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A Little Walk With God

A daily devotional through the Bible narrated as if walking through the garden east of Eden with God. Scriptures come from a daily reading plan that take you through the Bible in one year, generally coming from The Voice. Our website is http://alittlewalkwithgod.com or http://richardagee.com
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Thanks for listening.

Richard

Mar 18, 2019

Join us as we explore God's ancient wisdom and apply it to our modern lives. His word is as current and relevant today as it was when he inspired its authors more than two and a half millennia ago. The websites where you can reach us are alittlewalkwithgod.com, richardagee.com, or saf.church.

I hope you will join us every week and be sure to let us know how you enjoy the podcast and let others know about it, too. Thanks for listening.

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

What is God really like? We read the Old Testament and see a God who punishes sin in extremely harsh ways. Take for example the incident recorded in Exodus 32 and 33. Moses goes up Mount Horeb and God writes on tables of stone ten commandments as the basis to live in community with him and each other. Because of Moses’ prolonged absence, the people convince his brother, Aaron, that Moses must be dead and will not return. Aaron crafts a gold statue of a cow and that statue becomes their god.

Exodus 33 Then the Lord said to Moses, “Leave this place, you and the people you brought up out of Egypt, and go up to the land I promised on oath to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, saying, ‘I will give it to your descendants.’ 2 I will send an angel before you and drive out the Canaanites, Amorites, Hittites, Perizzites, Hivites and Jebusites. 3 Go up to the land flowing with milk and honey. But I will not go with you, because you are a stiff-necked people and I might destroy you on the way.”

4 When the people heard these distressing words, they began to mourn and no one put on any ornaments. 5 For the Lord had said to Moses, “Tell the Israelites, ‘You are a stiff-necked people. If I were to go with you even for a moment, I might destroy you. Now take off your ornaments and I will decide what to do with you.’”6 So the Israelites stripped off their ornaments at Mount Horeb.God is ready to destroy all those people and start over with just Moses. But Moses prays and asks forgiveness for their sinfulness. He offers his life for theirs and asks God to remain with them on their journey to the land God promised Abraham so many years ago.

God changed his mind and saved his people from destruction, but instead of going straight to the land he had picked out for them as an inheritance, the Israelites remained in the rugged wilderness of the middle east for forty years. They lived as nomads with no home to call their own until every adult who left Egypt died except for Joshua and Caleb. That is harsh punishment.

In the desert, God provided food for them, but it was manna every day. Breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Manna. Once when I was in the Army, our rations got a little mixed up and we at chicken cacciatore for breakfast and lunch for longer than anyone should. We couldn’t exchange them. We were stuck with them. It took me almost a decade to enjoy chicken cacciatore again. It gave me a new appreciation for the Israelites’ complaint about manna. The Bible tells us it was sweet, like honey. But there are only so many ways you can fix something. Raw. Boiled. Baked. Add water and yeast to make bread. Fried. How many things can you do with it? But still it was manna. Every day. Breakfast, lunch, and dinner. For forty years. If you do the math, that’s 14,560 days. If you ate three meals a day, that 43,680 meals. Of manna. Punishment!

God heard their complaint about manna, though. He solved their problem. They ate quail. Now, if you order quail in a restaurant, it’s usually in one of those high priced places. I’m not sure most of the restaurants I eat in have quail on the menu. Quite a luxury God gave them. But like the manna, when that’s all you have is quail, it gets old no matter how good it was in the beginning. God let them eat it until it came out their nose. They grew really sick of those birds. Literally. Punishment.

God sent hail and brimstone down on the wicked. Sodom and Gomorrah. He turned Lot’s wife into a pillar of salt when she couldn’t resist one more peak at the town she left behind. God let the waters fall back together to crush the Egyptian army after the Israelites walked across on dry land. God surrounded Elisha with an army of angels ready to strike when the Syrian army paid him a visit. God even struck Miriam with leprosy when she and Aaron got a little jealous of Moses’ position.

For those of you who might be fashion sensitive, they had shoes that didn’t wear out. No shoe shopping. The same pair of sandals. Every day. No matter what you might wear. Oh, yeah. The clothes didn’t wear out either. So for the fashionistas, they wore the same clothes. Every day. For 14, 560 days. Maybe they had one extra set so they could wear one set while the other was in the wash, but remember, they left in a hurry. They didn’t take a lot of luggage with them. Not much of a wardrobe. Punishment.

So we see the God of the Old Testament seems like he was always looking for ways to punish. But that’s not really true. Did he punish? Yes. Did he love? More than we can ever understand. I think sometimes those glimpses of God’s wrath in the Old Testament are kind of like our news media today. Bad news cells. We want the juicy failures so it makes us feel better about ourselves.

The truth is God has not changed. He is the same yesterday, today, and forever. He is truth and life and light. He is the creator. He keeps all of this universe humming in perfect order. He is love. He created that emotion because he wants us to experience in our frail, imperfect way, the perfect love the triune Godhead experiences eternally.

The amazing thing about God is that he wants to have a personal relationship with each of us. He wants that relationship so desperately that he came to earth and lived with us wrapped in human flesh. Then sacrificed himself on a Roman cross as payment for the Old Testament covenant punishment we deserve. His mercy relieves us of that payment with our blood. But God hasn’t changed and there is more. Not only does he give us mercy and doesn’t make us pay the penalty for our sins, he pours out his grace on us.

God’s grace is so incredible it is impossible to describe. God’s grace so exceeds our limited capacity to imagine, we cannot put it into words. Many have tried, but we all fall short and just stand in awe of the creator who gives us life. Forgives our sins. Covers us with the blood he shed on the cross for us. Sits at the right hand of the Father intervening on our behalf. His grace is so marvelous we cannot begin to even adequately put it into our thoughts.

The God of grace and mercy and love is the New Testament God we like to hear about and he is all of that. He pours himself out for us. He is an awesome God as the song written by Rich Mullins and made popular by Michael W. Smith echos for us. Don’t get me wrong, I know God’s grace and mercy and love. I’ve experienced it personally. But I also know that God has not and will not change. The God of the Old Testament and the God of the New Testament are the same God. Just like as a good father, there are times that I must punish my kids to help them learn right from wrong, God as our greatest example of a good father disciplines us.

Should we be surprised at the seeming change in personality between the two sides represented in the Old and New? No, but if you look closely at God before and after that dividing line in which God came to earth to live in flesh, you’ll see his love in the Old Testament with scenes like Pharaoh’s daughter rescuing Moses from the river. God giving Sarah a child in her old age. David’s psalms. And the list goes on and on.

The God of the New Testament is also a God of wrath. Just take a look at Acts 5 and see what happened to Ananias and Sapphira or the judgments that will be meted out described in the book of Revelation. God has not and will not change. He is the one constant in everything we do or see or feel. He is the anchor we can depend on because regardless of the political bent of any particular nation, regardless the state of the economy, regardless the health of loved ones or yourself, God is the same and God cares.

What does that mean for us? It means in a hopeless, loveless, wicked world, we have hope. We have love. We have righteousness. Because we can have God, not just with us, but in us. He can forgive us and then if we let him, he can guide us through this life and into the next safe from the destroyer of souls.

In this Lenten Season, remember who God is. Remember he came to show us we have hope because he came and died for us. But he didn’t just die as a sacrifice. If he stayed in the grave as a sacrifice, we would not be worshiping him. We would not have churches around the globe. We would not die as martyrs for Jesus, the Messiah. No, if Jesus had only died on the cross, he would have been another good man doing marvelous things for people.

But Easter came. Jesus arose. He conquered death, our enemy. He lives today. Remember who God is. Remember why we have hope. Spend time listening to him and learning about him as Easter approaches.

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.



Mar 13, 2019

Join us as we explore God's ancient wisdom and apply it to our modern lives. His word is as current and relevant today as it was when he inspired its authors more than two and a half millennia ago. The websites where you can reach us are alittlewalkwithgod.com, richardagee.com, or saf.church.

I hope you will join us every week and be sure to let us know how you enjoy the podcast and let others know about it, too. Thanks for listening.

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

My pastor is going through a series of sermons entitled “For God So Loved” through the Lenten Season. There is a devotional book that goes along with it that has devotionals written by several different authors. And for the next few weeks, I will be using the same scriptures and themes that come from that devotional to align with the sermon series my church is going through. So today I’ll be looking at a passage from Psalms 17 in which David writes these words:

Keep me as the apple of your eye;

   hide me in the shadow of your wings

9 from the wicked who are out to destroy me,

   from my mortal enemies who surround me.

10 They close up their callous hearts,

   and their mouths speak with arrogance.

11 They have tracked me down, they now surround me,

   with eyes alert, to throw me to the ground.

12 They are like a lion hungry for prey,

   like a fierce lion crouching in cover.

13 Rise up, Lord, confront them, bring them down;

   with your sword rescue me from the wicked.

14 By your hand save me from such people, Lord,

   from those of this world whose reward is in this life.

 

We feel like David sometimes, don’t we? Try as hard as we may to live like we are supposed to, the bad guys seem to win and we want them to get what’s coming to them. We know there is a judgment day they will face. We know Jesus will sort the sheep and the goats. We know we will ultimately be avenged for what wicked men have done to us in this life. But we would like to see a little of that justice now, wouldn’t we?

I’d like us to go back and look at the setting in which David wrote this psalm for a minute. Samuel, the great and last judge of the nation of Israel, warned them about the trouble a king would bring on them. But the people insisted on having a king like the nations around them. God chose Saul for that position. Interestingly enough, of all the troubles a king would bring, like taxes, standing armies, forced labor, and so forth, all the things Samuel mentioned, Saul was the only king that did not impose any of those things on the people. David did, but not Saul. But Saul disobeyed a command God gave him through Samuel and made a sacrificial offering he was not authorized to make. Only a priest could perform that duty, but Saul took it upon himself to do it when Samuel was delayed. It cost Saul the kingdom and brought about the enmity between Saul and David. Samuel anoint David as the next king, but he had not yet been crowned.

Saul’s jealousy raged. He tried to kill David on many occasions and David fled for his life. As one of Israel’s greatest warriors, defeating the Philistines on the battlefield many times, the nations around Israel wanted the young warrior dead. Now the king of Israel wanted him dead, too. David had enemies surrounding him from every corner. He felt like he had nowhere to turn even though he was doing what he thought God wanted him to do in fighting for his nation and his king.

Remember, that on at least two occasions, David had the opportunity and the means to take Saul’s life, but refused because he would not harm the man God anointed as king. Instead, David ran for his life. It wasn’t fair. God laid out some spectacular things for him to do. God made some incredible promises to him and gave him talents that brought fear to his enemies. (When you can defeat a nine foot giant wearing battle armor with a sling and a stone, that can cause people to be afraid of you.) Yet David displayed a gentle spirit with many who came in contact with him.

Now on the run, David pours out his heart to the God he learned to trust as a shepherd out on the hillside protecting his father’s sheep against the wild animals in the wilderness. Was it fair? No. Did God ever tell us life would be fair? No. Was David’s life on the run an easy one? No. Did God ever tell us life would be easy? No. In fact, Jesus told his disciples to expect trouble. Following after God is bound to put you in opposition to the world. The average person will not like what you do if you follow his teaching. He puts boundaries on your actions. You can’t do anything you want to do. Your rights stop where they collide with responsibilities.

I would love life to be like that a couple of those line we read. “... hide me in the shadow of your wings,  from the wicked who are out to destroy me... Rise up, Lord, confront them, bring them down;  with your sword rescue me from the wicked. By your hand save me from such people…”

Doesn’t that sound good? But God doesn’t always do that. In fact, like with his son, Jesus, we often face the worst. God sometimes puts us in the very front of the battle lines of this world and we must stand against some of the most wicked and atrocious acts Satan has in his bag of tricks. Does that mean God doesn’t love us? No. Does it mean he has abandoned us? No. Does it mean he doesn’t care about the struggles we face in this world? No. God still loves and cares for us.

But as with David as he ran for his life, we sometimes draw closest to God in the times of our greatest struggles. Sometimes God allows these things to happen because it is in those times when we find we have nowhere to go for relief that we throw ourselves into God’s great arms because we know he is our last and only hope. It’s at times like those that we learn the greatest lessons about how little of life we control and how much we rely on him for every heartbeat and every breath of life.

God loves us so much he lets us endure some of the hardships of this world so we might draw closer to him and find solace in his embrace when life seems to overwhelm us in every direction we turn. Then when the lions roar, when the vipers strike, the hurricane winds and floods push to engulf us, we can rest in the assurance that God’s hand will reach down and cover us. He will not let us suffer more than we can endure. He will rescue us. But he does so will his purpose in mind.

God still wants his message to ring through our lives so others will see the peace in our hearts that come from knowing him. He wants others to know the legacy his son left us. Peace that when the chaos of life crushes in upon us, we can know that with our last breath, we awake in a new heaven and a new earth surrounded by the brilliance of God glory forever. A place where pain and death and evil can never touch us again.

Will I stop praying David’s seventeenth psalm just because I know my future in heaven? No, I would still like relief from the wickedness that plagues this world. I would still like God to intervene to stop the suffering that comes from the evil that lurks in the dark places that seem to encroach more and more on the innocent. I still cry out like David for God to rise up and confront those who find their reward in this world instead of in his kingdom.

But I also read the last chapter of the book. I know how it all ends. I have confidence and hope that someday soon Jesus will come as the avenger for all his children. And I cry for those who do not know him. Their eternity will not be as short or pleasant as they imagine. Eternity is something our human mind cannot grasp. Eternal punishment and banishment from the God of creation is something we cannot fully understand or imagine. I pity the lost whose souls will forever experience that awful place.

During this Lenten Season, take time to understand what Jesus has done for you in making a way to avoid that place of eternal lostness. Take time to think about the avenger who will come again and make right a world that has gone very wrong because of our refusal to accept God as God. Stop and remember that he will one day soon call an end to time and he will do exactly what the psalmist asked. He will rise up, confront, bring down, and destroy those of this world whose reward is in this life.

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



Feb 25, 2019

Join us as we explore God's ancient wisdom and apply it to our modern lives. His word is as current and relevant today as it was when he inspired its authors more than two and a half millennia ago. The websites where you can reach us are alittlewalkwithgod.com, richardagee.com, or saf.church.

I hope you will join us every week and be sure to let us know how you enjoy the podcast and let others know about it, too. Thanks for listening.

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

Paul had many people ask him about what heaven would be like since Jesus met him one day on the road to Damascus and he saw a glimpse of what will come. He saw the risen Lord and just a taste of what heaven might be like when time comes to an end. He learned from Jesus’ apostles that we would be changed when he came to take us home with him. So as is common with us, we wanted to know what we would be like. We live in these frail bodies and we suffer all kinds of things in this world. Will we still have the pain, the scars, the memories, and the nightmares that plague us here?

Paul had some interesting things to say to us on that account. We go back to Paul’s letter to the congregation in Corinth as he tries to help them understand just how confused and unknowing they really were. We ask the same question, though, don’t we? We want to know what the other side of life will look like. We want to know for sure if there really is a heaven and hell. We want to know what life will be like when we cross to the other side of eternity.

The people in Corinth were especially concerned because Jesus said he was coming back soon. It had been years since he left. Some of their congregation died. Jesus hadn’t come. The Romans made life difficult for the Christians. The Jewish leaders made life difficult for the Christians. The pagans who believed in a pantheon of gods made life difficult for Christians. The whole world made life difficult for Jesus’ followers just like he said they would. So what happened? Should they still wait? Was Jesus’ promise real? Was he really coming back? And if so, what would really happen to them?

Here are Paul’s words of encouragement to them.

35 Now I know what some of you are thinking: “Just how are the dead going to be raised? What kind of bodies will they have when they come back to life?” 36 Don’t be afool! The seed you plant doesn’t produce life unless it dies. Right?37 The seed doesn’t have the same look,the same body, if you will,of what it will have once it starts to grow. It starts out a single, naked seed—whether wheat or some other grain, it doesn’t matter38 and God gives to that seed a body just as He has desired. For each of the different kinds of seeds God prepares a unique body. 39 Or look at it this way:not all flesh is the same. Right?There is skinflesh on humans, furryflesh on animals, featheryflesh on birds, and scalyflesh on fish. 40 Likewisethere are bodies made for the heavens and bodies made for the earth. The heavenly bodies have a different kind of glory or luminescencecompared to bodies below. 41 Even among the heavenly bodies, there is a different level of brilliance:the sun shines differently than the moon, the moon differently than the stars, and the stars themselves differ in their brightness. ...

50 Now listen to this: brothers and sisters, this present body is not able to inherit the kingdom of God any more than decay can inherit that which lasts forever. 51 Stay close because I am going to tell you a mystery—something you may have trouble understanding: we will not all fall asleep in death, but we will all be transformed. 52 It will all happen so fast,in a blink, a mere flutter of the eye. The last trumpet will call, and the dead will be raised from their graves with a body that does not, cannot decay. All of us will be changed! 53 We’ll step out of our mortal clothes and slide into immortal bodies, replacing everything that is subject to death with eternal life.54 And, when we are all redressed with bodies that do not, cannot decay, when we put immortality over our mortal frames, then it will be as Scripture says:

Life everlastinghas victoriously swallowed death.[j]

55 Hey, Death! What happened to your big win?

   Hey, Death! What happened to your sting?

Have you ever thought about what that change might be like? Jesus talked about how a seed must die before a plant can grow from it. So picture, if you will, an acorn. We know oak trees come from acorn’s the seed that produces those magnificent trees. I’m sure you’ve seen a few of them. Hard shelled things about ¾ of an inch across. Although there are a variety of different nuts we eat, the acorn is one we don’t. If you examine that small receptacle of life, would you ever think a giant oak would grow from that little seed? A tree looks so different from the seed from which it sprouts. So does a corn stalk look different from a single kernel of corn. Or a watermelon seed different from a watermelon. Pick any seed and tell me if you could guess what its plant would look like when mature. I don’t believe you could.

Jesus and Paul tell us this flesh that houses our eternal spirit is just a seed. When it dies, a spiritual bodies emerges from it just as an oak emerges from an acorn. What will our spiritual bodies be like? I can’t tell you. Will we look the same? I don’t think we will. I think we will know each other as we are perfected by his resurrection power. I think we will understand perfectly. I think we will see God in his triune perfection. Paul says we will be changed in the blink of an eye. Paul doesn’t describe that change except that we will be clothed in a new, spiritual body. An immortal one. One that can never decay or die. We will have a body that will live through eternity without pain or sadness or deformity or anything but the perfection of the image of God he placed within each of us.

What will we look like? Will we really care? Does the acorn care what the tree looks like that comes from inside its tiny shell? Does the apple seed care how many apple live inside it? Does a wheat germ care how many grains of wheat will come from it when the farmer plants it in the ground? So why should we care what this new spiritual body will be? Suffice it to say our spiritual bodies will be exactly right because God will grow them. He planned this millenia ago. We can trust him to make the spiritual body that springs from the seed of our fleshly body exactly what he plans.

I cannot even imagine what it might be like. Just like I could never imagine what plant would come from a particular seed if you placed it in my hand. I think our spiritual bodies will be as different from our fleshly bodies as a plant is from the seed from which it comes. Does that bother you? It doesn’t bother me. It’s one of those things I figure God has taken care of and I don’t need to worry about it. I trust him to know what he’s doing. I can’t make an oak tree. All I can do is plant an acorn. I can’t create a field of wheat. All I can do is plant some seeds. I can’t create a spiritual body. All I can do is prepare my fleshly body for the next step. I can give myself to God. I can follow his commands to the best of my ability. I can ask forgiveness from him. Then I can let him do his work in me and when time ends, he can change me into something I never dreamed. He will give me a spiritual body something we cannot now imagine.

Will we all be the same? I don’t know. Will we be able to distinguish one person from another? I think so since Paul talks about bodies, plural. Will we remember anything of this body when we put on the next? I don’t know. Does it really matter? Will we care about this life after we move into the next? I’m not sure we will if we find ourselves in heaven with God. I think we will be so engaged in worship and the work he gives us to do in heaven (I really believe he has work for us to do there, also), we won’t think about or worry about what happened here. The only thing we will remember from this side of eternity is that sacrifice he made for us so we could be with him. Everything else from this side of life will just fade away.

The Corinthians wondered what was happening to these frail vessels that kept dying while they waited for Jesus’ return. Paul let them know Jesus was still coming. His delay didn’t mean he wasn’t coming back. It means God is gracious and wants us to share his story to influence as many as possible to come into his kingdom. His delay is because of his mercy and grace. He wants as many as possible to come to him. Paul also wanted them to know our frail, sickly bodies weren’t the things that would survive and follow us into heaven. These things that deteriorate and decay are just seeds and one day from this fleshy seed will sprout a spiritual body like nothing we can begin to imagine.

Do you ever wonder what will become of this lump of clay you reside it? Don’t worry about it. Just like with the acorn and the oak, you can’t begin to imagine the new you. Be ready and then be blown away by the magnificence of God’s creative act in you.

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

Feb 18, 2019

Join us as we explore God's ancient wisdom and apply it to our modern lives. His word is as current and relevant today as it was when he inspired its authors more than two and a half millennia ago. The websites where you can reach us are alittlewalkwithgod.com, richardagee.com, or saf.church.

I hope you will join us every week and be sure to let us know how you enjoy the podcast and let others know about it, too. Thanks for listening.

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

Paul gives us an interesting observation as he writes to the congregation in Corinth. Near the end of his letter, in what is now chapter 15, he tells us the importance of Jesus’ resurrection. Here are his words, inspired by God.

12 Now if we have told you about the Christ (how He has risen from the dead and appeared to us fully alive), then how can you stand there andsay there is no such thing as resurrection from death? 13 Friends,if there is no resurrection of the dead, then even Christ hasn’t been raised; 14 if that is so, then all our preaching has been for nothing and your faith in the messageis worthless. 15 And what’s worse, all of us who have been preaching the gospelare now guilty of misrepresenting God because we have been spreading the news that He raised Jesus from the dead (which must be a lie if what you are saying about the dead not being raised is the truth). 16 Please listen.If you say, “the dead are not raised,” then what you are telling me is thatJesus has not been raised. Friends, 17 if Jesus has not been raised from the dead, then your faith is worth less than yesterday’s garbage, you are all doomed in your sins, 18 and all the dearlydeparted who trusted in His liberation are left decaying in the ground. 19 If what we have hoped for in Christ doesn’t take us beyond this life, then we are world-class fools, deserving everyone’s pity.

20 But Jesus was raised from death’s slumber and is the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep in death.

Sometimes it’s good for us to stop and remember the story. Sometimes we need to understand how important the truth of these words. Sometimes we need to stop in the business of our lives and think about what we believe and be ready to believe it regardless how foolish it may sound to an unbelieving world.

Without faith in what happened at a place called Golgotha, in that pivotal city of Jerusalem, and the then the events over the next several days, Christians certainly would be certifiably crazy. You probably know the story well. You probably heard it or versions of it most of your life. Whatever religion you might have been exposed to in your childhood, you probably at least heard rumors about this story of a man called Jesus.

A man whose followers proclaimed he was not just a religious person able to perform miracles, but a man they proclaimed he was the son of God. In fact, they went so far as to say he was God incarnate. God in the flesh. He preached and taught throughout the region for just over three years, radically altering what many believed about what God expected of us. He taught that God wanted a personal, intimate relationship with each of us. He would forgive anyone who believed he came to live with us in the person of this man Jesus. All who asked for forgiveness and followed him would find forgiveness.

The story says this man Jesus became an enemy of his own religious leaders and an enemy of the Roman state. The tried him in a kangaroo court and crucified him. Then the story becomes an impossible one without faith. This man, Jesus, whom the Romans executed on a cross, died there. Romans knew how to execute people. If they said he died, he died. In fact, if the biblical account if accurate, it’s a miracle Jesus even made it to the site of the crucifixion after the beatings and flogging he endured. But he did and he hung on the cross and he died.

From an unbeliever’s perspective, the fairy tale gets better. The dead guy lays in a tomb for three days in the heat of the middle eastern sun and then he appears alive to two women who come to finish the burial ritual they couldn’t finish the day he died because of the rapid approach of the sabbath. Then he appears to two men walking from Jerusalem to Emmaus, unrecognized until he sits down to eat with them. Then he appears behind a locked door to ten of his disciples. A week later he appears to all eleven of his disciples, again, behind locked doors. For forty days after his resurrection, he appeared off and on to different people around the city until his ascension where nearly 500 of his followers saw him lift off the ground in a cloud.

Without faith in the truth of the story, wouldn’t that make a great fairy tale? Without the assurance of the truth because of God’s spirit prompting us and helping us realize how much he wants to have a relationship with him, doesn’t that sound like some far off fantasy? How could anyone believe such nonsense? Who would ever fall for such a fantastic story? What would make people die for such a ridiculous story?

That’s what the scoffers say. That’s how the unbelievers think. That’s the reaction you get from the average man on the street, today. But what about you? What evidence can you propose to get to the truth and know that the story is real? How do you know the Bible is true?

It is an interesting question and one that deserves some answers. C.S. Lewis is a famous Christian author who set out to prove the story was so much trash. What he discovered was the truth. The evidence that shouts at us to show us the Bible is true and what it says can be trusted and believed. He has a series of books whose titles begin “The Case for…” and give the evidence of the truth behind the Bible, the crucifixion, Easter, Christmas, and many other topics. He painstakingly researched each and discovered evidence you could take to court.

Just start with the canon itself. Many unbelievers touted scripture must be the fiction of some religious leaders, but look at how it has come into our hands. Just the quality of artifacts from antiquity bears witness to the Bible’s authenticity. Scholars talk about the Iliad and Odyssey as ancient with a dozen or so fragments of the text from the fifth and sixth centuries surviving. But with the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls and other fragments, we have more than 5,000 fragments and whole letters dating from three and four hundred BCE. And all the copies are nearly identical. In fact, the differences are not in the text, but in the marginal notes.

The Bible is and has been the number one seller for so long that none of the publishers, sellers, and analysts list it among the books sold anymore. Not because it doesn’t sell, but because it sells so far above the number two selling book that the numbers of books sold make everything embarrassing by comparison. Millions of copies are distributed every year. The top selling books sometimes reach a million copies in a year. Not often, but sometimes in a year. The Bible? Millions, plural, year after year after year. And as of October 2017 the full Bible has been translated into 670 languages, the New Testament has been translated into 1,521 languages. No other book has ever achieved such a global outreach. Impossible, right? Not if the living God is behind it.

So that explains the written word just a little. It must be more than a fairy tale if it continues to circulate like that from the beginning of its writing. But how about those willing to give their lives for their belief? Today we see handfuls of terrorists blowing themselves up to attain their 72 virgins in heaven. Not sure that will happen for them, but that’s a different podcast. It’s interesting that the vast majority of those willing to do so are under the age of 25. I don’t want to be disparaging of young people, but the medical community tells us that our brain isn’t fully developed until about age 25. So quite frankly, I’m more than a little concerned about the training those young folks are getting. You never seem to see the imams or clerics or older wiser men strapping explosive to themselves.

But in Christian circles, we don’t see dozens of people strapping explosives to themselves. We see people spreading Jesus’ legacy of peace he left with us. As a result, Christians are hated. We are persecuted. In many areas of the world, we are executed for our faith. Over the last ten years, different organizations have determined that more than a million Christians lost their lives because of their faith. They refuse to renounce their faith. They refuse to let go of their belief in the one who forgives sin. The story for them is very real. They are willing to give their lives before they change their belief.

Why would that many people willingly give up their lives for something that wasn’t true? Why would so many people willingly follow a fairy tale? The answer is, they wouldn’t. No one would give up as much as Christians have if the story were not true. If it were just a story, the truth would have come out long ago and the martyrdom would have stopped. People would agree with the majority of the world and let the story go. No one would accept the sacrifices Christians accept if the story were not true.

But Paul was right. “... if there is no resurrection of the dead, then even Christ hasn’t been raised; 14 if that is so, then all our preaching has been for nothing and your faith in the messageis worthless… But Jesus was raised from death’s slumber and is the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep in death.” We can believe because the story is not just a story. Jesus, the son of God, lived, died, was buried, and rose again.

So what will you do today because the story is not just a story, it is the truth upon which we stand?

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

Feb 8, 2019

Join us as we explore God's ancient wisdom and apply it to our modern lives. His word is as current and relevant today as it was when he inspired its authors more than two and a half millennia ago. The websites where you can reach us are alittlewalkwithgod.com, richardagee.com, or saf.church.

I hope you will join us every week and be sure to let us know how you enjoy the podcast and let others know about it, too. Thanks for listening.

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

As we continue looking at scripture references that come from the common lectionary, this week’s readings included a familiar passage from Isaiah 6 in which the prophet gets a glimpse into the throne room of heaven. It tells us of the time and place of his commission as a prophet. The words are best told from his mouth so here is how Isaiah expresses the experience in chapter six.

6:1 In the year that King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord sitting on a throne, high and lofty; and the hem of his robe filled the temple.

6:2 Seraphs were in attendance above him; each had six wings: with two they covered their faces, and with two they covered their feet, and with two they flew.

6:3 And one called to another and said: "Holy, holy, holy is the LORD of hosts; the whole earth is full of his glory."

6:4 The pivots on the thresholds shook at the voices of those who called, and the house filled with smoke.

6:5 And I said: "Woe is me! I am lost, for I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips; yet my eyes have seen the King, the LORD of hosts!"

6:6 Then one of the seraphs flew to me, holding a live coal that had been taken from the altar with a pair of tongs.

6:7 The seraph touched my mouth with it and said: "Now that this has touched your lips, your guilt has departed and your sin is blotted out."

6:8 Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, "Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?" And I said, "Here am I; send me!"

6:9 And he said, "Go and say to this people: 'Keep listening, but do not comprehend; keep looking, but do not understand.'

6:10 Make the mind of this people dull, and stop their ears, and shut their eyes, so that they may not look with their eyes, and listen with their ears, and comprehend with their minds, and turn and be healed."

6:11 Then I said, "How long, O Lord?" And he said: "Until cities lie waste without inhabitant, and houses without people, and the land is utterly desolate;

6:12 until the LORD sends everyone far away, and vast is the emptiness in the midst of the land.

6:13 Even if a tenth part remain in it, it will be burned again, like a terebinth or an oak whose stump remains standing when it is felled." The holy seed is its stump.

Can you imagine what it must have been like to be Isaiah at that moment? At times I think I would like to have accompanied him on that trip to see the throne. Most of the time, though, I think I’m glad I haven’t had that experience. Take a look at his words and the terrible fear he felt being in God’s presence. Why? Because he like all of us find it impossible to bear the weight of our sins in the presence of a holy God. He is so pure, so innocent, so incredibly good, that in his presence we see only how base and sinful and how far short we are from the lives he desires for us.

We are unworthy to come near him, yet he invites us to come. We are unworthy to carry his message of forgiveness, yet his plan is for us to do just that. We are so away from the kind of life he wants us to portray as a life of godliness and holiness, but he gives us the command to go make disciples and teach them by our example.

Why would God ever choose to put the hope of mankind in our hands? Why would he choose people so desperate for forgiveness and so hungry for cleansing from the filth of sin to share his message?

I think the answer is simple. When we are forgiven, we can forgive. When we experience his mercy, we can show mercy. When we have a taste of his grace in our lives, we can spread his grace to those around us so they can get a small taste of who God is and what he wants for all mankind. So we see Isaiah at his lowest.

“God, how can I be here in your presence as a sinful man? Even though a priest, I will die because I am so far from your holiness. I am undone!”

But God ignores Isaiah’s self incrimination. He looks around and asks a simple question, “Who will carry my message?”

“Here I am, choose me.”

I can picture Isaiah standing at the very back of the room trying to hide behind the angels. I can see him just peeking around those giant messengers of God trying not to be seen lest he encounter God’s wrath because of his distance from true heart purity. But the question reaches his ears and in the moment I can see him frantically waving his arms above his head and screaming out, “Here I am. Look I don’t want to hide anymore. You have touched me and done something in me that I never dreamed possible. You’ve taken away my guilt and cleaned up my heart. You made me whole again. Here I am, way back in the back. God, look. Send me. Let me do whatever it is you want done.”

That’s what it’s like what God does his work in your heart. When he cleans us up, we can’t help but be ready to do his bidding. When we are freed from the stain and guilt of sin, we can’t help but jump up and down, wave our arms in the air, and volunteer for the God who does all things well. We can’t help but give ourselves to him in complete obedience.

Was Isaiah’s life easy after that? Far from it. Being a prophet for God is hard. No one wants to listen to you. No one wants to believe the message you say is from God. Most will think you are a bit crazy. Many will be ready to kill you because of the message. That is the way it was from Isaiah and that is the way it still is today. In fact, there are more martyrs for the cause of Christ every year today than there have ever been in all of history.

Living for God is hard. Jesus told us the world would hate us because of him. He told us we might lose everything because of him. He told us we would have to take up our cross and follow him. For some that means a literal cross on which we sacrifice our flesh and blood for him. For others the cross means giving up our assets or our families or our livelihood or a host of other things. The cross we bear is different for everyone, but we must all take up the cross that belongs to us. We must carry it and realize it is part of God’s plan for us to do so.

It was hard for Isaiah. It was hard for Jeremiah. It was hard for the disciples and for Paul. It is hard for anyone and everyone who picks up the mantle God gives. But is it worth it? That is the question to be answered when at the end of the day fatigue sets in and progress seems so small.

And what is the answer? Ask Isaiah. Ask Jeremiah. Ask Paul and all those who have gone before us. The will give you a resounding answer, “Yes! Absolutely!” Isaiah stood at the very foot of the throne of God and saw him high and lifted up. What a sight. Paul saw Jesus on the road to Damascus. What an opportunity. God speaks to his people. It may be through his written word. It may be through a dear Christian friend or through circumstances surrounding you. It may be in a thousand different ways, but when we listen intently for his voice, we will hear him.

And when he speaks to his children, very often he has a chore for us to do. He doesn’t want us standing around idle. He wants us busy at his purpose. He wants us to be part of his plan. He wants us to spread the message of forgiveness to all who will believe and follow him.

So what is he telling you? Can you hear him calling? Can you sense the task he has for you today? Step up. Believe he will help you. Understand, like Isaiah, that God wants to use you to carry his message by your actions to a lost world that desperately needs his love and forgiveness. He speaks today. Listen for his voice, then obey his command. I will tell you on God’s authority that it won’t be easy, but it will certainly be worth it.

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

Feb 4, 2019

Join us as we explore God's ancient wisdom and apply it to our modern lives. His word is as current and relevant today as it was when he inspired its authors more than two and a half millennia ago. The websites where you can reach us are alittlewalkwithgod.com, richardagee.com, or saf.church.

I hope you will join us every week and be sure to let us know how you enjoy the podcast and let others know about it, too. Thanks for listening.

Thanks for joining me today for "A Little Walk with God." I'm your host Richard Agee.
The psalmist wrote “ For a day in your courts is better than a thousand elsewhere. I would rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God than live in the tents of wickedness.” We seem to not believe the psalmist in our culture today, though. We seem to shy away from God’s house and believe any place is as good as another.

I can remember not so many years ago that the church was the center of most people’s lives in this country. When things went wrong or you needed help, the church was the first place you thought of for help. But no longer. Growing up, I remember being in church every Sunday for Sunday School at 9:15, now replaced with small groups, then worship service that might last until 12:30 or 1:00, then back to an evening service at 6:00 that would often dismiss at 9:00 or 10:00. Most of those Sunday night services are gone from most churches today. Wednesday evening midweek prayer meeting started at 7:00 and again lasted until 9:00 or later. Those, too, have disappeared.

Some churches have small group sessions in homes or coffee shops or even at the church one or two times a week with total attendance at 15 to 20 percent of the worship attendance. But for some reason we don’t see the church with the importance we once did. I think there are several reasons, none of which bode well for the state of the world we live in.

We need to stop and take inventory of some of those causes every once in a while and see if they apply to us as individuals. If and when they do, we need to stop and examine our lives and figure out how to get back on track before we find ourselves following the way of the world and end up on that broad way Jesus talks about that leads to destruction. So here are some reasons I see we have lost the desire to spend time together in God’s house.

First, we allow ourselves to become too busy with less important things. Don’t misunderstand me as I say that. We find our schedules filled to the brim with stuff and a lot of it looks important and is. We need to spend time with family and friends. We need to make a good living to support those we love. We need to do a lot of the things that we see on our calendar that is not in God’s house. But if we examine our calendars carefully, we would see a lot of things that have taken God’s place and disrupted our lives in ways he would not be pleased.

Let me share some examples. Would God prefer you spend time together as a family worshiping him in his house, or on a soccer field? That doesn’t mean sports is not important, but is it important to the exclusion of worship? Would God prefer you watch four hours of mindless television shows together, or learning about his incarnation and sacrifice? Lots of other examples can show where our priorities in the use of our time put God way down on our list of priorities and so we abandon his house and fail to understand the psalmist’s love of God’s house.

Second, the church fails to identify God, even in his own house. Now that is a terrible thing to say, but I’m afraid it is true in too many churches I’ve visited. We get caught up more often in our ritual and program and the entertainment value of our services than in seeing the God who wants to meet with us as we worship together. We have too often lost the ability to worship.

Too many of our churches have grown cold and wouldn’t recognize God if he were to walk in the door. We have pushed him out with our version of what worship should be instead of letting God determine what our worship should be. Am I trying to dictate some form of worship over another? No. Am I trying to say that one denomination has it right and others do not? No. Am I saying some churches get it right and others do not. Yes. Some churches have lost the spirit by the individual and collective actions of those who attend.

Paul talks about the behavior of those whom we will not see in heaven. The list includes prostitutes and thieves and murderers and we say amen to all of those. But Paul’s list didn’t stop there. He also listed those who gossip, lie, or cause dissension. Unfortunately, I’ve been to too many churches in my travels, and know we have those in every church I’ve visited. The world knows it, too. So if I’m an unbeliever, why would I want to go to a church filled with liars, gossips, and people who stir up dirt when the church is supposed to be a place where I can find hope and forgiveness.

So, if I’m an unbeliever, why would I want to go to a place that no only acts and feels just like the places I frequent outside the church, but does so while proclaiming it is just the opposite. As you can imagine, the hypocrisy would keep many from ever wanting to enter the doors. We in the church, are guilty of displaying some of the most devilish behavior as when we fail to provide the love for all people that Jesus tells us we should show.

Third, we in the church are probably guilty of doing what most families do to each other. I’m seldom as harsh with words directed to complete strangers as I am with those I love the most. We wonder why we do that after the fact, because we know how cutting and hurtful words can be if we are not careful with them. James tells us our tongue is one of the most dangerous weapons we have, much sharper than a sword. Yet we still aim hurtful words at those we love the most.

Maybe it’s because we know they love us too and will forgive our wrongs because they love us. Maybe it’s because when those we love do something that hurts us, it cuts so deep and we want to reciprocate with equally damaging words. Maybe we just don’t care because of the culture we built within our society that says my feelings take precedence over yours. Whatever the reason, I’ve found through the years the most hurt comes from our blood relatives and from our spiritual relatives. The words from both of those groups cause more angst than from any other sector of society. And so rather than stopping to find out what caused the dissension and gossip in the first place. Instead of confronting the source of the information that damaged the relationship, we just let things fester and fume until anger flares, sides are drawn, and the church divides.

As an outsider looking in, why would I want to be a part of that? What would draw me to that kind of place? I can get that from my neighborhood. I can find that around the watercooler at work. What good is church if that’s the way people behave? It certainly doesn’t describe the dwelling place of God that David describes, does it?

The good news is that most churches I’ve visited have a few of those saints that know the psalmist was right. Those who have had a genuine heart to heart encounter with God know what it means to be in his presence. Those who truly love him with their whole heart, soul, mind, and strength know that it really is better to be in his house than anywhere else. Those who discover God as creator and giver of all things and master of the universe and savior of those who believe in him for forgiveness of sin, would rather be in his presence than in the finest palace in the world. To those few saints in those churches, God isn’t defined by doctrine. He doesn’t look like the Renaissance paintings. He doesn’t care about riches and fame. He doesn’t care about who we know or what we do. He cares about each one of us as individuals. He cares about our individual relationship with him.

The few in those many churches I’ve visited that really know God. That have a deep intimate relationship with him, don’t even have to wait to go to church to worship, but they do gather together in places of worship because he instructs us to do so. They go to those churches to help others find their God. They desire more than anything to make it to God’s eternal dwelling place with other who have heard the story of Jesus, God incarnate, and believe. They desire to meet often with their spiritual brothers and sisters.

How about you? Have you met that God? Have you fallen in love with the one who cares nothing of doctrine, but everything about relationship? Have you become intimately involved with the one who gave everything so we might live to worship him? Have you discovered the God who longs to be with you so that you can know him and trust him with everything you have and everything you are?

If not, it’s about time you met him. Time is running out. It’s one day closer to Jesus’ return! And no one knows when that will be. It could be another thousand years...but it could also be tomorrow. Be ready!

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


Feb 4, 2019

Join us as we explore God's ancient wisdom and apply it to our modern lives. His word is as current and relevant today as it was when he inspired its authors more than two and a half millennia ago. The websites where you can reach us are alittlewalkwithgod.com, richardagee.com, or saf.church.

I hope you will join us every week and be sure to let us know how you enjoy the podcast and let others know about it, too. Thanks for listening.

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

It’s hard to believe the season of Lent will begin this week if you are hearing this podcast the week of its release. Lent is something much of the protestant world has forgotten, unfortunately. It has long been part of the Christian Calendar of special remembrances and festivals, but when many of the current protestant denominations grew out of the Catholic and liturgical faiths, we sometimes threw the baby out with the bath.

Why do I say that? Why do I think we need to take a look at the Christian Calendar presented by some of the more liturgical fellowships? What is so important about those dates that we should drag them out of the closet as fundamentalists or charismatics? Are they necessary for our worship? No. Are they required to keep us on track with God? No. Are they critical to our study of Jesus and what he has done for us? Again, I’d answer no to the question. So why am I bringing it up the day after what has been named Transfiguration Sunday and just a few days before Ash Wednesday and the beginning of the Lenten Season?

First, let me say that it has only been in the last couple of decades that I really let the Christian Calendar take root in my own life. And even so, many of the special days remembered by the Roman and Eastern Orthodox Churches will not be a part of my celebrations for a variety of reasons. But there are some that I think are good to embrace as remembrances of what Jesus did for us. And those fundamentalist and charismatics will agree that some of the calendar events are indeed special.

Who would argue that we should not remember Easter and its immediate predecessor Good Friday? Or how about Pentecost, the birth of the church? Those are predicated on Christmas, so shouldn’t that day be a part of our celebrations?

So you see, we do pick and choose what parts of the Christian Calendar we will celebrate or use as part of our worship. It’s just that in the last couple of decades, I’ve learned more about how the early church fathers used some of the special days to teach their congregates about the events of Jesus life and how they should emulate him in their daily walk. We must remember the majority of the early Christians were uneducated. Many could not read or write and even if they could, they didn’t have access to scriptures or books or literature to help them know who Jesus was, what he did, or how they could find peace in his forgiveness.

Consequently, the church provided special days to remember events in the life of Christ and the church to share the story of his life to the masses. The argument for why we don’t observe them from some is many were taken from pagan holidays and transformed instead into Christian holy days. I don’t disagree. But is that wrong? To transform something that was perhaps an evil practice and make it a holy one? If that’s wrong, then perhaps we need to look at ourselves. Jesus transforms this evil, sinful person into his likeness when we ask forgiveness and follow him. So why can’t we use some of those worldly things, transformed, for holy purposes?

Remember the dream Peter had about the banquet God provided of unclean animals? What God has made is never unclean. God makes all things good. So all 365 days of the year are good because God makes them. If we can use some tools to better remember what he has done for us, then isn’t that a good thing even when Satan tries to twist them into something bad?

Well, there is a little of my thought process to tell you we should embrace some of the calendar we have sometimes forgotten. One of those times is the Lenten Season. It begins with Ash Wednesday which this year falls on March 6. It began as a time of preparation for new Christians before their baptism. In the New Testament, believers were sometimes baptised immediately after their conversion. In the latter part of the first century, especially before Constantine became a believer and declared Christianity freed from persecution from his throne, believers began to desire baptism on Easter.

By the time Constantine became emperor, the church also had a problem with young believers not really knowing what they signed up for. The disciples were dead. Jesus had ascended. There were no authorized canons to show this is what the church believes is the definitive word of God. And they couldn’t read it anyway. It was necessary to teach these new Christians and make sure they knew the cost.

So the early church fathers like Ignatius, Origen, Hippolytus, Ambrose, and Augustine all recognized the need for a time of preparation before baptism into the church family. Kind of like doing the ground school training before you let the student pilot solo behind the controls of a plane in flight. Do they really believe and know what’s coming?

It wasn’t long before the standard preparation time became 40 days to coincide the 40 years the Israelites spent in the desert preparing to enter the promised land or the 40 days Jesus spent in the wilderness preparing for his ministry and fighting the temptations of Satan. Baptismal candidates would spend 3 hours a day for 40 days with their teacher, not counting Sundays, days to celebrate the resurrection of Jesus. In a nutshell, the church wanted to make sure they knew about Jesus. They knew about their lostness without him. And they knew the commitment they were taking, the cost of being a follower of Christ.

Jesus told us to count the cost before launching into something and the cost of being a Christian is everything. He said if you don’t die, you can’t live. If you don’t take up your cross and follow him, you’re not one of his. It takes everything to be a Christian. In the early church persecution was real. We sometimes think we are persecuted in this country because someone points a finger at us and make snide remarks.

In the early church, Christians couldn’t shop in the open markets. They were all dedicated to pagan gods and you had to bow to those gods to enter. They couldn’t get jobs. Most of the jobs were owned by those who wanted to kill Christians, not help them. They often lost their property, confiscated by the religious leaders or the state because of their “rebellion.” The often lost their family. Either because of shunning when they accepted Christ as Savior and no longer upheld the pagan rituals of their family’s traditions or the state took their children because of the “abuse” by these rebellious parents. And sometimes the cost meant death.

The cost of being a Christian in the early church was everything. If the candidate wasn’t prepared to give up everything, including their family and their life, then baptism and the church were not for them. Lent was that time of study and preparation for baptism in the early church.

After Constantine, however, the church discovered the preparation for baptism were a good time for all the congregation to be reminded of their commitment. It was a good time to prepare for the most important event in the history of Jesus’ time on earth. In our culture, we have managed to make Christmas really important with all the celebrations and presents. But I think we have really made Christmas in this country about money more than anything else.

Easter is really what Jesus’ life was all about, though. He came to give his life as a sacrifice for you and me. But if had just died on the cross, he would not have been remembered. He would have been another good man who rebelled against the Jewish leaders and the Roman government and he lost as evidenced by his crucifixion. If his tomb had stayed sealed on that third day, there would be no New Testament. There would be no early church. There would be no days to remember. It would be over.

But it didn’t end there. Easter came. The tomb opened and he walked out...alive. More than 500 people saw him over those next 40 days before he ascended into heaven. His early kingdom has grown exponentially and men and women are willing to die for him even those he left this place on a cloud 2000 years ago. Easter is what Jesus came to do. Yes, he came to die as a perfect sacrifice for our sins. But more than that, Jesus came to live again to prove he has power of death and the grave. He has the power to transform us into something better.

Easter is coming. Lent is almost here. How will you prepare? What will you do to know Jesus? What will you do to know you are lost without him? What will you do to know the commitment you make when you say yes to his will? What will you share with those around you that are on their way to an eternity without him? How will you show others just what Jesus means to you as you prepare to celebrate his resurrection in a way you have never celebrated before, fully prepared to worship the risen Lord this Easter.

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

Jan 28, 2019

Join us as we explore God's ancient wisdom and apply it to our modern lives. His word is as current and relevant today as it was when he inspired its authors more than two and a half millennia ago. The websites where you can reach us are alittlewalkwithgod.com, richardagee.com, or saf.church.

I hope you will join us every week and be sure to let us know how you enjoy the podcast and let others know about it, too. Thanks for listening.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Jan 21, 2019

Join us as we explore God's ancient wisdom and apply it to our modern lives. His word is as current and relevant today as it was when he inspired its authors more than two and a half millennia ago. The websites where you can reach us are alittlewalkwithgod.com, richardagee.com, or saf.church.

I hope you will join us every week and be sure to let us know how you enjoy the podcast and let others know about it, too. Thanks for listening.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Jan 14, 2019

Join us as we explore God's ancient wisdom and apply it to our modern lives. His word is as current and relevant today as it was when he inspired its authors more than two and a half millennia ago. The websites where you can reach us are alittlewalkwithgod.com, richardagee.com, or saf.church.

I hope you will join us every week and be sure to let us know how you enjoy the podcast and let others know about it, too. Thanks for listening.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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