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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

Dec 3, 2018

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

God came down to be with us.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

This Advent season, let those questions shape your Christmas. Make Jesus the reason you celebrate. Make relationships with him and others the focus of your efforts instead of the presents and decorations and feasts. Let Jesus guide your actions instead of the advertisements for the latest fads. Remember he is coming again and it is closer than you think.

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

Nov 26, 2018

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Nov 24, 2018

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Nov 19, 2018

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Nov 5, 2018

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Oct 29, 2018

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Oct 22, 2018

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

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

We’re still talking about change, and this one phrase can disrupt your ability to change more than any other. Here it is: But we’ve always done it that way. It can deal a death blow to any efforts you may undertake for change.

I’m sure you’ve heard someone say that phrase more than once in your life. In fact, you might be guilty of using it a time or two yourself. But what does that phrase really do for you except keep you stuck in the past?

My church just went through a mission and strategy review. Every business and church and really every individual should do that every once in a while. It’s healthy to figure out where you want to go in the next few months or years. What you want to look like by a certain time or what you want to accomplish in a certain span. We all need to examine entities at different levels to make sure our resources are used wisely.

Some in your church and mine will jump up and vigorously fight the process and tell you that God will lead whatever he wants done and we don’t need to make such long term plans. We don’t need to try anything different. We don’t need to waste time and energy thinking about what we should do next month or next year because God will just take us where he wants us to go.

I would argue that God inspired the book of Solomon which instructs us to plan and prepare throughout the book. Jesus talk about the wise builder and the wise king. They planned ahead to avoid disastrous results. God gives us a brain to use, not just to sit in that protective shell of bone and such up nutrients. He expects us to use resources wisely and to do that we need to plan and prepare for the days ahead.

So looking at our mission and vision and strategies to do those things is important. So where am I going with all of this. Well, with every vision for every church or business or person, I would hope it encompasses something larger and grander than the present state of things. That seems reasonable, doesn’t it? If our church has 200 in attendance today, we would like to be reaching another 200 unchurched in a few years, right? We’d like to know that we are making a difference in the community and helping win others to Jesus, right?

But there is a problem. What if over the last ten years we have only grown by two or three people a year? To reach another 200 would take us a hundred years. That seems a little unreasonable, doesn’t it? But that’s the result of doing what we’ve always done. That’s the pattern of the church for the last decade so it will not change unless we do something different. And almost every church across the nation has that same problem, not just my church. That’s why half of the United States citizenry doesn’t claim to adhere to any religious organization. Not just Christian, but any religious organization. We Americans bow to the god of self.

So understand some of those dynamics, there are a few questions a congregation and each member of that congregation must answer truthfully before we can embrace a renewed sense of mission. Just for the sake of argument, we will use a universal mission for all churches that I think all of us can hopefully agree on. Jesus said he came to seek and save the lost. That’s a very clearly stated, simply worded mission. I think every church could agree, as his followers, our mission, then, is to seek and help save the lost. Before you blast me with the truth that we can’t save anyone. I agree, but as we share the gospel, the Holy Spirit can. The church, you and me, are instruments of God’s saving power. We bring people to him, share the gospel, so he can do his work in them. We are instruments of salvation. We don’t do it, but we help. So for arguments sake, let’s accept that short mission statement for just a moment. We seek and help save the lost.

Here’s the first question. Do you believe God’s word? That might sound like a silly question, but it’s not. The Bible is the foundation for that mission statement. It says Jesus is the only means for our salvation, the only path to heaven. It says there is a heaven and hell. It says every person will end up in eternity in one of those two places based on their acceptance of sacrifice for sin. Those statements are clear. If you believe God’s word to be true, Islam, Buddhism, whatever other path you might take doesn’t get you there. The only path to heaven is through Jesus. So do you really believe God’s word?

The next question is this, do you care about the lost? All hands go up in the air and some wave vigorously. Sure I do. What kind of question is that? Look hard at your church and yourself. Do you really care about the lost? When is the last time you shared what God is doing in your life with an unbeliever? When is the last time you invited an unbeliever to your church? When is the last time you invited an unbeliever to your house? Now chase the money. What percentage of your church budget goes toward reaching unbelievers instead of taking care of the congregation? 50%, 25%, 10%? Did you know the average church spends less than 5% on activities to reach the unchurched? Do we really care about the lost? Should we wonder why the unchurched think we are hypocrites? Ouch.

The next question. Am I willing to sacrifice to win the lost? Jesus said take up our cross and follow him. But what crosses am I talking about? What sacrifices do we have to make to win the lost? Here are some things with which my church leadership and my congregation must struggle over the next months if we are to meet the goals our vision put before us. Remember that phrase we used at the beginning? But we’ve always done it this way.

Well, many of the unchurched in today’s society, even in the Bible belt, have never been inside a church. Hard to believe for those of us who grew up in a church and go there several times a week, but it’s true. We often forget that’s true, but it is. And my church, like many others, maybe yours, doesn’t think about guests. Sure we greet them with a smile and hand them a bulletin, which they call a program, by the way. See, they go to the theater or ball games or other events and get programs, so a bulletin doesn’t mean anything to them. Then they have to ask the embarrassing question of where things are because even though I know the men’s room is just around the corner, there is no sign when you come in that tells you where to take your little boy who has an urgent need after the drive to get here.  

Then as the service is about to begin, “Ms. That’s My Seat and You Can Have It” makes visiting family climb over her and her purse and her bag with her giant print Bible, Sunday School literature and gift for her friend to get to the empty seats beside her. The people on either side of family have shades of a smile as they sing “Victory in Jesus”, but give the new family an icy glare when they don’t immediately jump to their feet when the music starts. The last Amen is said and the family exits as soon as they can get past “Ms. That’s My Seat”. No one talks to them. Everyone is already in their own little clumps deciding where they are going for lunch. So will those first time unchurched visitors be back? Would you come back? Do we care about the unchurched or the lost? Am I willing to sacrifice for them?

Maybe we could give up our favorite seat. Maybe we could act like they are visitors to our home and welcome them. Maybe we could show them around and make sure they know where everything is so they don’t have to hunt for things. Maybe we could give them some hints about what is about to happen so they’re not embarrassed as the last people to get it when something changes in the service. Maybe we could at least act like we’re really glad they are with us. Maybe we could make the atmosphere of the church more pleasing and comfortable for guests instead of for us. Maybe we should think like Paul, as he said in 1 Corinthians 9:22, “To the weak I became weak, to win the weak. I have become all things to all people so that by all possible means I might save some.”

Am I willing to sacrifice the music I most enjoy to reach the lost? Am I willing to sacrifice the décor I’ve always thought was most sacred to win the lost? Am I willing to sacrifice chatting with my friends for those few minutes after the service to win the lost? Am I willing to sacrifice my church language and change bulletins to programs, platforms to stages, foyers to lobbies, and all those words that separate us from unbelievers to help win the lost? Am I willing to sacrifice my routine, my comfort, my time and energy to win the lost?

If the mission is to seek and save the lost, then I have to be willing to do those things. That’s what we are called to do. Jesus said, “Go make disciples.” To do that, I must first be changed by the power of his blood. Then I must change. I cannot do things the way they have always been done and expect the outcome to be different. If I am to meet the call of the Master, I must be willing to sacrifice for him and his kingdom.

Are you ready to throw away the phrase, but we’ve always done it that way. The past is not bad. We can learn from the past and we shouldn’t throw the baby out with the bath water as they say. But also, if we are really want to reach the unchurched, the lost, they will not come to us, we must go to them. And when they walk in our doors, we must be inviting enough for them to stay. Take a look at the place where you worship. I gave you a glimpse of the atmosphere of 95% of all the churches in America. If that glimpse were not true, all of our churches would be overflowing every service. Except for that very small percentage, they are not. Chairs are empty. Parking lots have plenty of space. We do not weep over the millions in our land headed toward an eternity separated from the one who can save them from that destiny.

Are you ready to change? Now is the time.

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

Oct 15, 2018

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

Change requires breaking the bonds of familiarity. We often fail to change because we become familiar with our present state and that familiarity holds us in bondage.

It took over seventy years for the citizens of the former Soviet Union to overturn the tyrannical communist government and win their freedom. Why did it take so long? One reason was certainly fear. In the early years of the state, disagreement with Stalin and his hand-selected group of leaders meant death for the dissenter and his family. Consequently, few dared to revolt against the oppressive rule of their communist leaders.

What was supposed to be a utopia of standard living conditions for all citizens because every citizen worked their best for the good of everyone else in the state ended with the widening gap of the haves and have nots. Most of the country felt the abject poverty that results from the majority of the populace doing just enough to get by. Why work hard when all your labor profited someone else and your family still suffered?

Such is the result of communist and socialist rule because people are sinful and selfish. For the most part, we care about ourselves and our families. The world would be a pretty good place if we lived by the two commandments Jesus said encompassed the rest of God’s laws. What were they? “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength, and love your neighbor as yourself.”

Well...we prove everyday that we are not very good at the first with more than half our formerly “Christian” nation not claiming any adherence to any formal religion. And the news shows we certainly don’t love our neighbor when we see the mass shootings, violent crime, more interest in our cell phone than in looking someone in the eye to discover who they are, what they felel, and how we might help them.

We are extremely selfish. It’s what started the whole problem with our separation from God in the first place. Adam and Eve wanted to be as smart as their creator. They ate the fruit of the forbidden tree and knew the difference between good and evil. They understood disobedience. Was there something special about that fruit? I’m not sure that tree was much different than any of the other fruit trees in the garden. But it was forbidden. They were not to climb over the fence and eat its fruit.

Cows are not supposed to stick their heads through the fence to eat grass from the other side, but they do. Kids are not supposed to stick their hands in the forbidden cookie jar, but they do. Teenage boys are not supposed to peak at the smut magazines that used to be hidden from view on the top shelves of the racks, but they do. Toddlers are not supposed to take toys away from their playmates, but they do. Kids are not supposed to bully other kids at school that might be a little different from them, but they do.

Do you get the point? We are evil. We think evil thoughts. We do evil deeds. We act out. We don’t do what we are supposed to do. We do what we are not supposed to do. We are selfish and we get stuck in that mode because we are comfortable in that attitude. We know it is wrong, but we do it anyway because its our familiar way of life from birth. We are in bondage to self satisfaction.

So how do we get out of this rut? How do we break away from the familiar, even if it might be good, so that we can have an even better life? The Soviets struggled under their oppressive life for more than 70 years. The Israelites lived in exile for 70 years before they could return to their capital city of Jerusalem. We stick with old habits for decades knowing they are bad for us. We just don’t or can’t break away from the familiar.

It’s like a test sociologists did several years ago in which they placed a man dressed as if a homeless drunk midway between the street corner and the entrance to a facility focused on helping people with resume preparation, job hunting, skill enhancement, and so forth. Each day, they moved the man closer to the door of the building.

At first, the workers turned toward the man and noticed he was there, but most just walked by with saying or doing anything. No one asked if he needed help. A few put a few coins in his cap or cup, but that was about the extent of their aid. Remember these are people in the business of helping people! The interesting point of their experiment, though, is that as they moved the man closer to the entrance, they finally got to the point the employees had to step over the man to gain entrance. Still, however, no one in the building whose job centered on helping people just like this guy offered to lend a hand, take him into their offices, and give them exactly the help they gave their paying customers on a daily basis. They just let him obstruct their path without further notice.

That’s why companies spend money on consultants. It’s not that the staff isn’t smart enough to solve their own problems. It’s mainly because after a few months or years, we can’t see the problem anymore. We just step over the homeless guy in the doorway or around the gaping hole in the floor or ignore the broken shelf. We are so familiar with those things we just don’t see them anymore. The high priced consultant brings new eyes into the building and sees those things that you smack your forehead after the fact with a resounding, “Duh! Why didn’t I see that?”

We do. It’s just becomes so familiar we don’t think to change it because we’ve grown so accustomed to the circumstance or situation.

We can get that way in our homes, in our jobs, and in our spiritual lives. We can get familiar and complacent. We can forget when God allows us to come into his presence in prayer that we are conversing with the maker of the universe. We forget the awe he should inspire in us because we sometimes get a little too familiar. We forget the sacrifice he made so that we can speak with him. We forget he is will to forgive our sins and provide his awesome, overwhelming, stunning grace to us.

God does invite us to speak with him. Paul did tell us when we are his followers we become God’s children and coheirs this Jesus. We are adopted into his family when we repent and he forgives us our sins. But it is dangerous territory when we get so familiar with him that we begin to step over those far from him that he puts in our path to share his good news. We need to have his eyes as we travel through life. We need to open our ears to hear the cry of those around us. We need to be ready to not just give our testimony, but to be like Jesus. He always had time for the down and out, the hurting outcasts of society. He saw people as his Father saw them and ministered to them as his Father directed.

To be like Jesus, we must change. God will work on us every day to make us more like him... if we let him. And there it is. The big if. So the million dollar question for each of us today, “Will I let God into my heart, soul, mind, and strength as I love him with everything I am, so that he can work his plans for this world through me. Am I willing to let him change me and use me in any way he sees fit to further his kingdom in the place I stand right now?

That what he asks of us every moment of every day. If you ask him to let you be his instrument to reach others with his good news, it’s a pray he will always answer … sometimes in pretty amazing and unusual ways. Get ready for an exciting ride when you earnestly pray that prayer. How about it? Are you ready to get away from the routine and start a new adventure?

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

Oct 8, 2018

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

Pastor Rob Ketterling wrote this about change, “Encountering truth always results in a need to change.” What do you think?

We are usually very happy to go along in the same path we have always traveled because it is easier than changing. Change is hard. Change is challenging the norm. Change means displacing habits and that is never easy. Change, as Ketterling implies, means facing the truth and doing something about it.

God is truth. He is never duplicitous. He always works in our best interest. But he also works to fulfill his plans, not ours. He will use us to further his plans and make us into what he created us to be, but he will never sacrifice his goals for ours because he is God and we are not. He knows and is truth. We are scarred and damaged and considerably limited in our understanding of almost everything.

Just look around. Think back through a little bit of history. It’s easy to see just how arrogant and wrong we are about things. Look how many millenia it took for people to understand that the universe does not revolve around us. In our arrogance we thought we were the center of the universe. But we are just a speck in our solar system and our sun, the real center of our solar system is just a speck on the outer edge of the enormous galaxy we call the Milky Way. And that immense galaxy we call home is fairly small in comparison to the billions of galaxies that comprise the universe we think we know.

In reality, we know so little about the universe in which we live. In fact, we can’t say we even know our home planet very well. We haven’t made it to the deepest parts of our oceans yet. We try to explore it, but have only begun to see into those dark regions below the surface of the seas. Only a very small number of people have made it to the tops of our highest mountains. And when they reach those summits, they don’t stay there to explore or make any scientific studies of those places. They can only live there for a few minutes before they have to make the climb back down or they will die on those peaks.

We make great strides in figuring out how to heal the body, yet medicine is still not a strict discipline. It is a practice and an art. Why? Because every person is different. No one react exactly the same to every drug or treatment regimen doctors prescribe. We each contain minute differences in our anatomy. And some of us have fairly significant difference, like someone with situs inversus, in which every organ on the opposite side of the body. On the outside they look like everyone else, but on the inside, every visceral organ is a mirror image of most people. Were they built wrong? No, just different. They are often very healthy and often never know they are different on the inside until they need an x-ray or have some sort of surgery in which the surgeon is surprised by cutting on what should in the correct place but finds what he’s looking for missing in that spot.

Truth. Do examples like those mean there are different shades of truth? No. It means we, as frail and faulty humans, have a hard time getting to the truth. Our brains are not capable of understanding all there is to know. No matter how intelligent one might be, he or she can never know it all. And our understanding of so many things is limited to what we have learned in the past and how we approach things to understand them in the present. What do we really know about cancer? Quite a lot more than we did twenty years ago, but not enough to contain it.

So what do we do when we face something that changes our perspective of truth? How do we face information that runs contrary to what we thought we knew was right? It’s a question we must face almost every day because if we are alive, we are gathering information from around us through those five senses God built into us. And those five senses give us information that sometimes contradicts what we thought we knew about the world around us.

We thought the world was flat...until Columbus proved us wrong. We thought we could never fly...until the Wright brothers took that contraption into the air the length of a football field. We thought smallpox would always be a deadly disease among our children...until vaccines have effectively eradicated it from the world. We thought going to the moon was just the fantasy of science fiction writers...until Neil Armstrong made a footprint on its dusty surface.

With each of those truths, the world had to do something with the discoveries. We could not ignore the truth. Ships don’t fall off the edge of the earth because it’s not flat, it’s round. We not only can fly, but made it a multi-billion dollar industry. We took that one disease and created other vaccines that have almost wiped out other diseases that took our children from us. We use some of those space inventions every day that came out of those moon explorations. And if you have a really good telescope, you can see the glint of sunlight on the equipment those moon-walkers left up there on the moon.

Those truths deal with science and discoveries hard to dispute when you can see the evidence. But what about the things of God? What about the truth God reveals when he speaks to us about our relationship with him? What do we do with the truth someone shares with us about our eternal soul? How do we deal with the truth that may not be visible to the naked eye?

It’s a simple answer. Pastor Ketterling has it right. When we face truth, we must change. We can change for the better or we can change for the worse, but we will change. We cannot let it go. God wants an intimate relationship with us. He gave everything to give us that opportunity. He reveals himself to us and makes a way for us to come to him. But God does not change. We must. God is truth. Real truth does not change. A flat earth is not truth, it is only a perception. The inability to better ourselves through invention is not truth, it is only a perception. Our inability to eradicate some deadly disease is not truth, it is only a perception.

We may not understand the how and why of these things now, but they are still perceptions because we do not understand the majesty and power of God. God did not introduce those things into the world. Adam and Eve invited evil and sin and chaos into the cosmos when they disobeyed God. Satan’s deceit crept into the universe because of their disobedience. They no longer knew truth. They sought it, just like we do, but they no longer knew it. Just like us. We see shades of truth, perception, but only in God can we see truth. Because only he is truth. Everything else is at best a shadow of truth.

When we see things that are closer to the truth than we what know, our perception must change. Our belief must change. Our attitude and behavior and understanding must change. We become more aware of what is real and what is fantasy. Satan would love for us to live in this fantasy world around us, but his methods for seeking happiness or pleasure or success or peace or harmony among men only leads to more suffering and sorrow and chaos. We know that because we see the truth of it every day in our news reports.

God, however, brings peace to our hearts. He brings order to the chaos around us. He brings calm to the storms of life. He brings harmony into relationships. God, as the author of truth, the personification of truth, the epitome of truth, will stand in judgment of us one day and ask the question, “What did you do when confronted with my truth?”

Our answer will determine our eternal destiny. We will change when he gently calls us to him in this life. When we follow him, he will help us change into his likeness. When we run from him, we will face the consequences he outlines in his word. I’d like to say there is no hell, but that is not truth. His word tells us there is and he is truth. So now what? How will you change when he confronts 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.

Oct 1, 2018

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

It has been said the first sign of insanity is doing the same thing over and over but expecting different results.

It sounds crazy, doesn’t it? But often we act like it’s true. We think we can get away with doing what we want to do and not reap the same consequences we have experienced in the past or we have seen someone else reap because of the same actions. We mistakenly believe we can get away with doing what we want without repercussions. But unfortunately, life doesn’t work that way. God built into the nature of things the cause and effect consequences that accompany behaviors just as they accompany the theorems that are the mechanical underpinnings of physics. For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction. Sounds familiar, right? The same thing kind of follows through in the consequences we feel because of our behavior, whether good or bad.

There is another saying that seems to hold true, also. It says that the best predictor of the future is the past. We humans have a tendency to do what we did yesterday and the day before and the day before. We are creatures of habit. We do what we learned and what we are used to doing. Our behaviors take a lot of energy and concentration to change. For instance, my wife gets on to me in restaurants and other social situations because I’m always tapping the table, turning my glass, moving the salt shaker around, twisting my fork, or something. I’m constantly moving my hands.

I’m a professed fidgety person. It seems that I just can’t hold still. I’m sixty-four years old and I’ve done this as long as I can remember. My parents told me to quit fidgeting. My teachers told me to quit fidgeting. My wife tells me to quit fidgeting. My kids tell me to quit fidgeting. Everyone tells me to hold still. I can’t. Whether it’s learned behavior, some mental or medical condition, or just bad habit, I can’t seem to stop. I have to be moving something all the time. It’s not big thing, but it’s distracting to others sometimes. So that innocent habit takes away the focus I might be wanting from those I’m talking with around me. As a consequence of my movements, they may miss an important point I or one of the other speakers in our group might be making. It’s not a good thing, but it’s a natural consequence of my behavior.

Is it big deal? Usually not. But sometimes a point is missed. Focus goes the wrong direction. Attention veers off the speaker for a moment and those accompanying me miss an opportunity to hear or see something because I’ve distracted them from what is certainly more important that watching me fidget with a water glass. But guess what, I would predict that if you sit down at a table with me this evening or tomorrow or next week, between the time our drinks come to the table and our food is served or as soon as I finish my meal, you’ll get to see me playing with something on the table. It won’t be long before I’m moving a glass around or playing with some utensil or flipping packets of sugar around or doing some other mundane action with my hands. I just can’t keep still. As hard as I try, I just can’t seem to do it.

But the same too often holds true in our spiritual life, too. If you didn’t go to church last month, it is likely you won’t go next month. Not because you’re necessarily a bad person, but because we are creatures of habit. The past is the best predictor of the future. We do what we’ve done and expect different results. But the world doesn’t work that way. We usually do what we’ve always done.

If you didn’t do any devotions at home this week, I would predict you won’t do any devotions at home next week. Why? Because we are creatures of habit and usually do what we’ve always done. Change is hard. Changing spiritual things when the world does its best to keep us from God is extremely hard. Remember Jesus said the world would hate us because of him. The world will deceive and put obstacles in our path. The world will try its best to kill our spirit and shape us into its mold instead of God’s.

We talked about how hard habits are to break last week. Change is hard, but sometimes necessary. Change takes commitment and perseverance. Two words that have somehow disappeared from our vocabulary in the last decade or so. We won’t commit to anything and when things get hard, we just quit. Something changed in us to make us rather lazy as a society. We don’t want to work. We don’t want to spend the time and effort be excellent at anything. We don’t reach out for new opportunities or new experiences. We don’t recognize the importance of life and the worth of the human soul. We have changed as a society in the last couple of decades. We have lost God.

Now we need to change. We can’t do it with just words. We can’t change easily. We can’t expect things to get better by sitting around doing the same things and hoping something different will happen. It won’t. We must change our habits. Our behaviors. The way we think. Paul admonishes us to “let our mind be transformed”. That’s where it all begins. We must work hard to think differently. Change the way we think. Dismiss the evil thoughts that the world puts there. Change the pattern of thought and as the Psalmist tells us so often, “meditate on God’s word day and night”.

David meditated on the word of God available to him at the time. Did you ever stop to think about what he really had? The Old Testament came to be what it is today after the Israelites were allowed to return to Jerusalem after their exile. Around 400 BC. David wrote many of the Psalms we have today. He had the Torah, the first five books of our Old Testament. He might have had the stories from the book of Judges. He knew the story of his heritage from Naomi and Ruth and Boaz and his father, Jesse. He didn’t have much else, yet through scripture David was noted as a man after God’s own heart.

Why? His habit was to meditate on God’s word. Did he always please God? Absolutely not. Bathsheba. Uriah. Murder. Adultery. Deceit. Treachery. Bigamy. Favoritism among his children. He failed many times. But he always came back repentantly to God and asked forgiveness. He changed his heart and his actions. He changed his thinking. He meditated on God’s word instead of the things the world popped into his brain. He changed his focus to try to see the world from God’s eyes instead of his human eyes.

To become like Jesus, we must change. He can help us if we let him. But we cannot do the same things we always do and expect to be like him. He will continue to shape us and mold us throughout our life when we honestly and fervently seek him and desire to be like him. He is the change maker. He created us in the first place. He knows how to fix our broken parts. He knows exactly what we need and when we need it to help us make it through this journey toward heaven.

How can we change what our future looks like? We need to recognize what we’ve done in the past and remember that the only way to change the future is to do something different. When we do the same things, expect things to be just like they were. When we think the same way, we will act the same way. If you want a different future than than your past or current state, look to Jesus and let him transform you. Only by breaking through with him and living life in a different, Jesus filled manner can you hope to have a different future.

Expecting a different outcome from the same actions is insanity. Let Jesus help you change your future by directing your thinking and your actions. Let him in today as the change agent for your 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.

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