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A Little Walk With God

A daily devotional through the Bible narrated as if walking through the garden east of Eden with God. Scriptures come from a daily reading plan that take you through the Bible in one year, generally coming from The Voice. Our website is http://alittlewalkwithgod.com or http://richardagee.com
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Now displaying: February, 2019

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Thanks for listening.

Richard

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.

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