Friday, October 31, 2014


“Therefore, since we have such a hope, we are very bold. We are not like Moses, who would put a veil over his face to prevent the Israelites from seeing the end of what was passing away.  But their minds were made dull, for to this day the same veil remains when the old covenant is read. It has not been removed, because only in Christ is it taken away.  Even to this day when Moses is read, a veil covers their hearts.  But whenever anyone turns to the Lord, the veil is taken away.  Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.  And we all, who with unveiled faces contemplate the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his image with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.” (II Corinthians 3:12-18 NIV)

Yesterday, after nearly a year of searching, my wife and I finally reached an agreement on a contract to buy a house.  We sold our previous house a year ago and have been looking for a house at a great price. In our neck of the woods, that means a fixer-upper.  The house we’re buying fits that description.  It is the ugliest house in the little neighborhood in which it resides.  It needs updating on the inside and completely new landscaping on the outside.  And it needs lots of painting; basically every square inch (meter) of wall space has to be painted.  It will be so much work; yet I lay in bed tonight and could not go to sleep.  My mind was racing, not from stress, but from excitement of getting started on the transformation.

So here I am at 1:30 AM writing because I am wide awake. Transformation has always excited me.  Every home I have ever owned has gotten a makeover of some sort.  Sometimes it was just paint, but often it was major with redoing bathrooms or kitchens, or adding decks or porches.  My wife will tell you that going through home transformations with me can be unpleasant at times as I can get frustrated with the difficulty of the job or the amount of time it takes me to complete it, or because I’m just completely exhausted at the end of the day.  But transformation is usually never a cakewalk.  Ups and downs are part of the process.  

The same is true with personal transformations.  I love those, too, particularly when they are spiritual in nature.  There is nothing more exciting for me than to watch students come into our ministry at a certain point spiritually and during the next four to five years become men and women hardly recognizable compared to who they were when they arrived.  I have seen students enter college acting as if they had their spiritual lives in order and later humble themselves, admit they had never truly followed Jesus, and be transformed into true disciples of Him.  I have seen students embittered by the hand life had dealt them, come to embrace the Lord who can work all things together for the good, and be set free from depths of bitterness.  I have seen students who came to campus fully intent on experiencing every pleasure college life had to offer to later discover a different way of living whose reward is joy and a life fulfilled.  

None of these kind of transformations come easily and not often quickly. Getting there can be difficult and not without some, even a lot of, pain and discomfort.  Mostly, they are made up of many small steps of change, that singularly may not seem significant, but added together produce great and positive changes.  Transformation is a process, not an event.  

For the follower of Jesus, it also does not have an end point in this life. Paul says we “are being transformed into his image with ever increasing glory.”  It does not begin and end in college, after a week of church camp, after saying a prayer and being baptized, after graduating from seminary, or after being in church for 25 years.  If we are not continually being transformed, our resemblance to the Lord growing more and more striking, then something is amiss.  

The current owner of our future home seems to have had no interest in transformation.  He moved into the house 15 years ago and did nothing to it, particularly to correct flaws that were there from the beginning. The house did not maintain its fresh look, but deteriorated over time. Houses cannot maintain or transform themselves; they need owners to do that. It is the same with us.  Maintenance and transformation of our spiritual lives has to be done by the Lord, but in our case, we have to let Him.  

Today, examine your life.  What transformation has taken place during the last month, six months, a year, or the last five years?  If there is none, then go to the Lord and ask Him to show you what is the reason for that.  The truth is the process of transformation, becoming more and more like Jesus, should be an ever-present part of your life until the day you die.   

© Jim Musser 2014

Thursday, October 30, 2014

The Normalcy of Faith

“Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see.  This is what the ancients were commended for.” (Hebrews 11:1-2 NIV)

Religious faith is a concept about which many have difficulty getting their minds around.  Believing in an unseen god, hoping in certain promises proclaimed to be true millennia ago, and trusting after so long that it could still possibly be true is just too big a mountain for many to climb.  They don’t see the rationale; they don’t see the point in believing in stuff science can’t prove.

Yet, those same people display faith in their lives all the time.  Every time they climb aboard a subway, get on an airplane, or hop into their cars, they are demonstrating faith.  As they begin their days, they hope to be where they plan to be, and, if you ask them, they will most assuredly state their expectation of arriving there safely.  If there is doubt, it is overwhelmed by confidence.  They have faith in the vehicles transporting them and in the skills of those operating them.  None of it can be proved at the outset, but they have confidence nonetheless. And no one thinks it strange.

You also see faith exhibited routinely by sports fans.  At the start of every season, fans are hopeful that this will be the year their team wins it all, and this is particularly true of fans of teams who play particularly well.  I just watched one of the most exciting postseasons in Major League Baseball, with the Kansas City Royals seeking to win the World Series (apologies to my international readers for an obvious American habit of using “world champions” when in reality, the only teams involved are American or Canadian).  Throughout the postseason games, Royals fans truly believed their team could win it all.  They had hope and confidence.  The same was true with fans of all the playoff teams.  And no one thought it strange. 

The reality is people from all walks of life demonstrate faith every day. They trust when they get into the shower and turn the handle that water will come pouring down.  They can’t prove it will, but they trust it will. And when they pour the milk over their morning cereal, they have confidence it is not poisonous to ingest.  And when they grab lunch at a local restaurant, they trust the cooks in the kitchen are preparing their food in a healthy manner and they won’t soon after be suffering from food poisoning.  They walk with assurance through a crosswalk, often on their phones, that traffic will remain at a halt until they are through to the other side.  

None of the things in life that we often take for granted or passionately believe in can be proved absolutely.  There is always faith involved, hoping for and having assurance in things we cannot see or prove.  So, while religious faith may seem “out there” by many, the truth is we all live by faith.  Every day.  And what increases our faith are the outcomes.  They give us confidence and assuredness to continue “walking in faith.” The question is: if we can have faith in such mundane things in life such as subways and sports teams, what is so strange about having faith in the Creator of the universe, for which we can demonstrate positive outcomes as well?  

Today, recognize the world demonstrates faith every day as it goes about its business.  There is nothing strange about having faith.  If people question your faith in God, then ask them why they have faith in their lives.  It could lead to a fascinating discussion and an opportunity to give the reasons for the hope within you (I Peter 3:15).

© Jim Musser 2014

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Letting the Fire Die

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

Once, one of our small groups came out to the house to use our fire pit. I had started the fire before they arrived and had plenty of wood available to keep it going.  After only an hour, they came to the door to say they were leaving.  Turns out that the fire had died.  They had been so into their conversations they had neglected to tend the fire until it was too late.   

Fires can only start when there is wood to burn and can only continue to burn when more fuel is added.  If they are not maintained, they will quickly die out.  

Solomon says the same is true for relational conflicts.  They will die down if there is not gossip to fuel them.  So often we hear something about somebody from someone else.  We accept it as true and accurate and then relay it on to another person.  They, in turn, do the same.  It is not long before a storyline has developed about someone that may or may not be true, but if true, is likely to contain inaccuracies or exaggerations.  And discord grows between people.  

The way to stop this is the same way we allow a fire to die: we stop adding fuel.  I once heard something about someone that led me to believe I needed to confront them.  But before doing so, I went to the original source and sought the details.  It turned out the information I had heard was only partially true and the inaccurate details created the wrong impression.  I am thankful I made that decision, because it would have been easy just to proceed on what I had originally heard.  That’s usually what people do. 

I often tell students if they have an issue with someone, then go to that person instead of telling everyone else but them.  That is the way to keep the “fire” from getting hotter.  

Today, if you hear something unflattering from someone about someone else, think about if you really want to add fuel to the fire by telling someone else what you heard.  Perhaps it would be better to just let that fire die.   

© Jim Musser 2014

Tuesday, October 28, 2014


“But do not forget this one thing, dear friends: With the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day. The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness.”  (II Peter 3:8-9a NIV)

The one thing I hate when I am sitting in front of my computer is the spinning cog or rainbow, or the rotating hourglass.  That means waiting, perhaps as long as a few minutes.  Ugh, I hate it!  This from a guy who used a typewriter in college, who waited every day for the morning paper to read the news, and who made once-a-week phone calls on a payphone to his mom!

Our high-tech society has speeded up everything and I think, as has mine, people’s impatience has increased right along with it.  We expect our computers to work fast, checkout lines to move quickly, and information to be immediately available to us.  We have little patience with slowness.  

Yesterday, I was reading in Jeremiah about God’s punishment of Judah, telling them they would be exiled to Babylon for 70 years.  That number just stopped me.  Seventy years is practically a full lifetime.  His promise was that after 70 years, they would come back.  Can you imagine being told to wait 70 years to return home, or 40 years, as in the case of the Israelites wandering in the desert?  Think of how long that actually is.  What will your life look like in 70 years or 40 years, even 10 years?  

So, is it a surprise that we often get impatient with God when He does not act quickly enough for us?  We have grown so accustom to quick answers and quick solutions that we expect the same from Him.  

Yet we must understand God is not governed by our changing world. He does not necessarily move faster just because our world does.  He is the same as He was at the time of Jeremiah, and He will remain the same in the years and generations to come.  He does not view time in the same way we do.  Does a thousand years seem like a day to you? 

This is the God we serve and to avoid being continually frustrated, we must understand we will not always receive a quick answer, or be changed overnight.  As the Psalmist says,  “I wait for you, O LORD; you will answer, O Lord my God.” (Psalm 38:15)  But be prepared to wait longer than you might want.

© Jim Musser 2014

Monday, October 27, 2014

Judgment Out of Fear

“A second time they summoned the man who had been blind. ‘Give glory to God,’ they said. ‘We know this man is a sinner.’

He replied, ‘Whether he is a sinner or not, I don't know. One thing I do know. I was blind but now I see!’

Then they asked him, ‘What did he do to you? How did he open your eyes?’

He answered, ‘I have told you already and you did not listen. Why do you want to hear it again? Do you want to become his disciples, too?’

Then they hurled insults at him and said, ‘You are this fellow's disciple! We are disciples of Moses! We know that God spoke to Moses, but as for this fellow, we don't even know where he comes from.’

The man answered, ‘Now that is remarkable! You don't know where he comes from, yet he opened my eyes. We know that God does not listen to sinners. He listens to the godly man who does his will. Nobody has ever heard of opening the eyes of a man born blind. If this man were not from God, he could do nothing.’

To this they replied, ‘You were steeped in sin at birth; how dare you lecture us!’ And they threw him out.” (John 9:24-34 NIV)

When I first became a Jesus-follower, my mother thought I had joined some sort of cult.  She saw the sudden changes in me, and good though they were, they frightened her.  I was talking about the Bible and about praying, things never discussed in our so-called Christian home. My mom was a churchgoer, but her understanding of a Christian and what she saw in the young man she raised were quite different.  And it scared her.

Jesus miraculously healed a man and it was a proven fact; yet the religious leaders were scared.  Jesus didn’t fit their understanding of the Messiah.  He didn’t show them respect and He went against their long-held traditions such as observing the Sabbath.  So they persecuted the man who was healed.  It doesn’t make sense unless we understand how easy it is for us to reject out of hand anything that doesn’t conform to our view or experience of things.  

Before I became a follower of Jesus, I thought true Christians were strange.  My friends and I referred to them as “Jesus freaks.”  They often carried Bibles, prayed together, and lived very different lifestyles. Even after I became a Christian, I thought people who raised their hands in church were strange.  I judged them in my heart.  Why? Because I was scared.  It was different and I was uncomfortable with it. Judgment quite often is the result of fear. 

We see this in the religious leaders.  How could anyone decry a miracle, particularly one that ended the long suffering of this man?  Yet their fear led them to judgment. 

The story of the man healed from blindness is in one way a sad one.  In it was the opportunity for the religious leaders to be set free from their own blindness and fears.  Yet, they rejected it in favor of clinging tightly to what was familiar.

Today, consider what fears may be preventing you from experiencing what the Lord has for you.  What we are comfortable with is not necessarily what is best for us.  

© Jim Musser 2014

Friday, October 24, 2014

Pendulum Swings

“If we deliberately keep on sinning after we have received the knowledge of the truth, no sacrifice for sins is left, but only a fearful expectation of judgment and of raging fire that will consume the enemies of God.  Anyone who rejected the law of Moses died without mercy on the testimony of two or three witnesses.  How much more severely do you think someone deserves to be punished who has trampled the Son of God underfoot, who has treated as an unholy thing the blood of the covenant that sanctified them, and who has insulted the Spirit of grace?  For we know him who said, ‘It is mine to avenge; I will repay,’ and again, ‘The Lord will judge his people.’ It is a dreadful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.” (Hebrews 10:26-31 NIV)

Pendulums of popular thought swing widely over the years and through generations.  That’s why they are referred to as “pendulum swings” because they swing way to one side and then back to the other. Science is a perfect example of this.  In the 70’s, it was thought the earth was cooling and we were headed for another Ice Age.  Beginning in the 90’s, the thinking of scientists started back toward the alarming news of the earth’s precipitous warming and picked up momentum at the start of this century, to the point one was considered an idiot to deny the “facts” of global warming.  But in the last year, there has begun to appear research indicating perhaps the earth is not warming as much or as quick as was thought. (Google “global cooling 2014”)

The ancient practice of using leeches in medicine had long been abandoned by the modern medical community as a barbaric procedure, but guess what, it’s back! (See this article.)  And, of course, in the areas of health and nutrition the pendulum swings so fast, one can get dizzy. Saturated fat, once the ogre of the diet, is now getting a second look and it’s being seen as perhaps not so bad after all.  Low fat everything is now being questioned as the answer to combatting heart disease.  

So it is no surprise that the same pendulum swings are common when it comes to talking about the Scriptures.  For most of church history, “pre-millennialism” (Jesus returning at the Rapture, followed by the Tribulation) was not the common view.  It wasn’t until the early 20th Century that this view began to be more common.  Today, it is the prevailing view, with the majority of believers unaware of any other.  A focus on sound doctrine was also an emphasis for the Church throughout its history, to the point of people being persecuted and even executed if they held to doctrines different from those believed to be the true ones (Martin Luther was an example of this.)  But in this century, emphasis on sound doctrine has lessened in favor of the feel of the church.  Is the pastor an entertaining speaker?  Is the music contemporary and the worship band good?  The majority of churchgoers have little idea upon what doctrines their churches operate around.  It is no longer a major concern.

Hell and eternal punishment were also common teachings of the Church for centuries.  The 18th Century preacher and theologian, Jonathan Edwards, gave a famous sermon on this passage in Hebrews. But today, the pendulum has swung away from the wrath of God to the grace of God.  Several years ago, Rob Bell, in his book, “Love Wins,” suggested there is no eternal punishment.  In today’s church, Hell and wrath have gone out of fashion.  

Of course, the danger of pendulum swings is that we miss the truth that is so often found in the middle.  When we read the Scriptures, we often tend to focus on the ones that resonate most with us, that are the most appealing.  In earlier times, people were brought up to do things the right way, to be disciplined, and the view was that punishment and the fear of it were the best ways to make sure people lived correctly.  So naturally, the believers of those times focused on the Scriptures that dealt with fear and punishment, like this passage in Hebrews, often to the exclusion of passages referring to God’s love and grace.  

But when the cultural shifts of the 1960’s-70’s happened, slowly fear and punishment gave way to positive reinforcement.  Spankings were replaced by time-outs as discipline for kids.  The raising of self-esteem became more important than discipline and doing things correctly.  And the Church followed this swing.  God’s wrath fell out of favor and was replaced by God’s grace and mercy.  Sermons focused less and less on eternal punishment and much more on eternal life, eventually reaching the point of practically, as Francis Chan entitled his book, erasing hell.

The truth is, Scripture must be read and interpreted in its entirety.  One cannot, as Thomas Jefferson famously did, only select the parts of the Bible we really like or agree with and leave the rest untouched.  And if we do this, we find the truth that God is love and full of mercy.  But He is also a God of wrath for those who refuse His offer of grace and insist on being lords of their own lives.  Love is a wonderful motivator, but as any parent will tell you, it isn’t always enough to motivate a child to do what is right.  Sometimes the fear of punishment has to be employed.  

Today, has your view of God swung so far toward viewing Him as a God of love and mercy that these words of the Hebrew writer strike you as extreme and unloving?  If so, realize you are missing a central biblical truth that punishment awaits those who do not accept God’s gift of grace and live their lives under His Lordship. The truth once again is found in the middle.

© Jim Musser 2014

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Jesus the Hater

“Then some Pharisees and teachers of the law came to Jesus from Jerusalem and asked,  ‘Why do your disciples break the tradition of the elders? They don’t wash their hands before they eat!’

Jesus replied, ‘And why do you break the command of God for the sake of your tradition? For God 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 “devoted to God,” they are not to ‘honor their father or mother’ with it. Thus you nullify the word of God for the sake of your tradition.  You hypocrites! Isaiah was right when he prophesied about you:

“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.”

Jesus called the crowd to him and said, ‘Listen and understand.  What goes into someone’s mouth does not defile them, but what comes out of their mouth, that is what defiles them.’

Then the disciples came to him and asked, ‘Do you know that the Pharisees were offended when they heard this?’ He replied, ‘Every plant that my heavenly Father has not planted will be pulled up by the roots.  Leave them; they are blind guides. If the blind lead the blind, both will fall into a pit.’” (Matthew 15:1-14 NIV)

When I was in grad school, the professor of one of my classes asked two gay men to talk to our class about their life experience, particularly navigating a then very hostile culture to homosexuality.  Their basic message was this: anyone who did not approve of homosexuality was homophobic.  Fast-forward 20 years and the word used is not fear, but hate.  Anyone against homosexual practice is no long considered a homophobe, but rather a hater.  While the labels may have changed, the assertion is still the same: You are wrong to disagree.  And the reaction is the same as well: I am highly offended by your stance on this.  

In a generation where we were told tolerance is one of the highest cultural values, what has become very clear is there is growing intolerance for disagreement.  If you don’t agree with (fill in the blank), then you are a hater, to be despised, ridiculed, and, in some cases, arrested.  And it runs the gamut of our society.  This is not just limited to liberals and conservatives, or the pro-this or the anti-that crowds.  It’s everywhere.  Dare to speak your views among others than your own like-minded crowd, and you will likely be quickly confronted or rejected. There will be little, if any, rational discussion.  

And the effect on us as followers of Jesus by living in such times is we draw back and hesitate to speak the truth.  We don’t want to be labeled a “hater” or an “extremist.”  Or among our friends or fellow believers, a “busy body” who should mind our own business and stop judging.  We just don’t want to be those people who are so reviled by the world.  

Yet, the example of Jesus should give us courage.  He offended a lot of people, but He didn’t seem to care.  Not that He went out of His way to be offensive, but He always spoke the truth without concern for the reactions of others.  In this account, the disciples were very concerned at how offended the religious leaders were by what Jesus had said to them.  They sat at the pinnacle of Jewish society.  They were highly respected men.  And they were offended by Jesus’ remarks.  I can imagine the disciples thinking they needed to help Jesus in this situation, help salvage His reputation by letting Him know how offended these men of standing were so that He could go to them and apologize.  He didn’t care.  In fact, he doubled down on His criticism by calling the religious leaders “blind guides.”

When it came to truth, Jesus was not going to hold back for fear of what others might think.  The religious leaders hated Him for it.  And I suspect if Jesus were walking the earth today, there would be many who would call Him a hater.  And He wouldn’t care because speaking the truth is far more important than what people might think of you or how they might react.  

Today, in a world where people want to be told what they want to hear, take courage from the example of Jesus.  He was not afraid to offend people if truth was on the line.  As He demonstrated, sometimes people need to hear the truth no matter how they will react.  

© Jim Musser 2014

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

The Other Path

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

It is said about an electrical current that it will always follow the path of least resistance.  That’s why it’s a good idea not to use a hair dryer while near a bathtub full of water or a metal extension ladder near power lines.  We humans often can be similar in our approach to life. We seek the path of least resistance, the path with the least amount of risk and suffering.  And when things do get difficult, we often adopt the “woe is me” attitude.

So many things change when we decide to become a Jesus-follower. One is our understanding of how life works.  We understand that, first, we live in a fallen, messed up world where bad things routinely happen. Just go to any Internet news site and that becomes clear very quickly. Secondly, Jesus warned us that, as His followers, we would experience trouble in this world (John 16:33).  In other words, we are not immune from suffering just because we are Christians.  In fact, and this is the third realization, in following Jesus we are called to follow His example which was one of suffering (I Peter 2:21).

So when James tells us to view our suffering and difficulties with joy, he is reminding us of the different perspective that comes when we follow Jesus.  No longer do we seek to avoid suffering at all costs or view it as the worst possible thing that could happen to us.  Instead, we embrace it as one of the Lord’s ways of transforming us into the men and women He created us to be.  We trust that, instead of abandoning us to suffering, He is with us in the midst of it, walking by our side.  We believe that, instead of being meaningless, God is using it for His purposes.

Jesus did warn us that following Him in this world would bring us trouble, but He also said, “Take heart!  I have overcome the world.”  The suffering that is in the world and visits us is meant by our enemy to discourage and defeat us.  But through the power of the Lord, suffering can instead make us stronger and draw us into a deeper relationship with Jesus.  

Today, realize the path of least resistance is not the path for one who follows Jesus.  The more difficult path, the path of hardship and suffering, is the one He took.  It is not easy, but you will not walk it alone and the Lord will use it to transform your life.

© Jim Musser 2014

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Spiritual Rip Tides

“Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth.” (II Timothy 2:15 NIV)

My wife and I love going to the beach.  There is just something about the ocean waves, the tides, and the sounds that draw us there at least once a year.  We always return relaxed and refreshed.  

Yet, there is a darker side to the ocean that a friend who works there witnesses first hand every summer season.  Swimmers, unaware of its dangers, pay little or no attention to the rip tides that are so common.  A rip tide is a strong current that runs perpendicular and away from the beach.  Swimmers caught in them face the prospect of being carried far out to sea.  Rescues from rip tides are common, even though warning signs proliferate most beaches.  The greatest danger from a rip tide is you may not immediately realize you are caught in one.  If you are unaware of the methods for escape, you will be in trouble.

As followers of Jesus, we also must be aware of the dangers of spiritual rip tides.  Like a visit to the beach, there is great joy and refreshment in being in relationship with the Savior.  There is the unconditional love and mercy we enjoy, the sense of peace of being forgiven, and the hope of a life in eternity without suffering and without end.  But there are also dangers that lurk around us in the midst of this fallen world—an Enemy that seeks to trap us and drag us away from our Lord through various and clever schemes (II Corinthians 2:10-11; Ephesians 6:11)

Like a swimmer caught in a rip tide, we need to be aware of how to escape the devil’s schemes.  In the 1st Century, there were plenty of schemes to lead believers away from the Lord.  Some were saying that since God’s grace covered all sins, people should sin all the more! Others took the view that believers should avoid certain foods and celebrate certain days in order to secure their salvation.  Some were saying that only Jewish Christians would be saved and so were encouraging non-Jewish believers to convert.  

These were among the many things Timothy had to deal with as a pastor, schemes that led believers away from the Truth.  Paul’s counsel to him was simple: correctly handle the word of truth (i.e., the Scriptures).  And later in his letter, he explains why: “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.” (3:16-17)

Like the untrained swimmer caught in a rip tide, we can easily be carried away by various false teachings popular in the institutional church or the culture if we do not know and correctly read the Scriptures.  By not being intentional about reading and learning the Scriptures, we make ourselves vulnerable to those who will either intentionally or mistakenly interpret what the Bible says.  These are the spiritual rip tides of which we must be aware.  

Today, while you should enjoy your relationship with the Lord with all its many blessings, recognize that as long as you live in this world, our Enemy, the devil, is looking to destroy you (I Peter 5:8).  You must be on your guard and you must learn the Scriptures to avoid being led away from the Truth by his clever schemes.

© Jim Musser 2014

Monday, October 20, 2014

Putting a Face to a Name

“Philip said, ‘Lord, show us the Father and that will be enough for us.’ Jesus answered: ‘Don’t you know me, Philip, even after I have been among you such a long time? Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, “Show us the Father”?  Don’t you believe that I am in the Father, and that the Father is in me? The words I say to you I do not speak on my own authority. Rather, it is the Father, living in me, who is doing his work.’” (John 14:8-10 NIV)

At the beginning of every school year, our ministry compiles a list of names of students that stop by our tables at two events sponsored by the University to acquaint students with the various student organizations on campus.  I always look at them, but they are just names.  The most I can gain from them is the amount of interest shown by girls and guys (always more girls) and what were the most popular first names for babies 18-20 years ago.  What I look forward to is putting faces to at least some of those names.  And during the next couple of weeks, I do just that as I meet students at various events. And with those who become involved in our ministry, I not only put a face to a name, but I begin to put a personality, interests, and a life to it as well.

The Jews knew God as Yahweh.  This was the name by which He told Moses He should be known (Exodus 3:13-14).  And for centuries they knew His name but had never seen His face.  Then came Jesus, the long-awaited Messiah.  He declared His name to be the same as that of Yahweh (John 8:58).  Suddenly, there was a face to put with the Name.  

When we see Jesus, we can put a face to God.  This is what Jesus is telling Philip.  “Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father.”  As Paul states in Colossians 1:15, Jesus is the image of the invisible God. When we look at Jesus, when we see His life and His works, we see God. He becomes real and more understandable.  Through Jesus, we get to know God on a more intimate level.  We learn about His true nature and the depth of His love.  We learn about His priorities and His passions.  He is no longer just a name or a concept.  

Today, if you are seeking to know God beyond merely His name, then get to know Jesus.  He is the visible face of the God we cannot see.  

© Jim Musser 2014

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Leaving Your Net Behind

(Author's Note: Fall Break begins tomorrow, so I will be taking a few days off.  Back on October 20th.  Jim)

“As Jesus was walking beside the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers, Simon called Peter and his brother Andrew. They were casting a net into the lake, for they were fishermen. ‘Come, follow me,’ Jesus said, ‘and I will make you fishers of men.’ At once they left their nets and followed him.

Going on from there, he saw two other brothers, James son of Zebedee and his brother John. They were in a boat with their father Zebedee, preparing their nets. Jesus called them, and immediately they left the boat and their father and followed him.” (Matthew 4:18-21 NIV)

It was my sophomore year in college and I had been a Jesus-follower less than a year.  I was learning and growing, but I was troubled.  The idea of missions (going to a foreign country or different culture to proclaim the Good News about Jesus) kept coming up.  A friend said he didn’t think one could truly be a Christian without going “overseas.”  A student talked about the opportunity to spend the summer working in Communist Eastern Europe delivering Bibles and encouragement to believers there.  My RA was excitedly talking about his future plans to go to India to serve in ministry there.  But I found little excitement in the talk because I was scared God might call me somewhere I didn’t want to go.  I was perfectly happy living in the good ol’ US of A and didn’t want to go anywhere else.  

During that same time, I was invited to go to a conference over Christmas Break called Urbana.  It was a conference solely focused on God’s mission around the world and challenged students to seek how they could be a part of it.  To this day, I have no idea why I chose to go, but I did.  And I was miserable from the moment I arrived.  Speaker after speaker spoke passionately about cross-cultural ministry.  In the exhibition hall literally hundreds of mission organizations had displays and representatives informing students of opportunities to participate in God’s world mission.  I was surrounded by the very thing I so wanted to avoid.  I desperately wanted to hold onto my net.

Peter and Andrew were fishermen from families of fishermen.  It was their life.  It was the same for brothers James and John.  Then along comes Jesus and He asks them to leave their nets and follow Him. Leave their way of life.  Leave their families.  Leave everything that was familiar.  And they did.  No doubt it was a very difficult, perhaps even agonizing, decision, but they trusted Jesus enough to make it.  

During that December week long ago, I began to realize the Lord was calling me to trust Him.  All the interactions I was having about missions were no coincidence.  Jesus was calling me to be willing to leave my net, my way of life, to follow Him.  I didn’t want to do it and that was the source of my misery.  My Lord was calling me and I was refusing to follow.  

On the final night of the conference, Billy Graham spoke and offered up a challenge to us: Trust God and surrender your will to Him.  And, very hesitantly, I did.  “Lord, I don’t want to go overseas, but if that is what you want, then I am willing.”   Immediately, I felt more relief than fear and in the ensuing months I gradually became more comfortable with the idea.  A year and a half later, I committed to an internship with a mission in Eastern Europe.  When I surrendered my will, my willingness to leave my net soon followed.  

You may have a well-established life or long-held dreams of what your life will be like.  But what if the Lord has something else in mind for you? What if, “Come follow me,” means leaving your net behind?  Will you trust Him enough to do it?   Today, know that God never asks of you more than you are able to give, but if He is asking, you must trust Him that He will enable you to do it.  And my experience tells me He is faithful to do just that.

© Jim Musser 2014

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Conforming or Obeying

“The apostles were brought in and made to appear before the Sanhedrin to be questioned by the high priest. ‘We gave you strict orders not to teach in this name,’ he said. ‘Yet you have filled Jerusalem with your teaching and are determined to make us guilty of this man’s blood.’

Peter and the other apostles replied: ‘We must obey God rather than human beings!  The God of our ancestors raised Jesus from the dead—whom you killed by hanging him on a cross.  God exalted him to his own right hand as Prince and Savior that he might bring Israel to repentance and forgive their sins.  We are witnesses of these things, and so is the Holy Spirit, whom God has given to those who obey him.’” (Acts 5:27-32 NIV)

Since this early time in the life of the Church, there have been pressures to go along with popular thought or behavior.  In the 1st Century, it was to honor and respect the Jewish system, a system that Jesus attacked on a regular basis.  Since Jesus was put to death, the leaders were anxious to regain control of the narrative.  Put your hope not in some false messiah, but in us as your leaders and experts in the Scriptures.  But the apostles refused to go along.  “We must obey God rather than human beings,” they said.  

In the ensuing centuries, that cultural pressure has remained, and the response of the Church has been mixed at best.  Sometimes that pressure has come from religious authorities and other times it has come from the secular or cultural authorities.  Martin Luther was persecuted by the Catholic Church for daring to proclaim the Scriptures were superior to church traditions in their authority.  Segregation of local churches was common practice from the beginning of this nation, through and beyond the Civil War era, and, still in some parts of our country today.  The pressures of the culture that races are not equal prevailed upon many to reject God’s view.

Today there continue to be many pressures to go along with cultural norms.  In the age of diversity, the church is pressured to accept biblical teaching as only one of many legitimate views of life and reality.  It is pressed to accept certain lifestyles, proclaimed to be sinful by the Scriptures, as normal and unremarkable.  From within, there are pressures to be self-focused—to have the biggest buildings, to build the church brand, to have the finest programs that will attract the most people.  While Jesus said to go into all nations (Matthew 28:18-21), many churches are content to stay focused on “our people” and “our community” because it is now in fashion to do so and reflects the self-centered nature of the society in which we live.  

And there are the pressures we, as followers of Jesus, will experience to conform to what those around us want us to do.  Parents may push us to pursue the normal, American way of life—get a college degree, a well-paying job, live close to home, marry and raise a family rather than a life of serving the Lord in other parts of the world.  Friends may pressure us into a lifestyle of drinking and hook-ups.  Professors may seek to persuade us that our beliefs are out of touch with reality.  

Regardless of the time period or what stage of life we are in, if we follow Jesus, then we can expect pressure to conform to the norms of the day. And here is where we need to maintain the courage and conviction of the apostles: We must obey God rather than human beings.  For it is, ultimately, God to whom we must answer for the way we lived our lives.  
Today, consider where in your life the pressures to conform are conflicting with the truth of the Scriptures.  And then pray for the courage to obey God rather than giving into the pressure to conform to what others expect of you.  

© Jim Musser 2014

Monday, October 13, 2014

What about the Clothes?

“Jesus spoke to them again in parables, saying:  ‘The kingdom of heaven is like a king who prepared a wedding banquet for his son.  He sent his servants to those who had been invited to the banquet to tell them to come, but they refused to come.

‘Then he sent some more servants and said, “Tell those who have been invited that I have prepared my dinner: My oxen and fattened cattle have been butchered, and everything is ready. Come to the wedding banquet.”

‘But they paid no attention and went off—one to his field, another to his business.  The rest seized his servants, mistreated them and killed them.  The king was enraged. He sent his army and destroyed those murderers and burned their city.

‘Then he said to his servants, “The wedding banquet is ready, but those I invited did not deserve to come.  So go to the street corners and invite to the banquet anyone you find.”  So the servants went out into the streets and gathered all the people they could find, the bad as well as the good, and the wedding hall was filled with guests.

‘But when the king came in to see the guests, he noticed a man there who was not wearing wedding clothes.  He asked, “How did you get in here without wedding clothes, friend?” The man was speechless.

‘Then the king told the attendants, “Tie him hand and foot, and throw him outside, into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.” ‘For many are invited, but few are chosen.’” (Matthew 22:1-14 NIV)

Our church’s associate pastor preached on this passage yesterday.  He did a great job explaining this parable and I spoke to him afterward.  He said it took him awhile to figure out “what the clothes were about.”

This story is fairly straightforward and clearly refers to the Lord as the king.  He announces the feast to those who already had been invited (i.e., the Jews).  But they refuse to come, so the king invites others (God-fearers and Gentiles).  The wedding hall is filled with people.  And then the story takes an unusual turn.  There is a wedding crasher found in the midst of the party.  He is found out because he is wearing the wrong clothes.  And here is where the story becomes rather strange. The man is not just ejected from the party.  He is tied up and thrown out into a place of darkness where there is “weeping and gnashing of teeth,” biblical language referring to Hell. 

So, what is it about the clothes?  Is this a story about a man’s desire to express himself in face of cultural norms, in a sense like a student going against high school dress codes?  Probably not.  If you dig deeper into the cultural context, you will find it was common for a king to provide the clothes for his invited guests. Think of the rudeness of someone showing up in clothes of his own choosing, and likely the swift consequences of going against the king’s wishes.  

So, what about the clothes in Jesus’ parable?  What do they represent? Think about it for a minute.  What does Jesus provide us that we often choose to provide for ourselves?  Here’s a hint: It’s a wonderful biblical term.  Justification.  If you ask people the question, why should God let you into Heaven, most will have an answer that revolves around their goodness or their good works in life.  These are the “clothes” the man in the parable was wearing.  

While Jesus offers us justification for our sins through His own sacrificial death, we so often want to try to be a part of the party based on our own goodness—being a faithful churchgoer, doing good deeds, not being as bad as other people, etc.  Instead of the clothes He offers us, many of us still prefer to try to get into the party (Heaven) wearing our own.  And the result should be sobering.  

The reality Jesus is proclaiming is it is impossible to get into Heaven on our own merits.  No one can.  Not Mother Teresa, not the Pope, not Billy Graham, not Louis Giglio, not Francis Chan, not your grandmother, not your mother, not you, and not me.  Not one of us, no matter how good we might be or appear, can enter Heaven based on what we have done in life.  As Paul so succinctly states, we all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23)

Today, understand that the King has invited you to His wedding banquet, but know you cannot come dressed as you like.  You have to accept wearing the clothes He provides and recognize the filthiness and inappropriateness of your own for such a glorious event.  

© Jim Musser 2014

Friday, October 10, 2014

Having Peace in a Dangerous World

“Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.” (John 14:27 NIV)

Every day, whether you look online, watch the news on television, or listen to it on the radio, one knows the world is a dangerous place.  Daily, we hear about Ebola, beheadings, suicide bombers, foiled terrorist plots, murders, massive protests leading to violence, kidnappings, child molestation, and on and on it goes.  It is enough to make us paralyzed by fear.  And, sadly, many who follow Jesus are deeply afraid.  

For many years I have led college students on mission trips to various parts of the world.  Every time, there are students who do not go because of fear—much of the time, the fear of their Christian parents.  The fear of what might happen consumes them, and often leads them to missing out on some wonderful and life-changing experiences.  

What seems to be at work is the belief that we are safe when we are in comfortable, familiar surroundings.  To leave these confines of perceived safety will open one up to all kinds of dangers.  Yet, we know by experience that dangers lurk close to home, whether it be car accidents, slipping and falling on a steep trail, or a home invasion.  The truth is we live in a world full of dangers and that has been true since the Fall of the humanity.  For with sin came danger, from nature and from ourselves.

Yet, as followers of Jesus, we need to remember He stepped into this world, with all of its dangers, and said to His disciples and to us: “Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.”  We do not need to fear Ebola, terrorists, world unrest, or what might happen to us if we step out of our familiar, comfortable surroundings.  For Jesus is always present with us.  This does not mean that, as followers of Jesus, we are immune to danger.  Throughout history, Christians have suffered, been tortured, and have died.  The peace of which Jesus is speaking is one that sustains us in the midst of trouble and makes us confident to follow Him regardless of where He leads.  We don’t shrink back just because there is the potential for danger, if that is where He is leading us.  Instead, we go in confidence and peace, knowing He is with us and there is safety in His presence.

Today, though you live in a dangerous world, know you do not need to be afraid.  Instead, be at peace, for Jesus is right here with you and He will protect you.

© Jim Musser 2014

Thursday, October 9, 2014

A Non-Negotiable Deal

“You have heard that it was said, ‘Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.’  But I tell you, do not resist an evil person. If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to them the other cheek also.  And if anyone wants to sue you and take your shirt, hand over your coat as well.  If anyone forces you to go one mile, go with them two miles.  Give to the one who asks you, and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you.

“You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’  But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.  If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that?  And if you greet only your own people, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that?  Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” (Matthew 5:38-48 NV)

For the past two weeks, my wife and I have been in negotiations to purchase a house.  The process is known as the “game” or the “dance.”  Here is how it works: The seller establishes his price higher than he hopes to get to allow room to compromise and settle with the buyer on a lower price.  The idea is to create a win-win situation.  The seller gets what he wants for the house and the buyer feels like he got a good deal. Both sides, then, walk away happy.  

We’re still in the midst of the “dance,” but it got me to thinking how much of our lives revolve around compromise.  Within any relationship we have, compromise is a necessity for it to function in a healthy way.  Newlyweds learn that very quickly.  No one can have his or her way all the time.  Life just doesn’t work that way—not in real estate negotiations, not in friendships, and definitely not in marriage.  

Perhaps this is why Jesus’ words are so jarring: “Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly father is perfect.”  What, no compromise?  You mean there is no room for negotiation on this one?  I love my family and friends and treat them well, but that’s not enough?  I have to love my enemies, too? You mean there’s no partial credit; it’s all or nothing?  

In a world that so values compromise, the demands of Jesus seem, at the very least, over the top.  Who can do that?  And they also can strike us as unfair because, regardless of our efforts to do good, they won’t count for anything unless we fully meet His exacting standards.  Yet, what is clear is that Jesus doesn’t play the game and He doesn’t do the dance. There is no compromise, no negotiation when it comes to His expectations.  It is perfection or else.  

But before you despair, remember this truth expressed by Paul: “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and all are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus.” (Romans 3:23-24)  We have to be perfect, but it is only possible through a relationship with Jesus.  Unlike the way we usually negotiate compromise—each giving up some of what we want, God takes a hard stance—perfection or else.  But, while being uncompromising on His expectations, He does offer a deal—give me control of your life and through the sacrifice of Jesus, I will make you perfect.  It is what I would call a win-win type of deal, but it is made only with great sacrifice from both sides. Obviously, God’s sacrifice is His only Son, Jesus.  Perhaps not so obvious is our sacrifice—humbling ourselves before God and admitting our imperfections and our inability ever to meet His expectations on our own.  

This is the deal the Lord offers and I think it is a pretty good one.  While His standards are non-negotiable, He is willing to accommodate our inability to meet them on one condition—humbling ourselves before Him by admitting how far short we fall to meeting His expectations and admitting our need for Him to make us perfect.  

Today, recognize the deal the Lord offers involves no negotiation.  Either one accepts it or rejects it.  But if you need to be perfect, it is the only deal that can make that happen.

© Jim Musser 2014

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Getting Through Life

“Blessed is the man who perseveres under trial, because when he has stood the test, he will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love him.” (James 1:12 NIV)

Students on campus are getting desperate for a break from their academic routine.  When I asked one student this week if she was ready for Fall Break, she said, “I am so ready; I can feel the humidity of Raleigh.”  That sounds like desperation to me!  Fortunately, she is a committed student and will persevere in her studies until next week when the break finally arrives.

It is tempting when we are exhausted or when things get tough in our lives to give up or take an easier path.  Recently, I heard on television a woman who had been severely burned in a plane crash tell of her decision to persevere through all the pain and suffering of recovery in order that she might continue to be there for her kids and her husband. They were what kept her motivated.

Life in general is hard.  With it comes various trials and hardships, be it disappointment and discouragement, rejection, illness, or death.  The followers of Jesus, in spite of what some might think, are not given a pass on hardship and suffering.  But we are promised a great reward if we persevere through life with our faith intact.  

All of us need breaks every so often.  I think everyone on campus is looking forward to the one next week.  For the followers of Jesus, however, while we may get short respites along the way, our real break comes when our life concludes and we enter Eternity.  Until then, with the Lord’s strength, we continue to carry on through the trials of life.

Today, know the Lord is there to help you to persevere through whatever life brings your way, so that then you can have the break you truly long for.

© Jim Musser 2014

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

A Friend Who Understands

“Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has ascended into heaven, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to the faith we profess.  For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet he did not sin.  Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.” (Hebrews 4:14-16 NIV)

What draws us to certain people?  Usually, it is the things we have in common.  We share common interests, are at similar points in life (in college, married, having kids, etc.), or have similar struggles with which we are dealing.  These are all sources of connecting points around which relationships are formed and developed.  

So I am wondering why so few are drawn to Jesus?  He was human, just like us.  He experienced the process of growing up in a family, was educated, and faced the same temptations we face in life.  It would seem we have a lot in common and that He can definitely understand us, and what we go through.  

Yet, I wonder if it isn’t difficult for us to picture Jesus as experiencing life like us.  He was the Son of God, after all.  And we tend to view “holy” people, like pastors, priests, and missionaries differently, particularly if everything about their lives confirms they are godly people.  So it may be hard for us to imagine they struggle against temptations of lust, drunkenness, greed, anger, etc.  They are above that, right?  

As a pastor, I have experienced some of this.  Among a group of unbelieving strangers, when it is learned what I do for a living, suddenly people will start talking differently or apologize for how they had been talking.  They will make jokes that imply my life is vastly different from theirs.  What it comes down to is they think I couldn’t possibly relate to them and their lives.  

Is that how we also think of Jesus?  We can’t imagine Jesus being tempted to look at pornography, to sleep with a woman, to get drunk, to hold a grudge, to be greedy, to gossip, or to do any other sin we can think of, so we think He can’t understand us and our struggles?  If that is the case, then we need to read this passage again, carefully.  For it says Jesus “has been tempted in EVERY way, just as we are.”  EVERY way. Thus, there is not a sin that you have committed in your life or been tempted to commit that Jesus has not faced as well. Not one.  The only experience He does not share with us in regards to temptation is actually falling into sin.  He overcame EVERY temptation.  But just because He did not fall does not mean He does not understand.  He experienced the same struggle we have and thus understands it.  

Today, recognize the one person who can fully understand your struggle with sin is not your mom or dad, your brother or sister, or your best friend. It is Jesus, because He has experienced everything you are experiencing.  He understands.  And He invites you to seek Him out, to talk to Him, and to ask for His help in your time of need.   

© Jim Musser 2014

Monday, October 6, 2014

Choosing the Right Path

“I gain understanding from your precepts; therefore I hate every wrong path.  Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light for my path.” (Psalm 119:104-105 NIV)

Years ago, I was hiking with some friends.  I had taken responsibility of plotting out our course for our five-day trip using a map and a trail guide. One morning we headed out onto the trail toward our next stop—14 miles away.  (This was back in a time when I thought backpacking was about how far you could go in a day!)  We hiked a mile or so, but something seemed amiss. We were supposed to intersect with a road a mile or so out of camp, and we had yet to reach it. So I pulled out the map and trail guide.  Everything, as far as we could tell, appeared right, so we kept on hiking.  However, after another mile, the road still had not appeared. Realizing that somehow we had taken the wrong trail, we turned around and headed back to our campsite.  Four miles into our hike, we found ourselves back where we had started and very frustrated.  

Life can be like that.  We think we know where we are going.  We’ve read the directions or people tell us how to get where we want to go.  It seems right, but then at some point we realize we’ve gone the wrong way. Sadly, though, we’ve already traveled a long way down that path.  It may be the career choice that promised a lot of money.  Or a marriage built on shallow interests or unreasonable expectations.  Or a life built on things with no lasting value.  And when we come to that realization, like on my backpacking trip, we can be filled with great frustration, and even despair, at where we have gone wrong.  

When we returned to our campsite, we noticed high above us a trail that we had not seen previously.  That turned out to be the trail we should have taken if we had only looked around and paid closer attention before we set out.  But we had a long day ahead of us and were anxious to get going.  We took the first trail that seemed right to us.  And while we were hiking on the wrong trail, we convinced ourselves it was the right one. We looked at the map, read the trail guide, and identified the markers described as the ones we were seeing.  But reality finally set in and we realized we had gone astray. 

In life, there are many  “guides” and “maps” advising and showing us what paths to take.  And it is very easy to wind up on the wrong path and not know it until we are well along our way.  Parents may be encouraging us to marry a certain person or to pursue a particular career.  Friends may be telling us that the good life is found in alcohol and sex.  Professors may be suggesting a life devotion to a certain area of study is what really matters.  The guidance may seem right and we are anxious to get going. For a while, as we follow the maps they’ve given us, we’re convinced we’re going the right way.  But then there will come a time when the realization sets in that the path we’ve chosen does not bring satisfaction or joy.  

It is only when we are reading the Scriptures and rightly understanding them that we can choose and stay on the right paths in life. For the Word of God exposes dangers and provides the light to see clearly so we can distinguish the right paths from the wrong ones.  And it gives us wisdom when we are receiving advice on which way to go, whether to listen to it or ignore it.  

Today, before you decide on a certain path in life, let the Word of God guide you.  It will light the way and bring clarity to decisions you are making.  Believe me, there is nothing worse than heading out on a path convinced you are going in the right direction, only to realize later you were on the wrong path all along.  

© Jim Musser 2014

Friday, October 3, 2014


“I pray 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 his holy people, and his incomparably great power for us who believe. That power is the same as the mighty strength he exerted when he raised Christ 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 name that is invoked, not only in the present age but also in the one to come.” (Ephesians 1:18-21 NIV)

I went to my office earlier this week to do some administrative stuff, opened my computer, and realized it was very low on power.  I reached into my bag for the charger and it wasn’t there.  It was still plugged in at home.  Moments later, I pack up and head there because my computer needed its power source.  

Almost everything we use in daily life needs power and, thus, a source from which to get it.  In coffee shops and airports, people are constantly looking to sit near outlets so they can plug in their phones and computers. These things can run awhile away from their power source, but within hours we are often scrambling to find a place to plug them in order to recharge them.  

We as humans also need to be recharged often.  Food and sleep are our main sources.  We eat to gain energy and we sleep to give our minds and bodies a chance to rest and recharge.  But we also need to recharge emotionally and spiritually.  Life has a way of exhausting us.  The demands of school, work, relationships, and life circumstances can be very draining.  So how do we recharge?

I think there is only one Source we can plug into to have our energy restored.  Jesus says, “Come to me, all you who are weary, and I will give you rest.” (Matthew 11:28)  Thus, it is Him, through whom all things were created, that has the power to restore us in our times of weakness and weariness.  Paul tells us that through Jesus, we have access to the same power that raised Him from the dead.  Think about that for a moment.  

When we plug into Jesus, we are plugging into the Source that has the power to create life and, when it ends, to breathe new life into it.  No wonder Jesus, during His earthly life, often went away to be alone with the Father! (Luke 5:16)

Too often, when we are weary, we just “veg out” or seek distractions that will take our minds off of things, but these will do little to truly refresh us. Only time with the Source will do that.  But I know what you thinking—spend more time in prayer, which you envision alone in a room with your eyes closed.  

Maybe there are times when that is appropriate, but did you know you can pray with your eyes open and even be in the midst of other activities? Some of my best times with the Lord have been when I have been out hiking on mountain trails, taking in the beautiful vistas, enjoying the peace and quiet of nature, and admiring the intricacies of creation.  He reveals so many things to me in those settings and I never return feeling more tired.  I always feel refreshed.  

So often we picture time with God as just one thing—alone with the Bible, reading and praying in the quietness of our home.  But we can spend time with God walking, driving, hiking, fishing, boating, swimming, running, biking, painting, etc.  The important thing is our focus during any of these is ultimately the Lord—talking with Him, singing Him praises, listening to what He is saying to us, and just admiring all that He has done for us through His creation.

Today, if you are feeling weary and need to be recharged, plug yourself into the Source by getting alone with Him in whatever setting you really enjoy.  There you will find yourself being refreshed and ready to face whatever life has for you.

© Jim Musser 2014

Thursday, October 2, 2014


“Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, ‘Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother or sister who sins against me? Up to seven times?’ Jesus answered, ‘I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times.’” (Matthew 18:21-22 NIV)

It’s been five months since my knee replacement surgery and what my physical therapist said to me two weeks after the surgery was spot on: “You will spend the first month recovering from the surgery.  The rest will be spent recovering from years of walking on a bad joint.”  He went on to explain that the surgery had realigned my joint and muscles into the proper position.  The problem, he said, was that my muscles had long been used to firing from their previous position.  I would now have to retrain them to work properly in their new position.  

And over the past several months, I have learned my leg muscles were not going to go quietly into this new and different way of operating. Initially, they complained loudly and often—during and after every rehab session or workout, during short walks, and always, always at night. Slowly, they have begun to come around and get with the program. Yesterday, my wife and I took a five-mile hike and there was barely a complaint.  But one thing that is becoming apparent is the importance of stretching my hamstrings.  They are giving me the most resistance.  This week I figured out they were the source of my discomfort at night.  While the joint pain had subsided, the pain in my thighs had increased. Stretching, I discovered, lessened the discomfort and has allowed me to get better sleep.  However, stretching is also very uncomfortable.  It feels as if the hamstrings are screaming when I do.  

Like our muscles, we don’t like to be stretched.  In this conversation, Jesus is stretching Peter.  I can just imagine the look on Peter’s face when, thinking he had just impressed Jesus with his magnanimity, Jesus raises the bar ten-fold.  But that is what Peter needed.  He needed to be stretched.  And that was the nature of his, as well as the other disciples’, time with Jesus—they were continually be stretched in their faith and in their views of how God works.  And just as with my muscles, they did not accept the changes quietly.  They complained loud and often.  

I think it is our nature to settle into comfort, into the way we are accustomed to living.  When something or someone comes along to challenge our comfort, we often are unhappy about it.  The reality is, however, for the follower of Jesus, this is the nature of life with Him.  From the moment we make the decision that He will be Lord of our lives, we are in a realigned position, far different than where we’ve been previously.  He must train us how to live from that new position.  And much of that will involve being stretched.  He will ask us to think and to act in ways very foreign to us, such as loving our enemies (Luke 6:35), being just as concerned about others as we are ourselves (Philippians 2:3-4) and forgiving those who repeatedly wrong us.  It will not be easy, but the more we allow Him to stretch us, the easier it will become and the more natural we will find it.

Today, when the Lord begins to stretch you, don’t resist or complain. Know that it is in your best interests.  Though it may be at times uncomfortable, even painful, know He will use it to develop you into the person He created you to be.

© Jim Musser 2014

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Love: More Than a Feeling

“Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.” (I Corinthians 13:4-7 NIV)

I am thinking about love today—love for my wife.  Tomorrow is our wedding anniversary and I am reminded how our journey in marriage has been such a blessing.  It is a unique love story that only God could put together and I am so thankful that He introduced us to one another.

While it has been a blessed and joyful journey, it has not always been easy.  Love seldom is.   So much of the common definition of love is based solely on emotion, but Paul defines it quite differently.  When we read these traits of love, one thing stands out.  Love is not so much expressed through feelings as through actions.  

Love is patient and kind toward an imperfect person whether she seems to deserve it or not, whether you feel like it or not.  Love is not easily angered even when you’ve had a lousy day, week, or year.  Love does not hold onto grudges even when you’ve been clearly wronged or treated badly.  Love doesn’t give up when things get rough and seek someone else.  You hang in there always hoping things will get better.

The love Paul describes is grounded not in feelings, but commitment. Love is easy when we feel like it.  That’s why most marriages start out well because the romantic feelings are fueling it.  But those feelings tend to recede over time as the stuff of life—work, kids, and the ordinariness of routine—becomes dominant.  Then what?  

If you only understand love as a feeling, your marriage will eventually become a struggle because no one can maintain those strong romantic feelings indefinitely.  Love involves commitment and self-sacrifice.  But in that there is much joy because it echoes the love of our Heavenly Father for us.  And it is only through His power that we can truly love someone else.

Today, as you think about the prospect of marriage, the marriage you are now in, or some other relationship, recognize it is not your feelings that fuel it, but your commitment to loving the other person in the same way the Lord has loved you.

© Jim Musser 2014