Tuesday, January 31, 2017

A Spirit of Fear

“For this reason I remind you to fan into flame the gift of God, which is in you through the laying on of my hands. For the Spirit God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power, love and self-discipline. So do not be ashamed of the testimony about our Lord or of me his prisoner. Rather, join with me in suffering for the gospel, by the power of God. He has saved us and called us to a holy life—not because of anything we have done but because of his own purpose and grace. This grace was given us in Christ Jesus before the beginning of time, but it has now been revealed through the appearing of our Savior, Christ Jesus, who has destroyed death and has brought life and immortality to light through the gospel.  And of this gospel I was appointed a herald and an apostle and a teacher. That is why I am suffering as I am. Yet this is no cause for shame, because I know whom I have believed, and am convinced that he is able to guard what I have entrusted to him until that day.” (II Timothy 1:6-12 NIV)

I was on campus the other day talking with some students and the subject turned to going overseas.  One student said he would like to study abroad, but his mom nixed the idea because she was afraid, as an American, he would be in danger.  Another student said the mere mention of a friend going to Mexico caused her grandfather to say, “you won’t be going there.”

Within our culture there is a growing spirit of fear.  Children are often not allowed to play outside because of fear they will be kidnapped.  Going anywhere overseas is deemed dangerous because of the threat of terrorism.  And I heard recently of one college student who was required by her mother to call every night before she went to bed, just so she would know her daughter was safe.  

In my position ministering to college students, I have had to deal with parental fears quite often.  Many times I have talked with parents who are afraid to let their children go on a mission trip.  They want assurance their children will be safe.  I tell them I will do my best, but that I cannot guarantee their safety.  

This kind of hyper-protectiveness emanates from the spirit of fear, but fear is not from the Lord.  Paul tells Timothy the spirit we are given through the Lord is one, not of fear or timidity, but of power.  When called by the Lord, we don’t shrink; instead we grow bold!  And we can do so because of great confidence that the Lord will guard our lives until the day He calls us home.  As Jesus said, “For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will find it.” (Matthew 16:25)

Today, ask the Lord to give you His Spirit to replace that spirit of fear.  For He has promised to guard your life and wants you to live it in a way that is bold and courageous.

© Jim Musser 2017

Monday, January 30, 2017

Finding Calm in Turbulent Waters

“God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea, though its waters roar and foam and the mountains quake with their surging. There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God, the holy place where the Most High dwells. God is within her, she will not fall; God will help her at break of day.

Nations are in uproar, kingdoms fall; he lifts his voice, the earth melts. The Lord Almighty is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress. Come and see what the Lord has done, the desolations he has brought on the earth. He makes wars cease to the ends of the earth. He breaks the bow and shatters the spear; he burns the shields with fire.

He says, ‘Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.’ The Lord Almighty is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress.” (Psalm 46 NIV)

I don’t know about you, but the last few days—okay, I’ll be honest and say, for me, the last 18 months—have been full of political and, thus, social media turmoil.  From the headlines, the opinion pieces, the social media posts, and some face-to-face discussions, it just has become so burdensome and draining.  And there is no indication that it is going to get better anytime soon.  

It is the nature of this fallen world to get sucked into the tumult of life, and, so, become overwhelmed by it.  We can feel as if we are drowning, the current pulling us under, and our lungs starving for air.  The source can be personal, political, or both.  I don’t know the particular circumstances of the Psalmist as he wrote these words, but I think we can all take comfort and courage from them.

From the beginning, like a sailor searching for a fixed point by which to navigate, he focuses in on this truth: “God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble.” It is to Him we turn and to Him we cling. By doing so, we find our course and are no longer adrift and at the mercy of turbulent waters.  

And he paints a picture of calmness in the midst of chaos—the direct result of a fixed gaze on the One who is solid and unmovable, the very same One on whom our brothers and sisters have looked down through history. (Hebrews 12:1-3)

Today, in the midst of these tumultuous times, if you feel overwhelmed and burdened, let the Psalmist be your guide in finding the peace that passes all understanding. 

© Jim Musser 2017

Friday, January 27, 2017

Appreciating God's Love

“He was in the world, and though the world was made through him, the world did not recognize him.  He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him. Yet to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God—children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband's will, but born of God.” (John 1:10-13 NIV)

I was waiting to get my haircut the other day when a woman walked in and up to another man seated across from me.  He was reading a magazine and, as she was talking to him, never looked up at her.  She bent down and gave him a kiss on the cheek and walked out.  His gaze remained fixed on the magazine.  Though I didn’t know the nature of their relationship, I felt sorry for the woman.  She seemed to care about this man and he barely acknowledged her.  I could imagine the hurt she felt as she walked out the door, her love completely unappreciated.

We have probably all had that sinking feeling at some time in our lives when our love or care for a person is ignored or rejected.  It cuts to the core because we offered something very dear to us-ourselves-and we were turned away.

As I sat in the chair and watched the exchange between that woman and man, I thought about how easy it is to treat God in the same way.  He dotes on us, tells us how much He loves us, and, too often, we fail to show our appreciation.  We get so focused in on our little worlds that we ignore Him.  

Genesis 1 tells us that God created us in His image.  This means, while we are not God, we have traits similar to His.  And one of those is the desire for acknowledgement and appreciation from those we love.   God walked into our world, into our lives, and said, “I love you!”  And He backed it up by continually pursuing us even as we ignored and rejected Him.  Yet, by looking at our own experiences of having our love dismissed, we can begin to understand how the Lord must feel when His love goes unappreciated.

Today, knowing how much God loves you, share with Him your appreciation.  Tell Him through both word and deed how much His love means to you.  You know how much it means to hear that.

© Jim Musser 2017

Thursday, January 26, 2017

Alternative Facts

“You belong to your father, the devil, and you want to carry out your father’s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, not holding to the truth, for there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies.” (John 8:44 NIV)

The phrase “alternative facts” entered the nation’s lexicon this week when one of President Trump’s senior advisers used it in an interview on Sunday’s Meet the Press.  The host, Chuck Todd, responded that what she called alternative facts were in reality falsehoods.  He was correct, but should we really be surprised?  Many likely would describe President Trump as a perpetuator of lies, but Jesus reveals the ultimate source and the devil has been fathering lies since the very beginning. Let us not be fooled, lies and half-truths are far from a new thing, even from the mouths of politicians.  

The first lie was told to the first woman in Eden (Genesis 3:1-4). And he has continued to spew them down through the centuries.  Here are just a few of the more recent ones, with Scripture references countering the lie in parentheses.  

*Truth is relative. I can have my truth and you can have yours.  Both are right.  This has increasingly been taught in our schools for decades.  In reality, Jesus claims to be the truth (John 14:6).  If that is indeed true, then His Word defines what is true and what is a lie, and we humbly submit ourselves to it. This is really the essence of “alternative facts;” we choose to believe what works best for us.  In Eden, Eve and then Adam chose to believe they really could become like God. 

*There are many ways to reach God.  This lie continues to be held by many Christians.  While they say they believe Jesus is the way, they contend Muslims, Hindus, etc. can have their own options. (also in John 14:6)

*To attempt to correct someone’s sinful path is hateful.  This lie has caused many to back away from confronting sin in the lives of brothers and sisters, or even to call something a sin that the Scriptures define as such.  (John 8:1-11; Mark 10:17-23; James 5:19-20)

*Saying the “sinner’s prayer or being baptized can save you regardless of how you live your life thereafter.  This lie has led millions into a false sense of security about their eternal destiny. (John 3:1-8; I Corinthians 6:9-11)

*Even if we confess our sins, they are not forgiven unless we feel forgiven.  This lie paralyzes so many emotionally and spiritually because they carry the shame of their guilt even after they have confessed. (I John 1:9)

What we must realize is “alternative facts” are nothing new and extend far beyond the political world and originate from their source in the eternal realm.  So today, while you may be tempted to focus solely on those coming out of Washington, D.C., recognize there are far more dangerous ones to consider—ones that can have eternal consequences if we do not confront them.

© Jim Musser 2017

Wednesday, January 25, 2017


“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. Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him 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 sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.” (Hebrews 12:1-3 NIV)

When reading Scripture and coming to a “therefore,” you need to ask, what is the therefore there for?  And the answer will always take you back to what has been previously written.  The writer is telling you that what he is about to write hinges on what he has just previously written. In this case, the writer just spent an entire chapter recounting the amazing faith of believers in the Old Testament and on into their own century. Now he says to his audience, because of the faithful way these people lived, the great examples of their lives, be inspired to live lives of faithfulness to the Lord, persevering through hardship and trials, never giving up.

It is a human trait that we need the inspiration of others to take us off the wide path of mediocre and purposeless living onto the much narrower path of a meaningful and eternally significant way of life.  The Hebrew writer recognized this and wrote of the example of many faithful believers who followed the Lord with passion and perseverance.  

Who are the believers that inspire you?  Do you have anyone you look up to in the faith, who inspires you by his or her example?  Anyone whose faith you can seek to emulate?  If not, then you are at a distinct disadvantage in staying on that narrow path.  To encourage us, we need the witness of others who live or have lived lives fully committed to the Lord.

Today, seek out those whose lives are testimonies of faith.  Draw inspiration from their example, and seek to emulate it.  They may be on your campus, in your hometown, or on the pages of a book.  Wherever they are, their witness is waiting to inspire you, to ignite the flames of passion to live a life full of eternal meaning and purpose.

© Jim Musser 2017

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Trusting God to Give Us What We So Desperately Want

“’Now, Lord my God, you have made your servant king in place of my father David. But I am only a little child and do not know how to carry out my duties. Your servant is here among the people you have chosen, a great people, too numerous to count or number.  So give your servant a discerning heart to govern your people and to distinguish between right and wrong. For who is able to govern this great people of yours?’

The Lord was pleased that Solomon had asked for this. So God said to him, ‘Since you have asked for this and not for long life or wealth for yourself, nor have asked for the death of your enemies but for discernment in administering justice, I will do what you have asked. I will give you a wise and discerning heart, so that there will never have been anyone like you, nor will there ever be. Moreover, I will give you what you have not asked for—both wealth and honor—so that in your lifetime you will have no equal among kings. And if you walk in obedience to me and keep my decrees and commands as David your father did, I will give you a long life.’ Then Solomon awoke—and he realized it had been a dream.” (I Kings 3:7-15 NIV)

I talked to a student recently who shared with me about how his girlfriend had broken up with him and he now saw it as a good thing because, in his words, he had loved her more than the Lord.  I could relate.  I was not much older than him when I fell in love with a woman who claimed to be a Christian, but who turned out to be a stumbling block for me. I compromised what I knew was right in order to be with her and, thankfully, she broke up with me, for I had made her an idol.

Even so, I still struggled for years after with pursuing what I wanted—a romantic relationship—rather than the Lord Himself.  At the heart of it was my fear that if I let the Lord have His way with my life, He would not give me what I thought I most needed.

Often it is very difficult to trust God to give us what we so desperately desire. Instead, we give priority to those things—romance, money, status—because we’re so afraid if we leave it up to Him, we won’t get them.  But what we learn from this story of Solomon is that He does not wish to deprive us of the things we want, but wants us first and foremost to seek Him and what we know is best.  I am sure Solomon longed for wealth, desired to live for many years, and not to have his rule threatened by external enemies, yet his first request was for wisdom in serving his subjects, putting their welfare first over his own.  

What we learn is because he first sought what was best for others, he received also what he wanted.  The young man with whom I spoke said he is seeking to follow the Lord and trusting the Lord will provide him with a lifelong companion in His time.  This is a wise course to take.

The picture we paint of God in our minds is often one where whatever we want He will not let us have.  So then the temptation is to grab it for ourselves.  But there are two fallacies with this thinking. First, the Lord always has our best interests in mind because He loves us.  He will not deprive us just for the sake of depriving us.  If we find ourselves without something we desperately want, it would be wise to stop pursuing it and seek Him instead.  Secondly, we can’t fool Him.  It’s not like He doesn’t know our hearts or that we can somehow secretly pursue something without His knowledge.  

What we can learn from this story of Solomon is that, first and foremost, pursue God’s will for our lives.  Seek first that which is unselfish, pure, and righteous.  Then know that He will fulfill the desires of your heart, or, as often happens, changes your heart to want different things for yourself.  

Today, what is it that you want so desperately?  Then surrender it to the Lord and ask for His will to be done and pursue Him with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength.  If you do, what will likely happen is you will end up getting what you want, or end up realizing that isn’t what you needed after all.  

© Jim Musser 2017

Monday, January 23, 2017

Keeping a Kingdom Perspective

“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.” (Philippians 4:4-8 NIV)

If you haven’t noticed, there is a lot of political upheaval in our nation and much of the western world.  Donald Trump becoming president, Brexit, the immergence of the alt-right, the pushback from the progressive left. And all of this is making its way into our own lives via social media, gatherings of family and friends of disparate political points of view, and, sadly, sometimes violent expressions of anger as we witnessed in Washington, D.C. on Inauguration Day and in my local community where offensive graffiti was sprayed on local buildings and a police car.  

The temptation is to get sucked into the anger and hate, no matter our political views.  We begin viewing the people with whom we disagree as less than ones created by the same God we worship and serve. The impulses of our fallen nature begin to gain dominance and we start losing our Kingdom perspective.  Our language becomes harsh and ungracious, our thoughts grow darker, and we become more focused on being right than being loving.  The end result is a victory for our mutual enemy.  Whatever he can do to distract us from Jesus, to lead us away from love into hate, and to ground our perspective in the viewpoint of the world rather than in the perspective of the Kingdom and Eternity, he will do it.

As I often point out, the world of the 1st Century was no picnic for followers of Jesus.  Persecution and suffering abounded.  When Paul wrote these words, he was in a Roman dungeon chained to a Roman guard.  No matter.  He refused to be shaken from his Kingdom perspective.  Regardless of how bad things were around him, he was going to focus on the Lord and His goodness.  And in doing so, he was able to keep the tumult of his personal life and of his world in proper view.  

Today, in view of the political upheaval in our midst, let us, as Paul commands, refocus our minds and hearts on the Lord.  Let us not succumb to the temptations of our enemy to darken our thinking, coarsen our language, and exchange love for hate.  Rather, let us focus our minds and hearts on what is good, let us be committed to prayer, and let us embrace an attitude of thanksgiving.  In doing so, we pursue a path leading to peace in our own lives and, perhaps, in the lives of many others.

© Jim Musser 2017

Friday, January 20, 2017

Two Words to Consider

“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. For there is one God and one mediator between God and mankind, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself as a ransom for all people.” (I Timothy 2:1-6 NIV)

Today marks the transition of power in the United States. President Barak Obama goes from president to former president, and Donald Trump goes from President-Elect to President Trump.  As all American inaugurations have been to date, this transfer of power will proceed peaceably. But though the transfer will be peaceful, not everyone is pleased.  And it’s always been that way.  In modern times, all of our presidents have been loved by some and hated by others, with the majorities always somewhere in between.  

So while to many this particular transfer of power is very different, the fact there is strong disagreement about the soon-to-be leader of our country is nothing new.  And another thing that is not new is the command for followers of Jesus to pray for those in authority over us regardless of whether we deem them legitimate, competent, or on the “right side” of the issues dear to us.

There are two words in this passage talking about praying for those in authority that stand out to me: “urge” and “all.”   Urge is a word that is used to convey implementing an action that neither comes naturally or appears rational.  The context in which Paul uses it drives home this point.  The Roman rulers of his day were not known for their compassion, kindness, or fairness.  They were often ruthless, particularly toward Christians.  Timothy and his congregants had no doubt suffered under this oppressive authority and would not be naturally inclined to offer up prayers, particularly those of thanksgiving on their behalf.  So he urged them to do it.

The second word is “all.”  This is a word that is completely inclusive. It makes no distinction based on character, beliefs, race, ethnicity, or actions.  No one is left out.  So, in the extreme, if you hated Obama as president, you should have still been praying for him.  And if you absolutely despise Donald Trump, yep, you still are to be praying for him over the next four years.  

And if this idea sets you teeth on edge, here is what you need to understand.  Jesus died for ALL men and women who have ever lived or will live. This includes the most notorious leaders, dictators, and strongmen, despots that you can think of.  It is easy to think that somehow they fall outside the mercy of God and, thus, we are better than them.  But the truth is we are ALL sinners (Romans 3:23) and Jesus sacrificed Himself for each of us.  To believe that some are beneath praying for is to deny the fact we as humans are all equal in our unworthiness of God’s grace.  But this is our tendency and so we must be URGED to pray.  

And so today that is what we should be doing for our new president and all of those who will be leading our country, no matter how you perceive them, or what good or bad decisions may follow during their terms. What Paul understood, and so should we, is that God is sovereign and in control.  His will will be done regardless of who is in authority over us. I know this may not seem or feel right to you, but I urge you to accept it as the truth of the Lord and act accordingly.

© Jim Musser 2017

Thursday, January 19, 2017

Fuel for a Lifetime

“This is what the Lord says: ‘Cursed is the one who trusts in man, who draws strength from mere flesh and whose heart turns away from the Lord. That person will be like a bush in the wastelands; they will not see prosperity when it comes. They will dwell in the parched places of the desert, in a salt land where no one lives.

‘But blessed is the one who trusts in the Lord, whose confidence is in him. They will be like a tree planted by the water that sends out its roots by the stream. It does not fear when heat comes; its leaves are always green. It has no worries in a year of drought and never fails to bear fruit.’” (Jeremiah 17:5-8 NIV)

I have worked with young people all of my adult life.  And while there have been major changes in those students over the years, there has been one constant: emotional experience is their fuel for life.  Youth workers have long understood this and, to varying degrees, develop strategies and programs to take advantage of this.  It is no coincidence that youth ministries are predicated upon “big events,” and youth camps that offer adrenaline-laden activities and speakers who can effectively tap into adolescent emotional fervor.  Otherwise, the thinking goes, the youth won’t come and our work will be a failure.

If my Facebook newsfeed and emails I receive are an accurate indicator, youth leaders are doubling down on this trend.  Famous names, popular bands, and lots and lots of young people gathered in one place at one time is the prime way in which God works.  As one student who attended Passion last week told me, “55,000 college students in one place was amazing!”  Emotional highs and amazing experiences are viewed as the fuel for spiritual vitality and growth.

I have no doubt that the intentions of both leaders and students are sincere.  The leaders truly do want their students to know the Lord and follow Him.  And the students, I am confident, are, on some level, indeed seeking God.  The danger, however, in this emphasis on emotional experience lies in the fact that life is just too hard at times and these emotional highs will come crashing down, or that eventually the emotional fuel will run out, and then we’re left with the choice of trusting God in the midst of our very real circumstances—the loss of a job, the death of a parent, the ending of a romantic relationship or marriage, the onset of a debilitating illness, or the reality of deep doubts creeping into our minds—or giving up because there is nothing left to fuel our faith.  

If we trust solely in our emotional experiences to bolster our faith, we are setting ourselves up for colossal failure and disappointment.  The truth is if we truly trust God, no matter what circumstances exist in our lives, we can and will remain faithful because our sole dependence is on Him.  Emotional experience is not necessarily bad, but it is the wrong fuel upon which to run our lives of faith.  The right fuel, as it has been for believers down through the ages, is trust in God and confidence in Him no matter the circumstances of our lives.  

Today, consider what fuels your walk with the Lord.  It is purely or primarily emotional experiences?  If so, realize this fuel is short-lived.  It cannot sustain you.  Instead, seek the fuel that can power a lifetime of faithfulness and spiritual growth—trust and confidence in God.

© Jim Musser 2017  

Wednesday, January 18, 2017


“If you declare with your mouth, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you profess your faith and are saved. As Scripture says, ‘Anyone who believes in him will never be put to shame.’ For there is no difference between Jew and Gentile—the same Lord is Lord of all and richly blesses all who call on him, for, ‘Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.’

How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them?  And how can anyone preach unless they are sent? As it is written: ‘How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!’” (Romans 10:9-15 NIV)

When I am traveling internationally, I prefer sitting in the aisle seat on the outside row, either sitting next to my wife or no one.  As I climbed aboard a flight several years ago from Johannesburg, South Africa to New York, a 16-hour flight, I was really hoping for an empty window seat.  As I looked down the aisle and found my row, I could see I was not going to get my wish.  In the window seat was a twenty-something woman.  I jokingly apologized to her, assuming she, too, was hoping the seat next to her would be vacant.  She smiled and we just made small talk as the planed filled with other passengers.  

She had just completed a “bucket list” trip that included summiting Mount Kilimanjaro.  She was returning to home in New York City to resume her graduate studies.  I told her I was returning from leading a group of college students on a trip to Cape Town.  As the plane was taxiing to the runway for takeoff, she asked if I was a professor.  I told her I directed a campus ministry and she asked, “What religion?”  I responded that I helped students learn to follow Jesus.  She replied, somewhat skeptically, “Well, that’s a religion, isn’t it?”

Thus began a half-hour discussion on Jesus, religion, and the Bible. What I discovered in that brief time was this woman was “forced” to attend church when she was young, that she had never read the Bible, and that she had an open heart to “spiritual” things.  She asked me what part of the Bible I would recommend her to read, since she was unwilling to read the whole thing.  I suggested the Gospel of John and, for a minute, she wrestled with how she would remember that.  I suggested the name of the airport at which we would be landing—John F. Kennedy.  And that was it, until we landed and I gave her my card with the following written on it: The Gospel of John, www.Biblegateway.com (she didn’t own a Bible), Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis.  She tucked the card into her purse.  We walked together to the Passport Control area and then went our separate ways.  

There is no doubt in my mind the Lord wanted me sitting next to this woman on that flight.  There was Good News to share and He appointed me to share it.  How often do we put our selfish desires ahead of what the Lord may have for us and miss the opportunities to tell others of the Good News of Jesus?   If I had gotten my way, that is exactly what would have happened.   Thankfully, the Lord had other plans and I submitted to them.  

Today, recognize the opportunities the Lord may bring your way to tell others the Good News.  And know they may come at unwanted times when you would rather be doing something else, but the sacrifice will be worth it.  There is nothing more beautiful than sharing the Good News with someone who has never heard it or truly understood it.

© Jim Musser 2017

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

The Lie Detector

“To the Jews who had believed him, Jesus said, ‘If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.’”

“You belong to your father, the devil, and you want to carry out your father’s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, not holding to the truth, for there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies.”  (John 8:31-32; 44 NIV)

The lie detector is a 20th Century invention that is still used by law enforcement and, sometimes, governmental agencies to determine whether people are telling the truth.  Though inadmissible as evidence in court proceedings, it still is viewed as a useful tool in determining if a person is a truth-teller or a liar.  

In the spiritual realm, from the beginning of time, the devil has been a liar and deceiver and labeled as such by Jesus.  His relationship with the human race has always been adversarial in the sense his ultimate purpose is to “kill, steal, and destroy,”  but, as with Judas and Peter, he is quite comfortable to ally himself with humans to get them to do his bidding.  The truth is he is constantly scheming against us. Thus, like law enforcement, a lie detector is very handy so as not to be taken in by the falsehoods that emanate from him like sweat from human glands. And it is likely not far from you if you just will pick it up and make use of it.  It is the Word of God.

You will notice that Jesus says it is obedience to His teaching that leads us to know the truth and to then be set free by it.  Since Jesus is God, all of Scripture is His teaching.  If we know it, we will be able to discern the lies of the enemy, and if we obey His teachings, then we will be set free from the deadly impact of those lies.

Here are some examples of how this works, ones I have employed and also teach to the students with whom I work.  You are extremely worried about something—money, a project deadline, or the future.  Read Matthew 6:25-34 and I Peter 5:7, meditate on them, and then apply them to your immediate situation.  The lie is God will not provide for you or take care of you in your circumstance.  The Scriptures reveal the truth.

Another example is feeling condemned because you did something wrong—you lied to someone, you hurt someone, you cheated or stole—even though you freely confessed it.  Read I John 1:9 and Romans 8:1-2, meditate on them, and then confront your feelings with them.  The lie is you cannot possibly be forgiven for something so egregious.  Again, these Scriptures reveal the truth.

One final example is one with which I am confronted almost daily—sin doesn’t matter because of the overwhelming love of God.  Of course, lust, greed, drunkenness, etc. are bad, BUT God’s grace is so great that it really doesn’t matter if I engage in them.  Read Romans 6 and consider what it says. The lie is sin no longer matters in light of the love and grace of God.  Again, the Scriptures detect the lie and reveal the truth.

Today, know the devil spews lies and you are in danger of accepting them unless you know and obey the Scriptures.  They are the lie detector the Lord has given you to protect you from the devil’s schemes and to enable you to live in freedom from their intended consequences.

© Jim Musser 2017

Monday, January 16, 2017

The Long Arc

“Manasseh was twelve years old when he became king, and he reigned in Jerusalem fifty-five years. His mother’s name was Hephzibah. He did evil in the eyes of the Lord, following the detestable practices of the nations the Lord had driven out before the Israelites. He rebuilt the high places his father Hezekiah had destroyed; he also erected altars to Baal and made an Asherah pole, as Ahab king of Israel had done. He bowed down to all the starry hosts and worshiped them. He built altars in the temple of the Lord, of which the Lord had said, ‘In Jerusalem I will put my Name.’ In the two courts of the temple of the Lord, he built altars to all the starry hosts. He sacrificed his own son in the fire, practiced divination, sought omens, and consulted mediums and spiritists. He did much evil in the eyes of the Lord, arousing his anger.” (II Kings 21:1-6 NIV)

One of the most often quoted phrases of Martin Luther King, Jr. is this one: “the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.” But its fuller context is crucial to understanding its meaning: “Evil may so shape events that Caesar will occupy a palace and Christ a cross, but that same Christ will rise up and split history into A.D. and B.C., so that even the life of Caesar must be dated by his name. Yes, ‘the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.”

Just as in King’s time, we find ourselves in the midst of political upheaval.  For some, the feeling is that the worst is yet to come.  For others, the worst is behind us and better days are ahead.  Regardless, it seems fair to say there is a sense of unease and uncertainty that permeates our thinking as our government transitions this week.  

This may seem an unusual passage upon which to reflect this morning. Manasseh was considered by the biblical historians as the worst of all of Judah’s and Israel’s kings.  He did such evil that it is almost beyond comprehension, made worse by the fact his father was considered one of the best kings.  He sacrificed his own child to gain favor from a false god. He erected altars to idols in the temple of God; he worshipped the stars and consulted mediums—all forbidden by the Lord.  And he ruled for 55 years!

When King spoke his famous words, he was merely confirming what the Scriptures teach—God’s time is very different from ours.  As Peter says: With the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day.” (II Peter 3:8)  As I’ve been reading through the Old Testament in recent weeks, what has struck me is how long in terms of years this history is, yet how quickly it is covered. Decades pass in merely a line or paragraph; centuries in only a chapter or two. Manasseh reigned for 55 years, yet his entire story is told in just over 500 words! 

Because this is our time and our history, we tend to get caught up in what is happening this day, this week, or this year.  Obama. Trump. The Republicans. The Democrats.  Climate change. Racism. They are important and big things to us, perhaps, but to the Lord they are the minutiae of a fallen world that will ultimately be set right.  This point in time is, in reality, is a mere blip along that long arc. To put it succinctly, a four to eight year administration is nothing in the eyes of the Lord. Justice will prevail; wrongs will be made right. Eventually. In the meantime, we persevere, just as believers throughout human history have done, trusting in the Lord’s rule.  

Today, whatever your circumstances or your thoughts and feelings regarding the upcoming change of government, know the Lord is in control.  The arc about which King spoke is still bending in the same way. Regardless of the present circumstances, nothing can change it no matter how long it takes.  

© Jim Musser 2017