Thursday, October 31, 2013

Skipping Halloween

“Dear friend, do not imitate what is evil but what is good. Anyone who does what is good is from God. Anyone who does what is evil has not seen God.” (III John 11 NIV)

Let me just be straight up: I would just as soon skip October 31st every year.  Halloween is not only my least favorite holiday; I don’t even think it should be celebrated, at least by those who claim to follow Jesus.  Yes, it is a day where kids put on cute costumes and adults get to act like kids again and play dress-up, but can we all admit that, at its core, Halloween seeks to glorify the dark realm?  No matter what we try to make it, it is still primarily a holiday celebrating and drawing attention to darkness.  

This time of year, horror flicks are staples for many of the cable channels. “Haunted houses” feature fake, but often realistic gore with the intent to scare their patrons.  Ghosts, spirits, and demons clearly are the focus for many.  So I think my uneasiness with this day is warranted.

John says not to imitate evil, and many other places in the Scriptures warn us to avoid evil.  So it seems to reason that we should carefully consider this day and what we do with it.  Should those of us who worship the God who is love be involved with a holiday that exalts fear? (I John 4:18)  Should those who follow the Light of the World (John 8:12) embrace a holiday devoted to darkness?  Should those of us who believe death is the curse of sin (Romans 5:12) celebrate a holiday glorifying death?

I know there are many, perhaps including you, that celebrate this day because it is a lot of fun, and your intent is not to imitate evil.  Yet, today I would ask you to consider whether Halloween in any ways brings glory to God or to anything to which He calls good.  For me, I will do what I do every year—skip it.

© Jim Musser 2013

Wednesday, October 30, 2013


“He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds. He determines the number of the stars and calls them each by name.” (Psalm 147:3-4 NIV)

Regardless of how good our lives might be at a given time, there is no denying we live in a hurting world filled with wounded people.  Recently, I have become aware of tragic events affecting students’ lives—parents deciding to end their marriages, parents with serious illnesses, and friends dying.  And then there are the self-inflicted wounds—alcohol and drug use leading to thoughts of suicide, over-commitment leading to excessive stress, and choosing the comfort and excitement of romance over a relationship with God.  

Woundedness, whether from others or self-inflicted, is painful and affects our relationships with everyone, especially God.  When we are wounded, our tendency, more often than not, is to run from God, to seek our own solutions and healing.  

My late father-in-law hated to go to the doctor.  He preferred to treat himself.  One time he had a very sore leg.  He took a pain reliever, but after a couple hours without relief, he took more.  After a few days, he became very disoriented and was hospitalized.  He had overdosed on the pain relievers.  Trying to treat our own wounds is not often very wise.  We need the wisdom of others who know what they are doing.

We have a God who created the universe, knows the number of stars and planets and has named them all.  Scientists have concluded there are billions of them.  Think about that.  This is the God who also can heal our wounds.  He can make our broken hearts whole again.  He does not promise a pain-free life, but when we suffer pain from deep wounds, He can heal us.  But we have to go to Him in order for healing to be achieved.

I recently heard the testimony of a man trapped for years in drug addiction.  His woundedness was deep, but six months ago he turned to Jesus for healing.  He is now free from drugs and their hold on him.  His wounds have been healed.  

Today, if you are hurting from recent or long-present wounds, know the Lord can heal them.  You don’t even need an appointment.  

© Jim Musser 2013

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Feeding Yourself

“In fact, though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you the elementary truths of God’s word all over again. You need milk, not solid food! Anyone who lives on milk, being still an infant, is not acquainted with the teaching about righteousness. But solid food is for the mature, who by constant use have trained themselves to distinguish good from evil. Therefore let us move beyond the elementary teachings about Christ and be taken forward to maturity, not laying again the foundation of repentance from acts that lead to death, and of faith in God, instruction about cleansing rites, the laying on of hands, the resurrection of the dead, and eternal judgment.  And God permitting, we will do so.” (Hebrews 5:12-6:3 NIV)

In my years as a campus minister, one statement I hear fairly often is, “I was not being fed.”  And it comes from both students who leave our ministry for another and students who come to our ministry from another. Of course, this sentiment is not limited to college students; there are plenty of adults in churches who say the same thing.  It seems a lot of believers feel the need to be spiritually fed by someone else. 

The same attitude existed in the 1st Century church as well, and the Hebrew writer minced no words.  He basically called them out as spiritual adults acting like babies.  While they should be far beyond the elementary teachings of the faith and growing more mature, they have remained infants in their thinking and understanding.  They can only handle the basics of salvation, teachings on the Resurrection, and the facts involving eternal judgment—elementary school level subjects.  He’s telling them to grow up and learn to feed themselves.  

In a discipleship course I teach every year to students desiring to be leaders in our ministry, we talk about this very thing.  I ask them to imagine seeing a mother breastfeeding her five-year-old or spoon-feeding her 12-year-old.  There are always gasps of disgust.  Yet, isn’t this what we so often see in the church?  People who have been in the church for years still having their mouths wide open looking for someone else to feed them. 

The Hebrew writer told his readers, and is telling us, that it is time to grow up and learn how to feed ourselves. We need to move beyond the basics of the faith to teaching ourselves how to live righteously.  How?  By constant use, he says.  By digging into the Word daily and putting into practice what it says.  Sure, we will all need help in doing this, but the responsibility of maturing is on us.  A learner becomes adept in a subject or skill by applying himself, his attention and energy, to it.  And if it is important enough to him, he will do it.

Today, if you want to be spiritually fed, then open up the Word and start reading.

© Jim Musser 2013

Monday, October 28, 2013

Is He Willing?

“While Jesus was in one of the towns, a man came along who was covered with leprosy. When he saw Jesus, he fell with his face to the ground and begged him, ‘Lord, if you are willing, you can make me clean.’

Jesus reached out his hand and touched the man. ‘I am willing,’ he said. ‘Be clean!’ And immediately the leprosy left him.” (Luke 5:12-13 NIV)

I don’t know about you, but I struggle with the same doubts as this leper. I believe the Lord is omnipotent, that He can do whatever He pleases, and, most certainly, He can meet any need I may have.  But the question that frequently comes to my mind is this: Is He willing?  

Lepers in the 1st Century were outcasts, avoided at all costs by the populace.  No doubt this man struggled with feeling worthy of almost anything.  Hearing about Jesus and the miracles He was doing had to put hope in his heart.  He knew Jesus could heal him.  The big question was: Would He be willing to do so?  

It is likely the leper doubted He would.  The general public abhorred him. The religious people avoided him.  And it is likely a human hand had not touched him since he was afflicted with the dreaded disease.  He had every reason to doubt Jesus would be willing to heal him.  

Like the leper, I recognize my sin is abhorrent to God.  Still, I repeatedly fall into sin.  So the question naturally arises, why would the Lord be willing to heal me or to meet some other need I have when I am so unfaithful?  Perhaps the answer is found in this verse from Paul’s second letter to Timothy: “If we are faithless, he remains faithful, for he cannot disown himself.” (Verse 13)  God’s character is one of love.  That is who He is.  Regardless of our unfaithfulness, He will remain faithful in loving us.  

So we should not be surprised by Jesus’ answer to the leper’s request: “I am willing.”  That is in direct line with His character.  His love produces a willingness to meet our needs.

Today, know the Lord is willing to provide for your needs, regardless of your repeated falls into sin.  The God who created you will always be faithful in loving you. 

© Jim Musser 2013 

Friday, October 25, 2013

Functioning Body Parts

“Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it.” (Acts 12:27 NIV)

There’s an old saying among pastors: Twenty percent of the people do 80% of the work.  The work of the Church is typically done by the few.  Most people involved in churches or campus ministries do one thing well—they faithfully attend the worship service or large group meeting.  Beyond that, the percentages of involvement typically decrease rapidly.  A church of a thousand might have only 200 involved in small groups.  A prayer gathering might attract 20 or so.  

It has been true for a long time that involvement in a church or campus ministry is defined as attending one meeting a week, but as another old saying goes, Christianity is not a spectator sport.  Paul compares the Church to a body made up of many parts.  Although the parts may be “spectators” on occasion (like my foot is “watching” my hands type right now), they are mostly fulfilling a functional role.  Followers of Jesus are a part of His Body.  And this Body doesn’t just sit around doing nothing.  It has a purpose—to do the work of Jesus.  

That work entails drawing people into a deeper relationship with the Lord, meeting physical, emotional, and spiritual needs, spreading the Good News about Him, and seeking justice for the poor and oppressed. The scope and breadth of the work requires all the parts be engaged and active.  

So what about you?  If you are a part of the Body of Christ, what are you doing besides attending one meeting a week?  The Lord has given you gifts so that you can be an effective and contributing Body part (see I Corinthians 12:28-30; Romans 12:4-8; Ephesians 4:12-13; I Peter 4:7-11). He does not desire for you to be merely a spectator.   A spectator is really a useless Body part.  

Today consider how you might become an effective part which contributes to the overall work of the Body of Christ.

© Jim Musser 2013

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Real Struggle

“Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Come near to God and he will come near to you. Wash your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. Grieve, mourn and wail. Change your laughter to mourning and your joy to gloom. Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up.” (James 4:7-10 NIV)

The student leader had been seen drinking heavily at a party.  She didn’t deny what had happened.  In discussing it with me a number of years ago, she first justified herself by saying she was 21 and could legally drink.  When I challenged her rationale, she responded, “Well, we all struggle.”  Struggle implies a fight or resistance.  I sensed little of either happened in this situation.  

Often when people talk about struggling with sin, whether it be drunkenness, sexual immorality, or something else, they are merely saying they are engaging in it.  Labeling it as a “struggle” doesn’t make it (them) sound as bad.  In reality, there is not much struggle taking place. 

If we are truly struggling with a certain sin, then we are offering resistance.  We are trying to fight off the temptation.  We are looking for successful strategies. We may lose a few battles, but we don’t offer up the white flag of surrender.  

As Christians we step onto a spiritual battleground every day.  We must be willing and ready to fight.  But if we are not, then let us be honest and say we are surrendering to our own desires and stop trying to make ourselves look and feel better by saying we are struggling when we really are not.  That can be the first step in truly beginning to struggle.

© Jim Musser 2013

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Letting Go

“For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; and to godliness, brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness, love. For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. But if anyone does not have them, he is nearsighted and blind, and has forgotten that he has been cleansed from his past sins.” (II Peter 1:5-9 NIV)

As I was reading this passage this morning, the last sentence jumped out at me.  In effect, Peter is saying the inability to let go of our past sins will affect our spiritual growth.  If you once slept with your girlfriend or boyfriend and repented but still cannot allow yourself to be forgiven, then this will stunt your spiritual maturity.  If you once betrayed someone’s trust and are still beating yourself up for it, you are denying yourself the opportunity to grow.  If you once hurt someone deeply and cannot let yourself off the hook even though the Lord has, then you will find yourself stuck in spiritual infancy.  

For anyone who cannot let go of their past sins, Paul is the model to whom they should turn for guidance.  He was a great persecutor of the Church in the 1st Century.  He approved of the stoning of Stephen and threw both Christian men and women into prison.  But then he came to know Jesus.  He summed up his feelings this way:

Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners—of whom I am the worst. But for that very reason I was shown mercy so that in me, the worst of sinners, Christ Jesus might display his unlimited patience as an example for those who would believe on him and receive eternal life.  Now to the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory for ever and ever. Amen. (I Timothy 1:15-17 NIV)

He felt like he was the worst sinner in the world.  Haven’t you?  I know I have.  But what Paul realized was God was so much greater than his sin, His forgiveness deeper and wider than the consequences of his terrible actions.  

And for those who have become Christians and then sinned in terrible ways, there is Peter.  He walked with the Lord for three years and then denied he even knew Him.  Yet, it is this same Peter who boldly goes on to live out his faith and to write the words above.  He knew what he was talking about.  

If either Paul or Peter had been unable to let go of their past sins, we probably never would have known about them.  It is their spiritual depth, their insight, their maturity that has made them spiritual models for Christians down through the ages.  

Today, may you know the sins of your past are washed away.  They are no more.  If you are holding onto them, let them go once and for all and be amazed at how much you grow.  

© Jim Musser 2013

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Qualifications for Leadership

“Then the mother of Zebedee’s sons came to Jesus with her sons and, kneeling down, asked a favor of him.

‘What is it you want?’ he asked.

She said, ‘Grant that one of these two sons of mine may sit at your right and the other at your left in your kingdom.’

‘You don’t know what you are asking,’ Jesus said to them. ‘Can you drink the cup I am going to drink?’

‘We can,’ they answered.

Jesus said to them, ‘You will indeed drink from my cup, but to sit at my right or left is not for me to grant. These places belong to those for whom they have been prepared by my Father.’

When the ten heard about this, they were indignant with the two brothers. Jesus called them together and said, ‘You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be your slave—just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.’” (Matthew 20:20-28 NIV)

It seems to happen quite frequently.  Certain students come to our ministry with an eye on stepping into leadership immediately.  Years ago, a freshman emailed a request to give the message at our weekly large group meeting.  He had important things to say and  was available to speak the following week.  Another time, a new student came up to me and said he was a skilled musician and could make our worship band sound a lot better if given the opportunity.  And often there are upperclassmen who feel entitled to leadership roles just because they have been around awhile.  

What these students and James and John failed to understand was that the qualifications for leadership begin with a desire to serve others rather than for positions of power and notoriety. It is a temptation common to us all to want to be seen rather than serve, to acquire position and power rather than humbly meet needs without accolades.  We would rather jump to the front of the line rather than to wait patiently until we are called.  

But Jesus has a very different view of leadership than the world.  For Him, leadership begins with a desire to serve and contentment with a low position.  The late theologian, Francis Schaeffer, said you can tell a lot about a person when you ask him to clean the toilets.  Those who balk at doing lowly tasks are not yet ready for leadership in the Kingdom.  

When we are considering students for leadership positions in our ministry, we look to see how they have conducted themselves since they became involved.  Have they already been serving others without a title or position as motivation?  Do they embrace doing the lowly jobs like setting up chairs for our large group meetings or helping with a ministry mailing?  Do they spend time meeting needs of their fellow students without a position or title to motivate them?  If so, then they have the qualities for ministry leadership.  

Today, remember that leadership in the Kingdom of God is not about a title or position of power.  It is about an attitude of service.   This is the example that was left to us by Jesus and you would be wise to follow it.

© Jim Musser 2013

Monday, October 21, 2013

A Life Observed

“Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.

In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness.  And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself
 by becoming obedient to death—even death on a cross!” (Philippians 2:3-8 NIV)

My wife and I had attended a church for three years, but never felt a part of the community.  Every week it felt like we entered the auditorium as strangers.  So we decided to try out a new church recommended to us by some of our students.  As we cautiously entered, an elderly man, slightly stooped at the shoulders, greeted us with a smile, a firm handshake and asked us our names.  At the time, we didn’t know anything about “Chief,” but were impressed by his friendly welcome.  The next week, and thereafter, he greeted us by name.  

As the months and years passed, we learned more and more about Chief and from him.  He had been a pastor for 42 years and had an earned doctorate in theology.  He was the author of several books.  And he and his wife prayed.  A lot.  Every morning of the week, they prayed together. One day for family; another day for friends; another day for those in pastoral ministry; another day for missionaries; and every Saturday, they prayed for by name all those listed in the church directory.  If we made a special prayer request, they prayed for it and then Chief would ask us for an update the next time we walked through the doors.  The last time I saw him, as he greeted us, he asked me about our ministry’s finances.  I had asked for prayer as our ministry was facing a financial crisis.  I told him money was beginning to come in.  He smiled and said he would keep on praying.

Yesterday, the church celebrated his 93 years of life, which ended in the flesh on Thursday after a massive stroke.  Throughout the service, what stood out was the humility of this man of God.  When we first met him, he was a greeter and for the longest time, that’s how we saw him because he never boasted about his life or his accomplishments.  And if not for his son-in-law, the pastor of the church, few would have known his dedication to prayer because he talked only in generalities about it.  And, like me, I am sure many people were surprised to hear the breadth of his accomplishments during his long life.  

Chief was the epitome of what Paul writes to the believers in Philippi.  He was a man of great stature and accomplishment, but was content to live out his remaining years as a church greeter, caring more about the needs of those who walked through the doors and through his life, than his own. As one person said at the memorial service, we learned more from observing Chief’s life than from any sermon, book, or course could teach us about having the mind of Christ.  

Today, may we learn from Chief’s example of what it means to think and live like Jesus.  For they both have left us an example that we might follow in their steps.  

© Jim Musser 2013

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Returning Home

(Note: Fall Break begins tomorrow, so I will be taking a break as well.  WftW will begin again on October 21st.  Jim)

"When he came to his senses, he said, 'How many of my father's hired men have food to spare, and here I am starving to death! I will set out and go back to my father and say to him: Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son; make me like one of your hired men.' So he got up and went to his father. 
But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him.” (Luke 15:17-20 NIV)

We pick this up in the middle of the story.  The younger son had demanded his share of the inheritance from his father long before he was dead, had taken the money and squandered it all on lavish living, and now he was broke.  Having come to his senses and realizing the desperateness of his situation, he decides to go back home.  Smartly, he decides to make no claims on his old room.  He will gladly sleep out back with the servants.  

When we come to the realization we have messed up, we instinctively know our unworthiness before God.  Like Adam and Eve in the garden, we feel the shame.  It is what we do with that shame that makes the difference.  

The Enemy will seek to reinforce our shame.  He will try to convince us we have truly blown it and now there is no going home.  If we try, there will be no warm greeting, only a stern lecture and a room out back.  And we would expect nothing else because that’s the way it should be. Actions have consequences.  If we screw up, we deserve what we get.

That’s the Enemy’s view anyway, and, probably, yours as well.  It’s what makes sense and is fair.  But it’s also hopeless.  No chance for redemption.  No chance of ever returning to the family.  As my mom used to say, “You made your bed; now sleep in it.”

I know, and have known, students who come to college and decide to go their own way.  Like the son in this story, they grew tired of living under what they perceived as the constraints of the Christian life.  They wanted to be free to live as they please and they have.  But there always comes a point where they have (or will) come to their senses and realize they have wasted their inheritance.  They are filled with shame and regret, and, likely, hopelessness.   They made their bed; now they get to sleep in it.

Yet, this is why Jesus told the story—to give hope to those who have messed up.  You can go home again!  Your Heavenly Father anxiously awaits your return.  No lecture is waiting, only a warm embrace.  You won’t have to endure the second-class status of a household servant. You will be welcomed back as a member of the family.  

Today, know Jesus has made it possible to return home to the Heavenly Father no matter how badly you have messed up.  

© Jim Musser 2013

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

A Lifetime of Choices

“Therefore, my dear friends, as you have always obeyed—not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence—continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose.” (Philippians 2:12-13 NIV)

For the past few months, I have been reading through the Old Testament. Currently, I am reading about the many kings of Israel and Judah.  One thing in particular has stood out—how many kings started out well and faithful to the Lord, but by the end of their lives, they had completely fallen away.  Kings like Solomon (I Kings 2-11), Asa, (II Chronicles 15-16) and Joash (II Chronicles 24) started out strong in following the Lord, but eventually turned away from Him.  Perhaps Paul had this history in mind when he wrote to the believers in Philippi.  

There is much resistance in the church to the idea that we must somehow work for our salvation, since Paul says elsewhere (Ephesians 2:8-9) that we are saved by grace, not by works.  The emphasis has been for a long time on the latter.  But how are we to interpret Paul’s words to the Philippians?  I think the history of the Jewish kings gives us a clue.

Following the Lord is not a one-time event, but a lifetime of choices.  We may be saved by grace, but it is our choices during our lives that are the evidence we have accepted or rejected it.  A number of the kings began their rule seeking to obey the Lord, but eventually began making the repeated choice to disobey Him.  Everyone during their lives makes choices to sin, but it is the repeated choice to disobey that becomes a pattern of disobedience and leads to a total separation from the Lord.  

Paul warns the Philippians, and us, to beware of the slippery slope of sin. If we rely on grace as a safety net, we might become so comfortable with our sin that eventually our choices will form a pattern of disobedience that permanently separates us from the Lord.  

Today, think about the choices you are making and examine them closely.  For the daily decisions you are making are forming a pattern in your life.  The question is: Is it a pattern of obedience or disobedience?  If it is the latter, take a lesson from the Jewish kings.  They started out faithful, but in the end were without the Lord.  That would be a terrible mistake to make.  

© Jim Musser 2013

Monday, October 14, 2013

Having a Teachable Heart

“When he had finished washing their feet, he put on his clothes and returned to his place. ‘Do you understand what I have done for you?’ he asked them. ‘You call me “Teacher” and “Lord,” and rightly so, for that is what I am. Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another's feet. I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you. I tell you the truth, no servant is greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him. Now that you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them.’”  (John 13:12-17 NIV)

The role of a teacher is to instruct, to give to his students information they do not already possess.  This information can be passed along either verbally or by action.  The goal is to enlighten and to stretch the mind. The latter is the most difficult because it is human nature to grow content and rigid in our thinking.  Why is it so difficult for a high school teacher to get students interested in history or English?  Because the students have made up their minds already these subjects have little to do with their lives and, thus, are unimportant.  

Though the disciples had been with Jesus nearly three years and observed how He interacted with people, they still didn’t understand the idea of surrendering status.  They were HIS disciples and felt pretty good about themselves; thus their reluctance to perform the common act of hospitality in that day—washing the feet of guests, which was performed by a household servant.   By washing their feet, Jesus was teaching them a lesson they were reluctant to learn.  

And Jesus did this time and time again.  He talked to women.  He touched lepers.  He healed on the Sabbath.  He took time for children.  He denounced the religiosity of the Pharisees and teachers of the law.  Jesus was continually challenging the way people thought about things.  

Through His Word and the Holy Spirit, He continues to do that today.  I have seen it on campus where students who once thought being a Christian meant merely saying the “sinner’s prayer” now understand it is a lifelong journey of growth and obedience.  I have seen it in the inner city where whites have given up their hatred and mistrust of blacks and vice-versa because of their unity in Christ.  I have seen the rich reach out generously to the poor because Jesus has taught them compassion.  

Following Jesus means having a teachable heart.  Whether we have been a follower for years or only weeks, Jesus has much He wants to teach us.  Today consider what He desires to teach you.  

© Jim Musser 2013

Friday, October 11, 2013

Preparing for Your Big Day

“At that time the kingdom of heaven will be like ten virgins who took their lamps and went out to meet the bridegroom. Five of them were foolish and five were wise. The foolish ones took their lamps but did not take any oil with them.  The wise ones, however, took oil in jars along with their lamps.  The bridegroom was a long time in coming, and they all became drowsy and fell asleep.

“At midnight the cry rang out: ‘Here’s the bridegroom! Come out to meet him!’

“Then all the virgins woke up and trimmed their lamps. The foolish ones said to the wise, ‘Give us some of your oil; our lamps are going out.’

“‘No,’ they replied, ‘there may not be enough for both us and you. Instead, go to those who sell oil and buy some for yourselves.’

“But while they were on their way to buy the oil, the bridegroom arrived. The virgins who were ready went in with him to the wedding banquet. And the door was shut.

“Later the others also came. ‘Lord, Lord,’ they said, ‘open the door for us!’

“But he replied, ‘Truly I tell you, I don’t know you.’

“Therefore keep watch, because you do not know the day or the hour.” (Matthew 25:1-13 NIV)

My wife and I are attending our second wedding in six days.  Last week it was a former student’s.  This week it is my nephew’s.  Having been involved in a wedding as a groom and in many as an officiant, I know weddings take a lot of planning.  Months, and sometimes years, before the big day, prospective brides in particular are making plans.  They are combing through bridal magazines looking for ideas for everything from the dress to the reception.  They indeed sweat the details!  

When the time comes to walk down the aisle, they are ready.  The months and years of preparation culminate in the most exciting and beautiful day of their lives.  Everything is set for them to meet their bridegroom!

Scripture, in many places, references the Lord as the bridegroom at a wedding (Isaiah 62:5).  And we are the bride (Revelation 19:7).  Yet, as this parable reveals, many of us are not preparing for the day of our wedding.  Instead, we are busy with the life right in front of us.  We are thinking of today, but very little about the big Day.  It seems a long way off and the immediate takes precedence.

Yet, Jesus portrays such thinking as foolish.  When a bride is preparing for her wedding, she is living her life, but is always mindful of the Day that is approaching.  Never does she allow herself to get so caught up in the present that she neglects her wedding preparations.  So Jesus warns us that there is a big day coming and we need to be sweating the details of it.  

As a bride makes intricate preparations to make herself look beautiful for her groom, so are we to do the same as we prepare to meet our Lord; not because we must, but because we love Him so much!

Today, in what specific ways are you preparing for your big Day?  It is coming and the Lord will be waiting.  The question is: Will you be ready?

© Jim Musser 2013

Thursday, October 10, 2013

A Time for Stillness

“God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble.

Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea, though its waters roar and foam and the mountains quake with their surging. Selah

There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God, the holy place where the Most High dwells. God is within her, she will not fall; God will help her at break of day.

Nations are in uproar, kingdoms fall; he lifts his voice, the earth melts. The LORD Almighty is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress. Selah

Come and see the works of the LORD, the desolations he has brought on the earth.  He makes wars cease to the ends of the earth; he breaks the bow and shatters the spear, he burns the shields with fire.

‘Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.’

The LORD Almighty is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress.  Selah” (Psalm 46:1-11 NIV)

Life can sometimes seem overwhelming.  On the micro level, we have the pressures of tests, relationships, and making ends meet.  On the macro level we have financial crises, terrorism, and endless suffering in various parts of the world.  Our world at both levels can be very chaotic and uncertain.  

This is the picture painted in this psalm.  A world in chaos.  Beyond our control.  Panic and desperation.  Frenetic activity.  Full of anxious chatter and noise.   

And into this bedlam a voice speaks, “Be still and know that I am God.”

This is not our instinct when things are out of control.  We stress.  We panic.  We are distracted.  We do not want to be still.  Something has to be done!

Yet, what needs to be done is to stop and be still.  Only then will we be able to focus on this one fact—God is in control.  He is God and the problems we have are no challenge to Him.  He will work everything out. All that needs to be done is to trust Him.

If you are finding life overwhelming, stop what you are doing.  Be still. Know that the God of the universe is in control.   

© Jim Musser 2013

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Loving Those Who've Lost Their Way

“As he approached Jerusalem and saw the city, he wept over it and said, ‘If you, even you, had only known on this day what would bring you peace—but now it is hidden from your eyes. The days will come upon you when your enemies will build an embankment against you and encircle you and hem you in on every side. They will dash you to the ground, you and the children within your walls. They will not leave one stone on another, because you did not recognize the time of God's coming to you.’" (Luke 19:41-44 NIV)

I was on campus yesterday and as I walked by students and observed them coming and going, I was struck by a deep sadness.  So many are blind to what God has for them.  For every student that knows Him, there are dozens who do not and are clueless as to how much He loves them. They have been blinded by their own experiences, their own desires, and the stereotypes that are common regarding things of God.

This should bring tears to our eyes as the ramification of it sets in.  Jesus knew the hardness of hearts in Jerusalem would bring about its destruction.  He wept for the people because He loved them.  

What do you see when you walk around your campus or your community?  Do you look past the people, losing them in their anonymity, and focus only on yourself?  Or do you see them for who they really are—people loved by the God of the universe?

Many years ago, I was one of those people walking around on campus, lost and not realizing it.  I was just living my life.  But a few saw me for who I was and loved me.  It was then I began to realize the path I was on.  
Today, know the Lord weeps for many who cross your path.  They are on their way to destruction.  His deep desire is to lead them onto another road and He wants to use you to accomplish that.  It is amazing what a show of love can do.

© Jim Musser 2013

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Sin Coverings

“The end of all things is near. Therefore be alert and of sober mind so that you may pray. Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins.” (I Peter 4:7-8 NIV)

I hadn’t read this passage in a long time, but after an encounter with a former student recently, it came to mind.  Years ago, when he was a student, our ministry was going through some difficult transitions.  I was new, approached things differently than the previous campus minister, and I met a lot of resistance.  I know, looking back, I could have handled some things better.  I allowed my frustration to color my attitude toward some of the students who, in my mind, just didn’t get what I was trying to do, which was to help them learn what it truly meant to follow Jesus.  

As the years passed, those students graduated and moved on.  Most with whom I still have contact have matured and see what I was trying to do back then, even if it was imperfect, and have let go of any animosity they may have had toward me.  But there are a few, I think, that still hold some resentment.  And seeing this former student reminded me of Peter’s words.  

He fully believed that Jesus was about to return and that meant focusing on things that were important.  The thought of life ending as we know it has a way of rearranging our priorities, as it did with Peter.  First of all, he says to get serious about life, thinking clearly so as to be able to pray effectively.  But, secondly, he says to love one another deeply because love covers over a multitude of sins.  In other words, time is short so get rid of your bitterness toward others regardless of what they have done to you.  If you love them deeply, the resentment will fade away.  

How many of us are living right now with bitterness and resentment toward someone else?  Are we motivated to do anything about it?  Do this exercise: Imagine the person toward whom you have bitterness dies. What then?  It will be too late to reconcile.  

Today, do as I just recently did.  Reach out to someone toward whom you have bitterness or who is holding resentments toward you.  Recognize that love covers over the effects of a multitude of sins, whether they be theirs or yours.

© Jim Musser 2013

Monday, October 7, 2013

Reasonable Expectations

“Therefore, with minds that are alert and fully sober, set your hope on the grace to be brought to you when Jesus Christ is revealed at his coming. As obedient children, do not conform to the evil desires you had when you lived in ignorance. But just as he who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do; for it is written: ‘Be holy, because I am holy.’” (I Peter 1:13-16 NIV)

My wife and I attended yesterday the wedding of a former student.  It was a beautiful day and, like all weddings, the celebration was full hope for a wonderful future for the bride and groom.  

As we mingled with other former students, now married and years removed from their college days, it was interesting to talk with them about their lives.  In between the lines, you could tell that life had been harder than they expected.  While their marriages were full of joy, as one woman put it, things had not unfolded the way she and her husband thought they would.  Ditto for the rest, and for all us, really.

It is so easy to set our hope in life on something like marriage or a career and, later, be very disappointed because it doesn’t turn out the way we had envisioned it in our minds.  We have been told most of our lives from various sources that marriage and careers are the greatest sources of satisfaction.  And so we reasonably assume they will be—until we are in the midst of them.  That is when expectations and reality collide.  And if our hope has been set on either of these, we are likely to be disappointed.  
I love being married and I love my career as a campus minister, but I have learned to have reasonable expectations of both.  There have been and will be disappointments and struggles along the way.  And while my wife or career could pass away, I will always have the Lord.  Thus, my hope is set on His grace.  

Today, recognize that marriage and careers, while they can be very good things in life, are not the things on which to set your hope in life.  Only the Lord is worthy of that honor and His grace is the only means by which we will experience true satisfaction and joy.

© Jim Musser 2013

Friday, October 4, 2013

God the Pursuer

“Now the tax collectors and ‘sinners’ were all gathering around to hear him. But the Pharisees and the teachers of the law muttered, ‘This man welcomes sinners and eats with them.’

Then Jesus told them this parable: ‘Suppose one of you has a hundred sheep and loses one of them. Does he not leave the ninety-nine in the open country and go after the lost sheep until he finds it? And when he finds it, he joyfully puts it on his shoulders and goes home. Then he calls his friends and neighbors together and says, “Rejoice with me; I have found my lost sheep.” I tell you that in the same way there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who do not need to repent.’” (Luke 15:1-7 NIV)

The entire chapter of Luke 15 tells the story of God the Pursuer.  He is pursuing those who do not even realize they are lost (the sheep); He is pursuing those who have ended up lost and don’t know how to get back to where they belong (the coin); and He is pursuing those who have really blown it in their lives and are desperate to return to the One they so brazenly rejected (the lost son).  He is the Pursuer of the lost.

These parables flow from comments made about Jesus and whom He associated with.  The religious folks were appalled by the company He chose to keep.  Through these stories, Jesus paints a picture of a God who does not let go of people easily, who is not easily offended or put off by their attitude or lifestyle.  They are lost, but He is not willing to give up on them.  That is just His nature.  

How easy it is to form a different picture by looking at the religious folks. From them we see a God whose disappointment is so great that restoration in the relationship is impossible.  We see a God who is too focused on His obedient children to have any interest in going after those who have strayed.  And we see a God who is like a person who loses a penny—it’s just not worth looking for.  

This is not the God of the Scriptures.  Through Luke 15, Jesus wants to make this perfectly clear.  

If you are in any way lost, know that He is pursuing you.  He has not and will not give up.  It is just not in His nature to do so.

© Jim Musser 2013

Thursday, October 3, 2013

A Heart Captured

“When they arrived, Samuel saw Eliab and thought, ‘Surely the LORD's anointed stands here before the LORD.’

But the LORD said to Samuel, ‘Do not consider his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him. The LORD does not look at the things man looks at. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart.’" (I Samuel 16:6-7 NIV)

The man setting across from us at a bed and breakfast had a rare skin disease that affected his face, his arms, and, likely, his whole body.  It was not a pleasant sight.  Next to him sat his wife of three years.  They were there celebrating their anniversary.  She was talkative; he was quiet. I couldn’t help wondering about his life growing up.  It was probably very difficult.  Kids can be very mean to someone who looks different for whatever reason.  I imagined the deep wounds that had been inflicted on the inside because of the damage on the outside.  

As I sat there, my attention kept coming back to his wife.  She was happy and it was obvious she loved him.  I don’t know what it was like when she first met him, but I know she was able to see deeper, past his skin condition to his heart. And it captured hers.  I wonder if he wasn’t somewhat shy and hesitant about her attention.  “Could she really love me?” he may have thought.  Rejection and self-loathing will do that.  We can begin to think no one could love us.  

After a great breakfast and pleasant conversation, we headed back up to our room.  As we climbed the stairs, I realized I had seen a living parable of God’s relationship with me.  While the sin in my life made me spiritually grotesque, the Lord saw beyond my sin into my heart and He loved me.  I knew I was not attractive and even after He had pursued me for awhile, I found it difficult to believe He really loved me.  Still do sometimes.  Yet, the parable lived out before me yesterday reminded me once again that God does not look upon us as others do or share the view we may have of ourselves.  He looks beneath the surface and into our hearts.  

Today, if you are feeling unlovable because of who you are or how you live, know that God is still attracted to you.  Such things do not deter him. What He is looking at is your heart and it has captured His. 

© Jim Musser 2013

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

A Different Picture of Jesus

"Woe to you, because you are like unmarked graves, which men walk over without knowing it."

One of the experts in the law answered him, "Teacher, when you say these things, you insult us also."

Jesus replied, "And you experts in the law, woe to you, because you load people down with burdens they can hardly carry, and you yourselves will not lift one finger to help them.” (Luke 11:44-46 NIV)

If you don’t think there is any humor in the Bible, take a close look at the dialogue in this passage.  Jesus has just criticized the Pharisees concerning the way they live their lives and treat others.  They are deeply insulted.  A religious leader of a different group speaks up and lets Jesus know that he, too, took offense at what He said.  And Jesus’ response? He launches into a harsh critique of this man’s group members.  

It is not the picture we often have of Jesus or the picture people like to paint.  Usually, Jesus is seen as one who loves and never offends.   That picture comes from the culture, not the Gospels.  Jesus was far from a politically correct person, nor did He always try to avoid hurting people’s feelings.  

Jesus is the Truth and He came speaking the truth.  The truth often offends people because it is not exactly what they want to hear.  For all of us, truth can expose things we are not ready or willing to admit. 

What I find funny and revealing in this passage is the audacity of Jesus. He is already setting Himself up for trouble by criticizing the Pharisees. Then when an expert in the law comes to their defense, He takes on another major group of religious leaders and is highly critical of them as well.   As my mom might have said, He just couldn’t leave well enough alone.  

This is not the Jesus we often picture in our minds or hear people describe, but this is the real Jesus.  He spoke the truth and He didn’t let people’s feelings prevent Him from doing so.  And what I find even more interesting, it was almost always the religious folks who were on the receiving end.

Today know that truth will offend some people, but as with Jesus, we should never back away from speaking it if it needs to be said.  

© Jim Musser 2013

Tuesday, October 1, 2013


“Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship. 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.” (Romans 12:1-2 NIV)

Sacrifice doesn’t come naturally to us.  Most of us will choose the easiest path whenever possible.  And, often, when the path becomes too difficult, we look for another to take.  I remember in my freshman year of college having an English professor who made it clear on the first day that students were going to have to work hard and his expectations were very high.  By the end of the week, nearly half the students had opted out of his class.  

As a campus minister, I have seen it happen many times where students commit to following Jesus, only to give up later because it was too hard. The sacrifice of giving up what they wanted, whether it was a romantic relationship with an unbeliever, long time friends who urged for them to return to their worldly lives, or the demand to no longer live solely for themselves was too much.  

And even among believers, one sees an attempt to limit the sacrifice demanded.  Many preachers proclaim God wants to bless us while never mentioning Jesus’ call to deny ourselves, take up our cross and follow Him. (Matthew 16:24)

Sacrifice is the essence of a life following Jesus because He left us an example that we might follow in His steps. (I Peter 2:21)   He came from Glory into our fallen world.  He humbled Himself and lived in the confines of human existence.  Though innocent He took on the sin of the world and suffered the consequences so that we wouldn’t have to.  His life was the epitome of sacrifice.  

Today, how might you offer yourself as a living sacrifice to the Lord? Whatever it might be, it won’t be easy.  Sacrifice never is.  But it is the example Jesus left us and there is much joy in following it.

© Jim Musser 2013