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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

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.

Jan 7, 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 Merriam-Webster dictionary provides three definitions of the word epiphany. 1capitalized: January 6 observed as a church festival in commemoration of the coming of the Magias the first manifestation of Christ to the Gentiles or in the Eastern Church in commemoration of the baptism of Christ

2: an appearance or manifestation especially of a divine being

3a(1): a usually sudden manifestation or perception of the essentialnature or meaning of something

(2): an intuitive grasp of reality through something (such as an event) usually simple and striking

(3): an illuminating discovery, realization, or disclosure

b: a revealing scene or moment

So in the Christian calendar, the Epiphany is over. January 6th is past. The commemoration of the visit of the Magi to see Jesus and representing his ministry to the Gentiles as well as the Jews. So for millions in the Christian faith, we don’t mention the Epiphany again for another year. But why? Why can’t we live in a state of epiphany, the third definition? Why can’t we be like children in our Christian walk and through our daily activities and study, gain an intuitive grasp of reality through those activities? Why can’t we have the kinds of revealing moments children have in their discovery of life as we mature in our Christian walk?

I think our problem is we quit looking. We think as we physically mature into adulthood, we forget when we come to Christ, we come to him in a rebirth, infants. We soon think we know it all and lose the excitement of learning new things about him. It’s a phenomenon we see in most people in terms of their learning process in almost every aspect of life and applies to our Christian life as well if we are not careful.

As children, we are amazed at every discovery. Our brains are molded by all those new things we find in the world. They start with the discovery of our mom’s face, our hands and fingers, the small world that consists of the stuffed animals in our crib and the need for food and dry diapers. As we grow, our discoveries expand to the an every enlarging world around us, we explore on our knees as we learn to crawl, then our discoveries begin to get stifled by parents as we learn to walk and run and play because our parents need to confine our learning process to protect us in some ways.

Now why would I blame our parents for confining and limiting our epiphanies? Because I’m a parent. I’ve done it and if you’re a parent you’ve done it. It’s for our kids protection in a very evil world. I didn’t let my kids loose to do their own thing when they were five. They didn’t understand how the world works. They didn’t understand the harm that could come to them. They didn’t know the things I had learned through my thirty plus years of life when they were toddlers. The world for them would have been a scary place in which they could not have survived if I had just let them go out on their own with no supervision in their learning process at that young age.

When kids have been stopped from their inquisitive nature enough by parents or teachers or other adults, they stop learning. They give up. If they don’t learn as fast as others, peers can even make them stop because of embarrassment over their achievement or lack thereof. That’s what happens in our physical world. It’s what happens at school and at work.

If we are not careful, that same hindering of growth carries over into our spiritual world. Because we have lost the desire to learn in other areas, we can lose the desire to learn in our spiritual lives. We forget how to even have epiphanies. We let ourselves get buried in the same ruts that the rest of our society travels and refuse to learn. We just go along with the crowd.

So how can I say these things with any authority? A study done by the Pew Research Center in 2017 showed that the average American read only 17 minutes a day for pleasure and read no complete books during the year. Even those who identified themselves as avid readers reported reading an average of only four books a year for pleasure. But we are spending three hours a day in front of the television watching meaningless shows.

We are losing our epiphanies.

So how do we get them back? How do we get back the capacity as adults to have those moments of discovery that just blow us away? How do we capture ideas and thoughts and truths that cause us to pause in awe of the creator and help us know we have unearthed some revelation that will cause us to be more like the giver of life when we apply that truth in our everyday journey of life?

Let me share a few ideas to bring them back.

First, fall in love with God. Recognize what he has done for you and fall in love with him because of it.

Second, read about him every day. Spend some time in God’s word. Devotional books are okay, but they are not the same as reading the words he gave to us through his divine inspiration of those whose histories and prophecies and letters make up our Bible. His love and plans for us scream at us through the pages of his word, so spend time devouring it every day.

Third, pray. Ask God to teach you something about him often. Prayer doesn’t have to be long and wordy. It doesn’t have to follow a particular formula or pattern. Those can help as you learn to talk with him. But talk with God often. Short conversations with him throughout the day as you would talk with a friend keep you in tune and ready for an epiphany moment.

Fourth, journal. Write down your thoughts, your questions, your requests and answers as you hear them from God and other trusted Christian brothers and sisters. Explore them and record what God shares with you through his spirit. Make notes in your Bible, underline passages that speak to you. Put questions in the margins you want answered. Jot down things you will do because of what you read.

Fifth, take inventory of your thoughts and actions at least weekly. Pick a time one day a week, either at the beginning or end of the week when you have some routine time that will not be filled with the hustle and bustle of life. Make an appointment with God and put it on your calendar as an appointment. You might need an hour or so to look over the last week and highlight the things you’ve learned about your walk with God, your relationship with him and others, what you did well and what you need to do differently to be more like him. Then write down the one or two things you will do different this next week to be more like him. Look for those epiphanies for continued growth.

Epiphanies sometimes come in the most unusual and unexpected times and places. Thomas Edison talks about the epiphany that became the modern light bulb. However, it came after 1,000 failures in trying to create it. So, finally, don’t give up. Keep looking. Keep searching. Stay inquisitive. Fall in love with the Savior every day. Don’t let the season of Epiphany end because the calendar says so. Keep it alive in your heart throughout the year.

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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