Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Lowering the Temperature

“Many are the plans in a person’s heart, but it is the Lord’s purpose that prevails.” (Proverbs 19:21 NIV)

In reading this morning’s news, it’s clear that the President continues to be a lightning rod for political debate, which Christians have often gotten caught up in for many years, and the result has often been division among brothers and sisters. What deepens the divide, seemingly, is the fear of what happens if the “other side” gets its way. Some believe that if “liberals” get their way on issues, the nation, as my mom used to say, will go to hell in a hand basket.  While, on the other hand, there is fear “conservatives” will take us back to the Dark Ages. So stark is the future in people’s minds, they lash out and demonize their opposition.  

In the midst of such rancor, this proverb I hope can be a healing balm. It is easy to get carried along by the issues of the day, to get lost in the heated battle for right and wrong, to think it is dependent solely on us to shape the future.  And, thus, easy to lose perspective (and temper!).  

Yet, everything is not dependent on our efforts towards change.  There are many agendas, but only one ultimate plan.  Regardless of where you are on the political spectrum, you can rest in knowing God’s purpose will prevail.  While we can be passionate on issues of the day (gun control, abortion, same-sex marriage, limited government, etc.), there should be comfort in knowing that God is ultimately in control and His will cannot be thwarted, thereby lowering the “temperature” of our arguments.  

Today, regardless of how strongly you feel about certain issues, remember God is in control and His purpose will prevail.  You can take a breath and calmly face the future.

© Jim Musser 2018

Tuesday, January 30, 2018

The Beauty of Creation at Every Level

“ 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.” (Romans 1:20 NIV)

I love looking at and experiencing God’s creation. I have the privilege of living amidst the Appalachian Mountain Range in North Carolina. I have often walked the beaches gazing at the Atlantic Ocean on the other side of the state. I have backpacked in the Rocky Mountains and hiked in the Swiss Alps. And, recently, I spent several days spotting the exotic animals that are synonymous in our minds with Africa 

It is mind-boggling to me how creative and awesome His creation is. And that is on the macro level. This morning, I awoke to several inches of light, fluffy snow on the ground and it brought to mind something I recently saw posted on Facebook—a microscopic look at snowflakes. See here for yourself. It is absolutely amazing!

Gazing upon the vast ocean, standing atop a mountain, or looking up at the nighttime sky is to be awestruck at the creative power and beauty of our Lord. But His creative power is not only demonstrated on the macro level, but on the micro one as well. The pictures of individual snowflakes reveal an unmatched creative Mind that effuses with power and beauty.  Putting most anything under a microscope will reveal the immense attention to detail our Creator has for His work at the tiniest levels. Again, as I have often written, the words of Paul resonate as we observe and study creation close up and from afar.

I cannot understand how there are those in our world who are convinced this is all happenstance, the result of geological and biological processes over billions of years. It is similar to thinking that Michelangelo’s David is the result of eons of wind and erosion! It is, as Paul notes, clear that creation speaks of the Creator through its intricacy of design and overall beauty.

Today, if you have any doubts about the existence of God, then let creation, in all of its intricacy and beauty, allay those doubts. Whether through a telescope, microscope, or through your own eyes, the evidence is there and it is overwhelming. And if you already firmly believe, then take the time to enjoy what He has created for your enjoyment (I Timothy 6:17). 

© Jim Musser 2018

Monday, January 29, 2018

A Spirit of Fear

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

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

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

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

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

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

© Jim Musser 2018

Friday, January 26, 2018

Money, Money, Money

“But godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it. But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that. Those who want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs.

But you, man of God, flee from all this, and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance and gentleness. Fight the good fight of the faith. Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called when you made your good confession in the presence of many witnesses.” (I Timothy 6:6-12 NIV)

I had breakfast with a friend this week and part of our conversation revolved around the corruption of governments around the world. It started with my observation of the greed evident in my wife’s home country of South Africa, where we recently visited, where government officials regularly pocket taxpayer money for their own benefit. It moved on to professional sports where athletes typically make more money in one year than most of us make in a lifetime. Of course, the conversation could have gone on for hours discussing our own legislators becoming millionaires after they gain office, company executives making tens of millions each year while those working for them face potential layoffs because their companies are struggling financially, and pastors of mega churches living in mansions.

One does not have to look far to see the wisdom of Paul’s counsel to Timothy regarding money. The world is awash in it and for most, it is a temptation to idolize it, pursue it, worry about it, and covet it. Whether we are rich or poor, or middle class, the focus on money/wealth is inherent to most of us and has always been. We typically worry about not having enough or focus on how we can acquire more. It’s just the way the world is.

This is why Paul’s language is so strong—“flee,” “pursue,” “fight,” and “take hold.” The desire for money is powerful and can have a catastrophic effect on our spiritual lives. We should never underestimate it. Why is it so dangerous, you may ask? The answer, upon which Paul is basing his counsel, can be found in the words of Jesus: “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.” (Matthew 6:24 NIV)

Like the fictional mad scientist who thinks he can control some source of great power but ends up being controlled by it, so it is with money. Like I saw recently in a social media post, it is easy to think the more money we make, the more good we can do with it. But that pursuit is fraught with danger and we would all be wise to heed the words of Paul and our Lord. 

Today, consider your thinking about money. Do you think about it a lot? Do you want much more of it? Do you think the more you have, the more content and happy you will be? If any of these are true for you, be aware of the potential danger you are in, and take the same action Paul commands Timothy to take: Flee from all this, and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance and gentleness. Fight the good fight of the faith. Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called when you made your good confession in the presence of many witnesses.” You can’t start soon enough.

© Jim Musser 2018

Thursday, January 25, 2018

Fingers Crossed

“Have nothing to do with godless myths and old wives’ tales; rather, train yourself to be godly.” (I Timothy 4:7 NIV)

Perhaps it’s merely a coincidence, or maybe there is actually a new trend developing. In just over a week, in conversations with several students talking about their future plans, I heard them say, “fingers crossed” to explain their hope for what they wanted would work out. Each time I responded, “That won’t do any good,” to which I received quizzical looks. 

I am sure they thought me picky, and perhaps even judgmental, to make an issue of it. As one said, it’s a common cultural expression, similar to “good luck.” But I try to be mindful of not using that expression, either.  But I admit I have sometimes used it because its use is so pervasive.  You hear it so often that it becomes a part of your own lexicon. 

So I didn’t judge these students, but did want them to think about their choice of expressions. Although crossing fingers seems to have its roots in Christian history, in modern times, it is a superstition that implies this action can help us obtain what we want, and obviously excludes the Lord as the ultimate resource to whom we can go for help.

Again, this may seem picky, but Paul’s instructions to Timothy are clear that we are to avoid any connection with “godless myths and old wives’ tails.” And there is a reason: The prevailing culture, then and now, tends to accept these things as realities, or at the very least, equal in validity to trusting in God. I just recently read there is an uptick in young people who are turning to astrology. Shall we then, in order to be relatable, refer to ourselves as a Taurus or a Libra?

As followers of Jesus, we are to be set apart in the way in which we think and live. We are to be different and it should be obvious to those with whom we interact, but that becomes difficult when we adopt the customs and language of the culture around us in a way that draws attention away or obscures our faith in the Lord. How different it sounds when we replace “fingers crossed” with “I’m praying for the Lord’s will and trusting Him, or “good luck” with “I’ll pray it goes well for you” or merely to say “Blessings.” 

There has long been “cultural creep” in the Church, and this is precisely why Paul instructs Timothy in the way he does. It diminishes its impact on the society around it and to be a change agent for godliness and righteousness. If believers become increasingly similar to the unbelievers around them, what is the point? 

I admit that “fingers crossed” may seem to be a small thing, but I am reminded the Lord does not cede His Glory to anyone or anything (Isaiah 42:8) regardless of how small or large. 

Today, examine in what ways the cultural norms have affected your life. If there are norms that are godless or based in ignorance, then it’s time to rid yourself of them and exchange them with those that are godly. Your purpose is to bring attention to God’s glory, not diminish it.

© Jim Musser 2018

Wednesday, January 24, 2018

Unorthodox Praying

“I urge, then, first of all, that petitions, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for all people— for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness. This is good, and pleases God our Savior, who wants all people to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth. For there is one God and one mediator between God and mankind, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself as a ransom for all people. This has now been witnessed to at the proper time.” (I Timothy 2:1-6 NIV)

You need to go no further than Facebook and Twitter to see how people feel about President Trump, Congress, liberals, Republicans, Democrats, conservatives, the NRA, etc.  Almost all of my “friends” claim to be followers of Jesus, yet there is a great divide among many of them.  They often will post articles that back their views, sometimes denigrate those on the other side, and rarely, if ever, admit they might be wrong.  And I have yet to see anyone post anything like what Paul says to Timothy about the leaders and politicians of his day.

As a culture, we have become very divided and I fear have become like those Paul warned Timothy about who gather around them only those who will say what their itching ears want to hear. (II Timothy 4:3)  And, like them, our hearts may have become hardened towards those with whom we disagree.  Yet, Paul says we should pray for ALL people, make petitions and intercede on behalf of ALL people, and give thanks for ALL people.  And he says to do so is good and pleases the Lord, because He wants ALL people to be saved and come to a knowledge of the truth.  

It is difficult to read this passage and not conclude something is missing from the way most of us relate to those with whom we disagree.  First of all, we need to realize the deep love God has for those on the “other side.”  It is not just limited to those who have similar views to us, nor does it mean to be saved they will have to switch to our side.  As human beings, we must humbly realize we do not have the corner on truth.  Secondly, we need to heed the command to go before the Lord on behalf of those with whom we disagree.  Jesus said we are to love our enemies and pray for those who persecute us.  (Matthew 5:44) Thus, it would seem appropriate to spend more time praying for them than debating with them.

This is indeed is to take an unorthodox swim up the cultural stream and anyone doing so will likely take some hits, but following Jesus is often hard and costly.  However, the question we must ask ourselves is, whom do we want to please most—our friends who think like we do or the Lord who is our Savior and the Truth?

Today, consider the Lord’s love for ALL people, regardless of their political views.  If you want to please Him, then start praying for those with whom you disagree.

© Jim Musser 2018

Tuesday, January 23, 2018

Stale Air

“Repent, then, and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped out, that times of refreshing may come from the Lord, and that he may send the Messiah, who has been appointed for you—even Jesus.” (Acts 3:19-20 NIV)

Sometimes you just long for some fresh air. Like when you flying at 37,000 feet for 10 hours on a jet. Exiting the plane to inhale the outside air can be so refreshing. Or when you are on a long drive in a car and the inside air grows stale. What a relief to roll the windows down for a few seconds to replenish the air. Or when you exit a locker room or gym full of the odor of sweaty bodies and damp towels. Walking through the door into an open space and taking a deep breath can be invigorating.  

I was thinking about this while driving several hours this past weekend, coming home from officiating a wedding. There was an acrid smoke through which we drove and I immediately hit the re-circulation button on our heating unit. Yet, that just kept the smell in the car. My wife then opened the windows for a few seconds and it immediately cleared out the old air with fresh. 

Smelly or stale air is unpleasant, but sometimes people tolerate it because they become accustomed to it. While likely appreciating fresh air, their adaptive sense of smell doesn’t give them an urgency to seek it out.  I think the same is true with faith.

Peter was speaking to very religious people who were very accustomed to their religion. Although it was stale and not life-giving, they were used to it and okay with it. Day after day, they lived in this stale atmosphere without much thought about it. Then Jesus came on the scene bringing with Him the freshest of air. “I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.” (John 10:10) Yet, most were reluctant to step outside of their religion to drink it in. 

The same is true today. So many are enclosed in their religion, sealed tight. It is stale. Fresh air is available, but it requires opening the door and breathing it in. The door is Jesus and walking through it is repentance from sin and surrendering our lives to the Lord. Taking the deep breaths of the fresh air is, as I wrote yesterday, to be transformed by Him who gives true life, and being refreshed and invigorated by His Holy Spirit.

Today, think honestly about your faith. Is it truly alive? Are you refreshed and invigorated by it? Or is it old and stale, sapping you of energy and enthusiasm? If you conclude it is the latter, then know times of refreshing are close by. By opening your life (once again) to Jesus and repenting of your sins, whatever they may be, you can truly experience a life-filled faith that is truly invigorating. You just need to step out and breathe it in.

© Jim Musser 2018

Monday, January 22, 2018

The Way to Transformation

“When the people heard this, they were cut to the heart and said to Peter and the other apostles, ‘Brothers, what shall we do?’  Peter replied, ‘Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. The promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off—for all whom the Lord our God will call.’

With many other words he warned them; and he pleaded with them, ‘Save yourselves from this corrupt generation.’ Those who accepted his message were baptized, and about three thousand were added to their number that day.

They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer.  Everyone was filled with awe at the many wonders and signs performed by the apostles. All the believers were together and had everything in common. They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need. Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.” (Acts 2:37-47 NIV)

Have you ever wondered why the church in the modern day so seldom looks like the one we see in Acts?  Why there can be so many churches across our country, yet so little change within or without?  Why most of those in church act basically the same as everyone else except for the space they occupy on a specific day of the week?  I think there is a clue in Luke’s description of the response to Peter’s message to the Jews on the Day of Pentecost.  

He says that, after hearing Peter’s words, they were “cut to the heart.” Upon hearing his appraisal of their involvement in Jesus’ death, they were overwhelmed with the conviction of their guilt.  They had rejected the Christ, their Messiah, and now were feeling the full impact of their betrayal.  They were desperate to find relief and asked Peter for a solution.  “Repent and be baptized,” he replied.  About 3000 did and formed the nucleus of the emerging movement that became known as the New Testament Church.  

What happened next was truly extraordinary and has been the template ever since for what the community of believers should look like.  Yet, it rarely does.  Why?

When was the last time you have seen people “cut to the heart” about their rejection of the Lord in their lives?  There may be some tears and some guilt, but conviction so deep that it leads to real transformation? Rarely.  

Jesus said, referring to Himself, “Anyone who falls on this stone will be broken to pieces.” (Matthew 21:44)  The 3000 on that day in AD 33 fell on the Rock and were broken.  And it was their willingness to suffer brokenness that led to their transformation.  There can be no spiritual transformation without brokenness.  Yet, today the emphasis is more on embracing the gift of eternal life, as if it came without cost.  Just say a few words and the gift is yours!  

A close examination of the New Testament reveals none of that. Transformation comes not with words of contrition, but with being cut to the heart, falling on the Rock and having our pride and our will broken. It will cost us everything, but will gain us so much more.

Today, know the prerequisite for transformation is brokenness.  You cannot get there from sitting in a comfortable seat on Sundays.

© Jim Musser 2018

Friday, January 19, 2018

Faithfulness, Not Perfection

“Then seizing him, they led him away and took him into the house of the high priest. Peter followed at a distance.  And when some there had kindled a fire in the middle of the courtyard and had sat down together, Peter sat down with them.  A servant girl saw him seated there in the firelight. She looked closely at him and said, ‘This man was with him.’

But he denied it. ‘Woman, I don’t know him,’ he said.  A little later someone else saw him and said, ‘You also are one of them.’  ‘Man, I am not!’ Peter replied.  About an hour later another asserted, ‘Certainly this fellow was with him, for he is a Galilean.’

Peter replied, ‘Man, I don’t know what you’re talking about!’ Just as he was speaking, the rooster crowed. The Lord turned and looked straight at Peter. Then Peter remembered the word the Lord had spoken to him: ‘Before the rooster crows today, you will disown me three times.’  And he went outside and wept bitterly.” (Luke 22:54-62 NIV)

This was probably the lowest moment of Peter’s life.  After proclaiming his willingness to go to prison and die for Jesus just hours earlier (Luke 22:33), here he was now denying he even knew Him!  It was that moment of brokenness, combined with the forgiveness he later received from Jesus (John 21:15-19), which propelled him onto the path of leading the Church.  But he was still not perfect and that is what makes Peter a great example of what it means to follow Jesus.  

Several years after this, Peter was in Antioch where he encountered some Jewish Christians who believed it wrong to associate with non-Jews.  Although he knew better (Acts 10), Peter joined in with their discrimination.  It was Paul who called him out (Galatians 2:11-21).  We are not told how Peter reacted, but we can assume he likely reacted in a similar way as the night outside the home of the high priest. 

What Peter’s life tells us is we will not be perfect in following Jesus.  We will mess up, perhaps sometimes in very big ways.  Yet, the Lord’s grace and mercy covers us.  I think a lot of us struggle with thinking if we can’t live perfectly, then we have failed and so we give up or we just don’t try as hard.  What Peter’s life reveals is faithfulness, rather than perfection, is what the Lord desires.  David failed big time (II Samuel 11), but he is still known as a man after God’s heart. (Acts 13:22)

Today, recognize you don’t have to be perfect in your following of Jesus. Just like Peter, and David, you are going to mess up.  But like them, you are under the grace and mercy of God. Acknowledging your sin and repenting is all that is needed to get you back on the right path again. They weren’t perfect, but they were faithful. That is what the Lord truly desires in us.

© Jim Musser 2018

Thursday, January 18, 2018

A Difficult Class

“Once you were alienated from God and were enemies in your minds because of your evil behavior. But now he has reconciled you by Christ’s physical body through death to present you holy in his sight, without blemish and free from accusation—if you continue in your faith, established and firm, and do not move from the hope held out in the gospel. This is the gospel that you heard and that has been proclaimed to every creature under heaven, and of which I, Paul, have become a servant.” (Colossians 1:21-23 NIV)

I was a freshman in college when I walked into my first day of World Literature class. The small classroom was full with about 30 students. The professor was old, probably about my current age, and, from the start, grumpy. He began almost immediately calling out students who were chewing gum, talking to each other, or had failed to yet purchase the required textbooks. He invited them to leave if they couldn’t show more respect. He was no nonsense and rude. He wouldn’t have lasted a semester in today’s environment, as certainly students and parents would have complained so much, he would have been fired.

When I walked into the classroom for the second time, it was almost emptied out. Probably a dozen brave souls and me (I was just too passive to drop the class) filled the seats. I can’t speak on how the others felt, but for me it was one of the most difficult classes I ever took in my college career. The professor lightened up a bit once he had before him a group of what he perceived to be committed students, willing to tolerate whatever he dished out or handed out. But his grading was brutal!

I considered myself a decent writer and had been told so by a number of my high school teachers. But the first several papers I turned in were covered in red ink and given less than average grades. I was shocked! But over the semester, I hung in and worked hard to improve my thinking and writing skills. And one of my most pleasant memories of college is when I received back my final paper with an A- grade and comments that it was a well-written and thought out paper. Because of how demanding this professor was, that grade and those comments meant the world to me because I knew I had earned them and he was not just being nice.

After all of these years, I still consider that class the best I ever had, not because it was all that enjoyable, but because of what I learned about good writing and my capabilities. Unlike my classmates for a day, I persevered and was rewarded in ways I never imagined at the time.

I share this story because I see a very meaningful spiritual truth from it. We live in a time where many who call themselves believers seem to think nothing should be demanded of them once they’ve (publically or privately) confessed their sins and accepted Jesus as their Savior. Many believe there are no demands and few, if any, consequences if they fail to grow and mature in their faith along the way. Like the students who quickly dropped out of the world lit class, they are missing out on what God has desired for them.

Most students want easy classes and good grades, but if they get their wish, they will graduate from college with a degree, but without a true education. Great professors know this. In the same way, the Lord knows perseverance is required if we are to become mature (James 1:4). So His classes on life are often demanding and difficult, not because He is mean and uncaring, but rather because He loves us so much and wants us to experience the great riches of being spiritually mature, just as I believe my professor wanted his students to grow in their academic abilities. He has our best interests in mind.

Today, know being a believer, a student in the Lord’s classroom, will never be easy. The costs and demands are high. They are a designed as a test of our perseverance in order to help us become who He created us to be.  And if we indeed persevere, we will realize just how valuable it all was. But, if we choose just to get by or drop out, we will miss out on all of the benefits of a quality education.

© Jim Musser 2018

Wednesday, January 17, 2018


“For I know that good itself does not dwell in me, that is, in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. For I do not do the good I want to do, but the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing. Now if I do what I do not want to do, it is no longer I who do it, but it is sin living in me that does it.  So I find this law at work: Although I want to do good, evil is right there with me.  For in my inner being I delight in God’s law; but I see another law at work in me, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within me. What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body that is subject to death? Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord!” (Romans 7:18-25 NIV)

At the start of every new year, the commercials begin appearing on television and continue heavily for the next few weeks.  “I lost 40 pounds using. . .” Fill in the blank.  Weight-Watchers, Nutri-System, Jenny Craig, and dozens of other weight-loss companies know that with a new year comes resolutions and one of the most common is to lose weight.  So they flood the airwaves and the Internet with amazing stories of people losing large amounts of weight.  Of course, there are other resolutions people commonly make, like raising the GPA, spending more time with family or friends, getting out of debt, or improving on a personality trait.  

The problem with resolutions, however, is that we most often fail in fulfilling them.  As Jesus said, “The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.” (Mark 14:37-38) A review of long-term diet studies at UCLA revealed that two-thirds of dieters regained more weight than they had originally lost.  We have a lot of good intentions, but as Paul laments, what we don’t want to do, we do, and what we want to do, we fail to do. No wonder so many people are discouraged when they look back on their previous resolutions.  

So, what should we do?  Well, we could just give up and acknowledge our attempts at change are hopeless.  We could just give in to gluttony, to lust, to worry, to whatever keeps dragging us down.  Or we could make the one resolution that will make all the difference—to resolve to give ourselves wholly to the Lord and rely on Him to transform those things in our lives we know need to be changed.  Our flesh is weak, but He is not!

It may seem counterintuitive to stop making resolutions.  Shouldn’t I want to change, you may ask?  Of course, but we must also recognize our inability to transform ourselves in any truly significant way. Transformation is God’s business and He does it like no one else.

Today, if you truly want to change some things in your life, resolve to rely on the Lord to make the changes.  This will be the most successful resolution you ever make.     

© Jim Musser 2018

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Just Because He Could

“And God said, ‘Let the water teem with living creatures, and let birds fly above the earth across the vault of the sky.’ So God created the great creatures of the sea and every living thing with which the water teems and that moves about in it, according to their kinds, and every winged bird according to its kind. And God saw that it was good. 22 God blessed them and said, ‘Be fruitful and increase in number and fill the water in the seas, and let the birds increase on the earth.’ 23 And there was evening, and there was morning—the fifth day.

And God said, ‘Let the land produce living creatures according to their kinds: the livestock, the creatures that move along the ground, and the wild animals, each according to its kind.’ And it was so. God made the wild animals according to their kinds, the livestock according to their kinds, and all the creatures that move along the ground according to their kinds. And God saw that it was good.” (Genesis 1:20-25 NIV)

After Christmas, my wife and I spent five days camping with some of her family in Kruger National Park, the largest park in South Africa. It is home to many of the exotic animals that draw millions of people to zoos—lions, elephants, rhinoceros, giraffes, and hippopotamuses. And we had the privilege of seeing all of those and many more, such as a leopard, hyenas, cape buffalo, zebra, and a plethora of various types of deer, such as impala and kudu.  

What struck us was the immense variety of species, all unique and, if we really think about it, quite unusual. Just take a look at these various animals:                     

Seriously, what is the point of the various physical attributes of these animals? Sure, scientists can come up with some reasons, but who of us could possibly come up with these designs without any references, none?

They came from the mind of the Creator and He created them, first, just because He could and out of His own delight. And, second, for us to be able to share in the fruits of that power and delight. 

Being in Kruger and seeing so many animals in their natural habitat was indeed a delight. To see an elephant stride and flap its humongous ears, to see rhinos, hippos, and cape buffalo grazing nonchalantly because of their immense strength, to see zebra with their bizarre and visually radiating stripes, and the water bucks with their hairy necks and what looked like a target painted on their rears, all provided delight to us.

For me, those five days were a reminder of the awesome power of God and His deep love for us, His ultimate creation. He created everything originally for our enjoyment (I Timothy 6:17) and it still exists for that purpose. 

Today, although most of us do not live in areas with the exotic animals that draw us to zoos, we all can just look around every day and marvel at what the Lord has created for no other reason than that He could and wanted to. And He intends for us to be the beneficiaries of all of it—to bring delight to our eyes and joy and wonder into our hearts.

© Jim Musser 2018