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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

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.


Jan 28, 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.

Still looking at the common lectionary for the year. We are in the third week after the Epiphany. The scripture this week comes from Nehemiah, one of my favorite books of the Old Testament. Nehemiah provides us a great portrait in leadership. But in today’s passages, we find Ezra, the priest highlighted. He stands before the assembled crowd and reads from the scrolls containing the books written by Moses centuries ago. He reads those laws the people had forgotten that got them into this dilemma in the first place.

Three things I want you to notice today about the scene the writer of Nehemiah describes as the day unfolds. No doubt there were lots of things he could have told about on that momentous day when the scrolls were found and the nation had the opportunity to hear once again the words penned by the hand of their great patriarch, Moses.

First, I want you to notice the reverence of the assembled crowd for the scrolls. Ezra opened the scrolls and the people stood. We’ve lost a lot of that reverence today. So may view scripture as fantasy. Something that could never happen. Something  that parents tell their kids to keep them happy. They want to tell them stories about something that will scare them just enough to keep them straight. But all this God stuff? All these ancient stories about Jonah and David and Noah? How can anyone be so gullible as to believe any of that stuff? It’s all superstitious lies, right?

But these people understood the gravity of unbelief. They lived through it. These were the people who came back to Jerusalem and saw the tremendous devastation of their capital, the jewel of Judah. They understood it was their disobedience of the very commands Ezra held in his hands that caused their exile and the ruin it had taken them so long to rebuild and still as they looked around there was so much yet to do to begin to bring the city back to its former glory.

So when Ezra stood and opened the scrolls, everyone stood out of respect for the scriptures, God’s words given to Moses. We don’t think about that much anymore. They didn’t have scripture in their homes other than what they memorized. So they were eager to hear it. We have dozens of Bibles in our homes and seldom brush the dust off the cover to glance inside to see what the creator of all things has to say to us. So the first thing we see in these verse in chapter 8 is the need to both have and show respect for the scriptures, the words God handed down to us through the inspiration of his prophets.

Second, all the people worshiped and bowed with their heads to the ground. I’m not sure God cares too much about your posture when you worship him. We can worship with our face to the ground or our faces lifted up toward heaven. We can stand. We can sit. We can walk around our neighborhood or drive to work worshiping him. We can worship while we drive to work or worship as we lay in bed about to sleep. We can worship anywhere and any time. I don’t think God cares that we have our face to the ground as long as we truly worship him and not just play along with those around us pretending we know the true God by going through the motions.

We need to stop and lift our spirits toward heaven until his spirit touches ours. Will it be euphoric? Sometimes, but often not. Will it give us enlightenment? Sometimes, but often not. Will it prepare us for the day ahead? With that question, I can answer yes. Even though the events that come in the next hours seem more than you can bear, when we take the day to God, he lifts the burden. He swaps yokes and carries the heavier load. He helps us focus the day on him instead of us. He does help us through those tough days. So, yes, he does prepare us for the day ahead. We just need to worship him because he is worthy of our worship.

Finally, note there was interpretation of the scriptures. The scriptures were written in Hebrew. This assembled group of worshipers didn’t know Hebrew. They lived in exile the last 70 years, growing up in other countries, learning the language of their conquerers. To understand the word of God, they needed someone to explain the meaning of what they heard.

The same is true for us today. Although we have access to translations from the Hebrew text so we can read the words, we sometimes have a hard time understanding what we read. The reasons are many. Sometimes the translations are difficult because there are many words that can be used or we have no words in our language to express the word being translated. A clear example is the translation of the word love. The Greeks used four different words to express our one word. Another study in 2010 shows that the Eskimo tribes may have from 180 to 300 different words for snow, a necessity to describe the various bitter weather conditions in the northern most climates of the world. But how would we translate all those words except as just snow?

The other problem we have is the authors wrote to people living in their culture and in their time. Certainly many of the things God inspired them to write apply equally to us today, otherwise the canon would not survive over these thousands of years. But the language, the phrases, the culture is not of our time and place. To understand fully the words of scripture, it is good to have someone explain the setting, the culture, the nuances of the times to help interpret its meaning. For instance, how much richer is the knowledge of Jesus’ unknown time of return if you understand the culture of when and how marriages took place in his culture. A man and woman became engaged early in life, perhaps he as in his twenties, she as young as twelve. The man would then be charged with building a place for them to begin their own family. Often  the dwelling was an addition to the patriachical property. A new room or two along with an expanded garden or stable. Another workbench on which to increase the family trade. The young man betrothed to his bride prepared all the things necessary to start a new life with his young bride and showed his father he could care for her in his own dwelling. When it reached a point in the construction the father was satisfied the man could care for his family on his own, he told his son to retrieve his bride. That day was the wedding day. No one but the father knew what the conditions were. No one but the father decided the right time. No one but the father knew when the time would come. The father saw the son was ready and made the decision the wedding would happen and happen now. Understanding the culture of the day, Jesus’ statements that may seem a little odd to us at first reading were perfectly understandable to those who heard him.

We can learn a lot from the behavior of the exiles who returned to Jerusalem. We should remember the image Nehemiah gives of that momentous event. We need to apply the lessons to our lives as we think about what God has done for us in restoring our brokenness. What did they do? They respected and honored the scripture and its reading. They worshiped together. And they ensured there were those among them who could interpret what was heard so they understood what they were hearing. We should do the same. Respect, worship, study and understand. When we do those things, God will honor and bless us in extraordinary ways. He gives a guarantee on his work.

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.

Jan 21, 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 you probably know if you’ve been following these last few weeks, I’ve been using the common lectionary for the focus of my podcasts. Today will be no different. The scripture in the lectionary that jumped out at me today comes from 1 Corinthians 12. I think it struck me because we so often want to be someone other than ourselves in our culture today.

Take a look at everything the world throws at us and see if you agree. Marketing implies that if you just buy this product or use this device you will look like the person in the commercial. If you own this contraption or consume that food, you will suddenly be rid of those unwanted pounds. But if we stop and think for just a few milliseconds, we know it’s not true. But we want so badly to be something we are not.

We want to be slimmer, taller, shorter, smarter, richer, wiser, faster, … In the next advertisement you hear, listen for those adjectives and see if you can relate to the visual and audible cues. “I want to be like that.” And the marketer assures you it can happen just by buying their product. Of course, in the tiny print, if you can read that fast and get close enough to read it in the first place, you find the disclosure statement.

“Results may vary and those depicted are may not be expected when used by the average consumer.” Did you catch that disclaimer? Does that mean when I get on that stair-stepper or mega-muscle rejuvenator that I won’t be all buff and beautiful after six weeks with just a ten minute workout every other day? Does that mean that if I take that little pill once a day that I can’t eat a dozen doughnuts for breakfast and still lose fifty pounds in two weeks? Does that mean that if I put that special cream on my head that I won’t have a gorgeous mane of curls in seven days instead of the bald spots I try to cover with my obvious combover?

We are obsessed with being someone we are not in our culture. That’s why advertisers are so successful here. A picture here, a few words there, and we extend our gullibility to the max and think the latest products will make us perfect. It won’t. Never has. Never will. Why? Read 1 Corinthians 12. God made all of us different. We all have unique characteristics, talents, skills. God gave us different abilities because he wants us to need each other. He wants us to be interdependent.

Notice I didn’t say God wants us to be independent. God didn’t create us to rely solely on our own efforts. He didn’t give any of us enough to exist as hermits. He wants us to live in community. He wants us to understand this amazing principle. We need each other. I think it’s why we see both a vertical and horizontal beam on the cross that depicts the means by which Jesus died. That wasn’t the only form the cross took in the days of Roman crucifixion. The execution style just meant that a victim’s arms were raised in such a way that the weight of his body eventually made it impossible for him to exhale. So the victim suffocated when his muscles finally gave out, his chest expand with air, and the carbon dioxide trapped in his lungs could not be released. It was like drowning in dry air.

So the Romans used crosses like we see depicted in all the paintings we see with a horizontal and vertical beam. They used some shaped like an X. They sometimes just pulled a victim’s bound arms straight up and tied to a tall branch to his toes barely touched the ground. All those means created the same effect. The victim couldn’t breathe after a few hours or days and they suffocated.

But we always see Jesus cross as a T. I think because our relationship to each other is just as important to God as our relationship to him. He wants us to live in community with each other and be interdependent. So he gives each of us different talents. I need someone else to fix my car, for instance. My wife forbids me to work on our cars because it always costs us a lot of money when I try to fix them. I always break more than I fix. I’ll admit it. I’m a horrible mechanic. So I don’t fix my cars.

But I’m pretty good at some other things. I’m able to see connections between different things that others can’t see. How they fit together to make processes more efficient or effective. I’m able to see through the fluff and unnecessary actions being done in a long series of steps and point those out as ways to get more done in less time. I don’t know why everyone can’t see those things. But my mechanic doesn’t know why I can’t change my oil without breaking my car. The answer is, God gave each of us different talents.

Paul expresses that well. He talks about it in terms of spiritual gifts, but the more I study God’s word and the expression of his love and grace to us, the more I see it isn’t just churchy kinds of things God has given us. I need someone to do certain things for me because I just can’t. Is that a gift from God when we can search out those people and have a meaningful relationship with each other? I think so. Doesn’t that make it a spiritual gift? Again, I think so.

The issue for me is not so much can a person preach or teach or provide hospitality or one of the other actions Paul mentions in his letters. The issue for me is determining what talents God has given you and how do you use those talents for him and for your neighbors? Remember, God wants us to be interdependent. He wants us to rely on each other. He never intended for us to be alone or to know how to do everything ourselves. He wants us sharing the things we do best with others so his grace can be seen and felt in the world.

God doesn’t want you to be someone else. He created you to be you. He created me to be me. I don’t think he would be real happy with the approach many of our advertisers take in trying to convince us to be someone we’re not. He wants us to take ownership of the talents and skills and gifts he has given each individual and use them together in community so his kingdom can grow.

It doesn’t take much to see how important those “unseemly” jobs can be. Ask New Yorkers when the garbage companies went on strike. I like to visit New York City, but one thing I don’t like about New York City is the smell about midnight. All those apartment dwellers have a tendency to put there trash out on the street the night before the trash truck comes. And between midnight and three or four o’clock in the morning, the city smells like rotting garbage. I can’t imagine what it was like when the trash trucks launched their strike.

God created us all. At creation, God looked at everything he made and said it was good. Nothing he made during those creation story events was identified as bad. He still creates and nothing he makes is bad. We corrupt and destroy and twist in our disobedience to God, but God makes all things good in his creative power. We too often try to be something he did not create us to be. We want to be something or someone else.

Maybe as we get through these first few weeks of this new year, we should just decide to be ourselves. How would the world be different if we all decided to just be who God made us to be? An interesting question, isn’t it? Go try it on for size.

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.

Jan 14, 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.

Today I want to continue to use the common lectionary to focus our attention on God’s word. One of the passages in this week’s scripture lessons comes from Psalms 29 in which the psalmist speaks of the voice of God. In those few verses, he describes God’s voice in some unique ways. He says it thunders over the waters, is powerful, and full of majesty. God’s voice breaks cedars and flashes forth flames of fire. His voice shakes the wilderness and causes oaks to whirl, stripping forests bare. And in his temple all say, “Glory!”

The Israelites at the base of Mount Sinai described God’s voice as the sound of fire and thunder. But Elijah heard God’s voice as a quiet whisper on the mountain. Samuel was awakened by God’s voice and thought it was his mentor, Eli, calling from another area of the tabernacle. Some at Jesus’ baptism heard a voice bellowing, “This is my son.” Others thought they heard thunder.

Whatever God’s voice might sound like, though, people have heard him. He speaks. He is alive. He was there before the world began because he spoke it into existence. He is alive now as many attest to his spirit active in molding lives and working toward the finality of his purposes for mankind and his creation. And he will be alive eternally. God is. Period. And his voice commands.

I like to read the creation story and think what it must have been like for the nothingness to first hear God speak. What would those words be like that could bring light into being and separate land and sea? What sounds would emanate from God that would change the chaos of a meaningless void into an ordered universe we cannot begin to explore or even begin to imagine its secrets as we peer into the depths of space.

Every once in a while stop and look up at the sky on a clear night just to reflect on the awesome power of a God who could speak that pantheon of planets and stars and galaxies into existence. For millennia, we were convinced the earth was the center of the universe. Our sun bent to our needs and traversed our sky. It moved, not us. Of course, the flat earth movement tries to tell us the same thing, but…

Galileo proved the flat earth theory wrong centuries ago and the Hubble telescope has shown us more than 32 billion galaxies spread across an expanding universe filled with stars and planets and moons and comets and all sorts of celestial bodies that are just mind boggling. And to think, God spoke and it came into being. His voice is all it took to change nothing into something. We sometimes think we are creative and can make stuff. And in truth, God did give us a creative capacity since we are created in his image. But there is one huge difference in our creativity and his. He didn’t have any raw materials. He created his own. That, we cannot do. We have learned the magic formula E=mc2, but that only converts material to energy and maybe someday energy to material. But it still starts with something. Something God created. God started with nothing.

So God’s voice, his powerful, majestic voice put into place all of the created universe. We are but an insignificant speck in the vastness of that universe. I read a few weeks ago that Voyager 2, one of long range space probes launched in 1977 made it into interstellar space, the area outside the magnetic shield of our sun. Voyager 1, also launched in 1977 passed through the heliosphere into interplanetary space in 2012. Traveling at nearly 35,000 miles per hour, it took these two probes 35 and 41 years, respectively, to reach beyond the influence of our sun’s protective gravity. That’s the size of our relatively small solar system in our medium sized galaxy. One of 32 billion galaxies that we know of in our universe.

We cannot begin to grasp the vastness of what God created when he spoke the stars into existence. How can we begin to understand the power and majesty of his voice? How can we not be in awe of his creative sovereignty? He is God and we are not. Just looking at the sky and recognizing his handiwork shows us who he is and should cause us to bow in adoration.

But too often, we look at the sky and listen to those who would try to explain away God with science. Don’t get me wrong. I like science. I was a chemistry major and biology minor. I’ve taught undergraduates biology. I love learning about new discoveries in the scientific world. I enjoy studying the solutions to problems that have plagued mankind for generations. I like science. But there is a limit to what science can teach and what they can wish away.

With all the knowledge and all the theory about creation and the beginnings of our universe and life on this planet, there is still one question science cannot answer without acknowledging God. Where did the raw material for the universe originate? God’s word gives the answer. God spoke and created the raw material out of nothing. Until science accepts that one premise, the rest cannot be explained. It’s like gravity. Until gravity is accepted as truth, the rest of the properties of physics cannot be explained. There are some facts that just are. We accept them. We believe them to be true even though there is no proof except circular arguments for them.

So what does the voice of God sound like today? I don’t know exactly. I can give you some personal thoughts from my own experiences when I think heard God’s voice. One was when I finally settled what I know was his call for me to preach. It was a late Sunday night in August while we were living in Marietta, GA. Carole and I had always been active in church, helping wherever we could. Part of the choir. Teaching classes. Helping in outreach activities. Just ‘doing’ as James tells us. But I had this nagging feeling that God wanted me to preach. I didn’t particularly want to because I’m a preacher’s kid. I thought I knew what it meant to pastor a church because I’d lived through that as part of the family for many years. My Army career was going well. I was working for the Army Surgeon General and could pick up the phone and call him if I had any trouble with the project I was on. He knew me on a first name basis other than “Lieutenant”, my real first name.

But I couldn’t get away from that feeling. Then came that Sunday night. The impression that came to me, and that was the voice. No words. No booming thunder. No angel on one shoulder and devil on the other competing with each other. Just this overwhelming impression that I could either obey the command God gave me to preach his word or I could go to hell. Obedience or disobedience. That was the choice I had to make that night. And I knew this was my last chance to make that choice. Could God forgive me if I had chosen not to pursue ministry? Yes. Would I have asked for forgiveness later? I don’t know. I don’t know what path I would have taken, but I know it would not have been the right path and life would have been very different and not as rewarding as it has been. So that first monumental moment for me was just that overwhelming knowledge that I had to make a choice.

A couple of years later, I struggled with the question of whether to stay in the Army or leave and accept the pastorate of a church in Georgia. The denominational leadership in the area offered me a church. Others recommended I stay in the Army until retirement so I didn’t have to worry about what costs as I grew older. Pastors just don’t make much for the most part. Few have great retirement plans. Many live in parsonages most of their career and so when they retire they have no nest egg to buy a home and lenders won’t lend a 70 year old with no income the money to buy a home. So there was wisdom in some of their argument. I was torn in my decision.

God’s voice came in the form of a friend. After much prayer, I had to visit a colleague as part of my Army duties. We were talking about recruiting some particular health professionals to fill some vacancies in a couple of our Army hospitals. Out of the blue, almost mid-sentence, he said, “Isn’t it great to be in the Army, move all over the world at government expense, and be able to minister to different congregations?” That was my answer. I was to stay in the Army. To this day, he didn’t remember saying those words. He didn’t remember the conversation. In fact, he didn’t even remember me coming that day because it was a surprise visit. I wasn’t on his appointment schedule. That day, God’s voice sounded an awful lot like my Christian friend’s.

Sometimes God’s voice looks, rather than sounds, like a scripture verse that just sticks in my head and I can’t get away from it. Sometimes God’s voice sounds like a friend. Sometimes God’s voice sounds like mine after I’ve studied and planned and done everything I can to decipher his will in a decision I need to make. Sometimes God’s voice sounds like my wife’s godly counsel. Sometimes God’s voice sounds like my pastor when he steps on my toes in a sermon. Sometimes God’s voice comes as a dream that solves a problem I haven’t been able to solve.

What does God’s voice sound like? I’m not sure we can pinpoint a sound. I am convinced, however, that God still speaks. His spirit is alive and resident in those who believe. His spirit touches our spirit and we can know his will. But the way we know it comes from also immersing ourselves in the words he inspired in his prophets centuries ago. God has not changed. Governments change. Economies change. Cultures change. But God does not change. He set everything in motion and called it good. Because he declared his creative acts good, he doesn’t need to change them. Nor does he need to change because he is the measuring stick against which all things are measured as good or bad.

So when we immerse ourselves in his word, when we follow his teachings, when we allow his spirit in us to direct our path and fill us with his goodness, we can know if we are pleasing him and making the right decisions. Sometimes he needs to hit us over the head to help us make that decision. It took me 10 years of questioning and debating and running away to finally get back to the truth that God desired me to preach. I could only answer yes if I was to please him.

Sometimes he needs to put boulders and mountains in our way to keep us from making the wrong choice. And sometimes we still push those boulders aside and pull out sticks of dynamite to blow away the mountains. He tries to keep us from destroying ourselves, but we just won’t listen and we pay the consequences. All those boulders fall back in place, sometimes on top of us.

But sometimes we face situations and God just lets us use that squiggly, gelatin like mass of neurons that make up our brain to make decisions. You see, I don’t think God cares if I eat yellow cake or chocolate cake. But I do think he cares if I steal one or the other. I don’t think he cares if I like my coffee black or with cream and sugar. But I do think he cares if I a race to Starbucks becomes more important than a race to my devotions.

God speaks. We just need to be ready to listen to his voice. Keep your ears open today. You just never know what he might say.

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.

Jan 7, 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 Merriam-Webster dictionary provides three definitions of the word epiphany. 1capitalized: January 6 observed as a church festival in commemoration of the coming of the Magias the first manifestation of Christ to the Gentiles or in the Eastern Church in commemoration of the baptism of Christ

2: an appearance or manifestation especially of a divine being

3a(1): a usually sudden manifestation or perception of the essentialnature or meaning of something

(2): an intuitive grasp of reality through something (such as an event) usually simple and striking

(3): an illuminating discovery, realization, or disclosure

b: a revealing scene or moment

So in the Christian calendar, the Epiphany is over. January 6th is past. The commemoration of the visit of the Magi to see Jesus and representing his ministry to the Gentiles as well as the Jews. So for millions in the Christian faith, we don’t mention the Epiphany again for another year. But why? Why can’t we live in a state of epiphany, the third definition? Why can’t we be like children in our Christian walk and through our daily activities and study, gain an intuitive grasp of reality through those activities? Why can’t we have the kinds of revealing moments children have in their discovery of life as we mature in our Christian walk?

I think our problem is we quit looking. We think as we physically mature into adulthood, we forget when we come to Christ, we come to him in a rebirth, infants. We soon think we know it all and lose the excitement of learning new things about him. It’s a phenomenon we see in most people in terms of their learning process in almost every aspect of life and applies to our Christian life as well if we are not careful.

As children, we are amazed at every discovery. Our brains are molded by all those new things we find in the world. They start with the discovery of our mom’s face, our hands and fingers, the small world that consists of the stuffed animals in our crib and the need for food and dry diapers. As we grow, our discoveries expand to the an every enlarging world around us, we explore on our knees as we learn to crawl, then our discoveries begin to get stifled by parents as we learn to walk and run and play because our parents need to confine our learning process to protect us in some ways.

Now why would I blame our parents for confining and limiting our epiphanies? Because I’m a parent. I’ve done it and if you’re a parent you’ve done it. It’s for our kids protection in a very evil world. I didn’t let my kids loose to do their own thing when they were five. They didn’t understand how the world works. They didn’t understand the harm that could come to them. They didn’t know the things I had learned through my thirty plus years of life when they were toddlers. The world for them would have been a scary place in which they could not have survived if I had just let them go out on their own with no supervision in their learning process at that young age.

When kids have been stopped from their inquisitive nature enough by parents or teachers or other adults, they stop learning. They give up. If they don’t learn as fast as others, peers can even make them stop because of embarrassment over their achievement or lack thereof. That’s what happens in our physical world. It’s what happens at school and at work.

If we are not careful, that same hindering of growth carries over into our spiritual world. Because we have lost the desire to learn in other areas, we can lose the desire to learn in our spiritual lives. We forget how to even have epiphanies. We let ourselves get buried in the same ruts that the rest of our society travels and refuse to learn. We just go along with the crowd.

So how can I say these things with any authority? A study done by the Pew Research Center in 2017 showed that the average American read only 17 minutes a day for pleasure and read no complete books during the year. Even those who identified themselves as avid readers reported reading an average of only four books a year for pleasure. But we are spending three hours a day in front of the television watching meaningless shows.

We are losing our epiphanies.

So how do we get them back? How do we get back the capacity as adults to have those moments of discovery that just blow us away? How do we capture ideas and thoughts and truths that cause us to pause in awe of the creator and help us know we have unearthed some revelation that will cause us to be more like the giver of life when we apply that truth in our everyday journey of life?

Let me share a few ideas to bring them back.

First, fall in love with God. Recognize what he has done for you and fall in love with him because of it.

Second, read about him every day. Spend some time in God’s word. Devotional books are okay, but they are not the same as reading the words he gave to us through his divine inspiration of those whose histories and prophecies and letters make up our Bible. His love and plans for us scream at us through the pages of his word, so spend time devouring it every day.

Third, pray. Ask God to teach you something about him often. Prayer doesn’t have to be long and wordy. It doesn’t have to follow a particular formula or pattern. Those can help as you learn to talk with him. But talk with God often. Short conversations with him throughout the day as you would talk with a friend keep you in tune and ready for an epiphany moment.

Fourth, journal. Write down your thoughts, your questions, your requests and answers as you hear them from God and other trusted Christian brothers and sisters. Explore them and record what God shares with you through his spirit. Make notes in your Bible, underline passages that speak to you. Put questions in the margins you want answered. Jot down things you will do because of what you read.

Fifth, take inventory of your thoughts and actions at least weekly. Pick a time one day a week, either at the beginning or end of the week when you have some routine time that will not be filled with the hustle and bustle of life. Make an appointment with God and put it on your calendar as an appointment. You might need an hour or so to look over the last week and highlight the things you’ve learned about your walk with God, your relationship with him and others, what you did well and what you need to do differently to be more like him. Then write down the one or two things you will do different this next week to be more like him. Look for those epiphanies for continued growth.

Epiphanies sometimes come in the most unusual and unexpected times and places. Thomas Edison talks about the epiphany that became the modern light bulb. However, it came after 1,000 failures in trying to create it. So, finally, don’t give up. Keep looking. Keep searching. Stay inquisitive. Fall in love with the Savior every day. Don’t let the season of Epiphany end because the calendar says so. Keep it alive in your heart throughout the year.

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.

Dec 31, 2018

A daily devotional walking through God's word together using The Bible Reading Plan at http://www.bible-reading.com/bible-plan.html. Our website http://alittlewalkwithgod.com

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

When my firstborn was little, she never knew a stranger. She was cute as a button and would talk to anyone and everyone. My wife enjoyed shopping...except with her tagging along. It took her forever to run errands or get through a checkout line because people would stop and be polite telling her how cute she was. But then this little petite bundle would start and avalanche of questions and dialog that captivated whoever spoke to her. It would take her hours to get through the grocery store sometimes.

It’s important to understand that about my daughter to relate to the next part of the story. Because she would talk to anyone, anywhere, anytime, we were sometimes a little worried about her. As she was growing up in the 80’s, the news reporters first began to talk about the sex slave trade and their kidnapping of young children to fill their requirements for their perverted clientele.

We worried our super friendly daughter would just get into a lively conversation with one of those recruiters and be gone without a trace. That was our nightmare. So my wife solved our fear, she put a child harness on her and attached a leash. Suddenly, much of the fear disappeared because we knew she was no more than that six foot leash away and it would be very difficult for anyone to bother her without us knowing. All the buckles and fasteners were in the back, so she couldn’t undo them herself and there were enough of them that if anyone tried to tamper with them, we would feel the tugs and pulls before the last one could be undone. Our precious little girl could not escape without our knowing.

As she got older, though, and we began to trust her with the mantra of “stranger danger”, we lost the leash. She still talked to everyone she met, but for the most part, she stayed in eye contact with one of us wherever we went. But once in a while, she would get interested in something on a shelf or in another part of the store and suddenly you would look to the spot you though she should be and she wasn’t there.

If you’re a parent, you have probably known that feeling at one time or another. You heart drops, your pulse races, you can’t think properly, you don’t know where to start looking, you are a bit frantic for a moment. Where did you last see her? Did she say anything? Did you see anyone around her? Was there something she had her eyes on earlier? Where could she have gone? Who can I go to for help? God, please let her be alright!

Your brain becomes a jumbled mess for the next few minutes. Finally, you see her out of the corner of your eye. She’s fine. Like usual, she is absorbed in some toy or book or something that caught her eye and has no idea the emotional trauma she caused. She looks up with that cute little grin like nothing happened.

You on the other hand, don’t know whether to pick her up and hug her as tight as you can or put her in time-out until she turns 36.

Now let’s go back a couple thousand years to the story at the end of Luke chapter 2. Jesus is twelve. In his culture at that time, he has just had or is about to have his bar mitzvah, another milestone toward manhood in the Jewish community. His family came from Nazareth to Jerusalem to celebrate Passover. Some will probably look at Mary and Joseph and think, “what horrible parents, not realizing Jesus was missing for a whole day.”

But we have to go back and look at the culture of the day, again. Mary and Joseph traveled with their whole extended family to Jerusalem. That meant parents, brothers and sisters, cousins, nieces and nephews, in-laws and their relatives, everyone in the community that were headed to Jerusalem. The larger the group, the less likely they would run into bandits or have trouble with the Roman patrols. Traveling in large numbers was good.

I also expect they had everything in preparation the day before their departure. The group may have even departed at night to avoid the heat of the sun. I mention that tidbit based on my experience in the middle east as I watched everyone stop working in the middle of the day. From about noon until about three o’clock, work stops. That’s nap time for the people who live there. The heat is so oppressive you just can’t handle it. It is hard to even breathe outside because of the temperatures. So it wouldn’t surprise me if the entourage headed home in the dark.

In that case, Mary and Joseph, with no flashlights or streetlights, just a few oil lamps among the crowd, may have seen a boy about the same size and build as Jesus among all the kids racing around together and assumed he was with them. Then as the continued to travel through the day, assumed he was playing with his brothers and sisters and cousins as kids are apt to do. If they left in the dark, it’s pretty easy to understand how it could be a whole day before they missed him.

Even in my young teenage years, my parents didn’t worry about the kinds of evil we worry about today. My instructions in the morning when I headed out to play with my friends and travel around on our bikes was to make sure I was home before the streetlights came on.

Can you understand the changes that have happened in our culture over the centuries? My kids have their eyes on their kids or have a well known friend’s eyes on their kids at all times because of the evil in our world today. Carole and I were a little fearful to have our kids out of sight for more than a few hours when we we had a pretty good idea where they were. My parents didn’t worry about us until it was almost time to go to bed.

A century ago, kids may have slept over or spent the night in the woods and parents didn’t worry because they knew someone in the community was watching over them and would take care of them. It’s easy to think that twenty centuries ago, Mary and Joseph were doing just what good parents were expected to do and were pretty confident Jesus was okay.

We also might wonder why it took them three days to find him. Well, the first day was the journey back to Jerusalem. The second day was revisiting all the places they had been with that gaggle of relatives during the Passover celebration. The third day they found him when they retraced their path to the temple where they purchased their sacrifice and discovered their eldest son was confounding the teachers of the law.

I expect Jesus did an awful lot of what my daughter did as she was growing up. She asked a million questions a day. I have a feeling Jesus did, too. I think he thirsted for knowledge and asked more questions than Mary and Joseph and his local rabbi and the temple priest and… and anyone could answer except his real father, the creator of all things.

Interesting stories today, perhaps, but you might be asking how does all this come together and what’s the point? There are a couple, of course.

First, like the young Jesus and my daughter, be inquisitive. Ask questions. Never tire of learning more. Especially, about the One who is worthy of our worship, Jesus.

Second, like the young Jesus and my daughter, be friendly. Don’t be afraid to talk to other people. That’s how those endless questions will finally find answers. The teachers in the temple had better answers than the rabbis in Nazareth. With more experience and wisdom, more answers to life’s big questions come to mind. So don’t be afraid to talk to others when you want answers to big questions.

Third, although inquisitive and willing to talk with others to find answers to those big questions, try not to bring untoward angst to those responsible for your welfare. We don’t know how Joseph died, but if Jesus did these kinds of things often, he may have had a heart attack from the stress. Just kidding. We really don’t know. It’s okay to reduce the stress on your caregivers, though.

Finally, if you are listening to this podcast on the day of it’s release, tomorrow starts a new year. 2018 will be gone in just a few hours and there is nothing you can do to change it. But you can do something about 2019. Plan today to learn more about our Savior and let him make you more like him this year. Read. Study. Journal. Make notes in your Bible. Take personal inventory of who you are and how far he has brought you.

Thank you for listening. I pray you will have a blessed year ahead as you follow in his footsteps.

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.

Dec 24, 2018

A daily devotional walking through God's word together using The Bible Reading Plan at http://www.bible-reading.com/bible-plan.html. Our website http://alittlewalkwithgod.com.

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

If you are listening to this on the day it’s released, it’s Christmas Eve. What an exciting time for all the kids! There is great anticipation of what tomorrow brings. What will be in those stockings hung by the fire? What will that jolly old elf pull out of his sack and put under the tree? For we adults, it’s about watching those kids and grandkids seeing those special gifts. It’s about the sparkle in their eyes and the joy they have in those special moments of surprise. Christmas morning brings with it some work for the family also as we prepare the feast for all of us to consume.

Christmas can also bring some anxiety. Family arrives that you don’t see very often and maybe some friends and family that you don’t want to see very often. You love them, but the pressure to be something or someone you’re not is pretty high. Unresolved conflict creates tension in the air and that atmosphere spoils some of the joy that should be the highlight of the celebration we should project throughout the day instead of some façade of happiness you just don’t feel.

We should remember, though, that Jesus came to bring peace. Micah’s prophecy about the coming Messiah says as much in chapter five. That’s the chapter that tells us the Messiah will come from Bethlehem, but just a three verses later, he says, ‘...and he shall be the one of peace.’

I don’t know about you, but I can use that kind of Messiah. The Israelites were not looking for one of peace at the time. They wanted a warrior who would free them from the oppressive rule of Rome. They wanted someone who would take charge and give them victory over all their enemies and they assumed that someone would be a powerful ruler with both political and military might.

God had different ideas, though. He spelled them out in many of the prophecies. Jesus would come as a suffering servant. He would bleed and die for us. He would sacrifice himself in our stead. The Israelites and their religious leaders did not want to accept those verses. They wanted to focus on the ones that talked about his kingship, his power, his strength, his sovereignty. They wanted someone who was able to judge and destroy all their enemies.

Micah’s words didn’t fit that bill. Born in Bethlehem? Some little backwoods hovel that held no importance except it was the birthplace of David and his brothers. And by the way, if you think hard about David’s family and read between the lines of scripture, they sound like a bunch of pretty bad dudes. Many of them are listed among his mighty men and leaders in his army. You only got into those position by your prowess as a warrior. They did things like kill a hundred enemy at a time...by themselves. David was no pipsqueak either. You can’t be that picture of a skinny little shepherd and kill a lion and a bear. I expect David looked a lot more like Atlas than the meek, mild shepherd boy pictures we see. Saul’s armor didn’t fit him when he faced Goliath, not because he was small, but because Saul stood head and shoulders taller than all the other Israelites.

So here was this prophecy about a peaceful Messiah born in a village that produced some of the fiercest warriors in Israel’s history. Jesus said the same of himself. When he talked with his disciples at that last Passover meal with them. He told them he was leaving his legacy of peace with them. He told them the world would hate them because of him, but despite the persecution they would face, they would face it with peace. They did not need to fear as much of humanity did and still does. They could face life with courage and determination and peace. He would assure them of it because of the hope he left behind for them.

He does the same for us. That legacy of peace extends to all who believe in him. John 3:16 sums up his purpose pretty well. “God loved the world (you and me) so much that he gave his one and only son so that whoever (that includes you and me, it doesn’t discriminate against anyone) whoever believes in him will not die but will have everlasting life. Now that’s a promise we can enjoy.

All that leads me to a sad celebration my family is experiencing at this time. As I’m preparing this, my brother-in-law is facing that final step into eternity. He is the first of my siblings or their spouses to face this milestone of life. This final step for he and his wife came so unexpectedly. At the first of December, he seemed fairly healthy, ready for their traditional early Christmas party with his children and grandchildren, and the excitement of the season. Then came December 11. He went from healthy to hospice and I expect as you are listening to this podcast, my sister is preparing his memorial service.

Through these couple of tragic weeks, though, my sister and brother-in-law have been pillars of strength. No fear. Sadness of course because we don’t understand why life should be cut short at 55. That’s way too early these days for disease to take over and decimate life so quickly. But their witness to their children, caregivers, family, and friends shows the legacy of peace that comes with knowing life doesn’t end with our last breath. He knows he will go to sleep very soon and will awake in another realm. He will step foot in paradise and be with his savior forever.

When we believe in the son of God, we can have that same assurance and like him, we face the worst life has to offer without fear. We can know the final outcome and understand that peace can be the predominant emotion even when the world would expect something far different. My brother-in-law has expressed no fear in this next step. Sadness? Some, especially for my sister and their children and grandchildren, knowing he leaves an emptiness that will be filled. Anxiety? Only in regard to making sure everything is in place to ensure my sister is taken care of at his passing.

Joy? Yes. Joy. Can it be true? Joy in dying? Yes. He knows his destiny. He knows his wife will not be alone for long, but will join him in just a short while. What’s a few years in terms of eternity? He knows her faith and she shares the same hope and peace and joy in seeing Jesus that he does. Even in this time the world expects deep sorrow, anger, denial, and a host of other emotions, they have that legacy of peace Jesus said he would leave with us. It is real. It is ours for the asking.

Would I ask for this situation? Absolutely not. Have we prayed for healing? Yes. Did it come? Yes, but not the way we wanted. He will soon have no pain, no tears, no disease. He will soon be perfected in every way. It’s not what we wanted, but God is answering prayer. And we accept that God knows what’s best in every situation. Are we sad? Yes. We will miss him.

We also celebrate with him, though. We will see him again. We will join him one day because as he knows his destination, so do many of us. We have peace and know that one day each of us will wake up on the other side of life. We will see all those who have gone before us and we will see Jesus.

Micah prophesied more than 2500 years ago the Messiah ‘...shall be the one of peace.’ I’ve watched it in the conduct, actions, and bearing of my sister and her husband. Their witness of his peace in their faith is remarkable. Their love for each other is overshadowed by their love of God and their realization that he is with them through every moment of this journey. His legacy of peace is real. We can have it, too.

Merry Christmas to all.

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.

Dec 17, 2018

A daily devotional walking through God's word together using The Bible Reading Plan at http://www.bible-reading.com/bible-plan.html. Our website http://alittlewalkwithgod.com.

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

Here we are, the third week of Advent already. Christmas is fast approaching. Just a few more days and it will be here. I’ve been sharing with you thoughts from the common lectionary during this Advent season. Today one of the Advent readings comes from a book of the Old Testament we often don’t pay much attention. Zephaniah is one of those tiny books of prophecy near the end of the Old Testament.  

You may not know or realize how the Old Testament is put together, but the prophets are not arranged chronologically, but by length, the longest being first in the canon and the shortest last. Zephaniah is ninth among the twelve minor prophets. And the minor prophets are called minor only because those scriptures are short, not because they are less important than the major prophets. So now you can wow your friends about how our Bible is put together.

The only things we know about Zephaniah are what come from the text of this small book. We know a little of his heritage, maybe springing from King Hezekiah, although the Hezekiah named in his genealogy isn’t called king, so we are not even sure of that. Scholars think the book was probably written about 620 years BCE, about the sixty to eighty years before the book of Isaiah was written. It also speaks of the same kinds of corruption Isaiah talks about in his prophecy, though, so some think Zephaniah may have been a student of Isaiah.

The verses from the lectionary I’d like us to think about today as we pass through this Advent are these:

Hurray! It’s time to sing, faithful daughter of Zion!

   It’s time to shout out loud, Israel!

Be happy and celebrate with all your being,

   faithful children of Jerusalem!

The Eternal has cancelled His judgments against you.

   He changed the course of your enemies.

The True King of Israel, the Eternal One, is standing right here among you;

   you have no reason to be afraid ever again.

The come from chapter three verses fourteen and fifteen.

The thought hit me today that we really need to hear these words and take them to heart. They don’t just apply to the Israelites, but they apply to all who call on Jesus’ name as Lord of life. The reason we need desperately to celebrate Christmas revolves around the state of the world. In my opinion, we are at a crisis moment around the world. Just think about a few facts that affect us globally.

  • The antidepressant market will reach nearly $13 Bn this year with the United States and Canada consuming more than a third of those prescription drugs.
  • Violent crimes occur to about 900 per 100,000 in the richer countries of the world
  • The tension between countries has never been greater because of their economies, environmental issues, religion, human rights, and a host of other issues
  • Our sensitivities to wanting what we want with no regard to what it might impose on someone else has never been worse
  • Our patience to acquire material things has shortened such that most American families owe nearly three times their annual salary
  • The national debt we now pass on to our children stands at $18 trillion. That’s about $157,000 per taxpayer. Note that a mortgage company will probably not loan you the money for a house if your debt to income ratio is more than 35-40%. Our governments ratio of debt to income now stands at 103%. Ouch.

So many things seem to go wrong these days. We live in a scary world. One could become paranoid about living in the conditions we face every day. The world, including this country, has gone insane. We think only about ourselves and we do that poorly. We think only about the moment without thought of the repercussions our behavior may have. We forget we live in a global society. In fact, sometimes it seems we forget we are part of a society or a community at all. We don’t turn out to vote and if we do we rely on the ridiculous television or radio ads candidates throw at us instead of researching their history and their character.

We don’t know our neighbors and shut ourselves inside our homes afraid to meet those next door because we’re afraid we might somehow offend them or they might offend us. We don’t want to mess up our relationship with them so we don’t have a relationship with them at all. We don’t even know our family, if the truth be told. Just look around the next time you go to a restaurant to eat. You’ll find families and “friends” at most tables if it’s a busy place, but notice what they are doing. Most won’t be talking to each other. They will have their face down and fingers flying, “connecting” on their smartphone. But there is a terrible problem with that picture. First, those phones are not smart at all.

Second, we do not connect through phones. We only project bad information and poor communication. You see, communication means seeing and understanding the body language that should accompany words spoken. Part of our problem with the rage and hate and flying around our society is the misinterpretation of written words recorded without inflection, tone, and body language to go along with them. The receiver thinks they know what was said, but often doesn’t.

So many of our words have been hijacked and meanings turned around that putting something on social media is a sure fire way to get people angry. For instance, gay used to mean happy, joyful. It still does in some circles, but the word was hijacked and now we can no longer use the word in that way because most of society will think we are talking about an alternative lifestyle, not about a state of emotional well being. The rainbow used to be understood as God’s promise not to destroy the world with a flood ever again. God’s iconic promise has been hijacked and the meaning of the symbol changed in our society.

We are in trouble and don’t know it. We need to hear God’s word. We need the promise that he still loves us and will return to take us home. We need to know that the true King of Israel is standing right among us and will not let our enemies defeat us. We need to know he is our salvation and he will not fail us. We need to hear his words and recognize his truth in a world that has gone insane.

In this Advent season, it is time to celebrate. It is time to rejoice. The King has already come and done for us what we could not do for ourselves. He has redeemed us with his blood. He took upon himself the sins of the world. That includes my sins and yours. All we need do is believe in him and he will give us eternal life in exchange for our trust in him.

Because he is here with us, we have no reason to be afraid. He will keep us and protect us and nothing can defeat us. Will our lives be perfect when we walk with him. No. The Christian life is hard. It’s a difficult road. Jesus promised the world will hate us because of him. But he also showed us that life with him is worth the suffering. He showed us that even though we might suffer here for a little while, the rewards even now are far greater than the suffering we might go through. As we think about the legacy of peace he promises. Those of us who have followed him for a while, know of that peace. We can testify to it sustaining power when everything around us might be in turmoil and chaos. We can know an inner inexplicable joy that fills us even when sorrow knocks at the door and threatens to destroy us in its fury.

We need to celebrate Christmas this year as never before. We need to remember Jesus came and fulfilled all those prophecies. He is truly the Messiah. God’s son. Our savior. He came to live with us to show us God. He came to give himself so we might live eternally with him. Jesus came. But he is also coming again. Those prophecies he fulfilled have not ended yet. There are still some on the horizon. Some of those prophecies tell us he will return. And when he does, his bride, the church, will be swept up into the air to be with him forever. We can celebrate even the world is going mad. We can celebrate despite the fact we live in a day when more Christians face death at the hands of our enemies that ever before. We can celebrate.

Paul tells us, “Rejoice in the Lord always! And again I say, Rejoice! Let your gentleness be known to everyone. The Lord is near.” This Advent, go for it. It’s time to celebrate.

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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