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A Little Walk With God

A daily devotional through the Bible narrated as if walking through the garden east of Eden with God. Scriptures come from a daily reading plan that take you through the Bible in one year, generally coming from The Voice. Our website is http://alittlewalkwithgod.com or http://richardagee.com
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Thanks for listening.

Richard

Apr 15, 2019

Join us as we explore God's ancient wisdom and apply it to our modern lives. His word is as current and relevant today as it was when he inspired its authors more than two and a half millennia ago. The websites where you can reach us are alittlewalkwithgod.com, richardagee.com, or saf.church.

I hope you will join us every week and be sure to let us know how you enjoy the podcast and let others know about it, too. Thanks for listening.

Thanks for joining me today for "A Little Walk with God." I'm your host Richard Agee.

As I got to know my wife when we were first dating a hundred years ago. (It’s not really been that long, but after 42 ½ years of marriage, it’s hard to remember life without her.) I digress. When we were dating, I learned her favorite perfume was Chanel No. 5. For a college kid, it was horribly expensive. But you know what present I would get her from time to time? If you didn’t guess it right the first time, you haven’t been hopelessly in love. I saved up enough to buy her Chanel No. 5 every time the bottle was getting low.

One thing I really love about Chanel No. 5, and I think the reason she likes it so well, is that it has such a light scent. It’s fragrance doesn’t overwhelm you when someone walks into the room wearing it. You recognize its presence, but barely until you are close to the person who has used just enough of the elixir to make it known there is something different about their scent. Great stuff.

A lot of other perfumes, colognes, toilet waters I just can’t handle. Someone will walk into a building and it suddenly smells like a 5,000 gallon fuel tanker filled with the stuff just dumped their load in the room. You probably know what I’m talking about. That odor, whether pleasant or not, just overpowers everything until it just destroys your sense of smell and no matter what the smell, you detest it. My eyes begin to water, my throat begins to close, I begin to sneeze uncontrollably. All my doctors tell me I’m not allergic to anything, but what that overwhelming scent gets into a room, my body just goes beserk.

Today’s passage reminds me of those overpowering fragrances since John describes the odor as permeating the whole house. Here is what he says in John 12 verses 1 through 11:

“Six days before the Passover feast, Jesus journeyed to the village of Bethany, to the home of Lazarus who had recently been raised from the dead, where they hosted Him for dinner. Martha was busy serving as the hostess, Lazarus reclined at the table with Him, and Mary took a pound of fine ointment, pure nard (which is both rare and expensive), and anointed Jesus’ feet with it; and then she wiped them with her hair. As the pleasant fragrance of this extravagant ointment filled the entire house, Judas Iscariot, one of His disciples (who was plotting to betray Jesus), began to speak.

Judas Iscariot: How could she pour out this vast amount of fine oil? Why didn’t she sell it? It is worth nearly a year’s wages; the money could have been given to the poor.

This had nothing to do with Judas’s desire to help the poor. The truth is he served as the treasurer, and he helped himself to the money from the common pot at every opportunity.

Jesus: Leave her alone. She has observed this custom in anticipation of the day of My burial. The poor are ever present, but I will be leaving.

Word spread of Jesus’ presence, and a large crowd was gathering to see Jesus and the formerly deceased Lazarus, whom He had brought back from the dead. The chief priests were secretly plotting Lazarus’s murder since, because of him, many Jews were leaving their teachings and believing in Jesus.”

This nard got my curiosity up. I didn’t think I’d ever smelled nard, sometimes called spikenard, so I started looking up some descriptions of the fragrance. I found that it was indeed a very expensive oil in Jesus’ day, and not so inexpensive today because of where the plant grows from which it is derived.

In my search, I found the plant grows in the Himalayas of Nepal, China, and India. So just getting the plant to Israel in Biblical times would be quite the journey. And those lengthy caravans were costly. We know how to build greenhouses in such a way that we can grow almost anything anywhere, now, because we can simulate the environment of almost anyplace on earth, but they couldn’t then, and even today, to simulate the environs of the Himalayas would be costly.

But what about the smell? In all my searches, I found only one person that said nard smelled a little like lavender. That one author must have a terrible sense of smell because every other author I read said the smell is best described as “nard smells like … feet. A few said “stinky cheese.” But the majority of the vote if you do this in a democratic way, nard smells musty, earthy, leathery, … like feet. Think about the smell of middle school boys’ rooms. Feet! Yuk!

So why use nard? Well, it was thought to have some medicinal uses. It calmed anxiety. I’m told some people actually like the musty, leathery parts of the smell. Feet! One of the comments I read said fish stink, too, but that doesn’t make the river any less beautiful. I guess I understand the comment. We put up with my son’s middle school stinky feet smell because he was our son. We didn’t care much for the stinky feet smell, but we weren’t going to throw him out the door because of it. We just held our nose and gagged a little when ever we tried to decontaminate his room every few hours. (Sorry to use you as an illustration, Matt, you were handy, but I could have used any boy your age.)

So why bring all this up about nard? First, just because of the curiosity. But more important, because of the reaction of two characters in the story. Mary poured out the perfume as an act of worship for Jesus. (Whether people liked the smell or not, it was present and if it had a calming effect all the better.) She acted extravagantly in the presence of the one who deserves our extravagance. She didn’t think about the cost, only the act of giving her most prized possession.

The other character in our story, Judas, saw only waste. He didn’t see the act of worship. He only saw a year’s wages dumped on the leader of their little band’s feet. The stinky feet smell filled the room and instead of calming Judas, the oil had the opposite effect. The waste enraged him and he stormed out of the house. Everyone in the house should have been celebrating. Here sitting in the room with them was a living, breathing, eating, talking brother who just a few days earlier classified as a no kidding corpse. Dead. Gone. Finished.

Then we see this third group of characters that are really hard to explain. Jesus just raised Lazarus from the dead. He stood outside the tomb from which he had the stone pushed back and called out his name. Then here comes this man wrapped in a burial shroud smelling like nard and myrrh and frankincense. Everyone there just stands with their mouths open like fish until Jesus tells them to get the burial shroud off of him and feed him. He hasn’t eaten in four days! He’ll be hungry!

So if this guy, Jesus, can raise the dead and talk about scripture like he was there when it was written, why not listen to him? If Jesus can make two fish and five little rolls feed 5,000 men and their families, why would the religious leaders want to turn people away from him? If Jesus can change the lives of the individuals he touches and give them the internal peace they seek by telling them their sins are forgiven, why would the priests be wanting to break their own commandments and kill him?

It just doesn’t make much sense, does it? But you know what? We are often guilty of doing the same thing today. We act like Jesus is not the God we say he is. We act like he doesn’t matter. We act like the Bible and his teachings are not true. We act like there will be no judgment day or not final reckoning for the lives we live. We act like we are the center of the universe and the most important thing around. We act like those Pharisees and Sadducees. We act like we are ready to kill him because he makes life uncomfortable for us and wants to change our ways.

So here we are just a few days from celebrating Easter, for many, just another day on the calendar. For many, just a day which they can lift up as a way of making more sales for candy and clothes and special gifts for those that just want to pretend they are followers of Christ. It is still the season of Lent. In the early church, a time of preparation for those who chose to signify their entrance into the church by means of baptism on Easter Sunday. A time of study, self-reflection, ensuring they really know Jesus, they know his saving grace, and they know the cost of their commitment to him.

Lent, a time of preparation. We can do the same if we choose. We can prepare for Easter. We can do that self-examination and know we true followers of Jesus. We can know his awesome grace in our lives. We can commit to him knowing the cost may be everything we are and everything we have. Our riches, our families, our very lives. We can follow him if we choose. Most will not because in this world, the cost is high. But how about you. I can tell you it is worth it when you walk the narrow path with him.

You can find me at richardagee.com. I also invite you to join us at San Antonio First Church of the Nazarene on West Avenue in San Antonio to hear more Bible based teaching. You can find out more about my church at SAF.church. Thanks for listening. If you enjoyed it, tell a friend. If you didn't, send me an email and let me know how better to reach out to those around you. Until next week, may God richly bless you as you venture into His story each day.

Apr 8, 2019

Join us as we explore God's ancient wisdom and apply it to our modern lives. His word is as current and relevant today as it was when he inspired its authors more than two and a half millennia ago. The websites where you can reach us are alittlewalkwithgod.com, richardagee.com, or saf.church.

I hope you will join us every week and be sure to let us know how you enjoy the podcast and let others know about it, too. Thanks for listening.

Thanks for joining me today for "A Little Walk with God." I'm your host Richard Agee.

Here we are in the middle of Lent. In just a couple of weeks we will gather together to celebrate Easter. The day we set aside on the Christian calendar marking the day Jesus burst out of his grave to show us his power over death. During this season, I’ve been drawing my devotions from a book titled “For God So Loved”. The scripture I read today happens to come from Hebrews chapter 10. The author of that book writes to the Hebrew people of his day to explain in scholarly terms the proofs that Jesus is the long awaited Messiah and in the last several chapters, including chapter 10, how we should live in community with each other as his followers.

Now in this tenth chapter, beginning in verse 19 we find this admonition:

19 So, my friends, Jesus by His blood gives us courage to enter the most holy place. 20 He has created for us a new and living way through the curtain, that is, through His flesh. 21 Since we have a great High Priest who presides over the house of God, 22 let us draw near with true hearts full of faith, with hearts rinsed clean of any evil conscience, and with bodies cleansed with pure water. 23 Let us hold strong to the confession of our hope, never wavering, since the One who promised it to us is faithful. 24 Let us consider how to inspire each other to greater love and to righteous deeds, 25 not forgetting to gather as a community, as some have forgotten, but encouraging each other, especially as the day of His return approaches.

The author of the devotional I read today, Tara Beth Leach, gives some thoughts about the verses that could be summed up with an opening statement, “Don’t attend church, if…” She then fills in the blanks with several reasons why we should not go to church using a bit of sarcasm in her writing, such as, don’t attend church if you expect everyone to be just like you. Or don’t attend church if you expect easy answers. Or don’t attend church if you don’t want to be stretched and pushed.

So why should we go to church? Isn’t it supposed to be a safe haven for us so we can feel good about ourselves and find joy and peace and happiness? Isn’t church the place to find friendship and a common bond with those around you? Isn’t church the place to find that legacy of peace Jesus leaves us?

Church is all of that and more, but joy and peace and happiness and friendship and togetherness doesn’t mean it is easy or that everyone is or should be just like me. It doesn’t mean everything should be all soft and cushy and rosey. It doesn’t even mean I really want to be there sometimes. But I know I need to be there. Hebrews tells us we need to meet together. We need to support and learn from each other. We know that God doesn’t change, but I have to be honest, there is much about the Bible I just do not understand.

I believe the Bible is true and I believe is spans generations and gives light and life to us as we follow its teachings. I also believe there are some things written in it that apply to the particular culture in which it was written. For instance, Paul speaks out about women speaking in the church, yet he praises Lydia an obvious leader in the church. Jesus had no problem breaking the cultural rules as he spoke to the Samaritan woman at the well. Yet his actions were strictly forbidden and he never told anyone those forbidden rules were wrong. He just reached out to people.

So, I believe there are some things in the Bible that must be interpreted in the light of the culture of Biblical times. Often the principle of what was spoken can be picked out of the words and apply equally to us, but some things are just different in our culture. My wife only walks behind me when my pace gets faster than hers, not because I mean for her to be anywhere other than beside me. But not in some other culture even today and certainly not in Jesus’ day when cattle were more valuable than women.

So how best do we learn what scripture means? How can we interpret the words? We get together and we discuss what we read and how God’s spirit speaks to us individually and collectively and we begin to discern what God is trying to tell us. We should not depend on the pastor to do all of our study or all of our thinking for us. We should be an active part in that gathering to learn.

We should go to church to worship together. There is something about worship in community with other believers that elevates our spirit as we do so. God created us to be in community with him and with others. Yes, we can and should worship alone, but we should also worship with other believers. We can learn from them as they also learn from us in our prayers, our singing, our devotion, our approach to a holy God.

We should go to church to share each others burdens. I know you’ve seen those boxes that recommend a two man lift. Often one person can pick them up, but the movement of the load is so much easier and safer when two people work together to lift it. It’s the same with many of the difficulties we face in life. When we share each others burdens and support each other in times of trial, it just makes life easier. Not necessarily easy, but easier. That 100 pound box still weighs 100 pounds, but when two people lift it, you are less likely to break your back in the process.

We should go to church to share with other believers what we have learned through our own life experiences. I can seldom pass by someone who comments “I just wasn’t fed by the service today.” I can’t help remark, “It’s because you didn’t bring a spoon!” We don’t gather to be fed. We come to share. We come to worship. We come to experience God’s spirit in community. If you want to be fed every time you walk through the door, there are a lot of restaurants in the world that will be happy to feed you. And they supply the utensils. When we come expecting God to touch us because we have reached out to him all week long and worshipped all week long, that gathering in the church is just another opportunity to share that same worship with others who are doing the same.

So when you think about gathering together for worship, don’t think about what you get, but what you give. Do you want your spirit touched? Then reach out and touch someone’s heart with your love. Do you want peace? Then exude peace to those who enter the door and need it. Do you want fellowship? Then be a friend to those who look lonely. Do you need to feel joy? Then surround yourself with those with smiles on their faces, wear a smile yourself and feel it move from your face to your heart.

If church were like the social clubs in the community, it would fail as a place to serve God. Those social clubs provide just what the world asks for. Sameness. Emptiness. Hopelessness. You can pay a healthy price to belong to one of those social clubs, but they won’t provide the eternal answers you long to find. I don’t want to go to a church like that.

I want to go to a church that steps on my toes. I want to hear sermons that challenge me and forces me to become more Christlike. I want to surround myself with people who are like me in that they want to follow in Jesus, but I also want the church to be filled with those who are not very Christlike. I want to see people there who are hungry to find something the world can’t offer. And I want to see them there because they have seen something in me and others in my church that they just can’t explain. I want them to question why we are like we are and want the same kind of peace and joy and contentment in life that we enjoy because of our fellowship with God and one another.

Does every church look like that? I’m afraid not. Does my church look like that? Not all the time. But sometimes. And why is it that churches today aren’t as inviting and create as much curiosity for outsiders as we would like? Well, to be honest, it’s my fault...and your fault. Unless we live that life that cause others to see Christ in us every day outside the church, we can’t expect them to want to see what is going on inside the church. Think about it. It wasn’t Jesus’ actions in the temple or the synagog that caused people to follow him. It was his life outside those institutions. People flocked to him because of his everyday actions that showed his love for others. So during this season of Lent, think about your life. Do your actions cause those around you to want to follow you? Do you generate curiosity among those that know you as they watch you live your life for God? Do you have to tell them you are a Christian for them to know it? Lent is the time for preparation. It’s time to examine ourselves and know we are right with him. Take some time this week and do just that.

You can find me at richardagee.com. I also invite you to join us at San Antonio First Church of the Nazarene on West Avenue in San Antonio to hear more Bible based teaching. You can find out more about my church at SAF.church. Thanks for listening. If you enjoyed it, tell a friend. If you didn't, send me an email and let me know how better to reach out to those around you. Until next week, may God richly bless you as you venture into His story each day.

Apr 1, 2019

Join us as we explore God's ancient wisdom and apply it to our modern lives. His word is as current and relevant today as it was when he inspired its authors more than two and a half millennia ago. The websites where you can reach us are alittlewalkwithgod.com, richardagee.com, or saf.church.

I hope you will join us every week and be sure to let us know how you enjoy the podcast and let others know about it, too. Thanks for listening.

Thanks for joining me today for "A Little Walk with God." I'm your host Richard Agee.

We are in the middle of Lent. Not the kind of tiny little balls of cotton that stick to your clothes, but the kind that has all but been forgotten in the Christian in terms of its original purpose. When Lent began almost two millennia ago, the church used it as a time to introduce new converts to a period of study to ensure they understood what the faith really entailed.

By the middle of the fourth century, Christianity had leaked into some of the ruling class and some tried to claim the faith without understanding what the faith really was or what it meant. Lent ensured new baptismal candidates really knew about Jesus, knew about lostness without him, and knew the real cost of the commitment of following him. So here we are looking at Lent, preparing for Easter, examining ourselves in light of who Jesus is, the salvation he brings us, and the price he paid and our commitment to him because of it.

This morning in my devotions, I ran across these words: “In the beginning, there was power.” I’d never used those words about the creation story myself, but of course they are true. We understand the incredible forces resident in our universe. We understand because of our scientific knowledge, how the sun continues to shine and give us the light and warmth we require to survive. The fusion explosions that continually fuel the sun and enable life in this very narrow band of our solar system in which we thrive provides enormous energy.

We sometimes discuss nuclear power and how little fuel it takes to power cities with the energy those plants produce. They are certainly dangerous when not properly controlled because of the radiation they can produce, but the raw energy that can come from those tiny amounts of material compared to every other form of energy production is phenomenal. Someday we will figure out how to harness that power more safely and use it worldwide as our best sources of power instead of fossil fuels and other lesser forms of energy production.

But back to creation. Can you imagine the power of the sun times billions of stars like it stretched across our galaxy that we call the Milky Way? Now can you imagine billions of those galaxies like ours stretched across the universe? Our God made those. The Bible tells us he just spoke them into place. Out of nothing. His imagination and his voice created those powerhouses. Just like that. He spoke and it was done. His power created all there is. Some would have you believe it all just happened. That given enough time, all the universe would shape itself into what we have today because of the laws of physics.

The problem with that theory is the thermodynamic property called entropy. Left alone, things tend to become more chaotic, not less. Enough monkeys on enough typewriters will not produce a novel. They will produce nothing but garbage. It’s like the parts of a watch put into a bag and shaken. You’ll never get a watch, only bits of metal that look more like sand than a watch over time. The universe and the power needed to keep it in place requires a designer, a creator. It didn’t just happen.

And where did the raw materials come from in the first place? Now there is a good argument with the “it just happened crowd.” Something had to generate all the atoms that made everything begin. All those hydrogen atoms in the sun that smash together into helium atoms that smash together into larger atoms that smash together into larger atoms that then smash together into molecules that smash together to make something you can see, like water and dirt, had to come from somewhere. So where did it come from unless someone or something created that first hydrogen atom in the first place. Something coming from nothing? Think designer. Think creator. Think God. Think power beyond our ability to think or imagine. He spoke it into place.

The trouble we have today is we are sometimes to smart for our own good. We have discovered all these neat scientific rules to explain how things work. God gave us a pretty nice brain sitting in that bony skull. We only use about 10-15% of its capacity other scientists tell us, but that’s beside the point. The part that we use often makes us rather inquisitive. We want to know about things. What they are. How they work. How we can use things better. What alternative uses can we make of them?

Our inquisitive minds helped us discover all those physics principles, but we didn’t create those principles, we just discovered them. That’s a very important point. We didn’t make the rules. God did. Scientists didn’t cause the world and the universe to operate the way it does, they just discovered some of the mechanics to explain how they work. And they keep modifying those rules because we learn more about them everyday because we still understand so little about how everything really works together in this vast universe. Scientists have a hard time agreeing on things a lot of times. It wasn’t until the late 1500s that we figure out everything in our solar system revolves around our nearest star, the sun, instead of revolving around us! That was a pretty self centered view of the world, but that’s just who we are.

So here we are in the middle of Lent. Three more weeks until Easter. And the thought of the day is “in the beginning there was power.” Power that puts the universe around us into place. Power that creates the laws of physics that keeps order in that universe rather than letting the law of entropy drive those celestial bodies. Power that put this tiny planet in just the right place to sustain life. Power to create that life on the blue planet of our solar system and sustain it. Power to create man and give us the capacity to think and reason. Power to love us and want a relationship with us.

Power to clothe himself in flesh and live among us as an example of how to live and love in community with others. Power to heal and feed thousands. Power to teach what God’s plan and purpose for us. Power to willingly die on a cross to show us the extent of God’s love. Power over death. Power to burst out of a sealed and guarded tomb. Power to appear to over 500 people after his death. Power to ascend to heaven in a cloud. Power to sit at the right hand of God and intervene on our behalf. Power to forgive our sins.

In the beginning there was power. Elohim, the Almighty God. The God of creation. God is the same as he was in the beginning. God will be the same when time stops and eternity stretches on forever. God’s power is beyond our capacity to understand. God was, is, and will be. The Great I Am never changes. His power is available to those who love and serve him. He created us for that purpose. He demands and desires our love. Our devotion. Our worship. He is God, after all. There is no other. He holds the power of creation in his hand.

In this season of Lent as we prepare to celebrate Easter in just a few weeks, think of God’s power. We will sing of his power on that day. Power to overcome death. We will hear sermons on that day. Power to burst forth from the tomb. We will gather to worship the one who demonstrated his power on that first Easter morning 2000 years ago in just a little while. But in these moments. In these few days leading up to our celebration of Easter, take some time to contemplate what God’s power really means. Imagine who he is as Elohim, the Almighty God of creation. Yet came to sacrifice his life that you and I might experience abundant life through him. He shares his incredible, unimaginable power with us, so that we might share his story to those we meet that need his powerful touch.

You can find me at richardagee.com. I also invite you to join us at San Antonio First Church of the Nazarene on West Avenue in San Antonio to hear more Bible based teaching. You can find out more about my church at SAF.church. Thanks for listening. If you enjoyed it, tell a friend. If you didn't, send me an email and let me know how better to reach out to those around you. Until next week, may God richly bless you as you venture into His story each day.

Mar 25, 2019

Join us as we explore God's ancient wisdom and apply it to our modern lives. His word is as current and relevant today as it was when he inspired its authors more than two and a half millennia ago. The websites where you can reach us are alittlewalkwithgod.com, richardagee.com, or saf.church.

I hope you will join us every week and be sure to let us know how you enjoy the podcast and let others know about it, too. Thanks for listening.

As we approach Easter, I hope you observe the idea of the Lenten Season. The original purpose of Lent was not just having ashes put on your forehead or abstaining from eating red meat on Fridays. It wasn’t about sacrificing something you liked during those seven weeks leading up to the celebration of Jesus’ resurrection. Lent was then and should now be about personal examination of your relationship with the Messiah. At the turn of the first century, early converts to Christianity began wanting to celebrate their changed lives through baptism on Easter. But because of the growing popularity of the religion particularly toward the fourth century, church leaders began to question the sincerity of some of the baptismal candidates and required them to go through a period of study and examination about their faith, Lent. Daily commitment to a regimen of study, except for Sundays to ensure they knew about Jesus, knew about their lostness without him, and knew about the cost of their commitment to him.

Today, Lent has lost its meaning in many churches and has been watered down to just another season on the church calendar. It is marked with ash Wednesday as its beginning, when the “faithful” come to the church and a priest or pastor anoints them and signifies their commitment by placing ashes on their forehead in the sign of the cross. For many, that is the extent of their observance. Isaiah describes what has happened to us as we fail to count the cost and study the life of Christ to apply his principles to our own actions. In chapter 55, we read these words:

55:2 Why do you spend your money for that which is not bread, and your labor for that which does not satisfy?

Isaiah’s questions imply the state of Israel’s behavior and lifestyle in his day. They, like us, are too interested in material things. The populace was concerned more about what they could eat and wear and use to impress, than they were about what God wanted for them and his plan for them. They forgot about the covenant God made with Abraham in which his desire planned for them to bless all nations. Instead they looked to take from anyone they could. They, like us became consumers instead of producers. Gimme! Gimme! Gimme! Was the outcry of the nation.

The people began to think about themselves more than they thought about the lostness of those around them. Abraham was supposed to bless the nations around him. His sons and their sons were to do the same. We don’t have to read far in the Old Testament to see the selfish streak in all of us raise its ugly head in the patriarchs of the Jews. They became like their neighbors and looked out for number one. And internal to the nation, the leaders did the same to their countrymen. Take care of me first and then maybe, but not necessarily think about those other kinsmen around me. God doesn’t work that way and doesn’t want us to work that way either. So he brought about some pretty severe judgments on the nations around Israel and ultimately on his chosen people as well.

Clearly, the next few verses in Isaiah 55 show us just how different God wants us to be in the world’s eyes. Listen to his words:

Listen carefully to me, and eat what is good, and delight yourselves in rich food.

55:3 Incline your ear, and come to me; listen, so that you may live. I will make with you an everlasting covenant, my steadfast, sure love for David.

55:4 See, I made him a witness to the peoples, a leader and commander for the peoples.

55:5 See, you shall call nations that you do not know, and nations that do not know you shall run to you, because of the LORD your God, the Holy One of Israel, for he has glorified you.

55:6 Seek the LORD while he may be found, call upon him while he is near;

55:7 let the wicked forsake their way, and the unrighteous their thoughts; let them return to the LORD, that he may have mercy on them, and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon.

God wants to do incredible things to us and through us to show the rest of the world who he is and what he wants to do with all of his creation. He wants to restore us to our unfallen state. He wants to clean us up and get rid of the worry that plagues us. He wants us to be so different in the world that nations will call us and wonder how and why we do the things we do. He wants us to seek him and return to him. The best thing about all of the things Isaiah shares in these few verses, ...return to the Lord, that he may have mercy on them, and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon.

God’s pardon is not like the pardons that our governors and presidents give. When those people leave prison with a full pardon, there is still this question that hangs over them in the eyes of those around them. The pardon is real. The crimes are expunged from their record. They are deemed not guilty of the crimes for which they were incarcerated. But that accusation in the public’s eye still lingers. But not when God pardons. He throws our sin as far as the east is from the west, he tells us.

I’m glad the psalmist put it that way. He didn’t know about the north and south poles. He was just a shepherd. But God inspired him to write those words in that way. Think about it. When you go north with a compass, you finally come to a point on the globe where the only direction you can go is south. There is no more north. The same is true if you start a journey to the south. Eventually you will hit a spot where the only direction you can go is north. In fact, my computer tells me if you start at one pole and fly straight to the other, you will travel 8595.35 miles.

But if you start traveling east with your compass, you can travel east for the rest of your life and never hit a west pole. Your compass will continue to let you point east until the earth quits spinning and the sun grows dim. How far is that? As far as God throws your sins. David didn’t understand the difference between those geological points, but we do now. David wrote those words for us as much or more than for the inhabitants of his day.

God forgives. That’s what the world needs to hear. That’s what people are hungry and thirsty for today. And those of us who have experienced the overwhelming grace of God have a duty to share that changed life with those around us. God doesn’t give us the option to sit on our best intentions. He commanded us to go into all the world and make disciples. All the world doesn’t just mean the other side of the globe, although he expects us to support that missional ministry. All the world includes my next door neighbor and yours. It includes the person in the office next to mine and yours. It includes the mother that watches her son practice soccer and sits next to me in the bleachers and that mother that sits next to you when you watch your son or daughter practice. The world is not exclusive. It is all inclusive in God’s eyes. He made everyone. No one is exempt from his love and mercy and grace. We just have to ask and he gives.

Are you hungry and thirsty for him? Here God’s words Isaiah again: “Listen carefully to me, and eat what is good, and delight yourselves in rich food. Incline your ear, and come to me; listen, so that you may live. … Seek the LORD while he may be found, call upon him while he is near…”

Live in a way that others will want what you have. Not the material things that go away, but the eternal things. A relationship with God that brings joy and peace and gentleness and patience and goodness and all those fruit that his spirit grows in us when we live in his light. In this Lenten Season, learn more about him as you prepare from Easter. Make this season the best you have ever experienced by listening to him and living a life that others will want to emulate.

You can find me at richardagee.com. I also invite you to join us at San Antonio First Church of the Nazarene on West Avenue in San Antonio to hear more Bible based teaching. You can find out more about my church at SAF.church. Thanks for listening. If you enjoyed it, tell a friend. If you didn't, send me an email and let me know how better to reach out to those around you. Until next week, may God richly bless you as you venture into His story each day.

Mar 18, 2019

Join us as we explore God's ancient wisdom and apply it to our modern lives. His word is as current and relevant today as it was when he inspired its authors more than two and a half millennia ago. The websites where you can reach us are alittlewalkwithgod.com, richardagee.com, or saf.church.

I hope you will join us every week and be sure to let us know how you enjoy the podcast and let others know about it, too. Thanks for listening.

Thanks for joining me today for "A Little Walk with God." I'm your host Richard Agee.

What is God really like? We read the Old Testament and see a God who punishes sin in extremely harsh ways. Take for example the incident recorded in Exodus 32 and 33. Moses goes up Mount Horeb and God writes on tables of stone ten commandments as the basis to live in community with him and each other. Because of Moses’ prolonged absence, the people convince his brother, Aaron, that Moses must be dead and will not return. Aaron crafts a gold statue of a cow and that statue becomes their god.

Exodus 33 Then the Lord said to Moses, “Leave this place, you and the people you brought up out of Egypt, and go up to the land I promised on oath to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, saying, ‘I will give it to your descendants.’ 2 I will send an angel before you and drive out the Canaanites, Amorites, Hittites, Perizzites, Hivites and Jebusites. 3 Go up to the land flowing with milk and honey. But I will not go with you, because you are a stiff-necked people and I might destroy you on the way.”

4 When the people heard these distressing words, they began to mourn and no one put on any ornaments. 5 For the Lord had said to Moses, “Tell the Israelites, ‘You are a stiff-necked people. If I were to go with you even for a moment, I might destroy you. Now take off your ornaments and I will decide what to do with you.’”6 So the Israelites stripped off their ornaments at Mount Horeb.God is ready to destroy all those people and start over with just Moses. But Moses prays and asks forgiveness for their sinfulness. He offers his life for theirs and asks God to remain with them on their journey to the land God promised Abraham so many years ago.

God changed his mind and saved his people from destruction, but instead of going straight to the land he had picked out for them as an inheritance, the Israelites remained in the rugged wilderness of the middle east for forty years. They lived as nomads with no home to call their own until every adult who left Egypt died except for Joshua and Caleb. That is harsh punishment.

In the desert, God provided food for them, but it was manna every day. Breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Manna. Once when I was in the Army, our rations got a little mixed up and we at chicken cacciatore for breakfast and lunch for longer than anyone should. We couldn’t exchange them. We were stuck with them. It took me almost a decade to enjoy chicken cacciatore again. It gave me a new appreciation for the Israelites’ complaint about manna. The Bible tells us it was sweet, like honey. But there are only so many ways you can fix something. Raw. Boiled. Baked. Add water and yeast to make bread. Fried. How many things can you do with it? But still it was manna. Every day. Breakfast, lunch, and dinner. For forty years. If you do the math, that’s 14,560 days. If you ate three meals a day, that 43,680 meals. Of manna. Punishment!

God heard their complaint about manna, though. He solved their problem. They ate quail. Now, if you order quail in a restaurant, it’s usually in one of those high priced places. I’m not sure most of the restaurants I eat in have quail on the menu. Quite a luxury God gave them. But like the manna, when that’s all you have is quail, it gets old no matter how good it was in the beginning. God let them eat it until it came out their nose. They grew really sick of those birds. Literally. Punishment.

God sent hail and brimstone down on the wicked. Sodom and Gomorrah. He turned Lot’s wife into a pillar of salt when she couldn’t resist one more peak at the town she left behind. God let the waters fall back together to crush the Egyptian army after the Israelites walked across on dry land. God surrounded Elisha with an army of angels ready to strike when the Syrian army paid him a visit. God even struck Miriam with leprosy when she and Aaron got a little jealous of Moses’ position.

For those of you who might be fashion sensitive, they had shoes that didn’t wear out. No shoe shopping. The same pair of sandals. Every day. No matter what you might wear. Oh, yeah. The clothes didn’t wear out either. So for the fashionistas, they wore the same clothes. Every day. For 14, 560 days. Maybe they had one extra set so they could wear one set while the other was in the wash, but remember, they left in a hurry. They didn’t take a lot of luggage with them. Not much of a wardrobe. Punishment.

So we see the God of the Old Testament seems like he was always looking for ways to punish. But that’s not really true. Did he punish? Yes. Did he love? More than we can ever understand. I think sometimes those glimpses of God’s wrath in the Old Testament are kind of like our news media today. Bad news cells. We want the juicy failures so it makes us feel better about ourselves.

The truth is God has not changed. He is the same yesterday, today, and forever. He is truth and life and light. He is the creator. He keeps all of this universe humming in perfect order. He is love. He created that emotion because he wants us to experience in our frail, imperfect way, the perfect love the triune Godhead experiences eternally.

The amazing thing about God is that he wants to have a personal relationship with each of us. He wants that relationship so desperately that he came to earth and lived with us wrapped in human flesh. Then sacrificed himself on a Roman cross as payment for the Old Testament covenant punishment we deserve. His mercy relieves us of that payment with our blood. But God hasn’t changed and there is more. Not only does he give us mercy and doesn’t make us pay the penalty for our sins, he pours out his grace on us.

God’s grace is so incredible it is impossible to describe. God’s grace so exceeds our limited capacity to imagine, we cannot put it into words. Many have tried, but we all fall short and just stand in awe of the creator who gives us life. Forgives our sins. Covers us with the blood he shed on the cross for us. Sits at the right hand of the Father intervening on our behalf. His grace is so marvelous we cannot begin to even adequately put it into our thoughts.

The God of grace and mercy and love is the New Testament God we like to hear about and he is all of that. He pours himself out for us. He is an awesome God as the song written by Rich Mullins and made popular by Michael W. Smith echos for us. Don’t get me wrong, I know God’s grace and mercy and love. I’ve experienced it personally. But I also know that God has not and will not change. The God of the Old Testament and the God of the New Testament are the same God. Just like as a good father, there are times that I must punish my kids to help them learn right from wrong, God as our greatest example of a good father disciplines us.

Should we be surprised at the seeming change in personality between the two sides represented in the Old and New? No, but if you look closely at God before and after that dividing line in which God came to earth to live in flesh, you’ll see his love in the Old Testament with scenes like Pharaoh’s daughter rescuing Moses from the river. God giving Sarah a child in her old age. David’s psalms. And the list goes on and on.

The God of the New Testament is also a God of wrath. Just take a look at Acts 5 and see what happened to Ananias and Sapphira or the judgments that will be meted out described in the book of Revelation. God has not and will not change. He is the one constant in everything we do or see or feel. He is the anchor we can depend on because regardless of the political bent of any particular nation, regardless the state of the economy, regardless the health of loved ones or yourself, God is the same and God cares.

What does that mean for us? It means in a hopeless, loveless, wicked world, we have hope. We have love. We have righteousness. Because we can have God, not just with us, but in us. He can forgive us and then if we let him, he can guide us through this life and into the next safe from the destroyer of souls.

In this Lenten Season, remember who God is. Remember he came to show us we have hope because he came and died for us. But he didn’t just die as a sacrifice. If he stayed in the grave as a sacrifice, we would not be worshiping him. We would not have churches around the globe. We would not die as martyrs for Jesus, the Messiah. No, if Jesus had only died on the cross, he would have been another good man doing marvelous things for people.

But Easter came. Jesus arose. He conquered death, our enemy. He lives today. Remember who God is. Remember why we have hope. Spend time listening to him and learning about him as Easter approaches.

You can find me at richardagee.com. I also invite you to join us at San Antonio First Church of the Nazarene on West Avenue in San Antonio to hear more Bible based teaching. You can find out more about my church at SAF.church. Thanks for listening. If you enjoyed it, tell a friend. If you didn't, send me an email and let me know how better to reach out to those around you. Until next week, may God richly bless you as you venture into His story each day.



Mar 13, 2019

Join us as we explore God's ancient wisdom and apply it to our modern lives. His word is as current and relevant today as it was when he inspired its authors more than two and a half millennia ago. The websites where you can reach us are alittlewalkwithgod.com, richardagee.com, or saf.church.

I hope you will join us every week and be sure to let us know how you enjoy the podcast and let others know about it, too. Thanks for listening.

Thanks for joining me today for "A Little Walk with God." I'm your host Richard Agee.

My pastor is going through a series of sermons entitled “For God So Loved” through the Lenten Season. There is a devotional book that goes along with it that has devotionals written by several different authors. And for the next few weeks, I will be using the same scriptures and themes that come from that devotional to align with the sermon series my church is going through. So today I’ll be looking at a passage from Psalms 17 in which David writes these words:

Keep me as the apple of your eye;

   hide me in the shadow of your wings

9 from the wicked who are out to destroy me,

   from my mortal enemies who surround me.

10 They close up their callous hearts,

   and their mouths speak with arrogance.

11 They have tracked me down, they now surround me,

   with eyes alert, to throw me to the ground.

12 They are like a lion hungry for prey,

   like a fierce lion crouching in cover.

13 Rise up, Lord, confront them, bring them down;

   with your sword rescue me from the wicked.

14 By your hand save me from such people, Lord,

   from those of this world whose reward is in this life.

 

We feel like David sometimes, don’t we? Try as hard as we may to live like we are supposed to, the bad guys seem to win and we want them to get what’s coming to them. We know there is a judgment day they will face. We know Jesus will sort the sheep and the goats. We know we will ultimately be avenged for what wicked men have done to us in this life. But we would like to see a little of that justice now, wouldn’t we?

I’d like us to go back and look at the setting in which David wrote this psalm for a minute. Samuel, the great and last judge of the nation of Israel, warned them about the trouble a king would bring on them. But the people insisted on having a king like the nations around them. God chose Saul for that position. Interestingly enough, of all the troubles a king would bring, like taxes, standing armies, forced labor, and so forth, all the things Samuel mentioned, Saul was the only king that did not impose any of those things on the people. David did, but not Saul. But Saul disobeyed a command God gave him through Samuel and made a sacrificial offering he was not authorized to make. Only a priest could perform that duty, but Saul took it upon himself to do it when Samuel was delayed. It cost Saul the kingdom and brought about the enmity between Saul and David. Samuel anoint David as the next king, but he had not yet been crowned.

Saul’s jealousy raged. He tried to kill David on many occasions and David fled for his life. As one of Israel’s greatest warriors, defeating the Philistines on the battlefield many times, the nations around Israel wanted the young warrior dead. Now the king of Israel wanted him dead, too. David had enemies surrounding him from every corner. He felt like he had nowhere to turn even though he was doing what he thought God wanted him to do in fighting for his nation and his king.

Remember, that on at least two occasions, David had the opportunity and the means to take Saul’s life, but refused because he would not harm the man God anointed as king. Instead, David ran for his life. It wasn’t fair. God laid out some spectacular things for him to do. God made some incredible promises to him and gave him talents that brought fear to his enemies. (When you can defeat a nine foot giant wearing battle armor with a sling and a stone, that can cause people to be afraid of you.) Yet David displayed a gentle spirit with many who came in contact with him.

Now on the run, David pours out his heart to the God he learned to trust as a shepherd out on the hillside protecting his father’s sheep against the wild animals in the wilderness. Was it fair? No. Did God ever tell us life would be fair? No. Was David’s life on the run an easy one? No. Did God ever tell us life would be easy? No. In fact, Jesus told his disciples to expect trouble. Following after God is bound to put you in opposition to the world. The average person will not like what you do if you follow his teaching. He puts boundaries on your actions. You can’t do anything you want to do. Your rights stop where they collide with responsibilities.

I would love life to be like that a couple of those line we read. “... hide me in the shadow of your wings,  from the wicked who are out to destroy me... Rise up, Lord, confront them, bring them down;  with your sword rescue me from the wicked. By your hand save me from such people…”

Doesn’t that sound good? But God doesn’t always do that. In fact, like with his son, Jesus, we often face the worst. God sometimes puts us in the very front of the battle lines of this world and we must stand against some of the most wicked and atrocious acts Satan has in his bag of tricks. Does that mean God doesn’t love us? No. Does it mean he has abandoned us? No. Does it mean he doesn’t care about the struggles we face in this world? No. God still loves and cares for us.

But as with David as he ran for his life, we sometimes draw closest to God in the times of our greatest struggles. Sometimes God allows these things to happen because it is in those times when we find we have nowhere to go for relief that we throw ourselves into God’s great arms because we know he is our last and only hope. It’s at times like those that we learn the greatest lessons about how little of life we control and how much we rely on him for every heartbeat and every breath of life.

God loves us so much he lets us endure some of the hardships of this world so we might draw closer to him and find solace in his embrace when life seems to overwhelm us in every direction we turn. Then when the lions roar, when the vipers strike, the hurricane winds and floods push to engulf us, we can rest in the assurance that God’s hand will reach down and cover us. He will not let us suffer more than we can endure. He will rescue us. But he does so will his purpose in mind.

God still wants his message to ring through our lives so others will see the peace in our hearts that come from knowing him. He wants others to know the legacy his son left us. Peace that when the chaos of life crushes in upon us, we can know that with our last breath, we awake in a new heaven and a new earth surrounded by the brilliance of God glory forever. A place where pain and death and evil can never touch us again.

Will I stop praying David’s seventeenth psalm just because I know my future in heaven? No, I would still like relief from the wickedness that plagues this world. I would still like God to intervene to stop the suffering that comes from the evil that lurks in the dark places that seem to encroach more and more on the innocent. I still cry out like David for God to rise up and confront those who find their reward in this world instead of in his kingdom.

But I also read the last chapter of the book. I know how it all ends. I have confidence and hope that someday soon Jesus will come as the avenger for all his children. And I cry for those who do not know him. Their eternity will not be as short or pleasant as they imagine. Eternity is something our human mind cannot grasp. Eternal punishment and banishment from the God of creation is something we cannot fully understand or imagine. I pity the lost whose souls will forever experience that awful place.

During this Lenten Season, take time to understand what Jesus has done for you in making a way to avoid that place of eternal lostness. Take time to think about the avenger who will come again and make right a world that has gone very wrong because of our refusal to accept God as God. Stop and remember that he will one day soon call an end to time and he will do exactly what the psalmist asked. He will rise up, confront, bring down, and destroy those of this world whose reward is in this life.

You can find me at richardagee.com. I also invite you to join us at San Antonio First Church of the Nazarene on West Avenue in San Antonio to hear more Bible based teaching. You can find out more about my church at SAF.church. Thanks for listening. If you enjoyed it, tell a friend. If you didn't, send me an email and let me know how better to reach out to those around you. Until next week, may God richly bless you as you venture into His story each day.



Feb 25, 2019

Join us as we explore God's ancient wisdom and apply it to our modern lives. His word is as current and relevant today as it was when he inspired its authors more than two and a half millennia ago. The websites where you can reach us are alittlewalkwithgod.com, richardagee.com, or saf.church.

I hope you will join us every week and be sure to let us know how you enjoy the podcast and let others know about it, too. Thanks for listening.

Thanks for joining me today for "A Little Walk with God." I'm your host Richard Agee.

Paul had many people ask him about what heaven would be like since Jesus met him one day on the road to Damascus and he saw a glimpse of what will come. He saw the risen Lord and just a taste of what heaven might be like when time comes to an end. He learned from Jesus’ apostles that we would be changed when he came to take us home with him. So as is common with us, we wanted to know what we would be like. We live in these frail bodies and we suffer all kinds of things in this world. Will we still have the pain, the scars, the memories, and the nightmares that plague us here?

Paul had some interesting things to say to us on that account. We go back to Paul’s letter to the congregation in Corinth as he tries to help them understand just how confused and unknowing they really were. We ask the same question, though, don’t we? We want to know what the other side of life will look like. We want to know for sure if there really is a heaven and hell. We want to know what life will be like when we cross to the other side of eternity.

The people in Corinth were especially concerned because Jesus said he was coming back soon. It had been years since he left. Some of their congregation died. Jesus hadn’t come. The Romans made life difficult for the Christians. The Jewish leaders made life difficult for the Christians. The pagans who believed in a pantheon of gods made life difficult for Christians. The whole world made life difficult for Jesus’ followers just like he said they would. So what happened? Should they still wait? Was Jesus’ promise real? Was he really coming back? And if so, what would really happen to them?

Here are Paul’s words of encouragement to them.

35 Now I know what some of you are thinking: “Just how are the dead going to be raised? What kind of bodies will they have when they come back to life?” 36 Don’t be afool! The seed you plant doesn’t produce life unless it dies. Right?37 The seed doesn’t have the same look,the same body, if you will,of what it will have once it starts to grow. It starts out a single, naked seed—whether wheat or some other grain, it doesn’t matter38 and God gives to that seed a body just as He has desired. For each of the different kinds of seeds God prepares a unique body. 39 Or look at it this way:not all flesh is the same. Right?There is skinflesh on humans, furryflesh on animals, featheryflesh on birds, and scalyflesh on fish. 40 Likewisethere are bodies made for the heavens and bodies made for the earth. The heavenly bodies have a different kind of glory or luminescencecompared to bodies below. 41 Even among the heavenly bodies, there is a different level of brilliance:the sun shines differently than the moon, the moon differently than the stars, and the stars themselves differ in their brightness. ...

50 Now listen to this: brothers and sisters, this present body is not able to inherit the kingdom of God any more than decay can inherit that which lasts forever. 51 Stay close because I am going to tell you a mystery—something you may have trouble understanding: we will not all fall asleep in death, but we will all be transformed. 52 It will all happen so fast,in a blink, a mere flutter of the eye. The last trumpet will call, and the dead will be raised from their graves with a body that does not, cannot decay. All of us will be changed! 53 We’ll step out of our mortal clothes and slide into immortal bodies, replacing everything that is subject to death with eternal life.54 And, when we are all redressed with bodies that do not, cannot decay, when we put immortality over our mortal frames, then it will be as Scripture says:

Life everlastinghas victoriously swallowed death.[j]

55 Hey, Death! What happened to your big win?

   Hey, Death! What happened to your sting?

Have you ever thought about what that change might be like? Jesus talked about how a seed must die before a plant can grow from it. So picture, if you will, an acorn. We know oak trees come from acorn’s the seed that produces those magnificent trees. I’m sure you’ve seen a few of them. Hard shelled things about ¾ of an inch across. Although there are a variety of different nuts we eat, the acorn is one we don’t. If you examine that small receptacle of life, would you ever think a giant oak would grow from that little seed? A tree looks so different from the seed from which it sprouts. So does a corn stalk look different from a single kernel of corn. Or a watermelon seed different from a watermelon. Pick any seed and tell me if you could guess what its plant would look like when mature. I don’t believe you could.

Jesus and Paul tell us this flesh that houses our eternal spirit is just a seed. When it dies, a spiritual bodies emerges from it just as an oak emerges from an acorn. What will our spiritual bodies be like? I can’t tell you. Will we look the same? I don’t think we will. I think we will know each other as we are perfected by his resurrection power. I think we will understand perfectly. I think we will see God in his triune perfection. Paul says we will be changed in the blink of an eye. Paul doesn’t describe that change except that we will be clothed in a new, spiritual body. An immortal one. One that can never decay or die. We will have a body that will live through eternity without pain or sadness or deformity or anything but the perfection of the image of God he placed within each of us.

What will we look like? Will we really care? Does the acorn care what the tree looks like that comes from inside its tiny shell? Does the apple seed care how many apple live inside it? Does a wheat germ care how many grains of wheat will come from it when the farmer plants it in the ground? So why should we care what this new spiritual body will be? Suffice it to say our spiritual bodies will be exactly right because God will grow them. He planned this millenia ago. We can trust him to make the spiritual body that springs from the seed of our fleshly body exactly what he plans.

I cannot even imagine what it might be like. Just like I could never imagine what plant would come from a particular seed if you placed it in my hand. I think our spiritual bodies will be as different from our fleshly bodies as a plant is from the seed from which it comes. Does that bother you? It doesn’t bother me. It’s one of those things I figure God has taken care of and I don’t need to worry about it. I trust him to know what he’s doing. I can’t make an oak tree. All I can do is plant an acorn. I can’t create a field of wheat. All I can do is plant some seeds. I can’t create a spiritual body. All I can do is prepare my fleshly body for the next step. I can give myself to God. I can follow his commands to the best of my ability. I can ask forgiveness from him. Then I can let him do his work in me and when time ends, he can change me into something I never dreamed. He will give me a spiritual body something we cannot now imagine.

Will we all be the same? I don’t know. Will we be able to distinguish one person from another? I think so since Paul talks about bodies, plural. Will we remember anything of this body when we put on the next? I don’t know. Does it really matter? Will we care about this life after we move into the next? I’m not sure we will if we find ourselves in heaven with God. I think we will be so engaged in worship and the work he gives us to do in heaven (I really believe he has work for us to do there, also), we won’t think about or worry about what happened here. The only thing we will remember from this side of eternity is that sacrifice he made for us so we could be with him. Everything else from this side of life will just fade away.

The Corinthians wondered what was happening to these frail vessels that kept dying while they waited for Jesus’ return. Paul let them know Jesus was still coming. His delay didn’t mean he wasn’t coming back. It means God is gracious and wants us to share his story to influence as many as possible to come into his kingdom. His delay is because of his mercy and grace. He wants as many as possible to come to him. Paul also wanted them to know our frail, sickly bodies weren’t the things that would survive and follow us into heaven. These things that deteriorate and decay are just seeds and one day from this fleshy seed will sprout a spiritual body like nothing we can begin to imagine.

Do you ever wonder what will become of this lump of clay you reside it? Don’t worry about it. Just like with the acorn and the oak, you can’t begin to imagine the new you. Be ready and then be blown away by the magnificence of God’s creative act in you.

You can find me at richardagee.com. I also invite you to join us at San Antonio First Church of the Nazarene on West Avenue in San Antonio to hear more Bible based teaching. You can find out more about my church at SAF.church. Thanks for listening. If you enjoyed it, tell a friend. If you didn't, send me an email and let me know how better to reach out to those around you. Until next week, may God richly bless you as you venture into His story each day.

Feb 18, 2019

Join us as we explore God's ancient wisdom and apply it to our modern lives. His word is as current and relevant today as it was when he inspired its authors more than two and a half millennia ago. The websites where you can reach us are alittlewalkwithgod.com, richardagee.com, or saf.church.

I hope you will join us every week and be sure to let us know how you enjoy the podcast and let others know about it, too. Thanks for listening.

Thanks for joining me today for "A Little Walk with God." I'm your host Richard Agee.

Paul gives us an interesting observation as he writes to the congregation in Corinth. Near the end of his letter, in what is now chapter 15, he tells us the importance of Jesus’ resurrection. Here are his words, inspired by God.

12 Now if we have told you about the Christ (how He has risen from the dead and appeared to us fully alive), then how can you stand there andsay there is no such thing as resurrection from death? 13 Friends,if there is no resurrection of the dead, then even Christ hasn’t been raised; 14 if that is so, then all our preaching has been for nothing and your faith in the messageis worthless. 15 And what’s worse, all of us who have been preaching the gospelare now guilty of misrepresenting God because we have been spreading the news that He raised Jesus from the dead (which must be a lie if what you are saying about the dead not being raised is the truth). 16 Please listen.If you say, “the dead are not raised,” then what you are telling me is thatJesus has not been raised. Friends, 17 if Jesus has not been raised from the dead, then your faith is worth less than yesterday’s garbage, you are all doomed in your sins, 18 and all the dearlydeparted who trusted in His liberation are left decaying in the ground. 19 If what we have hoped for in Christ doesn’t take us beyond this life, then we are world-class fools, deserving everyone’s pity.

20 But Jesus was raised from death’s slumber and is the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep in death.

Sometimes it’s good for us to stop and remember the story. Sometimes we need to understand how important the truth of these words. Sometimes we need to stop in the business of our lives and think about what we believe and be ready to believe it regardless how foolish it may sound to an unbelieving world.

Without faith in what happened at a place called Golgotha, in that pivotal city of Jerusalem, and the then the events over the next several days, Christians certainly would be certifiably crazy. You probably know the story well. You probably heard it or versions of it most of your life. Whatever religion you might have been exposed to in your childhood, you probably at least heard rumors about this story of a man called Jesus.

A man whose followers proclaimed he was not just a religious person able to perform miracles, but a man they proclaimed he was the son of God. In fact, they went so far as to say he was God incarnate. God in the flesh. He preached and taught throughout the region for just over three years, radically altering what many believed about what God expected of us. He taught that God wanted a personal, intimate relationship with each of us. He would forgive anyone who believed he came to live with us in the person of this man Jesus. All who asked for forgiveness and followed him would find forgiveness.

The story says this man Jesus became an enemy of his own religious leaders and an enemy of the Roman state. The tried him in a kangaroo court and crucified him. Then the story becomes an impossible one without faith. This man, Jesus, whom the Romans executed on a cross, died there. Romans knew how to execute people. If they said he died, he died. In fact, if the biblical account if accurate, it’s a miracle Jesus even made it to the site of the crucifixion after the beatings and flogging he endured. But he did and he hung on the cross and he died.

From an unbeliever’s perspective, the fairy tale gets better. The dead guy lays in a tomb for three days in the heat of the middle eastern sun and then he appears alive to two women who come to finish the burial ritual they couldn’t finish the day he died because of the rapid approach of the sabbath. Then he appears to two men walking from Jerusalem to Emmaus, unrecognized until he sits down to eat with them. Then he appears behind a locked door to ten of his disciples. A week later he appears to all eleven of his disciples, again, behind locked doors. For forty days after his resurrection, he appeared off and on to different people around the city until his ascension where nearly 500 of his followers saw him lift off the ground in a cloud.

Without faith in the truth of the story, wouldn’t that make a great fairy tale? Without the assurance of the truth because of God’s spirit prompting us and helping us realize how much he wants to have a relationship with him, doesn’t that sound like some far off fantasy? How could anyone believe such nonsense? Who would ever fall for such a fantastic story? What would make people die for such a ridiculous story?

That’s what the scoffers say. That’s how the unbelievers think. That’s the reaction you get from the average man on the street, today. But what about you? What evidence can you propose to get to the truth and know that the story is real? How do you know the Bible is true?

It is an interesting question and one that deserves some answers. C.S. Lewis is a famous Christian author who set out to prove the story was so much trash. What he discovered was the truth. The evidence that shouts at us to show us the Bible is true and what it says can be trusted and believed. He has a series of books whose titles begin “The Case for…” and give the evidence of the truth behind the Bible, the crucifixion, Easter, Christmas, and many other topics. He painstakingly researched each and discovered evidence you could take to court.

Just start with the canon itself. Many unbelievers touted scripture must be the fiction of some religious leaders, but look at how it has come into our hands. Just the quality of artifacts from antiquity bears witness to the Bible’s authenticity. Scholars talk about the Iliad and Odyssey as ancient with a dozen or so fragments of the text from the fifth and sixth centuries surviving. But with the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls and other fragments, we have more than 5,000 fragments and whole letters dating from three and four hundred BCE. And all the copies are nearly identical. In fact, the differences are not in the text, but in the marginal notes.

The Bible is and has been the number one seller for so long that none of the publishers, sellers, and analysts list it among the books sold anymore. Not because it doesn’t sell, but because it sells so far above the number two selling book that the numbers of books sold make everything embarrassing by comparison. Millions of copies are distributed every year. The top selling books sometimes reach a million copies in a year. Not often, but sometimes in a year. The Bible? Millions, plural, year after year after year. And as of October 2017 the full Bible has been translated into 670 languages, the New Testament has been translated into 1,521 languages. No other book has ever achieved such a global outreach. Impossible, right? Not if the living God is behind it.

So that explains the written word just a little. It must be more than a fairy tale if it continues to circulate like that from the beginning of its writing. But how about those willing to give their lives for their belief? Today we see handfuls of terrorists blowing themselves up to attain their 72 virgins in heaven. Not sure that will happen for them, but that’s a different podcast. It’s interesting that the vast majority of those willing to do so are under the age of 25. I don’t want to be disparaging of young people, but the medical community tells us that our brain isn’t fully developed until about age 25. So quite frankly, I’m more than a little concerned about the training those young folks are getting. You never seem to see the imams or clerics or older wiser men strapping explosive to themselves.

But in Christian circles, we don’t see dozens of people strapping explosives to themselves. We see people spreading Jesus’ legacy of peace he left with us. As a result, Christians are hated. We are persecuted. In many areas of the world, we are executed for our faith. Over the last ten years, different organizations have determined that more than a million Christians lost their lives because of their faith. They refuse to renounce their faith. They refuse to let go of their belief in the one who forgives sin. The story for them is very real. They are willing to give their lives before they change their belief.

Why would that many people willingly give up their lives for something that wasn’t true? Why would so many people willingly follow a fairy tale? The answer is, they wouldn’t. No one would give up as much as Christians have if the story were not true. If it were just a story, the truth would have come out long ago and the martyrdom would have stopped. People would agree with the majority of the world and let the story go. No one would accept the sacrifices Christians accept if the story were not true.

But Paul was right. “... if there is no resurrection of the dead, then even Christ hasn’t been raised; 14 if that is so, then all our preaching has been for nothing and your faith in the messageis worthless… But Jesus was raised from death’s slumber and is the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep in death.” We can believe because the story is not just a story. Jesus, the son of God, lived, died, was buried, and rose again.

So what will you do today because the story is not just a story, it is the truth upon which we stand?

You can find me at richardagee.com. I also invite you to join us at San Antonio First Church of the Nazarene on West Avenue in San Antonio to hear more Bible based teaching. You can find out more about my church at SAF.church. Thanks for listening. If you enjoyed it, tell a friend. If you didn't, send me an email and let me know how better to reach out to those around you. Until next week, may God richly bless you as you venture into His story each day.

Feb 8, 2019

Join us as we explore God's ancient wisdom and apply it to our modern lives. His word is as current and relevant today as it was when he inspired its authors more than two and a half millennia ago. The websites where you can reach us are alittlewalkwithgod.com, richardagee.com, or saf.church.

I hope you will join us every week and be sure to let us know how you enjoy the podcast and let others know about it, too. Thanks for listening.

Thanks for joining me today for "A Little Walk with God." I'm your host Richard Agee.

As we continue looking at scripture references that come from the common lectionary, this week’s readings included a familiar passage from Isaiah 6 in which the prophet gets a glimpse into the throne room of heaven. It tells us of the time and place of his commission as a prophet. The words are best told from his mouth so here is how Isaiah expresses the experience in chapter six.

6:1 In the year that King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord sitting on a throne, high and lofty; and the hem of his robe filled the temple.

6:2 Seraphs were in attendance above him; each had six wings: with two they covered their faces, and with two they covered their feet, and with two they flew.

6:3 And one called to another and said: "Holy, holy, holy is the LORD of hosts; the whole earth is full of his glory."

6:4 The pivots on the thresholds shook at the voices of those who called, and the house filled with smoke.

6:5 And I said: "Woe is me! I am lost, for I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips; yet my eyes have seen the King, the LORD of hosts!"

6:6 Then one of the seraphs flew to me, holding a live coal that had been taken from the altar with a pair of tongs.

6:7 The seraph touched my mouth with it and said: "Now that this has touched your lips, your guilt has departed and your sin is blotted out."

6:8 Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, "Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?" And I said, "Here am I; send me!"

6:9 And he said, "Go and say to this people: 'Keep listening, but do not comprehend; keep looking, but do not understand.'

6:10 Make the mind of this people dull, and stop their ears, and shut their eyes, so that they may not look with their eyes, and listen with their ears, and comprehend with their minds, and turn and be healed."

6:11 Then I said, "How long, O Lord?" And he said: "Until cities lie waste without inhabitant, and houses without people, and the land is utterly desolate;

6:12 until the LORD sends everyone far away, and vast is the emptiness in the midst of the land.

6:13 Even if a tenth part remain in it, it will be burned again, like a terebinth or an oak whose stump remains standing when it is felled." The holy seed is its stump.

Can you imagine what it must have been like to be Isaiah at that moment? At times I think I would like to have accompanied him on that trip to see the throne. Most of the time, though, I think I’m glad I haven’t had that experience. Take a look at his words and the terrible fear he felt being in God’s presence. Why? Because he like all of us find it impossible to bear the weight of our sins in the presence of a holy God. He is so pure, so innocent, so incredibly good, that in his presence we see only how base and sinful and how far short we are from the lives he desires for us.

We are unworthy to come near him, yet he invites us to come. We are unworthy to carry his message of forgiveness, yet his plan is for us to do just that. We are so away from the kind of life he wants us to portray as a life of godliness and holiness, but he gives us the command to go make disciples and teach them by our example.

Why would God ever choose to put the hope of mankind in our hands? Why would he choose people so desperate for forgiveness and so hungry for cleansing from the filth of sin to share his message?

I think the answer is simple. When we are forgiven, we can forgive. When we experience his mercy, we can show mercy. When we have a taste of his grace in our lives, we can spread his grace to those around us so they can get a small taste of who God is and what he wants for all mankind. So we see Isaiah at his lowest.

“God, how can I be here in your presence as a sinful man? Even though a priest, I will die because I am so far from your holiness. I am undone!”

But God ignores Isaiah’s self incrimination. He looks around and asks a simple question, “Who will carry my message?”

“Here I am, choose me.”

I can picture Isaiah standing at the very back of the room trying to hide behind the angels. I can see him just peeking around those giant messengers of God trying not to be seen lest he encounter God’s wrath because of his distance from true heart purity. But the question reaches his ears and in the moment I can see him frantically waving his arms above his head and screaming out, “Here I am. Look I don’t want to hide anymore. You have touched me and done something in me that I never dreamed possible. You’ve taken away my guilt and cleaned up my heart. You made me whole again. Here I am, way back in the back. God, look. Send me. Let me do whatever it is you want done.”

That’s what it’s like what God does his work in your heart. When he cleans us up, we can’t help but be ready to do his bidding. When we are freed from the stain and guilt of sin, we can’t help but jump up and down, wave our arms in the air, and volunteer for the God who does all things well. We can’t help but give ourselves to him in complete obedience.

Was Isaiah’s life easy after that? Far from it. Being a prophet for God is hard. No one wants to listen to you. No one wants to believe the message you say is from God. Most will think you are a bit crazy. Many will be ready to kill you because of the message. That is the way it was from Isaiah and that is the way it still is today. In fact, there are more martyrs for the cause of Christ every year today than there have ever been in all of history.

Living for God is hard. Jesus told us the world would hate us because of him. He told us we might lose everything because of him. He told us we would have to take up our cross and follow him. For some that means a literal cross on which we sacrifice our flesh and blood for him. For others the cross means giving up our assets or our families or our livelihood or a host of other things. The cross we bear is different for everyone, but we must all take up the cross that belongs to us. We must carry it and realize it is part of God’s plan for us to do so.

It was hard for Isaiah. It was hard for Jeremiah. It was hard for the disciples and for Paul. It is hard for anyone and everyone who picks up the mantle God gives. But is it worth it? That is the question to be answered when at the end of the day fatigue sets in and progress seems so small.

And what is the answer? Ask Isaiah. Ask Jeremiah. Ask Paul and all those who have gone before us. The will give you a resounding answer, “Yes! Absolutely!” Isaiah stood at the very foot of the throne of God and saw him high and lifted up. What a sight. Paul saw Jesus on the road to Damascus. What an opportunity. God speaks to his people. It may be through his written word. It may be through a dear Christian friend or through circumstances surrounding you. It may be in a thousand different ways, but when we listen intently for his voice, we will hear him.

And when he speaks to his children, very often he has a chore for us to do. He doesn’t want us standing around idle. He wants us busy at his purpose. He wants us to be part of his plan. He wants us to spread the message of forgiveness to all who will believe and follow him.

So what is he telling you? Can you hear him calling? Can you sense the task he has for you today? Step up. Believe he will help you. Understand, like Isaiah, that God wants to use you to carry his message by your actions to a lost world that desperately needs his love and forgiveness. He speaks today. Listen for his voice, then obey his command. I will tell you on God’s authority that it won’t be easy, but it will certainly be worth it.

You can find me at richardagee.com. I also invite you to join us at San Antonio First Church of the Nazarene on West Avenue in San Antonio to hear more Bible based teaching. You can find out more about my church at SAF.church. Thanks for listening. If you enjoyed it, tell a friend. If you didn't, send me an email and let me know how better to reach out to those around you. Until next week, may God richly bless you as you venture into His story each day.

Feb 4, 2019

Join us as we explore God's ancient wisdom and apply it to our modern lives. His word is as current and relevant today as it was when he inspired its authors more than two and a half millennia ago. The websites where you can reach us are alittlewalkwithgod.com, richardagee.com, or saf.church.

I hope you will join us every week and be sure to let us know how you enjoy the podcast and let others know about it, too. Thanks for listening.

Thanks for joining me today for "A Little Walk with God." I'm your host Richard Agee.
The psalmist wrote “ For a day in your courts is better than a thousand elsewhere. I would rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God than live in the tents of wickedness.” We seem to not believe the psalmist in our culture today, though. We seem to shy away from God’s house and believe any place is as good as another.

I can remember not so many years ago that the church was the center of most people’s lives in this country. When things went wrong or you needed help, the church was the first place you thought of for help. But no longer. Growing up, I remember being in church every Sunday for Sunday School at 9:15, now replaced with small groups, then worship service that might last until 12:30 or 1:00, then back to an evening service at 6:00 that would often dismiss at 9:00 or 10:00. Most of those Sunday night services are gone from most churches today. Wednesday evening midweek prayer meeting started at 7:00 and again lasted until 9:00 or later. Those, too, have disappeared.

Some churches have small group sessions in homes or coffee shops or even at the church one or two times a week with total attendance at 15 to 20 percent of the worship attendance. But for some reason we don’t see the church with the importance we once did. I think there are several reasons, none of which bode well for the state of the world we live in.

We need to stop and take inventory of some of those causes every once in a while and see if they apply to us as individuals. If and when they do, we need to stop and examine our lives and figure out how to get back on track before we find ourselves following the way of the world and end up on that broad way Jesus talks about that leads to destruction. So here are some reasons I see we have lost the desire to spend time together in God’s house.

First, we allow ourselves to become too busy with less important things. Don’t misunderstand me as I say that. We find our schedules filled to the brim with stuff and a lot of it looks important and is. We need to spend time with family and friends. We need to make a good living to support those we love. We need to do a lot of the things that we see on our calendar that is not in God’s house. But if we examine our calendars carefully, we would see a lot of things that have taken God’s place and disrupted our lives in ways he would not be pleased.

Let me share some examples. Would God prefer you spend time together as a family worshiping him in his house, or on a soccer field? That doesn’t mean sports is not important, but is it important to the exclusion of worship? Would God prefer you watch four hours of mindless television shows together, or learning about his incarnation and sacrifice? Lots of other examples can show where our priorities in the use of our time put God way down on our list of priorities and so we abandon his house and fail to understand the psalmist’s love of God’s house.

Second, the church fails to identify God, even in his own house. Now that is a terrible thing to say, but I’m afraid it is true in too many churches I’ve visited. We get caught up more often in our ritual and program and the entertainment value of our services than in seeing the God who wants to meet with us as we worship together. We have too often lost the ability to worship.

Too many of our churches have grown cold and wouldn’t recognize God if he were to walk in the door. We have pushed him out with our version of what worship should be instead of letting God determine what our worship should be. Am I trying to dictate some form of worship over another? No. Am I trying to say that one denomination has it right and others do not? No. Am I saying some churches get it right and others do not. Yes. Some churches have lost the spirit by the individual and collective actions of those who attend.

Paul talks about the behavior of those whom we will not see in heaven. The list includes prostitutes and thieves and murderers and we say amen to all of those. But Paul’s list didn’t stop there. He also listed those who gossip, lie, or cause dissension. Unfortunately, I’ve been to too many churches in my travels, and know we have those in every church I’ve visited. The world knows it, too. So if I’m an unbeliever, why would I want to go to a church filled with liars, gossips, and people who stir up dirt when the church is supposed to be a place where I can find hope and forgiveness.

So, if I’m an unbeliever, why would I want to go to a place that no only acts and feels just like the places I frequent outside the church, but does so while proclaiming it is just the opposite. As you can imagine, the hypocrisy would keep many from ever wanting to enter the doors. We in the church, are guilty of displaying some of the most devilish behavior as when we fail to provide the love for all people that Jesus tells us we should show.

Third, we in the church are probably guilty of doing what most families do to each other. I’m seldom as harsh with words directed to complete strangers as I am with those I love the most. We wonder why we do that after the fact, because we know how cutting and hurtful words can be if we are not careful with them. James tells us our tongue is one of the most dangerous weapons we have, much sharper than a sword. Yet we still aim hurtful words at those we love the most.

Maybe it’s because we know they love us too and will forgive our wrongs because they love us. Maybe it’s because when those we love do something that hurts us, it cuts so deep and we want to reciprocate with equally damaging words. Maybe we just don’t care because of the culture we built within our society that says my feelings take precedence over yours. Whatever the reason, I’ve found through the years the most hurt comes from our blood relatives and from our spiritual relatives. The words from both of those groups cause more angst than from any other sector of society. And so rather than stopping to find out what caused the dissension and gossip in the first place. Instead of confronting the source of the information that damaged the relationship, we just let things fester and fume until anger flares, sides are drawn, and the church divides.

As an outsider looking in, why would I want to be a part of that? What would draw me to that kind of place? I can get that from my neighborhood. I can find that around the watercooler at work. What good is church if that’s the way people behave? It certainly doesn’t describe the dwelling place of God that David describes, does it?

The good news is that most churches I’ve visited have a few of those saints that know the psalmist was right. Those who have had a genuine heart to heart encounter with God know what it means to be in his presence. Those who truly love him with their whole heart, soul, mind, and strength know that it really is better to be in his house than anywhere else. Those who discover God as creator and giver of all things and master of the universe and savior of those who believe in him for forgiveness of sin, would rather be in his presence than in the finest palace in the world. To those few saints in those churches, God isn’t defined by doctrine. He doesn’t look like the Renaissance paintings. He doesn’t care about riches and fame. He doesn’t care about who we know or what we do. He cares about each one of us as individuals. He cares about our individual relationship with him.

The few in those many churches I’ve visited that really know God. That have a deep intimate relationship with him, don’t even have to wait to go to church to worship, but they do gather together in places of worship because he instructs us to do so. They go to those churches to help others find their God. They desire more than anything to make it to God’s eternal dwelling place with other who have heard the story of Jesus, God incarnate, and believe. They desire to meet often with their spiritual brothers and sisters.

How about you? Have you met that God? Have you fallen in love with the one who cares nothing of doctrine, but everything about relationship? Have you become intimately involved with the one who gave everything so we might live to worship him? Have you discovered the God who longs to be with you so that you can know him and trust him with everything you have and everything you are?

If not, it’s about time you met him. Time is running out. It’s one day closer to Jesus’ return! And no one knows when that will be. It could be another thousand years...but it could also be tomorrow. Be ready!

You can find me at richardagee.com. I also invite you to join us at San Antonio First Church of the Nazarene on West Avenue in San Antonio to hear more Bible based teaching. You can find out more about my church at SAF.church. Thanks for listening. If you enjoyed it, tell a friend. If you didn't, send me an email and let me know how better to reach out to those around you. Until next week, may God richly bless you as you venture into His story each day.


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