Info

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
RSS Feed Subscribe in Apple Podcasts
A Little Walk With God
2019
January


2018
December
November
October
September
August
July
June
May
April
March
February
January


2017
December
November
October
September
July
June
May
April
March
February
January


2016
December
November
October
September
August
July
June
May
April
March
February
January


2015
December
November
October
September
August
July
June
May
April
March
February
January


2014
December
January


Categories

All Episodes
Archives
Categories
Now displaying: 2018

Like us on iTunes and Facebook to help spread the message to others. I also appreciate your comments and questions. Just respond in the comment section below. 

Thanks for listening.

Richard

Dec 31, 2018

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Dec 24, 2018

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Merry Christmas to all.

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

Dec 17, 2018

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

   It’s time to shout out loud, Israel!

Be happy and celebrate with all your being,

   faithful children of Jerusalem!

The Eternal has cancelled His judgments against you.

   He changed the course of your enemies.

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

   you have no reason to be afraid ever again.

The come from chapter three verses fourteen and fifteen.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Dec 10, 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.

One of our favorite places to visit is Williamsburg, Virginia. I remember one of first times my wife and I visited my daughter was still an infant and we visited as an anniversary present to ourselves. That meant it was December in Williamsburg. It was a great time to be there with all the Christmas decorations and the smell of baked goods in the air. But it was also bitterly cold. I had our daughter bundled up and then stuff in my coat. Most of the shopkeepers were a little surprised when I would begin to unwrap all the scarves and gloves and layers of stuff and suddenly this squirmy little six-month old bundle of flesh poked its head out to look around the store.

We enjoyed the little village a lot. We liked the food. We liked the reenactment of life in the early days of the settlement. We eagerly watched the way things were done with no electricity, no running water, none of the conveniences we have today. It’s really fascinating to watch and sometimes participate in the making of things we just take for granted today. Things as simple as making a cup of tea. I walk to the sink fill up a cup, pop a tea bag in it and often just stick in the microwave for a minute and viola, I have a piping hot cup of tea. But in 1750 Williamsburg making a cup of tea was a process.

Chop firewood for the stove. Assuming of course you already chopped down a tree in the forest to have a cord or so of firewood to chop. Build a fire in your Franklin stove. Go to the well and pull up a bucket of water. Put the water on the stove and wait for the stove and the pot to get hot enough to heat the water to boiling. Find the tin of tea and put a few dried leaves in a strainer if you’re a little on the wealthy side or just put them in the cup if not. Pour the boiling water into the cup and let it steep for a few minutes. Then carefully drink the tea trying to avoid moving the cup too fast so you don’t also get a mouthful of tea leaves in the process.

I’m beginning to understand why they always had afternoon tea in those days. It’s probably because it took all morning to get everything ready to make those couple of cups of tea for that small social gathering.

One of the most fascinating things to me about that era, though, is the craftsmanship of the journeymen in the various trades. Many of those buildings are as sturdy today as they were then because of the skill of the masons who laid the brick and stone in those walls. They have stood undisturbed for three hundred years and it looks like they will stand that much longer without a problem. The furniture is equally well crafted. And they didn’t have the glues and epoxies and fasteners we have today. They just cut everything to exact measurements and fit them together like a jigsaw puzzle so that they went together perfectly and would not come apart. It took incredible skill with only hand tools at their disposal to do the things they did.

Well, one of the most interesting shops we visit when we go to Williamsburg is that of the silversmith. Here you find some of the most intricate designs on candlesticks, silver sets, tableware, platters, door knockers, all sorts of things used around the house. Silver is not a plentiful ore, but is not impossible to find either. And the craftsmen that work with it can do some incredible things with it. In the silversmith shop, though, you can learn some important truths that help us understand scripture a little better.

Here we are in the second week of Advent. Yesterday’s lectionary readings included a passage from Malachi that said the Messiah would come as a refiner’s fire. I heard that term growing up and knew that refiners worked with the ore that held precious metals like gold and silver, but that was about the extent of my knowledge… Until I talked to a silversmith in Williamsburg. You see, a silversmith and a goldsmith use a refiner’s fire every day. They depend on it to purify the ore or the silver ingots they purchase from miners. They want the purest metals when they work because any impurities will cause flaws in the final product. Their trays or cups or mirrors or pitchers or whatever else they might be making will not shine or be as smooth or as perfect as they want.

So how do they make their material pure? I had to ask the question. And the answer is by putting the ore into the a crucible and subjecting it to the refiner’s fire. It super heats the metal until all the impurities burn away. What’s left in the crucible is the pure silver or pure gold. And how does the refiner know that all the impurities have burned away? He just peaks into the crucible and looks at his reflection in the metal. When his reflection is absolutely clear, no spots, no waves, no ripples, just a pure, clean reflection of his face, he knows all the impurities have burned out. The silver is pure.

Malachi says the Lord will come as a refiner’s fire. He will purify the tribe of Levi. But scripture also tells us we priests when we accept him as savior. Why? Because we are commanded to spread the good news that he came to forgive sins. He came to sacrifice himself for our atonement. He came to die that we might live. He came to show us who God is. He came and died and rose again and told us he would return to take his followers back to heaven with him.

He also came to cleanse us. To purify us. To make us new and remove the stains of our old life and recreate us in his image. He came to show us how to live in community with God and with each other. He came to give us a new covenant. A new Way to live. New directions. New joy. A legacy of internal peace in an external world of chaos. He came to be more than just a good teacher or a mysterious prophet. He came. God incarnate. Immanuel. God with us. A refiner’s fire.

Malachi also says he will come like fuller’s soap. There is another one of those terms that pops up in ancient times that we know little about in our modern society. So what is fuller’s soap? It’s not easy to discover. The first places I searched likened a fuller to a launderer, but in ancient times, there were no laundries like we think about them today. Families did their own laundry in the rivers, lakes, and streams around the cities where they lived. Or they had slaves do it for them. Sometimes for really stubborn dirt or stains, they would use a large kettle filled with water heated over a fire and a stick or paddle became the agitator in the kettle much like in our washing machines today.

The second line of thinking is that a fuller worked with the wool from sheep. When the wool is removed in shearing, it’s not very clean. Sheep graze in the fields, are subject to the weather and whatever environment they live in, so their wool get tangled and dirty as it grows. The only time it really gets any attention before shearing is when it rains and natures washes some of the crud out of it. So the sheared wool goes to the fuller, whose job is to scrub the wool with soap to clean and untangle it so it can be made into yarn for making cloth.

The soap was a mixture of a kind of clay called fuller’s clay and ashes. This alkaline mixture served to bleach cloth and other materials as much as to clean them, but because of the alkaline properties, it did kill most of the bacteria and so helped keep populations a little healthier when used for cleaning, bathing, washing clothing, and so forth. In our early American history, the fuller’s soap would be akin to our lye soap and used much the same way. It was a very harsh, but effective means of bleaching and therefore cleaning clothing.

So whether we are talking about the soap used by a family to clean their limited articles of clothing or a person who cleans and prepares the sheared wool for further use, the fuller’s soap in ancient Israel was the stuff Granny Clampett used to scrub the hide off Jethro when he needed his Saturday afternoon bath. A harsh, rough on your skin, bleach like soap used to scrub anything that needed a lot more than just hot water to get it clean.

The Lord comes like fuller’s soap ready to scrub the toughest pots and pans to get the crud out. He comes like fuller’s soap to make sure that stuff behind the ears is gone. He comes to make sure that smidge of dirt under the fingernails disappears. He comes to get rid of the pesky buildup in the corner of the closet that nothing seems to reach. He brings the fuller’s soap to scrub inside and out so there is nothing left but purity. It’s cleaning power is better than Pinesol or Ajax or Mr. Clean. The stuff he brings gets the job done right.

Well, Malachi prophesied about his coming. And Jesus came. The Messiah was born in a little town called Bethlehem. Enough historical facts have now been uncovered by the scientific world to show the man, Jesus lived and died. Many don’t want to believe the rest of the story. But Jesus fulfilled so many of the prophecies of the Old Testament that the odds that he is not the Messiah have been calculated. In fact, one scholar shows that Jesus fulfilled 456 prophecies. The odds of that happening is a number we cannot begin to fathom. A mathematics professor at Westmont College gave 600 students a probability problem to determine the odds of one person fulfilling just eight, and the odds were 10^17. That 10 with 17 zeros behind it.

So what is that number like? Suppose that we take 10^17 silver dollars and lay them on the face of Texas. They’ll cover all of the state two feet deep. Now mark one of these silver dollars and stir the whole mass thoroughly, all over the state. Blindfold a man and tell him that he can travel as far as he wishes, but he must pick up the one silver dollar that has the special mark on it. What chance would he have of getting the right one? Just the same chance that the prophets would’ve had of writing these eight prophecies and having them all come true in any one man, from their day to the present time. It would take more than 20 million years to reach that number counting as fast as you can.

But the professor didn’t stop there. He then went on to look at 48 prophecies fulfilled by Jesus during his lifetime. Remember, some have shown Jesus fulfilled 456, but the odds of one man fulfilling 48 four-hundred year old prophecies is 10^157. That’s 10 with 157 zeros behind it. We can’t think in those terms. Those odds are so far beyond our comprehension they are laughable. Is Jesus the Messiah? Don’t take my word. Look at the math. What are the odds he is not? Go find that marked silver dollar blindfolded and tell me what 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 Bible based teaching. You can find out more about my church at SAF.church. Thanks for listening. If you enjoyed it, tell a friend. If you didn't, send me an email and let me know how better to reach out to those around you. Until next week, may God richly bless you as you venture into His story each day.

Dec 3, 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.

It’s hard to believe it is already the first week of Advent, but here we are. Most of the Protestant churches I know don’t use the common lectionary in their services, but it is nice sometimes to understand what the common lectionary is and its value to the church as a whole. We got away from it partly because of the desire to break all ties to the Catholic Church, but in doing so, we sometimes throw the baby out with the bath. One of the good things about the common lectionary is its attempt to walk through the entire Bible over a three year period using scriptures from the different sections of the Old Testament, Psalms, the Gospels, and the Epistles each week.

This year is Year B in the common lectionary and the scriptures for December 2nd came from Isaiah, Psalms, Mark, and 1 Corinthians. They fit with the Advent season and I’d like us to look at a couple of them today as we think about Advent as we look at the past and future as it concerns Jesus, the Christ.

Isaiah 64 says, “64:1 O that you would tear open the heavens and come down, so that the mountains would quake at your presence--as when fire kindles brushwood and the fire causes water to boil-- to make your name known to your adversaries, so that the nations might tremble at your presence! When you did awesome deeds that we did not expect, you came down, the mountains quaked at your presence. From ages past no one has heard, no ear has perceived, no eye has seen any God besides you, who works for those who wait for him. You meet those who gladly do right, those who remember you in your ways. But you were angry, and we sinned; because you hid yourself we transgressed.

Seven hundred years before God came to live with us, Isaiah prayed that God would open the heavens and come down to us. His words remind me of the experience the Israelites had at the foot of Mount Sinai when Moses had them gather there to meet God. God invited them, but they were too afraid to climb the mountain and meet with him. Instead, they petitioned Moses to meet God in their place. They were afraid God would kill them if they ascended into the smoke and fire that covered the mountain. The Israelites in their fear lost an opportunity to meet with God one-on-one, despite his personal invitation to them.

Now Isaiah prays to have that relationship again, “...tear open the heavens and come down...make your name known to your adversaries...no one has seen any God besides you, who works for those who wait for him…” Isaiah recognizes the difference between the God we serve and the gods others worship. You see, the pantheon of gods others worship demand service for themselves. They demand payment. They demand everything with nothing in return. But our God gives. He pours out his grace and mercy and love. Isaiah rightly proclaims that God works for those who wait for him. When we enter into a personal covenant with him, he fulfills his part of the covenant, often when we fail to meet our part.

God came and did incredible things for the Israelites and Isaiah acknowledges his sovereignty. But Isaiah also expected God to come again. And he did. God gave up his divine attributes for a time and became one of us, but without sin. He was born of a virgin, without the inherited seed of Adam’s legacy of sin. He gave up heaven to live among us for a time and show us his love for us. He became one of us to become the perfect sacrifice for our sins. He lived with us to understand our life and to banish all thought that he did not understand our plight. He does because he suffered what we suffer. He experienced what we experience. He was fully and completely man while he was fully and completely God.

God came down to be with us.

Isaiah looked to the past at God’s incredible work for those who dared to wait for him. He looked to the future anticipating God’s coming again in the form of man, the Christ, the Messiah, the Liberator. Then we see God, the Man speaking in Mark 13. 13:24 "But in those days, after that suffering, the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light, and the stars will be falling from heaven, and the powers in the heavens will be shaken. Then they will see 'the Son of Man coming in clouds' with great power and glory. Then he will send out the angels, and gather his elect from the four winds, from the ends of the earth to the ends of heaven.”

The one Isaiah spoke of speaks. He came. He demonstrated God’s love in the flesh. Jesus, the Messiah lived among us and did things only God could do. His acts of healing, feeding, calming the storms, raising the dead were not the most incredible miracles, though. When he pronounced, “Your sins are forgiven,” and they were, those were the most incredible miracles that took place by his hand. Only God can forgive. Only he can make hearts pure. But Jesus did it. Jesus forgave, and it stuck!

In these verses in Mark, Jesus tells of the signs of his return. He knows his time for walking with feet of flesh through the sands of this earth are limited. He knows he will soon be crucified, buried, risen, and return to heaven’s throne room.  He knows that at the Father’s call, judgment day will come and time will cease. Everyone will answer for their life and be call to account for their actions and beliefs. He knows, too, that he will return to take away those who believe in him for salvation will return to heaven with him one day.

When asked when all this will take place, Jesus gives the answer we read in Mark. He doesn’t know the exact day or time. But he knows the signs and the signs are all around us today. All we need to do is look at the headlines of the newspapers. All we need to do is read the latest tweet or facebook rant. All we need to do is watch CNN or Fox News. The signs are everywhere. Jesus is coming and it won’t be long. Can I predict how long? Now, but I believe it will be sooner than most people think and I believe many will be caught unprepared.

Paradise, California is a tragic story in the news today. Wildfires swept through and destroyed the town of 47,000 people. Hundreds lost their lives to the inferno that caught them. Understand that every loss of life is tragic. But I have supported enough humanitarian efforts across the globe to know that not all, but some of those who perished did so because they were not prepared to flee the raging fires. Some wanted to gather just a few more things. Some thought they could contain the blaze around their home or business. Some decided the fire would not be powerful enough to reach them. Some thought the construction of their home was such they were safe. They were unprepared for the inferno that took everything, including their lives.

The signs were all around them. The warnings blasted across every media imaginable. It took little intelligence to understand the danger they were in. But it’s the same with Jesus’ return. All the information is available. It doesn’t take much imagination or interpretation. You don’t need a PhD in theology to understand the signs of his coming. His words are really clear. He’s coming and he’s coming soon.

Advent. We look back at history and know a man named Jesus changed the world. The questions that determines my eternal destiny and yours are do you believe this man who changed the world is God incarnate? Is he the one who provides the sacrifice for the forgiveness of sins? Do I believe in him for eternal life? Will I follow him and enjoy his legacy of peace and an eternity with him?

This Advent season, let those questions shape your Christmas. Make Jesus the reason you celebrate. Make relationships with him and others the focus of your efforts instead of the presents and decorations and feasts. Let Jesus guide your actions instead of the advertisements for the latest fads. Remember he is coming again and it is closer than 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 Bible based teaching. You can find out more about my church at SAF.church. Thanks for listening. If you enjoyed it, tell a friend. If you didn't, send me an email and let me know how better to reach out to those around you. Until next week, may God richly bless you as you venture into His story each day.

Nov 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.

Today my devotions took me to the book of Esther. A fascinating story that never mentions the name of God. You can certainly see the hand of God throughout the story, but his name is not mentioned. I’ve heard and preached many sermons on the sage pronouncement Mordecai gives to his niece, Queen to King Xerxes. He says to her, “Who knows but you were made queen for just such a time as this.”

Esther was the only person in a position to stop the massacre of the Jewish people after Haman, a prince in the nation, convinced the king to destroy every Jew across the land because of his personal hatred of the race.

But today I’d like to talk about something a little different than the usual sermon topic in the book of Esther. I’d like to exam the character of the king and Haman. We see people like them everywhere today. As a matter of fact, their character types plague us today when you begin to explore who they really are and their roles in the drama that played out in the first few chapters of the story.

First, let’s look at Haman. Here was a political figure who had it all. He climbed the ladder of success to become an advisor to the king. Few could just walk into the throne room without a personal invitation, but Haman could. He was special in the kingdom. The king could trust few people with his signet ring to make proclamations in his name, but Haman held that kind of trust.

People bowed to Haman just as they bowed to the king. People may not have respected Haman because of the way he gained his position, his power and influence. But people paid homage to him because of those things. He was rich. He was deemed intelligent. He was at the ear of the king in every decision made about the kingdom. And you can be sure every decision the king made was good for Haman before it was good for the kingdom.

Most of the people around the kingdom would like to be like Haman. Rich. Powerful. Prestigious. Standing at the right hand of the king. Almost a god in his own eyes. What a life! Most people longed for a life like Haman’s. Mordecai was not like most people, though. And so Haman hated him. Mordecai was a Jew and bowed to no one except God. He would not even consider bowing to one of God’s creations because God said not to have any gods before him. There was only one God and he was not Haman. So while everyone else bowed when Haman walked by, Mordecai just stood there. Haman despised the man.

But his hatred went a little deeper. He hated every Jew because Mordecai was a Jew. His prejudice showed through his behavior, his emotions, his every action. Haman hated a whole race of people because Mordecai would not bow to him when he went in and out of the gates of the royal palace.

So here’s the point I want to make about Haman. We get the rest of the story about how Haman was humiliated by having to praise Mordecai for a deed he had done several years earlier. We get the part about Queen Esther intervening on behalf of the Jews and saving her people by appealing to the king allowing them to defend themselves against those Haman demanded kill her race. But we’re focusing on Haman.

Did you get the point about Haman hating a whole race because of the actions of one man? Did you see how Mordecai’s refusal to bow to him led him to want to kill every man, woman, and child of Jewish ancestry? Did you see the character flaw in Haman that even if Mordecai harmed him in some way, let him become blind to the good in people and carried his hatred to a whole race instead of focusing his attention on the one who did him wrong?

Now look around the neighborhoods where you live. Do you know any Hamans? Or worse, yet? Do you spread your prejudice to a race of people because of the harm one or two people of one race or another might have done to you in the past? Do you harbor hatred and vengeance in your heart against a whole class of people because of what a few have done?

We see it every year in our election processes here. Democrats against Republicans. Doesn’t matter which side of the aisle you’re on. If you can’t understand that both sides need salvation and both sides need to put God at the head of the party instead of their political leader, our nation is doomed. And guess what. God has disappeared from our political process. The Supreme Court says he must not be mentioned. Something about separation of church and state. Didn’t seem to be a problem for the gentlemen who founded the country, but it is today in our not so Christian nation.

So, do you have a tendency to be like Haman and pour out your negative thoughts and ideology against a race just because? Think about it. God made us all. Everyone who breathes the air around us were made in his image. In fact, Jesus didn’t look like the white guy in most of the paintings we see. Remember he was born in Bethlehem. A community of Jews who lived in Israel. He looked a lot more like the terrorists we see on television every once in a while than he looks like me. Dark haired. Olive skinned. Probably large nosed. Middle eastern. Israeli native. Jew. So what kind of prejudice do you need to overcome when you think about Haman’s hatred of the Jews because of Mordecai.

Well, let’s move on to King Xerxes. What a guy. No one could come into his throne room unless he invited them. If he doesn’t raise his scepter and you walk into the room, his guard immediately run you through with a spear. Great guy. He banished his first queen because she wouldn’t dance in front of a bunch of drunken guests. Yep, put him on the list of folks most likely to invite your next party. Oops, scratch that.

He picks his next wife by sleeping with the most beautiful women in the kingdom and that’s the best criteria he can come up with to find his next queen. He must have spent a lot of time coming up with a good list of things he wanted in his next queen before he started on this quest for the right virgin girl. Right.

Now take a look at his kingdom. He trusts this guy Haman with everything. He probably knows little about his character or he wouldn’t put him in charge. But because King Xerxes doesn’t seem to know anything about being a king, only a bored bully, he lets Haman do whatever he wants and in his boredom, gives him his signet ring and tells him to just go write whatever he wants to get rid of the race that seems to be pestering him. Great analysis went into his decision making, I’m sure.

Even the king’s decision to have Haman hung was pretty flighty when you really look at it. There was no defense. No question. No chance for Haman to tell the king he was pleading with Esther for her help in calming the king and helping him out of this situation. He had no chance to tell the king he didn’t have any untoward feelings for Esther and only touched her couch to beg her forgiveness.

The king flew off the handle. He didn’t stop to think. He didn’t seek any explanation. He assumed he knew what was going on when he really didn’t. He thought he was smart enough to know everything about everything because he was king. So Haman had an immediate trial with the king as judge and jury. Haman had no chance to appeal. He was immediately sentenced to die. King Xerxes needed some anger management classes in the worst way.

Know anyone like that? Know anyone that goes from zero to ten in a flash without thinking? Know anyone that decides the worst about something without really knowing what’s happening? Just flies into a rage because? King Xerxes may have been different in that he had the power of life and death at his fingertips as king, but we can just as easily destroy someone’s life with our words or actions when we act as this king did. We can destroy relationships in a flash when we decide we know everything about a situation when we really know nothing about what is going on and we completely misinterpret the circumstance surrounding us.

The book of Esther has some great lessons for us. All the players teach us monumental truths about how to live or how not to live. Haman and the king certainly give us the negative side. Pay attention to them, though. If we don’t pay attention to history and understand what happened and why, we are bound to repeat it. With the tension abounding in our political processes right now, we need to go back and take a look at our history books. 1860 to 1865 were not good years for us. We don’t need to repeat them, but we are getting really close if we don’t get on our knees and ask for God’s help.

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

Nov 24, 2018

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

As I prepare this week’s podcast, I’m also in the throes of preparing for a special Veterans’ Day service at my church. USAF Col(Ret) Thomas “Jerry” Curtis graciously accepted our invitation to speak for us. If you haven’t heard his name before, Carole Engle Avriett wrote the account of his 7 ½ years of captivity as a POW during the Vietnam War. As I read the harrowing story of his capture, imprisonment, and unrelenting torture, I could not imagine the suffering Col Curtis and his fellow prisoners endured.

There is a similar group of individuals who demonstrate that selfless service. Men who stand in the face of danger and demonstrate incredible courage in the face of the enemy. I’ve been extremely fortunate, especially in my later assignments in the service, to meet some of these incredible people. At the Army Medical Department Center and School we often invited Medal of Honor recipients to address classes of young students as they began their new careers. I enjoyed the honor of meeting with most of them in my office for some conversation and a cup of coffee before they spoke to the class. What a privilege!

Invariably, when asked about the event that resulted in their earning of our nation’s highest award, these humble men remarked, “I was in the wrong place at the wrong time. I just did what anyone would do. My buddies were in trouble and I did what I had to do.” I always read their citations before I met them and I have to tell you, there are few men who would do what these heroes would do. This collection of 3521 men and one woman (Dr. Mary Walker) are truly outstanding examples of selfless service. Dr. Walker and five other civilians received the award after the Civil War. Not quite half of the Medals came from the Civil War era. Many of the awards were given to next of kin postumously. The service members recieving the awards dieing as a result of their actions to save others.

I was consistently mesmerized by these men’s stories. I was equally mesmerized by Col. Curtis’ story. The courage of the POWs remind me of the selfless sacrifice our veterans and their families make so we can enjoy the freedoms enumerated by our Constitution. It’s easy for us to forget those sacrifices today since less than 1% of our population has any connection to the military these days. They endure the separation from home and family, often living in abysmal conditions in far off lands, to keep war from our shores so that we can sleep peacefully at night.

They also remind me that Jesus and his disciple, Paul and those early Christians knew well the suffering veterans like Col. Curtis and his fellow prisoners endured. Paul was beaten, enslaved, moved from prison to prison. He never knew if he would live or die at the hands of his next jailers. He was cold, hungry, thirsty, lacked basic hygiene we take for granted. He had nothing to call his own. He was ridiculed for his beliefs and told he was nothing. Our POWs, some living in those conditions for almost eight years, endured those same atrocities.

Why do I bring these things up today? A couple of reasons. First, as we celebrate Veterans’ Day, it is a good time to thank a veteran for his or her service. We enjoy what we have today in large part because of their willingness to sacrifice for us. And thank their families because they too sacrifice. While veterans deploy to far off shores, families stay home and wonder what is happening. They worry about their safety. They wonder if they will even make it home again. Spouses act as single parent as often as not. Reunification when service men and women return is never easy either as that service member returns to take their place in the home...changed because of their experiences. Remember families.

Second, as we think about the atrocities that humans can inflict upon other humans, pray that peace can break out in places like the Middle East and the Pacific Rim and Africa. There are dangerous places around the world that put everyone at risk because of the interconnected nature of the world today. There is no such thing as isolationism today. There just isn’t.

Third, remember that as Christians we are soldiers of the cross. Jesus said to expect the world to hate us because of him. Knowing what our military enemies of the past have done to our service men and women and reading the accounts of men like Col. Curtis and the Apostle Paul, I think we can expect similar treatment at the hands of evil me as Jesus’ return gets closer. Pray that we, like those who have gone before us will have the courage to endure to the end. I fear that as we progress toward the final battles that John wrote in the Revelations he penned on the Isle of Patmos we will feel the pain and torture evil men can inflict on others.

Finally, you will find that blessing others is so much more rewarding that complaining about others. Whether talking about politics or work or family or neighbors or any other topic, blessings will go so much further than curses. Just bless those around you. When you read and understand Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount, you find again and again his admonishment to treat others well regardless how they treat you. He tells us our behavior show mimick God’s sharing mercy when mercy is not deserved. He says to extend grace when grace is the last thing on our mind as we suffer because of him.

Remember what we mean by grace. We sometimes forget the difference between justice and mercy and grace. I think it important to remember the difference as we extend God’s grace to others. Justice is what we deserve, punishment for our wrong behavior, sin. Justice requires our eternal punishment for our disobedience to God. Mercy says we are forgiven. Because of Jesus’ death on the cross, we can accept his sacrifice as our own, ask forgiveness, follow him, and we experience his mercy. Forgiveness we do not deserve. But grace. Grace is overwhelming. Grace stuns us. Grace makes us fall on our face in awe of God’s indescribable love. He gives more than we deserve, expect, imagine. God gives all he is to us. He sacrificed himself. He became like us to show us who he is.

I’ve shared this story before to describe his grace. You come into the parking lot and see a young thug with keys in his hand standing next to your brand new Lambergini. There are streaks all down the side and flakes of paint still falling to the ground beside it. The young man’s keys are stained with the same paint and his eyes grow big as you approach your car. He’s caught. Trapped. No where to go. He knows your know exactly what has happened.

Justice says you call the police. Justice says the young man pays to have your brand new car repainted. Justice says punishment is coming quickly for this young man caught in the act. But you extend mercy. The young man is afraid. You see it in his eyes as you walk up to him. But mercy says. Young man I forgive you for what you’ve done. You know it was wrong. I know it was wrong. I think you’ve learned your lesson, though. It’s not about being caught. You understand that, right? Now, go about your business, I won’t punish you. I won’t call the police. I won’t make you pay for the damage. You are forgiven. I only ask that you don’t do something like this again. That’s mercy.

But grace. Grace says this. You walk up to the young man who obviously has fear in his eyes. And here’s what happens. “Young man, I see you’ve scratched up my car. I forgive you. It’s only a car, but here are the keys. I want you to have it. I think you know it was wrong and you won’t do something like that again. Let me sign the title over to you. Oh, and let’s go to the body shop and get the scratches fixed. Don’t worry about the cost. I’ll pay for it. The car is yours and I want it to look perfect for you. One more thing. I want you to take this credit card and if you need gas or tires or any kind of maintenance, be sure to charge it to me, okay?” That is grace. Awesome. Unbelievable. Beyond what we can think or imagine. Stunning. That is the grace God give us.

What does Jesus want us to do? Forgive our enemies. Extend his mercy to them. Then love them the way he loves them. Extend his grace to them. Can we do that without knowing him? Not a chance. We cannot understand his grace until we experience it ourselves. And how do we experience it? Ask him into your life and obey him. You will know his grace. He gives it freely to all who let him in.

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

Nov 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.

Once again in my devotions, I came across an intriguing question. “Why do you need to lose the battle of wills against God?” Maybe you never thought of obedience in those terms before. Maybe you never thought about following God as a battle of wills, but when you really stop and think about it, that’s exactly what we do when we decide to give our lives to him and follow him.

Why would I approach obedience from that perspective, you might ask. We can go back to Genesis 3 for the answer and that same theme follows us all the way to present day humanity. Adam and Eve wanted their way. They wanted their selfish desire to trump God’s rule not to eat from the tree in the center of the Garden of Eden. It might sound like a silly, inconsequential rule to you and me. It was only a single tree in a huge garden full of trees from which they could eat, so what was the big deal?

I think the issue was not so much the particular tree or the type of fruit, but it was the command. It was the willingness to set aside their desires for God’s. It was their willingness to say, “God, I’m going to do what you want, instead of what I want.” It’s really that simple. The same simple formula persists from that first act of disobedience to this very day. It’s a matter of my telling God I want to usurp his will with mine. I want what I want and I’m willing to suffer the consequences for it.

When we really stop and think about that attitude, if we had any brain cells functioning at all, we would realize what a monumental mistake that would be. We are not God. We cannot dictate the consequences of our actions. The laws of physics, the laws that govern the nature of sowing and reaping, the consequences of actions and reactions just happen. God set them in place at his act of creation. He doesn’t need to change them, although sometimes he does intervene and releases us from the consequences of our actions. Not often, but sometimes. So our behaviors reap certain consequences over time just as planting certain seeds will harvest crops of a certain kind and we would not expect any other fruit or vegetable to sprout and grow in its place. I don’t expect to get oranges when I plant apple seeds. I expect apples.

So we know good, God desired actions and behavior, brings about good, God desired consequences, put in place at the beginning of time. We also know that evil actions and behavior will eventually reap those same rewards, evil consequences that we must bear in time. It’s the irrefutable nature of the cause and effects of sowing and reaping. We also recognize that evil begins with my selfish desire and my selfish belief that I know better than God.

From the first encounter with that spirit in opposition to God, Satan, the Devil, Beelzebub, whatever name you want to use to identify him, we have been deceived and convinced that we can exert our will over God’s and come out okay. We can’t. God is still God. Always has been and always will be. We are as nothing in the scope of his creation and yet we are the jewel of his creation. He knows every bird that falls from the sky and takes time to deal with our petty arguments that we use to try to lift ourselves on pedestals higher than his. All ours crumble. His has and will always remain intact.

We try to demand of God. Fix this. Give me that. Take care of this problem. Why don’t you answer this question. Stop this suffering. Make me prosperous so I can give more. Do you see how disgusting we must sound to the maker of the universe? To our creator? How arrogant. How self centered. How stupid we can be. Yet God still loves us. He still wants us to come to him and accept the sacrifice he made for us so we might be forgiven.

Some would say, “God is a loving God and everyone will receive his forgiveness in the end.” I hope for everyone’s sake that is true. My Bible says it is not. God operates with us in covenants. Covenants require participation from both parties to the covenant. God promises certain things, far more than we deserve. And he keeps his promises. But we must also promise certain things and keep our promises. We must follow him. We must set aside our desires for his. We must become his maidservant or manservant. We must usurp our will to his. We must act out of an obedient heart and understand his every command is centered on making us more like him every day. And he never gives up. He never quits molding us and refining us.

I asked for his forgiveness for my sins 58 years ago. I gave myself to him in full commitment to whatever he wanted of me 42 years ago. Yet every day as I read and study his word, I find new challenges to help me become more like him each day. Like Paul, I haven’t arrived yet. I’m still fighting the good fight. One of these days, I’ll be too old and feeble to do much more than pray, but I will be able go do that. And I’m sure Satan will continue to push excuses in my path to try to keep me from doing God’s will. He makes it easy. He wants to destroy us. He wants to move as many as possible away from God’s eternal reward for those who are willing to lose the battle of wills against God.

In our competitive social culture in this day and age, we want to win. We argue and plan and fight expecting to win. We scheme and connive and twist and turn events so we will win. But if we want to see Jesus, we must take a different perspective. In the end, the loser wins. The loser of the battle of wills against God wins. The loser of demands fulfilled wins. The loser of life for God’s sake wins. Jesus came and turned our rules upside down because he knew we didn’t understand the relationship with God our fearsome, most awesome, benevolent, wonderful, creator, savior and friend.

So today, in the battle of wills in your life, who wins? It’s a fascinating question. If God wins, so do you. If you win, you only win when God wins. If God loses, you lose, too. So you lose so you both can win, or you win and you both lose. It is an intriguing question. It’s a good day to lose, I mean win, I mean lose so you can win! I hope you know what I mean. If you want to win, make sure the battle of wills must fall to God...always.

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

Nov 5, 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.

I ran across this question today in my devotions: If knowing God is the beginning of wisdom, can a person who does not know God be wise?

In today’s culture we would probably get an overwhelming number of responses to that question that answers in the affirmative. The argument would be to look at all the accomplishment we have made as a collection of all mankind’s minds. Certainly, the discoveries we have made, the inventive and creative mind of man, the impressive body of knowledge around us means that we are wise with or without God, right?

It is certainly convenient to think we are as smart as God and we wisdom, but I’m inclined to believe the Book that contains the wisdom of the Ages. Off and on, I have attempted to read one chapter of Proverbs a day each month continuously. I’ll have to admit, I’m not very good at it. There are 31 chapters, so it makes for a good goal to just pick up the book and read today’s chapter and see what it says.

I’m releasing this podcast on Monday, November 5th. That chapter in Proverbs gives warning from a father to his son concerning adultery. Nothing good comes from it. In fact, only bad things can come from adultery. There might be moments of pleasure, but in the end, those pleasures disappear and you are left with a disastrous marriage, ruined relationship both within and outside the family, a reputation that says you cannot be trusted since your spouse could not trust you.

If we would just live by the precepts the writers of Proverbs gave us more than 3,000 years ago, we could avoid so many of the problems we bring on ourselves. Those wise men give us lots of advice about the practical things of life. Loving God and pursuing him. Learning, studying, and obeying God’s laws. Family relationships. Parenting. Finances. Work ethics. The consequences of not following their advice in these areas of life.

And you know what? As I reach toward the back half of my sixth decade of life, I’m finding their advice and their knowledge of the consequences of not following their advice is absolutely true. I only wish I had followed everything they had to say. I didn’t. I don’t know very many people who have. We are pretty stubborn and selfish and most of us have a pretty healthy opinion of ourselves. We think we know the answers to life better than God. We don’t.

All we have to do is look around our world and see just how awful a job we do at following the wisdom of those writers. As humans, we fail in almost everything those authors told us. We mess up relationships because we are more interested in what we want than in caring for those we are supposed to love. We have messed up finances in every country because again we are selfish. The haves and the have nots plague our world. One percent of the world’s population owns well over 99% of its wealth. I don’t think God meant for us to live that way.

With that statement, I’m not suggesting we move to a socialist or communist society because governments have proven many times over that those countries do not fare very well. And, oh by the way, they have their one or two percent that own 95% or more of their countries wealth. Those governments never work because people are selfish and greedy by nature. Those with the wealth don’t want to give it up because if they give away some of their wealth, they won’t have it. Not that they need all of it, but they won’t have it and that’s the point. We are selfish and greedy with humongous egos.

We think we have knowledge. So did Thomas Jefferson’s generation. In the mid 1800’s the current philosophy was that there was nothing else to be learned. We knew it all. Except that today we double our knowledge base about every 12 months according to IBM and with the full build of the internet, knowledge is expected to increase every 12 hours before too many years pass. Just think of that, All the knowledge that ever was doubling every year in today’s communication systems. That blows my mind. But knowledge isn’t wisdom.

I know a lot of people with a lot of knowledge, but they can’t control their household. They are hopelessly in debt. They seem to destroy every relationship they have with their supposed knowledge. They are a total mess even though they know a lot of things. Knowledge is not wisdom.

You see, wisdom is how you use the knowledge you have. It has more to do with having peace in a chaotic world. It has to do with more than surviving or being what the world might deem as successful in life. It has to do with making from this life to the next and having an eternal reward instead of an eternal punishment. It has to do with living in community with others. Wisdom is recognizing we don’t know everything, but that’s okay. It means we recognize our limitations. We understand we need others and we especially need God.

Having wisdom is so much better than having property or money or any physical assets of any kind. With wisdom, you understand the importance of the intangibles of life. These are the things that last. The physical assets that so many run after can be taken away in a moment. Ask the people who lived through the hyperinflation years in places like Argentina when all the stores just dropped the last three zeroes in the price because 1000% inflation every few months meant a loaf of bread cost nearly thousands of pesos. Even today, now that inflation is under control, a meal for two in a mid-range restaurant will run AR 800$.

The same could happen here. Assets in stocks or property or in the bank or anything tangible can lose value overnight. Look at the housing bubble that caused property to climb unreasonably fast and fall just as fast. We watched one of the most powerful manufacturing cities in the country, Detroit, crumble and whole neighborhoods in foreclosure and houses selling for as little as $400-500. Seems unbelievable, doesn’t it? Just spend some time around Wall Street and you’ll see fortunes won and lost in hours. Nothing tangible survives.

The Pharaohs thought they could take their wealth into the afterlife with them. We know they didn’t as tomb after tomb gave up its golden treasures to grave robbers. Nothing went with those mummies that lay in those sarcophage. Everything placed in those tombs stayed there until someone took them. But their reputations survived through decades and centuries. Their histories still peak our interest. We still know something of some of their reigns. But all the things that survived them are intangible. What made the treasures of interest was the stories that go with them.

Wisdom provides the stories. Wisdom gives us the use of knowledge that brings good to others. Wisdom advances relationships and brings peace to chaotic situations. Wisdom springs from the heart of God. Wisdom knows when justice or mercy or grace is the proper response to those who wrong us. Wisdom befriends the broken, but doesn’t condone the actions that caused their brokenness. Wisdom listens like, talks like, acts like, lives like, worships like, strives to be like Christ. Knowing him is the beginning of wisdom. Without him, we are fooling ourselves thinking we are able to adequately apply any amount of knowledge in a worthy manner.

So to be wise, know him so you will know more.    

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

Oct 29, 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.

Expect obstacles when you begin to change things around you. We’ve mentioned change is hard. We’ve talked about the importance of change, though. We are constantly changing, sometimes for good and sometimes for not so good. When we can help direct some of the change we experience, we can influence which way it will go, though.

We talked last week about that phrase that sometimes paralyzes us, but we’ve always done it this way. That’s one of those roadblocks we have to get past to effect change. Whenever you want to change something, especially if you are making monumental shifts in direction or thought or action in organizations or even in yourself, you will come up against some fairly large obstacles along the way.

Just getting the momentum to start is a big one. Inertia is one of those terms we think about in physics. It takes a lot more energy to get something moving than it does to keep it moving. That’s true of change in organizations, too. It’s hard to get things moving. You have to “sell” enough people on the idea and get enough enthusiasm behind the journey forward to get it going. It’s easy to let things move along as they’ve always gone, because it’s comfortable. It’s something we already know and people are reluctant to learn new things. Not everyone wants to be a full-time student and change requires us to be a student again.

Change sometimes seems overwhelming and when you look at the mountain of things that need to be done it can stop us cold. But how do you move a mountain? One shovel full of dirt at a time. How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time. The mountain can be moved the elephant can be eaten. It might not happen in a day or a week or a month. But change can happen and we can get to the goals we set if we stay on track and remember why we are making the changes we are making.

Funds can get in the way sometimes. Where are we going to get the funds to do what we think we need to do? Money is always an issue in every church I’ve attended. I’ve never had the experience Moses had when he told the people to stop giving because they had too much. Most every church could. If everyone in every church actually gave as God directs, churches probably wouldn’t have money issues, but most people don’t give as God asks of them. If most people’s tithes and offerings actual reflect their income, then most churches are filled with people who are living like the very poorest in the Comoros Islands and Ethiopia, the poorest countries in the world.

Today’s culture asks, “What’s in it for me?”, before they give up funds. We are a selfish society. We are so often selfish individuals. I asked the question last week, “Am I willing to sacrifice for the lost?” That includes the resources God has given me. Am I willing to give up a larger portion than I have in the past to see that the work God has placed on me and my church is carried out. God’s math is really strange. I’ve always found that when I give him a tithe, one tenth of my income, he can help me do more with the remaining nine tenths than I could do with all of it. I’ve never fed five thousand men with two small loaves of bread and a handful of fish, but I’ve never been hungry either. God comes through when we are faithful to him. Funds somehow appear out of nowhere.

Change takes time. When you plant an apple seed in the ground, you won’t get apples next week. In fact, you won’t get apples next year. It can take 10 to 12 years for that seed to sprout, grow to a mature tree, and produce its first apples. Change takes time. There’s not much worth while that happens quickly. We live in an instant gratification culture, but if you think about it, you’ll find that most of that instant gratification just doesn’t last. It’s just a splash of pleasure and then it’s gone.

Change also requires grief. It’s sometimes hard to grasp the concept that doing something that will improve things includes grief, but getting that new thing means you give up something you already have. Whether it’s the familiar music or the order of service you’ve used for the last decade or your favorite parking spot or whatever it might be. When we give something up, the grief cycle is involved. Certainly, losing a parking space isn’t the same as losing a friend or loved one, but the cycle is the same. And we go through it. When there are major changes in an organization, there may be many routine things that change in a relatively short period of time. It might mean we lose several things at once. The loss of several things at once can overload our emotions as we go through that grieving process. It is especially true for those who have just experienced other stressful or grief producing events in their lives. Those leading the change must be sensitive to those facing the change and help keep everyone focused on the prize at the end.

Remember the mission? Seek and save the lost. We must keep our focus. We must continue to keep first things first. We must remember what we have that the unbeliever does not have. We have forgiveness. We have grace. We have Jesus’ legacy of peace. We have his spirit in us. We have his continuous presence. We have hope. We have eternal life. We could keep going with the list of things we have that the unbeliever does not have, but now lest stop and begin the list of what the unbeliever has. I think when I get past separation from God I hear crickets.

Are we willing to sacrifice and get through the obstacles that come our way to keep focused on the mission Jesus gave us? Are we willing to grab a shovel and attack the mountain? It may not be easy, but we are not alone. It may take time, but every day that goes by more of those unbelievers are leaving this world for an eternity without God. Every day that sneaks past us is another opportunity to lift up Christ to a world that needs to hear the message of hope and mercy and grace that he told us to share with those outside the church walls.

If your son or daughter were in a house engulfed in flames, what would you be willing to do to get them out and save their lives? There are those right next door that are on their way to a destiny Jesus described as worse than the garbage heap outside Jerusalem that was always burning. The fire never went out. The flames never ceased. The stench of the burning garbage was terrible. The hell Jesus described as worse than that burning garbage he said was the place for all those unbelievers around us. They are God’s creation just as you and I are God’s creation. We were them until God’s mercy reached us. That was us until we experienced his grace. Except for our saying yes to Jesus’ call, we are just like those blind, lost, unbelievers all around us.

Do we care enough to break through whatever obstacles Satan might put in our path to keep us from doing the mission God gave us to do? We talked about that simple mission. The church is the body of Christ. His mission and so our mission is to seek and save the lost. He didn’t let anything get in his way. Can we do any less? Can we allow tradition or routine or comfort or anything stop us from carrying the message to the lost? The message never changes, the method does. Jesus is the way. Our job is to point other to him. We can’t do that from the comfortable seats inside our churches. We must go...and make disciples. We must go...and baptize them. We must go...and teach them his ways. We must go...if we think we are to seek the lost.

That is a change the church and its people must make since the lost will not come to us. How about it? Are you ready for the change? It’s about time for a real revival. It must happen first as a change in me and you and our churches. Let’s do it.

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

1 2 3 4 5 6 Next »