Friday, March 30, 2012

Stopping To Ask for Help

“So I say to you: Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.” (Luke 11:9-10 NIV)

I was sitting yesterday at a stoplight along a road construction site when a car came from the other direction, slowing down as if the driver was going to ask me a question.  Looking directly at me, I heard him say to his passenger, “I don’t think he can help us.”  Then he drove on.  I don’t know what question he had but, obviously, he decided I wouldn’t know the answer.  On what basis he drew that conclusion I have no idea.  

Isn’t that how we sometimes think of God?  Not that He is unable to help us, but for whatever reason, we are convinced He won’t.  So we don’t ask.  Perhaps we think God only deals with the BIG questions of life, so when we have a small one, we think, “He won’t help me,” so we don’t stop to ask.  Or maybe we think He is too busy for “little ol’ me,” so we avoid bothering Him.  

Yet, this is not the God portrayed in the Scriptures.  Little children, who we know always are full of questions, were welcomed to gather around Him (Matthew 19:14).  We are encouraged to approach God’s throne of grace in our time of need and no mention is made of the type or size of the need (Hebrews 4:16).   And we are told to ask Him.  

The Lord, by all Scriptural accounts, seems very open to questions and requests for help.  We just have to believe He will help us regardless of the size of our need.

Today, if you need help, don’t pass by the Lord thinking He won’t help you.  He has told you to ask, and He has promised to help you.

© Jim Musser 2012

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Smelling the Barn

“Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already been made perfect, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.

All of us who are mature should take such a view of things. And if on some point you think differently, that too God will make clear to you.” (Philippians 3:12-15 NIV)

Years ago I was on a ranch riding a trail horse.  The lead rider left the group to retrieve a hat that was dropped, leaving my horse and me second in the line of riders.  Suddenly, the lead horse went from a trot to a gallop and I hung on for dear life as my horse followed.  The rider in front was thrown from her horse, cracking a rib, and I was left unsure if I ever wanted to ride a horse again. We later concluded the horse had smelled the barn and, without a leader, just took off.   

As we are winding down the year and getting close to the end of the semester, students are starting to “smell the barn.”  Like a horse on the trail toward home, it is easy to become obsessed with the end of the school year.  

This is the time of the year, after Spring Break, when students start looking ahead to the end of the semester and the beginning of summer. They can smell it and often their focus on the present is distracted.  

As a campus minister, I can see that happening spiritually as well.  It is tempting as a leader to let responsibilities slide and look ahead to different things in the summer.  That is the temptation of life—letting our longing for the future take our focus away from the present.  But the present is where we live and we honor the Lord by our lives in the present.  The future can be a motivation for living in the present, but should never be an excuse for us to abdicate our responsibilities in the here and now.  Paul was looking forward to Eternity, but he continued to strain to get there.

You may be “smelling the barn” right now and are tempted to just coast to the end, but the Lord is reminding you through Paul that between now and then there is much straining yet to be done.  Pressing on to the end is the best way to honor your Lord.  

© Jim Musser 2012

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Living Good Lives

“Live such good lives among the pagans that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day he visits us.” (I Peter 2:12 NIV)

I am often surprised by the reaction of people to what I still intrinsically believe to be normal behavior.  Recently, I stopped at a coffee shop to buy a cup of java and realized, after I was served, that I had no money in my wallet.  The owner was really nice.  Told me not to worry about it, that I could pay him later.  The next day I stopped in to pay him the money and the guy was completely shocked.  He told me I needn’t have done that, but I could tell by his face how much he appreciated, well, honesty.

This is a trait that is normal for me because I follow Jesus, but I realize people, like those in business, don’t always see nor necessarily expect honesty from people, particularly in the case of a couple bucks owed.  

I don’t know the coffee shop owner’s spiritual leanings, but my guess would be he is not a believer.  And, if that is the case, he likely has a rather skewed view of Christians.  One can argue that Christians are “nutcases,” “idiots,” and the like, but when individual Christians live good, upright lives, it gives the person pause.  

In a world full of rudeness, apathy, dishonesty, and the like, normal Christian behavior stands out like a light in the darkness.  It grabs people’s attention.

Today, recognize that how you treat people and handle situations can be a powerful testimony for Jesus.  The world may scoff at Christians in general, but the best way to silence our critics and draw them into a relationship with Jesus is by living good lives.

© Jim Musser 2012

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

A Journey of Growth

“So Christ himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, to equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.  Then we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of people in their deceitful scheming. Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of him who is the head, that is, Christ.” (Ephesians 4:11-15 NIV)

I recently asked a student to tell me about her spiritual journey.  She responded, “You mean when I was saved?”  Well, not exactly.

So often people frame their spiritual journey in terms of when and how they became a believer in Jesus.  Their journeys have the same beginning and ending points.  For many, being saved is the goal and when that is accomplished, the journey basically ends.

But a journey’s end, by definition, is a long way from its beginning.  There is much that happens in between.  For Paul that was a maturing process where we would increasingly move toward being more like Jesus in thought and deed.  The result would be a community of grown-up believers unified and submitted to the Lord.

I have long thought the emphasis on “getting people saved” rather than discipleship within the church is detrimental to the growth and maturity of God’s people, and every day I see its effects.  The student was sincere in her question, but the sad part for me is she had no concept of spiritual growth.  In her mind, it seems, her journey was basically complete as soon as it began.  And she is far from alone.

Churches today are full of people whose spiritual journeys can be summed up by the age at which they first came to know Jesus.  They have been coasting pretty much since and it shows.  But this is so contrary to what the Scriptures teach.  They speak of bearing fruit (John 15), going from drinking milk to solid food (Hebrews 5), no longer being infants (Ephesians 4).  These are words implying growth.  

Today, if you are a follower of Jesus, realize your journey with Him is to be a journey of continued growth and is to end with you being far more like Him than when you first began.

© Jim Musser 2012