Mountain Climber

Mountain Climber

It was the summer of 2012 and we as a family were away with our youth group as well as another group from another local church in our area on a white water rafting trip in Jackman, Maine. A lot of great ministry was done.  With memories ranging from me almost drowning in the rapids to paint ball in torrential rain; the week wasn’t short on laughs.  Of all the things that happened that week, what I remember most was a mountain climb that almost didn’t happen with my daughter Mackenzie.

During a day where we had the opportunity to decide what it was we wanted to do, we as a group had decided to climb a mountain; the challenging Bald Mountain with a top elevation of 3,640 feet.  I know…. I hear you…. of all the things to do, we choose to climb a mountain.  Now I’m sure a hike like this is something that could really bring a scout troop together; but for us, at times I’m sure it was doing the exact opposite.  About half way up I was certain that it would be this physical mountain rather than a spiritual or imagined one that would tear us apart.  But, in the end there was a triumph with a powerful moral lesson for my daughter.  Maybe you can relate in an effort to make me feel better about myself.  Have you ever done something as a family you thought at the beginning would be a great bonding moment, only to have it create more frustration than you could have imagined?  Good…. I’m already feeling better now that we are on the same level as I describe the climb.

With our guide with us, we all stood optimistic and energized as we stood staring at the great challenge in front of us. In starting out I can remember feeling this might be relatively easy as the first quarter or third of the hike involved walking steadily up an old dirt and wooded road.  That thought left my mind the moment we made a left into the woods, confronting a steep incline that was now in front of us.  The plan in the beginning was to climb the mountain and have a celebratory lunch together at the summit.  A good half an hour or more into the hike, it was apparent that not all of us were going to make the summit; a story many a mountain climber has to tell.  I remember the concern I had, standing in my new and muddy sneakers in heavily a wooded area known for its moose and bear, for those turning back; one of whom I was certain was going to be my own daughter Mackenzie.

Facing a steep incline, some had decided it best to turn back, leading to the first of three meltdowns for Mackenzie and I can’t say I blame her. With sore backs and aching legs, the option to turn back was mighty attractive and Mackenzie, through a show of tears was pressing hard to be one of them.  With encouragement from those continuing on, as well as some tough love on my part, we were able to persuade her to push on.  Approaching the summit, Mackenzie had the second, short lived melt down, where I was blamed for everything an eight-year-old mind could come up with.  But, with the thrill of the summit just in front of us, there was no turning back.  Whether she realized it at the time or not, she was going to make it to the top and, we did.

In making it to the top Bald Mountain I was again reminded that people do cry tears of joy. In the face of a tough mental and physical battle, we were now standing on the top of the mountain and the outcome was the final of the three meltdowns for my daughter.  As the tears flowed down her face, as well as the faces of a few present, we all celebrated.  I remember how encouraged we were, not so much for ourselves but for Mackenzie who learned a life lesson that I know she will be able to look back on as a source of strength and encouragement when facing another mountain in her life; spiritual, mental or physical.  Thinking on this, I can’t help but reflect on my life as a Christian and the mountains my savior Jesus has lead me to climb.  I think of the many starts and stops, the turning back and the pressing on, the tears; the joys, the successes, the failures and how God has used them all to mold me into the man I am today.

In the truth of the gospels we see how faith can impact our view of the mountains we face and our ability to climb or even move them. Jesus states the following in Matthew 17 v 20:

“Truly I tell you, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you.”

In reading the above one can believe that we have the power to move mountains and I do believe this to be true. But, knowing what is outlined in Ephesian 6, the mountains or battles we are most likely to face are not physical ones but are of the spiritual kind; both here and in the heavenly realms.  Ephesians 6 also indicates that God has made it possible for us to be prepared to win the battles and summit the mountains, giving cause for us to take heart and be encouraged.  Romans 8 v 37 – 39 states the following when considering those things that could separate us for God:

“No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

The key to living the above scriptures is found back in the words of Matthew 17 v 20, “If you have faith”. If you don’t have faith or don’t know where to get it, I have good news.  Faith is a gift from God, as found in Ephesians 2 v 8, so all that is needed is too ask for the greatest portion one can receive and it will be given; with Matthew 7 v 9 – 11 confirming this.

In closing, I pray that in the face of your next mountain, or maybe a mountain you are currently facing, that you will be brave; climbing without hesitation and without fear, with the promises of God and presence of the Holy Spirit secured in your heart. After all, as seen all through the old and new testament, mountains have often been the best place to meet and see the power of God.

God Bless – Sean Bosse

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First Pick

First Pick

“I’ll take him! … I’ll pick him! … What about him??”

Ah, so many great memories from the eighties. Not even a teenager in that decade, when looking at the music, movies sports, it truly is my favorite decade to date.  It is remarkable what comes to mind when thinking about a particular decade; as was the case recently when reading and reflecting on a section of scripture found in gospel of Matthew.

The introduction line of this write up was taken from a commercial that ran quite frequently in the 80’s to promote youth membership with the YM-YWCA. The commercial showed a row of kids being picked, one at a time, for a game of who knows what by unidentified team captains.  As they came to the last kid to be chosen, there seemed to be a struggle over who would take him; and not because he was the most popular or most talented.  Sensing the struggle, along with the fear of being left out, the boy looks on in dismay.

Of all the things one remembers, often what comes to mind most are those things we find ourselves identifying with and this commercial was no exception. I never forgot this commercial for one reason, I was that YMCA kid growing up.  I was always the last or 2nd to last person picked when it came to games in school or at the local kids club.  I remember how frustrated I would get as it was never based on skill as much as it was based on popularity and reading Matthew 9 v 9 – 13 took me right back to those days.

Believed to be the author of the gospel bearing his name, Matthew tells of the time Jesus first called him. At the time Matthew was probably one of the most repulsive and unattractive people one could keep company with and it had nothing to do with looks.  In verse 9 we learn that Jesus found Matthew at a tax collectors booth. I’m not sure how he found himself in that vocation but it is evident that once called, he follows Jesus without question.  One gets an idea of what was really thought of the position in verse 11 when it states:

When the Pharisees saw this, they asked his disciples, “Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?”

As we see the position of tax collecting was put right on par with the actions of a sinner and was highly offensive to those, including the religious, of Jesus’s day to be found in their presence. To me there is a sadness found in the perception of Matthew, specifically because ones identity is often found in what they do.  Regardless of whether or not Matthew did his work honestly and rightly, he is instinctively labeled a person of interest; a sinner.  From there the disciples are questioned, if not chastised for the company Jesus kept.

At the time, those encountering Jesus, including the religious elite, were still at the discovery stage. With loyalties still in question Jesus was held with somewhat modest esteem; mainly due to his actions; something I find sadly humorous as it was those same actions, miracles as they were known, on which they would later crucify him.  Questions like “Who is this man?  How is he doing these things?  Who does he favor?” surely swarmed in their minds.  When it was found that he kept with tax collectors and sinners, they were greatly offended as they had hoped he would be one of them; that he would drive their agenda which included the avoiding of those deemed less or worthless.

In hearing the murmurings going round the room and more than that, knowing the hearts of those saying them, Jesus responds beautifully and so encouragingly in verses 12 – 13 when he states:

“On hearing this, Jesus said, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. But go and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice.’ For I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.””

In this we understand what it means to know Jesus and more than that the purpose those around him were missing; that of Messiah, Saviour.

As I meditate on his response I find myself frozen at Jesus’s ask, if not challenge, found in verse 13:

“But go and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice.’”

I can say that I have gone, I have learned and discovered a few things. You see, not only was I a YMCA kid so to speak; but I was also Matthew.  I know what it is like to feel the shame of my sin.  I know what it is like to feel so undeserving; that my eyes should only ever look down.  But I’ve also learned that there is a great physician and his name is Jesus.  In meeting him, in being called by him, I have received his much needed mercy and have been made well and now walk not just head up but head high.  I so pray for all to not just learn but to experience Christ’s grace as I have; to be a first pick and made well and righteous before a loving father.

Coming back to the YM-YWCA commercial again, the young boy smiles as he is finally selected; leaving one with the impression no one is left out at the Y. I’m so thank that this is a guarantee in Christ.  As was with the conversation with Abraham found in Genesis 18, if there were a few righteous God would spare. In Christ, the Father sees the righteous and many have been saved.  I am proud to say that I am one of them and that the revelation of the empty tomb is at work in the saving of many more.  In Christ we are made right and to Christ, the cost was eternally worth it.  I pray you would see Christ, confess and repent of your sin and receive his offer of grace in living for him today and know that you are more than a YMCA kid but a son or daughter of the most high.

God Bless – Sean Bosse

Forward Thinking

Forward Thinking

As an IT professional and working in the industry for the past 18 years, the one thing I have always become accustomed to has been change. There doesn’t seem to be anything like technology and its constant moving forward.  On more than a few occasions I have found myself investing time training to improve my skillset only to find myself behind still.  As a recent example, I had certified in an industry standard network infrastructure course only to find out, once completed, that an update to the certification was coming the next year.  If I’ve learned anything from the industry is that one must always be thinking ahead, if not one step ahead.

This reality has me thinking of Jesus; as I find circumstances in life often do. In the reading of the scriptures and in particular the words Jesus himself spoke, it is evident that as he faced the present his perspective was that of a forward thinker; this thought of how the present could or would impact the future.  Knowing that this thought process would take into account all of us who have ever lived I, as stated in Psalm 38 v 8, “Stand in awe of God.”

In looking at much of what Jesus had said, two messages come to the forefront as priority; that of a future in store for the unbeliever and the future secured for those who place their trust in Him. In looking at these two specifically it becomes apparent that He has more to say to the unbeliever than to the believer.  Matter of fact, 13% of all of what Jesus said was in regard to the fate of those who die outside of his grace and this should come as no surprise.  In light of any present danger, the priority is always given to those exposed.  That said, for the believer Jesus has some great things to say to remind and encourage the believer who is thinking if not forced to look to the future.

In the face of an uncertain future Jesus was quick to remind his disciples as well as us of his purpose. In John 16 v 7 Jesus states:

“But I tell you the truth, it is for your benefit that I am going away. Unless I go away, the Advocate will not come to you; but if I go, I will send Him to you.”

And who is this Advocate you say? It would be the Holy Spirit; the presence of the Living God inside of the believer as a source of guidance and comfort.  And what will Jesus be doing from his place in Heaven you say?  The answer is found in John 14 v 2- 4:

“My Father’s house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am. You know the way to the place where I am going.”

If doing all this work were not enough, Jesus still puts the needs of us all ahead of his own when praying for us as outlined in John 17 v 20 – 23.

“My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me. I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one—I in them and you in me—so that they may be brought to complete unity. Then the world will know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.”

In placing this in my heart I hear the love He has for me. Even more than that, I see it in all that he has done for us on the cross and in the empty tomb.

Another forward thinker that comes to mind when searching for encouragement in the face of an uncertain future was the Apostle Paul. In spite of all he had faced, he seemed to welcome it in light of the secured future he had in Christ.  In 2 Corinthians 5 v 7 – 9 Paul boldly states the following:

“For we live by faith, not by sight. We are confident, I say, and would prefer to be away from the body and at home with the Lord. So we make it our goal to please him, whether we are at home in the body or away from it”

Wow is all I can say. When one’s priority is Christ’s glory, Paul shows that the method of God’s glory is of no concern.  As a precursor to this revelation, Paul was willing to and had become whatever was necessary to save lives by the power of the living gospel.  For further reference to Paul’s freedom in this regard, see 1 Corinthians 9. I simply and humbly pray, “Owe God, that I would have such faith.”

In closing, I refer to the reminder found in Ecclesiastes 5 v 1 which says:

“Guard your steps when you go to the house of God. Go near to listen rather than to offer the sacrifice of fools, who do not know that they do wrong.”

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve said to myself after a conversation, “I wished I had listened more and spoken less”. If you are standing in the midst of a storm or a trial, it is my prayer that in you’re searching the scriptures, in your prayers and meditations that you would have ears to hear.  And in the hearing, all the joy the future holds for those who call on his name would be revealed.  As you to think ahead, that you would see and rejoice.

God Bless – Sean Bosse

On Display

On Display

Like the taste buds in one’s mouth, it is remarkable where the joy can come from compared to joys of the past. Not being one for reading or writing growing up or even in my years as a Christian, I’m amazed at the books I’ve read and the words I penned.  Writing has become a passion, if not therapeutic for me these past several years.  Whether it be these write ups or the songs I’ve written, it has been such a blessing to know that I have been used in the spreading of gospel and Christ gets all the glory.

In saying this, it hasn’t always been easy. Like a faucet, on more than a few occasions the gift or inspiration has simply turned off.  Authors call it writers block when it is hard to put pen to paper, when the inspiration is gone.  It has happened to me on more than a few occasions and the culprit in the lead up is almost always discouragement.

Over the past few months I have found it hard to write or even string a few thoughts together. So many of late; loved ones, friends and acquaintances; have been diagnosed with or passed away from some form of cancer or terminal illness.  The result for me has been a depression that I’m unashamed to confess.  One case in particular impacted our family hard as the individual affected was so young and left me with more questions than answers.  In all of it I was left wondering where the encouragement would come from, where the light of Christ would be seen to give us hope.

As is the case almost always it is in the looking back; the after the dust has settled moments where clarity can be found. The biblical parallel to this is found in Matthew 8 and Mark 4 in Jesus’s calming a storm. It was only in the settling of the storm that the disciples had peace.  Another example can be found in John 12 v 16 when the disciples had a chance to reflect on all that had taken place. The verse reads as follows:

“At first His disciples did not understand these things, but after Jesus was glorified they remembered what had been done to Him, and they realized that these very things had also been written about Him.”

I can say that I am having that moment now and the peace has been settling to my soul.

At first I was too afraid to look back as the thought of a Lot’s wife experience, ground zero so to speak, terrified me. But in this case I was not looking back craving a past life, I was looking back for a chance to celebrate life and God’s hand of grace in it.  I feel insight has been revealed to me and I share what I hope to be encouragement for you in the words below.

Of all the instances of cancer and illness I have witnessed, 7 stand out for me right now and mainly due to the fact that they were the ones closest to impact either myself or my family. In each situation what has so inspired me, and it is only now that I see it, is the courage with which they had fought or are currently fighting the battle.  In each case they chose to fight the battle publically for all to see.  What I mean by this is that despite the struggle, they allowed themselves to be vulnerable by being accessible.  When times were at their darkest these individuals were always welcoming and eager to give their love, insight and encouragement to those who love them, know them and even to those who did not know them.

Being on display, for me, has been a direct reflection of what was on display in Jesus and, to be more specific, the lead up and last days of his life.  In Jesus, the God Man, was foreknowledge of what was to come.  Knowing the hearts of men, he fully understood what the mission of his life was leading too and being fully human, did what we all do or should do in times of great distress, he fell and prayed for deliverance.  Matthew 26 v 39 and Luke 22 v 42 both illustrate this but, more importantly on display is Jesus’s prioritization of his Fathers will over his own when he prays:

“Yet not My will, but Yours be done.”

Despite the circumstance, Jesus never allowed the enemy to steal his joy; joy of what he knew to be eternally true; joy that sustained the apostles and disciples of old as it does the believers of today.

In looking at the life of Jesus, I see a life always lived in the moment. Despite his surroundings, he never lost sight or sense of his awareness.  He always knew where he was and more than that who he was.  I take great courage in this point particularly as Jesus says we are to be imitators of him and being called to that standard means that in him, it can be achieved.  Paul knew this more than any when he stated the following in 1 Corinthians 11 v 1:

“Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ.”

I feel I have seen and experienced this imitation and have been greatly comforted.

Passion plays often depict Jesus as suffering through the dialogue with the criminals as they hung on their crosses and I imagine that to be true. The event is outlined in Luke 23 v 39 – 43 as follows:

“One of the criminals who hung there hurled insults at him: “Aren’t you the Messiah? Save yourself and us!”
But the other criminal rebuked him. “Don’t you fear God,” he said, “since you are under the same sentence?  We are punished justly, for we are getting what our deeds deserve. But this man has done nothing wrong.”
Then he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.”
Jesus answered him, “Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in paradise.””

Paradise; the absent sting of death! In the suffering, I like to imagine as I read this that Jesus smiled, if not in his spirit, as his he saved the man and that his heart was full in the fulfillment of his purpose.

It is my prayer that if you have suffered or are suffering presently, regardless of the source, that the joy of Christ; the revelation of eternal life now for the believer, would so fill your heart that you would confidently and courageously live life on display; that your iron would be sharpened and your faith strengthened for all to see. I pray this for me and I pray it for you today.

God Bless – Sean Bosse

Blown Witness

Blown Witness

As follower of Christ I can’t tell you how many times I’ve done things that don’t model the faith in Christ I profess.  Everything from road rage to being an over protective parent; from being competitive to a fault to having a lack of patience; all have left me exposed on more than a few occasions over the years.  And it never seems to fail when I have a moment I’m not proud of or say something I wish I could take back, there always seem to be a pointing finger waiting wings.  It is like they come out of thin air or pop up like a jack in the box to either remind me of my witness or label me as a fraud and neither is ever a pleasant experience to say the least.

I can say that I’ve heard the proverbial “I told you so” more times than I care to remember and one of the more recent episodes happened during a touch rugby game we expected to win.  Our team hadn’t lost all year so when we found ourselves in the championship game, there was no doubt in our minds as to who would win but rather how much we would win by.  As always is the case though, it wasn’t long before we realized things weren’t going to go according to plan and I was transformed into someone unrecognizable, even to myself.

With the game hanging on the edge of a knife everyone’s level of play stepped up.  Touches became shoves; comments turned into screams and there I was, the biggest mouth of them all, right in the middle of it.  Colorful language is how it is always described but reality is there was nothing colorful about it and when the game was over we did lose but that wasn’t what was on my mind.  What was on my mind was the fact that my son had been present for our first game and that I was so thankful he had been taken home early.  I was relieved that nobody in my family was there to witness my failure. But that sense of relief abandon me by the time I had reached the parking lot to head for home.

As is the case with most league sports, when the game is over there are always those who hang behind to conversate.  As I made my way to the parking lot I found myself talking to an old friend who immediately pointed out my actions in light of my ministry and that I wouldn’t want to blow it.  With that already on my mind, I immediately felt the shame and acknowledged my wrong.  It wasn’t the first time I’ve blown it and sadly for me, probably wouldn’t be the last.

To my friend’s credit, not knowing if he is a Christian or not, he was far more gracious in his reminder than I deserved and that has me reflective at this moment.  To encourage Timothy in regards to those claiming to be something they are not Paul states the following in 1 Timothy 1 v 3 – 7:

“As I urged you when I went into Macedonia, stay there in Ephesus so that you may command certain people not to teach false doctrines any longer or to devote themselves to myths and endless genealogies.  Such things promote controversial speculations rather than advancing God’s work—which is by faith.  The goal of this command is love, which comes from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith.  Some have departed from these and have turned to meaningless talk.  They want to be teachers of the law, but they do not know what they are talking about or what they so confidently affirm.” 

In reading the above, I confess my brokenness.  What me hits the hardest is the fact that our, or in this case my, words and actions affect the advancement of God’s work through me.  More than that is my being able to relate to the parting from faith and love only to turn to meaningless talk.  Even more than that, professing to be a minster only to look like a fool.  I humbly repent and pray that my actions never reflect my heart before the eyes of my Father in Heaven.  That the promise found in the shed blood of our Savior would lift my head to proclaim that which was said in Psalms 3 v 3:

“But You, O LORD, are a shield about me, My glory, and the One who lifts my head.” 

Oh Lord that you would lift my head, my heart and then my eyes to you.

As you have read this maybe you can relate.  Maybe your heart is heavy, in need of repentance.  Maybe you’re broken at the thought of what you have done; the times you’ve blown it.  Let me encourage you by saying that Christ’s journey to the cross was to for this very reason.  Jesus helps me understand this in stating the following to the people in John 15 v 24:

“If I had not done among them the works that no one else did, they would not be guilty of sin;” 

In doing what only God could do we are found guilty and are broken.  But, for the repentant believer this can be the very place one needs to be as Jesus did say the following in Matthew 21 v 44:

“He who falls on this stone will be broken to pieces, but he on whom it falls will be crushed.” 

What kind of stone is this Jesus?  Jesus gives the answer in Matthew 21 v 42 when quoting Psalm 118 v 22: 

“Jesus said to them, “Have you never read in the Scriptures: ‘The stone the builders rejected has become the cornerstone. This is from the Lord, and it is marvelous in our eyes’?” 

And what is a cornerstone you say?  It happens to be the stone that all things depend on or are based.  When it comes our brokenness, in Christ our lives are rebuilt with him as the foundation, enabling us to stand.

As I close, I’m reminded of the great Old Testament king, King David.  Known as a man of great faith, courage and resolve; David was also known for his great failings.  In learning about his life what has always amazed me most has been his response when faced with his sin.  Proverbs 28 v 13 speaks of the person who conceals his sin.  That was not David and the result was an outpouring of grace and compassion that increased his faith, producing a desire to not just serve but honor the one true God who made it possible for him to do so.  I pray this for us; when we are outwardly a mess and by our own hand, that our repentant contrite hearts would be covered by Jesus and pleasing to the eyes of our Father in Heaven so we can worship in spirit and truth.

God Bless – Sean Bosse

Enough Talk

Enough Talk

Precursor – I have many write created before I started this blog.  Below is one of them I pray encourages.

Growing up in the 80’s I can say that some of my heroes were the likes of Sylvester Stallone, Chuck Norris and, to a much lesser extent, Van Damme. There movies were always  watched with a few friends and it was never long before the coffee table was moved to the corner and the furniture rearranged, creating our own make shift octagon.

Life always seemed to imitate art in those days with the only difference being that the injuries were real. My record was often 1 – 0 when sparing with my friend but almost always dropped to 1 – 1 when his little brother got involved.   Mike was always willing to go farther than I was, resulting in many a painful loss and lesson for me.  Things didn’t change in my early twenties either.  Flying over a couch or pool table seemed to be common place when getting together with buddies from the rugby team.  I can still hear my wife as well as a few of the girlfriends yelling something to the effect of, “Your twenty something years old” or “What the heck is wrong with you guys”.  I guess you’re never too old to test yourself or learn a lesson the hard way.

Fast forward and MMA(Mixed Martial Arts) is something that I’m very much a fan of today and as a Christian, I probably shouldn’t say that as I wouldn’t want to be known for advocating violence. Avoiding a debate on the subject, I will say I certainly respect a person who dedicates their life to a discipline or skillset and also has the desire to test their development and progress.  Like boxing, MMA in its purest form is about just that, putting your training to the test to see where you stand.  Training and promotion always dominate the months leading up to a fight, with a whole host of variables threatening to derail it.

As one would expect, the environment does create for its own set of interesting characters. It really has become a world of heroes and villains; resulting in the lead up to a fight being just as much, if not more entertaining than the fight itself.  I marvel at the prefight investment made when compared to the length of the fights themselves.  A recent example of this was the Aldo – McGregor fight.  A fight that was over a year in the making due to an injury to Aldo during training.  Needless to say, a solid year of back and forth smack talk and fight promotion, lead this to be the most anticipated fight of 2015.  All the talk was of this fight being a war, but to everyone’s shock and amazement it was over in 16 seconds, with McGregor coming out the victor.

With all that goes into preparing for a fight, one can only imagine the feeling of victory mixed with the relief of knowing the hard work was not in vain. Even more than that, one can only imaging the heartache that accompanies a loss.  The critics can be ruthless for those not able to walk the talk, especially when much talk has been made.  A sharp critique Jesus made of the religious leaders when questioned as too why he didn’t follow the traditions of Jews of his day; a warning we would do well to heed in our present day.  In his response he states the following in Mark 7 v 6 – 10:

He replied, “Isaiah was right when he prophesied about you hypocrites; as it is written:

“‘These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. They worship me in vain; their teachings are merely human rules.’ You have let go of the commands of God and are holding on to human traditions.” And he continued, “You have a fine way of setting aside the commands of God in order to observe your own traditions!

A more graphic example of the above can be found in Paul’s letter to the Galatians regarding those professing that circumcision was still a requirement for salvation. Galatians 5 v 11 – 12 reads:

Brothers and sisters, if I am still preaching circumcision, why am I still being persecuted? In that case the offense of the cross has been abolished. As for those agitators, I wish they would go the whole way and emasculate themselves!

God’s distain for those providing lip service; those with of a double mind; neither hot, nor cold; those whose actions don’t match their words can be found all through scripture. With God, it is never about the sacrifice; it is and has always been about the heart.  God reveals his heart to us and for us in Jesus.  For us Christians, it should always be understood that it is never about what we do as believers and followers of Jesus, but the state of the heart from which we do it.  A sentiment echoed to those in the letter written to the Romans.  Romans 2 v 28 – 29 states:

A person is not a Jew who is one only outwardly, nor is circumcision merely outward and physical. No, a person is a Jew who is one inwardly; and circumcision is circumcision of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the written code. Such a person’s praise is not from other people, but from God.

With New Year’s now upon us, many resolutions will be made as to what we will do or change in the coming year. With the state of the world domestically and globally, I state mine while recommending a noble resolution to the reader.  For the year 2016, my resolution is to love better.  As a Christian it is the characteristic that should identify us the most; not just in present day society but also with regards to our relationship with our Father in Heaven, as outlined in 1st John 4 & 5.  More than that, in the gospel of John love is issued as a command by Jesus when engaging those around us; a command not selective in its deployment or audience.  1 Corinthians 13 v 1 – 3 states the following in regards to the value of actions without love:

If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal.  If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing.  If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.

What lasting value is anything we do if our hearts are not right? Love lasts!  I say it again, our love is what lasts.  Of all the things we could do our change in the coming year; being resolute in our love for Jesus and from there, our neighbor, I cannot think of a better motive or position to move from that would glorify our God in Heaven while at the same time impacting the world around us as our light shines before men, through more than just words.

In conclusion, a quote from theologian Jonathan Edwards (1703 – 1758),”The only mark of genuine spiritual maturity and ministry effectiveness is the outworking of agape – a self-giving love for God and others”.

God Bless – Sean Bosse

Sliced Bread

Sliced Bread

As a member of my local YM\YWCA for the past 20 years I’ve had the chance to meet a lot of people. Considering myself to be an extravert, getting to know people and allowing them to get to know me has come easy.  Being an outgoing person has also had its benefits in regards to evangelism and I’m proud to say that some of my best ministry memories have happened while lifting weights while at the Y.

Being well past the whole look as good and be as strong as I can stage in my life, the Y life has become more about socializing and investing back into the community than anything else. I’ve had a lot of interesting conversations over the years and one that took place recently hasn’t seemed to escape my mind.  It has, on more than one occasion, left me wondering how others see or view me and even more than that, how I am portraying myself or my faith to those around me.

It was during another, not so intense training session, that a gentleman I had known for some time approached me to converse. Knowing that I was a Christian and active in the community, he had asked how things were going and what I had been up to lately.  I shared with him victories seen in the youth ministry I was leading as well as the fundraising event I was co-directing this year to benefit several shelter’s here in the city, one of whom I currently serve as a member of the board.  It was at that point the conversation shifted in a direction I did not expect; one that left me humbled while concerned at the same time.

In wearing my faith on my sleeve so to speak, I’ve had those times where those around me have heaped or wanted to heap praise on me and this was one of those times.  The gentleman seemed eager to state that he always thought I was a great guy and that he wished there were more people like me in the city.  I remember laughing to myself as he was saying it; thinking of a few friends who would immediately object to the thought of a few more fountains of useless knowledge roaming the streets.  But as he spoke, there was something that wasn’t sitting right with me and I tried to object.

Like the apostle Paul in 1 Timothy 1 v 12 – 13, I knew who I was before I met Christ so like Paul I want to be sure Christ gets all the glory for who I am today.  I tried to state during the conversation that I wasn’t the best thing since sliced bread and that, even with Christ, I still had my flaws and struggles which leave me in need of Christ every day.  Not interested in that, he highlighted the conversation with an aura he said he could see around me.  While my wife may have said it was just gas, I was praying it was the Holy Spirit and from there the conversation ended with a thank you.

Receiving praise is not something I have ever been comfortable with and for good reason.  Like Gandalf, when implored to take the ring of power by Frodo, I have found myself wanting to scream “Don’t tempt me Frodo”.  The temptation to believe one’s own hype, to enjoy your own smell so to speak is real and I can relate.  A closer look at scripture reveals this to be one of the best and most often used tactics of Satan in bringing many a good person down.

Humanity has consistently found itself in trouble when becoming self-reliant or when ignoring or rejecting the creator. Everything from the Tower of Babel (Genesis 11 v 1 – 9) in the Old Testament to King Herod (Acts 12 v 20 – 23) of the New Testament exemplify this for me and prove what is said in Proverbs 1 v 7 and Proverbs 9 v 10, that of “fear of the Lord is the beginning of both knowledge and wisdom”, to be true.  So, if there is a danger, if it is deadly to misunderstand or misappropriated praise; if the enemy is to use praise as a weapon, what is one to do?  How is or should one respond?  Thankfully scripture highlights some great examples for us to mediate on.

Acts 10, Acts 14, Revelation 19 and 22 all outline times where man and even angels were tempted to receive praise, honor and glory.  In each instance the praise, honor or glory was rejected or better stated, reflected to the one most worthy of it; that being Jesus.  I love Peter’s response to Cornelius’s bowing down before him in Acts 10.  In the verse Peter states:

“Stand up,” he said, “I am only a man myself.”

Not that I’ve ever had anyone bow before me, I do share Peter’s sentiments in that I, Sean Bosse, would be remembered like every other Christian; as one who worked out his salvation with fear and trembling; Philippians 2 v 12.

In closing I do feel the need to say God can be glorified in our giving and receiving of praise as piety and Godliness is not a matter of self-esteem but more about the boldness we have in Christ alone; we just have to be aware. As Gandalf said to Frodo in responding to why he did not want to take the ring he says that his desire would be for good but through him it would do evil.  I understand this when reflecting on my own failures in the area of my pride.  Paul states it best in Romans 12 v 3:

For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but think of yourself with sober judgment, according to the measure of faith God has given you.

I believe it is in this thought that we can finally and rightly prioritize God, our needs and the needs of others to the betterment of the world we live in. I pray for these eyes and these ears as I pray them for you fellow believer; or non-believer.

God Bless – Sean Bosse