Friday, September 29, 2017

The Pull of Money

“Whoever can be trusted with very little can also be trusted with much, and whoever is dishonest with very little will also be dishonest with much. So if you have not been trustworthy in handling worldly wealth, who will trust you with true riches? And if you have not been trustworthy with someone else’s property, who will give you property of your own?

No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money.”

The Pharisees, who loved money, heard all this and were sneering at Jesus. He said to them, “You are the ones who justify yourselves in the eyes of others, but God knows your hearts. What people value highly is detestable in God’s sight.” (Luke 16:10-15 NIV)

I enjoy college basketball, particularly played by a certain team in eastern Kansas known as the Jayhawks, one of the “blue blood” programs in the college ranks.  I have been a fan for more than 30 years, having served on the KU campus for more than 20. So it was with much interest that I read stories recently of the FBI’s investigation into the corrupt relationship between college coaches and the athletic apparel company, Adidas.  Could KU coaches and their highly esteemed program be implicated?  I am hoping not, but, honestly, I won’t be surprised if it happens.

Money is powerful.  So much so that Jesus says if we are drawn to worship it, giving it supreme value, then it prevents us from worshiping God. It is something of which we need to approach warily and be on our guard.  The evidence is everywhere.  Governments around the world face the challenges of corruption. Corporate America is governed often by greed and the lust for more and more profit, not only by its high-level employees, but also by the investors in their companies. School sports, down to the elementary school level, are no longer about developing kids’ characters, but more and more about the money that can be made, through travel teams, clinics, and specialty coaching.  What is driving this?  Money.  Money for organizers’ and agents’ pockets, and for parents who obsess about college scholarships and big payoffs for their tireless efforts to develop their child’s athletic potential.  

It is no coincidence that many Christian parents are absent at church services on Sundays, because of their kids’ sports schedules.  Many games and tournaments are played on Sunday mornings.  They may contend that money has no hold on them, but the shift in priorities could not be more obvious.

Sports, however, is merely one example, and probably one of the lesser ones in terms of money’s influence in our lives.  For all of us, money offers the temptation to be our provider for the things we both need and want.  Rather than a means by which God provides for us, it becomes in our minds the source for our security and pleasures.  So we are reluctant to give it away to anything that doesn’t promise to meet a need or want. For example, last week our church youth group held a fundraiser and I wanted to give something to their cause.  I opened my wallet and found a twenty and a one-dollar bill, and I felt money’s pull.  I was honestly hoping to see a five because I was willing to part with that much, but that twenty wanted to remain in my control and I wanted to control it.  

That is the power of money. When we are called to part with some of it, or most of it, can we resist its pull and let it go?  Can we give 10 or 20 percent of our income as a tithe?  Can we let go of money we have saved for something we want in order to respond to the leading of the Spirit to give it to meet a need? When these questions are asked, then the truth of our Lord’s proclamation becomes clear.  Last Sunday, I was tempted to value my money more than God.  I wanted to keep it; He wanted me to give it away.  The end result?  I pulled out the twenty and put it in the basket.  I chose at that moment to worship God rather than money.

Today, recognize the pull money can have in your life, whether you have a lot of it or not much at all.  If you believe it is the provider for your needs and wants, you will pursue it and hold onto it.  And you will choose it over God every time.  Instead, realize the Lord is your Provider and He will take care of your needs and many of your wants. Then you can hold onto money with a loose grip, knowing that even if you give it away, you will always have enough of what you need.

© Jim Musser 2017

Thursday, September 28, 2017

The Evidence of the Creator

“The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of people, who suppress the truth by their wickedness, since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse.

For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened.  Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images made to look like a mortal human being and birds and animals and reptiles.

Therefore God gave them over in the sinful desires of their hearts to sexual impurity for the degrading of their bodies with one another. They exchanged the truth about God for a lie, and worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator—who is forever praised. Amen.” (Romans 1:18-25 NIV)

I can still see the scene in my mind’s eye though it has been five years since I witnessed it. The sun had just set when I noticed a heron silhouetted in the orange, rippling water of the Currituck Sound on the eastern coast of North Carolina.  My with and I walked closer to get a better look.  The elegant bird was out for some evening fishing.  He waded in the shallow water, extending his long neck out to look into the water for his prey.  Barely moving, he waited.  Then suddenly his head shot into the water and he grabbed a sizeable fish.  He held it for a while as it flapped, but then it grew still.  He stuck it back into the water a couple times, presumably to see if it was still alive.  Then with a quick flick of his head and neck, the bird swallowed the fish whole.  We could see the fish quickly slide down the bird’s throat, and then it went back to look for another.

If we had been filming a documentary for Animal Planet or National Geographic, I can imagine the narrator explaining the heron had adapted to its environment by developing its long neck and sharp beak in order to catch fish.  For this is the common narrative to explain the creation around us.  Credit is given to the created rather than to the Creator.  

Yet it seems obvious to me that the evidence of the Creator is all around us.  The distance of the earth from the sun is exactly the right distance to sustain life.  The earth’s rotation is exactly the right speed to maintain proper gravity.  The atmosphere is perfect for our bodies.  Do these facts not tell us of an awesome Creator, meticulous in His design?  Or what about the vastness of the universe, glimpses of which we have seen from the Hubble Telescope or the intricate design of atoms and molecules that we have seen from the microscope?  Or the intricate and unique design of human beings, male and female?  Is there any question we were designed for one another, for procreation and pleasure?

It is clear then why Paul says we are without excuse if we deny the existence and supremacy of God.  The evidence is all around us and unmistakable.  Yet to those whose hearts are rebellious against Him, they will continue to believe a lie and devote their hearts to that which is created.  And their thinking is the dominant narrative for anything involving Nature, and that means there is danger for those of us who worship the Creator.  We will be tempted to compromise, to appear less strident in our views, to accept this other narrative as plausible while still claiming to follow the One who is over all creation and through whom all things were created (Colossians 1:15-16).  Paul is very clear about the dangers of doing so.

Today, take a look around you.  See clearly how God reveals Himself through that which He created.  It tells us something, that there is only one God. He created everything just as He wanted it, and He is supreme over everything that is created.  If you choose to believe otherwise, you will be without excuse.

© Jim Musser 2017

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Avoiding Becoming a Fool

“As a dog returns to its vomit, so fools repeat their folly.” (Proverbs 26:11 NIV)

When my wife and I used to live further out of town, this time of year was when the mice began looking for a cozy place to nest for the winter and they always seemed to think my storage shed was an ideal spot.  My strategy every year was to put a number of traps in the shed and it was usually very effective.  But one time, I recall, one was able to make a bold escape.

Not finding a trap where I had placed it, I searched the shed suspecting the critter had caught its foot in the trap and had drug it somewhere else, fully expecting to find a dead mouse.  However, what I found at the opposite end of the shed was an empty trap, well, almost empty.  A piece of the tail was still there surrounded by gnaw marks.  The mouse had chewed off its tail in order to escape the trap!  Smart mouse, or so I thought.  

I set the trap again, placing it in the same location, and checked it the next day.  Once again, I had caught a mouse.  As I picked up the trap to dispose of the critter, I noticed half of its tail was missing.  The same mouse had returned to the same trap, but, unfortunately for it, the results were different this time.  Not such a smart mouse after all!

How often do we escape a bad situation only to return to something similar again?  I remember getting out of a bad relationship in college shortly after deciding to follow Jesus, but against the advice of many, decided to return to it with even worse results.  According to Solomon, I was a fool, and I would wholeheartedly agree.

By his definition, all of us have been fools at one time or another, repeating the same mistakes over and over.  Parolees are notorious for committing crimes within months of being released from prison.  There are students who, despite their falling GPA’s, refuse to discipline themselves in their studies, opting rather to continue the lifestyle that contributed to their academic decline in the first place.  I know people who have struggled financially for years, but continue to make the same poor economic choices.  

The challenge is to take a step back and examine the bad choices we sometimes will inevitably make so we will not repeat them.  However, that is much easier said than done.  If it were easy, the world and our lives would be more perfect because we would learn from our mistakes and those of others.  Yet, the overwhelming evidence is we don’t learn so easily.  So what do we do to avoid becoming fools?

The Psalmist gives us an answer: “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom; all who follow his precepts have good understanding.” (Psalm 111:10) Having fear of the Lord is not being afraid as much as having a deep respect for our position in relation to God.  We are far inferior and having a fear of the Lord is recognizing that.  And when we do, we realize how much He has to teach us.  That willingness to listen and obey is what will help keep us from being fools.

Today, recognize it is not enough to just get out of a bad situation.  The question is how can you avoid getting into a similar one that may have even worse results?  Humbling yourself before the Lord and gaining understanding from Him is a good place to start and the best way to avoid becoming a fool.  

© Jim Musser 2017

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Fighting Persecution

“Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.” (Matthew 5:11-12 NIV)

In light of the recent controversy involving the National Football League and the National Anthem, memes of Tim Tebow kneeling in prayer on the football field are appearing on social media from those deriding the media and others for their hypocrisy.  It is all right for players to sit during the Anthem, they observe, but what Tebow?  Why was he so derided for what he did?

I have seen these memes and comments from friends on social media, and they follow what has been a trend for some time: Believers like to complain and murmur about their unfair treatment by the culture at-large.  In the 80’s and 90’s, it was movies and art that sent many believers into rage, protests, and boycotts, as they interpreted them as direct assaults on their faith.  Likewise, issues such as prayer in schools, same-sex, marriage, and even, saying “Merry Christmas” have stirred the pot of the so-called “culture wars.” And, as the name implies, many believers have been anxious to do battle, to push back against what they perceive as a frontal attack on their core beliefs.

What has surprised me over the years of observing this, and particularly more recently with the dominance of social media in our lives, is the seemingly utter shock and incredulity of many believers that their faith is under attack.  And, as a result, many hit back hard, some with reasoned arguments pointing to the blatant hypocrisy of the other side’s positions, and others with a full dose of cynicism.  The question is, why do we so often believe we need to defend against the attacks aimed at us or at our Lord, particularly in light of what He says?

“Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.” Where in this quote from the Sermon on the Mount do we get the idea persecution is something we should resent and fight against?  Or why such a surprise when it happens when the Scriptures are so clear we WILL be persecuted as a result of our faith? And why do we feel the need to rail against how we are treated as Christians by the culture when Jesus says to “rejoice and be glad”?

Perhaps it is because this is exactly where our enemy wants to lead us—to expend our energies fighting fleshly battles rather than the more important ones against the principalities and powers of the heavenly realms. A thorough reading of the gospels reveals the Lord spent little time attacking those persecuting Him, with the exceptions of the religious leaders of the day.  He didn’t bother because the work of the Kingdom was calling and it was far more important.  He knew the hypocrites and the persecutors would, in time, have their day of judgment.  With that assurance, He didn’t waste His time and energy on them.  And neither should we.

Today, if you are all wound up about how you or your faith is being treated by the culture, it is time for you to re-examine the Scriptures. What you will see is persecution is inevitable and should be embraced rather than resented.  There are far more important things on which to focus and expend your energy, and you should start today.

© Jim Musser 2017

Monday, September 25, 2017

Persevering Through Hard Times

“Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope.” (Romans 5:3-4 NIV)

“Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.” (James 1:2-6 NIV)

“Snowflakes” is a derisive term used to describe young people (mostly) who promote the need for “trigger warnings,”  “safe spaces,” and the curtailing the use of “offensive speech.”  We have some of this on our campus, but not as much as on others.  Regardless of where you might stand on this, there is no doubt that young people, and our nation as a whole, struggle with life when it gets difficult.

As was highlighted during one of our recent staff meetings, students tend to want difficulties to just go away.  They hate difficult times and, when they happen, they want relief immediately.  I believe this is the reason the number one presenting problem at university counseling centers is anxiety.  As a culture, we have moved away from seeing the value of perseverance in the midst of the inevitable difficulties in life toward trying to eliminate the difficulties so we don’t have to suffer.  Many parents do all they can to make life less risky and painful for their children, thinking they are helping their them, but, in reality, what they are doing is depriving them of experiencing the value of perseverance through difficulties.  

It is our natural bent to be risk-adverse.  This is why Jesus stated that to follow Him, we must be willing to “take up our cross,“ a symbol of suffering. And by doing so, the Lord implies there is value in suffering.  

I have referenced passages from both Paul and James that talk of the value of experiencing trials and suffering.  Both say it enhances our character.  In other words, we become better, deeper, and stronger as human beings when we persevere through difficult times rather than looking for an easy way out.  

As I look back over my life, the spiritual growth spurts have come at some of the worst times in my life—a devastating break-up with my girlfriend, the deaths of my parents while a very young man, and being abandoned by my first wife.  In a strange way, that only the Lord can bring about, I am far more spiritually mature because of what I have suffered.  

Today, are you experiencing some difficult times?  If so, don’t seek an escape from them, and do not become overly anxious.  The Lord wants to use these times to mold you into the person He created you to be. Rather than run from them, embrace them as teaching moments from the Lord.  Even though they make us miserable in the moment, persevering through hard times allows us to look back and see the amazing things He has done through them.  What the enemy intends for our harm, the Lord can use for our good. That has definitely been true in my life.  I believe it can for yours as well.

© Jim Musser 2017

Friday, September 22, 2017

The Need for Repentance

“Now there were some present at that time who told Jesus about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mixed with their sacrifices. Jesus answered, ‘Do you think that these Galileans were worse sinners than all the other Galileans because they suffered this way? I tell you, no! But unless you repent, you too will all perish. Or those eighteen who died when the tower in Siloam fell on them—do you think they were more guilty than all the others living in Jerusalem?  I tell you, no! But unless you repent, you too will all perish.” (Luke 13:1-5 NIV)

It occurs almost like clockwork. A catastrophic event happens and talk of God’s wrath against sinful man emerges.  And so, in the summer of major hurricanes, such talk is in vogue once again. Back in 2004, Franklin Graham was roundly derided for his comments that Hurricane Katrina’s visit to New Orleans was the Lord’s retribution for the sin of the city.  Televangelist Pat Robertson is also well known for attributing natural events to God’s hand.  Naturally, most recoil at blaming such destruction and the loss of life on the Lord’s wrath.  

The argument goes that a loving God would not do such things and those who say and/or believe such things are hypocrites because of their own sin.  It wasn’t much different in the 1st Century.  It was a widely held belief that bad things happen to bad people and good people were spared the cruelties of life because of their goodness. Thus, as He walked the streets of villages in Judea, Jesus heard this viewpoint when tragedy struck, such as the Galileans being slaughtered by the Romans or the tower of Siloam collapsing and killing 18 people. They were assuming the people got their just desserts for living sinfully. And like modern-day critics of such assumptions, Jesus was quick to correct them, but with a twist.

The critics of today lambast any talk of connecting anyone’s lifestyle with tragic events.  Any talk of “they deserved it” is quickly shot down, just as Jesus did to the Jews of His day.  But rather than just merely rebuke them, He reminded them of the need for repentance in everyone’s life.  That is something never uttered by today’s critics of the idea of divine retribution.  The prevailing attitude today is anyone should be able to live as he/she wants without consequence and their lifestyles are not to be judged as wrong.  Talk of repentance is out of vogue and has been replaced by the idea that God is benevolent and loves us regardless of how we live.  It is a half-truth.  

Indeed, God loves us unconditionally, in the sense that His love for us does not depend on how we are living.  But, and it is a big BUT, Jesus’ call to repentance cannot not be conveniently ignored.

Repentance is, by definition, turning away from sin and heading in the direction of righteous living.  One cannot assume if he lives as he pleases, he will be just fine.  On the contrary, Jesus says quite strongly, “He will perish.”

Today, recognize your need for repentance.  It is not just for the “bad” people, and it is surely not out of vogue. The Lord demands it.  You and I would do well to obey Him.

© Jim Musser 2017

Thursday, September 21, 2017


Jesus replied: ‘A certain man was preparing a great banquet and invited many guests.  At the time of the banquet he sent his servant to tell those who had been invited, “Come, for everything is now ready.”

‘But they all alike began to make excuses. The first said, ‘”I have just bought a field, and I must go and see it. Please excuse me.”

‘Another said, “I have just bought five yoke of oxen, and I’m on my way to try them out. Please excuse me.”

‘Still another said, “I just got married, so I can’t come.”

‘The servant came back and reported this to his master. Then the owner of the house became angry and ordered his servant, “Go out quickly into the streets and alleys of the town and bring in the poor, the crippled, the blind and the lame.”

‘Sir,’ the servant said, ‘what you ordered has been done, but there is still room.’

Then the master told his servant, ‘Go out to the roads and country lanes and compel them to come in, so that my house will be full.  I tell you, not one of those who were invited will get a taste of my banquet.’” (Luke 14:16-23 NIV)

This morning I am going to a prayer meeting on campus with some of our students. It’s been going on for several weeks now, but I’ve always had excuses of why I couldn’t go.  Last week, my wife referenced this parable of Jesus when I offered my reasoning for why I wasn’t going to attend.  It was effective in changing my mind.

Through His story, Jesus is pointing out a universal truth of humankind: We easily can come up with excuses not to do things we really would rather not do. In my work with students, the excuses for not participating in things or for not praying or taking time to read and study the Scriptures is often the generic, “I’m too busy.”  Sometimes, they get more specific.  “I have to study for a test.”  “I have a paper due tomorrow.” I have to work.” “I’m meeting with a friend.”  Of course, some excuses are actually valid, but the truth is we find time to do the things we really want to do. We may not have time for prayer, but we have plenty of time to watch Netflix and hang out with friends.  We may not have time to participate in a Bible study, but we have plenty of time to go for a hike or work out at the gym.  

It’s a matter of perspective and this is what Jesus is driving at. What are the priorities of our lives? Is growing in our relationship and devotion to Him at the top of the list, or is it far down, crowded out by the things we truly want to do and the things we feel obligated to do.  Note that excuses of the people in the parable weren’t lame, but reasonable to a degree.  As was often the case, Jesus used hyperbole to make His point, which is true with this story. If we call ourselves Christians, followers of Christ, then He, by definition, has to be our first priority. What He draws into question is whether or not this is evidenced by the daily life choices we make. We may claim one thing, but do our lives back that up or reveal something else?

Today, consider the choices you are making.  Do they reflect your commitment to Jesus or more to your own interests and desires?  If it is the latter, know that while you may have excuses, they may be found wanting by the Lord because of the truth behind them.

© Jim Musser 2017

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Heaping Up Those Burning Coals

“If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: ‘It is mine to avenge; I will repay,’ says the Lord.  On the contrary:

‘If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink. 
 In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.’” (Romans 12:18-20 NIV)

There are traditions in every religion which call adherents to defend their God.  Muslims, Hindus, and, yes, even some in realm of Christianity, feel called to take action in defense of their God or gods.

The Apostle Paul lived in similar times when people were quick to pull the trigger on defending their gods.  Acts 19:23-41 tells the story of a riot by the worshippers of the Greek goddess, Artemus.  They believed Paul and other Christians were blaspheming by advocating that Artemus was no god at all.  They rioted in defense of her deity.

So this passage is significant because of the times in which he lived and the times in which we live as well.  Paul is telling us that, unlike worshippers of other gods, we do not need to defend God or seek revenge on His behalf.  In fact, he takes it one step further.  Not only do we not need to defend God, we should respond with kindness rather than revenge toward those who are attacking Him. 

In the times that we now live, this should give us pause.  Who do we consider the enemies of God and how do we treat them?  Are we responding with thoughts, words, and actions of revenge?  Would we rather get back at them than be kind to them?  

Today, recognize the Lord is calling you to kindness toward His enemies rather than revenge.  He does not need you to come to His defense.  In due time He will set things right, but for now He wants you to start heaping up those burning coals of kindness on the heads of those against Him.  Sounds like a great plan.  

© Jim Musser 2017

Tuesday, September 19, 2017


“We do not dare to classify or compare ourselves with some who commend themselves. When they measure themselves by themselves and compare themselves with themselves, they are not wise. We, however, will not boast beyond proper limits, but will confine our boasting to the sphere of service God himself has assigned to us, a sphere that also includes you. We are not going too far in our boasting, as would be the case if we had not come to you, for we did get as far as you with the gospel of Christ. Neither do we go beyond our limits by boasting of work done by others. 

Our hope is that, as your faith continues to grow, our sphere of activity among you will greatly expand, so that we can preach the gospel in the regions beyond you. For we do not want to boast about work already done in someone else’s territory. But, ‘Let the one who boasts boast in the Lord.’ For it is not the one who commends himself who is approved, but the one whom the Lord commends.” (II Corinthians 10:12-18 NIV)

As part of my cardiac rehab, I was working out on a stationary bike, doing around 120 rpms with a fairly high resistance, and sweating profusely.  A woman walked by and said, “You’re working way too hard.” A little later, after I explained a little about my physical challenges over the years and that I’m seizing the day now than I can once again do vigorous exercise, she said, “I can’t stand it!”  Whether she was referring to my working out so hard or her loathing of the machine, I’m not sure, but it brought to mind how easy it is to compare ourselves to others and the dangers of it.

When I’m working out these days, it feels good and I often feel like I am so much younger than I am.  And when I observe all the others in their workouts, I’m tempted to think how much better shape I’m in compared to them. But when I wander in that mental direction, I have to quickly remind myself with whom I am making the comparisons.  I once asked one of the interns, a college student, what resistance he used when riding the bike.  It was nearly twice what I used.  

As Paul rightly says, when we compare ourselves with just ourselves as the standard or others who seem to fall below us, we are not wise. We are always going to find others with whom to compare ourselves to whom we are going to appear superior. But they will be the wrong measure. Instead, it is wise always to measure ourselves against the Lord. 

Measuring ourselves against anyone else can easily lead to self-righteousness or self-loathing. We tend to think we are better than we are or, conversely, worse than we are. When I compare myself physically to elderly people, I can think I’m quite the athlete, but against younger people, I get a dose of reality that I am not nearly as good as I have imagined. It all depends on the measure.

We should compare ourselves to God for two reasons.  First, it is quite humbling and keeps us from self-righteousness and ignorance of our true standing.  It leaves no doubt: we are sinners and have fallen short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23). Second, it levels the field of our tempted comparisons.  What good is it to compare ourselves with other sinners who are on the same level?  There are no distinctions of sin; there is just sin.  When we admit that we are merely sinners without any claims of righteousness, then we are in the position of accepting the truth that we are loved despite our sin (Romans 5:8).

Today, consider the measure against which you measure yourself. Are you being wise and measuring yourself against the righteousness of the Lord? Or are you falling into the trap of measuring yourself against yourself or other sinners like you?  The latter will keep you in bondage to self-righteousness or self-loathing.  The former will set you free to live life humbly and with the knowledge you are deeply loved despite your shortcomings.  

© Jim Musser 2017

Monday, September 18, 2017

Planting and Watering

“For when one says, ‘I follow Paul,’ and another, ‘I follow Apollos,’ are you not mere human beings? What, after all, is Apollos? And what is Paul? Only servants, through whom you came to believe—as the Lord has assigned to each his task. I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God has been making it grow. So neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but only God, who makes things grow. The one who plants and the one who waters have one purpose, and they will each be rewarded according to their own labor. For we are co-workers in God’s service; you are God’s field, God’s building.

By the grace God has given me, I laid a foundation as a wise builder, and someone else is building on it. But each one should build with care. For no one can lay any foundation other than the one already laid, which is Jesus Christ.” (I Corinthians 3:4-11 NIV)

This past weekend, the ministry I direct celebrated being on campus for 25 years.  In attendance were many alumni from those 25 years—a few now middle-aged, many married with small children, and some in the early stages of their post-college lives. What an encouragement to see them continuing to build on the foundation of Jesus Christ!

There were testimonies about the beginnings of the ministry and about the many years that followed. A quarter-of-a-century of the Lord’s work in students’ lives. Years devoted to planting and watering, and the blessings in often seeing the Lord’s harvest through the fruits of faithful laborers.  Many of the testimonies focused on me and the impact I had on the lives of alumni, but while I appreciated the comments, I am, and always have been, merely a planter and waterer. I have worked hard to maintain that perspective, the same one the Apostle Paul held regarding his ministry.  

I say, “worked hard” because there is a strong pull to take credit where it is not due.  We, or others, want to pat ourselves on the back for the results of our work, but, as the agricultural metaphor implies, a farmer can do his best at planting and watering his crops, but he cannot make them grow or produce fruit.  All he can do is be faithful in planting and watering the seeds. The harvest is out of his hands.

Often, that harvest is slow in coming.  The seeds are planted and watered faithfully, but little or no growth is evident.  That doesn’t necessarily mean nothing is happening.  Just as a seed germinates underground, the spiritual work of the Spirit is often unseen for many months or even years, but there is still much happening beneath the surface.  Planting and watering requires a lot of patience, of which many times I am lacking.  I want to see the evidence of the effects of my labors.  

These are the challenges when we are about the work of planting and watering seeds of the Kingdom, but as I was reminded this weekend, they are worth overcoming in order to enjoy the harvest that the Lord brings—lives built solidly on the foundation of Jesus Christ.

Today, know the importance of planting and watering in God’s Kingdom. For if you are a follower of Jesus, then your role is to be planting and watering seeds in the lives of those He puts in your path.  It is a challenge, but the fruit the Lord will produce from your efforts, and the enjoyment they bring, will be more than worth it.  I know. I have tasted them often.

© Jim Musser 2017

Friday, September 15, 2017

The Joy of the Lord

“Then Nehemiah the governor, Ezra the priest and teacher of the Law, and the Levites who were instructing the people said to them all, ‘This day is holy to the Lord your God. Do not mourn or weep.’ For all the people had been weeping as they listened to the words of the Law.

Nehemiah said, ‘Go and enjoy choice food and sweet drinks, and send some to those who have nothing prepared. This day is holy to our Lord. Do not grieve, for the joy of the Lord is your strength.’

The Levites calmed all the people, saying, ‘Be still, for this is a holy day. Do not grieve.’

Then all the people went away to eat and drink, to send portions of food and to celebrate with great joy, because they now understood the words that had been made known to them.” (Nehemiah 8:9-12 NIV)

When you first fall in love, you feel like you can overcome anything—poverty, resistance from parents, anything that is thrown your way. Love, as the saying goes, can conquer all.  

The Israelites had just returned to a Jerusalem in ruins.  There were no houses and few businesses.  Yet Nehemiah had felt the call of the Lord to rebuild the city and he had begun with the walls.  In these ancient times, a city’s walls were vital for protection and symbolized a strong and vital community.  Now that the wall had been built, Nehemiah had called the people to return.  

At the dedication of the wall, the Word of the Lord was read and the people were cut to the heart by the recognition of their sin.  For the Lord had allowed the city to be destroyed because of the disobedience of the Israelites. (II Chronicles 36:15-19)  Their eyes welled up in tears of grief and fear.  But Nehemiah exhorted them not to grieve, but instead to celebrate.  He said, “For the joy of the Lord is your strength.”

All of us have and will continue to experience difficult times, whether by things thrust upon us or by things of our own making.  In those times we will find ourselves very low, but we need not weep or mourn.  Like young people in love, the joy we have in the Lord can carry us through whatever we face.  For the Lord is above all things and our troubles, no matter how great they may seem, are, as Paul describes them, “light and momentary” (II Corinthians 4:17) The joy we have in the Lord far outweighs them all because we know there is coming a day when all our trials and sorrows will pass away.  So this joy, this hope, is a source of strength when times get really hard.

Today, if you are going through a difficult time, know the joy of the Lord can be your strength.  Regardless of what you are facing, His love can conquer it. 

© Jim Musser 2017

Thursday, September 14, 2017

Chasing After the Trendy Things

“Come, all you who are thirsty, come to the waters; and you who have no money, come, buy and eat! Come, buy wine and milk without money and without cost.

Why spend money on what is not bread, and your labor on what does not satisfy? Listen, listen to me, and eat what is good, and you will delight in the richest of fare. Give ear and come to me; listen, that you may live.” (Isaiah 55:1-3 NIV)

Apple announced this week the coming release of the i-Phone X into the marketplace, and the question immediately was raised: Will people pay $1000 for a smartphone? Apple seems confident they will and what they hope to do is create a buzz about this phone, as it has done with every one of its phones since the original, so people will jump on the bandwagon and plop down their 10 “Benjamins” to own one.

That’s how it works in the marketplace: Get enough people’s attention to a product, convince them it’s the next hot thing, and watch as others quickly follow in order to be “in” and trendy.  The sellers don’t want people to ask if they really need it, just follow the crowd and buy it! The sad thing is many people’s lives consist of this chasing after what is the “in” thing without a lot of thought about the long-term consequences. 

Isaiah paints a picture of a middle-eastern market where vendors are competing for the attention of buyers.  They are yelling and reaching out to lead people back to their stalls, offering “a very good price” for their wares. If you have ever been to one of these markets (there are similar ones in Africa as well), then you know how chaotic they can be. And in Isaiah’s market, there is one vender selling something very different and is trying to be heard.  It is the Lord.  He is selling something that is not “hot” or trendy, but rather steadfast and reliable.  It does not provide a temporary rush when you hand over your money, but rather pays out long-lasting dividends such as peace, contentment, and everlasting life. But so often He is drowned out by the other vendors and His wares fail to draw much attention because they have to compete with more flashy and interesting products. 

Think about our marketplace today.  People are selling trendy things such as smartphones, apps, games, diets and food, clothing, etc. All tend to drown out the voice of the Lord and what He is offering us. Our fallen natures lead us to be attracted to the “shiniest” and most exciting things. And they can provide temporary satisfaction, but they have a short shelf life, which is the lifeblood of the retail business world. “Get something new; it will give you greater satisfaction!” Until it won’t any longer.

Today, what are the trendy things that are grabbing your attention, but distracting you from what the Lord is offering? Don’t be like the masses and spend your life chasing after the latest and most trendy things. The satisfaction they offer is very short-lived and a lifetime of pursuing them will leave you ultimately empty and disappointed. Only the Lord can satisfy your deepest needs. You will never regret wading past the crowds and ignoring the screaming vendors to get to the One who offers the best there is and ever will be.

© Jim Musser 2017

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Living By Faith

“For we live by faith, not by sight.”  (II Corinthians 5:7 NIV)

One of the great privileges of doing support-based ministry is you are forced to trust God to provide for you.  With it, there are no guarantees, particularly in the economy we have experienced the past four years. You are dependent on the generosity of churches and individuals, whose checks determine how much you get paid on a monthly basis. And as humans do, sometimes they disappoint.  They commit to a certain amount, but then fail to follow through.  Or they forget to send their checks for a couple of months.  Or their circumstances change and they stop support altogether, but do not let you know.  The end result is that month in and month out, you have to trust God to provide.

Ultimately, there are no guarantees for anyone who has a job, as many have learned in recent years.  And there are no guarantees for students graduating with a college degree that a job in their field will be waiting for them.  Whether we acknowledge it or not, we are all dependent on God, but not all live by faith.  

Living by faith is living in confidence that the Lord has your back.  You do not need to worry that He is going to leave you on your own because you know He is going to take care of you.  Living by sight, on the other hand, is wringing your hands and looking constantly for evidence that things are going to be okay.  And the only time you are content is when things are going exactly the way you want them.

Paul says we live by faith because there isn’t always clear evidence of what we believe and put our hope in.  This is why many I have known who have wanted to enter a support-based ministry have encountered great resistance from parents, family, and friends.  They think it is crazy to earn a college degree and then, instead of getting a steady paying job, go into something where you are, as many view it, begging for money.  In other words, they don’t understand living by faith.  And they don’t understand the many benefits of doing it.

Living by faith draws us into a deeper relationship with the Lord because we are placing our trust in Him.  And when we put our trust in Him, we experience how faithful He is, and the more we trust Him, the bolder we will live out our faith.  

Today, you don’t have to do the work I do to live by faith.  You can do it by trusting the Lord to provide for you no matter your circumstance, no matter what things look like at the moment.  To live by faith is simply having the confidence God is going to work things out and then living in a way reflecting that.

© Jim Musser 2017 

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

The Value of Hospitality

“Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves. Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord. Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. Share with the Lord’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality.” (Romans 12:9-13 NIV)

I remember it just like it was yesterday.  I was in my early 20’s, a seminary student, and one very sad individual.  My mother had a died a little more than a year ago and my girlfriend, who I had in my mind I would one day marry, had just broken up with me.  It was the week before Thanksgiving and I was very lonely.  I made a call to a family I had met the previous summer while interning at a church and they invited me to come to their home for the holiday.  It was a time that significantly shaped my life. I remember feeling so “at home” there, as if I were part of their family.  They practiced hospitality well.

There have been many stories in recent days of people practicing hospitality for those affected by Hurricanes Harvey and Irma, taking in family members, friends from afar, and total strangers, all people with needs.  Sometimes we have the misunderstanding that hospitality is all about welcoming people into our homes or apartments and putting on a show—a gourmet dinner, a birthday party, etc.—things that entertain your guests.  But in reality, the biblical one at least, hospitality is about meeting needs—physical, emotional, and spiritual.  

We recently hosted five international students for dinner.  They all had just arrived in the States a few weeks ago.  They didn’t have any physical needs, but while sharing prayer requests, it was obvious they had emotional and spiritual ones-homesickness, loneliness, and even fear.  Our home, the attention we gave them, provided some comfort during the challenging time of adjusting to a new culture. They, like me so many years ago, felt loved and no longer alone.  

That is the power of hospitality and why Paul and the other Apostles commanded its practice.  In the 1st Century, Christians had a lot of needs.  They were often persecuted and oppressed.  Hospitality served as a way to both protect them and encourage them, as it has done down through the centuries for followers of Jesus.  While we in the West do not suffer persecution of the magnitude of our Christian forebears, or modern-day believers living in nations hostile to the faith, it does not mean the practice of hospitality is any less needed.  

Loneliness, depression, and anxiety are increasing hallmarks of our culture, contributing to the rise in suicide rates.  Along with natural events such as wild fires, earthquakes, tornados, and hurricanes, hospitality still is necessary to meet needs.

Today, consider people in your life who could benefit from your hospitality.  Regardless of your living situation, even living in a dorm room, your space can become a welcome haven for someone in need. It is amazing what a warm, welcoming environment, along with good food, drink and conversation, can do for someone in need.  I know because I experienced it and it helped to change my life.

© Jim Musser 2017

Monday, September 11, 2017


“This is the meaning of the parable: The seed is the word of God.  Those along the path are the ones who hear, and then the devil comes and takes away the word from their hearts, so that they may not believe and be saved. Those on the rocky ground are the ones who receive the word with joy when they hear it, but they have no root. They believe for a while, but in the time of testing they fall away. The seed that fell among thorns stands for those who hear, but as they go on their way they are choked by life’s worries, riches and pleasures, and they do not mature. But the seed on good soil stands for those with a noble and good heart, who hear the word, retain it, and by persevering produce a crop.” (Luke 8:11-15 NIV)

I have read the parable of the sower literally hundreds of times in my lifetime, but something stood out to me recently in Jesus’ explanation of the seed choked out by the thorns that I hadn’t grasped before—“they do not mature.” Matthew’s version of the parable says, “unfruitful.” I think it is his version that has been stuck in my brain all these years. They are in many ways the same, but that phrase, “they do not mature” resonated.

It has long been observed that Americans are a distracted people. We so often move our focus from one thing to another, having difficulty remaining fixed on one thing for very long. In American life, so many things compete for our attention. Could this be why the American Church, as a whole is immature and unfruitful? Could this be why you and I are less mature than we should be by this point in our lives because too many things distract us?

Note that Jesus says those whose lives are choked by distractions continue down the path.  We tend to think they just stop believing, but a careful reading of the text paints a different picture.  They continue to live as believers, just immature and unfruitful ones.  

Could this be the reason there are so many churches in America, but so few have any real impact on the lives of unbelievers?  Yes, many are active in their churches, but are people really maturing spiritually over the years?  Or are they just believers who lives are so choked with distractions, they have no time to devote themselves to the things that produce spiritual maturity, such as studying the Word, meditating, praying, having true fellowship, serving, etc.?

What about you? Are you maturing in your walk with Jesus?  Can you look back over the last several years and see increasing maturity or are you stuck in the same place you have been for awhile.  

Today, examine the distractions in your life.  What gets in the way of you growing in your relationship with Jesus?  Take the time to figure that out and then begin to remove them.  The Lord’s intent for us is to grow and mature over the course of our lives.  If that is not happening, then something needs to change.

© Jim Musser 2017

Friday, September 8, 2017

Our Fear of not Being Good Enough for the Lord

“One day as Jesus was standing by the Lake of Gennesaret, the people were crowding around him and listening to the word of God. He saw at the water’s edge two boats, left there by the fishermen, who were washing their nets. He got into one of the boats, the one belonging to Simon, and asked him to put out a little from shore. Then he sat down and taught the people from the boat.

When he had finished speaking, he said to Simon, ‘Put out into deep water, and let down the nets for a catch.’

Simon answered, ‘Master, we’ve worked hard all night and haven’t caught anything. But because you say so, I will let down the nets.’

When they had done so, they caught such a large number of fish that their nets began to break. So they signaled their partners in the other boat to come and help them, and they came and filled both boats so full that they began to sink. When Simon Peter saw this, he fell at Jesus’ knees and said, ‘Go away from me, Lord; I am a sinful man!’ For he and all his companions were astonished at the catch of fish they had taken, and so were James and John, the sons of Zebedee, Simon’s partners.

Then Jesus said to Simon, ‘Don’t be afraid; from now on you will fish for people.’ So they pulled their boats up on shore, left everything and followed him.” (Luke 5:1-11 NIV)

From the very beginning, sin has come between God and us. After they were disobedient to the Lord, Adam and Eve hid from Him (Genesis 3:8). After killing his brother, Cain was banished from the Lord’s presence (Genesis 4:16). So Peter, a Jew, was well acquainted with sin’s effects.  So his instinctive reaction to the divine power of Jesus was to separate himself from Him.  And it can be ours as well.

On campus, one can sense sin’s impact. For many who party, sleep around, and live for themselves, the underlying motivation is the recognition they are sinful people.  They’ve messed up repeatedly and they don’t feel good enough for God, so why try? Many times we have students remain on the fringes of our ministry for this very reason. They’re inclined to come around as means to assuage their guilt, but they won’t truly pursue Jesus because they fear they are not good enough to follow Him. Like Peter, they feel the need to keep Him at a distance.

Yet, the words of our Lord to Peter are powerful: “Don’t be afraid; from now on you will fish for people.” Jesus was well aware of Peter’s sin, yet invited him to be part of His mission to reconcile people to God.

What about you? Have you allowed your sinfulness to separate you from the Lord and what He desires for your life?  Are you afraid you are not worthy to be a truly committed follower?  If so, then find hope and courage in the Lord’s interaction with Peter.  Humble yourself before Him and confess your sinfulness. Don’t be afraid. As long as you recognize your shortcomings, He can use you in powerful ways to draw other sinners into a relationship with Himself.

© Jim Musser 2017

Thursday, September 7, 2017

A Fresh Start

“Blessed is the one whose transgressions are forgiven, whose sins are covered. Blessed is the one whose sin the Lord does not count against them and in whose spirit is no deceit.  When I kept silent, my bones wasted away through my groaning all day long.  For day and night your hand was heavy on me; my strength was sapped as in the heat of summer.  Then I acknowledged my sin to you
 and did not cover up my iniquity.
 I said, ‘I will confess my transgressions to the Lord.’
 And you forgave the guilt of my sin.” (Psalm 32:1-5 NIV)

The start of every school year is always a new beginning, something akin to a significant birthday, such as a 25th or a 40th.  It offers the opportunity for a fresh start.  And oh how we so often need a fresh start!

For students, summers always are brimming with excitement and promise, but often fall short of expectations.  They can return to campus wounded and weary from disappointment—in themselves.   Temptation, fueled by their own evil desires, as James describes (1:14-15), dragged them into sinful situations where they fell hard.  Instead of returning with a lift in their step, there is a limp.

For the rest of us, we may not be starting anything new, but it is quite likely we are limping, even if it is barely noticeable.  We, too, are feeling the effects of acts of disobedience, self-inflicted wounds that have accumulated over time.

For all of us, this psalm offers a remedy, a healing balm that will soothe what ails us.  David was reluctant to confess his sin and he found himself in misery.  What changed everything was his willingness to confess what he had done wrong.  So often it is our pride that prevents us from owning up to what we have done, to God and others.  We have an image to maintain, so we hide our sin, but, as David discovered, we do so at our peril.

Today, if there is a limp in your step from the self-inflicted wounds of sin, know that confession is the means by which you can be healed.  You don’t have to remain in misery.  Like David, you can have a fresh start.

© Jim Musser 2017

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

Desperate Times

“Now on his way to Jerusalem, Jesus traveled along the border between Samaria and Galilee. As he was going into a village, ten men who had leprosy met him. They stood at a distance and called out in a loud voice, ‘Jesus, Master, have pity on us!’

When he saw them, he said, ‘Go, show yourselves to the priests.’ And as they went, they were cleansed.  One of them, when he saw he was healed, came back, praising God in a loud voice. He threw himself at Jesus’ feet and thanked him—and he was a Samaritan. Jesus asked, ‘Were not all ten cleansed? Where are the other nine? Has no one returned to give praise to God except this foreigner?’  Then he said to him, ‘Rise and go; your faith has made you well.’”  (Luke 17:11-19 NIV)

Two weeks ago it was Texas.  Now it is Florida.  Being in the path of a monstrous storm will quickly get one’s attention. There is an old saying that there are no atheists in foxholes, recognizing the fact that when people are in desperate situations, they cry out to God.  They have encountered circumstances beyond their control and they cry out for help.  Like when the roar of a hurricane is bearing down, the car is sliding out of control, or the medical test comes back positive.  In desperate times, there are few who do not realize their dependence on something greater than themselves.  

But what is also true, once the desperate situation passes, is for most nothing really changes.  People go back to their lives as before.  The lepers were desperate.  Shunned and scorned by society, they cried out to Jesus for help.  And He graciously responded.  Yet, once they were healed, nine of the ten just went on with their lives without acknowledging the Source of their healing.  

I remember in the days following the 9/11 attacks people were filling churches, attending prayer services, and reflecting on the meaning and value of life.  Desperate people were crying out to God.  But within weeks, church attendance returned to normal levels and life resumed with most people looking for answers, not from God, but from politicians.  

The desperate situations we encounter are a window into our true reality: we are totally dependent on God.  The hurricane, the car wreck, the illness, only serve to amplify the fact we are not in control of our lives.  But like the nine lepers for whom the Lord provided, we so often go on our way without acknowledging what He has done for us and how dependent our lives are on Him.

Today, recognize, even if life is going well for you right now, how dependent you are on God, how much He has provided for you.  Like the one leper who was healed, take the time to thank Him for all He has done for you.  

© Jim Musser, 2017

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

Speaking Truth in Love

“As Jesus started on his way, a man ran up to him and fell on his knees before him. ‘Good teacher,’ he asked, ‘what must I do to inherit eternal life?’

‘Why do you call me good?’ Jesus answered. ‘No one is good—except God alone.  You know the commandments: “You shall not murder, you shall not commit adultery, you shall not steal, you shall not give false testimony, you shall not defraud, honor your father and mother.”’

‘Teacher,’ he declared, ‘all these I have kept since I was a boy.’

Jesus looked at him and loved him. ‘One thing you lack,’ he said. ‘Go, sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.’

At this the man’s face fell. He went away sad, because he had great wealth.” (Mark 10:17-22 NIV)

Last week, I wrote about Jesus’ lack of concern in offending people when it came to telling the truth.  But one thing I wanted to emphasize is Jesus told the truth because He loved people.  This passage makes that abundantly clear.

Sometimes people want to use truth as a bludgeon, as a way to beat others down.  What they say is true, but the motive behind their words is to injure or malign, so as to lift themselves up.  We see this often in our society, but this is not what Jesus did.  He spoke truth to people because He loved them.  He told this wealthy man to give away all he had, not because he held a grudge against rich people, but because he saw the man’s wealth had become his idol.  His possessions possessed him.  The only remedy was for the man to free himself from them.  It was a truth he could not swallow.

And that’s the way it often goes when we tell the truth, even when love is our only motive.  People will reject it and sometimes be offended.  But if our only motive is love, that we truly want what is in the best interests of the person, then regardless of their reaction, we can walk away with a clear conscience.

Today, remember the motive for Jesus telling the truth was simply that He loved people.  When you desire to share the truth of the Word with others, if that is not your motive, it would be better to refrain from saying anything at all.  

© Jim Musser 2017

Monday, September 4, 2017

Thinking Before You Post

“As a prisoner for the Lord, then, I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received. Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to one hope when you were called one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.” (Ephesians 4:1-6 NIV)

With the advent of social media over the past few years, there has been an increase in hubris of those who post their tweets and Facebook statuses, and in the comments on the many blogs.  Many people seem to have trouble filtering their thoughts.  Perhaps the urge to make their point or to say something memorable is just too great to pause and consider what they are typing.  The end result is often a lot of arrogant posts and tweets.

Again, like all areas of life, Jesus followers need to be on their guard. There are many times when I scroll through my Facebook wall, look at Twitter, or read comments on news column posts, I am very tempted to fire off a reply that will set people straight.  But I resist because, for one, I know my comment will likely add more fuel to the fire than extinguish it. Second, I am called to pursue unity and peace.  And, thirdly, I am called to humility.

It is this last reason that I think is most important because it goes to the heart of the issue.  While 10-15 years ago, our opinions were limited to talking with our friends, writing letters to the editor, and posting on message boards with few readers, now we can voice our opinions almost instantaneously to hundreds, thousands, and perhaps even millions if we place the right hashtag at the end of it.  And there is a strong lure to that, one that strokes our egos because our opinions can be out there for the world to see.  

I sense this temptation even as I write and post this devotion every morning.  Thus, I need to check my heart daily as I write.  The truth is we all need to check ourselves before we post online.  What are our real motives and are they aligned with what Paul lays out in this passage?  

Today, before you update your Facebook status or send a tweet, ask yourself this: Are the contents worthy of the calling I have received from the Lord?

© Jim Musser 2017

Friday, September 1, 2017

Following That 'Crazy' Jesus

“Then Jesus entered a house, and again a crowd gathered, so that he and his disciples were not even able to eat. When his family heard about this, they went to take charge of him, for they said, ‘He is out of his mind.’

Then Jesus’ mother and brothers arrived. Standing outside, they sent someone in to call him. A crowd was sitting around him, and they told him, ‘Your mother and brothers are outside looking for you.’

‘Who are my mother and my brothers?’ he asked.

Then he looked at those seated in a circle around him and said, ‘Here are my mother and my brothers! Whoever does God’s will is my brother and sister and mother.’”(Mark 3:20-21, 31-34 NIV)

Many years ago, I sat down with the parents of a student who wished to participate in our ministry’s mission trip to Haiti. Both were fearful for their daughter’s safety and skeptical I had the knowledge and skill to keep her safe.  I attempted to reassure them that I had taken groups of students to Haiti and other foreign lands many times and had brought all of them safely back to America.  I also assured them the missionaries with whom we were going to work had years of experience of hosting Americans in that volatile country.

It didn’t matter. They were convinced I was ignorant of the real dangers and they would not allow their child to go with us.  They thought such a trip was crazy.

That experience came to mind as I recently read this passage about Jesus’ family’s reaction to Him.  They thought He was nuts, including His mother, Mary.  Because they had lost faith in His judgment, they went on a mission to save Him from Himself.  Of course, when told of His family’s arrival, He knew precisely why they were there. And in that moment, He made a declarative statement about family and obedience: “Whoever does God’s will is my brother and sister and mother.” In other words, Jesus drew the line between family and obedience to Him.  

In my long tenure working with college students, I have often dealt with fearful parents who object to their children’s desire to do what they consider risky or seemingly irrational things in order to follow the calling of the Lord.  As with the family of Jesus, they want to swoop in and take charge. You want to do what? Though it is largely unspoken, their thinking is, “You’re out of your mind.”  

The reality is this is what you get if you truly want to follow Jesus. He is going to ask you to do things that, on the surface, seem irrational and, sometimes, even crazy.  And parents and other people will desperately try to talk you out of it.  Countless times I have seen graduates decide to pursue vocational ministry here or abroad after earning a college degree, only to be met with ridicule by those around them for “wasting” their education. Or when telling “poor” students that the Lord wants them to be generous with their money, often getting blank stares in return reflecting the ridiculousness of the suggestion. Or when posing the question, what if the Lord wants you to…? in order to get someone thinking about their perception of the inevitability of their choices (e.g., getting married, choosing a career, forgiving someone who has hurt them, etc.) and receiving back the verbal or non-verbal response of “What?” 

Without realizing it, even if we are Christians, we raise children, and have been raised in such a way as to take the safe, rational routes in life.  This seems like the logical and smart thing to do.  But that is rarely what Jesus did.  He said things He was told not to say.  He did things people told Him not to do.  And the truth is, He wasn’t crazy, but obedient.  

Today, consider how you live your life and the basis for the choices you are making.  Pleasing those around you with your choices is fine as long as they are in line with what the Lord wants.  The rub is when the Lord wants you to do what others believe is irrational or even a bit crazy.  What will you do then—give into the desires of others or do the will of the Lord?

© Jim Musser 2017