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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

May 21, 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.

As hard as it is to live a life of integrity, because we have God’s help in doing so, we have a choice in living the life of integrity he desires of us. We might not think about that very often, but it’s true. In today’s society, it’s easy to blame someone or something else on our lack of integrity. We push back justify our behavior on poor parenting. We blame the lack of material goods in a house bordering on poverty in a materialistic world. We blame the violence and immorality that invades us in mind-numbing entertainment like television, movies, games, and more. We blame schools for not enforcing rules that should be set and enforced at home.

We blame anything and everything on our failure to maintain a life of integrity. Why? Because like most things in our life, we have a hard time accepting the fact that most often our failures are out fault. And the failure lies in the choices we made somewhere along the line. We just don’t want to believe that we can fail. So we pawn our mistakes, our behavior, our failure on someone else.

The problem with that approach, though, we never learn from our failure unless we take responsibility for it. We must figure out where we went wrong, fix it, and go from there. Doing everything we can not to repeat those same mistakes in the future. We will fail again? Most likely. No one is exempt from error. We all fail at one time or another at one task or another. We can’t help it. We are part of Adam’s race. He and Eve disobeyed God in that first garden and we inherited his inability to live the perfect life of integrity God desired of him and us.

But there is something we can do about it. First, we can ask God and the individuals we might have wronged for forgiveness. John wrote that when we confess our sins, he is ready, able, and just and will forgive our sins. But also wants to lead us to a life of righteousness, right living. That means we must make some hard choices at times. We must look temptations in the eye and say no. We must obey his commands despite the lure and attraction of the things the world might offer us if we yield to her demands.

We have a choice. I can choose to satisfy those base desires in unhealthy, unholy ways. I can choose to follow my selfish desires. I can choose to use other people for my gain. I can choose to hoard the things God has entrusted to me. I can choose to push the helpless and needy away when I have the means to give them hope. I can just to execute vengeance and justice instead of grace and mercy toward my enemies. I can choose the path I take.

I can choose my path, but I cannot choose what lies at the end of that path. I cannot choose the consequences of every choice I make whether good or bad. I cannot alter the natural outcome of the laws God gave us. Sure, he is a God of love and mercy, but that doesn’t mean he will stop the natural course of events that come to us as a result of our choices. We may still suffer the lasting effects of those seemingly insignificant choices we made in an hour of weakness.

So, how do I ensure I make the right choices along the way? How do I avoid the consequence that God set in place at the beginning of time? How do I stand up to the failures that I cause through my actions?

First,lean more on him. Go to God in both the good times and the bad. Pray earnestly when you’re in a time of smooth sailing. When you do, it will be easier to approach him when the going gets tough. You wouldn’t ask a complete stranger to help you with a personal, intimate problem, but you might ask a dear friend. Think about your relationship with God. If you only interact with him on Sunday mornings at church, why would he help? If you’re not his friend, why would he stop to give aid in your time of need? So in the good times, when everything is going well, be careful to give God the glory. Maintain a constant personal relationship with him. When you do, you’ll find he is willing and ready to give you the support you need and he will never leave you or forsake you. So keep your prayer life up.

Second, meditate on his word. What does that mean? Think about what you have read in scripture. Of course, that means you need to read scripture...every day. Maybe even several times a day. David said, “I will meditate on your word night and day. I will hide your word in my heart, so I might not sin against you.” If David tells us a dozen times to meditate on God’s word and deeds, maybe we should pay attention and do just that. Read the Bible. Let it soak into your everyday life. Don’t let it be one of those tomes that gathers dust on a table. Let God speak to you through his word. He gives good advice in those 66 books if we would just listen to him and do what he tells us to do.

Third, before making life-changing decisions, stop and think. It’s surprising how often we just act without thinking about the second and third order affects our choices make on us or those around us. Most of the time it isn’t too hard to think about the consequences our actions will create. We just need to step back for a second and use that gray matter that sits inside our skull. Tragically, we too often just act and think about it after the fact when it’s too late to retract our action. Once done, it’s done. Things have been set in motion and the consequences are set whether we like them or not.

Then while we’re on this pause before making a decision, when possible and practical, seek the advice of a mentor. Most of the time, the decision you are about to make has been made before. It is truly amazing the number of times we repeat the mistakes of others because we fail to heed their warnings. Just take a moment to listen to those who have gone before you. Listen to their counsel. Understand they have your best in mind. If they have traveled that road before you, they can help you avoid the pitfalls and the suffering they may have suffered because of choice they would make differently if given the chance. Remember, two heads are better than one.

We’re back to where we began today. Integrity involves choice. You can be a person of integrity. You can choose that life. It will take God’s help. We can not do it alone. But we can choose to let him walk beside us and keep us on the right path. As we go back to our original definition a few weeks ago, integrity is about unity, oneness, cohesion. When we choose with God in mind, we draw closer to him. We we choose with our selfish desires in mind, we drive a wedge between us and him.

Think about the choices you will make today. Stand as Joshua did with his declaration at the top of your priorities, “...as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.” It is always a choice. And God lets you make it at every crossroad of life. Choose today whom you will serve.

May 14, 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.

The subject of today’s podcast includes two terms that are mutually exclusive. Integrity and duplicity. The two can not coexist in the same person. We try awfully hard these days. We try to make things fit the way we want them to fit. We want what we think is best for us regardless what it might do to someone else. We want what we want and we want it now. But that’s not how integrity works.

Solomon said in Proverbs 11:3, “The integrity of the upright guides them, but the unfaithful are destroyed by their duplicity.”

So what exactly am I talking about when I talk about duplicity in the context of integrity? We’ve already determined that integrity is about oneness with our Creator. It’s about his truth, not anyone else’s. Integrity isn’t defined by our norms, but by God’s. We’ve said integrity requires accountability and how important a partner and mentor can be in helping us stay on track, keeping us from straying from the path we’ve set out on.

Duplicity is defined as deceitfulness or double-dealing. It comes into play in this setting when we talk about integrity but then don’t live up to what we say. It reminds me of a public service announcement that was aired on the Armed Forces Network when I was stationed in Germany several years ago. The camera panned on a soldier called to his home because his teenage son had been caught shoplifting. The soldier did a pretty good job of chewing out his son, telling him how wrong it was to steal. How he had learned in church that was one of the Ten Commandments God gave us. He asked how in the world he could stoop so low as to steal something that didn’t belong to him.

All the while the soldier carried on this conversation with his wayward son, the camera moved position and drew the lens back to focus on a handful of black skillcraft pens laying on the soldiers desk at home. Those of you who have worked in the government know what that means. No one had those black skillcraft ballpoint pens except Uncle Sam and he bought hundreds of thousands of them. And why did the government buy so many? Because people like that soldier stole them from their offices.

You might think to yourself, taking a pen from my employer isn’t such a big deal. And maybe one pen isn’t. At that time they were about $1.50 a dozen. But this soldier along with probably 50% of the rest of the 5 million people employed by the federal government had two or three or more of those pens at home. If my math is right, that’s about $625,000 of theft. That’s a well organized gang conducting grand larceny. You probably never thought of it that way, but someone had to pay for that pen or pencil or notebook or pad of paper or whatever it is you might bring home for personal use. Is that duplicity? You bet.

Or how about that cell phone ding to remind you of an email or a facebook message that you just have to answer at work? Or the website you need to explore for just a few minutes at the office. Or a bill you need to pay from there because your internet speeds at home are so slow? Does your employer want to pay you for being completely unproductive when you’re supposed to be working for her? Stealing part of your paycheck by failing to give that time to your employer as you agreed when you were hired is called duplicity, deceitfulness, double-dealing. It certainly isn’t integrity.

Am I saying that I am perfect in these area? No. If you scoured my house, you’d probably find one of those long lost skillcraft pens in a box in the garage. And to be honest, once in a while I’ll answer or make a personal call or see a personal email pop up on my screen and answer it while I’m supposed to be doing something else. But I try to stay very conscious of my time and what I do with the equipment and supplies entrusted to me. I learned because of those skillcraft pens that I kept having to buy out of my meager budget as a company commander in the army almost forty years ago how just one innocent pen can suddenly add up to dozens, then hundreds, the thousands. And no one really notices until someone at the top of the chain coughs because more than half a million dollars in black government pens have gone missing.

It’s not that big a deal. Except it’s duplicious. It’s no big thing. Except it breaks commandment number eight. It’s nothing really. Except God says don’t do it. No one cares. Except it means your integrity is at stake.

Our society is trying hard to turn all these things into various shades of gray. Just a pen. Just a pad of paper. Just a box of paper clips. Just a few copies for my kid’s school work. Just a few messages during the day. Just a little me time during my work hours. Just a little here and just a little there. No big deal. No harm done.

The latest figure I could get comes from 2012, so this data is six years old and has only gotten worse since then. But listen to some of these facts from six years ago. 60% of workers spend at least some time on social media during work hours. The average college student in 2012 spent 3 hours on facebook and two hours studying. Which explains why college students who use facebook regularly have a GPA a full point lower than those who don’t.

In the US that year, collectively we spent 12,207,423,487 hours on social media. Twice as much time on social media as in any form of exercise. 10% of us spend more time on social media than we do at work and 60% of us connect with our social media at work. Workers are interrupted every 10.5 minutes by things like twitter, IM’s and facebook. Then studies show it takes 23 minutes to get back on task after an interruption. No one can really multitask by the way. Your brain will only let you do one thing at a time. If you think you’re multitasking, you’re fooling yourself and turning out poorer quality work that you are able.

So what did all that cost? When you do the 2012 math, social media cost companies almost $4500 per employee. And it cost the US economy about $650 billion. But it’s just one message, right? It doesn’t hurt anything? It’s only a few minutes, right? No one cares. It’s not like I don’t get my job done, so I can do this on the sly, right? Take a look at the number once more. The social media mafia successfully stole $650 billion dollars from everyone’s pocket.

Why everyone’s pocket and not just those C-suite executives? Because those C-suite executives didn’t have the money to give employees the raises they  might have been able to give otherwise. They didn’t have the money to improve health benefits. They didn’t have the money to hire new employees. They didn’t have the money to build new facilities or new plants. $650 billion can do a lot of stuff, and collectively in the workplace...How did Solomon put it? “... the unfaithful are destroyed by their duplicity.”

Integrity and duplicity can not exist in the same person. But we need God’s help to maintain our integrity. The world makes everything shades of gray instead of God’s black and white. The problem is that the world won’t be our judge when Jesus returns. God set the rules and God will judge us based on his rules. Not the world’s. Not ours. His. So how is your integrity meter running today?

May 7, 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.

We started talking about integrity last week, defining real integrity as walking in unity with God. Following his purpose and plan rather than our own. Letting God determine what is true and right and good rather than letting society or even our own conscience determine the moral norms we should follow.

Today, I’d like us to consider a passage from Ecclesiastes chapter 4 as we think about our integrity. Solomon said this: “Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their labor: if either of them falls down, one can help the other up. But pity anyone who falls and has no one to help them up. Also, if two lie down together, they will keep warm. But how can one keep warm alone? Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves. A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.”

You might ask, “What does that have to do with integrity?”

I’d answer, “Everything.” You see, we need a good friend to keep us accountable. Particularly in this day and age, and in our society in which it seems that what is right is only what I think is right for me. We live in a time when we are always asking the question, “What’s in it for me?” Instead of asking what God would have us do in the same circumstance.

When Solomon wrote these words, I’m not sure he had just the physical realm in mind. As we think about those verses, they apply equally to our spiritual lives, as well. Let’s take a look at them again. Two have a good return for their labor. You’ll remember that when Jesus sent the disciples out across the countryside to spread the message that the kingdom of God was at hand. He didn’t send them as single preachers. He sent them in pairs. Why? Because of this verse.

Two have a good return on their labor. Two reinforce each other. Two help each other from getting discouraged when tasks seem insurmountable. Two provide a little competition to each other to get things done faster and better. Two help each other see tasks from different perspectives and find solutions to problems that one alone would not see. It’s like someone writing letters in the sand and depending on which side of the letters you’re standing on, you might read the word mom or you might see the word wow. Both are right from your perspective. But together you can pick the one that makes the most sense for the problem at hand.

Climbers know you never climb alone because of that second axiom. If a piton slips out of place or a rope breaks or a misstep causes an injury in mountainous terrain, without help, a single climber might be doomed. With two, there is hope of rescue. The same is true of diving and other sports in which one slip could cause catastrophic results.

Those who live in the northern most climates understand the importance of maintaining body temperatures and the best way to warm up someone who has been exposed to the frigid elements of those arctic temperatures is to climb into a sleeping bag with them. Body spooned against body to raise the temperature of an exposure victim works when medical facilities are not readily available. But alone in that same sleeping bag, the hypothermic individual body temperature will rise very slowly if at all because there is nothing inside the bag to raise the temperature. Alone, they will continue to fight the lower core temperature for hours before the body can recover on its own, if at all.

Defense is the next one. I know you’ve heard the term, “I’ve got your back.” That’s what it's all about. Alone, the enemy can come from behind and you’d never see him. But with two, your back is covered. The enemy can’t slip in. Your friend is right there with you.

And a cord of three strands? It’s the difference of wrapping a single thread around your hands and breaking it versus wrapping that same thread around your hands several times. Now it gets pretty tough to break if you can break it at all. The additional rounds of that thin thread add the extra strength that makes the “cord” stronger than you.

Now do you see how all those fit with our spiritual fight.?

In our society where integrity can slip away so easily because of the situational ethics, the sliding morality, the growing sense that right is whatever is right in your own eyes. We need someone to help us maintain our integrity. We need an accountability partner. We need someone who will walk along beside us who is not afraid to tell us like it is and keep us on the path of God’s truth, not our own.

When we find that accountability partner, we can help each other in our labor. We can grow in our faith and in our relationships with God and man because we have nothing to hide. We live a life of integrity which means we stay above the filth and lies that have become the norm for so many in our society.

When we find that accountability partner, we can help each other up when we fall. None of us are perfect. We will falter from time to time. We do not that helping hand to reach out and help us get up and get back on the path of truth and rightness and integrity. We need someone who will stay with us during those times and lift us up with a helping hand, not point fingers at us and walk away. But at the same time, that accountability partner will not condone the bad behavior. He will not allow you to stay on a path of destruction. A good accountability partner will be just that, one who holds you accountable for your actions and your words and your attitudes.

When we find that accountability partner, we will find one who challenges us and we will challenge them with new insights into God’s word. We will grow together on the journey before us. We will keep each other from getting cold in our faith. We will not let each other become lukewarm in our attitude toward God and his plan like the church at Laodicea. We will warm each other in our spiritual lives by constantly challenging each other to become more like Christ through the interaction we have with each other as partners, accountable to watch each others integrity quotient.

As accountability partners, we can help defend each other in the faith. Satan knows our weaknesses. A good accountability partner should too. But that means we must open up to them and share those points in our life where we are most weak. Then our partner can come along beside us and watch our back. He can watch where we go, observe what we do, help us to fight the enemy by helping us maintain our integrity by escaping from those temptations in the first place. A good accountability partner will help us change the habits that put us in places and situations that could compromise our integrity, our oneness with God.

What does the cord with three strands mean? It means I can’t get through this spiritual journey alone. I know churches are filled with hypocrites. I know there are evil people in churches. I know not everyone who has their name on a membership role or who teaches a Sunday School class is a model Christian or even a Christian at all. But some of the people in church are good solid followers of Jesus Christ. Some are worth emulating. Some are worthy of watching and learning from their lives.

Churches are like hospitals for sinners. They should be full of sinners. They should be filled with evil people seeking a way to find peace and forgiveness in their lives. And some of those leaders who you point to that don’t fit your definition of Christian? Well, they are in the right place, too. Where else can they hope to find Christ but in a sinner’s clinic?

We still can’t make it alone. We need people around us to help us on this spiritual journey. If you don’t like the church you’re in, find one you can worship in. Find one that doesn’t seem so hypocritical. Find one that preaches and teaches God’s word, not the latest news item. Find a church with people who are struggling with life’s questions the same way you are. I pass at least a dozen churches on the way to mine. Surely, some church around you fits the needs you have of finding a Bible believing church. Go there. Find an accountability partner. Grow together in a life of integrity.

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 about The Story and our part in it. 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 30, 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.

Last week we finished with “The Story” as we explored God’s plan to restore us to that face to face relationship he enjoyed with Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden before their act of disobedience that banished them from that paradise. God has been working ever since to bring us back to him and to teach us to live in community with each other and with him so we might share eternity with him in a new paradise he has created for all who follow him.

Well, as we start something new this week, I thought about a devotional series I read a few weeks ago on integrity. That’s really what God wants from us. To have integrity. To be genuine with him. But in our society today, I’m not sure we even know what integrity means anymore, much less practice it. So I want to take the next few weeks and explore what it means for us to have integrity.

Let’s start with David. He declared in Psalms 25:21, “May integrity and uprightness protect me, because my hope, Lord is in you.” If his understanding of integrity is such that it would protect him from something when he was running for his life from Saul’s army, then I’d like to figure out what that integrity is because I sure need some protecting in this day and age. Satan is alive and well and wants to destroy my soul. Just like he wants to destroy yours. So what is integrity, then.

The dictionary says integrity is, the quality of being honest and having strong moral principles; moral uprightness. Another definition is, the state of being whole and undivided. There are a lot of synonyms we could throw around to maybe help us get a handle on the word. Some like:  honesty, probity, rectitude, honor, good character, principle(s), ethics, morals, righteousness, morality, virtue, decency, fairness, scrupulousness, sincerity, truthfulness, trustworthiness. Or from that second definition things like unity, unification, coherence, cohesion, togetherness, solidarity.

All of those sound good, but I’m not sure that’s where David was going with this when he was talking to God about integrity. We too often fit our good character, principles, ethics, morals, and virtue into our societal code which may or may not be what God is looking for in us. I’m sure you’ve heard the term situational ethics thrown about more than once in the past few years. What’s right depends on the current situation and circumstances. Well, does it? Is God that wishy-washy in his behavior that he changes his rules to fit our circumstances? I doubt it.

David, in our eyes, had every right to defend himself against his accuser, Saul. He was falsely accused. God had already had Samuel anoint him as the next king to sit on the throne of Israel. Samuel had given Saul his pink slip from God. And twice God put Saul into David’s hands, when he relieved himself in a cave and David was close enough to cut off part of his coat. And against when the whole came around Saul slept and David went into the camp and took Saul’s sword and spear. But David was a man of integrity, not someone who adhered to the idea of situational ethics. His integrity kept him on the run instead of in the comfort of the palace. Was that protection? David thought so.

Does fair and decent fit the bill? It depends on who you talk to. Who is to say what is fair. Job didn’t think life was fair when he lost everything but his nagging wife and three friends that told him what a sinner he was. We look at the narrative and look up at God and say the same thing. “God, how is it fair to bring such calamity on such a righteous man?”

Was it fair for the Europeans to blast their way through the native Indians, cut down their forests, deplete their hunting grounds, pollute their rivers and streams, and turn this continent into a new country? They certainly didn’t think so, but their European victors did. And if history had not played out as it did, what would our country be like today? Would we still be living in animal skin huts and trying to forage for deer and buffalo meat for supper? Probably not, but the country would be far different since the Europeans would not have had the land to forge the pioneer spirit that has forged us into the nation we have become. Has it been fair to every group? No. Will it ever be? Not as long as people are involved in the process.

Marx and Stalin thought they could make a fair system work under communist rule. It lasted about 70 years until those that worked hard so that the fruits of their labor went to those that chose not to work so hard. Then no one worked very hard and the Soviet Union finally collapsed. Socialism and communism only work if every single person in the system are highly motivated to give their best to the system. We know humans don’t operate that way because we are inherently selfish. So governments of any flavor are never fair because people are not fair.

Well, what about that decency rule? If you’re old enough, you remember the National Geographic documentaries of newly found tribes in Africa and South America where no one wore clothes. Were they decent? To them they were. To us they were far from it. But even in our society, we have extreme views of what people call decent. Laws can’t dictate decency, though we try. So decency is out of the question if we want to try to define integrity by that norm.

How about ethics? I’ve been to countries where it was impolite to tell a guest something that might hurt their feelings, so lying was okay if you knew the facts would be disturbing. Were they ethical? In their society, absolutely. For me and my colleagues, we were more than frustrated when the facts were discovered later. But as guests around their table drinking tea, everyone needed to be all smiles so were we told what they thought we wanted to hear. Were they wrong? To them it was quite ethical. We were the crazy Americans with stupid ideas.

I could go on down the list of synonyms and pick them apart and find that none of them describe what David saw as protection against his enemies. But I think the second definition will give us some clues about the integrity David and God have in mind when we think about integrity in spiritual terms. Think back on our journey through God’s word over the last eight months. In God’s upper story, he desperately wants to have us return to him in an intimate face to face relationship. He wants to restore that oneness Adam and Eve enjoyed before the fall.

So what was that second definition again? Integrity is the state of being whole and undivided. But when Adam and Eve were banished from the garden, a piece of them went missing - the presence of God in their life. They walked with him face to face until they disobeyed. But because of their disobedience, God’s truth, his integrity, his holiness demanded their sin be put away from his presence. So they lost his presence in their life.

Jesus talked over and over about unity among the disciples. He talked about how others would know they belonged to him, by their love for each other. He talked about the oneness between him and the father and that same unity could happen between him and us. Jesus mentored his disciples on togetherness. How to break bread with each other and share their faith. He taught them to overlook that faults and dwell on the spirit that God forgives when we ask him. Jesus talked about a kingdom that is open to anyone who believes. That kingdom is not bound by race or color or nationality. It is bound by faith. By unity. By oneness. Cohesiveness in believing in the one name above all names. Jesus, the Christ, our Savior and Redeemer.

I kind of think if David wrote this psalm in twenty-first century vernacular he might say, “God, I’m going to do my best to stick to you like glue. I know that if I do that, you’ve got my back. I don’t need to worry about the things that go on around me because you’re God and I’m not. But together I can make it because you can’t fail. I can’t make it on my own, but my hope, my peace, my joy, my comfort, my assurance is in the one I put my faith in and that’s you, Lord.”

Integrity. It’s not about me or what I think is right or wrong. It’s not about what society thinks is right or wrong, good or bad. I’m not even sure it’s about any in that long list of synonyms that focus on personal character. I think integrity has everything to do with how close I can squeeze up to God and let him carry me through this life wherever he wants to take me. Doing with me whatever he wants to do. Teaching me whatever he wants to teach me. Molding me into the likeness of his son day by day as I obey his voice as he whispers in my ear.

How do you define integrity?

If today’s devotional strikes a cord in you about your personal integrity as it relates to your nearness to God, what will you do about it today? Tomorrow and the next day?

How can you show integrity where you live?

 

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 about The Story and our part in it. 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 23, 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

Bible Reading Plan - www.Bible-Reading.com; The Story, Chapter 31; You Version Bible app Engaging God's Story Reading Plan Days 204 through 210

Who doesn’t like vacations, right? Maybe your favorite place is sitting in a boat drowning worms to catch the biggest wide-mouth bass in the lake. Maybe you like to stand knee deep in that cold mountain stream with your favorite fly fishing gear. Maybe you just like to lay on the beach and listen to the waves crash against the sand and enjoy the warmth of the sun on your skin. Maybe you like to get to the mountains when the snow settles on the peaks and test your skills on those thin strips of fiberglass under your feet as you speed down the slopes between the trees. Perhaps your favorite vacation is just getting away from the telephone and email and curling up with a good book knowing you don’t have to face the boss or the constant stream of customers for the next few days.

Whatever your favorite vacation, most of them are for the same reasons. We want to get away from the hustle and bustle of everyday life and live for just a little while in something of a paradise. We ponder what Eden must have been like and our mind and body push away from this polluted, entangled world and we experience that beautiful, peaceful, stress free time away from the norm of everyday existence we call a vacation.

The problem for us, vacation ends and we come back to that same old life. Bills to pay. Co-workers and customers we would like to avoid. The same health issues we ignored for just a moment while we enjoyed our vacation. The neighbor that moved in and you wish they hadn’t. That blissful time ends and we go back to life before vacation. And knowing the vacation is ending always makes vacation dim just a little, no matter how bright it is while we’re there. We always have that little snag in the back of our brain that says this Eden just won’t last, bud. It will all be over soon and you’ll be back in the same old grind. Enjoy it while you can.

But this week we read John’s Revelation on the Isle of Patmos. The risen Lord came to visit and remind John and us that he would return to take us home to live with him forever. John sees a lot of things in his time with the angels and Jesus on Patmos that we don’t understand. He didn’t understand it. Jesus told him to write down everything he saw and was told. And he said everyone who read it would be blessed. Not everyone who understood it would be blessed. And that’s a good thing because I don’t know anyone who fully understands John’s Revelation.

Once we stand in front of Jesus at the end of time, we will look back at each verse and we will say, “Oh, yeah! That’s what that means.” But until then, the book is clouded in mysticism and symbolism and vague references that we just can’t understand because we are not meant to know the time or the day of his coming. We are just to be ready for it. But the revelation also gives us some clues about that last movement of God’s word. Remember, we started in Genesis with God enjoying a face to face relationship with Adam and Eve. He walked in the Garden of Eden with his highest creation and talked with them. There was an intimacy in their relationship that was lost when Adam and Eve decided they knew better than God and launched out on their own path, disobeying his command to avoid that tree in the middle of the garden.

We saw in the second movement of God’s word how he raised a nation from Abraham to show us how to maintain relationships with each other in community and with him in worship. Israel is that nation. But they failed in the mission God gave Abraham to spread the news of that relationship and showing the other nations how to embrace him in as God.

So he came to earth in human flesh. God incarnate. Jesus. The third movement. The cross. He came to show us grace and truth in perfect harmony. He demonstrated through his perfect son, Jesus, how to live in harmony with the Father. He taught us to worship. He taught us to prayer. He gave himself as the perfect sacrifice so we can have life in him.

The fourth movement began in an upper room in Jerusalem at Pentecost. God returned in the form of his holy spirit to live not just among us, but in us. The movement of the church began. Those 120 who gathered in that upper room reached out to complete the task Jesus gave them as he ascended into heaven. Go. Make disciple. Teach them everything I taught you. Baptize them in names of the Father, Son, and Spirit.

We still live  in the movement of the church. We still have the same task Jesus gave those gathered around him on that day he was seen rising in the clouds. We still have the command to Go. Make disciples. Teach what we have been taught about him. Baptize in the name of the Father, Son, and Spirit. The task hasn’t changed. We’re still in the church movement expected to use the power of his spirit to do the work he told us to do.

But there is a final movement in God’s word. That revelation that is so hard to understand...except for the end of the story. Those last two chapters are pretty clear. We might not know what the new heaven and new earth will look like. We might not understand how a new Jerusalem can appear. We might not be able to comprehend how all of this golden streets and gates of pearl and unfathomable beauty can take place. But we can all agree that whatever John saw when he got a glimpse of heaven was beyond description.

There is coming a time and everyone who listens to God’s spirit knows the time, whether individually or collectively, is not far away, when we will be ushered into his presence. Those who believe in him will spend eternity in a place more beautiful that the most wonderful place you have ever been or imagined. We will live in a land without pain or sorrow or misery or evil or anger or any of those negative things that plague us on this side of the grave.

Everyone who believes in Jesus for the forgiveness of their sins knows from those last two chapters in John that Jesus is coming back to sweep us away. Paul tells us it will be in the blink of an eye. He will suddenly appear. Time will be no more. It will all be over. We will be with him forever. How fast do you blink? That’s the speed in which his coming will happen. Will you have time to make things right when he comes? In the blink of an eye? Maybe a little preparation is in order.  

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 about The Story and our part in it. 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 16, 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.

Bible Reading Plan - www.Bible-Reading.com; The Story, Chapter 30; You Version Bible app Engaging God's Story Reading Plan Days 204 through 210

Sometimes I get the feeling I’m too old to take on something new. Then I remember a few stories of successful people like Harland “The Colonel” Sanders who opened his first Kentucky Fried Chicken franchise store at the age of 65 in 19654. When he sold the business twelve years later for $2 million, there were over 900 stores across the country.

Then there is Jack Cover. His name might not be a household word, but you’ve heard about his invention. In his early career as a nuclear physicist, he worked in the aerospace and defense industry. But at age 50, Jack submitted a patent for a weapon that would incapacitate but not kill assailants. By the time he died at age 88, his taser was in use in almost every police department around the world.

I remember people like Laura Ingalls Wilder, author of the best selling series of Little House on the Prairie series of books, who didn’t write her first book until she was 65, but continued to crack them out for years later.

I think of Anna Mary Robertson Moses, one of the most recognized names in American art. She started painting because her arthritis became too bad to allow her to continue her embroidery. At the age of 76, she picked up her first paint brush and painted for the next 25 years. She lived to see one painting she sold for $3 later sell for over $10,000.

Ronald Reagan didn’t run for his first public office until he was 55, but found himself sitting at the desk of the most powerful political position in the world as President of the United States before he passed away.

All these people did things that certainly changed their lives and those around them. They didn’t think life was over as they aged. They didn’t decide to retire. They didn’t think life should pass them by or they didn’t have anything to contribute the years piled up. Instead they took the experience they gained through the years and applied it to the purpose and task in front of them. Each of them set an impossible goal for themselves and worked to achieve it.

They didn’t let time or age or physical conditions or the ridicule of others or anything else get in their way. Colonel Sanders had a restaurant that was going under because an interstate opened seven miles away from his business. He figured out how to not only resurrect his business, but explode the business through the franchise of his now famous recipe.

Jack Cover saw the need to help law enforcement capture assailants in Los Angeles, but wanted to help reduce the number of permanent injuries and deaths at the hands of police that plagued their image with the public. The taser, incapacitating its victims for short periods without permanent damage to nervous systems answered the need and changed the way police approached assailants from that point on.

Laura Ingalls Wilder gave us a picture of the settlement of the plains in vivid detail through the eyes of a child and captured the imagination of millions as her stories spread around the world through her best sellers.

There is another we can watch through the pages of the New Testament that didn’t let age stop him either. Paul didn’t let age or any adversity stop him in his mission. Once given his task on the road to Damascus, Paul never slowed down. He remained as energetic in spreading the gospel as he did in persecuting the church. In fact, he seemed more enthused. More determined.

Thirteen of the books contained in the New Testament are authored by Paul. Many written while he sat in prisons awaiting punishment or during his last days awaiting execution. I’m certain Paul would rather have been traveling to other places speaking to churches, opening new works, spending time with new congregants than cooling his heels in jail. But if he had not spent so many years in prison, I’m not sure we would have the rich instruction written to the churches we have at our disposal today.

God uses events and circumstances in ways we can never understand. Paul didn’t want to spend time in prison. He didn’t understand why God allowed the beatings and shipwrecks and imprisonment. But Paul couldn’t see the upper story unfolding the way God could. Paul couldn’t know that his letters to the churches that were sent as informal letters of encouragement to those fledgling groups of followers would be kept for safekeeping. He didn’t know they would be passed from church to church. He didn’t know that the letters would be carefully copied by scribes and monks and priests for centuries. He didn’t know they would be part of the canon that would become the basis for the doctrine of the Christian movement.

Paul wrote simple letters of encouragement and instruction to followers who heard the message of Jesus. Paul spent the later part of his life doing everything he could do to continue the purpose God laid out for him in the only way he knew how. Paul continued to take the opportunities God gave him and walked through the open doors wherever they might lead. Thankfully, he did so. Otherwise, we would not have the letters today. Half our New Testament would be empty. Imagine those thirteen books gone.

We cannot know the impact God has in store when we follow him. We don’t know what our influence will have on those around us. We can not understand how the upper story unfolds in our lower story because all we can see is the short distance to the next bend in the road. So much of our present circumstances get in the way of being able to see what is next. But God knows his plans for us. He knows what lies ahead. God’s plans will happen. His promises will come through. We don’t know when or how, but we know they will.

Paul knew it, too. So he could withstand the beatings. Paul trusted God’s promises to be true, so he could handle the shipwrecks. Paul knew God would do what he said he would do. So Paul could take the imprisonment in stride. Paul knew God had something better in mind. So on that last morning they took him from his cell, Paul could walk calmly to the post on the Ostian Road, lay his neck on the block and wait for the executioner’s sword to swiftly do its job.

What dream is wiggling in the back of your mind that you think is just too hard? What is it God wants you to do that you think you can’t get done because life has passed you by? What task is nagging at you because you’re now too old or too feeble or just don’t have the skills to get it done? Can I tell you that everyone who accomplished anything had those same doubts at one time or another? The secret is to push past those doubts and realize that with God nothing is impossible. If it is his plan for you, he will make it happen through you.

Life is replete with great examples of those who accomplished great things at every stage of life, young, middle-age, old, retired. The phase of life doesn’t matter when working for God. Letting God use you is what matters. When he is in it, he will make it happen. All he wants is your willingness to be used as an instrument of his grace and truth. Are you ready to make things happen? He is.

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 about The Story and our part in it. 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 9, 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

Bible Reading Plan - www.Bible-Reading.com; The Story, Chapter 29; You Version Bible app Engaging God's Story Reading Plan Days 197 through 203
Alvin was the third of eleven children born to William and Mary in a little town called Pall Mall. William scratched out a meager living as a blacksmith and farmer to support his family and died early in the hardscrabble life of the foothills of the Smoky Mountains. William died early, Alvin quit school to help support the family and was rough and tumble young man acquainted with fistfights.
Alvin attended the Church of Christ near his home in Tennessee and found God during his young adult years making him a changed man. But like many his age, he found himself drafted into the Army to serve in World War I. He tried to get out of the draft as a conscientious objector, but discovered that his denomination had no specific doctrine concerning pacifism so found himself embroiled in the fight in Europe.
Alvin C. York. One of our nation’s most decorated soldiers. No one would have picked him for such a role when he was growing up. No one thought this backward boy from the hills of East Tennessee would in one battle kill 25 and capture 130 German soldiers and take a machine gun position that was destroying so many American troops. His actions helped open the way for the American victory in the Argonne offensive. Gary Cooper won an academy award portraying this great American hero.
Alvin C. York, like many I have met who have been awarded our nation’s highest medal, was a very quiet, unassuming man who sought no fame. He like many felt he was just doing his duty. He didn’t talk about those days much and never bragged about them in any way. To him, it was something anyone would do to support his fellow soldiers.
I know one of his direct descendants. He attended my church for a while. His character is similar. Quiet. Unassuming. In the business of saving lives. LTC York is a physician by trade and uses his skills to save thousands each year just as Sergeant York did.
Sergeant York was an unlikely candidate to do what he did. No one would have picked him. We’ve seen a lot of those characters as we’ve moved through The Story, God’s plan for bringing us back into community with him. Noah, Abraham, David, Hezekiah, Jeremiah, Matthew, the Samaritan woman, the Centurion, the women in Jesus’ life. So many people recorded in God’s word that from the outside just don’t have what the world would say are the characteristics necessary to change their community or the world.
Yet God saw each of these unlikely individuals from his upper story and knew their heart. He knew how he could use them to move us toward him in ways we could not understand. He knew he could use them to shape his plan toward the ends he desired. They only needed to obey him. These unlikely candidates did incredible, impossible, God ordained things and changed their world. They each bring us closer to understanding the relationship God wants for each of us.
This week we read about another of those unlikely candidates. A man no one from a human perspective would think God could ever forgive because of the actions he took against those early followers of his Son, Jesus. Saul, who God would later call Paul, held the coats of those who stoned Steven. He received authority from the temple to chase down these followers of Jesus and have them not just persecuted but killed. Yet, God chose this murderer of Christians to be his missionary to Gentile world.
Paul would write half of what would become the New Testament. Thirteen of the twenty-seven books in the New Testament are ascribed to his authorship. An unlikely character in God’s pantheon of heroes. But God doesn’t look at men and women the same way we do. He doesn’t choose based on what we see in our lower story. He doesn’t choose people the way we examine them with all our human relation tools for job hunting. No. God sees the potential in the way he created us and sets his plan in front of us.
God’s upper story uses the most unlikely people to advance his purpose to bring us back into a face to face relationship with him in the garden he has been preparing for us since Adam and Eve were cast out of Eden. God also asks us to be obedient to his call. He called each of these unlikely people to different tasks. Some were easy. Some were difficult and at great personal risk. But each required them to obey God’s command to go and do something for him.
So what is God asking you to do? It might be as simple as taking a meal to a sick neighbor to visibly share the compassion that God has for others. It might be to listen to the teenager that sits at the bus stop with tears in her eyes and just hear her story and tell her your own story so she knows there is a God in heaven who loves her. It might be something that is much bigger than you think you could ever do. It might even sound impossible. But when God gives you something to do, he will always give you what you need to make it happen. It might be resources, it might be skills, it might be relationships with other people who will give you help.
God uses unlikely people so others know that when God-like things happen, we are not the ones responsible for their implementation. God is. We are just his tools in giving ourselves to him in obedient service. God uses unlikely people to help us understand that no matter who we are or how little you think you might could contribute to God’s plan, he has a different view. God will use you to further his plan. He will use you to help others know that he is full of grace and truth. He will use the most unlikely characters so we can know that he wants everyone to come to him and know his salvation.
There is only one thing to remember about it all. We are all part of God’s Story, but to find yourself in his garden at the end of time, you must obey him. His creation. His rules. God is full of grace. But God is also full of truth. The balance is met at Calvary where those who believe in Jesus for the forgiveness of their sins and follow him will not perish but have eternal life. But that most famous of verses continues in Jesus’ conversation with Nicodemus. He didn’t come to condemn the world, but when we don’t believe, we are already condemned. Jesus is the way to eternal life and there is no other.
As unlikely as you might feel as a hero for God, he can use you in his plan. All it takes is looking up and letting him lead you wherever he wants you to go. And do whatever he wants you to do. That’s it. Then you’ll find yourself on that list of heroes, too.
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 about The Story and our part in it. 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 2, 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.

Bible Reading Plan - www.Bible-Reading.com; The Story, Chapter 28; You Version Bible app Engaging God's Story Reading Plan Days 190 through 196

Anticipation. Sometimes it feels good doesn’t it. Sometimes it just tears at us. Let me give you a couple of examples. Kids anticipate Christmas. They are excited about the approach of the day and what they might find under the tree. They might have climbed into Santa’s lap and told him and no doubt they dropped hints around the house about what they really wanted. As the day approaches, so does their anticipation. It goes and grows and feels pretty good as the day gets closer.

But then there is the other side of anticipation. Some friends of mine built a house a few years ago that their contract said would be done in about five months with a guarantee to be finished before Thanksgiving. Five months came and went. Halloween found them without a home. Thanksgiving passed them by without a place to call their own. Christmas. New Year’s Day. The five months of construction and a seven month guarantee ended up being more than a year and still took them to court because the construction was of such poor quality.

Their anticipation brought nothing but more pain and heartache and bills and living on the edge waiting for their house to become at least habitable, though never as complete as they dreamed.  

Jesus stood on a hillside the last time his disciples saw him and told them he would be back. He told them he’d come to take his bride to a place he was building for her. A new heaven and new earth. Then he told them to go to Jerusalem and wait for power to carry out the mission he gave them until he returned.

Now if you heard his words that day, wouldn’t you expect him to come back in a few days or weeks? If your boss said, “I’ll be back soon.” Wouldn’t you think that meant he took a short vacation or had a business meeting somewhere and would be back in the office before you had a chance to retire...or die! That’s what the disciples thought. They anticipated his return. Soon. But they also had a task to do before he came back.

Remember his mission for them and us? “Go into your neighborhood [Jerusalem], go to those that live near you and are somewhat like you [Judea], go to those that you don’t like very much [Samaria], and go to places and people you don’t even know [the uttermost parts of the world] and make disciples. Teach them everything I have taught you. Baptize them into the same faith into which you have been baptized, the one that proclaims the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.”

They went to Jerusalem. They went to a room they had met in before. All day and night, without a break, they took shifts praying, asking for something they didn’t understand. Jesus told them to wait for power and they asked for direction, for Jesus’ return, for power. Finally, they quit asking for Jesus to return. They quit asking for the Romans to be defeated. They quit asking for the pockets to get full. They quit asking for the Sanhedrin to stop looking for them or harassing them. They stopped asking for health. They stopped asking for everything...except the power to do the mission Jesus gave them to do. They didn’t know what they were asking for but finally all of them agreed what they needed was the power to carry out the job.

120 of them. All in one accord. All praying for one thing. To receive the promised power to do the work God asked them to do. Then it happened. God’s Spirit came and rested on, and filled each of them. They went out into the crowd that had gathered for the annual celebration of Pentecost, the first harvest. 120 mingled through the crowd telling them what had happened over the last seven weeks and the message that Jesus left us. Repent. The kingdom of heaven is at hand. Believe in him and have everlasting life.

Peter preached that morning and the number of converts grew from 120 to 3,000. A pretty good evangelistic sermon that morning. Read it in Acts Chapter 2. They didn’t have any fine churches with steeples and fancy altars. They didn’t have praise teams and bands or choirs and orchestras. They didn’t have pulpits or lobbies with café’s and doughnuts. What they did have was the power of God’s spirit living in them.

Have you ever thought about that? When God’s spirit takes hold of us and we let him take charge of us, we have the same power in us that raised Jesus from the dead. We have resurrection power in us. You’ve probably heard a song like that. But it’s absolutely true.

There is one catch, though. Remember the disciples spent 40 days and nights waiting and praying for the promised power. They didn’t know exactly what they were praying for, but quite frankly, until God’s spirit lives in us, we don’t know what we are praying for either. It’s indescribable. It’s something that can only be experienced.

I’m afraid too many today don’t do the waiting and praying necessary to really know what it means to have God’s spirit in their life. I don’t see his power in the lives of his people much despite the words said. It’s easy for us to make church more like a concert than a time of giving ourselves to God’s will. We rush in, find a seat, listen to great music and 20 minute sermon, rush out the door and pretend our lives are God’s.

That’s not the mission Jesus gave his disciples and that’s not the mission he gives us. If my math is right, those 3,000 people won to the church on that first day, met together in groups of about 30 in a hundred different homes. They ate meals together. They prayed together. They shared each other’s praises and each other’s hurts. They believed who Jesus was and what he could do for them. They experienced peace and joy because they waited on the promised power and they didn’t accept a McDonald’s kind of religion. They prayed until the promise came through. And the promise didn’t come through until their heart and mission and vision changed to align with God’s heart.

As we look at the early church, they didn’t play games with words. They were much like the Christian churches in Syria or Somalia today. They risked life and death by proclaiming Jesus name. They often met in secret because death was around the corner at the hands of the Romans or the hands of the priests. Their faith meant they lost jobs. They lost property. They lost their children and families. They lost their lives. Being Christian meant real commitment and real faith, not just words to them or to those in nations today with severe persecution of those who follow Christ.

So how about you? Are you ready to take up the mission Jesus has given all who claim his name? The great commission is for all of us. But we cannot carry it out without the power he promised them and us. The question is, am I willing to pay the price to receive that power? Am I willing to wait on God and lose myself in him so that I can gain all he has for me and complete the mission he has prepared for me in this place?

It took forty days for the 120 disciples to get past themselves to find the promised power of God. Are you willing to spend the time necessary to get past yourself to find the resurrection he has for you? You won’t regret 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 about The Story and our part in it. 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 26, 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.

Bible Reading Plan - www.Bible-Reading.com; The Story, Chapter 27; You Version Bible app Engaging God's Story Reading Plan Days 183 through 189

This week we read about the unbelievable for too many people. It’s the thing that makes them pause and say, “It just can’t be true. It’s not possible. The story is just a story.”

What are we talking about? This week we read about the resurrection. We read the reaction of those closest to him who also recoiled at the thought that it was possible even after watching him do the impossible and them telling them it would happen. We watch Joseph and Nicodemus gently remove Jesus’ broken body from the cross and take it to Joseph’s newly finished tomb. We watch from afar as they race the clock before the sun sets to do some minimal burial preparation of Jesus’ body because nothing can be done on the Sabbath.

We hear of the disciples cowering in locked rooms discussing what they will do now that their king has died. The one they put their trust and hope in lies in a tomb. How could it happen? How could he be the One to rescue them if he is buried in a grave? What happened? Just a few days before, the crowds waved palm branches and cried out their Hosannas. Now he’s dead.

Then we see the Sanhedrin worry about these rebel disciples and the revolt that might arise if they steal Jesus’ body from the tomb and declare that he really did rise from the dead. We watch them plead with Caesar to put his seal and a guard on the tomb so no one would tamper with the body and continue the “farce” this teacher kept up.

We listen to the story of that first Easter morning when the angels meet the two Marys at the tomb and announce that their Messiah rose just as he said he would. We try to empathize with Mary Magdalene as she grieves and begs the “gardner” to tell her where he has taken her master’s body.

But the realization of what has happened begins to dawn on Jesus’ followers. Jesus calls Mary by name and she recognizes her risen Lord. She races back to tell the disciples the good news. Peter and John race to the empty tomb and find the linens collapsed on the bier. Those linens contain no body. The guards recovered from their faint race to tell the priests what happened. The Sanhedrin make up a story to protect the guard.

Two disciples walk toward Emmaus, puzzled by the events of the day, don’t recognized their master walking with them until they sit down to eat and he reveals himself to them. Have you ever wondered about that? I have. I think they were looking for a bloodied, crucified, disfigured man. The one they last saw hanging on the cross. Broken. Bruised. Bleeding. Flesh hanging in strips from the flogging he suffered. Instead they saw the risen Lord. Refreshed. Restored. Resurrected. Perfect. Except for the scars in his hands and side so he could later show Thomas.

Would I have reacted any different? Would I have thought Jesus anything other than a ghost when he suddenly appeared behind closed doors if I were one of the disciples that night? Would I have recognized a restored Jesus if he walked with me on the road to Emmaus? Would I have thought Jesus rose from the dead instead of being stolen by the gardner?

I sometimes we look at “doubting Thomas” and give him a hard time. I think I’d be a lot like him. It takes faith to believe in the impossible. Jesus told them some incredible things over the three years he was with them. He also told them some hard things. “You must eat my flesh and drink my blood to have any part in me.” How do you accept that in the culture you’ve lived in all your life?

If you live you lose your life, you must lose your life to gain it? How does that make sense when you hear it for the first time?

But there it is staring at you. The empty tomb. The reports of the disciples. The more than 500 people who saw him over the next 40 days. The fact that no matter how hard the religious leaders tried to squash the story, people kept it alive. Not just that, thousands upon thousands have been willing to die for this One person. No other figure in all history has changed the world the way this one man did.

All the things people through the centuries have tried to do to stop the message or discredit the story have only served to strengthen it. The risen Lord. The impossible story. It isn’t just a story. It truly is God’s story. His plan to bring us back into a face to face relationship with him. He is a holy God. So much higher in his thoughts and ways that the only way we could come near to him was for him to come to us and become the perfect sacrifice for us.

Hard to believe? So is the perfect balance of nature around us. So is the uniqueness of a snowflake. So is the diversity of humanity around our world. So is the warmth and light of the sun. So is the miracle of birth. All those things are impossible. So is it so impossible that God so loved us that he came to live among us in human flesh so that whoever believes in him will not perish but will live eternally with him?

Impossible? He tells us and shows us in his actions it is not. All things are possible with him. The empty tomb on the first Easter morning is just one more demonstration of the impossible to show us his love for us and his desperate desire to restore an intimate, personal, face to face relationship with each of us. All we have to do is believe.

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 about The Story and our part in it. 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 19, 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.

Bible Reading Plan - www.Bible-Reading.com; The Story, Chapter 26; You Version Bible app Engaging God's Story Reading Plan Days 186 through 192

The story is told of a major newspaper whose printing press went down in the middle of the night. The managers’ did their best with their maintenance crews to get the press operating but to no avail. Nothing worked. Finally, the owner called the man who had installed the press originally and worked at the printing press for years before retiring just a few months earlier.

“It’s the middle of the night. I’m retired. Can’t your people fix the thing?”

“We’re desperate. They’ve tried everything and nothing seems to work. Please come help us. I’ll pay you whatever you think it’s worth to get it back up.”

Reluctantly, the old maintenance engineer agreed and in a few minutes showed up at the plant. He walked into the printing press room. Took a slow walk around the press without touching a thing, just looking. The senior manager walked beside him.

“Can you get it running before our deadline? We have to get the morning run out in less than four hours. We don’t have much time. Why are you just walking around not doing anything. Can’t you hurry?”

The manager’s badgering didn’t change the old man’s speed or concentration. He just slowly walked around the press one more time. Again without laying a finger on the machines. Finally, he reached into his back pocket, pulled out a small wrench, reached inside the room sized press, and turned a single bolt about half a turn. Then, the old man walked over to the switches, started them up and the press ran like a dream.

“That will be $4,000,” the old man said.

“What? $4,000 to walk around the machine twice and turn one bolt? Are you crazy? That’s robbery,” the manager screamed at the old man.

The old man reached back into the machine and turned that same bolt a half turn in the other direction bringing the machine to a screeching halt. The manager was aghast. The manager quickly called his other maintenance men over.

“Which bolt did he turn? Hurry. Fix this thing. We have to get it going,” he screamed at his men.

Each in turn looking into the cavity in which the old man had worked his magic. There were dozens of bolts. All determined the tension on the rollers and one wrong turn on any of them meant hours of trying to reset the entire system.

“We can’t do it without tearing down the machine and resetting the system. We don’t know which one to turn. We’d have to set calipers on every one of them and we can’t get to them without breaking down the press. It will take us at least a day and a half to do it,” replied the most senior of the maintenance men. All the others nodded behind him.

The old man stood with his small wrench in his hand and his arms crossed over his chest. “Well,” he said. “You’re not paying for my time. You’re paying for my knowledge. Is it worth it?”

The manager went to the office and wrote out a check for $4,000.

That’s how Jesus is with us. We can try everything in the world to fix our brokenness, but it won’t work. I have nothing against therapists and use them for what they can do to help us heal in certain areas. But they can’t forgive our sins.

We can try to cover that darkness with good deeds, but in the still of the night, those good deeds don’t blanket the unforgiven sins that plague us. Good deeds can only make us feel good for the moment. They are never the end all because we cannot work our way to salvation.

We can try to buy our way past our guilt, but the things that money can buy never satisfies. It’s like Rockefeller said many years ago when he was asked, “How much money is enough?” His answer? “Just one more dollar.” Things cannot buy freedom from the smothering effects of the guilt of sin.

Jesus said it in John 8:23-24. Belief in him brings forgiveness of sins. Nothing else can do that. He is the way to eternal life. He is the light that shines into the darkest recesses of our soul so that the brokenness that burdens us can be brought to the surface for his healing. He is the answer to our every need. He is the one that brings joy when nothing else can. He is the author and finisher of our faith Paul tells us. The One who brings the finishing touch to the faith we talk about and hope to see become reality at the end of this life.

Like the expert that knows just which bolt to turn to make everything right, Jesus knows exactly what must be done in our life to make us right. He lived in human flesh to experience everything we experience to make it happen. He endured the Romans’ whip and the agony of the cross to make it happen. He died and lay in the cold, dark tomb to make it happen. He rose again to make it happen. He knows exactly what I need in my brokenness. He knows exactly what you need in your brokenness. He alone is able to forgive us of our sins.

Have you discovered his touch? Has he made that change in you? Do you know your sins are forgiven? You can. All you need to do is ask him, believe he will do it, then follow him. A pretty simple formula, don’t you think?

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 about The Story and our part in it. 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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