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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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Richard

Nov 13, 2017

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

Bible Reading Plan - www.Bible-Reading.com; The Story, Chapter 11; You Version Bible app Engaging God's Story Reading Plan Days 71 through 77

Whether you are a church goer or not, you probably know the story of David and Goliath. David the giant killer. This 16 year-old shepherd goes to find his brothers in the army, take them some home cooked food, and see how their fight with the Philistines is going. He comes into the camp and hears the taunts of the Philistine champion, Goliath, daring anyone in the Israelite army to come out and fight him. All the Israelite soldiers hide behind the rocks and trees and bushes or in their tents afraid to face this giant of a man who stands almost ten feet tall.

David also hears about the reward for taking on this barbarian and killing him. Whoever kills the giant gets to marry the king’s daughter and he and his family lives tax free the rest of their lives. So David goes to king Saul and volunteers. Saul loans David his armor, but since Saul is a head taller than everyone else in the kingdom, of course the armor just swallows David. So David sets the armor aside and faces the giant with the weapon with which he is most familiar, his sling.

I think sometimes people get the wrong impression of David and his sling. We sometimes think of David as this scrawny 16 year-old kid with pimples and stringy hair, like the Shaggy Rogers character of Scooby-Doo fame. But don’t kid yourself. Jesse’s boys seem like the start of a mafia crowd to me. As a teenager, David killed a bear and a lion barehanded.

David’s brothers were all part of his band of 30 mighty men. Those were the elite of his army who characterized themselves by extraordinary deeds like killing a hundred men or more in one battle by themself. And David was their leader. To be the leader of these kind of men in those days, you won fights against them yourself. So, I have a feeling David was no slouch when it came to his physical frame or his fighting abilities.

David also came from Bethlehem. Warriors from Bethlehem were known for their ability to use slings. They learned as kids. These weren’t toy slingshots that we get in the store here. They weren’t the Y-shaped stick with a rubber strap you pull back and release. These were real slings. A leather pouch connected to two flax cords that would be swung over the head and then one of the cords released at just the right moment to release the stone held in that pouch. The stone would reach speeds of well over 100 miles per hour.

Imagine being hit by a rock moving one and a half times faster than the best pitchers throw their best fastballs. A good fastball can break a bone. If hit in the head, expect at least a concussion if not a fractured face. Now reduce the size of that projectile, increase the speed by 50% and put God behind the placement of that projectile. Pow! Right in the forehead. Down for the count! Whether immediately dead or just unconscious and giving time for David to run over and cut off Goliath’s head with his own sword. The sling was the perfect weapon. David could project that stone farther than the length of a football field.

But God was behind it all. The visit of David to his brothers. The confrontation between His people and the Philistines. The armor that was too big. The skill with the sling. The trajectory and impact. The fear Goliath’s defeat created for his countrymen. The defeat of the Philistine army. God intervened in the life of this unlikely character to unfold His plan and show us His greatness.

Who would have picked this 16 year-old as Israel’s champion that day? No one but God. Who would have expected this shepherd who have never lifted a sword to kill a nearly ten foot giant and rout an entire army? No one but God. Who would have thought anyone would go out on the battlefield against this champion without armor and face him with only a shepherd’s sling in his hand? No one but God.

God empowered David and David knew it. God cuts giants down to size and David knew it. God takes the impossible and makes it possible and David knew it. God can intervene in what might seem to be the most difficult of circumstances and turn those circumstances into good for us and David knew it. So David could walk out onto that field. Pass by the stream and pick up five smooth stones. One for Goliath and four more for Goliath’s four brothers just in case they decided they wanted to play, too. David could declare with confidence God was on His side and God would do the impossible to prove He was God.

Was David special? Not really. What was special about him was that He turned to God in the good and the bad times of life. When he made mistakes, and he did, he went to God and repented. He tried his best to live the way God wanted him to live. He read and meditated on God’s word. He read the scriptures that were available to him. He listened to the prophets that came to him and advised him. He prayed. He talked to God and listened to God. And he did what God asked him to do.

Does that make him special? I suppose it makes him different than most of the people around us. Because most of the people around us do what they want instead of what God wants. That’s the difference. What course will you follow? Yours or God’s? What giants do you face? Will you step out and let God defeat them with you or will you cower in the tents and let them continue to hold you back and make life miserable for you?

God is still in the business of showing who He is to those who will listen to Him and obey His word. All you have to do is step out on the battlefield. He pretty much does the rest. And He always wins. Always. Romans 8:28 is true when we meet those two conditions it holds. All things do work for good when we love Him and when we align our lives with His plan. Look up and let Him work in your life the plans He has for you. You won’t regret it. He promises.

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

Nov 6, 2017

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

Bible Reading Plan - www.Bible-Reading.com; The Story, Chapter 10; You Version Bible app Engaging God’s Story Reading Plan Days 64 through 70

Samuel is recognized as the last of Israel’s great judges and the first of it’s great prophets. Eli, failed in his responsibilities to carry on the priestly duties required by God. He, like Aaron before him, didn’t keep a reign on the training and discipline of his sons, Hophni and Phinehas. They didn’t act like the representatives of His holiness He expected of His priests and were killed in battle. When Eli heard the news, he fell backward off his chair and broke his neck. Samuel became the priest and prophet for the nation in his stead.

There was a problem in Israel, though, that plagues many of us today, though. Israel, like Hophni and Phinehas, like all of those teens that wore the straight black hair and black clothes and black fingernail polish and black lipstick during the “Goth” fad. In trying to be “unique” we end up trying to be like all those “unique” people, so we end up being like everyone else.

Israel did that too.

They left a kingdom that suppressed and enslaved them and God defeated 31 other kings over a period of seven years to take over the land He promised to them. Those kingdoms were stronger with bigger armies, but God intervened and fought their battles and the land flowing with milk and honey became their possession just as He promised Abraham 600 years before.

For all that time, they listened to the priests God put in place to share His message and remind them of who He was and what He wanted from them, sort of. You see, time and time again, they would look around at the kingdoms around them and want what they had. They would see the shiny idols and would begin to worship them instead of the invisible invincible God who brought them there in the first place. They forgot the One who saved them from their trouble and wanted to be like the kingdoms around them.

In their desire to be unique as a nation, the Israelites would like around and say to their priests, “We want to be different...like Moab! We want to be different...like Midian! We want to be different...like Edom!”

Just like our kids, and us when we were teenagers when you think back honestly about it, we want to be unique just like those around us. Let me be like the popular guys or girls around me, I’ll dress like them and talk like them and act like them so I fit in, so I’ll be liked, so I can be popular, so I will be accepted. You probably remember the pressure of being a teenager and young adult and getting through those awkward stages. The problem is, we really never grow out of those awkward stages. We keep doing it all through life, it just isn’t quite as obvious as we figure out that “Goth” won’t get us a job. So we dress and act like the people who get the best jobs. We act like our neighbor and try to keep up with the “Jones” so to speak. We ape those around us because we don’t really want to be different after all.

Israel asked for a king. They got one. Saul. He was handsome, the Bible tells us. He stood a head taller than everyone else. The was the photogenic type that the politicos would look for today if they were trying to pick their poster child for the campaign. And Saul started out pretty well. He didn’t want the job and hid in the luggage when they tried to crown him. But like many at the top, power corrupted him.

Samuel warned the Israelites what kings would do to them. He told them kings would levy taxes against them. Draft their sons into his army. Take their lands. Make demands on them that would put them into slavery every bit as cruel and harsh as what they experienced in Egypt. Saul didn’t. In fact, interestingly, Saul was the only king that didn’t raise a standing army. He fought against Israel’s enemies, but the army was volunteers who then went home after defeating their foes.

Saul never raised taxes. He didn’t take any of their lands or build a palace or declare a capital city or establish a throne. He led the country, but he kind of led the nation from his house and just showed up for battles when necessary. Except of course, when he was after David. David was the first to really levy taxes and keep a standing army and build a palace and capital city in Jerusalem. David started building projects and put in place a government that would later lay some fairly heavy burdens on the people and would ultimately cause the split of the kingdom into two nations because of his grandson’s poor decisions.

But the problem for Israel all started with one little problem that we all have and it runs counter to what God wants of us. God wanted Eli and Hophni and Phinehas to be representatives of His holiness. They weren’t and they died. God wanted Israel to be different from the nations around them and demonstrate His holiness by living according to His laws. They didn’t and they ultimately fell into captivity because of their apostasy.

And God’s wants you and me to be different from the world around us. We live in evil times. Many will tell you that it’s okay to do things or live certain ways. But it’s not. God hasn’t changed. There is still right and wrong. Good and bad. Holy and evil. God wants us to do what He says. It’s that simple. It’s not always easy in a world that has turned everything upside down and hijacked words and symbols and definitions and tried to confuse us with all of it.

Gay meant happy and light hearted at one time. Marriage meant a solemn and holy union between only a man and a women at one time. The rainbow was a symbol of God’s promise to never destroy all the world by a flood again at one time. Evil has turned bad into good and good into bad and blinded people just as God’s word said it would so that many follow down that broad road to destruction and few find that narrow path that leads to life everlasting.

We try far too hard to different like everyone around us and so look just like the world. We try far too hard to fit in and be noticed and accepted instead of remembering that Jesus said if we really want to follow Him, the world will hate us just like they hated Him because of His message of righteous living. You see, God won’t let us live any way we want if we follow Him. He wants to have an intimate face-to-face relationship with us, but He is a holy God and will not walk in the presence of evil. It’s a problem He has set a plan in place to deal with, but we must accept that plan. And that plan includes stepping out of the mold the world puts us in and living according to His precepts.

So, the sixty-four dollar question for today: Are you different like Hophni and Phinehas and Eli and Saul, patterning yourself after those who are successful in the world? Or are you different like Samuel listening to the voice of God and following in the path He lays out, even though it may not be popular or appealing from the world’s perspective? The answer makes a huge difference as to what happens when you wake up on the other side of this life and open your eyes in eternity.

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

Oct 30, 2017

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

Bible Reading Plan - www.Bible-Reading.com; The Story, Chapter 9; You Version Bible app Days 57 through 63 in the Engaging God’s Story Reading Plan

In this week’s reading, we find the story of Ruth. Again we see the stark difference between God’s upper story and the lower story we can see from day to day. The book of Ruth starts with the narration of her mother-in-law’s marriage to Elimelech and their move to Moab because of a drought in Israel. Over the next ten years, Naomi’s two sons marry Moabite women, her husband and both of her sons die, and Naomi deep in despair decides to return to her hometown of Bethlehem.

Naomi urges her daughters-in-law to remain in Moab so they might remarry or at least have some support from their families while she returns to her own family roots and find some support as a widow. Orpah finally agrees and tearfully returns, but as you remember from the story, Ruth stay with Naomi and returns to Bethlehem. Ruth finds favor with Boaz, a relative of Naomi’s dead husband. Boaz acts as Elimelech’s kinsman redeemer under the Levitical laws and purchases Elimelech’s land to keep the property in the family.

In doing so, Boaz also obligates himself to caring for Naomi and taking Ruth as his bride to carry on the lineage of her dead husband. All of that might seem strange to us in our society, but it was all part of God’s plan to keep the land He promised to each of the tribes within the tribes. Each family retained possession of the land God gave them and this kinsman redeemer law ensured that if a property owner died without an heir, the property still remained in the tribal family.

Boaz and Ruth have a son named Obed. Obed has a son named Jesse. Jesse has a son named David. Fourteen generations later, Mary and Joseph raise a son named Jesus. Both of them are descended from King David. What a great love story we see in the book of Ruth. It would make a great movie as you see the drama unfold.

Sometimes, though, we don’t really understand just how much drama really happens in this book because we read the words without knowing the background behind the world scene and tying together God’s upper story with the lower story Naomi, Ruth, Boaz, and all the other players lived through. So let’s look at some of the background that makes this story so much more evident of God’s upper story at work.

First, note that Elimelech and Naomi moved into the country of Moab during the famine. Not a good idea if you’re an Israelite. The Moabites were enemies. Even though they may have food during this period of famine, being an Israelite in enemy territory put you and your family at great risk. It meant Naomi and Elimelech probably either did a lot of hiding or played the role of Moabite wherever they lived to keep themselves alive. They would not be welcome as foreigners taking food during a time of scarce resources.

Second, Elimelech and Naomi allowed their sons to violate one of the Levitical laws God had given Moses when they let their sons, Mahlon and Kilion marry Moabite women. God’s law said the Israelites were not to marry foreigners. They were to marry within the Israelite community so their spouses would not bring foreign gods into their community. Mahlon and Kilion violate that law when they married Orpah and Ruth.

Third, when Ruth came back to Bethlehem with Naomi, the reverse was true. Here was a foreign widow, an enemy widow, coming into Israel with no means of support. Randy Frazee characterized her gleaning in Boaz’s field this way. “It would be like a woman in a burka picking corn in a field in Iowa.” Ruth would certainly stand out. She was an outsider and few would trust her, few would want to help her. Everyone would notice her, but not in a good way.

Ruth lay at Boaz feet to let him know she was available after he showed her kindness. It was anything lewd or seductive. It was a common way to signal she was available. Boaz set things in motion to marry her, but had to give a closer relative the opportunity to buy the inheritance of her dead husband first. When her closer relative decided purchasing the land would put his finances at greater risk and refused to redeem the land, Boaz made the deal, purchased the land and made Ruth his wife.

So why would Boaz be so kind to this outsider? Why would he pay attention to this person that most people would shun? What made Boaz different from the other men in Bethlehem? Why would God use Boaz in the way He did and how did He mold Boaz in a way others had not been molded? Just take a look at the genealogy discussed a little earlier. I mentioned the trailing end of Ruth and Boaz’ lineage. Obed. Jesse. David.

But take a look at Boaz’ mother. Rahab. Remember her? She was the prostitute in Jericho who hid the Israelite spies that Joshua sent into the land before attacking the city. Can you imagine how Boaz was treated in that little village where everyone knew everyone else? Yes, she hid the spies and helped Israel defeat the city of Jericho, but that also made her a traitor to her own people. No one likes a traitor. It doesn’t matter whose side you’re on. No one likes a traitor.

And Rahab was a prostitute. It was probably the only way she could support herself in that large ancient city. But prostitution still carried its stigma then just as it does now. And Boaz not only befriended this prostitute, but married her. And Rahab was a Moabite, an enemy. A long time enemy. She betrayed her own people, would she betray the people of Bethlehem as she did the people of Jericho?

The lower story of Ruth and Boaz, and their parents looks like an unlikely group of players in God’s plan to bring people back into a face-to-face relationship with Him. How could God use traitors, prostitutes, enemies of His chosen people, outsiders, people obviously disloyal and disobedient to His laws to further His plan to bring us back to Him? It seems impossible to us. It would be a crazy, insane, scheme to any of us if we were trying to put together a plan for restoring that lost intimacy of the garden.

God lives and works and reigns in His upper story, though. God intervenes in humanity to ensure His plans ultimately work to the outcomes He has set out achieve. We can look up and align our lower story with His and be part of His plan. Or we can choose our own path and find ourselves on a path toward destruction. We can choose the path, but we cannot choose the consequences. The question remains for each of us. Can I trust God in His upper story to work for my good as I love Him and align my life with Him.

If you believe His word and watch the outcome of the heroes we see in His word and the lives of so many who have chosen to follow Him, you will find that God’s promises are true. Romans 8:28 is true. God can and will turn the impossible into reality and turn what seems to be bad into our good when we keep our eyes focused on Him and keep our lives aligned with His upper story. We must remember in those hard times that Isaiah was absolutely right when He penned the words God inspired him to write: “my thoughts are higher than your thoughts, and my ways are higher than your ways.” Trust in God. It will be okay.

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

Oct 23, 2017

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

Bible Reading Plan - www.Bible-Reading.com; The Story, Chapter 9; You Version Bible app Days 57 through 63 in the Engaging God’s Story Reading Plan

In this week’s reading, we find the story of Ruth. Again we see the stark difference between God’s upper story and the lower story we can see from day to day. The book of Ruth starts with the narration of her mother-in-law’s marriage to Elimelech and their move to Moab because of a drought in Israel. Over the next ten years, Naomi’s two sons marry Moabite women, her husband and both of her sons die, and Naomi deep in despair decides to return to her hometown of Bethlehem.

Naomi urges her daughters-in-law to remain in Moab so they might remarry or at least have some support from their families while she returns to her own family roots and find some support as a widow. Orpah finally agrees and tearfully returns, but as you remember from the story, Ruth stay with Naomi and returns to Bethlehem. Ruth finds favor with Boaz, a relative of Naomi’s dead husband. Boaz acts as Elimelech’s kinsman redeemer under the Levitical laws and purchases Elimelech’s land to keep the property in the family.

In doing so, Boaz also obligates himself to caring for Naomi and taking Ruth as his bride to carry on the lineage of her dead husband. All of that might seem strange to us in our society, but it was all part of God’s plan to keep the land He promised to each of the tribes within the tribes. Each family retained possession of the land God gave them and this kinsman redeemer law ensured that if a property owner died without an heir, the property still remained in the tribal family.

Boaz and Ruth have a son named Obed. Obed has a son named Jesse. Jesse has a son named David. Fourteen generations later, Mary and Joseph raise a son named Jesus. Both of them are descended from King David. What a great love story we see in the book of Ruth. It would make a great movie as you see the drama unfold.

Sometimes, though, we don’t really understand just how much drama really happens in this book because we read the words without knowing the background behind the world scene and tying together God’s upper story with the lower story Naomi, Ruth, Boaz, and all the other players lived through. So let’s look at some of the background that makes this story so much more evident of God’s upper story at work.

First, note that Elimelech and Naomi moved into the country of Moab during the famine. Not a good idea if you’re an Israelite. The Moabites were enemies. Even though they may have food during this period of famine, being an Israelite in enemy territory put you and your family at great risk. It meant Naomi and Elimelech probably either did a lot of hiding or played the role of Moabite wherever they lived to keep themselves alive. They would not be welcome as foreigners taking food during a time of scarce resources.

Second, Elimelech and Naomi allowed their sons to violate one of the Levitical laws God had given Moses when they let their sons, Mahlon and Kilion marry Moabite women. God’s law said the Israelites were not to marry foreigners. They were to marry within the Israelite community so their spouses would not bring foreign gods into their community. Mahlon and Kilion violate that law when they married Orpah and Ruth.

Third, when Ruth came back to Bethlehem with Naomi, the reverse was true. Here was a foreign widow, an enemy widow, coming into Israel with no means of support. Randy Frazee characterized her gleaning in Boaz’s field this way. “It would be like a woman in a burka picking corn in a field in Iowa.” Ruth would certainly stand out. She was an outsider and few would trust her, few would want to help her. Everyone would notice her, but not in a good way.

Ruth lay at Boaz feet to let him know she was available after he showed her kindness. It was anything lewd or seductive. It was a common way to signal she was available. Boaz set things in motion to marry her, but had to give a closer relative the opportunity to buy the inheritance of her dead husband first. When her closer relative decided purchasing the land would put his finances at greater risk and refused to redeem the land, Boaz made the deal, purchased the land and made Ruth his wife.

So why would Boaz be so kind to this outsider? Why would he pay attention to this person that most people would shun? What made Boaz different from the other men in Bethlehem? Why would God use Boaz in the way He did and how did He mold Boaz in a way others had not been molded? Just take a look at the genealogy discussed a little earlier. I mentioned the trailing end of Ruth and Boaz’ lineage. Obed. Jesse. David.

But take a look at Boaz’ mother. Rahab. Remember her? She was the prostitute in Jericho who hid the Israelite spies that Joshua sent into the land before attacking the city. Can you imagine how Boaz was treated in that little village where everyone knew everyone else? Yes, she hid the spies and helped Israel defeat the city of Jericho, but that also made her a traitor to her own people. No one likes a traitor. It doesn’t matter whose side you’re on. No one likes a traitor.

And Rahab was a prostitute. It was probably the only way she could support herself in that large ancient city. But prostitution still carried its stigma then just as it does now. And Boaz not only befriended this prostitute, but married her. And Rahab was a Moabite, an enemy. A long time enemy. She betrayed her own people, would she betray the people of Bethlehem as she did the people of Jericho?

The lower story of Ruth and Boaz, and their parents looks like an unlikely group of players in God’s plan to bring people back into a face-to-face relationship with Him. How could God use traitors, prostitutes, enemies of His chosen people, outsiders, people obviously disloyal and disobedient to His laws to further His plan to bring us back to Him? It seems impossible to us. It would be a crazy, insane, scheme to any of us if we were trying to put together a plan for restoring that lost intimacy of the garden.

God lives and works and reigns in His upper story, though. God intervenes in humanity to ensure His plans ultimately work to the outcomes He has set out achieve. We can look up and align our lower story with His and be part of His plan. Or we can choose our own path and find ourselves on a path toward destruction. We can choose the path, but we cannot choose the consequences. The question remains for each of us. Can I trust God in His upper story to work for my good as I love Him and align my life with Him.

If you believe His word and watch the outcome of the heroes we see in His word and the lives of so many who have chosen to follow Him, you will find that God’s promises are true. Romans 8:28 is true. God can and will turn the impossible into reality and turn what seems to be bad into our good when we keep our eyes focused on Him and keep our lives aligned with His upper story. We must remember in those hard times that Isaiah was absolutely right when He penned the words God inspired him to write: “my thoughts are higher than your thoughts, and my ways are higher than your ways.” Trust in God. It will be okay.

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

Oct 16, 2017

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

Bible Reading Plan - www.Bible-Reading.com; The Story, Chapter 7; You Version Bible app, days 43-49

Today we look at a book of the Old Testament that was required reading for every soldier in the Israeli army before their 1967 war with Egypt. As you read through the book, you’ll understand why. It’s filled with stories of battle. It’s story after story of God intervening for His people, bringing victory to His new nation as they moved into the land He promised Abraham as an inheritance more than 600 years earlier. It’s a book that inspires courage. In fact, three times in the first chapter, We read the words, “Do not fear, for the Lord your God will be with you.” Do you think He means it?

Of course He does. Because God will ask us to do some crazy sounding things that would ordinarily bring fear to the most fearless among us. Just take a look at the first thing God asks Joshua to do in this conquest of the promised land and you’ll understand why He tells Joshua not to be afraid. God has to remind Joshua not to be afraid because He is the master of the events in the upper story and all we can see is the lower story we live in. We can’t always see Him at work so it’s easy for us to be afraid.

Look at the facts Joshua was dealing with as God told him not to fear the people of Jericho.

  • Forty years had passed but the Canaanites were no smaller than when the Israelites seemed like grasshoppers in their own eyes.
  • The fortifications around Jericho had been impenetrable against every enemy that tried to oppose it.
  • Joshua had to take more than a million people across a river without bridges, so there was no hope for surprise.
  • God told Joshua to circumcise all the males when they crossed the Jordan river just days before they were to attack Jericho.
  • The strategy God gave them to breach this impenetrable fortress was march around the city in silence once a day for six day, then march around it seven times on the seventh day, blow their trumpets, then take the city.

I’ve been part of planning several combat operations and even more contingency plans in case we were to go to war in various parts of the world. We spend days, weeks, sometimes years refining contingency plans to put the right force in the right place. Making sure the ratios are right. Making sure the supplies are available. Making sure the routes in and out of the objectives can be cleared and kept clear. Putting together everything we could think of to ensure victory before we ever started out on a campaign.

But I never saw a plan like this one...except in the book of Joshua. I think if our planning staff had ever presented something like this to our commander he would have fired us on the spot. Talk about a ludicrous plan. Talk about a way to dishearten your warriors before battle. Talk about a plan sure to fail before it starts. This is it.

Drag a million people across a fast moving river with no bridges and then give all of them minor surgery and tell them you’re going into hand to hand combat. Right! What would you think if you were those soldiers reporting to Joshua? “Don’t be afraid Joshua, I’m with you.”

But God, do you understand how war works? Do you understand that those guys are at least a head taller than all of us and have been warriors from birth? Do you understand that those walls are so thick that people build houses inside them? Do you understand you’re asking us to do the impossible?

“Joshua, don’t be afraid. I’ll be with you.”

When Joshua looked at what God asked him to do from his lower story point of view, it’s hard not to fear. The plan God laid out looked impossible, foolhardy. So God needed to remind Joshua it’s not us, but Him. Joshua had to look back through the last forty years and remember God was bigger than all the problems they had faced during their desert journey. Joshua, his soldiers, the rest of the Israelites, the people of Jericho before they perished, all the other nations around them, there was no question who won that battle. It wasn’t Israel’s soldiers. It wasn’t Joshua and his brilliant military tactics. It was all God.

So what has God asked you to do that seems ridiculous? What has He put in your mind that if you took the first step just makes you sweat bullets because you are so afraid of the outcome? What plan do you think He has for your life that seems so outrageous that others will look at you and think you’ve lost your mind because it is surely impossible to accomplish and the risks are just too great to even think about stepping out on that journey?

God told us in His word more than one hundred times, “Don’t be afraid.” He told Joshua, “Don’t be afraid. For I, the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.” Can you trust God to fulfill His promises in your life the way He did for Joshua and Moses and Jacob and Abraham? Each of those heroes we’ve watched in God’s Story have made the same mistakes you and I have (or worse). Yet God used them in tremendous ways, why? Because they trusted God had an upper story that was far superior to their knowledge in their lower story. They trusted God knew a better future than they could see in their short-sighted present.

That’s all God asks of us. Look up and recognize God’s thoughts are higher than our thoughts and His ways higher than ours. His upper story reaches far beyond what we can see in our lower story and He always works for good for those who love Him and work according to His purposes. When God asks us to do something others might think crazy. Something that even brings a bit of fear to our hearts. Remember God’s admonition, “Don’t be afraid. For I will be with you wherever you go.”

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

Oct 9, 2017

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

Bible Reading Plan - www.Bible-Reading.com ; The Story, Chapter 6, You Version Bible app, days 36 through 42

We continue our journey through God’s Story. We’ve looked at God’s creation of the perfect garden and His desire to walk with us and interact with us in personal, intimate ways. We discovered how our decisions severed that relationship by bringing sin into the world and so God, in His holiness, could not walk in the garden with us anymore because He cannot tolerate sin. We also learned that from the time of that first act of disobedience, God has been working to make a way to restore that perfect relationship with us so that we can once again walk with Him.

We discovered how God uses the most unlikely people to carry out His plan so that no one can claim ownership of that plan. It becomes obvious that only God can be the author of the restoration between God and humanity. He built a special nation through which His plan would come together. He built that nation through Abraham and Sarah and their son, Isaac, born to them at their perfect child bearing ages of 100 and 90 respectively. We saw how God used a slave and prisoner to save His special people and all the other nations of North Africa and the Middle East during a seven year famine that swept that region.

And we learned why God gives us rules so that we can learn to get along with each other. Remember the premise. If we can’t get along with and live with each other, how can we broken, imperfect, selfish, sinful people expect to live with a holy God. Those commands God gave us are not burdensome, gotcha rules and regulations, but rather, the means by which we can live in community with those around us and with God in the center of our community.

So this week, as you read the stories that will come from Numbers and Deuteronomy we will learn something about the Israelites journey in the wilderness. They have escaped from their Egyptian tormentors. Pharaoh’s chariots rest at the bottom of the Sea of Reeds and his army’s bloated bodies float face down in its waters or wash up on the shores. The Israelites have camped out at the foot of Mount Sinai for a year learning about God’s instructions and then God says, “Ok, it’s time to go. Head out to the land I promised you.”

Have you ever headed out on one of those multi-day drive vacation trips? I have to admit, I don’t do those much anymore. When I was younger I took more of them, but I think like me, most people choose to fly rather than spend days in the car to get to their destination these days. Find cheap flights a few months in advance and it’s probably cheaper than the extra days in motel rooms and the gas for the car, right? And certainly better for my back and my psyche.

But when I was a kid, I remember going to Ohio with my parents to visit my grandparents. My dad would sometimes try to make the drive overnight so all of us kids would sleep in the back of the car and not ask THE questions. “Are we there yet?” “How much farther?” “When can we stop to eat?” “What is there to do? I’m bored.” Back then travel was a little different than today. Remember, the first interstate highway wasn’t built until 1954, so by the early sixties many trips still took place on two lane roads. Nashville to Sebring, Ohio was one of those trips.

When it was daylight, the questions started and occasionally my mom or dad’s arm would reach across the front bench seat and swat a leg to let us know it was time to stop whatever it was we were doing. The questions, picking at each other, trying to grab whatever one or the other had. The swat said straighten up, act right, behave yourself. We’ll be at our destination when we get there. Be patient.

Back to God’s story. God told Moses to get going. It was time to leave for their final destination. The promised land awaited. Everyone is thrilled...for a day or two. They complained they needed food. So God sent them manna. Then they complained about the manna. So God gave them quail. But this time God gave them what they wanted. He gave them so much quail that it “came out their nostrils” the Bible says. I’m not sure how much quail that was, but I’m sure I don’t want to find out.

So they complained about the quail. And Aaron and Miriam complain about their brother, Moses! Why is he the leader and not them? He can’t even talk right. Why does he get to go into the tabernacle alone and not them. They want to see God, too. They want to be part of this plan. They have the same blood running through their veins, don’t they? They have the same mother and father as Moses, don’t they? It was Miriam that helped save Moses from being drowned in the Nile after all. This just wasn’t fair! Miriam came away from that argument with leprosy.

Just the year before, these same people were slaves making handmade bricks out of mud and straw for Pharaoh’s buildings. They had a diet of cucumbers and onions. They were beaten by their masters. Pharaoh had all the male babies thrown into the Nile as crocodile snacks. But they thought they were better off there than on their dusty journey through the desert to the promised land described as flowing with milk and honey.

Sounds just like us, doesn’t it? God can do the miraculous for us one moment and then we complain about some minor struggle we have the next moment. He can do the impossible for us and then we question how we will make it through the next day. We lift some prayer request to Him in a study group or prayer circle and then we are amazed when there is an answer to that prayer. We’re just like the Israelites sometimes, aren’t we?

Can I ask you to look back over your life and see how God is working in His upper story to restore His relationship with you? There might be some deserts you’ve gone through. There might be some places where the only thing you had to eat was that plain old manna or you had what you asked for but it was like quail coming out your nose until you just wanted to be rid of it. Maybe you look back and it’s hard to see many places where God worked His miracles because you’re on that dusty road and the winds block your view as if in a sandstorm. Can I challenge you then to remember that we live in the lower story where it is hard to see very far ahead. We only see to the bend in the road and that bend my not be just to the end of our arm. But remember God operates in His upper story and His desire is to bring you into an intimate relationship with Him. He wants more than anything else to walk with you face to face in the perfect garden He has prepared for those who love Him and work according to His purpose.

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

 

Oct 2, 2017

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

Bible Reading Plan - www.Bible-Reading.com; The Story, Chapter 5, You Version Bible app, days 29 through 35.

In my younger days I thought Leviticus a really boring book of the Bible. I’ll have to admit, it’s still not my favorite, but I’ve come to appreciate its rules and regulations a lot more as I’ve come to understand the bigger picture of God’s Story and His plan for us.

You see, the big picture of God’s story is His incredible desire to live face to face with us. But there is this problem we created. We brought sin into the world. We broke that relationship with Him and He has been working to get it back. But God cannot live where there is sin. So His Story tells us how He is working through history to exact His plan to bring us back into that perfect relationship that existed in the Garden of Eden before Adam and Eve chose to disobey Him.

An interesting concept we need to understand about having an intimate relationship with God, though, is this. If expect to get along with God, we must be able to get along with each other. My kids hated time out growing up. They knew the rules of the house and when they broke them, that was often where they ended up...timeout. Sitting on the sidelines instead of participating in whatever was going on around them. But my wife and I wanted to have a relatively peaceful home. In fact, I’m not sure my kids ever heard me holler at them. That doesn’t mean I’m the best parent in the world. I was absent a lot because of military service. So much of their good character is my wife’s fault. But she and I decided early that we would enforce the rules and from a very early age, they learned there were consequences for breaking the rules.

Kids need fences. They need to know what the limits are and they need to know those limits are firm. When the boundaries change every day, they get confused. They will test those limits and push them as far as you will let them. Never learning there are consequences for disobedience until one day it is too late and the consequences are much greater than either the child or the parent ever expected.

The same is true for adults, though. We need boundaries, too. We need rules as surely as our children do if we expect to live in community with other people. And that’s why God gave Moses the Ten Commandments on Mount Sinai those centuries ago.

The last six of the commandments are not unique. Many cultures had those same rules imposed on their people. It’s how communities ensured people got along with each other. Respect your parents, don’t murder, steal, lie, commit adultery, or covet the things someone else owns. These six commands keep us in check with those that live around us.

The first four commandments were unique to this new nation God was building through His chosen people led by Moses. Keep God first, don’t make any idols or images, honor and respect His name, and set aside a day each week to remember and worship Him. These four rules keep our vertical relationship in perspective. The last four keep our horizontal relationships right.

But we grouse at the commandments. Why do we need rules? Why can’t I do my own thing? Well, we want rules for everyone but me. That’s the thing. In our selfishness, the very core of sin, we want something that holds everyone else in check but don’t want to be bound by those same expectations. And that’s the problem. We don’t want anyone speeding past our yard when the kids are playing, but we don’t want that ticket when we are guilty of the same crime. After all, I’m in complete control of my car at all times, right? I know what I’m doing, right? Wrong.

God gave us the commandments so we could get along with each other. They model the relationship that exists within the trinity. The Father, Son, and Spirit have existed eternally living within these boundaries and know that we can only get along when we observe these same boundaries. So God sets limits on our behavior to help us live in community with each other so that He might restore our community with Him. He wants so desperately to return to those walks in the garden with us.

The rules also told Moses how to build a place for God to stay. He wanted to be right in the middle of this new nation, so Moses constructed a tabernacle, a big tent, for God. If you read about the layout of the camp, the tabernacle was right in the middle of those three million people. Three tribes on the north, three tribes on the east, three tribes on the south, and three tribes on west with the tabernacle smack dab in the middle of the camp. That was where God wanted to be in regard to His new nation.

But the tabernacle also had to be built to perfect specifications. Special wood, special materials, special utensils, special dimensions. Even special people doing the work and handling everything associated with His new house. In fact, the priests could not even go inside because of their sin. God is a holy God. He cannot tolerate sin and will not live in the presence of sin. So when His house was built, not even the priests could go inside when He was present.

Sin was a problem. God gave Moses instructions on how to allow the priest to come into His special sacred spot once a year. He gave him a way for atonement for his sins and the sins of the people. A perfect lamb was sacrificed and its blood shed in atonement for sin.

God pointed toward this act back in the Garden of Eden when He killed some animals and took their skins to make clothing for Adam and Eve. These rules for atonement, shedding the blood of an innocent animal point to something bigger coming when He sacrifices His own son for us. But it tells us the innocent pay for our sin. That’s pretty bad. Adam’s offspring, us, pay the consequences of Adam’s disobedience.

Do you ever think your sins might be hidden? Guess again, the innocent pay for your sins. Your spouse, your children, your neighbors. The innocent pay for your disobedience. And oh, by the way, you pay for the disobedience of someone else! You see we are all in this together. We have to learn to get along. God gave us those rules for a reason. He wants desperately to live among us and walk with us in His garden. But until we can get along with each other, we can never get along with Him.

Jesus said it in answer to the question, “What is the greatest commandment?” “Love your God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength. And the second is like it, love your neighbor as yourself.” If we can’t love our neighbor who we can see. If we can’t live with each other? How can we expect to live with a holy God?

Why did God give us the Ten Commandments? To show us how the trinity lives and how we should live in community. They prepare us in the furtherance of His bigger picture to live with us again in His perfect dwelling place.

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

Sep 25, 2017

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

Bible Reading Plan - www.Bible-Reading.com; The Story, Chapter 4; You Version Bible app, days 22 through 28

We continue our journey through the story examining another of the stories that almost everyone has heard. In fact, almost everyone can tell you the book that contains the story. It’s found in the book of Exodus, an interesting compound Greek word that means “the way out.”

Today I want us to focus on the hero of the story as we have focused on the unlikely heroes in the first weeks of our study. Adam and Eve were unlikely heroes because of their disobedience. Abraham was an unlikely hero, picked by God to be the father of the nation of Israel through which all the nations of the world would be blessed. Joseph, a slave and prison, who God chose to become the second in command of the mighty nation of Egypt. All unlikely heroes. People you and I would never choose if we were God. But then we are not God. He chooses people whose hearts are in the right place, not who necessarily have it all together.

So it is with today’s story. Who would choose Moses as the savior of the Hebrew slaves in Egypt? Yes, he was miraculously saved from Pharaoh’s destruction of the male children born to the slaves as they continued to increase in population. Yes, he was raised in Pharaoh’s palace as a young man. But Moses was a murderer. Moses had a price on his head. Moses couldn’t speak well and many scholars think he might have suffered from some sort of speech impediment and had difficulty being understood. Moses was an outlaw living in the wilderness making sure no one recognized him, tending sheep, just to stay alive.

What did Moses have that would make him the hero of the story? Why would God choose him to be the leader of the nation and call him to face Pharaoh to pronounce His judgment on Egypt to free His chosen people from their centuries of slavery? Why would God ask someone with a speech impediment to be His spokesman? This just doesn’t make sense, does it?

But there he was, tending his father-in-law’s sheep, when God spoke to him from a blazing bush that wasn’t consumed by the fire. Bizarre! We would see Moses as much more a hindrance than a help. But God saw something else. He saw a man committed to Him. He saw a man He could use as an instrument of His grace and mercy. He saw a man through whom He could demonstrate His justice and His redemption because He saw Moses’ heart.

Was Moses perfect? No. Not by a long shot. We already said he was a murderer. He was a coward, running into the desert when confronted by his countrymen. He even did things after God called him as Israel’s leader that kept him out of the promised land. Remember the story of Moses striking the rock to get water out of it instead of doing what God said and speaking to the rock? That might not sound like a big deal to you, but to God that was disobedience to His command. That’s pretty serious, don’t you think? That was just like Adam and Eve disobeying God in the Garden of Eden when God said don’t eat the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. They didn’t do what God said. God told Moses, “Speak to the rock and get water out of it.” Moses didn’t do what God said and his punishment, like Adam and Eve’s was banishment from the promised lan. Moses wasn’t perfect. He had his struggles and his faults just like you and I. But he knew to whom he could go when he did wrong. Unlike Adam and Eve, he didn’t hide, but rather he confessed and laid himself before God in repentance. He opened himself to the God of the universe and kept that intimate relationship between His God and himself. And that’s why God used him in such a miraculous way.

There were still consequences for Moses’ disobedience. We still have consequences for our sin. We pay a price for the wrongs we commit. God sometimes removes the consequences, but most often does not in the physical world we live in. We suffer and struggle in this broken world because we live in a world filled with sin. But when we follow Him and obey His teachings, we experience far fewer of the negative consequences that come with wrong actions. Right living brings good consequences. Wrong living brings bad consequences. It just makes sense.

This week, if you follow the reading in “The Story”, chapter 4 or the smartphone app You Version reading plan Engaging God’s Story days 23 through 29, you will see just how God uses this unlikely hero as an instrument for the salvation of His people. It’s pretty exciting stuff.

The readings also remind me that God can use the most unlikely people, even you and me, to carry out the most incredible events. He might not use you to change the world like He did with Moses, but then again He might. Moses was 80 when he stood before the burning bush. Abraham was 100 when Isaac, the promised son was born. God doesn’t pay attention to age or bank accounts or social status or race or nationality or any of the things we might think are important in being a hero or world changer. God pays attention to hearts. He wants people who are devoted to Him. And when He finds that person, He can use him or her to do what others think impossible.

We’ve already seen that in the characters we’ve explored just in these few days of reading God’s Story. But hold on. There is a lot more ahead. God has a plan and it is unfolding just as He expects. You can be part of moving His plan forward or you can futilely try to push against it. It’s your choice which side you choose. But He is God and will not and can not fail because He is God and we are not. No matter how hard we might try to push against His will, His plan, He wins...every time. So which side will you choose? Yours or His? It’s really not hard to make the smart choice, so why do so many choose the wrong one? Which one do you choose?

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

Sep 18, 2017

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

Bible Reading Plan - www.Bible-Reading.com; The Story, Chapter 3; You Version app, days 15 through 21

This week you’ll read the story of Joseph. You probably remember much of his story if you’ve been around the church. Even if you don’t know much about the Bible, you’ve probably heard something about Joseph. The story of Joseph and his multicolored coat even made Broadway.

But we need to look at Joseph’s story the way it fits into God’s story. Remember we’ve been talking about the difference between the lower story we live in and the upper story God plans. We can’t see farther than the moments we live in. We can’t see around the bend in the road to know how the events of today will really impact our lives tomorrow. But God sees the panorama of eternity. He knows how ever moment of our lives, every moment of suffering, can be turned into good for us.

Joseph could not understand how his brothers selling him into slavery could be good for him. But God knew how he would use it. Joseph didn’t understand how being accused of rape and thrown into prison could be a good thing. But God knew how he would use that horrible event that could mean Joseph’s execution to save the nation He promised to build through Abraham.

Joseph didn’t understand how the broken promise of the baker and his languishing in an Egyptian death row prison could be anything but bad, but God knew how that event would eventually put Joseph in front of Pharaoh at just the right moment to make Joseph second in command of the whole kingdom and become the salvation for not only Egypt, but many of the surrounding nations as well.

Joseph had dreams as a teenager that he would rule his brothers and parents. Those dreams seemed to be dashed when his brothers sold him into slavery. He couldn’t see the big picture of God’s upper story. All he could see at any given moment were the days of suffering in slavery or prison. But Joseph kept his eyes turned upward and trusted God.

That’s why when his brothers came to get food from Egypt during the famine that hit the region he could tell them, “It was not you that did this, but God did it to save all of us.” His brothers might have meant to do Him evil, but God had a bigger view and turned that evil into good and saved Israel through those actions. God’s plans cannot be thwarted.

I sometimes wonder what would have happened had Joseph’s brothers not thrown him into the pit and sold him into slavery. Would Joseph still become the leader of the nation? Probably. God set him apart as revealed in the dreams he had a young man. There was something special about Joseph that God saw that few others did. It caused a lot of friction in his family and as a teenager, he didn’t handle it very well. Neither did his father.

The obvious favoritism in Jacob’s family created horrible internal family dynamics. I can’t imagine the difficulties a family counselor would have trying to straighten that crowd out. The jealousy, infighting, favoritism...everything that all the books tell you creates a bad family happened in that one.

Maybe God let all that happen to get Joseph away from the continued influence of the family dynamic in Jacob’s family. Maybe God needed to teach Joseph some humility through suffering before he could become the great leader God knew he could be.

We don’t know how God works or why we go through the things we do because we can only see the lower story. We see linearly and have all those obstacles in the way. We have to pay our bills, eat, go to work, deal with all of our own family dynamics and our neighbors and our co-workers and church members and, well, ...life. We are stuck in this two dimensional view of life and cannot see what is next.

God on the other hand sees all. He is not bound by time. He exists eternally. Past, present, and future. He can see around the bend and can intervene in our lives to make His dreams collide with our lives to make sure His plans are carried out.

Often we have dreams as kids or as teenagers that God plants in our heads and we let life destroy them just as Joseph did. I doubt if he thought he would ever become a ruler after he was sold into slavery. I doubt if he thought his dreams would ever come true after he was falsely accused and thrown into prison. I imagine he set those dreams aside and just worked as hard as he could knowing that is would God would expect of him.

But those dreams did materialize for him as he followed God’s ways. Have you ever thought that God might use you the same way? That all things really do work for good for those that love Him and work according to His purpose? They do. There are many examples we will continue to see as we continue to read through God’s story. But remember the two conditions that go along with God’s promise.

First, we must love Him. And second, we must work according to His purpose. That means He must come first. Does your checkbook show that He comes first in your life or does God just get leftovers? Does your calendar reflect your love for God? Do your social activities show God is first in your life? Does your library and reading and listening habits show that you want to hear God’s voice more than anyone else in your daily communications?

God’s promises are almost always conditional. If you don’t really love God and don’t work according to His purposes (not your own), don’t expect this promise from Romans chapter 8 to apply to you. God might do some good things for you just because He is a gracious God, but the promise doesn’t apply. Don’t expect it.

But if you do love Him. If your life reflects you love for Him with your whole heart, soul, mind, and strength, you can be assured everything that happens in your life will work toward something good in your life. I can’t tell you when or how, but God’s promise applies to you and He never breaks His promises.

Just like with Joseph, all things work for good. He spent 22 pretty tough, rotten years suffering at the hands of his brothers and then at the hands of masters and prison guards. But he then spent 71 years as Pharaoh’s second in command. No one had more authority in the known world at the time except Pharaoh himself. He traded 22 rough years for 71 years of luxury in Pharaoh’s palace. God turned bad into good. Both for Joseph and for the nation God was building through the covenant He made those years earlier with Abraham.

Do you have some old dreams that don’t seem to be happening? Maybe you just can’t see around the bend. Look up. God works in the upper story. Follow His will. Work toward His purposes. Love Him with your whole heart, soul, mind, and strength. He works in ways we will never comprehend. Like with Joseph, God can turn our dreams into His dreams and His are so much beyond what we could ever imagine.

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

Sep 11, 2017

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.

Welcome back to our study of “The Story,” God story of His plan to bring us back to Him. Last week we talked about the Garden of Eden, why we are no longer in it, the curse of evil we all inherited because of Adam and Eve’s decision to disobey, and God’s working to redeem us - to bring us back into fellowship with Him. The story of the Garden is the first of five major movements in God’s word, His story. Today we begin the second movement, the birth of the nation of Israel.

Bible Reading Plan - <a href="http://www.bible-reading.com">www.Bible-Reading.com</a> - or Genesis chapters 12-35

When I was a kid, I’ll have to admit I wasn’t the most athletic person in my community. I was always the geek. Loved reading and science and math. I enjoyed learning more than running around outside getting all hot and sweaty. So one of the things I remember about that time of my life are the games we had to play in school in which someone was made the captain of each side and those captains began to choose their team from all the kids around them. If I wasn’t the last person picked, I was next to last just about every time.

I just wasn’t very good at sports and so I never got picked early. I could write well, debate, take tests of all kinds and perform at the top of the class in those areas. But sports? Not so much.

A strange thing happened on one of those fields one day, though. One of the best players on the field was a friend. On this particular day, he was chosen as the captain of one of the teams. I was at the back of the crowd of kids trying to be as inconspicuous as possible.Trying not to be as embarrassed as usual. I wasn’t paying much attention to what was going on at the front of the crowd because I knew I’d be one of the last one’s whose name was called.

But my friend, the captain that day, made the first pick and he called my name. He had to call it twice, though, because I was in shock. No one picked me first. The other captain called a name and then my friend called the name of the second least likely to be asked to play. Then when he called the third name for his team, it was another geek, least likely to play any kind of sport. And that’s how it went until everyone was picked.

I don’t even remember what the score was at the end of the softball game that day, but I remember being called first when teams were formed. I also remember we didn’t win the game, but all of us on that team played our hearts out for our captain. He broke the cultural traditions and put together the worst team you could imagine.

God’s story, beginning at Genesis 12, tells of the selection of two unlikely people. If we were trying to build a nation, we wouldn’t pick Abram and Sarai. We would probably find the son of some wealthy king and spark a new nation from him. We would probably look at the pedigree of those who applied and like the majority of the world, we would peruse all those resumes to pick the very best couple we could to form this new nation.

But God’s story is a little different. He chooses some of the most unlikely people to carry out His plan so there is no question about His intervention in the story. Abraham and Sarah (God changed their names along the way) were old. She was barren. They had no children. How was a great nation to start from an old couple with no children. He was already well past retirement age when his son Isaac was born. Abraham was 100 and Sarah was 90.

Then about fifteen years later, God tells Abraham to sacrifice his son. The heir to his property. The one who was promised as the means of building a new nation that would bless all the other nations of the world.

These 20 plus chapters in Genesis tell the story of how God chooses the way my friend did that day on the field. There is one really important difference, though. On the softball field, that broken team didn’t play very well. We played hard, but we lost. But when God chooses someone to carry out His work, when we do what He asks, the plan never fails. The plan doesn’t fail because God doesn’t fail. He intends to use men and women like Abraham and Sarah to bless others.

Was Abraham perfect after God chose him? Not by a long shot. That’s one of the things that’s different about His Story. He tells us the good and the bad about the heroes in scripture. God’s story doesn’t hide the disappointment, the disobedience, the sin in the lives of those upon whom His kingdom is built. It’s one of those “tell all” kinds of stories. We see behind the curtain and see all the warts and wrongs and brokenness of those God chooses to do His work.

What that tells me, when I read stories of Abraham and his deceit with Pharaoh or the story of Jacob lying to his father and stealing his brother’s birthright or the story of Judah sleeping with his daughter-in-law, is that God can use all the people the world would never pick. He looks at the back of the crowd at those who are least likely to succeed. He finds those who the world would snub their nose and question why God would think to use “that person.”

God knows what He is doing, though. God works through some of the least likely for two reasons, I think. First, when those least likely carry out His plan and others around see the success of God’s work through the efforts of the least likely to succeed, there can be no question that God is part of the plan. There is just no other way to explain how things work because we cannot see around the bend in the road. We can’t see how everything will work because we live in the lower story of God’s word while He operates in the upper story.

God not only sees what’s ahead, but intervenes to make sure His plans happen as He intends. Second, when we read about people like Judah and Jacob and Abraham and the mistakes they made yet were honored by God when they returned and followed Him, we can understand that God can use you and me too. He can take us with all our warts, all our brokenness, all our failures and turn us into instruments of His love and part of His great plan.

The question is whether we will be part of His plan or fighting against His plan. The choice is ours to make. God won’t force us to follow Him or accept Him as our redeemer. He won’t push us to do something we refuse to do. He will let us choose our own path. But we also suffer the consequences of taking the wrong path. He tells us how best to live. His word gives us instruction on how to get along with others, how to succeed in life. How to treat our children and our spouse. How to find Him and His redemptive power in our lives. But still, God lets us choose. He knows the best path for us and if we will look up and follow Him, He will show us which path to take. But we still get to choose whether we will take it or not.

So here we are at the beginning of the nation of Israel. God made it possible for Abraham to bless the world through his offspring. Abraham decided to accept God’s offer and to follow Him. You can look at the first chapter of the New Testament and discover just how blessed the world is because of Abraham’s faithfulness. Jesus is his descendant. Both Mary and Joseph trace their heritage back to this man who decided to trust God and follow the path He laid out.

So what can you do? Can you change the world for God? No. Neither could Abraham. But God can change the world through you just as He changed the world through Abraham. An unlikely candidate for greatness, but God change that in Abraham. You might think you are an unlikely candidate for greatness. But God can use you to carry out His plans and make all things good as you carry out His purpose in your part of His creation.

So what will it be?

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

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