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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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Now displaying: April, 2018

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Thanks for listening.

Richard

Apr 30, 2018

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

How do you define integrity?

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

How can you show integrity where you live?

 

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

 

Apr 23, 2018

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Apr 16, 2018

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Apr 9, 2018

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

Bible Reading Plan - www.Bible-Reading.com; The Story, Chapter 29; You Version Bible app Engaging God's Story Reading Plan Days 197 through 203
Alvin was the third of eleven children born to William and Mary in a little town called Pall Mall. William scratched out a meager living as a blacksmith and farmer to support his family and died early in the hardscrabble life of the foothills of the Smoky Mountains. William died early, Alvin quit school to help support the family and was rough and tumble young man acquainted with fistfights.
Alvin attended the Church of Christ near his home in Tennessee and found God during his young adult years making him a changed man. But like many his age, he found himself drafted into the Army to serve in World War I. He tried to get out of the draft as a conscientious objector, but discovered that his denomination had no specific doctrine concerning pacifism so found himself embroiled in the fight in Europe.
Alvin C. York. One of our nation’s most decorated soldiers. No one would have picked him for such a role when he was growing up. No one thought this backward boy from the hills of East Tennessee would in one battle kill 25 and capture 130 German soldiers and take a machine gun position that was destroying so many American troops. His actions helped open the way for the American victory in the Argonne offensive. Gary Cooper won an academy award portraying this great American hero.
Alvin C. York, like many I have met who have been awarded our nation’s highest medal, was a very quiet, unassuming man who sought no fame. He like many felt he was just doing his duty. He didn’t talk about those days much and never bragged about them in any way. To him, it was something anyone would do to support his fellow soldiers.
I know one of his direct descendants. He attended my church for a while. His character is similar. Quiet. Unassuming. In the business of saving lives. LTC York is a physician by trade and uses his skills to save thousands each year just as Sergeant York did.
Sergeant York was an unlikely candidate to do what he did. No one would have picked him. We’ve seen a lot of those characters as we’ve moved through The Story, God’s plan for bringing us back into community with him. Noah, Abraham, David, Hezekiah, Jeremiah, Matthew, the Samaritan woman, the Centurion, the women in Jesus’ life. So many people recorded in God’s word that from the outside just don’t have what the world would say are the characteristics necessary to change their community or the world.
Yet God saw each of these unlikely individuals from his upper story and knew their heart. He knew how he could use them to move us toward him in ways we could not understand. He knew he could use them to shape his plan toward the ends he desired. They only needed to obey him. These unlikely candidates did incredible, impossible, God ordained things and changed their world. They each bring us closer to understanding the relationship God wants for each of us.
This week we read about another of those unlikely candidates. A man no one from a human perspective would think God could ever forgive because of the actions he took against those early followers of his Son, Jesus. Saul, who God would later call Paul, held the coats of those who stoned Steven. He received authority from the temple to chase down these followers of Jesus and have them not just persecuted but killed. Yet, God chose this murderer of Christians to be his missionary to Gentile world.
Paul would write half of what would become the New Testament. Thirteen of the twenty-seven books in the New Testament are ascribed to his authorship. An unlikely character in God’s pantheon of heroes. But God doesn’t look at men and women the same way we do. He doesn’t choose based on what we see in our lower story. He doesn’t choose people the way we examine them with all our human relation tools for job hunting. No. God sees the potential in the way he created us and sets his plan in front of us.
God’s upper story uses the most unlikely people to advance his purpose to bring us back into a face to face relationship with him in the garden he has been preparing for us since Adam and Eve were cast out of Eden. God also asks us to be obedient to his call. He called each of these unlikely people to different tasks. Some were easy. Some were difficult and at great personal risk. But each required them to obey God’s command to go and do something for him.
So what is God asking you to do? It might be as simple as taking a meal to a sick neighbor to visibly share the compassion that God has for others. It might be to listen to the teenager that sits at the bus stop with tears in her eyes and just hear her story and tell her your own story so she knows there is a God in heaven who loves her. It might be something that is much bigger than you think you could ever do. It might even sound impossible. But when God gives you something to do, he will always give you what you need to make it happen. It might be resources, it might be skills, it might be relationships with other people who will give you help.
God uses unlikely people so others know that when God-like things happen, we are not the ones responsible for their implementation. God is. We are just his tools in giving ourselves to him in obedient service. God uses unlikely people to help us understand that no matter who we are or how little you think you might could contribute to God’s plan, he has a different view. God will use you to further his plan. He will use you to help others know that he is full of grace and truth. He will use the most unlikely characters so we can know that he wants everyone to come to him and know his salvation.
There is only one thing to remember about it all. We are all part of God’s Story, but to find yourself in his garden at the end of time, you must obey him. His creation. His rules. God is full of grace. But God is also full of truth. The balance is met at Calvary where those who believe in Jesus for the forgiveness of their sins and follow him will not perish but have eternal life. But that most famous of verses continues in Jesus’ conversation with Nicodemus. He didn’t come to condemn the world, but when we don’t believe, we are already condemned. Jesus is the way to eternal life and there is no other.
As unlikely as you might feel as a hero for God, he can use you in his plan. All it takes is looking up and letting him lead you wherever he wants you to go. And do whatever he wants you to do. That’s it. Then you’ll find yourself on that list of heroes, too.
You can find me at richardagee.com. I also invite you to join us at San Antonio First Church of the Nazarene on West Avenue in San Antonio to hear more about The Story and our part in it. You can find out more about my church at SAF.church. Thanks for listening. If you enjoyed it, tell a friend. If you didn’t, send me an email and let me know how better to reach out to those around you. Until next week, may God richly bless you as you venture into His story each day.
Apr 2, 2018

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

It took forty days for the 120 disciples to get past themselves to find the promised power of God. Are you willing to spend the time necessary to get past yourself to find the resurrection he has for you? You won’t regret it.

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

 

 

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