God’s Will –

The phrase, ‘the will of God’ was always part of my lexicon. The Christian tradition in which I was raised placed a lot of emphasis on knowing and doing God’s will, not just generally, but in a specifically personal way. In our church, the phrase was used liberally by the pastor, by visiting missionaries, and by people in their testimonies. As I listened, I concluded that God must speak audibly to them, though He never did to me. Never the less, I wanted to know God’s will.

People who were not taught to think in those terms don’t understand the compelling nature of living day to day with the sense that understanding and doing the will of God was of paramount importance. As a Junior in High School, I wrestled with ‘the call of God’ to prepare for pastoral ministry as my career. After an experience which I believed confirmed ‘God’s will’ for me, I applied for early graduation so I could attend Bible college. I can still remember the bemused look on the school principal’s face as I sat in his office, an earnest 16 year old kid, attempting to explain that I felt that leaving High School a year early to start my ministry preparation was “God’s will.” In retrospect, I’m sure Dr. Burgio had little real understanding, though he did support the decision and I left high school after that year to attend North Central in Minneapolis, MN.

Was my early graduation the ‘will of God?’ It surely seemed so at the time, but I’ve learned to be much more discreet in claiming God’s will as the reason for an action or decision. It’s a loaded phrase that is, in my opinion, way over-used by many Christians. I’ve heard the phrase, ‘It’s the will of God,’ used to back up some dubious decisions – from buying a new car, to moving to a new state, to taking a different job, and even getting a divorce!

Does God lead us and guide us? Most certainly.

Does He have a plan and purpose for us as individuals? Yes, He does.

There is no more wonderful way of life to be found than living in the center of the purpose of our Eternal God, guided by the Holy Spirit!

But, knowing His will is not just a matter of finding a verse in the Bible that seems to justify a decision. Nor is knowing His will found in making a decision and then asking God to ‘second the motion!’ God’s will is revealed to those of deep humility. James writes, “Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and he shall lift you up.” (James 4:10, KJV) In ‘The Message’ a contemporary translation of the Bible, the passage is compellingly worded. Take a look!

  • “So let God work his will in you. Yell a loud no to the Devil and watch him scamper. Say a quiet yes to God and he’ll be there in no time. Quit dabbling in sin. Purify your inner life. Quit playing the field. Hit bottom, and cry your eyes out. The fun and games are over. Get serious, really serious. Get down on your knees before the Master; it’s the only way you’ll get on your feet.” (James 4:7-10)


Much of God’s will for our lives is all ready stated in the Word, a matter of open Truth!

The 10 Commandments are an expression of the will of God for all people, in all times.

Jesus’ directive that we ‘love God and love others’ and so fulfill the Law of God, is binding for everyone.

That we dedicate ourselves to God, understanding we belong to Him as a people select for His purposes, is abundantly clear from the Bible. Paul writes that “…this is the will of God, your sanctification: that you should abstain from sexual immorality; that each of you should know how to possess his own vessel in sanctification and honor, not in passion of lust, like the Gentiles who do not know God; that no one should take advantage of and defraud his brother in this matter, because the Lord is the avenger of all such, as we also forewarned you and testified. For God did not call us to uncleanness, but in holiness.” (1 Thessalonians 4:3-7, NKJV)

I’m convinced that most of our decisions are conformed to the will of God by observing such generally applied wisdom, yet… there are moments when we need to seek to understand what the will of God is for specific moments. Please be careful. Don’t try to shirk responsibility God has given to you for choosing wisely, by laying claim to ‘the will of God.’ Don’t cut off those who would advise and counsel you by bringing out the big gun, “God told me this was His will.” What can anyone say to that?

God has promised to direct our ways, to lead us into paths of everlasting life – if we are humble enough to let Him!

“Say a quiet yes to God” today. Here’s a Word to meditate on today as you seek to know His will:

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart,

And lean not on your own understanding;

In all your ways acknowledge Him,

And He shall direct your paths.”
(Proverbs 3:5-6, NKJV)

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Come, prepared to rejoice with us on Sunday. It’s Baptism Sunday, a joyous time of celebrating those who are being incorporated into the Church!

Sunday is Fellowship Sunday at the Assembly.

There will be a Potluck Dinner in the Family Fellowship Center following the 10:45 service.

Bring a dish to share and plan to stay.

Without Wax

“Sine Cera” a Latin phrase meaning ‘without wax.’ The connection to our modern word, sincere, isn’t instantly obvious until we explore the usage of the phrase. Seems that it came from the potters and sculptors of the ancient world. If you had spent time molding and firing a pot only to discover cracks that marred its usefulness, you could quickly make the pot marketable by heating some wax and pressing it into the cracks before finishing the item. Goofed on an expensive block of marble? Mix a little marble dust into some wax and cover your mistake. Initially, no one would know that the item was flawed. However, craftsman who was in business for the long haul, who wanted repeat customers, advertised that his products were ‘sine cera!’ – without wax.

The Scripture directs that “Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. Be devoted to one another in brotherly love. Honor one another above yourselves. Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord. (Romans 12:9-11, NIV)

A feigned love for God, good, and others is unworthy of those who are loved by God with a pure love; but insincerity creeps into the fellowship of Believers too frequently to be ignored. We can ‘play along’ without being discovered for a long time. Want to be considered a ‘good Christian?’ Just show up in church with regularity, put on a smile and say, ‘praise the Lord,’ when mildly irritated, do some kind deed when it’s sure to be noticed and — you’re in! You might even be elected to the Deacon Board despite having no real relationship with Christ or true desire for holiness of heart. But, the ‘wax’ will eventually make its presence known– in the critical moment when the fires of life turn up the heat. What is real is often revealed in us when life gets tough, and it will, sooner or later. Job loss, a stretch of health problems, general uncertainty are just a few things that will melt the wax from the cracks, if they exist.

“But, Jerry, I’m not perfect and neither are you.” Good objection and true, too. That’s the glory of grace. God can use cracked pots, of which I am chief! One of my favorite passages says – We don’t go around preaching about ourselves; we preach Christ Jesus, the Lord. All we say about ourselves is that we are your servants because of what Jesus has done for us. … this precious treasure—this light and power that now shine within us—is held in perishable containers, that is, in our weak bodies. So everyone can see that our glorious power is from God and is not our own.” (2 Corinthians 4:5-7, NLT)

To be used of God we don’t have to be extra-ordinary or flawless. In fact, when we are honest about our inabilities, our uncertainties, our present ‘cracks’ in understanding; we make it possible for the Spirit of God to dwell in us in power. His Presence wonderfully compensates for our human frailty! When we are sincere in faith, though imperfect, we will be able to take the heat of life without losing the shine of Christ’s Presence. The passage I started to quote above, goes on to say — You know for yourselves that we’re not much to look at. We’ve been surrounded and battered by troubles, but we’re not demoralized; we’re not sure what to do, but we know that God knows what to do; we’ve been spiritually terrorized, but God hasn’t left our side; we’ve been thrown down, but we haven’t broken. (2 Corinthians 4:8-9, The Message) Isn’t that rich? Paul is speaking from his own experience. Filled with the Spirit of God, he went the length and breadth of the Roman world preaching the message that Jesus Christ was the Way to Abundant Life now and Eternal Life later! His reward was often to be beaten, thrown out of a city, and even rejected by those who trusted more in religious law than Christ’s grace. But, he stayed faithful, letting the cracks show and trusting that the reality of the One who empowered him would show through.

The temptation to apply a little wax, to pretend a little, to let ourselves be thought to be someone other than who we are, is constant. It is often said in our time, “image is everything.” Let’s not buy the lie. Instead, as we are secure in the grace and love of God, let’s live ‘sine cera,’ without wax!

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Father, we come to you this Monday morning with an open heart,

trusting your love, mercy, and grace.

We know that Your eyes see us as we are, not as we wish we were,

and you love us still.

Give me a pure heart, a sincere heart, that seeks You and

lives for You, without hypocrisy.

May my willingness to live with integrity, to tear away every pretension,

to throw away the wax that could temporarily cover the cracks in character,

allow the Spirit to make a new heart in me and to create the likeness of Jesus Christ in my life.

I pray this Lord in the name of the loving Lord,

Amen.

Jerry Scott

http://www.washingtonag.net/

“Teaching People how to say “Yes” to God!”

Generosity or Scarcity?

This morning’s newspaper reported on the marriage of Donald Trump and Melania, the model. The couple exchanged vows last Saturday (1/22/2005) in West Palm Beach, FL. She wore a dress that weighed 50 pounds and cost $200,000, more than the cost of many American homes. The diamond ring the Donald gave her is worth an estimated $1.5 million. The reception was held in a hall that cost $42 million to renovate. So, here we have a big target at which we could take some cheap shots about excess! It would be easy to wag our collective heads about the Trump style and try to figure out how many hungry children could be fed, how many starving students educated, etc., etc. – with that kind of money. Let’s not!

Instead, let’s confront our own value system. If I had access to billions of dollars in resources like Trump, I would like to think that my value system would be different from his, but when I look at my own acquisitive habits, that hope dims. I’m tempted by materialism, dazzled by trinkets, and prone to greed – just on more limited budget than Trump! As I reflected on that, an old story about a farmer and his minister came to mind. As they stood leaning on the farmyard fence and talking about the church’s ministries, the farmer opined if he had 100 hogs, he would give 10 to the Lord’s work. The preacher listened and then asked, “how about giving 1 of the 10 you do have?” The farmer quickly excused himself from giving noting that he ‘needed’ all of his 10 hogs.

Most of us think that we would do better with generosity and stewardship ‘if we had more’ time and/or money. Another man’s greed and excess is apparent. The same trait in our life is hidden in thrift or ‘need.’ It is tempting to think that we would be filled with largesse if … but the truth, proven time and again, is that our sense of ‘need’ expands along with our store of resources.

Generosity is rooted in faith that God will provide all that we need; that there is abundance, not scarcity. A mentality of scarcity pervades this world. Many people are convinced that there is only such much _______________ (money, love, joy, security) to go around and that if they do not get ____________ (fill in the blank) and protect it, they will go without. A person filled with fear about tomorrow’s provisions will hold onto a miserable job, convinced that he couldn’t get another one. He will refuse to share from his store of supplies convinced that no more is to be found. He will not forgive because he thinks that if he releases an emotional debt he will somehow diminish his own self-worth. This is the lie of scarcity!

The Bible tells us that “God will supply all our needs according to His riches in Christ Jesus.” (Phil. 4.19) He is a generous God, who is able to multiply a boy’s lunch to feed 5,000 hungry people a dinner with left-overs! His grace increases proportionately to need the Word says. Are you ready to embrace that truth? Are you ready to trust Him so you can become a generous person?

The Proverbs observe that “It is possible to give freely and become more wealthy, but those who are stingy will lose everything. The generous prosper and are satisfied; those who refresh others will themselves be refreshed.” (Proverbs 11:24-25, NLT) What a principle. Forget judging Donald Trump. Instead, take a look at the way you spend your resources of time, money, and even love. I hope you find a growing generosity that is in direct proportion to your faith in God’s ability to enlarge your store of resources from His infinite abundance!

Think you don’t have much to give? Meditate on what Jesus said one day when he saw the offering being taken at the Temple. Sitting across from the offering box, he was observing how the crowd tossed money in for the collection. Many of the rich were making large contributions. One poor widow came up and put in two small coins—a measly two cents. Jesus called his disciples over and said, “The truth is that this poor widow gave more to the collection than all the others put together. All the others gave what they’ll never miss; she gave extravagantly what she couldn’t afford—she gave her all.” (Mark 12:41-45, The Message)

He’s watching us today. What’s He saying about our gifts?

Jerry Scott

www.WashingtonAG.net

“Teaching People how to say “Yes” to God!”

Empathy

Scientists theorize that one of the reasons we enjoy sports and movies so much is that we identify with the players or actors, participating mentally with them as we watch! Our brains contain ‘mirror neurons’ that respond to observed movement or emotion just as if we were actually moving or feeling what we see. Interesting, isn’t it? Researchers want to explore this discovery and how it relates to autism. Those who are autistic do not respond properly in their social context, lack communicative skills, and frequently appear to be in a fantasy world. Could it be that they lack ‘mirror neurons’ so they do not see and learn from the behavior of other people?

Whatever the final results of the research into the area of mirror neurons, it is a fact that God wants us to be filled with compassion, capable of ‘walking in another’s shoes,’ sharing their joys and sorrows. This is the essence of love! While we may be born with more or fewer ‘mirror neurons’ I am convinced that we can learn to love, that we can develop the ability to get outside of our own skin.

Ever spent time around someone who is deaf and blind, not literally, but emotionally? They just don’t pick up on the mood of a room, don’t understand how they are relating (or failing to relate) to others. A person like that will tell a loud joke in a funeral home, will insist on telling their own story of minor inconvenience in the company of another who is in a life and death struggle, will criticize somebody who is all ready on the edge of despair. They just don’t ‘get it.’ When I find myself in that kind of social situation, it sets me on edge, because I can see the pain that such a person is creating in others as they alienate, offend, and sometimes even destroy.

God can teach us to empathize! I know that from personal experience. As a young man, I was seriously deficient in the area of compassion. My prescription for most ills was ‘try harder.’ I was as likely to give somebody a kick in the behind (figuratively speaking!) as I was to to offer support and/or encouragement. Then God let me taste the bitterness of disappointment. In my deep sorrow, He showed me His love and taught me of grace. How I thank Him for those lessons, though, at the time, they were hard.

The Word challenges us by holding up the example of Jesus’ love. This is how we’ve come to understand and experience love: Christ sacrificed his life for us. This is why we ought to live sacrificially for our fellow believers, and not just be out for ourselves. (1 John 3:16, The Message) Jesus saw our real need; which was to be restored to our Heavenly Father; and He willingly entered into our world to become the Bridge to Life, the Sacrifice that brought full forgiveness. What love. What empathy.

What is the real need of your spouse, your friend, your fellow Believer? Without strong empathy, we will not know how to ‘live sacrificially.’ We will be clueless about the real needs of the person who sits across the table in our home, in the next cube at work, or in the adjacent pew at church.

How are your mirror neurons firing? Perhaps the Spirit of God needs to give them a little tune-up?

Here’s how the Bible describes love. Take this with you today and live lovingly, for Jesus’ sake.

If I speak with human eloquence and angelic ecstasy but don’t love, I’m nothing but the creaking of a rusty gate. If I speak God’s Word with power, revealing all his mysteries and making everything plain as day,

and if I have faith that says to a mountain, “Jump,” and it jumps, but I don’t love, I’m nothing. If I give everything I own to the poor and even go to the stake to be burned as a martyr, but I don’t love, I’ve gotten nowhere. So, no matter what I say, what I believe, and what I do, I’m bankrupt without love.

Love never gives up. Love cares more for others than for self.

Love doesn’t want what it doesn’t have.

Love doesn’t strut,

Doesn’t have a swelled head,

Doesn’t force itself on others,

Isn’t always “me first,”

Doesn’t fly off the handle,

Doesn’t keep score of the sins of others,

Doesn’t revel when others grovel,

Takes pleasure in the flowering of truth,

Puts up with anything,

Trusts God always,

Always looks for the best,

Never looks back,

But keeps going to the end.

Love never dies.

Inspired speech will be over some day; praying in tongues will end; understanding will reach its limit.

We know only a portion of the truth, and what we say about God is always incomplete.

But when the Complete arrives, our incompletes will be canceled.

When I was an infant at my mother’s breast, I gurgled and cooed like any infant.

When I grew up, I left those infant ways for good.

We don’t yet see things clearly. We’re squinting in a fog, peering through a mist.

But it won’t be long before the weather clears and the sun shines bright!

We’ll see it all then, see it all as clearly as God sees us, knowing him directly just as he knows us!

But for right now, until that completeness, we have three things to do to lead us toward that consummation:

Trust steadily in God,

hope unswervingly,

love extravagantly.

And the best of the three is love. ” (1 Corinthians 13, The Message)

Jerry Scott

www.WashingtonAG.net

“Teaching People how to say “Yes” to God!”

"He makes me so mad" Really?

The customer service rep. was cool, detached, and didn’t really care that my water bill went from $32 to $108 this month. “Yes, we did change the meter” he acknowledged in a bored tone of voice. “No, I can’t adjust that bill. That’s the reading, sir” he answered with a “I couldn’t care less,” tone of voice. “No the meter is new and couldn’t possibly be faulty,” he continued in his patronizing, “you’re really bugging me but I have to talk you ’cause it’s my job,” tone. It was 3:30 in the afternoon. I was tired and irritated. I could feel my ears getting hot. No, really, that’s a clue that I’m getting angry. Apparently as my blood pressure rises, my ears start to heat up. OK, so I’m different in that way. Hang with me here as we meander towards my point.

During the conversation, in some part of my brain, another little voice was saying, “Jerry, don’t be angry with this guy. It’s not his fault. He’s probably in a call center somewhere in Illinois and even if he wanted to, couldn’t do anything but read the script on his PC screen.” Was that the Holy Spirit or just memories of unproductive and ungodly temper fits? I’m not sure, but I listened to the voice. I thanked him for his assistance, ending the call courteously. End of story? I wish it were. The truth is, my ears were still hot and my stomach felt like it was tied in knots of frustrated anger — all over a water bill!

What about anger? Is it always a bad emotion? What can we do with it or about it?

First, we need to know this: anger is a normal human emotion. Believe it or not, it is a God-given emotion! A person who is incapable of anger is going to be run over, pushed aside, used, manipulated, and generally unable to deal with life. Not many injustices would be righted if people were unwilling to allow themselves to be angry. It took some angry people to confront 19th century America with the sinfulness of slavery. It took some angry people to force socity to deal with child labor and abuse of women. Personally, many of us will not deal with sinful habits until we get angry enough at ourselves or our situation to go through the difficult experience of change! Anger is a powerful motivator for change.

However, anger is an emotion loaded with danger! Given a leash that is a little too long, it will become a raging fire (the Bible calls it ‘wrath’) that burns up everything in its path! The Bible speaks a forcefully to the necessity of controlling our anger and directing our anger away from wrath or rage; Paul warns us not to “sin by letting anger gain control over you.” Don’t let the sun go down while you are still angry, for anger gives a mighty foothold to the Devil. (Ephesians 4:26-27, NLT) The Proverbs remind us of this common sense wisdom – Hot tempers start fights; a calm, cool spirit keeps the peace. (Proverbs 15:18, The Message)

Then, too, we need to take a look at the things we allow to produce anger in us! Yes, anger is a voluntary emotion! Nobody “makes me mad;” I choose to become angry. Situations and people irritate us, but we still have a choice in our response. A traffic jam, a water bill, or a lazy retail clerk aren’t really reasons to get angry, are they? How easily we confuse personal inconvenience – a normal part of life in this complex world- with situations that are worthy of anger. Keep your perspective and choose wisely.

Know this: Anger is addictive. Really, it is! When we get angry, our bodies are designed to release adrenaline, a hormone that energizes us and prepares us for fight or flight. That triggers an increase in heart rate and blood pressure (hence my warm ears!) so we are ready to meet the challenge or threat we perceive to be facing us. Curiously, we learn to like the rush of adrenaline, the feeling of power, or even the immediate results anger produces – so our threshold for anger drops as we give in to the emotion. What should be cause for mild aggravation, for a rage addict, can be the cause of a violent outburst of anger. That’s wrong and, if we’re Believers who claim to be filled with the Spirit, such anger must be dealt with as the sin it is, for the sake of Christ, our Lord.

Don’t make the mistake of thinking that suppressing anger is the godly decision. Anger must be expressed. Expressing anger doesn’t necessarily mean letting fly with aggressive behavior, hurtful words, or flying fists. Express anger by re-directing it towards a solution, by allowing it to motivate us to become a part of an action group, or by working for change. If none of those options are available, then talk it out with someone you trust until you understand why you’re are getting angry. Anger sometimes creeps along hidden pathways in our brains and finds a way to the surface in a totally unrelated situation! That’s what I figured out yesterday in my situation.

As I processed the anger I was feeling towards the water company guy, I came to realization that I was dealing with the stress of the day where I had been ministering to a family whose 28 year old son had died as a result of some apparently inadequate medical treatment. I absorbed some of their anger at a situation that just ‘wasn’t right’ and desired so much to make it better for them — and couldn’t! I was angry, but for an entirely different reason than I thought. So, instead of stewing further over the water bill; I prayed for the grief-stricken, angry family. My anger faded as it found a better expression than telling off a customer service rep. Thank God.

Next time you’re angry (or I feel my ears getting warm) – let’s ask ourselves a couple questions:

Is this situation worth the cost of anger, worthy of allowing the dangerous emotion some release?

What are we really angry about? What should we do about it?

Use your anger. Don’t let anger use you!

“Slowness to anger makes for deep understanding; a quick-tempered person stockpiles stupidity.” (Proverbs 14:29, The Message)

Jerry Scott

www.WashingtonAG.net

“Teaching People how to say “Yes” to God!”