Thursday, November 30, 2017

The Freeing Power of Truth

“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.’” (John 8:31-32 NIV)

I can still remember sitting in the office of one of my seminary professors almost wailing in grief over the break-up with my girlfriend. She was the love of my life and I was having a very hard time coping with the thought of living without her.  As I began to catch my breath, he asked me, “Jim, have you given this over to God?”  I think I muttered a “yes,” but it wasn’t true.  And it was months later before I would acknowledge the truth.  In the meantime, I struggled with school and with depression.  

Then one day, after a very tough morning, I exploded.  I screamed at God with great fury.  Why had he taken away the woman I loved?  Why was my life such a mess?  It was not fair!  And after my fury was spent, I sat, emotionally exhausted.  Then I heard these words in my mind, “Shirley is your idol.”  The truth had been spoken and at that moment, I owned it.  I had been in denial for months and had been in bondage to my idolatry. My girlfriend was more important than the Lord and my relationship with Him suffered as a result. When I was finally willing to tell the truth, I was set free. The depression began to wane, I finished strong in school, and I began to grow again spiritually.

I tell that story because so many of us hide behind lies.  Working with students, I see this frequently.  They want to portray an image of a solid believer, so they hide behind spiritual language.  They seek to sound like they are growing spiritually when nothing much is happening at all. Or they have consistent sin in their lives they’re unwilling to confess, such as pornography or an impure romantic relationship.  Even when directly asked, they will deny anything is wrong with how they are living.  
They think they are keeping up an impressive image, when in reality they are enslaving themselves to the father of lies.  Through their lies, he weakens them spiritually, deprives them of joy and peace, and blinds them to the freeing power of the truth.  

And it is not just college students.  Adults in churches are guilty of the same thing.  So many wear the mask of spirituality on Sundays, but the rest of the week is a different story.  So many pretend life is going well, but behind the fa├žades are aching hearts.  

Why is it so hard to admit to the truth of our lives?  All of us fall short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23), so why are we bent on leading people to believe we are better than we are?  It’s that age-old sin of pride.  It is just too humbling to admit we are not as good as we are pretending to be.  But by refusing to acknowledge the truth, we keep ourselves in perpetual bondage.  

Today, if there is a lie you are hiding behind, know you are in bondage to it.  And the only way to free yourself is to admit the truth.  Confess to God and confess to other believers what is really going on.  Though it may scare you to do so, you will be amazed at how free you will become and the growth that will result.

© Jim Musser 2017

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Stop Complaining

“In your struggle against sin, you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood. And have you completely forgotten this word of encouragement that addresses you as a father addresses his son? It says, ‘My son, do not make light of the Lord’s discipline, and do not lose heart when he rebukes you, because the Lord disciplines the one he loves, and he chastens everyone he accepts as his son.’ 

Endure hardship as discipline; God is treating you as his children. For what children are not disciplined by their father?  If you are not disciplined—and everyone undergoes discipline—then you are not legitimate, not true sons and daughters at all. Moreover, we have all had human fathers who disciplined us and we respected them for it. How much more should we submit to the Father of spirits and live! They disciplined us for a little while as they thought best; but God disciplines us for our good, in order that we may share in his holiness. No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.  Therefore, strengthen your feeble arms and weak knees. ‘Make level paths for your feet,’ so that the lame may not be disabled, but rather healed. (Hebrews 12:4-13 NIV)

If the persecuted Jewish Christians of the 1st Century were looking for sympathy, they didn’t get it from the writer of Hebrews.  Though they were being treated terribly by the Romans, the writer points out that none of their blood had yet been shed.  Instead of complaining about their difficulties, he thinks they should view their hardships as discipline from the Lord, intended to mold them into holy people.  And like a coach gathering together his battered and disheartened team at halftime, he challenges them to get it together, lift up their heads, and get back out on the field.  This is not the time to feel sorry for themselves.  There is still a game to be played, and to win.

The true test of faith is how it holds up in the difficult times, yet it seems we are loath to endure them.  We complain, we mope, and we want our difficulties resolved immediately.  We fail to understand that through hardships God is seeking to shape us and refine us into the people He created us to be.  Just as we needed parental discipline as children in order to grow into healthy, well-functioning adults, we are in need of the Lord’s discipline to help us to become spiritually healthy.  Yet, so often, like the Jewish Christians, we are looking for sympathy and whining about the hard times we are facing.

We complain about how bad our boss is or how rough we have it in school.  We get upset at how the “liberal” media treats our faith, or how we Christians are being increasingly marginalized in our society.  We get frustrated and easily discouraged when things in life don’t go our way, whether it is a relationship, our plans for the future, or just day-to-day life.  

Well, the Hebrew writer would say something like this to us: You may be having difficulties, but they haven’t yet killed you.  God is trying to teach you some things through your hardship, not because is He is mean or gets some sick satisfaction out of it, but because He loves you and wants you to grow into the person He created you to be.  Now, pick yourself up and get back out there living your life for Him!

If you expect an easy life because you follow Jesus, you are badly mistaken.  Life will have many difficulties because that is how God trains us to become who He created us to be.  So if your life is hard and you’ve been complaining about it, get over it.  The Lord is at work through these things.  Accept it and move on, allowing Him to mold you into the man or woman He created you to be.

© Jim Musser 2017

Tuesday, November 28, 2017


“So do not throw away your confidence; it will be richly rewarded. You need to persevere so that when you have done the will of God, you will receive what he has promised. For, ‘In just a little while, he who is coming will come and will not delay.’ And, ‘But my righteous one will live by faith. And I take no pleasure in the one who shrinks back.’

But we do not belong to those who shrink back and are destroyed, but to those who have faith and are saved.” (Hebrews 10:35-39 NIV)

I was a shrinker by nature. When I was a child and teen, I was for the most part passive and avoided risk. While in elementary school, I did not try out for Little League baseball, even though my two older brothers played and I was a batboy. I became a bit braver in 7th Grade and tried out for the football team, but after only a couple of practices, I quit and chose to run cross-country, in which I competed for only one season. Later in middle school, one student bullied me for a whole year, but I never stood up to him, nor ever told my parents or school authorities.

As I grew older, I did become bolder, but even after my decision to follow Jesus, the shrinker in me was always an ever-present shadow.  I remember an off and on struggle with reading my Bible in public, even sometimes in my early years as a campus minister. Of course, this was long before Bible apps where you can read the Scriptures while looking like everyone else who is gazing at their phones. I often shrunk back fearing what other people in the coffee shop or restaurant would think. 

I also shrunk back as a single person. Instead of embracing my singleness and the freedom it brought in time and responsibility—freedom that could have easily been used in service to the Lord—I sought to find a relationship. It was a continual search because I feared loneliness, wanted affirmation, and shuddered at the thought of being single for the rest of my life.  

To call oneself a Christian while being a shrinker is evidence of a lack of faith. We shrink back because we can’t fully trust God.  We dive into an ill-advised relationship because we can’t trust Him to eventually bring along the right person. We go along with the crowd because we fear the cost of standing out. We are full of worry and anxiety because we feel the need to control our lives rather than give them over to the Lord. At the root of all of these is a lack of faith.

The Hebrew writer has just listed many of the challenges his readers were facing—severe persecution in many forms. He is exhorting them not to shrink back in fear and distrust, but to keep living in confidence their faith would be rewarded. And as a further motivator, he warns of the dire consequences of being a shrinker. This should serve as a motivator to all of us who are inclined to shrink back when we face adversity.  God can be trusted, so we must walk by faith rather than by sight.

Today, if you are one who tends to shrink back, know the Lord can be trusted in the midst of whatever you fear. In faith, push on; don’t shrink back. Living by faith is the path on which we will find the rewards so long promised us. It is by far not an easy path, but it is the best one.

© Jim Musser 2017

Monday, November 27, 2017

From Guilt to Repentance

“Even if I caused you sorrow by my letter, I do not regret it. Though I did regret it—I see that my letter hurt you, but only for a little while—yet now I am happy, not because you were made sorry, but because your sorrow led you to repentance. For you became sorrowful as God intended and so were not harmed in any way by us. Godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation and leaves no regret, but worldly sorrow brings death.” (II Corinthians 7:8-10 NIV)

The past several weeks have been difficult for me. The Lord has been dealing with me on several issues in my life that I have left unattended. The details are not important or proper for me to share, but I have found confessing those to the Lord and to others and changing my behavior has lifted a heavy burden from my shoulders. The result is, while not a pleasant experience, feeling an underlying joy of having this burden removed and being able to look ahead and not behind.

In today’s parlance, we would probably use “guilt” rather than “sorrow,” and guilt is viewed as negative by our culture.  It is not uncommon for some students to complain they “feel guilty” when I or one of our other staff teach from the Scriptures. They are accustomed to feeling good and prefer it.  Don’t we all? None of us likes to be corrected, but the truth, one that has been increasingly lost in the church, is this is one of the primary purposes of the Scriptures.

In this passage in his second letter to the Corinthian Christians, Paul is referring to a situation he addressed in his first letter to them. He commends them for their response. First, they were hurt by his rebuke; then they felt guilty (or sorrowful); and then they repented. Paul was overjoyed by their response because it was not typical, nor is it in our world today. Instead of merely feeling sorry or guilty and getting stuck there, the Corinthian believers responded by confessing and changing their behavior.  

How often do we really see this today among believers? In my experience, when confronted with sin by the Scriptures, most do feel guilty, but that is where they remain. They feel sad or angry, but do not move on to repentance. Paul refers to this as “worldly sorrow” because it does not lead to a change of attitude or behavior.  And he gives a warning: worldly sorrow leads to spiritual death.  

Repentance is essential to the Christian life, but we can only repent from that which is known to us as sin.  This is why it is so important to know the Scriptures and submit to their authority. But it will not come naturally to us. Rather, our natures will resist strongly repenting from sin. Yet that is what is needed if we are to experience the fullness and abundance of seeking to follow Jesus.  There are no short cuts.  

Today, have the Scriptures, or teachings from them, led you to feel guilty or sorry for something you are doing? If so, then recognize the next step is to repent from whatever it is. The guilt or sorrow is a prompting from the Lord that you need to change your behavior. And repentance lifts the burden of guilt from us, just as the Lord intended. You don’t have to carry it any longer.

© Jim Musser 2017

Tuesday, November 21, 2017


(Author's Note: The University's Thanksgiving Break begins tomorrow, so, as per my custom, I will be taking a break as well. WftW will return on Monday, November 27th.  For those of you in this country, may you have a wonderful and blessed Thanksgiving holiday!  Jim)

“Shout for joy to the Lord, all the earth. Worship the Lord with gladness; come before him with joyful songs. Know that the Lord is God. It is he who made us, and we are his; we are his people, the sheep of his pasture.

Enter his gates with thanksgiving and his courts with praise; give thanks to him and praise his name. For the Lord is good and his love endures forever; his faithfulness continues through all generations.” (Psalm 100 NIV)

It is the common tradition around many Thanksgiving celebrations to recount those things for which we are thankful. Going around the table or the room, people recount the things for which they are grateful—family members, a good job, freedom, financial security, the dream vacation they were able to take, good health, etc.  I have participated in these Thanksgiving rituals many times and they are a good exercise in recognizing how good our lives are and being grateful, even if they are far from perfect and not without struggles.

However, the flaw in this holiday ritual often is where the focus lies. Is it mostly on what we have been given or is it on the One whom has ultimately provided it for us?  Allow me to illustrate. On Christmas morning, children excitedly open their presents. Upon discovering what they have received, most will turn to their parents and say, “Thanks, Mom and Dad!”  But are they thanking them primarily because they are grateful to their parents for their love and generosity, or because of what they now have in their possession?

Notice in this psalm of David, the exhortation to be thankful flows from first recognizing the Giver for who He is, not for what He has provided. The Israelites had been given plenty, but the focus was first and foremost on the Giver and Him alone.

There is certainly nothing wrong with being thankful for all that we have been given and, in fact, that should be a consistent attitude we have. But if that is our sole focus, what happens when those things are taken away? I am so thankful to God for my wife whom I love so much, but could I remain thankful to God if she were taken away from me?  Could I continue to give thanks to Him if the home I so enjoy living in was suddenly destroyed? And would I remain grateful to Him if my health suddenly took a turn for the worse?

In honestly answering these or similar questions, we can get a truer sense of the focus of our thankfulness. Is it first and foremost on the Giver or on that which has been given?

Today and during this week of celebrating Thanksgiving, consider the reasons you are thankful. It is a wonderful thing, particularly in such a self-centered world, to acknowledge your gratefulness for what you have been given, but at the same time, do not forget the Giver of all things. He is the Source of all that we have been given; thus, He, and not merely His gifts, should be the object of our gratefulness.

© Jim Musser 2017

Monday, November 20, 2017

Please Forgive Me

“Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.” (Colossians 3:13 NIV)

Recently, in the news there have been numerous sexual harassment and assault charges made against movie producers, directors, actors, and politicians. The responses from the accused have ranged from apologies in one form or another to sheer denial anything untoward occurred.  What no one has said, at least publicly, is, “Please forgive me.” 

This simple request is rarely uttered by Christians or non-Christians today when they have committed an offense against someone else.  The usual response is, “I’m sorry,” and this typically only comes when one is confronted with the fact of a hurtful word or action. 

The problem I have with saying “I’m sorry,” is usually it carries the connotation of the burden of the offense being on the offended. In a way we’re only acknowledging that you think we did something wrong and, thus, we will apologize given that you view it that way.  There is no true admission that I was wrong, only that you think I was.

You may think I am nitpicking, but I have experienced this from both sides—the one who was wronged and the one who wronged someone. My experience with both is that it is much easier to say, “I’m sorry,” than, “Please forgive me.” I recall meeting with a student who was to be one of our leaders for that year who, right before school started, as our student leaders’ retreat was about to start, informed me via a text that she was going to leave our ministry for another one.  No explanation or apology was offered, just that fact.  When we finally met several weeks later, I confronted her on the way she had handled the situation. She immediately became defensive and sought to justify her actions. When I pushed back on her excuses, she exclaimed, “What do you want?  For me to say I’m sorry?  Okay, I’m sorry!”

This is an extreme example where the student was basically unwilling to even apologize, let alone ask for forgiveness.  But I’ve also had students willing to say that they were sorry, but very few to ask for my forgiveness.  To do so is to go against our flesh, which is full of pride. One cannot be prideful and ask forgiveness. It requires humility and that doesn’t come easily or naturally. 

Just recently I had to seek forgiveness from my staff for attitudes this semester that were not glorifying to the Lord and that were discouraging to them. It took me a week to defeat my flesh and do what I knew the Lord was commanding me to do—to say, “Please forgive me” and to acknowledge my sin.

Sadly, it is common in both campus ministries and local churches where people will leave communities or sever relationships—even using the cover of “I feel the Lord leading me”—because they are unwilling to admit they are in the wrong and seek forgiveness, or unwilling to forgive those who have sinned against them. It is our pride that so often stands in the way of true reconciliation.

Today, are you aware you have sinned against someone through what you’ve said or done? If so, are you willing to deny your flesh, your pride, to seek forgiveness? And if you are not aware of any sin you’ve committed against someone, are you willing to seek the Lord to be certain that indeed is the case (Psalm 139:23-24)? The Lord gave us a ministry of reconciliation, to lead others into reconciliation with God, but as Paul implies, that ministry has true power only when we are able to seek forgiveness from others and have a willingness to forgive others who have wronged us. “Please forgive me” needs to be spoken and heard much more often than it is.
© Jim Musser 2017

Friday, November 17, 2017

Praying Together

“Is anyone among you in trouble? Let them pray. Is anyone happy? Let them sing songs of praise.  Is anyone among you sick? Let them call the elders of the church to pray over them and anoint them with oil in the name of the Lord. And the prayer offered in faith will make the sick person well; the Lord will raise them up. If they have sinned, they will be forgiven. Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective.” (James 5:13-16 NIV)

Do you notice any theme in this passage?  When we are in trouble, what should we do? Pray.  When life is so good we just can’t help but smile, what should we do?  Pray prayers of praise and thanksgiving.  If we or someone else is sick, what should we do?  Pray in the name of the Lord for healing.  If we have sinned, what should we do?  Confess to one another so we can pray for one another.

As we are told in other passages (e.g., Acts 2:42; Ephesians 6:18), the community of believers is to be praying.  Yet, this is one of the great struggles within the body of Christ.  We spend little time praying, particularly together.  Why would that be when it is so obvious in Scripture that this is to be a focused priority?  Two words—spiritual warfare.

The enemy knows the power of prayer and the devastating effect it can have on his schemes, so he works hard on persuading us not to pray. It’s too scary or weird. I don’t know how to pray. It takes too much time. I’m not good enough. The list can go on and on of the excuses we have for not praying.  The fact is, whatever the reason, the end result is a lack of prayer in our lives, which fits quite nicely into Satan’s strategy of weakening the Church.  I see this in the ministry that I lead. We have a weekly prayer time to which only a handful of students come. We also have a space during our large group meetings to which students can come for prayer. Rarely, anyone does. 

If this is to change, we need to acknowledge what is going on.  We need to confess our prayerlessness and begin to fight back.  We need to look for the opportunities to pray with one another, fighting through the fear and awkwardness.  Prayer is powerful and effective and we would be wise to put it to better use.

Today, consider how you can begin to cultivate a life of prayer with other believers.  Perhaps you can start with a question: How can I pray for you?  And then follow that up with, here’s how you can pray for me. Then pray.  It may be a little awkward, but the rewards will be great.

© Jim Musser 2017

Thursday, November 16, 2017

The Savior Complex

“That is why we labor and strive, because we have put our hope in the living God, who is the Savior of all people, and especially of those who believe.” (I Timothy 4:10 NIV)

Have you ever had a friend or family member for whom you were very concerned and attempted to do all you could to help them, to rescue them from themselves? It is well documented that many children of alcoholics, domestic abusers, and drug addicts, tend to see their roles as savior and protector of other family members. Instinctively, when there is a perceived threat, they seek to save and protect. It’s referred to as the “savior complex” and it can easily creep into our thinking as believers. We sometimes think, perhaps because of our undying devotion, gifts, insights, etc., that we can be the primary change agents in people’s lives.

I observe this often with students. They have concerns for their friends and so they seek to be their primary helper or fixer. If they are anxious or depressed, they will be the ones coming to the rescue. If they are making stupid and destructive choices, they will be there to lessen the damage and help clean up the mess. They see themselves as their savior. However, it is a mistaken assumption. There is only one Savior, and they aren’t Him.

Paul writes to Timothy that our hope is in the living God who is the Savior of all people. And no matter the love and concern behind our intentions, it is a gross mistake to attempt to be anyone’s savior. There is only one Savior and He is the only one who can save people from themselves.  Can we be of comfort and assistance? Of course, but we cannot save anyone.  That is not our calling nor within our power.

Instead, our role in friends’ and family members’ lives is to help lead them to the One who can indeed save them from themselves. So, how do we do that?  The primary way is through continual prayer. We lift them up to the Lord who knows them thoroughly. He knows there needs and weaknesses and can meet them if they will let Him. We can also demonstrate with our own lives the value of depending on the Lord to care and provide for us, as well as being a witness to the joy of allowing Jesus to guide us in life instead of depending on our own efforts and wisdom.  And, we can be present, being used by the Lord to give the same type of comfort we ourselves have received from the Lord (II Corinthians 1:3-4) But, again, this is comfort designed to help lead them to be dependent on the Lord, not upon us.

Today, if there are people in your life that need saving from themselves, realize that you are not the one to do the saving.  It is not your job nor within your power.  That belongs to THE Savior—Jesus. He wants to use you, but only in a way that leads them to the One who can actually save.

© Jim Musser 2017

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

The Wisdom of Numbering Our Days

“Our days may come to seventy years, or eighty, if our strength endures; yet the best of them are but trouble and sorrow, for they quickly pass, and we fly away.  If only we knew the power of your anger!  Your wrath is as great as the fear that is your due.  Teach us to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom.” (Psalm 90:10-12 NIV)

Sometimes when I look in the mirror in the morning or the pharmacist asks me for my date of birth when I pick up a prescription, I am reminded that I am not getting any younger.  And the old adage, “my how time flies” is so true.  It doesn’t seem that long ago I was one of the young guys in my field of ministry.  Now I am one of the oldest.  Most of those in my high school class are now becoming grandparents, and while retirement was for so long an odd thing for me to consider, I now see its shadow looming on the horizon.

As I read this psalm yesterday, it made me realize how the number of my days is rapidly shrinking.  Seventy is still a ways off for me, but it’s a lot closer than it used to be and life expectancy levels today still remain in the range the Psalmist declared several millennia ago.  Though I could conceivably die at anytime, my death is almost certain within the next 30-35 years.  While that is a long time, I am beginning to realize how quickly time passes and the need to heed the teaching of this psalm.

We often think it morbid to contemplate our own death; hence why so many are reluctant to draw up a will or talk about end-of-life issues.  We are a culture that is almost phobic about death, so we avoid thinking about it or discussing it.  But the reality is that death is coming to us all and, according to the Psalmist, we would be wise to consider our own mortality.

We see this truth played out in the testimonies of those who encounter a life-threatening experience such as cancer or an accident.  They tell how their perspectives on life changed, how their priorities were rearranged.  They came face to face with the realization of the finite number of their days and it changed the way they view and live life.  

The wisdom of numbering our days is the recognition that they are limited.  Whether you are still a teenager or 20-something, middle-aged, or nearing retirement, your life on this planet is drawing to a close.  The sooner you recognize that, the wiser you will be in how you live out those years.

Today, understand your life on earth is finite.  One day you will die and that day is not as far off as you may now think.  Time is going to fly by. Be wise and recognize this fact, so you can set priorities now that will insure a life well lived.

© Jim Musser 2017

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

The Atmosphere for Worship

“The crowd joined in the attack against Paul and Silas, and the magistrates ordered them to be stripped and beaten with rods. After they had been severely flogged, they were thrown into prison, and the jailer was commanded to guard them carefully. When he received these orders, he put them in the inner cell and fastened their feet in the stocks. About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the other prisoners were listening to them.” (Acts 16:22-25 NIV)

It seems these days everywhere you turn there is evidence for the need to hype up worshipping God. People are drawn to the mega-churches because of the big crowds and the energetic atmosphere. Worship concerts are also a popular thing, with Hillsong and other well-known worship bands drawing huge crowds night after night in arenas all across the country. And, increasingly, to attract young people to their ministries, youth groups sponsor and promote Christian concerts where “God is going to do awesome things.” 

As I have reflected on this trend in recent years, this story of Paul and Silas continues to resonate with me and I think it is a much needed correction to the majority thinking that somehow we need to create the ideal conditions for worshipping God—which once was believed to be austere and reverent, but which now has flipped to being loud and energetic.

Roman jails were far from what we might conceive when thinking of modern jails and prisons.  They were closer to the dungeons portrayed in movies. They were dark, dank, and rat-infested. Prisoners were chained inside their cells.  Not exactly what we would consider anywhere close to the ideal conditions for worship.  Consider also that Paul and Silas had been terribly beaten prior to their incarceration.  Yet, here they were, hours later, worshipping God through prayer and singing.  

The truth is, we can worship the Lord anywhere under any conditions if our hearts are right. It is a gross mistake to think worship is in any way dependent on outside conditions. Worshipping God is by definition an external expression of an inward reality. To attribute worth to God, which is worship, doesn’t require a professional-sounding band, certain lighting, or a large crowd. It doesn’t require waking up feeling great and close to God on a Sunday morning. It merely requires a grateful, thankful, and humble heart. With that, whether we are amidst a large crowd of fellow worshippers or all alone in a dark room, we can worship unhindered because at the heart of worship is the condition of our hearts.

The reality is that followers of Jesus over the millennia and in many places today did and are experiencing suffering and persecution while still worshipping the Lord their God. They worship in secret, or in drafty buildings with wooden benches, often with no instruments, or with merely a few people making up their church. By believing that we need an ideal setting for worship, we totally misunderstand the very nature of worship, and, thus, will be unable to truly worship.  

What worship, I fear, has become for many is an emotional feeling enhanced by the atmosphere created precisely to produce those feelings.  And with that is created a sense that one cannot worship apart from the atmosphere and the accompanying feelings.  If that is true, then how do we explain the worship of believers over the centuries in conditions almost unimaginable to us? And how do we explain Paul and Silas’ ability to worship in the conditions in which they found themselves? 

Today, let the example of Paul and Silas, as well as others who worship in the midst of very difficult circumstances, help you to understand the ability to worship is not based on the external conditions in which you find yourself.  Rather it is based on the attitude of your heart at that moment.  If it is right, then you can worship the Lord fully and enthusiastically anywhere and under any conditions.

© Jim Musser 2017

Monday, November 13, 2017


“All these people were still living by faith when they died. They did not receive the things promised; they only saw them and welcomed them from a distance, admitting that they were foreigners and strangers on earth. People who say such things show that they are looking for a country of their own. If they had been thinking of the country they had left, they would have had opportunity to return. Instead, they were longing for a better country—a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared a city for them.” (Hebrews 11:13-16 NIV)

Are you weary of the struggles of daily life? Are you tired of the pain, sorrow, and loss that seem to cast a constant shadow upon the world? Are you emotionally drained by the brokenness that surrounds you or that you experience within yourself? Deep down, do you long for something far better than what life has offered you thus far?

If so, then the 11th Chapter of Hebrews is for you. The writer spends the entire chapter extolling the faith of those well known and others who lived in obscurity, who found this earthly life difficult and challenging, but held onto their faith through a longing for a long-promised country that does not exist in this earthly realm. 

In our rush to admire the saints of old, we tend to forget or fail to recognize how hard their lives were. As the chapter summarizes, they faced many challenges, including persecution and torture, depravation, loneliness, and uncertainty, as well as hope deferred. What they had been promised, they never experienced in this life.  

In our immediate gratification world, we are not accustomed to waiting long for what we want. So the temptation is to satisfy our deepest longings with things much more temporal. Our deepest longings are those for which we were created. They come from the spiritual realm and our ability to grasp them is elusive in this fallen world. But they are meant to, over our lifetimes, to draw us closer to the One who can ultimately satisfy them.  Rather than grow accustomed to what we experience in the here and now, these longings seek to make us dissatisfied and restless for something far greater and better.

The danger to us, as C.S. Lewis once wrote, is that we are far too easily pleased with that with which we are familiar, rather than something promised which we have never experienced. Like the one who longs to be loved settling for mere attention when a true lover waits in the wings. Or like the one who settles for mere knowledge when wisdom beckons. Tamping down our longings in favor of gratification in the moment will always prove unsatisfactory in the long run.

What the Hebrew writer is seeking to convey is, like the saints of old, we should cultivate rather than ignore the deep longings we have. We should not settle for what this world offers, but rather seek that which is far superior—a better country of which we as believers are already citizens.  

Today, think about your deepest longings, those that make your heart ache for something more than you have ever truly experienced.  These are the things which only God can satisfy. Let these longings move you to pursue the One who can ultimately fulfill them.  Don’t settle for less. More is far better in the long run.

© Jim Musser 2017

Friday, November 10, 2017

Telling of the Marvelous Works of God

“As for me, I will always have hope; I will praise you more and more. My mouth will tell of your righteous deeds, of your saving acts all day long—though I know not how to relate them all.

I will come and proclaim your mighty acts, Sovereign Lord; I will proclaim your righteous deeds, yours alone. Since my youth, God, you have taught me, and to this day I declare your marvelous deeds. Even when I am old and gray, do not forsake me, my God, till I declare your power to the next generation, your mighty acts to all who are to come.” (Psalm 71:14-18 NIV)

Recently, I was asked what the Lord had been doing in my life of late. The first thing that came to my mind was my open-heart surgery, which occurred nearly six months ago. I hesitated to share this at first because it seemed like “old news,” but the more I thought about it, I realized it continues to impact me daily and, thus, was worthy to be shared.

We live in such a world where new things become old very quickly. My iPhone 6, which appeared on the market a mere four years ago, is now considered practically a relic. Songs of worship rise to the point most churches are singing them, but within several years, people are looking for new ones to sing because the old ones are beginning to grow stale.  

So it is easy to see why we often feel the need to come up with something new for which to praise God. Like the old uncle whom we can always count on to tell the same story every Thanksgiving, we fear we will be objects of the eye roll when we open our mouths and spout the same thing.

Yet, the Psalmist seems to be encouraging us to be repetitive with our praise.  “Since my youth, God, you have taught me and to this day I declare your marvelous deeds.” Are they only the most recent ones he is declaring? I don’t think so. Instead, I think he is declaring his experiences of God over a lifetime, both the new and the old.  They are equal in value because they involve the Lord who is “the same yesterday, today, and forever.” (Hebrews 13:8) The only way the old stories grow stale is if they are no longer relevant nor have impact.  But the God who never changes is always relevant and what He did years ago is the same as what He does currently. He is timeless and so are His works.

I can tell my conversion story, though it is quite old, because it continues to impact me today. It is the foundation upon which the Lord continues to build. It is a marvelous story because of the marvelous work He did in my life decades ago. And the story of my open-heart surgery is worth telling because, again, it involves His marvelous work. Whether the stories of God’s work in my life are decades old, six months old, or merely hours, they are worth telling and repeating because His works are marvelous.

Today, what stories can you tell of the Lord’s marvelous work in your life? Know that whether they are decades old, a few months, or merely days old, they are worth repeating often.  Stories of the marvelous works of God never get old.

© Jim Musser 2017

Thursday, November 9, 2017

When You Are Ready to Give Up

“Here is my servant, whom I uphold, my chosen one in whom I delight; I will put my Spirit on him, and he will bring justice to the nations. He will not shout or cry out, or raise his voice in the streets. A bruised reed he will not break, and a smoldering wick he will not snuff out. In faithfulness he will bring forth justice; he will not falter or be discouraged till he establishes justice on earth. In his teaching the islands will put their hope.

This is what God the Lord says—the Creator of the heavens, who stretches them out, who spreads out the earth with all that springs from it, who gives breath to its people, and life to those who walk on it:

‘I, the Lord, have called you in righteousness; I will take hold of your hand. I will keep you and will make you to be a covenant for the people and a light for the Gentiles, to open eyes that are blind, to free captives from prison and to release from the dungeon those who sit in darkness.

I am the Lord; that is my name! I will not yield my glory to another or my praise to idols. See, the former things have taken place, and new things I declare; before they spring into being, I announce them to you.’” (Isaiah 42:1-9 NIV)

One can see it anywhere, but my context is the University campus and I see it every day: students who are blind to their value and purpose, imprisoned by their fears, held captive by their addictions, and swallowed up by the darkness of life without hope. If I am honest, it is often discouraging ministering in this context. The light is dim and the rays of hope seem diminished. There are a lot of “bruised reeds” and “smoldering wicks” inhabiting the dorms and walking around on campus. So reading the prophetic words of Isaiah this morning was much needed.

It is so easy to give up in the midst of such a daunting environment of hurt and hopelessness, when the helping hand is extended and ignored, when the light is provided to see the narrow path that leads to life and it is brushed aside in favor of an easier way, and when the hurts seem too deep to be healed. It is easy to reach the point of surrender to the elements and say, “So be it; I can do no more.” 

But then the declarative statements of the Lord come from the page: “I will;” “I will not;” “I declare;” “I am.”  There is no hesitation, tentativeness, or doubt in the face of the dark landscape that is our fallen world. Instead there is an unyielding conviction that the will of the Lord will not be thwarted, that Satan’s merciless grip will be pried loose, that justice will prevail, and people will be set free. 

In a crisis, there needs to be a leader who will take charge, reassure the stricken, and help lead them from trouble to safety. This leader instills confidence, not in the situation, but in his ability to overcome it and thereby help others do the same.  

This is what the Lord is saying through Isaiah. In a dark and hopeless world, He will overcome it, echoing the very words of Jesus 700 years later (John 16:33). He is not in the least cowered by the evils of this world, the despair, and the hopelessness.  He presses on undeterred.

I needed to hear that this morning. How about you? Are you discouraged by the world around you, or about your own life?  Are you ready to give up? Then know there is One who has stepped into the crisis and taken charge. Follow Him and His lead. He knows what He is doing and will lead you through the perilousness until you reach safer ground.

© Jim Musser 2017

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

Not Only Forgiven, but Forgotten

“This is the covenant I will make with the people of Israel
 after that time,” declares the Lord. 
 “I will put my law in their minds and write it on their hearts. 
 I will be their God, and they will be my people.  No longer will they teach their neighbor, 
 or say to one another, ‘Know the Lord,’
 because they will all know me, 
from the least of them to the greatest,”
 declares the Lord 
For I will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more.” (Jeremiah 31:33-34 NIV)

A few years ago, my brother had a bad bicycle accident, the cause of which will remain a mystery.  Why?  Because he has no memory of it. He was knocked unconscious and awoke with no idea about what happened. And that turned out to be a very good thing.  It enabled him, once he recovered, to get back on his bike without any hesitation or fear because there were no traumatic memories with which to contend. 

Most of our memories are very good, particularly when it comes to sin. We tend to remember the bad things we’ve done, and those memories impact our lives.  They often fill us with deep regret or bitterness and enslave us, holding us back from experiencing the freedom that comes with knowing God.  But imagine if we had no memory of them.  Imagine if we could somehow get on with life without our memories getting in the way.  

What is striking about this passage is that God says, “I will forgive their wickedness and remember their sins no more.”  My first thought is, surely not.  But there it is, He will not remember our sins.  This is the promise of the New Covenant (Hebrews 8:6-13), that through Jesus there is forgiveness of sin and, once forgiven, God will have no memory of them.  Amazing!

So, like my brother, though we have fallen, we can get back up as if nothing had ever happened.  There may be wounds needing to be healed, but the memory of our sin is gone.  It is like it never happened.

Today, recognize knowing Jesus comes with the promise of not only having your sins forgiven, but for them to be forgotten as well.  

© Jim Musser 2017

Tuesday, November 7, 2017


“You, however, are not in the realm of the flesh but are in the realm of the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God lives in you. And if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, they do not belong to Christ. But if Christ is in you, then even though your body is subject to death because of sin, the Spirit gives life because of righteousness. And if the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies because of his Spirit who lives in you.

Therefore, brothers and sisters, we have an obligation—but it is not to the flesh, to live according to it. For if you live according to the flesh, you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the misdeeds of the body, you will live. For those who are led by the Spirit of God are the children of God.  The Spirit you received does not make you slaves, so that you live in fear again; rather, the Spirit you received brought about your adoption to sonship. And by him we cry, ‘Abba, Father.’ The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children. Now if we are children, then we are heirs—heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory.” (Romans 8:9-16 NIV)

I recently had a conversation with a student who was struggling with feeling obligated to do things, particularly spiritually.  She felt it was hypocrisy to do something—praying, reading Scripture, reaching out to a new student—if it were done out of obligation rather than from her heart’s desire.  

I have found a lot of “spiritual purists” in recent years, ones who believe it is better to do nothing than do things out of obligation. Either have the right motives or don’t do it. Unfortunately, such thinking discounts the reality of what Paul says that we have an obligation as believers to live in the Spirit.

We can easily see the folly in this thinking by looking at a few of the major characters in the Scriptures.  Did Moses have pure motives when he went before Pharaoh? No. He was obligated to go because that is what God commanded him to do, even though he was reluctant to do so. (Exodus 3-4) Did Jeremiah embrace fully what the Lord asked him to do? No. Rather, he complained vehemently. (Jeremiah 12 & 20) When Jesus first called His 12 disciples, is there a sense of excitement among them? There is not; rather it seems there is a lot of fear and a sense they had no choice but to follow. (Luke 5:1-11)  And finally, there is Paul. On the road to Damascus, was his decision to obey Jesus anything but an obligation? Was his heart in the right place at that time? Unlikely. Rather, the power and authority of the Lord overwhelmed him. He obeyed because he had to. (Acts 9)

In our culture, we place a high value on feelings as our primary motivator. We believe we need to have loving feelings before we act in love. We need to feel compassionate before we act compassionately. We need to feel generous before we act generously.  But the Scriptures point us to a higher value—obedience. If Jesus is Lord, then we are to obey Him regardless of our feelings. Is it better to obey with joy and excitement?  Of course. But, too, it is always better to obey no matter how we feel than be disobedient.  

What we often fail to realize is feelings most often fall in line after obedience. Good marriage counseling focuses more on actions than feelings.  If couples are feeling unloving toward one another and are seeking help, they are not advised to try to conjure up more feelings of love, but rather to begin acting lovingly toward one another.  Those who act lovingly will likely see their feelings of love begin to grow. 

In the same way, if we begin to do the things the Lord commands us to do even if we don’t feel like it, in time we will likely begin to experience the joy that comes with obedience. But the first step is to obey.

Today, what commands have you been avoiding because they feel like obligations? Rather than waiting for a time when you have the pure motives to do them, start now to merely obey. What may surprise you over time is that your feelings fall in line with your obedience.

© Jim Musser 2017

Monday, November 6, 2017

Biblical Literacy

“As soon as it was night, the believers sent Paul and Silas away to Berea. On arriving there, they went to the Jewish synagogue. Now the Berean Jews were of more noble character than those in Thessalonica, for they received the message with great eagerness and examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true. As a result, many of them believed, as did also a number of prominent Greek women and many Greek men.” (Acts 17:10-12 NIV)

During my long tenure in campus ministry, biblical illiteracy has always been a challenge in ministering to students. Most come from church backgrounds, but typically have little working knowledge of the Scriptures when they come onto campus. The University is often blamed for the massive exodus from the faith by Christian college students, which, according to most researchers, is minimally 50 % and likely much greater.  Instead, I place the blame at the feet of the churches in which they were raised.

Long ago, local churches decided it was much more important that young people participated in their youth programs than on what they actually learned; numbers were the operative measure of success. So the emphasis was placed on programs being attractive to youth rather than being effective in giving them a solid spiritual foundation from which would emerge an effective defense against the lies of the enemy, which are routinely taught and spread on campuses throughout the country. 

The result has been that high school graduates are totally unprepared to discern what is true and what is not. Unlike the Bereans to whom Paul and Silas spoke, they do not have the ability to reference the Scriptures to tell truth from fiction. They are like the proverbial lambs being led to slaughter.

But biblical illiteracy is not limited to young people raised in the church. I have met many adults who have attended church their whole lives who could not explain the gospel using the Scriptures. I have met elders and deacons who are functionally illiterate in the Scriptures. This helps explain why churches are so often spiritually weak and prone to error either in doctrinal matters or practice. Again, many have fallen to the temptation of viewing numbers as the measure of success, and have moved in the direction of emphasizing the appeal of their worship services and programs rather than teaching the truth of the Scriptures regardless how offensive or challenging they may be to those in the pews.

The Scriptures are, literally, God’s handbook on how to live for Him and in a way that pleases Him in the midst of a fallen world.  If we think we can accomplish this without His explicit guidance, we are badly mistaken. Our instincts will inevitably lead us in the wrong direction. And the enemy will exploit our lack of familiarity with the Scriptures to lead us into lies and deceptions. This is why we all need to be scripturally literate. 

Imagine you could not read. How would you function successfully in our world? The answer is you could not. The same is true with being a follower of Jesus in a fallen world.  If you are not biblically literate, you will have a very difficult time functioning the way the Lord intends.

Today, consider how literate you truly are in the Scriptures? Could you defend the faith against the charges of an atheist or skeptic? Can you listen to a teaching from a pastor and be able to discern whether what is taught is actually in line with the Bible? Could you correct a brother and sister on their behavior gently using the Scriptures? Biblically literate people can do all these things. If you do not believe you could, then it is time to become literate. Functional literacy in the Word is not optional for a follower of Jesus. It is a necessity for each one of us.

© Jim Musser 2017

Friday, November 3, 2017

What Difference Does Jesus Make?

“Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time.  Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.” (I Peter 5:6-7 NIV)

Our campus ministry association recently met with the university counseling center staff to discuss the latest trends and concerns for students on campus.  They reported the number one problem for which students seek their help is anxiety.  Causes ranged from family issues, such as divorcing parents, to relationship issues and academic pressures.  They all agreed students are finding it increasingly more difficult to balance the demands and pressures of life in a healthy way.  

Working with students as well, I, too, see this trend.  But what I will often ask is: what difference does Jesus make?  I work mostly with students who claim to have a relationship with Jesus, but I see them often getting swept along by the current of the campus culture which seems to elevate “stress-outtedness” to a badge of honor.  Many times they seem to approach life’s difficulties no differently than do the students who claim no faith.   So the question seems to be appropriate.

Jesus is supposed to make a difference in our lives, right?  So why is it that it seems so often He doesn’t?  I think Peter gives us the answer here.  Humbling ourselves means acknowledging our weakness and our need for help.  When my father died while I was in college, my grief was overwhelming, but I attempted to be strong and handle it on my own.  It didn’t work so well because I refused to humble myself before the Lord and my brothers and sisters in the faith to ask for help.  I tried to handle it on my own.

People are often crumbling under the pressures of life because they refuse to acknowledge their weakness.  But Peter tells us (as does Paul—II Corinthians 12:8-10) this is the only way to manage what life throws at us.  And we can do this with confidence because He cares for us.  He’s not going to laugh at us or be annoyed with us because of our problems.  Instead, He will take our anxieties and comfort us.  

Today, as you consider your struggles, think about this: What difference does Jesus really make in how you are dealing with them?  He should make all the difference in the world if you are willing to acknowledge you can’t handle your problems without Him.

© Jim Musser 2017

Thursday, November 2, 2017

Shoring Up Your Weak Points

“Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes.  For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand.” (Ephesians 6:10-13 NIV)

The key to a strong military is recognizing not only strengths, but weaknesses as well.  The British knew they had overwhelming superiority over the colonists in terms of armaments and manpower, but their striking weakness was their inability to adapt to the colonists hit and run attacks.  Their failure in this was one of the main reasons they lost the Revolutionary War.  

As followers of Jesus, we, too, are soldiers in an army at war with a powerful enemy.  And like any worthy opponent, he probes for weaknesses.  The question is not will he find any, but rather will he find them totally unguarded.  

As a young believer, one of my weaknesses was being totally controlled by my feelings.  I would feel down one day and immediately conclude something was wrong with my relationship with the Lord.  Or I would fall into sin and confess it, but still feel guilty and ashamed.  Satan exploited this weakness and kept me on a spiritual rollercoaster for several years. Another was my insecurity as a man, which led me into relationships with women that were unhealthy.  I was desperate for affirmation and approval and sought it through romantic relationships.  Again, the enemy took advantage of this weakness time and time again before I finally recognized it.  

It is the recognition of our weaknesses that is the key to winning the spiritual battles we face.  When we do, we can shore up our defenses against them.  They need not be fatal.  The Apostle Paul, even though we view him as a spiritual giant, had weaknesses and he tells about one of them in II Corinthians 12. He pleaded with the Lord to remove it, but the Lord refused. Instead, He said this, “My power is made perfect in weakness” (II Corinthians 12:9).  Most likely, our weaknesses won’t be removed, but, with the Lord’s help, we can overcome them. But we must recognize them in order to successfully fend off the enemy’s attacks.

So what are your weaknesses?  A sordid past that the devil keeps reminding you of?  An uncontrolled temper?  A bent toward anxiety or fear?  Holding grudges? No matter what weaknesses you have, the Lord is more than able to help you overcome them. 

Today, take some time to think about areas of your life in which you are vulnerable to Satan’s attacks.  Make a list and take it to the Lord, asking Him for help in defending these vulnerable areas.  This will not necessarily stop the attacks, but will insure that you are much better prepared to defend against them.

© Jim Musser 2017

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

Odd Expressions

“Now King David was told, ‘The Lord has blessed the household of Obed-Edom and everything he has, because of the ark of God.’ So David went to bring up the ark of God from the house of Obed-Edom to the City of David with rejoicing. When those who were carrying the ark of the Lord had taken six steps, he sacrificed a bull and a fattened calf. Wearing a linen ephod, David was dancing before the Lord with all his might, while he and all Israel were bringing up the ark of the Lord with shouts and the sound of trumpets. 

As the ark of the Lord was entering the City of David, Michal daughter of Saul watched from a window. And when she saw King David leaping and dancing before the Lord, she despised him in her heart. They brought the ark of the Lord and set it in its place inside the tent that David had pitched for it, and David sacrificed burnt offerings and fellowship offerings before the Lord. After he had finished sacrificing the burnt offerings and fellowship offerings, he blessed the people in the name of the Lord Almighty. Then he gave a loaf of bread, a cake of dates and a cake of raisins to each person in the whole crowd of Israelites, both men and women. And all the people went to their homes.

When David returned home to bless his household, Michal daughter of Saul came out to meet him and said, ‘How the king of Israel has distinguished himself today, going around half-naked in full view of the slave girls of his servants as any vulgar fellow would!’ David said to Michal, ‘It was before the Lord, who chose me rather than your father or anyone from his house when he appointed me ruler over the Lord’s people Israel—I will celebrate before the Lord.  I will become even more undignified than this, and I will be humiliated in my own eyes. But by these slave girls you spoke of, I will be held in honor.’

And Michal daughter of Saul had no children to the day of her death.” (II Samuel 6:12-23 NIV)

There is man in our church who is mildly autistic.  He does not like to be touched and he rarely will speak unless spoken to.  But when the worship music is played, he never lacks expression.  He raises his hands, claps, and, on occasion, he will go up front and dance during a song.  

I am sure some people think it odd and maybe some are even uncomfortable.  In the church we tend to prefer a more structured, dignified worship service.  There is nothing wrong with preferences, but sometimes we can allow our preferences to dictate our feelings towards others who desire to worship in a different way.  And then our preference can become a judgment.  

David’s wife, Michal, serves as a warning of this.  She thought David’s dancing in celebration of the Ark’s return to Jerusalem was undignified for someone of his stature and position.  Her preference became judgment and turned her heart against her husband.  

Satan is always looking for ways in which to disrupt the unity of the church and preferences in worship is one of them.  I think what we can learn from this story is heart-felt worship will often seem undignified by traditional norms, but if it is an overflow of joy we would do well to respect it if not embrace it.  

Today, recognize there are many preferences in worship.  Some may seem odd, even undignified to you, but don’t be quick to judge.  The expressions of a heart overflowing with joy can lead people to do some interesting things.

© Jim Musser 2017