Friday, March 30, 2018

Our Rescuer

(Author's Note: The University begins Easter Break this weekend, so I will be taking a break as well. WftW will return April 4th. Have a wonderful and blessed Resurrection Weekend! Jim)

“You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous man, though for a good man someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:6-8 NIV)

Substitutionary atonement is probably the most misunderstood doctrine in Christianity.  It is the theological term describing the necessity of Jesus’ death for our salvation.  It is also the cause for much of the historical derision of the Christian faith.  Gods don’t die.  For those tied to the Abrahamic roots of faith, Judaism and Islam, it is just proof that Jesus was merely human; He was no god at all.  For others, a religion based on a god who died is weak and powerless.  Gods are not mortal; they are not like us.  They are beyond us.

As Paul accurately describes (I Corinthians 1:23), the idea of God dying for our sins is blasphemy to some and foolishness to most.  But with the eyes of faith, it makes perfect sense.

It is not uncommon for people to risk or give up their lives in order to save others.  The Marine who falls upon a grenade to save his buddies around him.  The fireman rushing into a burning house to rescue a crying toddler.  Or the bystander jumping into a frozen lake to save a drowning child.  Why, then, isn’t it conceivable that God would seek to rescue us from eternal death?

There was no one else who could rescue us and we were powerless to save ourselves. The willingness of God to send Jesus on a “suicidal” mission to earth and Jesus’ willingness to accept it are proofs of just how much we are loved. 

This is why today, Friday, is commemorated as “Good Friday.”  The death of Jesus was good for us, essential, in fact.  Without it, we would be lost forever.  And it tells us just how much the God of the Universe loves us.  

Today, know how much God loves you.  In order to rescue you, Jesus gave up His life.  That may seem foolish to most, but it sounds like good news to me.

© Jim Musser 2018

Thursday, March 29, 2018

Responding to Betrayal

“When evening came, Jesus was reclining at the table with the Twelve.  And while they were eating, he said, ‘Truly I tell you, one of you will betray me.’

They were very sad and began to say to him one after the other, ‘Surely you don’t mean me, Lord?’ Jesus replied, ‘The one who has dipped his hand into the bowl with me will betray me. The Son of Man will go just as it is written about him. But woe to that man who betrays the Son of Man! It would be better for him if he had not been born.’

Then Judas, the one who would betray him, said, ‘Surely you don’t mean me, Rabbi?’ Jesus answered, ‘You have said so.’

While they were eating, Jesus took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to his disciples, saying, ‘Take and eat; this is my body.’

Then he took a cup, and when he had given thanks, he gave it to them, saying, ‘Drink from it, all of you. This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins. I tell you, I will not drink from this fruit of the vine from now on until that day when I drink it new with you in my Father’s kingdom.’

When they had sung a hymn, they went out to the Mount of Olives.” (Matthew 26:20-30 NIV)

Imagine the scene: Jesus gathered at night around a wooden table with men He had specifically chosen to follow Him and with whom He had spent the last three years. He knew something all but one didn’t know—they would soon all desert Him after He was betrayed and handed over to the Jewish authorities.

Have you ever been betrayed and deserted by a friend or family member? If so, then you know how amazing this scene truly is. It wasn’t that Jesus was in denial that allowed Him to dine with these people. He calls out Judas’ intentions and soon after predicts the abandonment by all of the men gathered at the table (Matthew 26:31). He knew exactly what they all were about to do.

Yet, there He was, celebrating with them one of the most sacred meals in Judaism—the Passover meal. We often note Jesus’ love for us as exemplified by His death on the cross, but this is an earlier glimpse of it—sharing the Passover with those who would soon abandon Him to the will of His enemies.

In this scene, we see Jesus live out what He had earlier commanded: “But to you who are listening I say: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you.” (Luke 6:27-28)

The temptation we face when we are betrayed or abandoned by those whom we thought loved us and were our friends is to do in kind to them. Yet, Jesus shows us a different way, a harder, but more godly way. 

Today, is there someone in your life who has betrayed or abandoned you? To date, how have you responded? Does it look anything like how Jesus responded to the Twelve? As we celebrate this week the events surrounding Jesus’ death and resurrection, consider how the Lord might want you to treat this person. He demonstrated love toward His disciples. Are you willing to do the same?

© Jim Musser 2018

Wednesday, March 28, 2018

Living in a Troubled World

“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart!  I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33 NIV)

Jesus had just warned his disciples of the terrible things to come. “They will put you out of the synagogue; in fact, the time is coming when anyone who kills you will think they are offering a service to God. They will do such things because they have not known the Father or me.” (John 16:2-3)  His words would have special meaning to them because they all faced persecution after Jesus ascended, and all but John were put to death because of their faith.  (John lived the latter years of his life exiled on the island of Patmos.)  

Terrible things are still happening, as we all witnessed recently in Parkland, Florida, and, if we have kept our ears open, have heard on the news almost on a daily basis since we were old enough to understand such things.  While there is much good in the world, it has always been full of trouble—wars, murders, torture, abuse, kidnappings, horrendous auto accidents, plane crashes, deadly fires, earthquakes, tsunamis, hurricanes, tornadoes, avalanches, terminal diseases, divorce, infertility, and injustice.  

While we all hope and long for untroubled lives, there is no doubt trouble will visit us. Jesus said so.  Yet, He also gives us hope, something onto which to cling: “Take heart!  I have overcome the world.” No matter what we encounter in our lives, Jesus is stronger.  Since He has overcome the world, He can help us overcome whatever troubles we face.

Today, what trouble are you facing?  Whatever it is, take heart!  Jesus can help you overcome it.  

© Jim Musser 2018

Tuesday, March 27, 2018

Handling Your Day to Day Sin

“If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. 9 If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.” (I John 1:8-9 NIV)

Many years ago, at a Fall Retreat, I had a student come up to me after one of the sessions and tell me she wanted to be re-baptized. As was my practice then, and now, I asked her to explain her reasons for such a decision. She explained she had committed a sin about which she felt very guilty. I empathized with her, but led her to this passage to explain what she needed was not another baptism, but rather confession of her sin to the Lord.

I think it is normal to become emotional in the midst of our guilt. We feel bad and want it to go away. This is why, often, a person who sins will often fall prey to the same temptation over and over because, in an irrational way, he will seek relief from his guilt through sinning again. Much like a drug, sin often offers temporary relief from guilt.

So baptism can easily become a means to assuage guilt. It is an attractive alternative to mere confession and repentance because it naturally provides an emotional “rush.” Like going forward at an altar call, baptism can call attention to us; people watch and pray for us, which feels very good. However, like the altar call, baptism is a “one-off” event. It happens and then it is over. Then what? 

Similarly to one’s decision to follow Jesus, baptism is designed to mark a beginning—a life once walking away from God to one whose sole purpose is to seek after Him until its earthly end. Confession and repentance are how we are to deal with the sin of our lives in between. 

By nature, we are impatient people. We can grow weary of sin’s hold on us and may seek to deal with it in one fell swoop. But what we must understand is that is one of the devil’s many strategies to derail us spiritually—tolerate sin in our lives until we become overwhelmed or desperate, and then seek out some magical moment where we can have it all go away. Of course, it might for a while. But it won’t last because, at the heart of the matter, we are all sinners (Romans 3:23) and we naturally sin. There is no escape from this reality.

So, we have a choice. Either we deal with sin each and every time we are overcome by it, or we tolerate it in our lives until we grow desperate enough to want to rid ourselves of the guilt it continues to bring. Which of these do you think is the more wise and helpful approach?

Today, recognize dealing with sin in your life is best done by repeated confession and repentance. You have the choice to hold onto it, but why would you want to do that when the Lord offers forgiveness each and every time you come to Him and confess?

© Jim Musser 2018

Monday, March 26, 2018

Despised and Rejected

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

Over the years, I have had my share of encounters with people who despised Jesus. There was the time as a college freshman in a Psychology 101 class that my professor mocked Jesus and told us that anyone believing in the resurrection was a fool. There was also the time in my senior year when a professor overseeing placement of social work interns threatened to not place me because of her concerns regarding how my Christian faith would influence my interaction with clients. Under no circumstances, she said, was I to talk about my faith in Jesus. And not many years ago, I reported a student to the Dean’s office who wrote me a vitriolic email mocking the Christian faith and me as a believer, after he had received information about our campus ministry, which he had requested.

While Jesus is often hailed as a great teacher, many, particularly among university professors, administrators, and students, have long despised him. There is no doubt that some of this hatred is the result of the ways of the institutional church, which, to them, represents Jesus.  They see hypocrisy, bigotry, and greed, and vent their anger toward the one they see as a symbol for it.  

Yet, this isn’t the main reason Jesus is so despised.  He is the King of kings and Lord of lords.  His rule is supreme and He claims absolute authority.  It is this that rubs people the wrong way.  In the West, people naturally resist authority.  We don’t like people in our business.  In the East, there are other gods or prophets, whose followers resent the claims of Jesus.  There are also those who believe there is no God, and so heap ridicule on anyone claiming to be God or knowing God.  

The prophecy of Isaiah was fulfilled 2000 years ago, but it still rings true for today.  Jesus is still despised and rejected by men and women. Many of those who faithfully follow Him are subjected to the same treatment as their Lord.  They are ridiculed, mistreated, jailed, and even put to death because they make the great confession: Jesus is Lord.

Today, understand that claiming Jesus is Lord opens you up to ridicule and rejection.  But that is the path of a Jesus-follower, the same path the Lord took long ago.  But know that path leads to an eternity in His wonderful presence, enjoying the rewards of a life lived faithfully for Him.

© Jim Musser 2018

Friday, March 23, 2018

Seeking Validation

“To the angel of the church in Philadelphia write:

‘These are the words of him who is holy and true, who holds the key of David. What he opens no one can shut, and what he shuts no one can open. I know your deeds. See, I have placed before you an open door that no one can shut. I know that you have little strength, yet you have kept my word and have not denied my name. I will make those who are of the synagogue of Satan, who claim to be Jews though they are not, but are liars—I will make them come and fall down at your feet and acknowledge that I have loved you. Since you have kept my command to endure patiently, I will also keep you from the hour of trial that is going to come on the whole world to test the inhabitants of the earth.’” (Revelation 3:7-10 NIV)

For so many, social media serves as a source for validation of worthiness to be admired. “Look at me!” seems to be the mantra of so many Facebook and Instagram posts. “Look at how great and fun my life is!” Or, how lousy it is. Either way, the attempt is being made to draw attention to one’s value as a human being—either to be admired or to garner empathy.

As I have been reading Revelation the past few days, a sentence in this passage stood out: “I will make them come and fall down at your feet and acknowledge that I have loved you.“ The glorified Jesus is acknowledging the hardships of His followers in the church at Philadelphia. In spite of great persecution, they had not denied His Name. He comforts them by promising they will soon be acknowledged as worthy by their persecutors who were currently doing terrible things to them. And His reason? Because He loved them.

What struck me as quite pertinent to our culture today is the Philadelphians’ value came from the reality they were loved by the King of kings and Lord of lords. No matter what other people said about them or did to them, nothing would or could change this fact. The Lord loved them and soon that would be evident to all who thought them unworthy.

What wonderful news to all of us! Instead of chasing after the attention and validation of others through “likes,” “views,” “comments,” and “shares,” we can rest in the knowledge that we are loved by the King and soon enough everyone will know of our value to Him. There is no need to continually seek assurance from others that each of us is a worthy and valuable human being. Our assurance comes from His very lips! “I love you!”

Today, are you in constant pursuit of validation? Are you weary of it? Then find rest and solace in the fact you are valued and deeply loved by the One whose opinion, in reality, is the only one that matters. Even if, like the Philadelphians, you feel unloved, take heart in the fact that one day everyone will know how loved you truly are!

© Jim Musser 2018

Thursday, March 22, 2018

Thinking We Know What's Best

“Now the serpent was more crafty than any of the wild animals the Lord God had made. He said to the woman, ‘Did God really say, “You must not eat from any tree in the garden”?’

The woman said to the serpent, ‘We may eat fruit from the trees in the garden, but God did say, “You must not eat fruit from the tree that is in the middle of the garden, and you must not touch it, or you will die.”’

‘You will not certainly die,’ the serpent said to the woman. ‘For God knows that when you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.’

When the woman saw that the fruit of the tree was good for food and pleasing to the eye, and also desirable for gaining wisdom, she took some and ate it. She also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it. Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they realized they were naked; so they sewed fig leaves together and made coverings for themselves.” (Genesis 3:1-7 NIV)

When I was with students on our Spring Break trip in Florida two weeks ago, we had just returned from an outing and were pulling into the place we were staying when we noticed the orange cones blocking the entrance. The parking lot was nearly full and it became obvious that men there to attend a weekend retreat had mistakenly parked in front of the place we were staying. Realizing that, I assume the camp set the cones out to prevent others from doing the same. 

I set several of the cones aside so we could pull our van in and after I did, suddenly a car pulled through ahead of us. I approached the car to explain the situation, but the man rolled down his window and said, “Don’t worry, I’ll figure it out.” He then proceeded to look for a spot to park. He mistakenly thought this was the place he was to check in for the weekend. He didn’t know that and I was seeking to explain it to him. He waved me off because he thought he knew better. So I watched him pull further in, but without a place to park. Again, I approached his vehicle. This time he asked, “Isn’t this the place we check in?” I explained to him it was not and that he would have to proceed on further to another building where people were registering. His only response was a weak, “Oh, okay.”

It is the oldest and greatest weakness of the human race. We just tend to think we know best and can do things better on our own. This is what happened to Eve and Adam in the Garden. The Lord was explicit in His instructions about the tree of knowledge of good and evil—don’t eat of its fruit. Yet, both thought they knew better when the serpent gave his perspective of God’s command. They reasoned it was fine to go ahead and disobey the Lord. They really wanted a taste and, really, what harm could come from it? They quickly found out and it was worse than they could have ever imagined.

Obviously, the man in my parking lot story didn’t suffer any severe consequences by pulling into the wrong place, but the hubris of him thinking he need not listen to me because he could figure it out on his own was evident, and indicative of the same temptation our ancestors, beginning with Eve and Adam, have continually faced and given into down through history. 

I can look back at my life and see the same inclination, and I have continually seen it in the students with whom I have worked over decades. I remember one time in my early 20’s literally telling the Lord I was going to disobey Him because I desperately wanted to renew a relationship with my ex-girlfriend. As one might expect, it turned into a disaster and I immediately realized how stupid I was. I also recall my wife and I talking with a student who was making some poor lifestyle choices. We knew the spiritual danger she was in and attempted to warn her. She refused to listen and, to this day, she continues to suffer the consequences of her choices.

What about you? Are you in the habit of thinking you know what is best for your life, even if the Lord or those who love Him deeply are attempting to tell you that you are making, or about to make, a very poor choice? If so, be warned the temptation that has wrecked the lives of so many before you is knocking at your door. You would be very wise to refuse to let it enter further into your life.

Today, know the commands of the Lord are intended for your good and should not be taken lightly. You may think you know best, but as we all learn sooner or later, you really don’t. And the sooner you learn that, the better.

© Jim Musser 2018

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

What Happened to Sin?

“What shall we say, then? Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase? By no means! We are those who have died to sin; how can we live in it any longer? Or don’t you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life.

For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we will certainly also be united with him in a resurrection like his. For we know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body ruled by sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves to sin—because anyone who has died has been set free from sin.  Now if we died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him.  For we know that since Christ was raised from the dead, he cannot die again; death no longer has mastery over him. The death he died, he died to sin once for all; but the life he lives, he lives to God.

In the same way, count yourselves dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus. Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey its evil desires. Do not offer any part of yourself to sin as an instrument of wickedness, but rather offer yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life; and offer every part of yourself to him as an instrument of righteousness. For sin shall no longer be your master, because you are not under the law, but under grace.” (Romans 6:1-14 NIV)

Sin is out of vogue in much of the church these days, at least the personal variety.  One hears a lot about the generic version: “We all sin.”  “We all struggle.”  “None of us is perfect.”  “Who are we to judge?” “He who has not sinned cast the first stone.”  The implication of these cumulative messages has been to communicate that because we are all sinners, addressing specific sins is unnecessary, judgmental, and unloving.  They can even take us to the point where everyone is a sinner but no one truly sins.   

Many who proclaim these messages from the pulpit or the blog, I believe, are sincere in their understanding that we live under God’s grace.  But as Paul clearly tells the Roman church, grace is never to be used to justify continuing in a particular sin or sinful lifestyle.  Grace is given freely by God, but that does not mean it is without cost to us.  The price of grace is confession and repentance (I John 1:9; Revelation 2:5).  It is also the most appropriate response to the kindness of God—to obey Him.  By not recognizing our sin and repenting, we cheapen God’s grace.  Did Jesus die so that we might just go ahead and do as we please?  

If you listen and read what many are saying, the practical conclusion to this question is, “Yes.”  There is no reason for confession or repentance because God covers over everything with His grace.  Just come bask in it and never mind your sin.  It doesn’t really matter.

Those who proclaim this make the same mistake many of the Roman Christians made centuries ago: They cheapen God’s grace and misunderstand its purpose.  It was not given as a free pass for sinners, but rather as a means to set them free from their sins.  

Today, recognize we are all sinners in need of God’s grace.  Yet, God’s grace is not intended to allow us to remain in our sin.  Rather, it is to lead us into confessing our sins and repenting from them.

© Jim Musser 2018

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Pushing Through

“Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize. Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last, but we do it to get a crown that will last forever. Therefore I do not run like someone running aimlessly; I do not fight like a boxer beating the air. No, I strike a blow to my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize.” (I Corinthians 9:24-27 NIV)

Nearly four years ago I had my knee replaced. It had been a bothersome joint for literally decades. Now I was in the early stages of my rehab. The therapist put me on a stationary bike and told me to push the pedals as far around as I felt comfortable and then do it in reverse. The goal was to do a full rotation. If you can picture the rotation counterclockwise, I could get to one o’clock, but the discomfort really kicked in then. The first day, that is as far as I could go, and into the second day it was similar. But the therapist could sense I was afraid to “push through” past one and onto to Noon, eleven, and ten. The “what if’s” were filling my mind and preventing me from challenging my body to do more.

The therapist encouraged me by saying, “Just let it come; it will be fine.” And so with that, I overcame my hesitancy and pushed the pedal past one o’clock and in less than a second was through to six and on my way around again, each rotation becoming easier and a little less uncomfortable. I had pushed through and, from then on, riding the bike became easier by the day.

In the case of artificial knees, gaining range of motion quickly is the key. People who fail to do this, who cannot push through the pain and discomfort in the early stages of rehab, will face an even worse fate-what is referred to as “manual manipulation.” This is when the patient is unwilling or unable to do the necessary rehab and the joint “freezes” and cannot be bent sufficiently to enable walking normally. In this case, the only way to get it to move properly is to force it. Yeah, it makes me cringe, too, when I think about it.

In life, things come at us—often stressful and difficult things. And we thus are faced with a choice. We can wilt under them and become paralyzed in life, or we can push through them with the help and encouragement of the Lord. In essence, we persevere through the rough patches in order to experience the glorious life to come.

When I finally received my new knee, my goal was to become active again, to do the things I had been unable to do for years—hiking, tennis, and working out. That goal was on my mind when I first entered rehab and was what enabled me to push through the pain in that early stage in order to achieve something much greater, along with the fear of the manual manipulation!

Too often in our lives, we allow the struggles to derail our spiritual goals and desires. We allow fear to get the best of us.  In my work on campus, I have seen a myriad of students whose express a desire to grow and mature in their relationship with Jesus, only to be derailed by the stresses and circumstances of their lives because they find it difficult to push through them. Sadly, many live with the regret of what could have been, and that becomes yet another obstacle they could overcome if only they could push through it and receive the grace the Lord offers to us when we fail. Others have just given up, their lives going awry and the consequences severe.

The obstacles we all encounter in life are a test. The enemy wants us to be overwhelmed and to give up in the face of them. The Lord, on the other hand, wants us to rely on Him, His encouragement and strength, in order to push through and achieve the maturity and fortitude He desires for us. And, ultimately, gaining the prize of a life well lived and the eternal rewards that come with it.

Today, are their obstacles in your path toward living your life in such a way as to gain the prize? Whatever they are, don’t let them overwhelm and defeat you. Instead, with the strength and encouragement of the Lord, push through the unpleasant, even painful, circumstances, to gain what the Lord has for you. While it may be difficult now, you will never regret it.

© Jim Musser 2018

Monday, March 19, 2018

The Only Mediator We Need

“With a loud cry, Jesus breathed his last.  The curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom.  And when the centurion, who stood there in front of Jesus, saw how he died, he said, ‘Surely this man was the Son of God!’” (Mark 15:37-38 NIV)

For most Catholics, access to the Heavenly Father comes through saints, the Virgin Mary, or the priest.  For Muslims, Allah is a distant god who communicates only through the Prophet Mohammed and the Koran.  A relationship with Allah will only be decided after death if the heavenly scales tilt in favor of good deeds done on earth.  For ancient Judaism,  it was only the High Priest who had access to God, and then, only once a year as he entered the Holy of Holies in the Temple to offer sacrifices on the Day of Atonement for the sins of the Jews. 

It is the latter that makes the torn Temple curtain between the Holy of Holies and the Court of Priests so significant.  At the death of Jesus, which served as the ultimate sacrifice for the forgiveness of sins (Hebrews 10:11-14), the High Priest was relieved of his duties as the intermediary between God and man.  Indeed, Jesus through His death (and His Resurrection that validated His sacrifice), opened the way for direct access to God by becoming the sole mediator between God and man (I Timothy 2:5-6). We don’t need a priest, the Virgin Mary, Saint Patrick, or any other mediator to gain access to God.  Only Jesus.

At the moment of Jesus’ last breath, the Temple curtain tore and a new era began.  But since that time, men have been trying to turn back the clock, to go back to the olden days where God is distant and we must continue to rely on others to mediate on our behalf.  However, the truth remains that Jesus is the only mediator we need and the curtain is torn and no longer needed.

Today, heed the call and promise of the Hebrew writer: “Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need” (Hebrews 4:16).  He is waiting, and through Jesus, nothing stands in your way.

© Jim Musser 2018

Friday, March 16, 2018

Our Rescuer

“He reached down from on high and took hold of me; he drew me out of deep waters. He rescued me from my powerful enemy, from my foes, who were too strong for me. They confronted me in the day of my disaster, but the Lord was my support. He brought me out into a spacious place; he rescued me because he delighted in me.” (Psalm 18:16-19 NIV)

My wife saw it; I only heard it. The thump against the glass and my wife’s call to me that a hawk was after a sparrow. When I came into the room and looked out our sliding glass door, there was the poor bird lying face down in the snow next to our grill. My wife thought it best to turn it over and so she opened the door and gently flipped the bird’s limp body. It was breathing and it slowly opened its eyes. Then it began to move its head and look around. Within a few minutes it was alert and the memory of its close encounter with the raptor was fresh on its mind, evidenced by it ducking down at the sight of another bird’s shadow from overhead. A few minutes later, it flew into the safety of the trees, hidden from its enemy and its rescue complete.

David was reflecting on the great peril in which he found himself when he wrote this psalm. King Saul, full of jealousy and rage, wanted him dead. David was on the run and fearing for his life. He was facing a much more powerful foe and his situation was grave. Death seemed imminent and he cried out to the Lord. And, then, the hand of the Lord reached down and rescued him. 

We are told that our Enemy looks for opportunities to devour us, that we should always be alert to his lurking presence. However, sometimes we are distracted and unaware until it seems too late. He has us cornered and escape seems impossible. Have you ever felt that way?

What David’s psalm and so many other Scriptures tell us is the Lord is always able to rescue us. Even when we find ourselves in the most dire circumstances, whether created by others or of our own making, it is never too late to be saved. Our heavenly Father is always alert to our cries for help and able to pull us out of danger.

Today, be assured that no matter how dire your circumstances, there is One who is able to rescue you. He is the Lord Almighty and He is always on alert for your cries for help. When He hears them, He will come and pull you out of danger.

© Jim Musser 2018

Thursday, March 15, 2018

Loving People Whom God Loves

“My dear children, I write this to you so that you will not sin. But if anybody does sin, we have an advocate with the Father—Jesus Christ, the Righteous One. He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world.” (I John 2 1-2 NIV)

The overarching theme of John’s letters is love. In the three that he wrote, he uses the word 34 times. And in his gospel, love appears 39 times—more than twice the other three gospels (Matthew, Mark, and Luke) combined. In fact, only the Psalms use the word more than John. 

So why do I use a Scripture passage this morning that does not include the word love? Well, with John it is very easy to connect the dots. Perhaps the most well-known verse of the Bible—John 3:16—tells us that “God so loved the world.” And how did He demonstrate that? By giving His “one and only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish, but have eternal life.” In other words, Jesus was the atoning sacrifice for our sins, an act of love greater than all others throughout history. But not just for our sins, but for everyone’s throughout the world for all time.

In our individualistic society, it is easy to read passages about God’s love as personal to us—God loves ME. And, so He does. BUT, He also loves everyone else as MUCH as He loves you. You are special to Him, but no more special than anyone else. And this has implications for our lives.

If God loves the world and everyone in it, then we as His children must love those we encounter in our daily lives. This includes members of our family and our friends. But it also includes people with whom we are mere acquaintances or don’t know at all. It includes the clerk at the grocery store, the person at the dining hall taking your money for your meal, the waitress at a restaurant, and your professor for a class you have to take, but don’t really like. It also includes people who have hurt you or disappointed you, and people with whom you disagree strongly on any number of important issues. It includes, as well, people you don’t know but of whom you have heard about through the news who are suffering from oppression, war, or starvation.

You see, God loves them all. As Jesus said, it is easy to love those who love us (Luke 6:32). But the Lord calls us to a higher, deeper love than is common in the world. Worldly love is based mostly on what we gain from it. Godly love is unselfish and given even when it is undeserved and the prospects of its return in kind are unlikely. This is exactly how God has loved us, all of us.

Today, how can you love the people around you? And not just your family and friends, but everyone? If you need help, then read I Corinthians 13:4-7 and Galatians 5:22-23. For if God does indeed love everyone in the world, then it is important, as His children, to know how to do that as well.

© Jim Musser 2018

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Using Your Gifts

“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.” (II Timothy 1:6-7 NIV)

Every day I interact with students who struggle to do what God calls them to do, whether that be sharing their faith with others, loving people unlike themselves, or being able to manage their time in a way that enables them to live more stress-free, and thus more productive, lives. They remind me of my own struggles while their age.  

It is believed Timothy was a young man in his 20’s when he became a protégé of Paul.  He was given charge of overseeing a church—a huge responsibility for one so young.  Yet, it appears he was very effective.  I think following this bit of wisdom from Paul may be the reason why.

Timothy had been given the gift of evangelism (II Timothy 4:5) and Paul told him to put himself in situations to use that gift.  Sharing our faith with others can be particularly intimidating, but Paul reminds Timothy that the Spirit of God can give us power to overcome our fears.  

The lessons here are two-fold regardless of what spiritual gifts we are given.  First, we must put ourselves in positions to use them.  If we have a gift of service, then we need to seek opportunities to serve.  If it is a gift of administration, then we need to pursue opportunities to organize for the sake of the Kingdom.  By doing so, by using our gifts, we strengthen them and make them more effective.  Secondly, it is the Spirit of God that gives us the power to accomplish things with our gifts and to do the will of God.  Far too often, we believe we must do things out of our own strength.   I see this with students all the time.  They burn out, they fail because they try to do things on their own without calling on the Spirit of God for help.

Though Timothy was young, he followed Paul’s counsel and was very effective.  Regardless of our age, we, too, can benefit from his words of wisdom.  If we want to live lives that are successful in doing Kingdom work, we need to be intentional about using the gifts given us and rely on the Holy Spirit for the power to be effective.  We simply cannot do it on our own.

Today, consider what gifts you have and begin putting them to use for the work of God’s Kingdom.  But remember, it is only through God’s Spirit that you will have the power to use them effectively.  

© Jim Musser 2018

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Getting Out of the Slum

“For this reason I kneel before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth derives its name. I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.” (Ephesians 3:14-19 NIV)

One of my favorite quotes from C.S. Lewis is this one from his book, The Weight of Glory: “It would seem that Our Lord finds our desires not too strong, but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased.”

Do you ever have the sense there must be something more when you attend church on Sunday, a large group ministry meeting on campus, or a small group Bible study?  Most of us, like the ignorant child Lewis speaks of, are content with our religious experiences, but I think there are times when we have a sense there should be something more, perhaps a lot more, than we are experiencing.  

If so, then this is the prayer we should be praying.  In times where we are just scraping by spiritually, robotically going to church but experiencing little of the joy of worship, we should fall to our knees and pray this prayer.  When following Jesus seems to be all about doing activities and attending meetings, and we feel burned out, Paul’s prayer can lead us into a deeper understanding and joy.   Or if you lean toward thinking the world has a lot more to offer you than the Church, then praying this prayer can change your perspective.

The truth is Lewis is right.  Most of us are far too easily pleased.  We are content to accept far less than is offered.  And what is offered is so much more than we could imagine.  I have been in slums and I have had holidays at the beach, and there is no contest as to which is better.  
Today, if you want to get out of the slum and go to the beach, Paul’s prayer is the place to start.  

© Jim Musser 2018

Monday, March 12, 2018

How To Fight

“Be on your guard; stand firm in the faith; be courageous; be strong.  Do everything in love.” (I Corinthians 16:13-14 NIV)

Sometimes a particular passage in Scripture just jumps out at you.  It may be because it speaks directly to something you are experiencing, or convicts you of something of which, up to that moment, you were unaware.  Or perhaps its practical clarity just grabs you.  I think it was the latter when I was reading I Corinthians 16 yesterday morning.  

Paul is wrapping up his first letter to the Corinthian church, writing about his plans and various friends, when he writes these two sentences—five straightforward, practical commands.  I am guessing they just came to his mind and he wanted to include them, and being in a time before digital writing, he couldn’t just go back and insert them in an earlier part of his letter.  I am glad he did, because these are important commands, not only for his readers at the time, but for us as well.

Be on your guard.  Remember, we are in a spiritual battle with an enemy who seeks to destroy us (I Peter 5:8).  Life may seem like, well, life, nothing out of the ordinary, but we live on a spiritual battlefield and we need to be constantly on guard for enemy attacks.  But we need not be afraid.  

We can stand firm in our faith because if God is for us, who can be against us? (Romans 8:31)  We can be courageous because nothing can separate us from the Lord. (Romans 8:38-39) We can be strong because we have powerful weapons at our disposal. (Ephesians 6:10-17) And we must fight these battles in love because, without it, we fight for nothing. (I Corinthians 13:1-3

Today, consider what battles you are facing and how you will fight them. Paul has given you some very practical commands to implement that will insure success on the battlefield.  

© Jim Musser 2018

Friday, March 2, 2018

Producing Fruit

(Author's Note: Spring Break begins tomorrow, so I will be away with students next week. WftW will return on March 12th. Jim)

“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.” (Galatians 5:22-24 NIV)

There have probably been times in your life where you have felt the need to be more loving or joyful, or patient.  Most likely you were inclined to try harder to incorporate the trait into your life, because that is what we do to improve something—we work harder.  

When it comes to the fruit of the Spirit, we wish that we had them in more abundance in our lives, and our instinct is to work on that.  Yet, Paul says there is no law involved in the production of this fruit.  In other words, the law is an obligation, something to fulfill, but the fruit of the Spirit is naturally produced.  We don’t form it in our lives by trying harder.  

If you walk in an orchard grove, you won’t hear the sounds of grunting as the trees work hard to produce their fruit.  Rather, it is a natural process because fruit trees just naturally produce fruit.  There is no trying.  In the same way, the Holy Spirit naturally produces love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.  It doesn’t take more exertion on our part, but rather to cease impeding the Spirit and submit to His work in our lives.  

If you desire to have more of the fruit of the Spirit in your life, you don’t have to try harder to get it.  If you are a follower of Jesus, the Spirit lives in you (Romans 8:9), and He will naturally growHis fruit if you don’t impede Him.  Today let Him do in your life what He naturally does—produce His fruit.  

© Jim Musser 2018

Thursday, March 1, 2018


“Just as a body, though one, has many parts, but all its many parts form one body, so it is with Christ. For we were all baptized by one Spirit so as to form one body—whether Jews or Gentiles, slave or free—and we were all given the one Spirit to drink. Even so the body is not made up of one part but of many.

Now if the foot should say, ‘Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,’ it would not for that reason stop being part of the body. And if the ear should say, ‘Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,’ it would not for that reason stop being part of the body. If the whole body were an eye, where would the sense of hearing be? If the whole body were an ear, where would the sense of smell be?  But in fact God has placed the parts in the body, every one of them, just as he wanted them to be. If they were all one part, where would the body be? As it is, there are many parts, but one body.” (I Corinthians 12:12-20 NIV)

I have been a fan of the Kansas Jayhawks for a very long time, the result of ministering on the University of Kansas campus for many years. I belong to what is referred to as the “Jayhawk Nation.” Several years ago, I was walking in downtown Boone, where I now live, and saw a family wearing Jayhawk t-shirts. This is a very rare sight since I now live in North Carolina, so I was excited to see some of my fellow “citizens.” When I greeted them and told them I was a Jayhawk fan as well, the response was disappointingly underwhelming. They smiled hesitantly and kept on walking. I assume the connection we had was not significant enough in their minds to overcome the uncomfortableness of a stranger greeting them on the street of a town with which they were unfamiliar.

I have always loved finding obscure connections with people—meeting folks who are from the same state or town where I’ve lived, or who are from places where I know people. I remember years ago meeting someone in Kenya who grew up very near where I was born. I really enjoy experiencing those types of connections.

But I’ve realized through the years that not everyone has the same appreciation of these things as I do, the family I mentioned above being a prime example. And I understand that with things like I’ve mentioned, but what I struggle with is often the lack of enthusiasm in engaging with fellow believers in Christ. And it is not merely with strangers that we meet for the first time. It is also with people in our own churches or Christian ministries. Little eye contact is made, few smiles or greetings given. It is as if we are on the street walking among strangers with no connections to them. Yet, what Paul emphasizes is that we as believers are all a part of the same body. In other words, we are connected, whether we know particular people well or not.

In a culture where many of us have been raised with the concept of “stranger danger,” our first instinct is to avoid interaction with anyone we do not personally know.  This, I believe, has led us to ignore the reality of the connectedness we have with each other through Jesus. Whether we know others in our churches or ministries, they are likely relatives of ours and we should treat them as such.

Today, think about the fellow believers you know or encounter on a regular basis, but with whom you’ve resisted any interaction, even a smile or kind acknowledgement of their existence. Ask the Lord to help you have a sense of connectedness with them and to respond accordingly. After all, they are a part of the same family as you and your connections run deep. 

© Jim Musser 2018