re done, they’re done, and no amount of blowing, poking, or prodding will keep them alive. When people aren’t interested in the fire but chasing after fireworks, it’s only a matter of time before they grow disillusioned, even angry, denouncing the very existence of fire because everything they’d ever seen burned out as soon as it flared up.

Fire also keeps the wolves at bay. They’ll circle the fire, and they’ll get close, but only to a certain point, because they know that with enough light from the flame, their true nature will be exposed. A wolf will never be comfortable anywhere where the real fire is present. They will flee it and avoid it because they have no recourse against it. If they wander too close, the fire will burn them. If they come into the light, they will be unmasked for what they are.

Why is this generation so unsatisfied with fire and what it’s supposed to do? They draw close to the fire, it brings life back into their limbs, the icicles melt from their hearts, they become animated and alive, they feel protected and warm, then turn around and with the sour face of the unimpressed ask, is that all it does? That’s not very entertaining. I expected more.

But the fire returned you to life, the fire kept you warm, and the fire allowed you to see; why would it not be enough? What more is there? Entertainment? You want entertainment? Buy a cat and a laser pointer if entertainment is what you’re after.

This journey, His presence, the fire, the power, these weren’t intended to satisfy your need to be entertained. They were intended to keep you alive and surefooted on the path to eternity.

For the seventeen years, our family lived in California, we lived in an apartment that was three miles away from Disneyland. After we had settled some, my dad had gotten a job, and we had a car, every so often, we would drive to a Travelodge that was across the street from the main entrance, park in their parking lot, and watch the fireworks show that Disneyland put on every night.

It was never as exciting as the first time we saw it, and eventually, after the eighth or ninth time, it became ordinary. Eventually, we stopped going because it was no longer impressive enough to warrant the ten-minute drive. The same can’t be said about fire, though. It doesn’t matter how many times I see the flames dance in the fireplace; if I’m coming in from the cold, I go and warm my hands, thankful for its warmth.

There’s a reason the term time-tested has cemented itself in the American dialect. There’s a reason there are variations of it in every language under the sun. It’s because the test of time reveals the truth of things better than anything else.

All you have to do is look back to see what endured and what fizzled into obscurity. What had staying power, and what faded away faster than the bell-bottom pants craze. All these are indicators and clues as to how things will play out in the near future because history has a way of repeating itself that is self-evident. No, history does not repeat itself because we are in the matrix. It repeats itself because human nature remains the same. Therefore, the resulting ripple effects will mimic the previous ones.

What history teaches us is simple: movements based on the charisma of an individual fade into obscurity faster than any other. Those based on philosophy have a longer hang time but fade away all the same. What remains, what abides, what has endured everything from the Roman coliseums, to the Ottoman aggression, to the Armenian genocide, to the Soviet gulags, was simple faith and the Word of God.

No fireworks, just fire. No show, just substance. No feelings, just faith. No entertainment, just power. No obfuscations, just truth. No surrogates, just Jesus. 

With love in Christ,

Michael Boldea, Jr. 

Saturday, February 18, 2023

Choices

 I refuse to get a snow blower even though I know I should. Yesterday morning, I woke up to a solid six inches of snow. Come 6 am, while all my neighbors were firing engines and blowing snow halfway to the moon, I was shoveling away, scraping at concrete, and hoping I got the driveway cleared before the girls had to be off to school.

Thirty minutes in my back started reminding me I was stubborn. Thirty minutes more, and my legs and arms joined in, threatening to give out if I kept at it for much longer. I usually don’t mind it, at least in years past, but I have to remind myself that though I feel young at heart, my body didn’t get the memo.

By the time I was done, my neighbors had already finished breakfast and headed off to work, and although I could tell myself that my driveway looked better than theirs, it really didn’t. It was just a cleared driveway in a neighborhood of cleared driveways, and I was cold, desperate for a cup of coffee, and feeling as though my face had gotten peppered with buckshot.

It was the cold more than the shoveling, I think. I’m sure that’s what made me sore all over, and not the shoveling itself. We’ll blame the cold; that way, we can go another year without getting a snowblower because I still enjoy the simplicity of it all: one man, one shovel, and one driveway.

For the first time since creation, we live amidst a generation that has convinced itself that choices do not have consequences. Not only that, but they insist they shouldn’t, and if you point out that every choice does, you’re looked upon as some heartless ghoul who has no empathy for the plight of his fellow man.

I chose not to get a snow blower. Therefore, I have no one to blame for my sore back but myself. As long as I choose the aches and pain over the indignity of purchasing a snow blower, I have to own it, grit my teeth, and bear it. I can’t blame my wife, my kids, or my neighbors for not getting a snow blower because it was my choice not to.

It’s not vanity that’s keeping me from acknowledging that I am getting older. Vanity forsook me with the last of the hairs on my head. I just don’t want to admit that this husk isn’t what it used to be. Eventually, I will. Perhaps next year.

When we choose to disregard the Word of God, when we choose to ignore the directions, edicts, and commandments of God, we likewise have no one to blame but ourselves for the consequences thereof. Oftentimes the consequences don’t become obvious overnight. Sometimes it takes years of continual rebellion, disobedience, and obfuscation for someone to find themselves alone, powerless, rudderless, and cold.

God was always there. He didn’t go anywhere or find something else to occupy His time. Man, however, thought he could hedge his bets and get away with half-hearted devotion and partial obedience. The divide between those who walk humbly with their Lord and those who pretend to be is growing wider with each day. Those who learned to deny themselves and pick up their crosses walk with hope, knowing that the promise of eternal glory is not far behind.

You can tell where someone is spiritually by how they react to the chaos the world has become. If they are fearful and trepidatious about tomorrow, so much so that every day is lived in anxiousness about the next, then eternity isn’t what they’re focused on. Knowing what I know, if I chose to focus on impending judgment all day every day for the last four decades, I’d be half mad, living in a hole in the ground and talking to the shadow as though they were my friends.

2 Corinthians 4:16-18, “Therefore we do not lose heart. Even though our outward man is perishing, yet the inward man is being renewed day by day. For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, is working for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory, while we do not look at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen. For the things which are seen are temporary, but the things which are not seen are eternal.”

We do not lose heart, although some do. We do not lose heart, although it’s easier to give in to hopelessness and despair than to cling to God’s promises when everything is dark and gloomy. It all depends on what you’re focused on, what you choose to allow into your heart, and what you choose to affect your emotions.

Yes, I’m feeling a bit rickety this morning, but I’m waiting for the sun to come up so I can take my coffee, go to the front window, and look at my clean driveway. I choose to focus on a job well done rather than the momentary pain I may have endured to do it.

Whatever affliction you might be enduring, whether light or otherwise, know that it is both momentary and working for you a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory. It’s easy to focus on the momentary discomfort. It’s easy to focus on the momentary pain. It’s easy to beat yourself up over things you can’t control and things that can’t be helped.

I can’t control how the world views me. I can’t control what people say about me behind my back because of what I believe. My only concern is that my walk is pleasing to my Master, knowing that whatever hardship I may endure is not worthy to be compared with the glory that will be revealed.

You choose joy or sadness, peace or chaos, doubt or faith. Just know that for every choice, there is a consequence. For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction.

With love in Christ,

Michael Boldea, Jr.  

Friday, February 17, 2023

Tomorrow

 Whether you dread it or embrace it, tomorrow will come, as will the day after tomorrow. Even if you’re no longer here to see it, most everyone else will be because time marches on with a single-minded focus.

If life were a play, I’d be past the intermission already, well into the second half, all things being equal, not quite at the final act, but you never know. Life is fickle, and how long we get to live on this earth before we are called to the great beyond is fickler still. Navigating the twilight of one’s life is a tricky prospect. While some people spend all their lives saving and planning for their last five years on this earth, never enjoying anything beyond having a secure retirement, others have no plans in place and figure they’ll get by one way or another.

Tragically, more often than not, it’s the planners that die three weeks from retirement, and those who live like they were hippies on a commune live well into their eighties. Maybe it’s the stress. Perhaps it’s the human body’s way of shutting down, seeing retirement not as some gift worth looking forward to but as a cessation of usefulness.

People don’t like the idea of being a burden, and truth be told, neither do I. It’s refreshing and encouraging to know that God will never see you as a burden, no matter how difficult the journey gets. You will never be a burden to God. Some things are worth meditating on, and that statement is one of them.

Not only does God say you can lean on Him if you need to, but He also offers to carry you if and when you are no longer able to walk. He offers to carry you not in return for monetary compensation, not if you can pay or if you do a reverse mortgage to afford the help, but because He wants to, can, and love drives Him to make the offer, no strings attached.

They say it’s a young man’s game, and that tends to be true most of the time. If you take a nineteen-year-old and a septuagenarian and put them in a five-mile race, the nineteen-year-old will likely win with time to spare. Some things, however, require an experienced hand, and nothing less will do.

God is not an ageist. If you study the Word diligently, you realize that Moses was eighty when he led God’s people out of Egypt, and Daniel was in his eighties as he stood in a pit surrounded by lions. John the revelator was pushing ninety when he received the revelation of Christ on the isle of Patmos. No spring chickens there, but what they did was undeniably impressive for someone of any age.

When God uses someone and calls them into service, their age is irrelevant to Him. God is only concerned with obedience, and the older we get, the more we learn to obey the voice of God in all things. When I was younger, I’d have to be told twice to obey once. Especially when it came to something that would alter the course of my life, I admit I kicked against the goads a time or two.

I think it had a lot to do with what I saw as my life’s trajectory and what God saw for it. I always lived under the assumption that once my grandfather passed, my duty would have been completed, and I would be released to go and pursue a career. I was his interpreter for over a decade and did it joyfully, but I never saw myself in ministry after that chapter of my life was completed.

God had other plans, and being in my early twenties, I thought I knew better until He convinced me I didn’t. It wasn’t a gentle rebuke. That ship had sailed, and when God gives you an ultimatum, you tend to get the message clearer than you would otherwise.

But why wouldn’t you want to be in ministry, or have a calling for that matter, when people are beating bushes trying to get anyone to confirm that they have been called? To begin with, people who clamber for callings have never been around anyone with a true calling to see what is required, what it takes out of them, and how persistent the enemy’s attacks are throughout.

Whether for Jeremiah, Isaiah, Ezekiel, Daniel, or any of the Apostles, a calling did not mean a life of ease and comfort. A calling meant a life of hardship, persecution, and being hated by everyone because they were tasked with shattering the illusion that all was well and only calm seas were in their future.

As far as being in ministry, let’s be honest; to be what is deemed successful in the world’s eyes, you have to be more of a politician than anything else. Not so much kissing babies, although some preachers do it, but making allowances where the Bible doesn’t, turning a blind eye to things that should be rebuked, and generally being forced to make compromises because, for the most part, the sheep aren’t looking for green pastures, they’re looking for permission to rut in the mud.

If you don’t give them license to sin, they’ll just go to the mega-church down the street, and if enough people leave, your elder board will have a talk with you about esoteric things like vision and inclusion, but what they’re really saying is stop preaching the Bible. Otherwise, we’ll have to close our doors.

It’s not a rosy picture, but it’s an accurate one. Yes, there are exceptions, and for that, I am grateful, but generally speaking, this is the way of things, and to pretend otherwise is folly.

With love in Christ,

Michael Boldea, Jr.  

Thursday, February 16, 2023

Presence

 I haven’t seen my middle brother for seven years now. The last time we saw each other was during my last trip to Romania, then the second baby came, and travel got a lot more complicated. We talk from time to time, mostly about the kids, his going off to college, mine still in kindergarten and elementary school, but it’s not like it was when we were young and spent most days together.

We didn’t have a choice. Seven of us lived in a two-bedroom apartment, and although some who refuse to acknowledge they are poor would call it cozy, it was a tight fit. At one point, we even had an older Romanian couple living with us for almost a year because they were poor too and couldn’t afford a place of their own. The walls were thin, the rooms were small, and there was one bathroom with a chipped tub for everyone to share, but we were together, had each other, and made it work somehow.

My mom and grandma were wizards in the kitchen, and even if they had two onions, one potato, and some chicken feet and gizzards, they’d make a meal that, although not quite fit for a king, would keep us fed. It was mandatory that whoever came to visit, and by the mid-90s, there was always someone, they’d sit down for a meal. Given the way my mom and grandma acted, you would think it was the greatest shame for someone to grace your doorstep and not leave feeling as though they were a turkey a week out from Thanksgiving.

The older I get, the more I remember people who have come and gone in my life. Some fondly, some not so much, but memories have a way of blurring, and you have a hard time trying to pinpoint why you grew apart. Sometimes they moved away; other times, it was me who did the moving. Further on, life just got too busy, and something had to give. You miss people at first and notice their absence, but as with all things, time dulls the pain, and life moves ever onward.

Perhaps growing apart is a natural consequence of shifting priorities. Time spent with friends is replaced with courting, chess and coffee with working a few hours of overtime, and guy trips with making your mortgage payment. Whatever the reason, unless you were born in a small town and lived there all your life, surrounded by the same neighbors, going to the same diner, and attending the same church, few people in life have permanence.

I’m not knocking the simple life. The Amish seem to be doing just fine, and they don’t wander far, especially given their preferred mode of transportation, but the world’s gotten smaller and more expansive all at once, and at some point, we’ll come to realize that Facebook friends aren’t real friends, because real friends wouldn’t try to sell you a magic peeler for twenty bucks that breaks after the third carrot.

The promise of His presence throughout one’s life resonates so profoundly, largely due to the impermanence of those around us. Other than sappy love ballads insisting that they’ll be there waiting for you, people’s commitment is situational. Don’t believe me? Look at the current divorce rates in the West, then make a counterargument. Thankfully God is not a man that He should lie, so when He promises to be there, to carry you throughout your existence, from birth to old age, He will make good on His promise.

Isaiah 46:3-4, “Listen to Me, O house of Jacob, and all the remnant of the house of Israel, who have been upheld by Me from birth, who have been carried from the womb: even to your old age, I am He, and even to gray hairs I will carry you! I have made, and I will bear; even I will carry, and will deliver you.”

From the cradle to the grave, God sees you with the same eyes. He sees you through the prism of love and affection, and though you might age, wrinkle, go gray, or grow feeble, His love for you does not lessen. You are not a variable commodity to Him; you don’t decrease in value the older you get. You are a constant, and His love for you is also constant.

You may look in the mirror and notice the laugh lines, the wrinkles, the receding hairline, the paunch, the age spots, but when He looks at you, He sees none of those things. God sees you through eyes of love that do not highlight and underscore your imperfections. He will never leave you nor forsake you for the baseless reasons people do. It is man that breaks faith with God, not God, who breaks faith with man. We initiate the separation, not Him.

At times it’s intimidating letting God in, surrendering to His will, and allowing the fire of His love to burn out the dross because, for the most part, modern-day believers have learned to wear masks and imitate righteousness rather than be righteous. God sees the you hidden behind the pretense, bravado, scars, pain, failures, defeats, and shortcomings. He sees you as you are, not as you pretend to be, and He still loves you. For some, that is so earth-shattering that they don’t know what to do with it. For others, it’s the peace they’ve always dreamed of but never knew how to obtain.

When you need comfort, He is your comforter. When you need shelter from the storm, He is your refuge. When you cannot stand on your own, He promises to car; it’s. This is not a limited-time offer, it’s not something that expires or is no longer valid after an introductory period. His promises remain valid from generation to generation, and those who have stood on His promises have not been ashamed.

With love in Christ,

Michael Boldea, Jr.  

Wednesday, February 15, 2023

Beyond

 Walk with God long enough, trust Him, and depend on Him long enough, and you’re bound to see some miracles. Yes, I said miracles, and no, I did not misspeak. I’m not about to get into a war of words with people over anecdotal experiences or whether we can still expect miracles for today because I know what I know, and you can’t shake my confidence when it comes to such matters. It would be akin to staring at the midday sun and having someone insist that the sun doesn’t exist. But it’s right there. That burning ball searing your retina, that’s the sun; can’t you see it?

“No, it can’t be the sun,” they answer, “because I don’t believe the sun exists.”

When you continue to hold to a position despite evidence to the contrary, it’s no longer faith; it’s a delusion. Delusional people will go to great lengths to try and prove their point, sinking deeper into absurdity with every turn of phrase. There are examples a plenty outside the household of faith, but one would hope that those within would be more reasonable and wise.

Yes, I believe in miracles, not because a particular denomination or preacher told me I should, but because I’ve experienced them firsthand and in ways that confound human intellect. God is able to do beyond anything you can envision and in ways that were heretofore unimagined.

In case you haven’t noticed, the truth is not a big seller anymore. I don’t know that it’s ever been, but it certainly isn’t today. Speaking the truth is akin to self-sabotage when it comes to growing a ministry, but the purpose was never to grow a ministry; it was to be faithful to the calling and Word of God. As though that wasn’t hard enough on its own, we were also responsible for the livelihoods of some 80 children and the people we’d contracted to care for them in Romania.

There was never an abundance, but we always managed to pay the bills. The orphanage was built on faith and sustained itself through faith because we knew it wasn’t our work. It was His work.

Shortly after my grandfather died, the jackals came out of the woodwork, and they all wanted to take a bite. That’s what jackals do. They are scavengers and opportunists. It was all my mom could do to keep the kids at the orphanage fed, nevermind fend off the jackals. At the time, I was still young and na├»ve enough to think that Christian was synonymous with noble, good, decent, and honorable. It was an orphanage, not a fortune five hundred company; why would anyone try to sabotage, double deal, lie, cheat, and attempt to steal something they’d had no hand in building and had no monetary value? They did, though, and they went about it enthusiastically and without regard for the children in our care.

We knew the only thing we could do was pray and cry out to God, but we also knew that it would be enough. When we cried out, He heard, and He intervened. That was the way the ministry had operated since its inception, and it always would. Not that there was anything we could have done anyway. The operating budget back then was close to thirty thousand dollars per month, and with no money coming from the States because former ‘ministry partners’ had hijacked the bank account, there was nothing to be done but pray.

You have to give credit where credit is due; it was a well-thought-out plan and brilliantly executed. Before we got a hint of something being amiss, the jackals had already reached out and poisoned the minds of our biggest givers, hijacked the bank account, and made it, so we had no resources to combat the fanciful lies.

We were half a world away, feeding the poor, clothing the naked, and caring for the children entrusted to us, while they cemented their control over a work they’d had no hand in building up.

It was getting desperate. The funds had run out, the food was running low, and there was nowhere to turn to but God. Early one morning, my mother’s phone began to ring, and it was someone who had previously given on and off but who hadn’t been part of the ministry for some time.

“Virginia?” the voice asked. When my mother said yes in her accented English, the man on the other line continued, “your children didn’t let me sleep a wink last night.”

“My children are sleeping upstairs,” my mother answered, confused and put off at the same time.

“Not your boys,” he answered. “The children in the orphanage. Every time I tried to close my eyes, I’d see them telling me they were hungry. I need wiring instructions. I’m sending you some money.”

Within twenty-four hours, fifty thousand dollars was in the account, which carried us through the time we needed to remedy the situation. God knows what He’s doing, and anyone who tells you differently is a liar.

I understand that it’s not as exciting as being blessed with a McLaren or a Bentley, but seeing those children get fed and the employees paid so they could go feed their families, in turn, meant more than any car would have.

My mom never reached out to the man who sent the money. There was no e-mail, telegram, or carrier pigeon informing him of our situation. My mom prayed, and we, along with her and the children, along with us. We cried out to God, knowing that He would hear, and once He heard, He would do as only He could.

It wasn’t the last time the jackals tried to feast on what they presumed was our carcass, and it wasn’t the last time God intervened.

Why talk about this now? Because the season is upon us when faith alone will carry you through. Every safety net, precaution, plan, and preparation will be shaken because the Word tells us it must be thusly. In the midst of what is to come, remember whom you serve, how He loves you, and what He can do. That should help give you peace and hope when they will be at a premium. 

With love in Christ,

Michael Boldea, Jr.