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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

Dec 25, 2017

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 - <a href="http://www.bible-reading.com">www.Bible-Reading.com</a>

We are taking a short break from The Story for Advent and Christmas season. We’ll be back into The Story next week. We’re taking this one more week from the consecutive schedule so that our readings at Easter coincide with the events as recorded in The Story. This is our third and last week away from that study, but rest assured we will go back to it next week and then finish our journey exploring God’s plan to bring us back into a face to face relationship with Him.

You may or may not be listening to this podcast as it is being released, but it was released at 5:00 am Christmas morning. Growing up, that was the about as late as my mom could stand it. She would wake all of us up (if we weren’t already awake). We’d rush down the hall to the living room and get stopped in the hallway until dad could set up the camera. Then we would rush into the living room to see what Santa left under the tree. The next ten or thirty minutes were spent oohing and aahing over that magical thing that appeared under the tree from the night before.

Next, we would open all the other presents under the tree that belonged to our family. As the family grew, with five kids, it took a little while for all of them to get opened, chaos to subside and all the wrappings to be gathered and trashed. Once the unwrapping was done we got to pick one thing to take with us to granny’s house where all who could came for breakfast. Granny’s husband died when my father was only five and remained a widow the rest of her life, so most of her kids came home every Christmas to join her for breakfast. Many of the grandkids also stopped by, so it wasn’t unusual to have forty or fifty people trying to run shifts at the table or sofa or just find some standing room in her tiny two bedroom house.

But one thing that always happened at Granny’s house was that someone read the Christmas story from Luke Chapter 2 after breakfast. Then we would shower her with gifts. She never wanted anything and after she moved into an assisted living facility, they found many of those gifts unused in closets, under beds, stuffed away wherever she could find a spot because she just didn’t know how to receive gifts very well and didn’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings by taking anything back or regifting as is common today.

Granny made sure everyone knew what Christmas was about. It wasn’t about presents and decorations and shopping and the hustle and bustle we seem to make it so many times today. Granny made sure we knew it was about Jesus’ birth. She even made Him a birthday cake that all us grandkids enjoyed every year on Christmas day for lunch. She always made Him the center of everything that day and made it clear to the family we were celebrating His coming.

Granny would tell me when I was growing up that her call in life was to raise a Christian family. Of the 96 family members at her funeral when she died, a fourth were in full-time Christian ministry. Many served as Sunday School teachers, sang in choirs, served on church boards and committees, and gave their time and energy in myriad ways to their local church. You could count on one hand the number that weren’t in church regularly. And by regularly, I mean every service. Then it meant Sunday morning, Sunday night, and Wednesday night. Granny raised a family committed to Christ.

We live in a highly mobile society and kids and grandkids no longer live close enough to do what Granny’s family did every Christmas. We were only an hour or so away the whole time I was growing up. When Carole and I had kids, we were half a world away from their grandparents. Unfortunately, that’s the way with a huge portion of the population now. We can’t spend time with family like we did in days gone by.

But we can still remember Jesus on Christmas. We can still embrace the importance of community and reach out to those around us. To build a family of friends, not to replace our flesh and blood kin, but to share the love of Christ and the importance of this special day. Does that mean we have to prepare big meals with ham and turkey and lots of side dishes and desserts and spend half the day in the kitchen for a 20 minute meal? No.

At Granny’s we had biscuits, eggs, bacon, sausage, and that’s about it. All of us pitched in to help cook so the meal was pretty simple, quick and easy and it wasn’t the food we went for anyway. We went for the fellowship. It can be the same with any gathering. We don’t need to impress anyone with preparations to enjoy their company. If you have to do that, then those are the wrong people to invite. Invite the ones that don’t care if pillows are out of place or dishes don’t match. The ones that will get their own beverages after you show them where they are the first time.

Spend Christmas in community with people you love. Just sharing Jesus’ love with those around you will make a big difference in your life and theirs. Remember those two commands Jesus gave us that wraps all the others together? Love God and love people. When we do that, something incredible happens. We share the grace and mercy we’ve been given to others in the same way God has give His grace and mercy to us. We learn to give cheerfully from a heart full of love. Those around us see Jesus in our actions when we truly love with His love.

I don’t know what kind of traditions you have in your family. Ours have changed through the years because of experiences we had through our military travels that took us far from family and even sometimes separated us. We made accommodations to what use to be long held traditions because of things that change around us with health and age and place and time. But through it all, there is still one constant.

Jesus is the center of our celebration. We recognize there would be no Christmas without Christ. He is the reason we have the holiday. He is the reason we gather together. He is why we laugh and cry and live and breathe. Jesus is why.

If we lose the real reason for Christmas we lose it all. Whatever you do this day or this season, don’t forget why we celebrate in the first place. Don’t lose the centerpiece of all that happens in this season named for the one to whom it truly belongs. Keep Christ, not just at Christmas, but all year long.

Next week we will return to our study of The Story, God’s plan to restore a face to face relationship with us. We finished chapter 14 before our short break. Next week we will begin reading chapter 15.

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.

Dec 18, 2017

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

We are in a short respite from our study of The Story. We will pick up our readings from that study again after Christmas. But until then, we will enjoy the Advent season and focus on the first coming of Jesus and His expected return. Incidentally, our three week pause will put our Easter readings in line with the Easter season as we march through God’s story, His plan to bring us back into an intimate, face to face relationship with Him.

We all like presents, I think. Some of us like giving presents as much or more than getting them. I’ll admit, when I was young, I liked the getting part a lot better, but as I’ve matured, I really do like the giving a lot more than the getting. I think there is something that changes in us as we go through a few seasons of life. Let’s view a few of those and how they might impact your attitude toward giving this year.

As a child, I thought like a child. Children are selfish. We’re born that way. Just take a look at any infant and you’ll see it’s true. When they don’t get what they want they cry. Feed me. Change me. Hold me. Leave me alone. Let me go to bed. Get me out of bed. Mom’s figure out how to interpret cries pretty well, but babies tell you pretty quickly what they want and they don’t stop telling you until their selfish desires are satisfied. They really could care less about the rest of the world or even the rest of the family. They only care about themselves and their wants.

I became a teenager and learned to give out of luv. That attraction we get when we think we might be compatible to someone. I enjoyed giving something to that special girl I thought I’d be with forever, or at least until next week. You probably remember those teenage crushes and the selfishness that went along with those presents to win the hearts of those to whom they were presented.

Then I matured a little and fell into a state of real love with the lady I’ve been married to for forty-one years. The presents I gave her weren’t meant to get something in return or to win her love, but something to express how I felt expecting nothing in return but hoping she felt as deeply about me as I did about her. Still, I have to say I really enjoyed receiving those presents from her that showed she cared about me, too.

When kids came along, receiving stuff didn’t matter anymore. I wanted to see the joy in their eyes when they received something they wanted, something they liked that they didn’t expect. My giving became so much more important than getting. Grandkids make giving even more fun in the family. Watching my kids’ eyes light up when their kids’ eyes light up is something to behold. Those of you who are grandparents know what I mean.

But this thing about giving being more important and more satisfying than getting started coming about for reasons other than aging and maturing. It is more than just having a wife and kids and grandkids. This thing about enjoying watching the joy in others and watching the glow in other’s faces when they receive something unexpected or something they want or need comes from something deep inside that grows every day as I grow closer to Jesus.

When we pattern our life after His, we learn to enjoy giving. He was the ultimate giver, after all. He gave up heaven to come to earth and walk around this tiny little dirty planet to be with us. He gave up His family to walk the dusty roads of Israel to share the message that God had something better for them. He gave up His life on the cross for the forgiveness of my sins and yours. Jesus gave up everything so that we could have it all. We have eternal life because He gave His on the cross.

When we become like Him, we learn that giving brings joy. We learn that giving from the heart is better than giving from the pocket book. It means that giving time is often much better than giving money. It means that giving of yourself is the ultimate goal of every follower of Jesus. Servanthood, giving and giving and giving for the joy of giving is the life Jesus taught His disciples and the life we find when we let His lead us.

To the world it makes little sense. You can still find lots of adults that have the attitude that the one with the most toys at the end wins. You can find those who believe money and accumulation and getting everything they can get is what it’s all about. You can find those who buy into the world’s lie that material things are the most important things and they go after them with gusto.

To the world, servanthood means weakness. To Jesus it means obedience to His will and incredible strength because it’s His strength, not ours. To the world servanthood means poverty. To Jesus it means indescribable wealth and riches because He created, controls, and rules the universe. To the world servanthood means subordination. To Jesus it means living the way we were created to live in harmony and community.

We see lots of presents under our tree at Christmas time. When the kids and grandkids come to the house we have a great time watching the paper fly and the listening to the squeals of joy and the laughter and excitement that comes from the mouths of those little ones. They grow up too fast and soon the sparkle that comes from getting all those presents will subside. I hope, like their grandparents and their parents, they learn to enjoy giving more than getting and serving more than being served as they mature physically, mentally, and spiritually.

This is a good time to take inventory of your own attitude toward presents. Which do you like best and why? Getting or giving? Take some time and really think about it. I’d like to hear your thoughts if you’d like to share. Remember Paul reminds us in 2 Corinthians 9:7: You should each give what you have decided in your heart to give. You shouldn’t give if you don’t want to. You shouldn’t give becaused you are forced to. God loves a cheerful giver.

It’s not just money God cares about, but time, talent, you. God loves a cheerful giver of themself.

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.

 

Dec 11, 2017

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

We have been following “The Story” for the last 14 weeks, but for the next three, we will take a short recess and enjoy Advent, remembering Jesus’ first coming into the world in the flesh and also looking forward to His return one day soon. This three week break also puts our reading in the story such that our reading in The Story will coincide with the events of Easter as those dates roll around. So I hope you enjoy this short interlude as we enjoy the Christmas season together.

The term advent came into being in the 12th century. This Middle English word means the arrival or coming of something. The church soon adopted it as the description of the period beginning four Sundays before Christmas, this year from December 3rd through December 24th. We use those four weeks to celebrate not just His coming, but to anticipate His return. That’s what Advent is all about. Something that arrives or comes.

As I prepare this podcast, I just celebrated my 41st anniversary. We spent the night as a “stay-cation” on the Riverwalk here in San Antonio. We enjoyed the lights, watched the people, ate great food, and reminisced about the last 41 years together. The time helped us remember our times together on other anniversaries. Gatlinburg, where we spent our honeymoon and several anniversaries, Germany, New York, and a host of other places. It made me remember a lot of anniversaries we spent apart because of deployments, field training, and travel at the Army’s demand.

We also thought about the future, though. The past helps lets us enjoy those fun times we’ve had together. We can live those good times over and over in our minds. But living in the past doesn’t help us much except to translate failures into lessons so that we don’t repeat mistakes and turn those lessons into more than knowledge. We can turn experience into wisdom as we mature and make the future better for ourselves and others as we share wisdom. So we talked about the future.

The younger crowd probably thinks in different ways about the future than those of us who are retiring and we who are retiring probably think differently than those who have been retired for awhile. Now Carole and I think about how we can live close to all of the grandkids. Of course, that would mean convincing our kids to live closer to each other in a mobile society. We think about health and downsizing and how much activity we can really do in a day before we launch out on one of those high adventure vacations. We talk about budgets and what will happen to pensions and Social Security and health insurance in the future now that we dip into it so much more than we did in the past.

But something we talk about so much more than we did a few years ago is just how close Jesus’ return feels to us. Earthquakes in Delaware? When did that become commonplace? Record numbers of hurricanes? Uncontrolled wildfires and flooding all around the world? You can blame it on global warming if you like, but you can also read about these things in Matthew 25 as Jesus warns of the catastrophic natural events that will occur before His return.

So as we read the papers and listen to the news and reporters seem so bumfuzzled about why things seem so crazy around the world, we just wonder how soon Jesus will return. We read the prophets and see the visions they saw happening all around us. I know, others have said the same thing for centuries, but as I read God’s word and recognize the earth is going through something like birth pangs to usher in a new heaven and new earth, It seems to me the labor pains are getting pretty intense. I’m not sure the labor can get much more intense before this new heaven and new earth come into existence.

So this Advent season we look at the future and recognize the earthquakes won’t diminish but will increase in the coming months or years. The floods will not stop, but rather the hurricanes will become more violent and more people along the coastal plains, major rivers, and 100, 500, and 1000 year flood plains will be at risk. Wildfires will continue to ravage areas plagued with continued drought. Violence from terrorism, racism, political divides, will only increase.

All of that sounds pretty bleak as we peek into the future and ask what it will be like. But it also means Jesus is coming soon. It means the end is near and we will join our Savior. We will be with Him forever when He comes to take His bride home. His desire has always been to live face to face with us in a personal, intimate relationship. The Story, His word, bares that out. As we look to the past and see His actions, His mercy and grace toward us, we recognize the love He has toward us and catch a glimpse of the plan He has for us in the future.

However, we must choose to get on the path to which He directs us. We cannot expect to live with Him eternally by choosing our own way, our own path. We must follow Him to His garden of Eden. We must follow His precepts and principles. We must obey. What are His commands? They are easy to remember, love God and love people. That’s it. Do those two things and all the others fall into place.

Here we are. The second week of Advent. Looking back and celebrating the arrival of Jesus, the One who changed everything. In fact, He changed the world so much that almost every nation recognizes Christmas as a special day of celebration, whether or not they are a Christian nation. It is an international, global holiday. The calendar turned because of His birth. He was and is the God/Man who came to save us.

Advent is also a time to look forward to His arrival. He said He would come again. All the signs are coming together to indicate He might come pretty soon. All you need do is read the paper and listen to the news, compare it to what He said would happen just before He comes and you’ll see the time is right for His return. This Advent season, take time to celebrate. Remember Jesus came to bring life and light to a dead and dark world. He did that in a spectacular way. But we can also remember He will come again to finish the work He said He would do. He will come again to take us to the place He is preparing for us. A place where we can be with Him face to face forever.

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.

Dec 4, 2017

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 14; You Version Bible app Engaging God's Story Reading Plan Days 92 through 98

This week we read the story of Rehoboam. When we think about this young king, we think about what a tragic story and how God must have messed this one up. Rehoboam, Solomon’s son, took the throne after his father. Jeroboam, one of Solomon’s advisors and military leaders came to the new king and recommended the heavy tax burden and labor force Solomon had levied on the kingdom be lightened. The people were about to revolt because of all Solomon had demanded of them during his reign.

You see, Solomon lost sight of what he had promised God. Instead of God being the most important thing in Solomon’s life and service to his kingdom being his most important task, Solomon decided the kingdom belonged to him and was from his pleasure. He needed a lot of stuff to support those 1,000 wives and all those guests that kept coming to visit. Take a look at the list of what it took just to feed that crowd every day and you’ll begin to understand just why Jeroboam asked the new king to ease up.

Well, Rehoboam does a smart thing as a new king. He goes to his father’s council and asks their opinion of Jeroboam’s plan. The council agrees. They tell Rehoboam if he will do as Jeroboam asks, the people will honor him and follow him as king. The twelve tribes will remain loyal without question. But Rehoboam decides he will ask his friends that grew up with him in the palace. Remember those 1,000 wives? They had a lot of children. I can imagine Rehoboam and all his palace friends had just about anything they wanted with a father who knew no limits to his wealth. Solomon had anything he wanted. Silver was like stones on the ground it was so common in Jerusalem. Solomon owned tons of gold. Rehoboam was the spoiled king’s son and all his friends didn’t want that free ride to end.

Their advice...tell everyone if they thought his father was harsh and had heavy taxes, just wait until you see what he has in store for them. Rehoboam liked the rich kid syndrome and took the young friends’ advice. Jeroboam took his followers and revolted. Ten tribes left the kingdom. Only Judah and Benjamin remained under the reign of Solomon’s son. Rehoboam was partly paying for Solomon’s failures. Remember he failed to follow God’s laws by marrying all those foreign wives and allowing idol worship into the kingdom. He took his eyes off of what was important and began thinking riches were more important than God. So God took most of the kingdom away from Solomon’s son. Consequences of our sins never affect just us.

But just when you think God’s upper story has crashed, take a look again. Rehoboam gets the smallest portion of the kingdom because of Solomon’s failure. Rehoboam sees the rebellion and civil war rip apart a great nation because he took the wrong advice. Israel is divided. How can God’s upper story possibly survive such disastrous character flaws like we see in Solomon and Rehoboam? Well, we can only see the immediate. We can’t see around the bend. We’re limited in our view of reality because we aren’t God and don’t understand His view from His upper story.

But Rehoboam is one of those unlikely characters through whom God acts. The nation is split, but Judah stays loyal to the Rehoboam, a descendant of David. And guess who come from the line of David. Jesus. Judah’s tribe. Rehoboam’s bloodline. This rebellious young king who wouldn’t take good advice is one of those in the line of Mary and Joseph. Unlikely characters become part of God’s great plan.

So what does that tell you and me? First, it tells me we can’t stop God’s plan. He will make His ultimate will happen no matter what we might try to do to stop it. Second, we can choose to follow Him or not, but there are consequences that come with our choice. When we follow Him, we avoid the natural consequences that follow evil behavior. The law that we reap what we sow happens. Third, the consequences of our choices are not limited to just us. What I do affects my family and all those whose lives I touch. And again, I can’t influence the consequence, only the choices that I make. The consequences are natural results of the choices.

We will all make some choice we would like to redo. We have all probably take advice from someone that wasn’t as wise as we thought they were. We have probably all listened to the wrong group of friends at one time or another and now live with some of those consequences we wish we could redo.

God knows all about those. But He also made a way to forgive us and help us be a part of His plan. He made a way for we imperfect, mistake ridden, broken people to participate in His upper story so that we can join Him in His perfect garden one day. He wants us to have that face-to-face relationship we once enjoyed with Him in the Garden of Eden. He has put a plan in place to do that. It’s His upper story and in His time and in His way, He will bring all who follow Him together again into His paradise.

So here we are. We have choices to make every day and we often need to get advice from those around us. Can I suggest we look for the wise among us to find the best advice, not necessarily the popular or the smart or those filled with what the world thinks is knowledge. Rehoboam paid a high price for taking foolish advice that benefitted him instead of the kingdom. Take a hard look at the advice you get and who benefits from the advice you get. Remember we are to be servants not the served. That’s what Jesus taught us by example. Living with His philosophy of life makes those choices a lot less difficult to discern. Give it a try.

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.

 

Nov 27, 2017

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 13; You Version Bible app Engaging God's Story Reading Plan Days 85 through 91

Some of you might be old enough to remember getting the Sears and Roebuck catalog about this time of year growing up. We would eagerly await its arrival and mom and dad would try to point us to the clothing sections to get us to point out what we wanted for Christmas, our fingers would always turn to those dozens of pages in the back with all the toys. Board games, cowboy outfits and toy guns, bicycles and skateboards (the simple ones with metal roller skate wheels on the bottom of a flat board, back then. Pogo sticks. Basketballs and footballs. Or maybe it was the dolls and dollhouses, baby carriages and things the girls like to browse through. I’m not sure what those pages held because I always skipped over them to get to the adventure stuff.

We would circle what we wanted and earmark the pages hoping someone would get the hint of what we really wanted. Most of the time, it wasn’t practical and was too expensive, but it was fun to dream. We would spend hours looking through those catalogs every year. Kids today miss out a lot by not having catalogs. Yeah, they can find anything they want on the Internet, but it’s just not the same. You lose that tactile experience of flipping through the pages, circling that long awaited treasure, and leaving the breadcrumb trail for mom and dad to discover your deepest desire in the pages of the giant Sears book.

David’s son, Solomon didn’t have a Sears and Roebuck catalog, but not long after his coronation, God came to him in a dream and asked him what he wanted most of all. Just name it and it’s yours. If you were a young man in the prime of life and just given the keys to the kingdom, literally, what would you ask for? I bet most of us would at least ask for the bills to be paid off. Maybe a new car or a better job. Money would top most people’s most wanted list.

But Solomon didn’t ask for a big house or more friends or a better job or a lot of money. He didn’t ask for the things most of us would ask for if given a blank check to have anything we wanted. Solomon said these words: “Lord my God, you have now made me king. You have put me in the place of my father David. But I’m only a little child. I don’t know how to carry out my duties. I’m here among the people you have chosen. They are a great nation. They are more than anyone can count. So give me a heart that understands. Then I can rule over your people. I can tell the difference between what is right and what is wrong. Who can possibly rule over this great nation of yours?”

The Bible says, “God was pleased that Solomon had asked for that. So God said to him, ‘You have not asked to live for a long time. You have not asked to be wealthy. You have not even asked to have your enemies killed. Instead, you have asked for understanding. You want to do what is right and fair when you judge people. Because that is what you have asked for, I will give it to you. I will give you a wise and understanding heart. So here is what will be true of you. There has never been anyone like you. And there never will be.

“And that is not all. I will give you what you have not asked for. I will give you riches and honor. As long as you live, no other king will be as great as you are. Live the way I want you to. Obey my laws and commands, just as your father David did. Then I will let you live for a long time.”

Did God grant Solomon’s request? You bet. We have a sampling of his one line tools for successful living in the proverbs attributed to him. If we would live by those one-liners he gave us, we wouldn’t have near the trouble we cause ourselves in life. Our problem is we just don’t pay attention to all those good rules Solomon gives us. Simple things like: “Riches that are gained by sinning aren’t worth anything. But doing what is right saves you from death.” or “Hands that don’t want to work make you poor. But hands that work hard bring wealth to you.” or “A wise heart accepts commands. But foolish cattering destroys you.” Or one we really need to hear today, “Hate stirs up fights. But love erases all sins by forgiving them.”

No one was wiser than Solomon. Kings, queens, and leaders from all over the world came to sit at his feet and listen to him and were astounded by his wisdom. They showered him with tremendous gifts from their kingdoms to honor him and the wisdom he shared with them as they came to visit. Solomon became renowned throughout history for his understanding and the magnificence of his kingdom. Why did he receive all of this? Because he humbly asked for something greater than himself. He genuinely pleaded for a gift that would benefit others more than it would him. He asked for the wisdom to rule. As one of David’s youngest sons in a family filled with jealousy, turmoil, and internal rebellion to determine who would sit on the throne, Solomon would need all the wisdom he could get to keep the kingdom intact.

Solomon knew what was important. Unfortunately, he didn’t keep the commandments as he promised he would. He soon started marrying the daughters of some of those visiting kings to form treaties with neighboring kingdoms. God’s laws said don’t marry outsiders so they wouldn’t tempt the Israelites to worship their foreign gods. Solomon didn’t pay attention and it wasn’t long before those 1,000 wives brought their idols into the palace and the kingdom started following their example. If only…

Like many of those unlikely characters in the Bible, God still used Solomon. He also teaches us a thing or two by letting us see the good, the bad, and the ugly based on the decisions we make. Solomon didn’t live by his own proverbs later in life and watched his kingdom begin to crumble from the inside because the people in the kingdom failed to follow God the same way he failed to follow God. He let power and fame and riches and wealth become more important to him than living by the precepts his father David taught him.

Jesus reminds us of some of those same philosophies 1000 years later when he told those around him on the hillside during the Sermon on the Mount. “Put away riches for yourself in heaven. There, moths and rust do not destroy them. There, thieves do not break in a d steal them. Your heart will be where your riches are.” If we could grab hold of what Solomon and Jesus told us, really believe it, and live it from day to day, we would not buy into the lies the world tells us and live so much better off than we do in trying to grab that golden ring the world says we need.

Solomon was really smart man. Jesus was smarter. We can trust the pearls of wisdom they left behind for us. Just believe them and live them and you’ll be amazed at how much better you days go. You’ll be shocked at how the stress falls away and days seem to be filled with more joy and happiness. You see it’s not things that bring happiness. It’s the relationship with God and with people that make the difference in whether life is enjoyable or not. Give the ancient king’s words of wisdom a try. You’ll like them.

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.

Nov 20, 2017

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 12; You Version Bible app Engaging God's Story Reading Plan Days 78 through 84

What one night would you like to erase from your memory forever? What one event would you like to just take away from your past because of the consequences that have come from that one indiscretion? You know what it is. It probably doesn’t take you a lot of time to think back through your history. You probably don’t have to thumb through pages and pages of journals to think of the event you’d like to relive and do things differently.

King David had one of those days. His army went to war in the spring of the year, but he didn’t go with them. One night he went out on his roof and glanced over his city and there on another rooftop he saw Bathsheba bathing. If David had just walked back inside and gone about his business we probably wouldn’t hear about the demise of the twelve tribes or the terrible things that happened within his own family. But he didn’t.

David sent a servant to bring Bathsheba to his palace and he slept with her while her husband, Uriah, one of David’s mighty men, a brave and loyal soldier in his army, performed his duties on the field of battle. David sent her home. Soon she sent word to David that she was pregnant and the king tries to cover up his wrongs.

First, he brings Uriah home to blame the pregnancy on Uriah, but he doesn’t go home. Refusing to enjoy the comforts of home while his men are suffering the discomforts of the battlefield. Next, David tries to get Uriah drunk to then let his baser desires take hold and get him to sleep with his wife. But that doesn’t work either. Uriah is just too loyal to his men and the king’s army. Finally, for all intents and purposes, David murders Uriah by sending a secret message to his commander instructing him to place Uriah at the front where the fighting was the fiercest and then withdraw leaving Uriah to die. David even sent them message by Uriah to seal his own fate.

David thought he covered his tracks. To the army and the kingdom, it looked like he did a noble thing and took in his warrior’s widow into his palace to marry her and take care of her after Uriah’s untimely death. He thought his sin was hidden from all but he and Bathsheba. But God knew and God let Nathan, His prophet know. The prophet came to David and uncovered the sin. He pronounced the punishment that God decided. Bathsheba’s child would die.

David prayed, he pleaded, he begged. The consequences of his sin began. David repented, but Bathsheba’s child still died. His son raped his daughter. Another son rebelled against him and tried to take his kingdom from him. David watched his family fall apart as a consequence of the sin that started because he didn’t walk away that spring night in Jerusalem.

God forgave David and called him a man after His heart. Why? Because David did repent and tried to live according to the laws God laid out for His people. Did he make mistakes? Absolutely. But God still named David a man after His heart and all the kings of Israel were compared to David, the nation’s best king. David made mistakes. God forgave him. But David still suffered consequences as a result of his sin.

David didn’t blame God for his suffering, though. He understood justice and knew the things he suffered were a result of his actions, not God’s. The family problems he faced were because his children behaved as he had behaved with Bathsheba and Uriah, so how he could expect other results. David knew something we forget too often. The message that we reap what we sow doesn’t matter if God has forgiven us or not. We may still reap the harvest of the actions we have taken. Like David, we may be forgiven, but it doesn’t mean we won’t suffer the consequences of those actions in this life.

What does it all mean for us as we look at those characters like David? God isn’t looking for perfect people. He knows none of us are perfect. He made us. He knows us. He knows your faults and failures better than you do. What He’s looking for are men and women who, like David, will listen when confronted with their sin. He’s looking for men and women who, when confronted with their sin will repent instead of blaming someone else. He’s looking for men and women who, like David, will meditate on His word, do their best everyday to abide by His law, and listen to His voice.

He tells us He really only has two rules for us to keep. Love Him with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength. And love other people like we love ourself. If we will just do those two things we will stay out of trouble and will keep all His other commands. If David had kept those two rules that night in Jerusalem when he was out on his roof, he would have walked back inside when he noticed Bathsheba bathing on her rooftop. You see, he would not have wanted to sin against God or against Bathsheba or her husband Uriah. He would have wanted to maintain their reputations and his own.

David had that bad night and God forgave him. You’ve probably had a bad night or two yourself. I doubt if your bad night was any worse than what David did, though. He drug his whole family and nation through the mud resulting in rape, murder, incest, a divided kingdom, defeat by their enemies, finally the whole nation falling into exile. God forgave him, but the consequences unfolded before him.

Don’t let that happen to you. Obey God. Recognize He has your best in mind. He doesn’t want you to suffer the results of the harvest of sinful ways. Reap a harvest of good deeds and righteous living. It’s not impossible. In fact, God will help you along the way. Just put your trust in Him, listen to His voice, and obey when you hear Him call.

Nov 13, 2017

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 11; You Version Bible app Engaging God's Story Reading Plan Days 71 through 77

Whether you are a church goer or not, you probably know the story of David and Goliath. David the giant killer. This 16 year-old shepherd goes to find his brothers in the army, take them some home cooked food, and see how their fight with the Philistines is going. He comes into the camp and hears the taunts of the Philistine champion, Goliath, daring anyone in the Israelite army to come out and fight him. All the Israelite soldiers hide behind the rocks and trees and bushes or in their tents afraid to face this giant of a man who stands almost ten feet tall.

David also hears about the reward for taking on this barbarian and killing him. Whoever kills the giant gets to marry the king’s daughter and he and his family lives tax free the rest of their lives. So David goes to king Saul and volunteers. Saul loans David his armor, but since Saul is a head taller than everyone else in the kingdom, of course the armor just swallows David. So David sets the armor aside and faces the giant with the weapon with which he is most familiar, his sling.

I think sometimes people get the wrong impression of David and his sling. We sometimes think of David as this scrawny 16 year-old kid with pimples and stringy hair, like the Shaggy Rogers character of Scooby-Doo fame. But don’t kid yourself. Jesse’s boys seem like the start of a mafia crowd to me. As a teenager, David killed a bear and a lion barehanded.

David’s brothers were all part of his band of 30 mighty men. Those were the elite of his army who characterized themselves by extraordinary deeds like killing a hundred men or more in one battle by themself. And David was their leader. To be the leader of these kind of men in those days, you won fights against them yourself. So, I have a feeling David was no slouch when it came to his physical frame or his fighting abilities.

David also came from Bethlehem. Warriors from Bethlehem were known for their ability to use slings. They learned as kids. These weren’t toy slingshots that we get in the store here. They weren’t the Y-shaped stick with a rubber strap you pull back and release. These were real slings. A leather pouch connected to two flax cords that would be swung over the head and then one of the cords released at just the right moment to release the stone held in that pouch. The stone would reach speeds of well over 100 miles per hour.

Imagine being hit by a rock moving one and a half times faster than the best pitchers throw their best fastballs. A good fastball can break a bone. If hit in the head, expect at least a concussion if not a fractured face. Now reduce the size of that projectile, increase the speed by 50% and put God behind the placement of that projectile. Pow! Right in the forehead. Down for the count! Whether immediately dead or just unconscious and giving time for David to run over and cut off Goliath’s head with his own sword. The sling was the perfect weapon. David could project that stone farther than the length of a football field.

But God was behind it all. The visit of David to his brothers. The confrontation between His people and the Philistines. The armor that was too big. The skill with the sling. The trajectory and impact. The fear Goliath’s defeat created for his countrymen. The defeat of the Philistine army. God intervened in the life of this unlikely character to unfold His plan and show us His greatness.

Who would have picked this 16 year-old as Israel’s champion that day? No one but God. Who would have expected this shepherd who have never lifted a sword to kill a nearly ten foot giant and rout an entire army? No one but God. Who would have thought anyone would go out on the battlefield against this champion without armor and face him with only a shepherd’s sling in his hand? No one but God.

God empowered David and David knew it. God cuts giants down to size and David knew it. God takes the impossible and makes it possible and David knew it. God can intervene in what might seem to be the most difficult of circumstances and turn those circumstances into good for us and David knew it. So David could walk out onto that field. Pass by the stream and pick up five smooth stones. One for Goliath and four more for Goliath’s four brothers just in case they decided they wanted to play, too. David could declare with confidence God was on His side and God would do the impossible to prove He was God.

Was David special? Not really. What was special about him was that He turned to God in the good and the bad times of life. When he made mistakes, and he did, he went to God and repented. He tried his best to live the way God wanted him to live. He read and meditated on God’s word. He read the scriptures that were available to him. He listened to the prophets that came to him and advised him. He prayed. He talked to God and listened to God. And he did what God asked him to do.

Does that make him special? I suppose it makes him different than most of the people around us. Because most of the people around us do what they want instead of what God wants. That’s the difference. What course will you follow? Yours or God’s? What giants do you face? Will you step out and let God defeat them with you or will you cower in the tents and let them continue to hold you back and make life miserable for you?

God is still in the business of showing who He is to those who will listen to Him and obey His word. All you have to do is step out on the battlefield. He pretty much does the rest. And He always wins. Always. Romans 8:28 is true when we meet those two conditions it holds. All things do work for good when we love Him and when we align our lives with His plan. Look up and let Him work in your life the plans He has for you. You won’t regret it. He promises.

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.

Nov 6, 2017

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 10; You Version Bible app Engaging God’s Story Reading Plan Days 64 through 70

Samuel is recognized as the last of Israel’s great judges and the first of it’s great prophets. Eli, failed in his responsibilities to carry on the priestly duties required by God. He, like Aaron before him, didn’t keep a reign on the training and discipline of his sons, Hophni and Phinehas. They didn’t act like the representatives of His holiness He expected of His priests and were killed in battle. When Eli heard the news, he fell backward off his chair and broke his neck. Samuel became the priest and prophet for the nation in his stead.

There was a problem in Israel, though, that plagues many of us today, though. Israel, like Hophni and Phinehas, like all of those teens that wore the straight black hair and black clothes and black fingernail polish and black lipstick during the “Goth” fad. In trying to be “unique” we end up trying to be like all those “unique” people, so we end up being like everyone else.

Israel did that too.

They left a kingdom that suppressed and enslaved them and God defeated 31 other kings over a period of seven years to take over the land He promised to them. Those kingdoms were stronger with bigger armies, but God intervened and fought their battles and the land flowing with milk and honey became their possession just as He promised Abraham 600 years before.

For all that time, they listened to the priests God put in place to share His message and remind them of who He was and what He wanted from them, sort of. You see, time and time again, they would look around at the kingdoms around them and want what they had. They would see the shiny idols and would begin to worship them instead of the invisible invincible God who brought them there in the first place. They forgot the One who saved them from their trouble and wanted to be like the kingdoms around them.

In their desire to be unique as a nation, the Israelites would like around and say to their priests, “We want to be different...like Moab! We want to be different...like Midian! We want to be different...like Edom!”

Just like our kids, and us when we were teenagers when you think back honestly about it, we want to be unique just like those around us. Let me be like the popular guys or girls around me, I’ll dress like them and talk like them and act like them so I fit in, so I’ll be liked, so I can be popular, so I will be accepted. You probably remember the pressure of being a teenager and young adult and getting through those awkward stages. The problem is, we really never grow out of those awkward stages. We keep doing it all through life, it just isn’t quite as obvious as we figure out that “Goth” won’t get us a job. So we dress and act like the people who get the best jobs. We act like our neighbor and try to keep up with the “Jones” so to speak. We ape those around us because we don’t really want to be different after all.

Israel asked for a king. They got one. Saul. He was handsome, the Bible tells us. He stood a head taller than everyone else. The was the photogenic type that the politicos would look for today if they were trying to pick their poster child for the campaign. And Saul started out pretty well. He didn’t want the job and hid in the luggage when they tried to crown him. But like many at the top, power corrupted him.

Samuel warned the Israelites what kings would do to them. He told them kings would levy taxes against them. Draft their sons into his army. Take their lands. Make demands on them that would put them into slavery every bit as cruel and harsh as what they experienced in Egypt. Saul didn’t. In fact, interestingly, Saul was the only king that didn’t raise a standing army. He fought against Israel’s enemies, but the army was volunteers who then went home after defeating their foes.

Saul never raised taxes. He didn’t take any of their lands or build a palace or declare a capital city or establish a throne. He led the country, but he kind of led the nation from his house and just showed up for battles when necessary. Except of course, when he was after David. David was the first to really levy taxes and keep a standing army and build a palace and capital city in Jerusalem. David started building projects and put in place a government that would later lay some fairly heavy burdens on the people and would ultimately cause the split of the kingdom into two nations because of his grandson’s poor decisions.

But the problem for Israel all started with one little problem that we all have and it runs counter to what God wants of us. God wanted Eli and Hophni and Phinehas to be representatives of His holiness. They weren’t and they died. God wanted Israel to be different from the nations around them and demonstrate His holiness by living according to His laws. They didn’t and they ultimately fell into captivity because of their apostasy.

And God’s wants you and me to be different from the world around us. We live in evil times. Many will tell you that it’s okay to do things or live certain ways. But it’s not. God hasn’t changed. There is still right and wrong. Good and bad. Holy and evil. God wants us to do what He says. It’s that simple. It’s not always easy in a world that has turned everything upside down and hijacked words and symbols and definitions and tried to confuse us with all of it.

Gay meant happy and light hearted at one time. Marriage meant a solemn and holy union between only a man and a women at one time. The rainbow was a symbol of God’s promise to never destroy all the world by a flood again at one time. Evil has turned bad into good and good into bad and blinded people just as God’s word said it would so that many follow down that broad road to destruction and few find that narrow path that leads to life everlasting.

We try far too hard to different like everyone around us and so look just like the world. We try far too hard to fit in and be noticed and accepted instead of remembering that Jesus said if we really want to follow Him, the world will hate us just like they hated Him because of His message of righteous living. You see, God won’t let us live any way we want if we follow Him. He wants to have an intimate face-to-face relationship with us, but He is a holy God and will not walk in the presence of evil. It’s a problem He has set a plan in place to deal with, but we must accept that plan. And that plan includes stepping out of the mold the world puts us in and living according to His precepts.

So, the sixty-four dollar question for today: Are you different like Hophni and Phinehas and Eli and Saul, patterning yourself after those who are successful in the world? Or are you different like Samuel listening to the voice of God and following in the path He lays out, even though it may not be popular or appealing from the world’s perspective? The answer makes a huge difference as to what happens when you wake up on the other side of this life and open your eyes in eternity.

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.

Oct 30, 2017

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 9; You Version Bible app Days 57 through 63 in the Engaging God’s Story Reading Plan

In this week’s reading, we find the story of Ruth. Again we see the stark difference between God’s upper story and the lower story we can see from day to day. The book of Ruth starts with the narration of her mother-in-law’s marriage to Elimelech and their move to Moab because of a drought in Israel. Over the next ten years, Naomi’s two sons marry Moabite women, her husband and both of her sons die, and Naomi deep in despair decides to return to her hometown of Bethlehem.

Naomi urges her daughters-in-law to remain in Moab so they might remarry or at least have some support from their families while she returns to her own family roots and find some support as a widow. Orpah finally agrees and tearfully returns, but as you remember from the story, Ruth stay with Naomi and returns to Bethlehem. Ruth finds favor with Boaz, a relative of Naomi’s dead husband. Boaz acts as Elimelech’s kinsman redeemer under the Levitical laws and purchases Elimelech’s land to keep the property in the family.

In doing so, Boaz also obligates himself to caring for Naomi and taking Ruth as his bride to carry on the lineage of her dead husband. All of that might seem strange to us in our society, but it was all part of God’s plan to keep the land He promised to each of the tribes within the tribes. Each family retained possession of the land God gave them and this kinsman redeemer law ensured that if a property owner died without an heir, the property still remained in the tribal family.

Boaz and Ruth have a son named Obed. Obed has a son named Jesse. Jesse has a son named David. Fourteen generations later, Mary and Joseph raise a son named Jesus. Both of them are descended from King David. What a great love story we see in the book of Ruth. It would make a great movie as you see the drama unfold.

Sometimes, though, we don’t really understand just how much drama really happens in this book because we read the words without knowing the background behind the world scene and tying together God’s upper story with the lower story Naomi, Ruth, Boaz, and all the other players lived through. So let’s look at some of the background that makes this story so much more evident of God’s upper story at work.

First, note that Elimelech and Naomi moved into the country of Moab during the famine. Not a good idea if you’re an Israelite. The Moabites were enemies. Even though they may have food during this period of famine, being an Israelite in enemy territory put you and your family at great risk. It meant Naomi and Elimelech probably either did a lot of hiding or played the role of Moabite wherever they lived to keep themselves alive. They would not be welcome as foreigners taking food during a time of scarce resources.

Second, Elimelech and Naomi allowed their sons to violate one of the Levitical laws God had given Moses when they let their sons, Mahlon and Kilion marry Moabite women. God’s law said the Israelites were not to marry foreigners. They were to marry within the Israelite community so their spouses would not bring foreign gods into their community. Mahlon and Kilion violate that law when they married Orpah and Ruth.

Third, when Ruth came back to Bethlehem with Naomi, the reverse was true. Here was a foreign widow, an enemy widow, coming into Israel with no means of support. Randy Frazee characterized her gleaning in Boaz’s field this way. “It would be like a woman in a burka picking corn in a field in Iowa.” Ruth would certainly stand out. She was an outsider and few would trust her, few would want to help her. Everyone would notice her, but not in a good way.

Ruth lay at Boaz feet to let him know she was available after he showed her kindness. It was anything lewd or seductive. It was a common way to signal she was available. Boaz set things in motion to marry her, but had to give a closer relative the opportunity to buy the inheritance of her dead husband first. When her closer relative decided purchasing the land would put his finances at greater risk and refused to redeem the land, Boaz made the deal, purchased the land and made Ruth his wife.

So why would Boaz be so kind to this outsider? Why would he pay attention to this person that most people would shun? What made Boaz different from the other men in Bethlehem? Why would God use Boaz in the way He did and how did He mold Boaz in a way others had not been molded? Just take a look at the genealogy discussed a little earlier. I mentioned the trailing end of Ruth and Boaz’ lineage. Obed. Jesse. David.

But take a look at Boaz’ mother. Rahab. Remember her? She was the prostitute in Jericho who hid the Israelite spies that Joshua sent into the land before attacking the city. Can you imagine how Boaz was treated in that little village where everyone knew everyone else? Yes, she hid the spies and helped Israel defeat the city of Jericho, but that also made her a traitor to her own people. No one likes a traitor. It doesn’t matter whose side you’re on. No one likes a traitor.

And Rahab was a prostitute. It was probably the only way she could support herself in that large ancient city. But prostitution still carried its stigma then just as it does now. And Boaz not only befriended this prostitute, but married her. And Rahab was a Moabite, an enemy. A long time enemy. She betrayed her own people, would she betray the people of Bethlehem as she did the people of Jericho?

The lower story of Ruth and Boaz, and their parents looks like an unlikely group of players in God’s plan to bring people back into a face-to-face relationship with Him. How could God use traitors, prostitutes, enemies of His chosen people, outsiders, people obviously disloyal and disobedient to His laws to further His plan to bring us back to Him? It seems impossible to us. It would be a crazy, insane, scheme to any of us if we were trying to put together a plan for restoring that lost intimacy of the garden.

God lives and works and reigns in His upper story, though. God intervenes in humanity to ensure His plans ultimately work to the outcomes He has set out achieve. We can look up and align our lower story with His and be part of His plan. Or we can choose our own path and find ourselves on a path toward destruction. We can choose the path, but we cannot choose the consequences. The question remains for each of us. Can I trust God in His upper story to work for my good as I love Him and align my life with Him.

If you believe His word and watch the outcome of the heroes we see in His word and the lives of so many who have chosen to follow Him, you will find that God’s promises are true. Romans 8:28 is true. God can and will turn the impossible into reality and turn what seems to be bad into our good when we keep our eyes focused on Him and keep our lives aligned with His upper story. We must remember in those hard times that Isaiah was absolutely right when He penned the words God inspired him to write: “my thoughts are higher than your thoughts, and my ways are higher than your ways.” Trust in God. It will be okay.

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.

Oct 23, 2017

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 9; You Version Bible app Days 57 through 63 in the Engaging God’s Story Reading Plan

In this week’s reading, we find the story of Ruth. Again we see the stark difference between God’s upper story and the lower story we can see from day to day. The book of Ruth starts with the narration of her mother-in-law’s marriage to Elimelech and their move to Moab because of a drought in Israel. Over the next ten years, Naomi’s two sons marry Moabite women, her husband and both of her sons die, and Naomi deep in despair decides to return to her hometown of Bethlehem.

Naomi urges her daughters-in-law to remain in Moab so they might remarry or at least have some support from their families while she returns to her own family roots and find some support as a widow. Orpah finally agrees and tearfully returns, but as you remember from the story, Ruth stay with Naomi and returns to Bethlehem. Ruth finds favor with Boaz, a relative of Naomi’s dead husband. Boaz acts as Elimelech’s kinsman redeemer under the Levitical laws and purchases Elimelech’s land to keep the property in the family.

In doing so, Boaz also obligates himself to caring for Naomi and taking Ruth as his bride to carry on the lineage of her dead husband. All of that might seem strange to us in our society, but it was all part of God’s plan to keep the land He promised to each of the tribes within the tribes. Each family retained possession of the land God gave them and this kinsman redeemer law ensured that if a property owner died without an heir, the property still remained in the tribal family.

Boaz and Ruth have a son named Obed. Obed has a son named Jesse. Jesse has a son named David. Fourteen generations later, Mary and Joseph raise a son named Jesus. Both of them are descended from King David. What a great love story we see in the book of Ruth. It would make a great movie as you see the drama unfold.

Sometimes, though, we don’t really understand just how much drama really happens in this book because we read the words without knowing the background behind the world scene and tying together God’s upper story with the lower story Naomi, Ruth, Boaz, and all the other players lived through. So let’s look at some of the background that makes this story so much more evident of God’s upper story at work.

First, note that Elimelech and Naomi moved into the country of Moab during the famine. Not a good idea if you’re an Israelite. The Moabites were enemies. Even though they may have food during this period of famine, being an Israelite in enemy territory put you and your family at great risk. It meant Naomi and Elimelech probably either did a lot of hiding or played the role of Moabite wherever they lived to keep themselves alive. They would not be welcome as foreigners taking food during a time of scarce resources.

Second, Elimelech and Naomi allowed their sons to violate one of the Levitical laws God had given Moses when they let their sons, Mahlon and Kilion marry Moabite women. God’s law said the Israelites were not to marry foreigners. They were to marry within the Israelite community so their spouses would not bring foreign gods into their community. Mahlon and Kilion violate that law when they married Orpah and Ruth.

Third, when Ruth came back to Bethlehem with Naomi, the reverse was true. Here was a foreign widow, an enemy widow, coming into Israel with no means of support. Randy Frazee characterized her gleaning in Boaz’s field this way. “It would be like a woman in a burka picking corn in a field in Iowa.” Ruth would certainly stand out. She was an outsider and few would trust her, few would want to help her. Everyone would notice her, but not in a good way.

Ruth lay at Boaz feet to let him know she was available after he showed her kindness. It was anything lewd or seductive. It was a common way to signal she was available. Boaz set things in motion to marry her, but had to give a closer relative the opportunity to buy the inheritance of her dead husband first. When her closer relative decided purchasing the land would put his finances at greater risk and refused to redeem the land, Boaz made the deal, purchased the land and made Ruth his wife.

So why would Boaz be so kind to this outsider? Why would he pay attention to this person that most people would shun? What made Boaz different from the other men in Bethlehem? Why would God use Boaz in the way He did and how did He mold Boaz in a way others had not been molded? Just take a look at the genealogy discussed a little earlier. I mentioned the trailing end of Ruth and Boaz’ lineage. Obed. Jesse. David.

But take a look at Boaz’ mother. Rahab. Remember her? She was the prostitute in Jericho who hid the Israelite spies that Joshua sent into the land before attacking the city. Can you imagine how Boaz was treated in that little village where everyone knew everyone else? Yes, she hid the spies and helped Israel defeat the city of Jericho, but that also made her a traitor to her own people. No one likes a traitor. It doesn’t matter whose side you’re on. No one likes a traitor.

And Rahab was a prostitute. It was probably the only way she could support herself in that large ancient city. But prostitution still carried its stigma then just as it does now. And Boaz not only befriended this prostitute, but married her. And Rahab was a Moabite, an enemy. A long time enemy. She betrayed her own people, would she betray the people of Bethlehem as she did the people of Jericho?

The lower story of Ruth and Boaz, and their parents looks like an unlikely group of players in God’s plan to bring people back into a face-to-face relationship with Him. How could God use traitors, prostitutes, enemies of His chosen people, outsiders, people obviously disloyal and disobedient to His laws to further His plan to bring us back to Him? It seems impossible to us. It would be a crazy, insane, scheme to any of us if we were trying to put together a plan for restoring that lost intimacy of the garden.

God lives and works and reigns in His upper story, though. God intervenes in humanity to ensure His plans ultimately work to the outcomes He has set out achieve. We can look up and align our lower story with His and be part of His plan. Or we can choose our own path and find ourselves on a path toward destruction. We can choose the path, but we cannot choose the consequences. The question remains for each of us. Can I trust God in His upper story to work for my good as I love Him and align my life with Him.

If you believe His word and watch the outcome of the heroes we see in His word and the lives of so many who have chosen to follow Him, you will find that God’s promises are true. Romans 8:28 is true. God can and will turn the impossible into reality and turn what seems to be bad into our good when we keep our eyes focused on Him and keep our lives aligned with His upper story. We must remember in those hard times that Isaiah was absolutely right when He penned the words God inspired him to write: “my thoughts are higher than your thoughts, and my ways are higher than your ways.” Trust in God. It will be okay.

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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