Saturday, December 24, 2016

A Christmas Reminder

“And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, ‘Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.’

Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying, ‘Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.’” (Luke 2:8-14 NIV)

I grew up watching “A Charlie Brown Christmas,” the Peanuts classic written by famed cartoonist, Charles Schulz.  Schulz was also a committed Christian who occasionally used his comic strip to reveal his religious beliefs.  In his Christmas show, in the final minutes, Schulz unashamedly has Linus recite the passage above, but cleverly inserts something that reveals its true meaning—Linus lets loose of his security blanket.  At the same moment he is saying, “Fear not,” (NIV: “Do not be afraid.”) he drops the blanket.  Now, as any fan of Peanuts knows, Linus was attached to his blanket regardless of the many attempts by the other Peanuts characters to separate him from it.  It is a continuous theme of the strip.  So, the belief is Schulz was being very intentional in this scene to communicate something important, essential really, which is that true security is found in Jesus.

Like so many of us, Linus sought security in something else—his blanket.  We may have long ago put away our blankets and stuffed animals that gave us solace when we were children, but most of us still hold onto security blankets of another sort.  It may be a relationship, a job, a home, our status, or traditions of the past.  Or we may feel our lives are on the edge and are seeking after similar things because we see them as promising security.  Regardless, like Linus, many of us live our lives clinging to that which we feel makes us secure.  

The message of Christmas, the announcement from the heavenly realms, is that the Savior of the world, Immanuel, laid aside His security to come be with us so that we might find true security in Him.  As it was in the 1st Century, so it is still today that men and women seek to assuage their fears from the things of this fallen world.  And, as was true 2000 years ago, so it is today: They always come up short. True security can only come through Jesus. 

In the last scene of “A Charlie Brown Christmas,” Linus lays his blanket at the foot of the Christmas tree. The symbolism should not be missed. The wonderful message the angels brought on the morning of the Savior’s birth is we can be spared the endless, grueling search for security.  No more flailing about to grab hold of whatever we can find. All that is needed is to lay down the “blankets” to which we cling and embrace Jesus instead.  

May this Christmas you find joy in this world because you believe with all of your heart that Jesus reigns and your security is found only in Him. 

© Jim Musser 2016

Friday, December 9, 2016

Hope for as Far as the Curse Is Found

(Author's Note: We've come to the end of our Fall Semester and so, as is my tradition, I will be taking a break along with the students.  We have a rather long break this year, so while the students won't be back until January 17th, I may get back to writing a little sooner.  MAYBE.  Have a very blessed Christmas season and a Happy New Year!  Jim)

“The Spirit of the Sovereign LORD is on me, because the LORD has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor.  He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners, to proclaim the year of the LORD’s favor and the day of vengeance of our God, to comfort all who mourn, and provide for those who grieve in Zion— to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of joy instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair. They will be called oaks of righteousness, a planting of the LORD for the display of his splendor.” (Isaiah 61:1-3 NIV)

In my years in vocational ministry, I have traveled to many parts of the world to assist missionaries in carrying this message to the very people for which it was intended—the poor, the brokenhearted, the prisoners held captive by the darkness.  I have worked with people, young and old, who live in conditions almost beyond imagination and who suffer greatly, who are in the grip of alcoholism or drug addiction, or who worship false gods.  Perhaps for most of us, this is what comes to mind when we think about mission work—going to a faraway place where people are poor and suffering and share with them the Good News. 

Yet, go to almost any city or town in the U.S. and you will find the same. Several years ago, my wife and I, along with several students, assisted a local ministry in a trailer park.  We went from trailer to trailer handing out Christmas gifts.  Many of the people we visited were unemployed, alcoholics or drug abusers, and living in very dilapidated housing.  I have found people in similar circumstances throughout the country as I have taken students on mission trips over spring break, whether it be in urban areas such as Jackson, Mississippi and Philadelphia, or in rural areas such as in Kentucky or on a Native American reservation in Show Low, Arizona.  

The truth is the poor, the brokenhearted, and those held in bondage by the darkness are not far away from us.  This message that Jesus came to proclaim (Luke 4:16-20) is for everyone, both near and far. One may indeed be called by the Lord to take it to a faraway land, but it is just as needed here at home.  As that wonderful Christmas carol, Joy to the World, proclaims, “He comes to make His blessings flow far as the curse is found.”  And it is found throughout the world, including in our own communities.

Today, realize you don’t have to go to the other side of the world to proclaim the wonderful message of Isaiah 61.  There are people very close by who need to hear it.  All they need are people willing to deliver it.

© Jim Musser 2016

Thursday, December 8, 2016

A Soft, Gentle Light

“When Jesus spoke again to the people, he said, ‘I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.’” (John 8:12 NIV)

I am a morning person. I have been for most of my life. I have always liked the quietness and solitude of the early hours of the day. These days when I wake up to a darkened house, one of the first things I do after coming down the stairs is plug in our Christmas tree lights. I love looking at them, as well as the soft glow they cast throughout the first floor of our house.  In the wee hours of the morning, I find them comforting and adding to the peace of the morning.

When Jesus says, “I am the light of the world,” I envision that same soft glow effect as there is in our house this morning.  It is not a glaring or intrusive light, but rather one that illuminates while at the same time drawing our eyes to it.  

Light has the potential to both blind and illuminate, depending on darkness of our surroundings.  The more dark, the less the intensity of the light needed.  A lighted match is sufficient to illuminate a cave, but wouldn’t do much in broad daylight.  But turn on a spotlight in a very dark place and it will blind everyone.

Jesus came into a very dark world—sin reigning and humans separated from their Creator.  He could have come in all His Glory as a spotlight to show how deep and pervasive our sin is.  But we would have been blinded by the intensity of the pure light.  Instead, He came as a light much softer and more gentle.  He came as a human being just like you and I, but because He was God, there was divine light emitting from Him. However, His humanity softened it so that it would be gentle and not piercing, alluring rather than jarring or repulsive.  In a way, like the light in our home this morning.  

This is how I view the message that propels our celebration of Christmas. In the words of the prophet Isaiah: “The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of deep darkness a light has dawned.” (9:2) It is the light that illuminates the darkness and brings comfort and peace. 

Today, as we prepare to celebrate the birth of Jesus, regardless of the state of darkness in your life, know He is the light that can dispense with it, turning your darkness into the hope of dawn, bringing peace and comfort like beautiful Christmas tree light on a cold, dark morning.  

© Jim Musser 2016

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Experiencing Rejection

“Who has believed our message and to whom has the arm of the LORD been revealed?  He grew up before him like a tender shoot, and like a root out of dry ground. 
He had no beauty or majesty to attract us to him, nothing in his appearance that we should desire him.  He was despised and rejected by mankind, a man of suffering, and familiar with pain. 
Like one from whom people hide their faces he was despised, and we held him in low esteem.  Surely he took up our pain and bore our suffering, 
yet we considered him punished by God, stricken by him, and afflicted. 
But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; 
the punishment that brought us peace was on him, and by his wounds we are healed. 
We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to our own way; 
and the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all.” (Isaiah 53:1-6 NIV)

Rejection is a hard thing.  A friend recently shared with my wife how she had mentored a student for several years only to be told her approach didn’t work for her anymore; she was moving on to someone else.  I remember a few years ago, my wife was meeting with a student on a regular basis and then, after the semester break, the student said she was too busy to meet and she basically never saw her again.  And in my many years of ministry, I, too, have tasted the bitterness of rejection by people who didn’t like what I said or how I did things.  I remember one woman, in a church where I served as an elder, would not speak to me because she disagreed with a decision the elders made.  Even after I sought to reconcile with her, she would have nothing to do with me.  

The truth is, a life well lived is going to include rejection along the way. It is part of the falleness of our world.  And this will especially be true if we have chosen to follow Jesus.  Peter warns us (I Peter 2:20-21) that following Him means walking along the path of suffering and, as Isaiah writes, this suffering includes rejection.  

The desire to be accepted and liked is a powerful one.  Yet, the pursuit of acceptance by others can lead us down the road to a compromised life, standing for nothing more than what others desire from us.  The reason Jesus was despised and rejected was because he embodied, and spoke, the truth.  He was only out to please His Father, no one else.  And this, too, is the life to which we are called if we are following Jesus.

Today, remember the One you follow; He, too, was rejected.  Yet, He remained faithful to the will of His Father.  Through His strength, you have the ability to do the same.

© Jim Musser 2016

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

A New Identity

“So from now on we regard no one from a worldly point of view. Though we once regarded Christ in this way, we do so no longer. Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here! All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting people’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation. We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God. God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” (II Corinthians 5:16-21 NIV)

There is a tendency in our world to define ourselves by our troubles or deficiencies.  “I am an alcoholic.” Or drug addict.  “I am a cancer survivor.”  “I am a sexual assault victim.”  “I am OCD (Obsessive Compulsive Disorder).” Or ADD (Attention Deficit Disorder). I especially see this tendency among students, who often view themselves through the lenses of their struggles. As Paul rightly surmises, this is a very worldly point of view that increasingly is becoming normalized among Christians.

As we approach the celebration of Jesus’ moving into our neighborhood, it is good to remind ourselves of the reason He came. He didn’t come to just hang out with us, to make us feel special because someone like Him wanted to associate with people like us.  He didn’t come in an attempt to boost our self-esteem.  And He surely didn’t come to reinforce the idea that we are who we are and we can never change.  Or, as one student put it, we just have to be resigned to “wrestle with our demons.”  No. He came to transform us into new people, to give us full lives (John 10:10). 

But to hear many talk, this isn’t reality.  Rather, they imply we just need to accept we are who we are and deal with it the best we can.  Then the question must be asked, what difference is Jesus to make?  Is He there just to comfort us in our pain and suffering?  Is He merely a heavenly chaplain?  Is He powerless to bring about change within us or in our circumstances?  

From my reading of the Scriptures, this is not the picture of Jesus that I see, and from my own experience, this is not who He is.  What I see and what I’ve experienced is the Jesus that Paul describes to the Corinthians.  He takes people bogged down in sin and shame, overwhelmed by life, unsatisfied and unfulfilled, without meaning, and transforms them into new people, set free and living with a new joy and purpose.  

The reality is sin separates us from God and robs of us the joy He intended for us.  Unlike what the world tells us, this is not normal from the viewpoint of the Lord.  It is an aberration for which He came to correct.  To be blunt, it is a lie from the deepest regions of Hell that there is no hope for us in our current state, which we just have to accept our lives the way they are.  “NO!” comes the cry from the heavenly realms.  There is hope and it is Jesus.  He came that we might be reconciled with God and be transformed into the people He created us to be.  

Today, remember and cling to the hope there is in Jesus. Your identity is found in Him. He does not count your sin against you or define you by it, and neither should you.   

© Jim Musser 2016

Monday, December 5, 2016

Never Omit the Cost

“Large crowds were traveling with Jesus, and turning to them he said: ‘If anyone comes to me and does not hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters—yes, even their own life—such a person cannot be my disciple. And whoever does not carry their cross and follow me cannot be my disciple.

‘Suppose one of you wants to build a tower. Won’t you first sit down and estimate the cost to see if you have enough money to complete it?  For if you lay the foundation and are not able to finish it, everyone who sees it will ridicule you, saying, “This person began to build and wasn’t able to finish.”

‘Or suppose a king is about to go to war against another king. Won’t he first sit down and consider whether he is able with ten thousand men to oppose the one coming against him with twenty thousand? If he is not able, he will send a delegation while the other is still a long way off and will ask for terms of peace. In the same way, those of you who do not give up everything you have cannot be my disciples.’” (Luke 14:25-33 NIV)

It happens almost every year in campus ministry.  A student commits to being a leader for the next school year, and then, sometime during the summer or just as school begins, he backs out of the commitment.  The reasons vary, but usually it involves a lack of a time due to other commitments.  Students are often very excited about being in leadership, but in their exuberance often fail to contemplate the cost in time and energy.  

A similar thing can happen with new believers.  They start out all excited to follow Jesus, but then they fall away.  They aren’t prepared for how difficult it is going to be.  

Often, I think, this is the fault of the church.  We so desperately want people to become followers of Jesus that we try to make it easy for them.  We tell them all they have to do is say the “sinner’s prayer,” or that if they only give their hearts to Jesus every problem will be solved in their lives.  This is not what Jesus told people who were showing interest in following Him.  Instead, He told them it would be a very costly decision and that they should consider carefully before making it.   How costly?  You should be prepared to give up everything in your life—your goals (Luke 9: 59-62), your family (Matthew 10:35-37), and even your very life (Mark 8:35) to follow Jesus.  

This is a steep price and Jesus tells us we should consider carefully whether or not we are willing to pay it.  As He implies in His parables, to make the decision lightly is to risk personal embarrassment and public disgrace for the Lord.   We probably can all think of at least one person who falls into this category.

The cost of being a follower of Jesus is high.  We do no favors to anyone by making it sound easy.  If Jesus felt it important to explain the costs clearly, then we need to as well. 

Today, recognize we serve a Lord who demands our willingness to give up everything to follow Him.  When telling others about Him, you should not omit that fact because He never did.

© Jim Musser 2016

Friday, December 2, 2016


“When Jesus had finished speaking, a Pharisee invited him to eat with him; so he went in and reclined at the table. But the Pharisee was surprised when he noticed that Jesus did not first wash before the meal. Then the Lord said to him, ‘Now then, you Pharisees clean the outside of the cup and dish, but inside you are full of greed and wickedness. You foolish people! Did not the one who made the outside make the inside also? But now as for what is inside you—be generous to the poor, and everything will be clean for you.

‘Woe to you Pharisees, because you give God a tenth of your mint, rue and all other kinds of garden herbs, but you neglect justice and the love of God. You should have practiced the latter without leaving the former undone.

Woe to you Pharisees, because you love the most important seats in the synagogues and respectful greetings in the marketplaces.  Woe to you, because you are like unmarked graves, which people 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 11:37-46 NIV)

Sometimes, we just need a good kick in the rear.  I am not talking about corporal punishment, but rather to be told the truth about ourselves when we would rather live in denial.  This is what Jesus did with the Pharisees and when an expert in the Jewish law took exception, he spoke truth to him as well.  

Jesus was not afraid to offend people.  He didn’t go out of His way to do it, or get some unseemly pleasure from it.  He just spoke the truth, and if people, even His disciples (John 6:60-61), were offended, then so be it.  Truth brings freedom (John 8:32) and He was going to tell it no matter what because He loved people.

I am so grateful for the times in my life where people have confronted me with the truth.  My campus minister pointed out some anger issues in my life when I was in college.   While being totally distraught over a relationship break-up, a seminary professor pointedly asked me if I had truly given the situation over to the Lord.  And not too long ago, the then chairman of my ministry board challenged me on a personal trait that needed some adjustment.  All three of these men spoke the truth to me and I am grateful they did.  I desperately needed to hear it and I consider their truth-telling as acts of love.  

We live in a world where, increasingly, people want to be told what they want to hear even if it is not the truth.  There is a steep price to pay for that—bondage.  If the truth can set us free, then the lack of telling it keeps us in slavery to bad habits, sloppy work, emotional immaturity, etc.  

Today, know the great value of hearing the truth.  If someone is loving enough to tell you the truth, then receive it.  It can set you free from what’s holding you back to become what God created you to be.  

Thursday, December 1, 2016

Making Room in Our Hearts

“Make room for us in your hearts. We have wronged no one, we have corrupted no one, we have exploited no one. I do not say this to condemn you; I have said before that you have such a place in our hearts that we would live or die with you. I have spoken to you with great frankness; I take great pride in you. I am greatly encouraged; in all our troubles my joy knows no bounds.” (II Corinthians 7:2-4 NIV)

Recently, I met with a student who believed (mistakenly) that I was against him and a choice he had made in his life.  As we began to talk, he shared that his heart had begun to harden toward me.  We talked things through and ended up reconciled.

Paul was in a similar place with the Corinthians.  He had written some difficult things to them and their hearts were hardening towards him. That is a natural reaction to people who may say or do things we don’t like.  Yet Paul had a long history with the Corinthian believers.  He asked them to “make room” in their hearts for him.  

Making room is an intentional act that requires extending grace.  We may not fully understand why a person says or does something, but making room for them in our hearts means we extend to them grace, believing their intentions were honorable or that they just made a mistake, hurtful perhaps, but forgivable.  

Far too many relationships become strained or end because we harden our hearts instead of making room in them.  We jump to conclusions, allow our hurt feelings to lead us, and forget the positives that helped nurture the relationship in the first place.  Yet, grace is the hallmark of one who follows Jesus and it must be extended often.

Today, is there someone toward whom you have become hardened?  If so, make room in your heart for them.  Extend to them the same grace the Lord has given you. 

© Jim Musser 2016

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Upgrading Your Spiritual Security

“Therefore Jesus said again, ‘Very truly I tell you, I am the gate for the sheep. All who have come before me are thieves and robbers, but the sheep have not listened to them. I am the gate; whoever enters through me will be saved. They will come in and go out, and find pasture. The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.’” (John 10:7-10 NIV)

Everyday we take actions to prevent ourselves from being victims of thieves and robbers.  In restaurants or stores, women keep a close eye on their purses or handbags.  We lock our front doors, our windows, and our cars.  We have passwords and firewalls.  We live in a world full of thieves and robbers looking for opportunities to steal what does not belong to them.  Thus, we take precautions.  

Jesus tells us of a thief that wants to rob us of more than just our material possessions.  He wants to steal our hope, our joy, and our very souls.  Yet, how many precautions do we take against his schemes? We lock the doors to our apartments or our homes, but how often do we guard ourselves against falling to temptation?  

Working with students I am often amazed at how those in relationships talk about their physical struggles, but then I learn they are spending time on a bed, together, in the dark, watching a movie.  Talk about leaving the door wide open for the thief!  Or those who want to follow Jesus, but still feel it necessary to hang around their friends from their old life.  It’s the equivalent of putting a sign on your car saying, “Please Take This.”  

Satan is a liar and a thief.  Always has been; always will be.  And like a burglar, he is on the prowl looking for victims.  If we only guarded our souls like we daily guard our possessions, he would be much less a threat.  

Today, consider what precautions you are taking.  Is there a need for an upgrade in the spiritual security of your life?  If so, now is the time to make a plan and implement it.  The thief is working the neighborhood.

© Jim Musser 2016

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Why Do You Call Him Lord?

“Why do you call me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ and do not do what I say? As for everyone who comes to me and hears my words and puts them into practice, I will show you what they are like. They are like a man building a house, who dug down deep and laid the foundation on rock. When a flood came, the torrent struck that house but could not shake it, because it was well built. But the one who hears my words and does not put them into practice is like a man who built a house on the ground without a foundation. The moment the torrent struck that house, it collapsed and its destruction was complete.” (Luke 6:46-49 NIV)

It is a simple question intended for all of us who claim Jesus as our Lord.  If it is true what we say, that Jesus is our Lord, then why don’t we do what He tells us to do?  Most of us would likely answer it’s because we are sinners.  This is obviously true, but I think that is the easy answer and a means of protecting our pride.  Our tendency toward sin becomes an easy excuse, but ignores another truth.

A complete reading of the Scriptures reveals the Lord desires us to submit to Him and follow Him.  But it is our choice.  Despite what people often think, God is far from overbearing.  While He has the power to force us into submission, He chooses not to do so, at least until the end of time. He has given us a free will to follow Him or not.  It is up to us to choose.

And like those in Jesus’ day, many of us want to have it both ways.  We want to claim Jesus as Lord and still do as we please.  But Jesus sees the hypocrisy in that and asks the obvious question: “Why do you call me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ and do not do what I say?” For isn’t that the definition of “Lord,” that submission is given to one with such a title, that obedience to such a person is understood?

What the people of Jesus’ day had done, and what we do as well, is make “Lord” a title for Jesus without the requisite obligations that come with it.  We want to claim Jesus as Lord of our lives without actually submitting to Him.  We want to live our lives as we please, but then pretend He has a central role in them. We would rather He serve us than we serve Him.

Think about it.  Do we really want to submit our future to Him?  If you are single, are you willing to submit to the Lord even if it means you might never marry?  Are you willing to submit your vocation to Him even if it means doing something very different than you have planned?  

And what about the present?  Are you willing to forgive and reconcile with someone who has caused you pain?  Are you willing to change your lifestyle to a manner more pleasing to the Lord?

And what about the past?  Are you willing to forgive as the Lord has forgiven you—both yourself and others?  

The truth that Jesus laid bare is we so often want to do what we want regardless of what He says.  We want our way more than His.  We can call Him “Lord,” but the truth of that is borne out by how we live in submission to Him.

Today, if you call Jesus “Lord,” is it more than a mere title.  Are you living in submission to His will?  If He is truly your Lord, then you will seek to do what He says to do.  You may not always succeed, but there will be no question of your desire to do so.

© Jim Musser 2016

Monday, November 28, 2016

The Danger of Greed

“Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry.” (Colossians 3:5 NIV)

Sadly, it happens every year on Black Friday.  People are killed or injured during the annual shopping day.  According to, in the last 10 years there have been nine deaths and 102 injuries directly involving Black Friday shoppers. People have been shot, trampled, stabbed, beaten, pepper-sprayed, and hit by cars while seeking the year’s best bargains. 

Jesus warns us to be on our guard against greed because life consists of more than just what we can possess.  And Paul identifies greed for what it is—idolatry.  We in the West usually view idolatry as something practiced in ancient times or in primitive cultures.  We picture idols as wooden or bronze statues residing in temples to which people bring offerings and bow down in worship.  We don’t typically view ourselves as in danger of practicing idolatry.

But I can’t help get the image of idolatry out of my mind when I view videos from Black Friday.  People camped out in front of large buildings containing items they desperately want, rushing through the doors to grab them, and then paying out hundreds of dollars to own them.  

But this is not limited to Black Friday.  Think of every time a new iPhone is released.  People line up by the thousands all across the country in order to be one of the first to own them.  It is not much of a stretch to overlay these images on those of idol worshippers in line at their temples.

I think Paul added “which is idolatry” to draw our attention to the great danger of greed.  An idol is something to which we give great value and worship.  But the Lord warns us, “You will have no other gods before me.” (Exodus 20:3) 

You may not consider yourself an idolater, but if greed has captured your heart in any form, then you are guilty of idolatry.  Today, examine yourself to ensure that you worship the Creator rather than the created. For your life consists of more than you can possess.  

© Jim Musser 2016

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

My Thanksgiving List

(Author's Note: Tomorrow we begin our Thanksgiving Break, so I will be taking a break as well.  WftW will return on November 28th.  May you have a very blessed Thanksgiving holiday!  Jim)

“Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” (I Thessalonians 5:16-18 NIV)

As we approach our national day of Thanksgiving on Thursday, here is a partial list of the things for which I am thankful on a continual basis:

*The grace and mercy of Jesus, who loves me and saves me despite my sin.

*My wife of 11 years, a woman of faith beyond what I could have asked or imagined, and far more than I deserve.

*My vocation, to which He surprisingly called me more than 30 years ago and through which He has blessed me abundantly.

*Our home, in which we moved two years ago this week.  What a blessing it has been as an outlet for our gifts of hospitality, hosting many a stranger and friends alike, and as a gathering place and second home for many students.  

*Shelter, food, and clothing. In a wealthy nation such as ours, it is easy to take these for granted, but in reality they are blessings from above.

*Good health.  Even as I approach the fringes of old age, I feel as though I’m still 30, but with a lot more wisdom.  Another blessing from above!

*Good friendships, both those of many decades and those of just a few years.  

*The beauty of the place in which we live.  Every day we have the privilege of seeing beautiful mountains, forests, and streams, which people drive for hours to see.

*Our nation, which is far from perfect, but still provides us with so much for which we can take for granted—freedom of speech, freedom of religion, decent roads, effective local governments where trash is picked up, electricity and water are reliable, mail is delivered in a timely fashion, and elections are fair.

*The firefighters, police officers, and emergency workers willing to put their lives at risk for the sake of others.

Remember, being thankful is one way to fulfill God’s will in your life. Today, what is on your thanksgiving list?

© Jim Musser 2016

Monday, November 21, 2016

Being a Shining Light

“Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.” (Philippians 4:4-9 NIV)

As our pastor read this passage yesterday, it stood out to me as something very appropriate for the time we are living in right now.  So let’s take a closer look.

“Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!”  Always. Not occasionally.  Not sometimes. Not when we’re feeling good or the circumstances of our lives are just right. Always. No matter what is going on. 

It is always helpful to know the context of Scripture and this is no exception.  At the time he was writing, Paul was in a Roman dungeon, chained to a Roman guard. Not the most idyllic situation. Yet, he is encouraging his fellow believers, who were also being persecuted, and us to rejoice, not in our circumstances, but in the Lord.  

“Let your gentleness be evident to all.”  With the advent of social media, coarseness in our conversations and the way in which we relate to others is in and gentleness is out.  The command here is to be intentionally gentle.  If it is to be evident, it must be demonstrated.  Paul is calling us to intentionally be different.  He may be echoing his command to the Thessalonians not to “quench the Spirit,” but to allow Him to produce His fruit, of which gentleness is one, within us.

“Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.”  Again, imagine the context in which Paul is writing.  He has plenty about which to be anxious.  But he eschews the “go it alone” approach.  He leans on the Lord.  And he focuses on what blessings he’s been given, not on what he is currently lacking.  

“And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”  What transpires when we rejoice regardless of our circumstances, when we allow the Spirit to have His way with us, when we continually lean on the Lord amidst the circumstances of our lives, and are always mindful of how God has blessed us?  There will be a peace in our lives that is unexplainable and totally irrational.  This was true of Paul if we look at his situation.  How in the world could he have such a positive and content attitude while imprisoned in a Roman jail?  It makes no sense, but is such a tremendous witness to the power of God.

Today, recognize the world is desperate for such a witness.  We are living in times of great upheaval and uncertainty.  People are fearful, angry, and discouraged.  There is a strong need for a counterbalance in attitude.  Will you bring that to your campus, in your workplace, among your friends and family?  I think this is what Jesus had in mind when He said, “Let your light shine before others.” 

© Jim Musser 2016

Friday, November 18, 2016


“As Jesus and his disciples were on their way, he came to a village where a woman named Martha opened her home to him. She had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet listening to what he said. But Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made. She came to him and asked, ‘Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!’

‘Martha, Martha,’ the Lord answered, ‘you are worried and upset about many things, but few things are needed—or indeed only one. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.’” (Luke 10:38-42 NIV)

This is a short story and it appears only in Luke’s gospel, but it is a must read for every member of a task-oriented culture.  Jesus has come to visit the sisters of his good friend, Lazarus.  Martha, being very aware of the cultural practice of hospitality, is busy preparing a meal for this special guest.  However, she becomes increasingly frustrated at her sister for not helping with the preparations.  Instead, Mary is hanging out in the living room listening to Jesus.  Finally, Martha can take it no longer, and in a breach of Jewish etiquette, implores Jesus to scold Mary for her laziness.

I once knew a woman who would invite people to her home for a meal, but would spend the whole time preparing the meal and then cleaning up.  She barely spent any time with the guests she had invited into her home.   She was keen on hospitality, but then missed the essence of it. I think this was Jesus’ point to Martha.  When we get so focused on the task that we miss the people involved, we have missed the point entirely.  Here was the Son of God in the living room and Martha thought it more important to be in the kitchen.

It is easy to look at her and be critical, but how often do we do the same?  How often do the tasks at hand overshadow the people in our lives, whether it be a spouse, our children, friends, people in need, or the Lord Himself?  It is so easy to get distracted from what is truly important.  What Jesus told Martha boils down to priorities.  He didn’t criticize her for wanting to prepare a meal, but rather her failure to recognize the unique opportunity before her to spend time with Him.

There will always be tasks to complete, but what this story illustrates for us is those tasks can, at times, distract us from focusing on the people in our lives.   As you go about your day, remember the story of Mary and Martha.  You may have a lot to do, but don’t allow those tasks to distract you from more important opportunities that may come your way.  
© Jim Musser 2016

Thursday, November 17, 2016

A Culture of Distrust

“They came back to Moses and Aaron and the whole Israelite community at Kadesh in the Desert of Paran. There they reported to them and to the whole assembly and showed them the fruit of the land. They gave Moses this account: ‘We went into the land to which you sent us, and it does flow with milk and honey! Here is its fruit. But the people who live there are powerful, and the cities are fortified and very large. We even saw descendants of Anak there. The Amalekites live in the Negev; the Hittites, Jebusites and Amorites live in the hill country; and the Canaanites live near the sea and along the Jordan.’

Then Caleb silenced the people before Moses and said, ‘We should go up and take possession of the land, for we can certainly do it.’

But the men who had gone up with him said, ‘We can’t attack those people; they are stronger than we are.’ And they spread among the Israelites a bad report about the land they had explored. They said, ‘The land we explored devours those living in it. All the people we saw there are of great size. We saw the Nephilim there (the descendants of Anak come from the Nephilim). We seemed like grasshoppers in our own eyes, and we looked the same to them.’” (Numbers 13:26-33 NIV)

The Lord had promised the Israelites to give them the land of Canaan. Now He told them to assemble a reconnaissance team to enter the Promised Land.  When they returned, the consensus was the obstacles were too great for them to enter.  The people were too big, too strong, and too many.  The conclusion was attempting to occupy the new land would be suicidal.  

This reflected a cultural distrust that had long existed among the Israelites.  Countless times since their God-led escape from Egypt, they had questioned His wisdom and ability as He led them on this journey. Only a very small minority had trusted the Lord throughout, and one of those was Caleb.  His was the only voice raised to object to the pessimistic findings of the team. “We should go up and take possession of the land, for we can certainly do it,” he confidently proclaimed. However, they would have none of this wistful thinking.  They understood the realities on the ground and would not listen to such foolishness.

As I look at Christians today in our culture, I see many similarities with the Israelites.  On campus right now, students are in their final weeks of the semester and most are stressed out and worried about their projects and exams.  I try to remind students that worrying is actually a sin and that they should hand over their anxieties to the Lord, but it usually has little effect because all around them their brothers and sisters in the Lord are stressed and worried. It is the culture in which they live and they are carried away by it.

It is a similar culture in the adult world.  We live by sight rather than by faith in the God who always keeps His promises.  It is a culture of distrust.  

This is what Caleb faced and we face it, too.  The vast majority does not trust God.  What they say and how they live provides the evidence for that.  They worry about money, the future, the present, the past; they avoid an intimate relationship with the Lord for fear of what He might ask them to do; they think prayer often is an excuse for not taking “real” action; they fear suffering and death so take whatever steps to avoid either; they fear being outcasts so do everything to fit in.  In sum, they live in distrust of God and rely rather on themselves.

Even in the face of “reality,” Caleb held fast to the promise of God.  He had promised them possession of Canaan; thus, He would deliver no matter how impossible or impractical it seemed.  He went against his culture and was rewarded for it.

Today, consider our culture’s effect on your walk with the Lord.  Are you living boldly by faith, following Him wherever He leads you, being obedient to His commands no matter how difficult or impractical they seem to be? Or are you allowing the culture of distrust to influence you, to where, while claiming faith, you are relying on yourself rather than God?  Caleb has given all of us an example to follow.  We would be wise to do so.

© Jim Musser 2016

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Coffee Grounds Faith

“To the angel of the church in Laodicea write: These are the words of the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the ruler of God’s creation. I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either one or the other! So, because you are lukewarm—neither hot nor cold—I am about to spit you out of my mouth. You say, ‘I am rich; I have acquired wealth and do not need a thing.’ But you do not realize that you are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked. I counsel you to buy from me gold refined in the fire, so you can become rich; and white clothes to wear, so you can cover your shameful nakedness; and salve to put on your eyes, so you can see.

Those whom I love I rebuke and discipline. So be earnest and repent. Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with that person, and they with me.” (Revelation 3:14-20 NIV)

Yesterday, I was sitting in my office working and enjoying a cup of coffee from my favorite coffee shop in town.  I lifted my cup to savor the last bit that was left.  Suddenly, I found myself literally spitting it back into the cup.  Unbeknownst to me, coffee grounds were sitting at the bottom and, in that last sip, I had sucked them into my mouth.  It was a disgusting experience.  And it gave me an even greater understanding of what Jesus was telling the Laodicean church.

The people in the church were completely satisfied with their lives. Obviously, they were participating in church gatherings and must have believed they were in good standing with the Lord.  Yet, He called them lukewarm and said that though they thought they were rich, in fact they were “wretched, pitiful, poor, blind, and naked.”  Not exactly a ringing endorsement and not likely what they expected to hear.  

It was a divine wake-up call they needed to hear and so do we.  It is so easy, as the Apostle Paul implies, to think of ourselves more highly than we ought. (Romans 12:3)  We grow satisfied with where we are in our lives and with the Lord.  Where we once were “hot” for the Lord, we may have grown lukewarm.  And like those coffee grounds in my mouth, Jesus finds lukewarmness disgusting.  So much so, He would rather us be rejecting Him than tepidly following Him!  

This smacks dead in the face of our often “better than nothing” approach.  At least we are in church every Sunday.  At least we aren’t doing THOSE things.  At least we are giving some money to the poor. Jesus finds this approach disgusting.  What He wants is not half-hearted efforts, but humbled and fully committed people.  Just like I want to be drinking the coffee and not the leftover grounds.

Today, know the Lord loves you and this is why He is warning you.  Are you lukewarm in your faith?  Then it is time for a change of heart only He can give.  He is waiting and knocking.  Will you humble yourself and let Him in?

© Jim Musser 2016

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

The Need for Prayer

“I urge, then, first of all, that petitions, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for all people— for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness. This is good, and pleases God our Savior, who wants all people to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth.” (I Timothy 2:1-4 NIV)

We have heard for years how polarized America is becoming and, for many, this was borne out by the election of Donald Trump last week.  To many, this is one of history’s greatest catastrophes; too others it is an act of God.  From either perspective, or one that is leaning in one direction or the other, I sense there is little understanding of this counsel Paul is giving Timothy.

I can imagine the vitriol one would receive on social media if it were suggested we pray for President-elect Trump.  “No!” I imagine the response, “his election is illegitimate and we need to oppose him at every turn!”  I can also easily imagine the same if it were suggested to pray earnestly for those protesting in the streets, those calling Trump supporters racists, bigots, and xenophobes, and those who sincerely believe half the country has lost its mind.  “They should stop whining, shut up, and go home.  They lost!”

The context of Paul’s counsel is crucial.  Followers of Jesus were being routinely persecuted. They were distrusted, considered extreme and even delusional, and were outcasts in Roman society.  And at the highest levels of the Roman Empire, they were viewed as enemies of Roman rule.  Yet, Paul urges believers to pray for those who are their accusers and persecutors.  

I wonder how many believers on either side of the presidential election are committing themselves to diligent prayer for those on the other side?  If you voted for Trump, are you praying in earnest for those who may consider you any number of things that are far from flattering?  If you view Trump’s election as a horrid thing, are you praying in earnest for those who see it differently?  Honestly, I doubt it.  And the reason is it is just too easy to dig ourselves in and reinforce our own self-righteousness.  Our enemies serve as our justification for just how right we are, so we spend our energy promoting that because it serves our self-interest.  

However, loving our enemies and praying for those who persecute us demands a humility that is hard for us to swallow. For it is in the face of our enemies that our self-righteousness most strongly rears its ugly head.  Because we see ourselves being right compared to our enemies, we tend to forget our own fallenness.  Jesus and Paul, through their teachings, call us back to reality.  God loves everyone and Jesus gave His life for everyone, not just the good people.  Thus, we are called to love our enemies because God loves them, and praying for them is an expression of love.  

Today, regardless of your view of the our President-elect and the people who are for or against him, recognize as a follower of Jesus you are called to be praying earnestly for those you may consider your enemies. The truth is, He loves them just as much as He loves you.  And just maybe, your prayers and those of others will have a calming effect on our nation as a whole.

© Jim Musser 2016

Monday, November 14, 2016

Pushing on Through

“Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.” (Hebrews 12:1-3 NIV)

To be honest, I didn’t really want to write this morning.  I felt weary and a little discouraged.  The motivation was just not there and I was tempted to take the easy way out—dig into my archives and pull out a gem from the past.  It would be easy and you readers would likely never know. 

That is what weariness and discouragement can do to us.  We start to cut corners or give up altogether when the motivation and enthusiasm are lacking.  It is easy to do and easy to rationalize.  Probably one of the most overused terms in recent times is “burnout.”  People tend to apply it quite liberally as an excuse for not following through on responsibilities or just not having much enthusiasm.  While there are legitimate cases of burnout, where rest and pulling back from responsibilities are necessary, much of what people describe as burnout is just the normal grind of life in a fallen world.  

Life is hard and, sometimes, we just need to accept this fact and push on through it.  I didn’t want to write today, but that is what I have committed to do and so I am pushing through my own internal resistance to do it.  And what helped to motivate me was this passage.  

Life indeed was hard for the early followers of Jesus.  They were persecuted and often killed as a result of their faith.  The Hebrew writer sought to encourage them not to give up or give in and renounce their faith.  He reminded them of the believers before them who had endured much the same, and then he pointed them to Jesus.  He told them to fix their eyes on Him in the midst of all their struggles.  He had endured much, but was victorious in the end.

Jesus never gave up, never got burned out.  He can be our source of strength and encouragement to continue to push through when we grow weary.  Today, if you, like me, are feeling weary and discouraged, don’t give in to the temptation of cutting corners or giving up.  Fix your eyes on Jesus and push on through.

© Jim Musser 2016

Friday, November 11, 2016

Too Slow and Too Quick

“My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, because human anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires.” (James 1:19-20 NIV)

My wife decided shortly after being on Facebook Wednesday to go “off the grid” because she didn’t want to read all the nasty things that were being written—nasty things about Donald Trump, about Democrats, about Republicans, and about America.  I don’t blame her.  It’s a very caustic world in social media and it has been for a long time.  

I have witnessed things being written by people I know which I am fairly confident would never be said in the same rude and hostile manner if the other person were sitting on the other side of the table.  Social media seems to have made us comfortable to say things in ways we would unlikely say them if we were face to face with people.  

It has been clear for years that people are angry about many things and social media has served as an outlet for that anger, but at a tremendous cost, particularly for the Church.  Too many Christians have joined the social media fray and used it to voice their anger at the culture, whether they think it is unjust and marginalizing or casting aside long-observed biblical truths.  Sometimes it seems Christians on social media are like a circling firing squad.

Reading this command clearly demonstrates how many of us have turned it on its head.  We are too slow to listen, but very quick to speak and become angry. This, of course, is not new.  If it were, James would have had no reason to give the command.  However, social media has had a steroidal impact on our bent to let our tongue and emotions lead us.  

This is the way of the culture, but following Jesus has always been and always will be counter-cultural.  Once again, Jesus is the anchor that keeps us moored and from being carried away by the currents of any society, and Scripture reveals the particulars of what that looks like.  It is amazing to me how practical the Scriptures really are and this directive in James is just one example.  Following Jesus is not just about what we believe; it is also about how we conduct ourselves on a daily basis in all types of situations.  And this includes how we interact on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc.  

Today, consider how you can live out this command in James.  What does it mean for your interaction with people, particularly on social media?  It is a question we all should be asking, especially this week.

© Jim Musser 2016

Thursday, November 10, 2016

Self Talk

“As the deer pants for streams of water, so my soul pants for you, my God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. When can I go and meet with God? My tears have been my food day and night, while people say to me all day long, ‘Where is your God?’

These things I remember as I pour out my soul: how I used to go to the house of God under the protection of the Mighty One with shouts of joy and praise among the festive throng. Why, my soul, are you downcast? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God.

My soul is downcast within me; therefore I will remember you from the land of the Jordan, the heights of Hermon—from Mount Mizar. Deep calls to deep in the roar of your waterfalls; all your waves and breakers have swept over me. By day the Lord directs his love, at night his song is with me—a prayer to the God of my life. I say to God my Rock, ‘Why have you forgotten me? Why must I go about mourning, oppressed by the enemy?’ My bones suffer mortal agony as my foes taunt me, saying to me all day long, ‘Where is your God?’

Why, my soul, are you downcast? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God.” (Psalm 42 NIV)

As I periodically checked social media yesterday in the wake of a surprising, and for many, an unimaginable presidential election result, few in my feeds were happy to say the least.  Several wrote they were grieving or in mourning.  Some were very angry. Many were perplexed about the state of the country.  I also came across several antagonistic comment discussions.  Let’s just say the mood of many was grim.

I spend a lot of time talking with students who are struggling with a variety of things.  Often my counsel is to do a little self-talk to help work through things.  I have practiced this for years and have found it helpful, although more than once I’m sure people have thought I was a bit “off” hearing me when I thought no one could.  What can I say?  I’m a verbal processor!  

In fact, it seems, so was David.  This Psalm is a fine example of self-talk.  David is very distraught—crying, in fact.  It seems to him that everybody is against him.  He has enemies all around.  He is in a very dark place.  He is not feeling hopeful in spite of his faith in God. Circumstances have overwhelmed any confidence he had.  In desperation, he cries out to God.  However, as for many of us, the Lord doesn’t immediately respond and comfort us.  Instead, there is silence.  

So David begins to talk to himself.  He recalls the gladness He once had in the presence of the Lord and His people, and wonders how he could be so distraught when he once had such joy.  He knows the answer: God.  So he tells himself to put his hope in God even when things currently feel hopeless.

But, this is no easy fix.  It doesn’t take immediately. Through the rest of the Psalm, David struggles with being convinced.  But, and this is the key, he doesn’t give up.  At the core of his being, he knows the Lord is the answer to his problem.  In a place of darkness and hopelessness, he knows God is the one who can lead him back into the light and restore his hope.  

If you are finding yourself despondent over this week’s election results, know there will be forces seeking to keep you there. But remember, like David, your hope is not based on your immediate circumstances or the seemingly bleak prospects for the future.  Your hope is in God, who is faithful and trustworthy.  

Today, remind yourself of that, saying it aloud if you must, and many times over if that is what it takes.  It may seem weird, but David found it helpful and he was a man after God’s own heart.

© Jim Musser 2016

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

What Comes Next

“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 5:43-48 NIV)

We woke up this morning with a new President-Elect.  As the closeness of the election indicated, nearly half of our country is terribly disappointed and the other half is at least satisfied and many jubilant. And if my social media feeds have been any indication, there are many Christians on both sides.  So what now?

Really there is only one response: We love one another even if we disagree with each other.  And we love our new President whether we agree or disagree with him.  This is why the way of Jesus is narrow and few take it because it demands us to die to ourselves, to put to death our base instincts, and to let go of our sense of fairness.  If people hate us, we are commanded to love them anyway.  If we associate with only those who share a similar viewpoint, then we are no better than those we consider our enemies because similar associations are easy and lived out by all.  

Loving our neighbor, according to Jesus, goes far beyond whether we like the person or agree with them.  God blesses both the righteous and unrighteous, those who are His friends and those who are His enemies. In other words, the Lord has set the example for us.

So moving forward after such a contentious election season, our response needs to be one of graciousness to one another.  There is likely to be much antagonism in the coming days and beyond. Followers of Jesus need to set the example of loving those with whom we disagree.  We don’t need to condemn or disparage each other. 

As we begin a transition in our government and, perhaps, in our country, let’s keep in the front of our minds that the Lord expects us to love each other regardless of our political beliefs.  It may not be easy, but Jesus never promised it would be. 

© Jim Musser 2016

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

A Price We Cannot Pay

“So, my brothers and sisters, you also died to the law through the body of Christ, that you might belong to another, to him who was raised from the dead, in order that we might bear fruit for God. For when we were in the realm of the flesh, the sinful passions aroused by the law were at work in us, so that we bore fruit for death. But now, by dying to what once bound us, we have been released from the law so that we serve in the new way of the Spirit, and not in the old way of the written code.” (Romans 7:4-6 NIV)

Over the years I’ve worked with students on campus, there is a theme that remains constant among those who consider themselves good or bad and are thinking about eternal things—they have to earn their way. Some consider themselves Christians, while others identify with other religions or consider themselves “spiritual.”  Regardless, all have a religious mindset that is nothing new.

All god-based religions ever devised have one thing in common—you have to earn your way into the favor of the Deity.  In Hinduism, one has to live many lives to eventually reach Nirvana.  In Buddhism, it is similar. One’s Karma is made of actions, good and bad, and those actions determine one’s destiny.  And in Islam, a divine scale will be waiting adherents to weigh their good deeds and bad.  If the scale falls toward good, then heaven awaits; if towards evil, then eternal punishment.  

When God presented the Law to the Israelites, it was not meant to be a way to earn salvation, but as a lesson about how, on our own, we can never live up to God’s expectations.  Instead, it was meant to lead us to Jesus. (Galatians 3:24)  Sadly, the vast majority has chosen to hold onto the Law, whether Judaic or some other legalistic system.  There seems to be an innate need to earn one’s way rather than to accept a free gift of eternal life.  It was true in the 1st Century as Jesus walked the earth and it has continued for the past 2000 years. Yet, the Scriptures say that all of us have sinned and fall short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23). And Jesus said there is no other way to God than through Him (John 14:6).  In other words, there is no way to earn our way.

Yet, so many continue to attempt it or, at least, think that’s what they need to do.  In many ways, it’s admirable and that is probably its attraction.  We always feel better when we earn something.   But the truth is, eternal life is not something we can earn.  The price, a perfect life, is beyond our ability to pay for it.  

Today, recognize earning God’s favor by our own efforts is an old and failed way of living.  Instead, know that in Christ you have been released from the old way and now serve in the way of the Spirit, not out of hope of earning God’s favor but out of gratitude for His wonderful love.

© Jim Musser 2016

Monday, November 7, 2016

The Danger of Good Intentions

“From that time on Jesus began to explain to his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things at the hands of the elders, the chief priests and the teachers of the law, and that he must be killed and on the third day be raised to life.

Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him. ‘Never, Lord!” he said. ‘This shall never happen to you!’

Jesus turned and said to Peter, ‘Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to me; you do not have in mind the concerns of God, but merely human concerns.’” (Matthew 16:21-23 NIV)

Peter had good intentions.  His Lord was talking about suffering and dying and, of course, this was a terrible thing in Peter’s mind.  He believed Jesus to be the Messiah.  He had His best interests in mind when he rebuked Him, but his intentions were based on ignorance.  He didn’t have a full understanding of what the future held.  Imagine if Peter had gotten his way and Jesus decided not to go forward with His sacrifice.  I would not be writing this and you wouldn’t be reading it.  We all would still be carrying the weight and consequence of our sin.  We would be without hope.

Good intentions can often lead to unforeseen, and negative, consequences.  The church growth movement of the 1980’s desired to grow the numbers of people attending church.  It emphasized that people like to associate with others like themselves.  The result?  The unintended segregation of churches along socio-economic and racial lines.  The late Jerry Falwell started “The Moral Majority” in the late 1970’s out of concern of the moral decline of the nation.  He was right to be concerned, but the unintended effect was to convince many believers morality could be legislated and transformation could be achieved through power rather than love.  The 1970’s Christian musicians who began the Contemporary Christian Music movement had the intent of creating music that was easier to sing and more appealing to ears of young people who were rejecting most hymns as “old-fashion.”  The result over the past 40 years is an increasing emphasis on performance-based songs, which are written for professional quality voices and can be properly sung by fewer and fewer people. The gathering of worshippers in many churches has more the feel of a concert these days.  And one last example is today’s desire by many church leaders to destroy the stereotype of Christians by the culture at large as “haters.”  As the culture has become increasingly accepting of behavior once considered sin as normal, they have sought to emphasize grace over judgment.  The unintended consequence of this, however, is the jettisoning of repentance from Christian doctrine, something Paul warned about in Romans 6:1-2.  

Imagine Peter in the years after Christ’s Ascension thinking of his earlier rebuke of Jesus.  I can see him shaking his head in relief that what he so strongly thought was right never came to pass.  He now clearly understood what Jesus had in mind.  In the same way, we can more clearly understand God’s plans and will when we consult His Word and let it speak to us rather than bringing our limited understanding and seeking to find verses to support and justify it.  We may have, like Peter, good intentions, but the consequences may have very bad and unintended consequences.

Today, realize the more you know and understand the Scriptures, the less likely it is you will fall into the same trap as Peter or any modern-day equivalents.  Your good intentions need to be well informed, or what you intended for good may result in just the opposite.

© Jim Musser 2016