Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Freedom from the Past


“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 being a short man he could not, because of 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 what was lost.’” (Luke 19:1-10 NIV) 

We called it the “gourmet shift.”  I worked at a grocery store while in high school and on weekends often worked the third shift.  There were few customers and little supervision.  So when we took our breaks, we would just pull things off the shelves to eat.  We were stealing from the store, but thought little of it.  


When I went off to college, I was introduced to Jesus and began following Him.  On a visit home one weekend several years later, I drove past the store at which I had worked years earlier and immediately thought of my habit of taking items off the shelves without paying for them.  Honestly, I tried to put it out of my mind.  “Ah, that was a long time ago, and I have been forgiven of all my past sins,” I rationalized.  Months went by and I still couldn’t shake the conviction that I needed to confess to the manager of the store and repay the company.  So one day I sat down and wrote a letter telling what I had done and, because I was now a follower of Jesus, that I wanted to make things right.  I enclosed a check for what I guessed was the value of the items I had taken and mailed it off.  I never heard back from the manager (he probably was shocked and didn’t know how to reply), but I immediately felt a great freedom in my spirit.  


Coming to Jesus requires repentance, and that can sometimes mean going back and asking forgiveness and even making restitution to those we have treated badly.  In my case and Zacchaeus’, it was stealing, but it could be a lot of other things including, cheating in school, treating a teacher with gross disrespect, bullying a classmate, or using someone for sexual pleasure.  The willingness to humble ourselves before others and to admit our sins against them is a sign of true heart transformation and a powerful witness.


Today, go before the Lord and ask Him if there is anyone from whom you need to seek forgiveness and perhaps to whom to make restitution for your sins against them.  It is a very difficult thing to do, but with salvation comes the need for repentance.  And with repentance comes freedom from the past.   


© Jim Musser 2012

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Genuine or Fake?


“The Pharisees and some of the teachers of the law who had come from Jerusalem gathered around Jesus and saw some of his disciples eating food with hands that were defiled, that is, unwashed. (The Pharisees and all the Jews do not eat unless they give their hands a ceremonial washing, holding to the tradition of the elders.  When they come from the marketplace they do not eat unless they wash. And they observe many other traditions, such as the washing of cups, pitchers and kettles.)


So the Pharisees and teachers of the law asked Jesus, ‘Why don’t your disciples live according to the tradition of the elders instead of eating their food with defiled hands?’ 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! For Moses said, “Honor your father and mother,” and, “Anyone who curses their father or mother is to be put to death.” But you say that if anyone declares that what might have been used to help their father or mother is Corban (that is, devoted to God)—then you no longer let them do anything for their father or mother. Thus you nullify the word of God by your tradition that you have handed down. And you do many things like that.’” (Mark 7:1-13 NIV)

The charger for my Mac stopped working over the weekend.  I have been looking online for a new one, and it’s interesting to read the reviews for various replacements.  There are a lot of warnings about some of them being fakes.  The sellers describe them as genuine, but reviewers say, upon closer examination, they are knock-offs and don’t work well at all.  


No one likes being taken in by a fake.  There is the great anticipation that you have something genuine, but after you purchase it, you realize it’s not the real thing.  What a letdown!


I think this is why Jesus is being so hard on the Pharisees and the teachers of the law.  They are trying to sell the people on their own righteousness in order to have them admire and follow them.  But, as Jesus points out, they are a bunch of fakes.  What they claim to be and what they truly are is very different.  And Jesus, like the rest of us when we have been duped, is quite disappointed and let’s them know it.  (At another time, He gets downright angry.  See Matthew 23.)


Jesus, while being fully God, was fully human as well, and one of the things we humans like the least is fakes, whether they be politicians, car salesmen, or religious hypocrites.  We want what is genuine and authentic, and we hate being duped.  I think that is why so many are skeptical of or turn against Christianity.  They have seen too many fakes.


None of us is perfect, but we need to be acutely aware of our day-to-day lives and what they project about the Lord.  Are we living in ways that are genuine and reflect truthfully on our God?  Or are we faking it?  You need to realize people eventually can tell the difference.


Today, reflect on your own life in the Lord.  Is it genuine or is it fake? Only you and the Lord know for sure, but it won’t take others long to find out.


© Jim Musser 2012

Monday, February 27, 2012

Living Faithfully in Anonymity


“A few days later, when Jesus again entered Capernaum, the people heard that he had come home. They gathered in such large numbers that there was no room left, not even outside the door, and he preached the word to them. Some men came, bringing to him a paralyzed man, carried by four of them. Since they could not get him to Jesus because of the crowd, they made an opening in the roof above Jesus by digging through it and then lowered the mat the man was lying on. When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralyzed man, ‘Son, your sins are forgiven.’” (Mark 2:1-5 NIV)

Five years ago, USA Today ran a cover story on the Millennial Generation’s quest for fame.  (http://www.usatoday.com/news/nation/2007-01-09-gen-y-cover_x.htm)  In a Pew Research survey, 51 percent of respondents said one of the their top life goals was to be famous.  With the explosion of YouTube and the continued popularity of the reality genre on television, I doubt little has changed since that survey was done.


An interesting thing in the New Testament is how few of the people whose faith is highlighted are actually named.  The paralyzed man was healed, Jesus said, because of the faith of four men who carried him and lowered him through the roof.  They are not identified, but their faith was extraordinarily strong.  It is not hard to imagine if it had happened today that the four men would be on talk shows and writing books about their friendship with the healed man and the back story of how they took him to Jesus. 


Yet, we don’t see that kind of notoriety in the Scriptures.  The vast majority of those written about are identified only by their gender, nationality, malady, sin and/or vocation.  No names are given.  The woman at the well who evangelized her village was a Samaritan (John 4). The woman Jesus forgave was caught in adultery (John 8). The man whose servant Jesus healed was known only by his rank in the Roman army (Matthew 8).  Men and women of great faith whose names are never known.


And then there are the men and women who faithfully served that only their names are known, but nothing more about them.  The list of people Paul greets in Romans 16 is a good example.  Only a scant description, if any, is given of them.  And what about Matthias, the disciple chosen to replace Judas? (Acts 1)  He is never mentioned again in the New Testament.


Is there a lesson here for us?  Could it be the notoriety so many seek, to be recognized for their accomplishments, or just to be recognized, is just a chasing after the wind?  Is it perhaps the one who cares the least about being known for his faithfulness who will be the most acclaimed in Heaven?


Today, remember there is only One from whom we should seek recognition, and it will not happen by seeking to parade our deeds before the world.  It will happen when we are merely concerned with living daily lives of faith no matter who is watching or knows.  


© Jim Musser 2012

Friday, February 24, 2012

The Freedom of Grace


“Before the coming of this faith, we were held in custody under the law, locked up until the faith that was to come would be revealed. So the law was our guardian until Christ came that we might be justified by faith. Now that this faith has come, we are no longer under a guardian.” (Galatians 3:23-25 NIV)

In the past couple of months, the postal service has returned several letters to my ministry’s office that were sent to a supporting church.  I called a friend who is an elder at the church to find out if we had the wrong address.  Sure enough, we did.  Instead of the street number being 11221, it was 11231.  Only one number off and probably only a few doors down from where we intended to send it.  Now my question is, why couldn’t the postal carrier just deliver the letter and let us know of the error in the address?


But that would have been an act of grace and the postal service, like all institutions, operates under rules.  To me, it is a reminder of how blessed we are, as followers of Jesus, to live under grace rather than the law.  Under law, even the slightest deviation is never overlooked and always has a consequence.  There is never a “don’t worry about that; we’ll take care of it” attitude.  Under law, life is lived with an attempt at full awareness of every action and in fear of every consequence.  There are no breaks or do- overs.  No wonder Paul describes those under the law as prisoners.  


Grace, however, sets the prisoners free.  No longer do we live under the threat of the consequences of sin.  No longer is it looming over us, watching every move we make.  Instead, grace beckons us to resist sin because of the love we have received, and provides us with a safety net when we fail.  


Today, if you are a follower of Jesus, rejoice in the freedom you having living under God’s grace.  And if you are not, know that you, too, can be set free from the oppressive life under the law.  Jesus came to set you free, and if He sets you free, you will be free indeed.


© Jim Musser 2012

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Adoption


“Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ. For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love he predestined us for adoption to sonship through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will—to the praise of his glorious grace, which he has freely given us in the One he loves. In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace that he lavished on us. With all wisdom and understanding, he made known to us the mystery of his will according to his good pleasure, which he purposed in Christ, to be put into effect when the times reach their fulfillment—to bring unity to all things in heaven and on earth under Christ.” (Ephesians 1:3-10 NIV)

It is a true love story.  A single missionary gets a call late in the night to come rescue an abandoned baby.   Not even thinking of caring for a child, she takes the baby to an orphanage the next day.  But she can’t get the baby girl out of her mind and so visits her every day.  Seeing she is getting lost in a sea of babies, she decides to take her home.  In those early days, a connection forms and the woman begins to feel a love that only a mother can have.  This week, after four years of winding through a tedious adoption process, this single woman legally became the mother to a child she has loved since that rainy night she first held her in her arms.  


Adoption is never easy.  It always requires a great deal of sacrifice in both time and treasure.  If one is adopted, she is truly loved.  


So when Paul says we have been chosen for adoption, we should sit up and take notice.  It means God felt connected to us from the beginning and was willing to pay the cost to bring us home with Him.  The death of His only Son was the price He paid, but He considered it worth it to have us as His children.  And once He has us home, He lavishes His love on us.  This is no begrudging Father forced by circumstances into an adoption.  No, this is a Father who loves deeply and lavishes His love upon us freely.


Today, know your adoption by the Heavenly Father is a sign of how much you are loved.  He sacrificed what was most precious to Him in order to bring you home.  


© Jim Musser 2012

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

A Powerful Message


“You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous man, though for a good man someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:6-8 NIV)

It happens almost every day.  A radical Muslim sacrifices his life to kill as many of Allah’s “enemies” as he can by exploding a bomb strapped to his body.  In Washington, DC last week, a man walked toward the Capitol Building with every intent of exploding a “suicide vest” he was wearing.  As it turned out, the FBI had long ago learned of his plans, befriended him, and had given him a non-working vest.  


The suicide bomber has, for many years now, become the weapon of choice of many Muslim extremists.  Those who make themselves human weapons are considered martyrs and are exalted by their families and by much of the culture.  


It is interesting to note the difference between an Islamic martyr and a Christian martyr.  The former takes his own life in order to glorify his god and to kill others; the latter allows his life to be taken in order to glorify God and to save others.  


Since Jesus gave up His life that we might be saved, many of His followers down through the centuries have willingly died for their faith at the hands of God’s enemies.  They have followed the example of their Lord, who died not in order to kill His enemies, but to save them. 


This is the power of the Gospel.  Jesus loved us so much that He gave up His life for us—His enemies.  He died for the very people who put Him to death.  It is a powerful message in a world of hate and vengeance.  


Today, consider the sacrifice Jesus made for those who hated Him, and those who have died as a result of following Him.  You may not be forced to give up your life, but you can follow their example by loving your enemies and those who despise you.  


© Jim Musser 2012 

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Adding Fuel to the Fire


“Without wood a fire goes out; without gossip a quarrel dies down.” (Proverbs 26:20 NIV)

Every morning during the winter, I get up and check our woodstove. Usually, it is still burning fairly warm, but occasionally, it is cold because there is no wood left to burn.  In order to stay hot, a woodstove needs to have wood to burn.


Quarrels among people are the same way.  They need “fuel” to keep them going.  And gossip is by far the best available and most easy to find because we love to talk about other people.  It just comes natural to us. Much of the time it is innocent and non-malicious talk.  However, talking about others always has the potential to hurt and destroy, because we never can guarantee our words won’t be passed on and distorted in the process.  And if there is a quarrel going on, talking about the people involved can be like adding kindling to a fire.  It will quickly become hot.  


Although it is common, gossip is not portrayed in the Scriptures in a good light. In fact, Paul includes it in a list of sins that contains murder and deceit (Romans 1:28-31).  And when we understand the damage gossip can do to relationships and to individuals, we can see why.  


I was once involved in a discipline situation in a church and the “word” was that I had a personal issue against the individual being disciplined and was out to get him.  It was pure gossip with no basis in fact, but it hurt my reputation and destroyed friendships because many people believed what they had heard.  That is what gossip can do—add fuel to the fire, hurt and destroy.


Today, consider carefully what you say about other people.  As a believer, it is your role to edify and to encourage.  Gossip does neither.  It just adds fuel to the fire.


© Jim Musser 2012

Monday, February 20, 2012

The Essence of Righteousness


“Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says. Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like someone who looks at his face in a mirror and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like. But whoever looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues in it—not forgetting what they have heard, but doing it—they will be blessed in what they do.” (James 1:22-25 NIV)

During our church’s worship service yesterday, a woman announced she was collecting signatures for a petition to keep the Ten Commandments displayed in the county courthouse.  Our pastor added he would like to start a petition to keep the Ten Commandments displayed in people’s hearts.  


I am sure he has no objection with God’s Word being on public display, but realizes the power of it’s public witness is not in plaques or monuments but in the lives of those who claim to follow Him.  The temptation for us is to settle for the semblance of righteousness instead of its essence.  We place the emphasis on being in church rather than being the Church, or on having a clean reputation rather than a clean heart, or on spending time reading the Word rather than obeying it.   


The result is we develop a false sense of confidence that we are right with the Lord, and, as James warns, are deceived.  For true righteousness is that which flows out of a humble and contrite heart (Isaiah 66:2).  


Today, examine yourself to see whether you are merely settling for the semblance of righteousness, the outward appearances, or the essence of it, which is a heart submitted fully to the Lord.  


© Jim Musser 2012

Friday, February 17, 2012

An Example Worth Following


“Whoever acknowledges me before others, I will also acknowledge before my Father in heaven. But whoever disowns me before others, I will disown before my Father in heaven.” (Matthew 10:32-33 NIV)

It’s being called “Linsanity” by sports writers.  People are going crazy over New York Knicks point guard, Jeremy Lin.  Lacking a scholarship out of high school, he played four years at Harvard and then having gone undrafted by the NBA, signed as a free agent with the Golden State Warriors.  He was released last summer, let go by yet another team, and then finally was picked up by the Knicks last fall where until two weeks ago, he rode the bench.  


Then something, which Lin describes as miraculous, happened.  His coach, frustrated with the uninspiring play of his team, inserted Lin into the lineup.  During the course of the next five games, Lin scored more points than any other player in NBA history and hit the winning shot in one game.  To date, the Knicks are undefeated since he became a starter.  And so, New Yorkers and the media have gone “Linsane.”  Lin jerseys have sold out, the seats at Madison Square Garden are filling up, and Lin’s Twitter followers have grown to over 350,000.  


And how is Jeremy Lin reacting to his sudden rise to fame?  In a recent interview, Lin said this: “My identity is in Christ and not in basketball.  I love playing basketball, and it's my job. But at the same time, I still recognize I’m a sinner and that’s not going to change regardless of how well I play on the court.”


Of all the things he could have said, and perhaps what agents and publicity experts would have recommended him to say, he chose to give glory to Jesus and humbly acknowledge his imperfection as a human being and his need for a Savior.  Not exactly what you expect to hear from a rising star.


Lin passed the test of Jesus.  When given the opportunity, He acknowledged Him.  When everyone around him is seeking to give him glory, he instead is giving it to the only One deserving of it.  It is an example we would each do well to follow.  


© Jim Musser 2012

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Seeing Trials as Blessings


“Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.” (James 1:2-4 NIV)

I was listening to K-LOVE the other day as I was running errands in town and the deejay was doing an interview with Laura Story.  She had just won a Grammy for her song, “Blessings” and was talking about the back-story to the song.  Her husband, Martin, was diagnosed with a brain tumor several years ago and she wrote the song out of the experience of walking in that valley with him.  


The song talks about our desire to be blessed, but asks the question, “what if your blessings come through raindrops?”  In other words, what if God allows trials to come into our lives, which James defines as a blessing?  The Storys say they have been blessed as they have walked together through the valley of cancer.  They have experienced the faithfulness of the Lord in the midst of the suffering.  


She went on to say that life is full of trials, so much so she joked that she and her husband have their mail forwarded to the “valley” because they know they will soon be there!  Most of us are loathe to embrace trials in our lives.  We whine, we complain, we pout about the fate that has befallen us.  Yet, as Story’s song asks, what if the trials of this life are God’s mercies in disguise?  


God is preparing us for a life that will last an eternity.  From that prospective, perhaps a few trials now and then are not that bad if they are being used to ready us for a life without end.  For what is a broken heart, the pain of dealing with cancer, or a profound failure compared to that?  Painful for a time, but swallowed up by the joy of eternity.  


Today, if you are experiencing a painful trial, embrace it, not because it is a pleasurable experience, but because the Lord has allowed it in order to better prepare you for an eternal life with Him.  Instead of loathing it, see what He wants to teach you in the midst of it.  


© Jim Musser 2012

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Working Less, Accomplishing More


“I pray also that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, and his incomparably great power for us who believe. That power is like the working of his mighty strength, which he exerted in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realms, far above all rule and authority, power and dominion, and every title that can be given, not only in the present age but also in the one to come.” (Ephesians 1:18-21 NIV)

The other day I went to cut some firewood on a neighboring property.  It was a small pile and I told my wife it would take me a half-hour or so to cut it up.  As I put my chainsaw to the wood, I knew it would take me a lot longer.  The chain was dull and I had to work and work just to get the saw through the wood.  It’s not supposed to be that way.  When the chain is sharp, it is the saw that does the work and it cuts through wood like a hot knife through butter.  That day, however, it was me doing all the work.


Have you ever felt like living the Christian life is just so much work?  I know there have been times in my life where I am striving and striving and not much is happening.  I have continued to fall to the same temptation and have found the demands of the Christian life less than appealing. 


This passage is a reminder that, like a cutting wood, we aren’t supposed to be doing all the work.  We have power at our disposal that will make following in the footsteps of Jesus so much easier.  The power is from the Holy Spirit and it is--get this--the same power that raised Jesus from the dead!  


For many of us, the Holy Spirit is a mystery and the Person of the Trinity with whom we are the least comfortable and knowledgeable.  But He is everywhere in Scripture, and Jesus said He would be essential in our ability to live the Christian life. (John 16; Acts 1:4)  What happens is, because of our ignorance or discomfort, we do not seek to be filled with the power of the Holy Spirit, but try to live out the Christian life in our own power.  And so we work and work.  


If you have invited Jesus into your life as your Savior and submitted your heart to Him as Lord, you have the Holy Spirit within you, and thus you have access to His enormous power.  Today, recognize the Christian life does not have to be constant work on your part.  Let the Holy Spirit fill you and give you the power to live as Christ has called you to do.  You will work a lot less and accomplish so much more.  


© Jim Musser 2012

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Yes, Jesus Loves You


“For this reason I kneel before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth derives its name. I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.” (Ephesians 3:14-19 NIV)

Whitney Houston grew up singing Gospel songs with her mother.  The night before she died, her last song would be another one from her childhood, “Jesus Loves Me.”  At a club in Los Angeles, she joined in an impromptu rendition of the beloved children’s song.  “Jesus loves me this I know, for the Bible tells me so.  Little ones to Him belong.  They are weak, but He is strong.”  It was to be her last performance.


Houston struggled for years with addictions to drugs and alcohol.  Like so many talented and famous people, she had a difficult time handling the fame and the expectations that came with it.  Still, she was trying to hold on to her childhood roots.  She said in an interview once that in the midst of her addiction, she would still read the Bible.  Trying to get back to the Light, she said.  


It is another sad story of someone dearly loved by God, but never realizing it.  Instead, always trying to find it or “get back to it.”  Like the old Waylon Jennings tune, people look for love in all the wrong places.  Yet, He is right there all the time, if people can only see.  But that seems to be the problem; they so often can’t.  They are blinded to how much they are loved by the Lord.  So they seek love elsewhere or attempt to find a substitute that will give them satisfaction.  


I believe that is why Paul prayed.  It is only through prayer that anyone’s eyes can be opened to the breadth and depth of God’s love.  The Enemy seeks to blind us, but prayer can remove the scales from our eyes.  


Today, if you are struggling to grasp God’s love for you and are looking elsewhere (or know someone who is), then pray this prayer along with Paul.  Yes, Jesus loves you.  The Bible tells you so.  All you need is to know it in your heart.


© Jim Musser 2012

Monday, February 13, 2012

Freedom for the Captives

“To the Jews who had believed him, Jesus said, ‘If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.’
They answered him, ‘We are Abraham’s descendants and have never been slaves of anyone. How can you say that we shall be set free?’

Jesus replied, ‘Very truly I tell you, everyone who sins is a slave to sin. Now a slave has no permanent place in the family, but a son belongs to it forever. So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.’” (John 8:31-36 NIV)

Bill spent 41 years in prison; the last third of that sentence, he was a free man.  A long-time drug addict, Bill came to know Jesus after years of incarceration.  I had the privilege of meeting him this past weekend and to learn some of his story.  

He was just 24 when he entered prison for a crime he did not describe. And it seems the drug addiction that helped put him there continued long after the prison doors closed.  But then he had what he described as a miraculous encounter with Jesus.  He said the Lord came over him and removed all desire for drugs, replacing it with an inexplicable peace.  He was set free long before he was released last month by the State.  

You don’t have to be convicted of a crime to be in prison, as the sad death of Whitney Houston over the weekend reminds us.  She had been held captive by addictions for years.  And there are countless others who are prisoners of addictions, bitterness and hatred, dysfunctional or abusive relationships, greed, etc.  

When Bill went before the Parole Board, there were three present who opposed his release.  He described them as the children of his victim.  As hearing progressed, and they heard Bill’s testimony along with those from supporters, they changed their minds to supporting his release.  They, too, had been set free from their prisons.  

Today, know Jesus came to set prisoners free.  If there is anything holding you captive, the Lord has the power to set you free.  And if He sets you free, you will be free indeed.

© Jim Musser 2012

Thursday, February 9, 2012

The Road To Recovery


“We know that the law is spiritual; but I am unspiritual, sold as a slave to sin. I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do. And if I do what I do not want to do, I agree that the law is good. As it is, it is no longer I myself who do it, but it is sin living in me. For I know that good itself does not dwell in me, that is, in my sinful nature.  For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. For I do not do the good I want to do, but the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing. Now if I do what I do not want to do, it is no longer I who do it, but it is sin living in me that does it.


So I find this law at work: Although I want to do good, evil is right there with me. For in my inner being I delight in God’s law; but I see another law at work in me, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within me. What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body that is subject to death?  Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord!” (Romans 7:14-25 NIV)

Josh Hamilton, the All-Star outfielder for the Texas Rangers, was in the news last week when he admitted to getting drunk.  It wouldn’t have been news except that Hamilton has a well-known history of drug and alcohol addiction and he is an avowed follower of Jesus.  He apologized saying, “I cannot take a break from my recovery. My recovery is Christ. My recovery is an everyday process. When I take that one day off, it leaves me open for a moment of weakness and it's always been that way.”


I wonder if, before his news conference, Hamilton had read these words of Paul.  It sounds like it.  Our struggle with sin is a daily one.  It is always right there waiting to bring us down.  We can never take a day off.


It feels overwhelming and that is the enemy’s great ruse.  It seems that sin is so powerful, so intertwined in our lives, that defeating it is impossible.  That is what he wants us to think.  We reach a point where we, like Paul, conclude what a horrible person we are.  And we are tempted to give up.  Yet, look what follows Paul’s conclusions about himself.  “Who will rescue me from this body that is subject to death?  Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord!” 


Josh Hamilton got it right.  Our recovery, or victory over sin, is dependent on Jesus.  We can try on our own to defeat it, but we will come up empty and demoralized.  It is only He who can deliver us, both from sin’s grip and the guilt when we fall.  


Today, ask Jesus to help you overcome the sin that is right there with you, and when you feel overwhelmed by temptation, cry out to Him for help.  And if you fall, know He is there to pick you up, dust you off, and continue walking with you on your road to recovery.


© Jim Musser 2012

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Your Significance


“O LORD, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth! You have set your glory above the heavens.  From the lips of children and infants you have ordained praise because of your enemies, to silence the foe and the avenger. When I consider your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place, what is man that you are mindful of him, the son of man that you care for him?  You made him a little lower than the heavenly beings and crowned him with glory and honor.  You made him ruler over the works of your hands; you put everything under his feet: all flocks and herds, and the beasts of the field, the birds of the air, and the fish of the sea, all that swim the paths of the seas.  O LORD, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth!” (Psalm 8:1-9 NIV)

It is weeks like this where the night sky just shouts out the glory of God. The moon in its fullness lights up the night, like a lantern hanging in space. Yesterday morning, I was up early enough to witness a moonset.  Its beauty took my breath away. Or this morning, watching the snowflakes softly fall to the earth, none of which are exactly the same.


How small and insignificant I feel when I see the awesomeness of creation.  And like David, I am compelled to ask the Lord, “Who am I, Lord, that you consider me so significant?”  


Yet, the Scriptures tell me that I am of great value to Him.  I am the reason He sent His Son to Earth to receive the punishment for my sins (John 3:16).  He has given me His Holy Spirit as a guarantee of my eternal relationship with Him (II Corinthians 1:22).  And He has entrusted me with His message for the world (II Corinthians 5:20).


It is easy to feel insignificant by our smallness in this world, but through David’s words, God reminds us of our great worth to Him.  Today, know how significant you are to the Lord.  The One who hung that beautiful moon in the sky and makes the snowflakes fall is the One who created you and loves you more than you can imagine.


© Jim Musser 2012

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Avoiding the Facebook Comparisons


"We do not dare to classify or compare ourselves with some who commend themselves. When they measure themselves by themselves and compare themselves with themselves, they are not wise. We, however, will not boast beyond proper limits, but will confine our boasting to the sphere of service God himself has assigned to us, a sphere that also includes you. We are not going too far in our boasting, as would be the case if we had not come to you, for we did get as far as you with the gospel of Christ. Neither do we go beyond our limits by boasting of work done by others. Our hope is that, as your faith continues to grow, our sphere of activity among you will greatly expand, so that we can preach the gospel in the regions beyond you. For we do not want to boast about work already done in someone else’s territory. But, ‘Let the one who boasts boast in the Lord.’ For it is not the one who commends himself who is approved, but the one whom the Lord commends.” (II Corinthians 10:12-18 NIV)

I spend time on Facebook, not hours, but usually a few minutes each day.  In part, I do it because I work with college students and FB is one of their main cyber playgrounds.  It is a good way to connect with them and them with me.  But I have also enjoyed it as a way to keep up with friends and reconnect with long lost ones.  Yet, I have always known that FB rarely reveals the whole story about people’s lives.  In fact, a perusal of FB profiles reveals little or no negativity or trouble in life.  Yet, I know better.  Life in a fallen world is just not that great, but on Facebook you rarely get that impression.


A recent study (http://online.liebertpub.com/doi/abs/10.1089/cyber.2011.0324) concluded that people who are on Facebook often believe their FB friends have happier lives than they do.  The reason?  People on Facebook, and in general, portray their lives in a more positive light than what is actually the case.  Thus, when we compare their lives, about which we do not know the complete story, with our own, we can easily conclude they have it better than we do.  The study goes on to say that such comparisons can lead to greater discontent and to a sense of life’s unfairness.


Comparing our lives to others is usually a no-win exercise.  Either we have a false sense of superiority or a wrong sense of inferiority.  The truth is the only measure is the Lord.  Nothing else really matters.   Paul says, “Let the one who boasts boast in the Lord. For it is not the one who commends himself who is approved, but the one whom the Lord commends.”   What matters is not how people view your FB profile, your popularity, or your perceived success in life.  What matters is how the Lord views your life.  


Today, resist the temptation to compare your life with others and to seek their approval.  Instead, seek the approval of the Lord; seek to live in such a way that He commends.  For what Creator of the universe thinks is far more important than the opinions of mere mortals.


© Jim Musser 2012