Monday, May 5, 2014

Painful But Necessary Surgery

(Author's Note: Due to the impending surgery described below, this will likely be my last devotion until August, unless of course I have the state of mind not dulled by pain medication to do a couple more before the end of the semester on Friday.  Thanks to all who wrote me encouraging comments and messages throughout the past 10 months.  Until August, many blessings!  Jim)

“For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart. Nothing in all creation is hidden from God’s sight. Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of him to whom we must give account.” (Hebrews 4:12-13 NIV)

Tomorrow morning I will be wheeled into the surgical theater.  The orthopedic surgeon will take his scalpel and make a 4-5 inch cut length-wise across my knee.  He will cut through both the tibia and femoral bones in order to remove the damaged joint and replace it with a brand new one.  The surgery will be painful and the recovery arduous, but the outcome will be having a well-functioning joint for the first time in decades.

Years ago, when writing another devotion on this passage, I referred to the Lord as the “divine surgeon.”  Using His Word as a scalpel, He cuts deep into us to reveal damaged tissue and dysfunctional organs.  His cuts are precise, not shoddy; clean, not jagged.

During my first knee operation, a nurse’s assistant came to shave the hair on and around my knee in preparation for my surgery the next morning. Using a dull razor and poor technique, he cut my knee so badly that it drew a derisive comment from the surgeon as he prepared to operate. Thankfully, the Lord’s scalpel is sharp and his technique is perfect.  

My surgery tomorrow will be painful, but it is the only way for me to once again walk normally and be able to resume activities I had to give up many years ago.  My surgeon is very experienced and has done this procedure literally thousands of times.  He knows what he is doing and I am confident in his skills and the outcome.  Am I nervous?  Of course. No one wants to suffer pain, but I am confident it will be worth it.  

It is a similar experience with the Lord cutting deep into us.  It can be very painful to learn of the dark things that lie within us.  Many would just rather not have them revealed, so they refuse to allow the Lord to operate.  They will tolerate a cursory examination, but a surgical procedure is out of the question.  The story of the rich young ruler is a perfect example of this (Luke 18:18-23).

Sadly, this only allows for the continuation of the suffering.  Before my second knee operation, the surgeon examined me and said he knew there was something wrong with the joint, but he wouldn’t know the extent of it until he opened it up and probed around.  

To be healed spiritually of what ails us, a casual reading of the Scriptures will not do.  The Word must penetrate our hearts; it must cut through the outward flesh in order to get to the root of the problem and clean it up.  It is painful, but necessary if we ever want to function in our lives as the Lord intended.  

Today, know the Lord is a skilled surgeon, wielding a sharp scalpel.  His technique is perfect and, if you allow Him to use it, will bring healing to the diseased and damaged areas of your life.   The procedure will indeed be painful, but the outcome will be more than worth it.  

© Jim Musser 2014

Friday, May 2, 2014


“For in this hope we were saved. But hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what they already have?  But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently.  In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans.” (Romans 8:24-26 NIV)

I severely injured my knee when I was a teen.  For my whole adult life, I have lived with a poorly functioning joint.  In the last 15 years, it has slowly deteriorated, increasingly limiting my physical activity.  Last year, I began to think seriously about a knee replacement, but our insurance was such it was not financially feasible.  I had to wait until we could acquire better health insurance.  That came in January and I immediately began to make plans for the surgery.  

I hoped to do it during Spring Break, but a freak snowstorm in Charlotte delayed my pre-op consultation for two weeks and closed that window of opportunity.  More waiting.  Finally, the surgery was set for May 6th.  My family physician scheduled several tests he required before he would clear me for the procedure, but scheduling the tests proved difficult. Again, more waiting.  Those tests were finally done this week and I am still waiting for the results and whether or not my doctor will clear me for a major operation scheduled just days from now.

To say I have been frustrated by the delays is an understatement.  I am not good at waiting patiently.  But I don’t think I am alone in that.  Waiting is difficult, particularly if it is something we want very badly, such as a romantic relationship or marriage, a coveted job, or just relief from a difficult stretch in life.

What is encouraging in this passage is that we are not alone in our struggle to maintain hope in the midst of uncertainty.  The Spirit is walking along side us, helping us and strengthening us so that we can maintain hope instead of giving up or making ill-advised decisions to force our will upon the situation.  Even in the midst of our confusion about delays in what we hope for, the Spirit sees clearly what we need.  

Today, if you are hoping for something, like me, that is not coming fast enough, know that you are not alone in battling frustration and discouragement.  Don’t give up.  The Spirit is right there with you and He knows what you need.

© Jim Musser 2014

Thursday, May 1, 2014

The Gospel According to Paul

“Several days later Felix came with his wife Drusilla, who was Jewish. He sent for Paul and listened to him as he spoke about faith in Christ Jesus.  As Paul talked about righteousness, self-control and the judgment to come, Felix was afraid and said, ‘That’s enough for now! You may leave. When I find it convenient, I will send for you.’  At the same time he was hoping that Paul would offer him a bribe, so he sent for him frequently and talked with him.” (Acts 24:24-26 NIV)

I have written on occasion about the trend in many churches and among many Christians to downplay sin and repentance in proclaiming the gospel.  Instead, the emphasis is heavy on the grace of God, which, of course, is crucial to the gospel, but not the only element.  In this passage, Luke summarizes what Paul shared with Felix and his wife regarding faith in Christ into three points: righteousness, self-control, and the judgment to come.  

I think most of us would not be surprised by the first and the last, but self-control?  This is a part of faith in Christ?  It would seem so.  And for good reason.  

Jesus said that to follow Him we must die to ourselves (Matthew 16:24), which means putting to death those things in our lives not pleasing to Him. There are many things—lust, greed, selfishness, etc.—that come naturally to us.  As Paul indicates in his letter to the Roman believers (7:19-20), dying to self is a monumental struggle, but struggle we must. This is where self-control comes in.  We cannot please God and do just what comes naturally to us or feels good.  All you have to do is look around and see the disaster and tragedy that results from a lack of self-control.  Binge drinking leading to rape, violence, and death.  Jealousy leading to stalking and murder.  Greed leading to oppression of workers. Lust leading children to become victims of sex trafficking.  And the list could go on and on.  

Self-control is to be a part of every believer’s life.  It is a fruit produced within us by the Holy Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23).  It is absolutely necessary for us to attain the righteousness of which Paul spoke to Felix. So to proclaim a gospel that says one can follow Jesus and continue to live however he or she pleases is to go against one of the main elements of the good news.  

Today, recognize accepting God’s grace through Jesus means dying to your own natural desires, which by necessity requires self-control.  But do not fear; along with receiving the Holy Spirit comes the power to control those self-centered impulses.  The key is allowing the Spirit to exert that power.  For that is the difference between being righteous and living as we please.  

© Jim Musser 2014