Unforgettable God

Unforgettable God

This year, the world lost a great man in Billy Graham; a man considered to be the greatest evangelists of our time.  With the persecution of the Christian becoming more and more common place here in North America, I must say that I was pleasantly surprised to see how his life was celebrated by those outside of the faith.  Recognized as God’s man to the world, he had taken the gospel of Jesus Christ to any and every soul who would listen, resulting in the salvation of millions.  I can’t imagine his life or his legacy ever being forgotten but, I do realize it can happen if not careful and source a great example from the Old Testament for reference.

The book of Genesis tells the story of a man named Joseph; a man recorded to have saved the lives of his own people as well as those from around the populated world.  But, this is not how his life started out.  As is the case with many Christians today, Joseph was a man who endured his share of criticism and persecution.  Sold as a slave to Egypt, he suffered many a hardship and injustice, all the while never breaking faith with his Creator.

Then the day came when he would have a chance to show that there was and is no God but our God.  With the leader of the known world in those days, the Pharaoh of Egypt, suffering with dreams he could not shake or understand, Joseph had been brought forth as one who could help.  Trusting in God to provide, he described the Pharaoh’s dream and interpreted it’s meaning; resulting in the salvation of the Egyptian people as well as those surrounding and depending on them from a devastating famine that was to come.

As is with most who have saved a life or lives of others, honor was bestowed on Joseph in making him second in all of Egypt, behind only Pharaoh himself.  He had been entrusted with the leading of the nation threw the famine to which he was completely successful.  What I find most amazing and encouraging in looking at his life was how, in all that he had been through in his life, he never lost sight of the fact that God was with him and was working circumstances out for his good.  Joseph took the long view regarding his circumstances rather than allowing what was happening in the short term to distract him.  This produced in him an unshakeable faith while at the same time brought glory to his Creator.  For reference on this amazing piece of ancient world history, see Genesis 37 – 50.

But sadly, as found in the first chapter of Exodus, it wouldn’t be long before Joseph and all he had done, by the grace of God, would be forgotten.  The detail is found in Exodus 1 v 8 – 10 and reads as follows:

“Then a new king, who did not know about Joseph, came to power in Egypt.  “Look,” he said to his people, “the Israelite’s have become much too numerous for us.  Come, we must deal shrewdly with them or they will become even more numerous and, if war breaks out, will join our enemies, fight against us and leave the country.”

What I find striking in this section of scripture is found at the beginning and how Joseph was not known to him.  I find myself asking how this could happen.  Or, how it could have been allowed to happen; that such an important part of their history wouldn’t be known or worse, forgotten.

Without going into the how or why this happened, for me, what is important is that it did and the result for the Israelite people was years of slavery and oppression at the hands of those God had saved.  It causes me to ask what happens to us as a people if we allow the Joseph’s and more recently, the Billy Graham’s of the world today to be forgotten?  And, more importantly, what happens if we forget the Creator of all things in Christ Jesus, whom the Joseph’s and Billy’s live threw and for.  Thankfully, for mine and future generations, in Christ that is a reality that will never come.

In scripture, the living word of God assures us that we are never alone.  That God will be known and made known to all and by his grace known by all.  We see this boldly proclaimed in Acts 14 v 16 – 17 which states:

“In past generations, He let all nations go their own way.  Yet He has not left Himself without testimony to His goodness: He gives you rain from heaven and fruitful seasons, filling your hearts with food and gladness.”

Putting an exclamation point on it, Jesus affirms this for us in saying the following in Luke 19 v 40:

“I tell you, He answered, “if they remain silent, the very stones will cry out.”

Christ and His gospel are being proclaimed and, despite Satan and those living for him, the empty tomb has guaranteed that will never change.

As I close this write up out, I find myself thinking about my own mortality and the legacy of faith I hope to leave behind.  Truth be told, it doesn’t really matter to me.  I’m certain that it would only take a generation or two to be forgotten.  If, only for a time, the only thing remembered of me was that I loved Jesus and was covered in and by his grace, that would be enough.  As exemplified in the life of the late Billy Graham and modeled by the even later John the Baptist, may Christ increase by my decrease – John 3 v 30.  That I to would be embraced by my Savior and hear the echo of Matthew 25 v 23 in my ear, that of “Well done good and faithful servant!”.  That is the life I pray for the strength to live to the glory of an unforgettable God and pray the same for you.

God Bless – Sean Bosse

A Good Memory

A Good Memory

During a busy morning in the office a friend and co-worker and I had decided it was a good time for a coffee break.  As we step into the sunshine and proceeded on our trek to the nearest fill up station, an older gentleman had passed in front of us on his bike, instantly transporting me back to my youth and memories of the years I had spent getting around on my bike.  Transitioning from 2 feet and a heartbeat to my bike as the main form of transportation had left me wondering how I ever got anywhere on foot.  As I grew older and transitioned to other forms of transportation, I found myself having this same experience.  In going from a bike to the bus and then from the bus to my own car; each transition left me wondering how I ever managed to get anywhere.  As I reflect on this and some of the like experiences I have had in recent years, one comedic situation stands out in my mind.

In planning a trip to Ontario a few summers ago, the decision had been made to travel through the US in an effort reduce cost as well as to enjoy a different route of travel.  To ensure an easier trip, I had borrowed my in-laws GPS.  Late in the evening as we neared the state of New Hampshire, the time came to program the GPS with the Canadian coordinates so that we could finish the trip.  To our surprise and great frustration, we discovered that the GPS we had didn’t have a Canadian map.  How did we end up with a GPS without a Canadian map you say?  My father-in-law frequented the US for work and it was during one of those trips that he made the decision to acquire a GPS.  Being told that it contained a North American map, he made the purchase and we were the ones to find out that it was not a wise one.  The adventure to Ontario really began from that point on.

In making our way to the border that would see us cross back into Canada, we had made several stops and acquired several maps.  It was very late and I had already made the commitment to drive through the night.  It was then that I made the flawed decision to attempt navigating the rest of that trip from a paper map.  After making several wrong turns and having the locals salute me with gestures most angry people make, my wife finally said it was time for us to bite the bullet and buy another GPS; a purchase I credit to saving our trip that year and our marriage.  How I or anyone who travels, even rarely, lives without this ingenious piece of technology is beyond me and I owe this time reflection to a man on his bike in passing.

When thinking on the content above, I can’t help but reflect on my life and walk with Christ.  I think of how I ever lived or did anything without him by my side.   I’m so thankful to have Jesus in my life and the power and presence of the Spirit of God inside of me as my guide.  I shudder to think of what or where I’d be today without him; something old testament believers failed to realize.  It’s a lesson for us all to learn from should we ever loose site or memory of our Heavenly Father and all he has done and continues to do for us.

In the book Exodus we read of a time where God demonstrated his great power in redeeming his people from the hands of the oppressive and abusive Egyptians.  God protects and then leads his people through the desert to a place where they could experience his presence and provision.  It was during this time that God had called his servant Moses up to Mount Sinai where he would proceed to inform him of all he planned to do as well as to provide him with the law; laws his people were to live by to maintain order and relationship with the God who had redeemed them.  Being on the mountain for a long time the people of Israel began to think that he would not return.  It spirals out of control from there as we read the following in Exodus 32 v 1:

“When the people saw that Moses was so long in coming down from the mountain, they gathered around Aaron and said, “Come, make us gods who will go before us. As for this fellow Moses who brought us up out of Egypt, we don’t know what has happened to him.”

In a moment of despair, the people had quickly forgotten all the Creator, in his grace, had done for them and they rebelled.  Oh, how I can relate to this as I remember some of the more trying times in my life.  The gift of our memory is of huge importance to the Christian and to use it for his glory is of immense value to us today as it was to the body in the Old Testament church as outlined in Deuteronomy 8 v 1 -2:

“Be careful to follow every command I am giving you today, so that you may live and increase and may enter and possess the land the Lord promised on oath to your ancestors.  Remember how the Lord your God led you all the way in the wilderness these forty years, to humble and test you in order to know what was in your heart, whether or not you would keep his commands.”

Thankfully, as I look at all that is around me, I am reminded daily of God’s great grace in my life.  Time and time again it has allowed me to shed a skin that would seek to rebel and lead my spirit into a right and righteous standing with him.  A standing only achieved by Jesus at the cross and my confessing an absolute need for him.  His covenant with me as well as to us is professed in Hebrews 8 v 10:

This is the covenant I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the Lord. I will put My laws in their minds, and inscribe them on their hearts. And I will be their God, and they will be My people.

In closing, I implore you to shed the new age way of thinking and the lines that go along with it.  “What have you done for me lately?” and “It’s all about the here and now?” lead one to lose sight of a long-term reality, that of an eternity separated from our God.  In remembering His grace in Jesus Christ, we truly do have a light that will guide, even when times seem at their darkest.  Titus 2 v 11 – 14 states:

“For the grace of God has appeared that offers salvation to all people.  It teaches us to say “No” to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age, while we wait for the blessed hope—the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us to redeem us from all wickedness and to purify for himself a people that are his very own, eager to do what is good.”

God Bless – Sean Bosse

Casual Christianity

Casual Christianity

Working in a professional environment for the past 20 years, appropriate dress is something that has come with the territory, such as the mandatory dress code required with certain professions.  That said one of the things I quickly became fond of were those days where I could dress down; that day where everyone can shed the profession veneer and dress, as we call it, “casual”.  For many businesses, this idea of dressing casual has become such a hit that a day or days of the week have been designated as casual days and being honest, I look do forward to them.

Thinking on the term casual, and looking beyond the doors of the office space, I can’t help but see how its identity, that of the casual being, has permeated our culture.  The relaxed, unconcerned and indifferent person seems to have found his/her place in our dress; the way we look; how we act, an area I find humorous when trying to imagine what that might even look like; “Act casual”, one friend says to another as he/she struggles with how to play it in the presence of a love interest; and sadly, down to the most intimate area of life, that of our sex lives.  It seems as if there is room for the casual individual in any and all circumstances and, if accepted for the Christian, would put them in eternal danger.

In Revelation 3 v 14 – 22 Jesus writes through the Apostle John to the church of Laodicea, a church that in retrospect, had become casual with their faith.  Jesus speaks to the heart of the issue in verses 15 when he says:

“I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either one or the other!

In speaking, He is confronting a church who had achieved prosperity in Christ to the point where they felt they no longer needed anything; a place the writer of Proverbs 30 v 8 – 9 warned against in saying:

“but give me only my daily bread.  Otherwise, I may have too much and disown you and say, ‘Who is the Lord?’

Laodicea had gotten to this point and it was going cost them as it does many in the faith who become casual towards grace and what it cost for us to receive it.

When thinking about the reality of the casual Christian, the question that comes to mind is how one gets to that point.  I believe the answer is found in the Apostle Paul’s letter to the church in Rome.  In Roman 12 v 2, a life verse for me, Paul states the following:

“Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.”

The issue and the answer is found in ones conforming or adapting to the pattern of the world around them.  What if the pattern is one that is not in line or worse, goes against the will and way of God?  What is the Christian to do in the face of such pressure?  Thankfully, and as always, we can look to Jesus for the answer.

In reading the gospels you will come across instances where Jesus was criticized for he and his disciple’s unwillingness to follow the lead of the religious leaders of the day.  Two issues come to mind when thinking on this, those of fasting and washing.  In the first, they are criticized for not fasting like the rest of them; to which Jesus responded in Mark 2 v 19:

“Can the guests of the bridegroom fast while He is with them? As long as He is with them, they cannot fast.”

With the second, Jesus is criticized because his disciples aren’t washing before the touching food.  Now, I hear you saying, “Sean, isn’t promoting healthy hygiene a good thing?” and on the surface, that is right but, this wasn’t there concern and Jesus calls them on it in Matthew 15 v 11:

“A man is not defiled by what enters his mouth, but” by what comes out of it.”

Pressures facing Jesus were in relation to custom and he used logic in showing the difference in His heart compared to theirs.  In the case of fasting Jesus states His presence and that they couldn’t be anymore closer to God in that time.  Jesus isn’t saying that fasting shouldn’t be done but that with the Christ present, it wasn’t necessary.  With the washing, Jesus is showing that their reasoning was backwards.  Food touched and consumed by unclean hands doesn’t make us spiritually unclean.  It may make you sick but, with a right heart, isn’t going to separate you from God and He states this truth in Matthew 15 v 17 – 18:

“Don’t you see that whatever enters the mouth goes into the stomach and then out of the body?  But the things that come out of a person’s mouth come from the heart, and these defile them.”

Interesting thing about patterns is that they often change.  We see this looking at culture and what drives it from generation to generation.  Knowing this, Jesus wasn’t going to allow the worldly pattern to influence him.  He didn’t come here for that reason and it is not the reason we are here; to be blown in whatever direction the worldly pattern would decide to take us.  Jesus came to define it and there was nothing casual in His to patterning the good, pleasing and perfect will of God; a will we can know and live out ourselves.

If there was ever anything to be casual about, our faith, God’s grace in Christ isn’t it.  To be relaxed, unconcerned and indifferent is to be spit out; the result illustrated in Jesus’s writing to the Laodiceans in Revelation 3 v 16.  The casual Christian is a wasted Christian who only hurts themselves and more than that, those looking for the truth in an ever-changing world.  For the one thinking I may be stretching things to far, I highlight a few quotes taken from Philip Yancey’s book “Church, Why Bother?”.

Poet Anne Sexton puts it, “They pounded nails into his hands.  After that, well, after that everyone wore hats …”
Atheistic philosopher Friedrich Nietzche said, “I would believe in their salvation if they looked a little more like the people who have been saved.”

May this never be said of me or us and if it could be said, I repent and pray the same for you as well.

God Bless – Sean Bosse

Counterfeit Detection

Counterfeit Detection

As an IT specialist with a background in security, the one thing I’ve come to realize is that nothing is ever truly secure.  There never seems to be a shortage of those seeking to prove the point whenever an innovation in technology is released; a parallel I see when looking at the world of counterfeiting and its process of imitating something valuable or important with an intent to deceive or defraud.

Thinking on the issue today, I must admit, there are many instances where imitation has benefited society.  All those no name brand items which have made many a necessity affordable for the majority come to mind.  Food, clothing, house hold and medication items are just to name a few but coming back to the original definition, the counterfeit or faking issue is something that has plagued society and if I’ve learned anything from watching “Pawn Stars” it’s that if there is something of value, it’s likely to be faked.

This issue of counterfeiting or faking has created an atmosphere of distrust resulting in consumers having to be diligent when being sold something; whatever it may be.  One must really do their homework if they are to spot the fake and when it comes to Christianity, it is no different.  In warning the believers of his day, as he does us today, Jesus states the following in Matthew 7 v 15:

“Beware of false prophets. They come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravenous wolves”

In his warning to the believers in Ephesus, Paul states the same in Acts 20 v 29 when he says:

“know that after my departure, savage wolves will come in among you and will not spare the flock.”

In this issue of counterfeits in the faith it is no coincidence that the wolf is used in describing such a person as they truly do prey on the weak and ill-prepared.

In the case of a fake, detection is always key.  Wisdom and knowledge were always the context with which the believers of the early church operated.  This is emphasized in Peter’s writing to the believers found in 1 Peter 1 v 19:

“We also have the prophetic message as something completely reliable, and you will do well to pay attention to it, as to a light shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts”

Jesus puts a point on it when stating in John 5 v 39 & John 10 v 37 – 38:

“You pore over the Scriptures because you presume that by them you possess eternal life. These are the very words that testify about Me,”

“Do not believe me unless I do the works of my Father.  But if I do them, even though you do not believe me, believe the works,”

Scripture was the baseline for all the believers senses as it should be for us if we are to detect the fraud and deception of our enemy Satan.

When seeking to detect a fake, another useful tool aiding in the pursuit has been the test.  Whether it is currency, food, sport, etc., often a test is needed to determine authenticity.  For the fraudulent, it is often what they fear most.  A fraud will go to great lengths in their efforts to avoid a test but when it comes to Jesus and his gospel, the test is welcomed as we see in 1 Thessalonians 5 v 20 – 21 & 1 John 4 v 1:

“Do not treat prophecies with contempt but test them all; hold on to what is good, reject every kind of evil.”

“Dear friends, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world.”

But even with the knowledge, even after the tests, the truth is there are still a few last steps we must take.  As is often the case, it is these last few that can be the toughest and Proverbs 3 v 5 – 6 sheds the light on them:

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight.”

It is only in the trusting and submitting that Jesus through the Holy Spirit enables us, as the Psalmist says, to be still and know that He is God (Psalm 46 v 10); a peace that truly does transcend all understanding (Philippians 4 – 7).

To close, I refer to something seen all too often in the world of buying and selling.  If there is an imitation to be sold, there will always be a willing buyer.  Sadly, so many settle for the knockoff; the counterfeit; when the real thing was readily available.  When it comes to our Savior Jesus Christ, the saying “Often imitated; never duplicated.”, was never truer.  In word and deed, He stands above all.  For the seeker, the one who searches with all their heart, you can trust and know that he will be found. (Jeremiah 29 v 13)
My prayer is that you are found in Him and Him in you; to settle for less is death and death eternal.

God Bless – Sean Bosse

In With The New

In With The New

If one is ever found to be in a mood of reflection, it is almost always as one year ends and another begins.  For many, heading into a new year is a time of great anticipation.  In business, those who performed well financially in the previous year look forward to the start of a new one.  The same can often be said for those who have progressed in areas of education and sports or, experienced growth in their families or improvements in their health.  But for many others it can be a fearful time; a time of continued struggle in the face of an unknown future.

As I look back on the past year I can’t help but think of those who have been or are still hurting.  Loss in the form of employment, relationships, good health and loved one’s plague society.  Knowing this to be a reality for many, I empathize with those who are fearful or even dread the thought of facing another year.  When thinking on the future in front of them, I’m wondering what truths could be found in Christ that could give them the strength to move forward.  Thankfully many are found for those whose trust is placed in Jesus Christ and I outline 4 that I pray encourage you to boldly, courageously and confidently face the uncertain future.

  • When hardship or suffering happens, we’re are often left with the question of why. Scripture found in John 16 v 33 flips the question of why in reading the following:“I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.”In saying “you will have tribulation”, Jesus is stating that we will struggle, we will suffer.  Now I understand that you might say, “Sean, how is this encouraging?” and I get it but, the answer is found in the heads up.  It is not a question of why but when and anger doesn’t have to consume me as Christ didn’t promise perfection in this life.
  • The above stated, in my flesh I would still want to know; as if to somehow avoid the problem. The reality is I don’t know but, there is one who does as revealed in reading Psalm 139 v 1 – 4 and Isaiah 46 v 10.“You have searched me, Lord, and you know me.  You know when I sit and when I rise; you perceive my thoughts from afar. You discern my going out and my lying down; you are familiar with all my ways.  Before a word is on my tongue you, Lord, know it completely.”
    “I make known the end from the beginning, from ancient times, what is still to come. I say, ‘My purpose will stand, and I will do all that I please.”
    In these words, I gain confidence in the fact that my Savior knows all and as a good friend and fellow Pastor often said, “If God brings you to it, He will see you through it”.

Before I go on I must confess that the thought of God knowing and allowing suffering can be hard for even Christians to understand and accept but knowing the Creator to be greater than the creation, I move forward encouraged.

  • Knowing that we all suffer, including the Christ, it is an encouragement to know that Jesus thought of us as he faced the pain of the cross. In reading John 17 we encounter Jesus praying and in his prayers, he focuses on three areas; himself, the disciples and all us believers.Despite all he had been through and was about to go through, his thoughts where on us and that he would be with us as stated in verse 26, “I have made you known to them, and will continue to make you known in order that the love you have for me may be in them and that I myself may be in them.” That in the end I would see his glory, with him, as stated in verse 24, “Father, I want those you have given me to be with me where I am, and to see my glory, the glory you have given me because you loved me before the creation of the world.”For the non-believer thinking what about me, know that he wants relationship with you as his creation.  2 Peter 3 v 9 confirms this in stating:

    “The LORD is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.”

  • In Christ, we don’t have a Savior who is unable to relate to our struggle. This is affirmed in our reading of Hebrews 4 v 15 which states:“For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who was tempted in every way that we are, yet was without sin.”As a man Jesus endured all we endure today and more than that, suffered all for our sake.  1 Peter 2 v 24 states:

He Himself bore our sins in His body on the tree, so that we might die to sin and live to righteousness.  By His stripes you are healed.”

In these words, Jesus relates to us so that we in turn would relate and turn to him and so be healed; eternally.

In closing this out, I refer to a saying I’ve heard many times in my life, “Out with the old; in with the new”.  It is my prayer that as we contemplate all that has been said, that we would flush out all the lies and the fears of years past.  In purging the waste, take hold of the new life found in the living God; the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob; and by the power of the Holy Spirit inside of us, live.

God Bless

Christmas Miracles

Christmas Miracles

Christmas Miracles!!!  A term so often used this time of year.  What will they be?  Where with them come from?  Being a history junkie, for me the sound of silence and peace on earth is one of the greatest Christmas miracles I can think of.  When considering the trench warfare of World War 1; an unexpected output of the war; battles fought in the trenches are described as some of fiercest battles fought; lasting almost the entirety of the war.  But, the evening of the 24th of December – 1914, the guns of the western front would fall silent in what has been called the Christmas Truce.  Surrounded by the bitter fruits of war, death and the hate it produced, the thought of warring enemies coming together in a show of displayed humility absolutely defies logic.  A process started at the lowest ranks of both sides, leaving friend and foe standing on the same hallowed ground laughing, singing carols and exchanging gifts.  In an environment like that, with the pleasantries of life nonexistent, something as small as a cigarette was a great gift.   With conditions at an incomprehensible level, the remembrance and celebration of the birth of Jesus in the depths of hell on earth was enough to stop the fiercest fight.  My heart is broken at the thought of the reconciliation only lasting a day.

It is Christmas 2017 and I find myself wondering what this year’s miracles will be; the kind that leave one with a treasured memory.  For some it may be a marriage proposal or an unexpected visit from a loved one; for others, it may be a positive health prognosis or just the food on the table.  Whatever it is, the joy and anticipation of the season can at times cover even the darkest of shadows.  I must confess though, with all that has happened this year personally as well as domestically and overseas, the shadow seems to loom larger as this year comes to a close.  Knowing that simply reflecting on the life of Jesus; the process and power that brought about his coming; has the power to get us out of our present-day trenches, I’m hopeful.  That said, like the Christmas Truce, for some the moment of peace may be just that, a moment and I’m left asking…why?

For those who can relate, winter blues is often the diagnosis for those who struggle with depression during the winter months of the year.  Coming out of this year, the thought of what the shadow will be for some and myself if I’m not cognizant, certainly has impacted my prayer life.  Many reason the shorter days, a hangover resulting from the past years Christmas escapism, unrealized resolutions, among others to be potential contributors to the winter blues effect.  I personally think record dumps of snow should be at the top but joking aside, I do struggle with how one can go from the heights of joy and peace to the depths of depression and more so for the person trusting in Jesus.  Why can’t joy sustain us the way the lead up to the season as well as the season itself does?   Posture, and of the spiritual heart kind, I believe is the key as seen in the pictures of those coming out of the trenches of World War 1; a posture that provides clues to the problem, with Jesus and his word at the forefront of the solution.

In his book “Reconcile”, author John Paul Lederach states the following regarding hate and its power to deceive,” Be careful about what you hate.  You may find that like a blind fold it removes your ability to see.  Look first for what you see of yourself in others.  Love the sinners and see yourself in them.  There you will find God”.    Finding common ground is often the first building block in the process of reconciliation.  In the trenches of WW1, the fact that both sides were enduring under the same circumstances lead to empathy for him who was considered the enemy; changing the posture of their hearts towards each other, starting a process of reconciliation.  We see this lived out in the life of the beloved Abraham Lincoln; considered to be America’s greatest president.  In his book “The Emotional Healthy Leader”, author Peter Scazzero states of the late Lincoln,” He made it clear that God had not taken sides in the Civil War,”, a result of sin itself.  And, “When the war ended, Lincoln harbored no hatred or need for revenge against his former enemies, offering forgiveness and reconciliation to those who surrendered.”, the central theme and purpose of God in Christ and his word.

Everything from God’s conversation with Lot to Jonah and the Ninevites illustrate the posture of his heart toward us.  But the one that stands out the most to me is found in the gospels of Jesus and his encounter with tax collectors(Publicans) named Matthew and Zacchaeus.  Luke 5 v 27 – 32 states:

After this he went out and saw a tax collector named Levi(Matthew), sitting at the tax booth. And he said to him, “Follow me.”  And leaving everything, he rose and followed him.  And Levi made him a great feast in his house, and there was a large company of tax collectors and others reclining at table with them.  And the Pharisees and their scribes grumbled at his disciples, saying, “Why do you eat and drink with tax collectors and sinners?”  And Jesus answered them, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick.  I have not come to call the righteous but sinners to repentance.”

Luke 19 v 1 – 10

Jesus entered Jericho and was passing through.  A man was there by the name of Zacchaeus; he was a chief tax collector and was wealthy.  He wanted to see who Jesus was, but because he was short he could not see over the crowd.  So he ran ahead and climbed a sycamore-fig tree to see him, since Jesus was coming that way.  When Jesus reached the spot, he looked up and said to him, “Zacchaeus, come down immediately. I must stay at your house today.”  So he came down at once and welcomed him gladly.  All the people saw this and began to mutter, “He has gone to be the guest of a sinner.” But Zacchaeus stood up and said to the Lord, “Look, Lord! Here and now I give half of my possessions to the poor, and if I have cheated anybody out of anything, I will pay back four times the amount.”  Jesus said to him, “Today salvation has come to this house, because this man, too, is a son of Abraham.  For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.”

Commentaries on these encounters paint a clear picture of the role of a tax collector in early society and the hatred cast on them.  I imagine that some of the anger was earned, as illustrated in Jesus’s encounter with Zacchaeus.  If he was concerned about taking more than was due, it is likely to have happened often for those in that position.  It is said that extortion was a way of padding their income; leading to the hatred seen and projected on them blankly as a whole.  The societal view of them, up to the high levels of the religious circles, was that they were all sinners and I don’t see anything done from the level of those in power to quell the fallout.  The voice of reason, as always, is Jesus’s response in these encounters.  With Matthew and Zacchaeus, as should be the case with all of us, the reminder of our current sinner state was not necessary to change the posture of a heart.  It was the good news of grace delivered and received in the same way a compassionate health care provider would diagnose and apply a cure.  Spiritually speaking, compassionately applying the cure to the disease plaguing our souls.

Jesus demonstrates the ability to identify common ground from which to build from.   Scripture reveals that we are all fearfully and wonderfully made in his image and for the Christian, the ability to form to his likeness; a likeness of character and ability.  With the world changing and immigration at the forefront for Canada, I pray for a Christmas miracle that would have us laying down our flags and weapons if needed; to be led by the Spirit out of our trenches as those in desperate need of an encounter with Jesus come out of theirs, the immigrant, family member, friend, co-worker or stranger and be an available contributor to the process of reconciliation and restoration; to the glory of our father in heaven.

Just like the posture of your body can affect the size of your shadow, I pray that the posture of your heart this season would be towards Jesus Christ and his gift of reconciliation; casting a restored shadow of joy and hope that not just sustains but guides you through this season and all the coming years; always singing it is well, it is well with my soul.

Merry Christmas and God Bless – Sean Bosse

The Costly Christmas

The Costly Christmas

Of all the missions’ trips I’ve been on over the years, I’ve been blessed to have served in a few locations multiple times; the country of Guatemala being one of them.  Looking back I can sadly say that I do have a few regrets.  Some might look at me and say, “Sean, you’re on mission for Jesus.  What’s to regret about that?”  But never the less, I do have a few and as is the case, one stands above them all from one of my trips to Guatemala.

After several days of fruitful work, we had the chance to travel around and browse through the markets.  We found ourselves in Antigua and after a day of sightseeing and shopping, exhausted, we proceeded to the pickup spot to be transported back to our residence.  It was during the walk back that I was approached by an older lady and her sibling trying to sell what looked like a table cloth.  Truth be told I didn’t want to buy the item as I was done shopping, but this lady was persistent and would not leave my side so I threw out a price that would not budge on.  It was a low-ball offer that I had hoped would lead to her giving up but as I said, she was persistent and four blocks later we still hadn’t agreed on a price.

Eventually getting to our transport she conceded and as I was about to cross the street to leave I purchased the item.  I’ll never forget what she said as we made the exchange, “This, which was $10 American, wouldn’t be enough to feed her family.”  Maybe it was the effects of another day in the sun or exhaustion from another day on my feet, but her comment never registered with me at the time.  I remember, as I got in the van, feeling like I had won.  That I had gotten the better of deal instead of them getting the better of me this time.  It wasn’t long after I returned home that this feeling would evaporate and my perspective on value would be changed for the long term.

It was during the reading of scripture that I came across a section of text that took me right back to the coble stoned streets of Antigua.  In Proverbs 20 v 14 it states:

“It’s no good, it’s no good!” says the buyer– then goes off and boasts about the purchase.”

In the reading of this scripture I was taken back to purchase I had made and confronted with what I had done.  Convincing the street lady that what she was offering was not worth the price she was asking, I had successfully decreased the perceived value of an item I knew was worth far more, just to get my way.  Reflecting on the true meaning of Christmas, I can’t help but wonder if we in the faith are not doing the same.

It wasn’t that long ago it seems that Christ was the center of Christmas.  Parades had the representation of most churches in the community; schools celebrated the birth of our Savior in play song and you could wish everyone a Merry Christmas without fear of offence.  Today the message of “Keep Christ in Christmas” can be found on many a sign and bumper sticker as if to say He has been or is becoming lost in our cultural consciousness.  In light of this devastating reality, and the fact that I too can get caught up in the consumption of the season, I have found myself looking at the Christmas story from a different perspective; one that I will share with you now.

In John 1 v 1 – 2 we read the following regarding Jesus and His place before coming to earth:

“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.  He was with God in the beginning.”

The above was further emphasized in 1 John 1 v 2 when it says:

“The life appeared; we have seen it and testify to it, and we proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and has appeared to us.”

In Jesus’s own words He states:

For I have come down from heaven, not to do My own will, but to do the will of Him who sent Me.

At Christmas, we celebrate the gift of Christ and his entry into our world but in reading the scriptures above a different narrative comes to light; one of sacrifice.

In thinking of the sacrifice of Christ one often automatically looks to His crucifixion.  One would not be incorrect in doing that but, to view the crucifixion as the only or main reference to sacrifice in the life of Christ would be incorrect.  To believe that does nothing but to devalues the life of Christ.  His sacrifice didn’t start at Calvary but started at home, in Heaven with his Father, where he was from the beginning.  He willingly set aside the eternal to come into our world the same way we all do, to be a living sacrifice for us all.  The Apostle Paul highlighted Christ’s purpose to the Romans of his day, as he does for us today, in Romans 5 v 8 when he says:

“But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”

It is this costly reality that has brought the perspective and the true joy as I reflect on Christmas and how we can keep Christ at its center.  Anything else only seeks to cheapen the season and is the point I now refer to as I finish.

In his book, The Cost of Discipleship, Christian theologian and martyr Dietrich Bonhoeffer highlights a problem that plagued the church of his day, a problem I believe still plagues us today, that of CHEAP GRACE.  He describes it as the, “justification of the sin without the justification of the sinner”; that “grace alone does everything so everything can remain as it was before.  The is a huge problem that the Apostle Paul condemns in Romans 6 v 1 when he says:

“By no means! How can we who died to sin live in it any longer?”

I say, may this never be.  Based on the cost, it will never be.

So, with that, if the buildup of another Christmas does nothing but rob you of peace and joy, may the true cost of the season, that of the complete sacrifice of our Savior, fill you back up this year and beyond.  If we were never allowed to celebrate another Christmas again, you will always have reason for the season because of Jesus.

God Bless – Sean Bosse