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A Little Walk With God

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

Richard

Mar 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

Bible Reading Plan - www.Bible-Reading.com; The Story, Chapter 24; You Version Bible app Engaging God's Story Reading Plan Days 162 through 168

Jesus talked a lot about kingdoms. So I took it upon myself to just check out the largest and smallest kingdoms in the world. The largest is Russia with 17.1 million square kilometers of land mass. In fact, Russia is 7 million square kilometers bigger than its closest rival, Canada.

Now compare that 17.1 million square kilometers with the smallest country, the Vatican, which stands at a whopping 0.44 square kilometers. That’s less than 90 footfall fields. Just the fields, no sidelines or stands or parking lots, just the playing fields. The Vatican is less than two-thirds the size of Dallas/Fort Worth Airport.

That is some disparity in the size of countries in case you didn’t notice. Or if you don’t want to count the Vatican as a country even though it is recognized as a sovereign nation of its own, we could look at the next smallest country, Monaco. Monaco is a whopping 2 square kilometers. So yeah it’s really big, almost three times the size of the Dallas/Fort Worth airport.

If you’ve ever gotten stuck in Dallas because of weather and walked around that place, you might be able to say you’ve walked the width and breadth of a whole kingdom and not be far from wrong.

Jesus wasn’t talking about one of these kingdom’s, though. Jesus went about the countryside staying on track with a pretty straight forward message about the kingdom. The kingdom of heaven is at hand. Repent.

Notice he didn’t say the kingdom was coming soon. He didn’t say watch for it, the kingdom might be on its way. He didn’t way it’s close by. Jesus told the crowds, everyone who would listen. The kingdom of heaven is at hand. Repent. God came to live right here with us.

Just like God walked in the middle of the garden with Adam and Eve. Just like God had Moses build the tabernacle right in the middle of the camp as the Israelites fled from Egypt. Just like God gave David and Solomon the plans for the temple and the Holy of Holies where his glory could be seen in the most heavily populated city in the nation. Just like he came in to live in human flesh. God came to live right smack dab in the middle of us. He wants to have an intimate, face-to-face relationship with us.

Jesus gave up heaven to live like us on this tiny little speck of rock in his grand universe so he could save us from our sins. He wanted to experience humanity so he could empathize with us. He wanted to be able to say to each of us, “I know what it’s like. I’ve been there.”

We cannot begin to imagine what Jesus gave up to come live with us. But he loved us so much that he did it. He loved us so much that he experienced every aspect of life that we face, yet came through it victorious. Obedient to the Father in every respect.

Russia is a huge country. It would take a lifetime and more to explore all of it. Even today there are unmapped parts of the country. Places where people have not placed their feet in some of the vast frozen wilderness in the northern parts of Russia. Then there is the Vatican. Every inch touched by thousands of pilgrims through the centuries. Priests and monks and nuns and visitors in the millions flock to the tiny country each year in hopes of catching a glimpse of the Pope, the head of the largest organized Christian denomination in the world.

But neither of these countries compares to the kingdom of which Jesus speaks. As big or rich or populated or well known or visited or isolated, no country on the planet is like the kingdom Jesus says is at hand.

Those around him hoped he spoke of a kingdom that would overthrow the Romans. The largest, most powerful nation to date. It spanned much of Europe, the Middle East, and North Africa. Rome ruled with an iron fist. Caesar conquered all and all submitted to his rule. But Jesus spoke of the new kingdom. A kingdom not of this world. A kingdom that with one word from him would have rescued him from the pain and suffering he endured for us. A kingdom with an army of angels against which no power can stand ready to do his bidding.

God’s kingdom. His kingdom. The kingdom in which everyone who believes in him for the forgiveness of sin holds citizenship. Our kingdom. We share with him in that beautiful place called heaven. Jesus spoke of the kingdom at hand. Right where we are. Here. Now. Ready to be realized if we will open our hearts and minds to him.

Do I understand all of what he meant by his words? Not yet. I know his peace when others around me wonder at the peace I enjoy in the circumstances around me. I know his peace when the situation calls for chaos and anxiety and anguish. I know his peace when things go well and things don’t go so well. He told us he would leave his peace with us. And I can testify with first hand knowledge that his promise is true in my life. I also see that peace in the face of other Christian men and women around me that the world would say have every right to have responses very different than the peace they exude. But God’s peace, a byproduct of citizenship in his kingdom, can be with us now. In this chaotic and sinful world.

There is so much more about his kingdom we will not understand until Jesus returns and takes us there. He said he’s been building a house that will fit everyone who believes in him and he’ll come and take us to be with him when his father tells him it is time. Do I understand how that works or when that will be? Nope. No one does except the Father and him. That doesn’t mean we can’t believe, though. With all the computers chips and electronics surrounding the engine and transmission in my car, I no longer know how my car works, but that doesn’t mean I don’t believe it will run when I put turn the key in the ignition. Faith is faith. The eternal question is in whom do you put your faith? Will Jesus be your Lord and King or will you try to sit on the throne even though you really have so little control over your life.

Jesus’ message is simple. Repent, the kingdom of heaven is at hand.

You can be part of that kingdom. Just ask. Believe. Trust. That’s all faith is. Believing in something you cannot see. When you put your faith in him, you will not be sorry. You will begin to know the promises he made for those who trust in him. You will begin to see his handiwork as never before. You will begin to understand the story he laid out for us so that we can join with him again in the paradise he created for us. Death will be gone. Pain will be gone. Suffering will be gone. Evil will be gone. What will be left is the work and worship God created for us in the first 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.

Feb 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.

Bible Reading Plan - www.Bible-Reading.com; The Story, Chapter 25; You Version Bible app Engaging God's Story Reading Plan Days 169 through 175

Have you ever had a question stuck in the back of your mind that you just can’t seem to break loose? I’ve had a few of those through the years. Some seem silly now that I’m in my sixties. Many I still don’t have answers.

Some of those silly questions include things like will I ever be rich and famous? Will anyone ever remember my name when I’m dead and gone? What can I do in life to make sure my family and I are comfortable? How can I get ahead in whatever career I might be in at the time?

Silly questions because none of the answers or outcomes from those questions really matter in the long run. What good is money when you’re dead and gone? Who cares about fame when their bones have crumbled in the grave? What does comfort have to do with anything and it’s all relative anyway. What does it mean to be comfortable? Is that the absence of pain and disease and injury? Will I be able to live in a bubble to avoid all sickness the rest of my life? Silly questions.

But there are some questions that did mean something and are really important. What is God’s plan for my life and am I able to discern it? Do I know my sins have been forgiven and that God’s Spirit lives in me? Have I done my best to live my faith in front of my children so they share my understanding of God, my values, and my faith?

These are important questions in life. I’m learning the first about God’s plan for my life is not as important as God’s purpose and then live my life in his purpose. And what is that? His desire and his purpose is that all would come to know him as Lord and Savior. He wants all to know him and to follow him. God desires more than anything to have an intimate, face-to-face relationship restored with each individual he created throughout time.

So then, my question changes to how can God use me to further his plan on earth? How can I be an instrument for him? The older I get, the more important I find the second question. I also find more people asking that question as they approach death. How do I know my sins are forgiven? How do I know God saves me? There is a great verse in 1 John that helps me and that I share with others to help them. It goes like this: “If we confess our sins, he (Jesus) is faithful and will forgive us our sins and will cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”

So there is it. Have I confessed my sins to him and asked for his forgiveness? If I have, he is faithful and will forgive. It’s a promise he has made to us through his word and God never goes back on his word. I can know that my sins are forgiven when I confess my sins and do my very best to follow his teachings. That doesn’t mean we have carte blanche to go out and do whatever we want and then come back and throw confession in God’s face. God knows the difference between true repentance and playing the game of religion.Saying the right words and singing the right songs. He tells us not to test him in that way. But when we come to him repentantly, he forgives. It is his promise to us.

That next question, I must look in the mirror and some days I must admit to myself I haven’t done my best. Sometimes I let my family and friends down. Sometimes I’m not the example I should be. Sometimes I let my anger or frustration or disappointment or some other negative emotion get the best of me and I don’t respond to circumstances the way I should. I’m not the Christlike example I should be to those who are watching me.

On those days, I need to not only ask God’s forgiveness, I need to ask the forgiveness of my family and friends. I let them down and I need to recognize my fault and failure with them. I must remember the cross has two beams. The vertical beam that requires confession and a request for forgiveness from the Father because of my sins and failures in living my life for him. But it also has a horizontal beam that reminds me that I have a responsibility to those around me. And I must ask forgiveness from them when I fail them in living a Christlike example in front of them.

But the question that each of us must answer that makes all the others pale in comparison is the one Jesus asked his disciples in Caesarea Philippi. “Who do you say I am?” That is the eternal question for each of us. In your mind is Jesus who he says he is? Is Jesus just the historical teacher many claim him to be? Or is he just a good man who did some amazing things twenty centuries ago? Or is Jesus truly God incarnate? The one and only Son of the living God? The one who came to give himself as the ultimate sacrifice for the forgiveness of sin for all who will accept his gift of salvation?

Your answer to this one question determines how you will live your life. It will determine how you approach every other decision that comes your way. Your answer will decide your eternal destiny. And no one can answer that question for you. It is a question that everyone faces and everyone must answer within their own heart and mind. And when each of us stand before God on the final day of judgment when each of us will answer for the way we lived our lives. We won’t be asked how much money we made or how many houses we owned. We won’t be asked if our names were in the newspaper or we were listed in “who’s who”.

The one question that will be asked and searched out in the book of life is while we took breaths in this world, who do we say Jesus is? Do we know him to be the Son of the living God and live for him...now. But now is the testing ground. Now is the time we have to decide if we will live for him or not. We either accept his gift of forgiveness and follow him or we don’t. The choice is really that simple.

Living for him is not easy in an evil world, but the choice is simple. We believe in him or not. We follow him or not. We know him as the Son of God or not. We trust him for our salvation or not. Simple choices, but not easy ones in today’s world. They have never been easy. They were not easy when Jesus walked the dusty roads of Jerusalem. If you followed him then, it meant persecution, beatings, stoning, the cross, death. Today if you follow him, it means persecution, perhaps beatings, isolation, suffering, maybe even death. The road is not an easy one. But the choice is still a simple one.

Jesus asks, “Who do you say I am?” Everything, all eternity hangs on your answer to that question. So what do you believe? Are you ready to follow? Millions before you have known it is worth it. How about 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 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.

Feb 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.

Bible Reading Plan - www.Bible-Reading.com; The Story, Chapter 22; You Version Bible app Engaging God's Story Reading Plan Days 148 through 154

The story of Jesus’ birth. Everyone knows it. Even those who have never darkened the door of a church. Even those who try their best to get rid of the nativities in public places and change Merry Christmas to Happy Holidays. Mention “no room at the inn” and people’s first thought is that night in Bethlehem 2000 years ago.

I think we often get the wrong picture of that night, though. I love the story Randy Frazee tells of an elementary school preparing a Christmas pageant for parents. It makes me think about how God would really like us to respond and how we too often respond instead. Here’s the story Randy tells in his book, “The Heart of the Story.”

“...All the important parts were given to the important parts were given to the brightest students. The smartest girl was chosen to be Mary; the smartest boy played Joseph. The next smartest group played the three kings, the angels, and the shepherds.

“There was only one part no one wanted: the innkeeper. Who wanted to be the bad guy who turned Mary and Joseph away? They gave the part to a boy who was a little slower than the others but had a big heart.

“As the day for the big pageant approached, the boy playing the innkeeper began to worry. He couldn’t imagine telling Mary and Joseph there was no room in the inn. What was he going to do?

“Finally, it was curtain time. Parents, relatives, and friends packed the auditorium. They proudly watched the story unfold as their children skillfully carried out their important roles. Meanwhile, the innkeeper grew more and more anxious. The pressure mounted as Mary and Joseph approached. He didn’t know what to do, but somehow he caught a brief glimpse of the Upper Story.

“When Mary and Joseph knocked, the scruffy little innkeeper threw open the door and shouted with a big smile, “Come on in. I’ve been expecting you.” With that the crowd cheered and clapped and the play came to an end.”

Don’t you think that’s really what God has in mind when He shows up? The wait is over. The prophecies are fulfilled. God bursts on the scene in a way no one expected. He used the lower story in some amazing ways to fulfill His upper story. Caesar demanding the census be conducted in each person’s town of their lineage. Bethlehem was just a little village. David left there to build Jerusalem, the capital of the kingdom, remember? And born in poverty in what a family that would be shunned because of the circumstances of His birth. Who would believe Mary had been faithful to her husband Joseph when Jesus came early? She could have been stoned. All the bad things that a family could endure, that family endured. The fateful trip to Bethlehem. The escape to Egypt. Life in the gang filled town of Nazareth. The early death of Joseph, the family breadwinner.

God, by coming to earth in the form of a baby, experienced every single part of life we experience from birth to death. Most of His experiences came from the worst society had to offer. I think He did that on purpose. He didn’t want anyone to say He doesn’t know what we’re going through. He has experienced it all. But stayed true to His Father and His mission to redeem us.

The Jews were looking for a king, not a baby. God came to dwell with us. To live among us. To experience every part of life we experience. He felt all those joys and sorrows that come with living on the wrong side of the street. He knew the heartache that comes from the gossip and slander that launched toward Mary and her firstborn. He knew the grief that comes from the death of those closest to you. He knew the pain of misunderstanding from those around Him, even His own brothers and sisters.

Jesus lived among us, experiencing the life we live everyday. Until Jesus was thirty, he went to work in the carpenter shop every day. He paid excessive taxes to the Romans on the wages He earned. He probably carried some of the soldiers’ packs when He was pressed into service as He walked down the road.

His life was never an easy one. I expect the flowing white robes we see Him wearing in all those pictures and paintings on the walls were not part of His ensemble. I expect He really just had a couple of worn out rags from the local thrift store to wear. I expect the softest bed He ever slept in was that bed of straw in the manger in the cave where He was born. After that, maybe a blanket on the dirt floor or a straw mat on that dirt floor when he was older. Jesus’ life was a hard one that none of us would want to swap.

Yet, like the innkeeper in the elementary school pageant, God wants us to invite Him in when He knocks on the door. He has great things planned for us in His upper story if we will just trust Him and let Him lead the way. We don’t need to worry because He has already experienced this life from beginning to end and knows all about it. He can take us through it and give us peace and joy despite the circumstances we face each day.

How about changing your view of the innkeeper and emulate the new role model when God knocks. Swing the door wide, smile big, and answer, “Come on in. I’ve been expecting 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 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.

Feb 12, 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.

Bible Reading Plan - www.Bible-Reading.com; The Story, Chapter 21; You Version Bible app Engaging God's Story Reading Plan Days 141 through 147

I was thinking after I read this week’s scriptures about the span of time the Israelites went from the words we hear this week until the next chapter in our quest and the next movement in God’s great plan. Malachi stood as the last writer of the Old Testament and it would be 400 years before the next prophet announced the arrival of the Messiah.

400 years. Our nation is just over half that old. We can barely think back to the founders of our country. Most of our kids would have a hard time naming five of the fifty-six signers of the document that announced our beginning, the Declaration of Independence. That piece of paper told Great Britain we had a voice.

Malachi told God’s people that God still had a voice, but for the next 400 years, He didn’t use it. He was silent. He didn’t speak through any prophets or priests. God spoke through the prophets and given His people a plan for returning to Him. They didn’t follow and were cast into exile. God allowed them to return and rebuild the temple.

Ezra read God’s message to the people gathered around the rebuilt temple. The Levites explained His word to those who did not understand the ancient language so everyone knew what the law said and what it meant. And they wept. They saw the error of their ways. They repented of the sins they committed against God and against each other. They determined to live according to the law Ezra read to them.

Nehemiah told them to go home and eat, celebrate, give praise because they finally understood what God wanted from them and could carry out His plans for their lives. They didn’t ask for a new king. They didn’t ask to be like the countries around them. They didn’t ask for wealth or greatness as a nation. They just asked for forgiveness and pledged to follow God’s guidance.

But still, God remained silent for 400 years. The priests conducted their ceremonies and worship services. The singers sang. The teachers taught. The readers read God’s word to the assemblies. The people listened and carried out the laws as best they could. Still God was silent.

Can you imagine not hearing from the leader of the nation for 400 years? In essence that’s what happened to the Israelites. God didn’t speak. They didn’t ask for a new king or a different kind of government. The people had learned their lessons. Yes, the nation lived under the watchful eye of other nations, but in that time, they patiently waited for their coming Messiah. 400 years.

I keep bringing up that number because it’s a little hard to wrap our heads around. No clear guidance for almost twice the age of our country. Nothing from God for four centuries. Silence for almost half a millennium. At sixty-three, I have a hard time remembering what I had for supper last night. 400 years is just impossible to grasp. But for 400 years, the Israelites continued to seek their Messiah. They continued to pray he would come soon. Every young girl prayed she would be the mother of their savior and king.

God’s people never gave up their search for the Messiah. They knew God would keep His promise of deliverance from their oppressors. They knew He would put someone from David’s lineage on the throne and rescue them. They knew God made a promise He would not break. They knew God could not fail and could not break His covenant. They knew God would do what He said He would even though they didn’t keep their side of the bargain. They knew God.

Yet He remained silent. They waited.

It makes me think back to Abraham who waited 25 years for the son God promised him. Joseph waited 22 years in prison for the position that would save his family from starvation. David waits 15 years from the time Samuel anoints him as the next king before he takes his position on the throne for two of the twelve tribes, and another 7 before he is accepted as king of all twelve tribes.

Today we have a problem waiting on God. We think having to wait more than three seconds for a web page to load is unacceptable and complain to our Internet carrier. We think waiting in line for more than five minutes to get our fast food is too long and demand more lines be opened. We complain to the grocer when our favorite vegetable is out of season and demand he figure out how to get it from a greenhouse that produces year round. We complain stop lights are too long. Commercials are too long. Traffic is too slow. Promotions and raises are too slow.

Think about Abraham and Joseph and David and those who heard Malachi’s message. They all waited almost a lifetime to see their promises unfold and even then, none of them saw the complete fulfillment of what God told them would happen to their descendants and their nation.

So what does it mean for us? You know that son or daughter you’ve been praying for their salvation? Keep at it. God thinks in terms of eternity. That neighbor you’d like to see come to know Jesus? Keep praying and sharing God’s word. It may take a while, but God still works in His upper story to work His will in this world.

Worried about something going on in your life? God knows about it. Just keep following His laws and doing His will as best you know how. He is faithful. His timing doesn’t necessarily coincide with our timing, but His timing is perfect. Trust Him. Remember we cannot see around the bend in our lower story, but God sees perfectly in His upper story. Look up and know God is always at work for good for those who love Him and love people.

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.

Feb 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.

Bible Reading Plan - www.Bible-Reading.com; The Story, Chapter 20; You Version Bible app Engaging God's Story Reading Plan Days 128 through 134

This week our readings will take us to the story of Hadassah, an orphaned girl who was exiled with many of the other Jews under the reign of Nebuchadnezzar. You may not remember that name, but you probably remember her by her other name, Esther. She became queen after what might be the strangest beauty pageant ever recorded.

King Xerxes didn’t like his first wife’s refusal to obey and has her ousted from the throne. His advisors gather all the beautiful young virgins from around the country to find the king a new queen. Each goes through twelve months of beauty treatments before they see the king and then he sleeps with each one to decide which one he likes best. We frown on that kind of activity in this country, but that’s how the king decided to choose a wife and fill his harem with concubines.

Only if the king like you, did the concubine ever see the king again. Well, as you can imagine the rest of the story, the king not only liked Esther, but made her his queen. But like Paul Harvey, there is the rest of the story. Esther’s uncle, Mordecai, discovers a plot to kill the king and lets Esther in on the secret so the plot can be thwarted. The assassins are discovered and the king writes the event in his memoirs.

The king’s chief advisor, prime minister, chief of staff, or whatever title you want to give him, Haman has this thing about Jews and absolutely despises them. So he gets the king to write a decree to let anyone who wants kill all the Jews in their city on a particular day. But now the rest of the story.

The king can’t sleep one night and reads his memoirs and hears the story of the assassination attempt. He asked Haman, his advisor what kind of honor should be given to someone who does something extraordinary for the king. Haman, of course, thinks the king must be talking about him so he lays it on thick. But the king is talking about Mordecai and tells Haman to personally carry out all the things Haman expected the king to do for him. How embarrassing!

Esther, the queen, is also a Jew. Mordecai convinces her to go to the king and ask for mercy for the Jews because of the slaughter that is about take place because of Haman’s trickery. Esther invites the king and Haman to dinner to explain the plight and Haman begs for mercy from the queen. Well, the king sees Haman falling all over his queen and gets the wrong idea. He doesn’t know he’s begging for mercy, he thinks he’s begging for something else and immediately has him taken to the gallows Haman had built for Mordecai. And Esther convinces the king to not only let the Jews defend themselves, but to destroy their enemies in those same cities where the decree went out.

What a story. But it’s interesting that God’s name is not mentioned a single time in the whole book of Esther. We see His upper story at work all throughout the interweaving of the plot, but His name is nowhere to be found. I’ll come back to that in a minute. First, I want to share what I think is one of the most important verses in the book of Esther. It’s found in chapter 4 verse 14. “...Who knows? It’s possible that you became queen for a time just like this.”

Have you ever wondered why you are in the position you are in today? Maybe you think it’s a good position or maybe you think it’s not so good. But who knows? Maybe you are there for just a time like this. David was the youngest of seven. He should not have been the one chosen as king according to all the traditions of the time. He was doing the worst of the jobs in the family, tending the sheep on the hillsides. But he was faithful and became the king by which all the other kings of Israel were judged. Who knows?

Abraham was just another member of the tribe in Ur trying to survive in a harsh world that took ounce of energy and knowhow just to get by. But God told him to uproot his family to go somewhere he’d never been so He could make a great nation out of him. Who knows?

Personally, I was a medical plans officer trying to figure out how to get medical support to an army spread across hundreds of miles in battle formations we had never done before. God gave me a dream and Army medical doctrine changed because it. Since then, thousands of lives have been saved on the battlefield because of that dream. Who knows? It’s possible that you are in the position you are in for a time just like this.

Maybe you’re in a tough situation at work that just seems impossible. Who knows? It’s possible that you are in that position for God to use you in some remarkable way to make a difference for your boss or your co-workers to get through that impossible situation. Maybe He wants others to see His grace through your reactions to the situations at hand.

Maybe you’re facing some illness or the loss of a loved one. God doesn’t do bad things to us, but He does allow life to happen and who knows? It is possible that He allowed those things to come your way for a time just like this. We live in a sinful, evil time. We don’t hear much about God and how He works outside of the walls of our churches and synagogues. But the world is hungry to know there is something out there besides the evil and death and destruction that plays across the news channels every day.

The world needs to know there is hope in the chaotic environs of the everyday life we find ourselves facing each time we wake up. The world needs to see joy instead of sorrow in the faces of believers because we have something to offer the world cannot. Jesus brings peace in the middle of the storms of life. He brings joy when it seems impossible to find any joy or happiness in life. Jesus brings order to the chaos around us. He brings life in the throes of death because we know there is a resurrection and there is hope in Him.

So back to the point about God not being mentioned in Esther. Why isn’t His name in the book? I think the writer of the book of Esther faced days like we face sometimes. As Purim approached, the day the Jews now celebrate as the day they defended themselves against their enemies, it was hard to see God in their lower story lives. The decree for their destruction had gone out. Their neighbors were allowed to kill them without recourse. They had no defense. Their prayers seemed to bounce off a brass ceiling. God didn’t seem to be anywhere around. They couldn’t see past the bend in the road. They couldn’t see the upper story God had planned for them.

We can get that way, too. We can get so caught up in our lower story that we forget that God can see panoramically and knows what we cannot know. He can see beyond the bend in the road and knows the bright future He has prepared for us. We just need to look up and obey His commands. Follow Him and know He is at work in His upper story to deliver us just as He did Esther and Mordecai and the rest of His people from the hands of their enemies. We can trust Him with all we have and all we are because He is God and we are not. He is always working for good for those that love Him and work according to His purposes.

Jan 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.

Bible Reading Plan - www.Bible-Reading.com; The Story, Chapter 19; You Version Bible app Engaging God's Story Reading Plan Days 127 through 133

Since I was a kid I enjoyed art. Off and on, I have tried my hand at various forms of drawing, painting with oils, acrylics, and watercolors. I have a closet full of paper, canvases, brushes, a pretty nice easel, and all the equipment necessary to create masterpieces. Only I’ve never created a masterpiece.

I have several canvases with backgrounds partially finished and some of the subject sketched in, but I’ll have to admit that it has been at least five or six years since I’ve picked up a paint brush. I’m not even sure I know what I was thinking about painting when I first started those projects several years ago. They just sit in the back of the closet gathering dust and waiting for me to pick up the urge to start up my hobby again.

I’ve also purchased just about every cardio piece of equipment that has come out. Stair stepper. Treadmill. Stationary bicycle. Elliptical. I had every intention of starting and keeping up good exercise regimens to stay fit. What I can tell you is that the best coat rack is the stair stepper.

I also have a lot of tools, many of which I really couldn’t put my hands on if you gave me an hour to find them. They are scattered all over the house and garage. I have every intention of organizing them someday because I purchased them to make and fix things. But alas, they have gone the way of many of my hobbies. They were set aside and forgotten.

Unfinished projects. That’s what the prophet Haggai admonished the Israelites for when he wrote to them 2500 years ago. Cyrus let the Israelites go back to Jerusalem to rebuild the temple. Isaiah had told them it would happen and even named Cyrus as the benevolent king that would let them do it.

50,000 Israelites set out to do exactly that. They journed over 500 miles to rebuild their temple and reestablish their worship in the house God designed for himself so many centuries earlier. But now sixteen years later, their project stopped. Maybe they got busy on their own houses. Maybe they got busy with their businesses. Maybe they got the sixteen year flu. Whatever the reason, they forgot their mission and quit their work on the temple. Haggai comes on the scene and tells them about their negligence.

The people who returned with Ezra worked well for a few months on the temple but then quit. The temple was still in shambles. The city walls were still down. Those who saw the city looked and wondered why the people didn’t care about their God because they spent their time on their own comforts instead of on worshiping Him. It tells what is important to them. And it wasn’t God.

The same questions can be asked of us. You can look in my closet and know that painting is not really important to me or I would have finished those paintings that are gathering dust. You can look at my tool room and know that making and fixing things really isn’t important to me or my tools would be well organized and well kept. Unfortunately, you can tell exercise isn’t really important to me by putting me on a scale.

But I don’t want the same to be said of me about God. So as we’re about to end this first month of the new year, how do we make sure we keep God first in our lives? What can we do to change our attitude and avoid making God just another project that gets put in the back of the closet this year?

First, we need to remember that God is not a project. God is everything. He is the Creator of all things. He gives us breath and sustenance. He is the one that makes life possible. He gives us the beauty around us and the eyes to see that beauty. God is. And He must be first in our life. He is not a project.

Second, God is not something to be scheduled into our calendar. I think that’s the problem many of us have. We decide we will schedule time for God and try to work Him into our busy schedule. But it can’t work that way. You see that doesn’t let God be the priority in your life. Instead, schedule your busy schedule around God. Make Him the priority in your life. Work your schedule around Him, not the other way around. If He is on your calendar, make other things secondary and push them around, not God. Rearrange their times and dates, not God’s. Let Him be the priority on your calendar.

Third, Remember what Jesus told us, “Seek first, the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things, will be give you as well.” Look for, seek after, long for, race to His finish line, Only when we keep God as our priority can all the rest of life be put in the proper perspective. But when we do, then life prospers. Maybe not in the way the world thinks about prosperity, with gold and silver and shiny beads, but with an intimate relationship with God.

Remember God wants to restore a face-to-face relationship with each of us. He has used His chosen people, the Israelites to show us how to have that intimate relationship. As we look at their history and study their successes and their mistakes, we can see what we must do individually and collectively to find God’s favor in our lives.

God sent Haggai to the ancient nation of Israel to warn them against forgetting their first priority. If we listen to words God gave Haggai and apply them to ourselves, we can avoid the plight of the Israelites. We can remain true to the One, True and Living God. We can be assured a place in the garden He has prepared for us. A place where He will walk with us in the cool of the day to commune with us forever.

What does you calendar look like? Do you work God around your day or do you work your day around God? There is a huge difference in how you approach your calendar and your life as to how you answer that one question. Mull it over to day. Make sure you answer it the way God wants you to answer it.

Jan 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.

Bible Reading Plan - www.Bible-Reading.com; The Story, Chapter 18; You Version Bible app Engaging God's Story Reading Plan Days 120 through 126

Daniel, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego are not exactly household names. Maybe Daniel, but certainly not the other three. Of course, if you’ve been around the church for a while, you might have heard the stories of these three young men and their exploits with a furnace. You might remember their refusal to bow and the king’s fury that put them into a furnace so hot that it killed the guards as they approached it. You might remember the fourth figured that appeared in the fire that resumed them from the flames so that they didn’t even smell like smoke.

But I don’t want to talk about Daniel and his escape from the lions’ den today or Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego and their escape from the furnace. I want us to recall today that these three young men were exiles in Babylonia. I want us to remember how they got there in the first place. Then I want us to see what God’s upper story then and now tells us.

You’ll recall that the Israelites had every chance to return to God. He sent prophets and priests to try His best to get them to return to Him and follow His teachings, but they refused. They wanted to be like all the other nations around them and so they abandoned God and sought after the gods of the nations around them. Finally God withdrew His protection from the nation He built and they fell first to the Assyrians and then to the Babylonians.

These two ancient civilizations were pretty smart in their capture of their enemies, though. They dispatched their captives to several other nations and instead of putting them in prisons, put them to work. They became farmers and masons and musicians and in the case of the best and brightest, Nebuchadnezzar even brought them into the palace to teach them about the country and its government to make them officials in their new adopted land.

Many don’t realize that the same thing happened to thousands of those imprisoned in World War I and II. They weren’t just kept in prisons, but many were “loaned” to cities and farmers and industries as workers. Many were even paid and became close friends with their “employers”. The goal of the king was to assimilate the young into his kingdom to reduce any resistance. Rather than spark rebellions from poor prison conditions, he gave them meaningful work and good living conditions and showed them a better way to live than they had seen in their homelands under siege.

But one thing these a group of these Israelites failed to do was change their ways with respect to their God. You see, to be totally immersed in the new country meant believing the way the adopted culture believed. It meant adopting their gods as well. Start thinking like the local populace. But some of these Jewish captives, notably people like Daniel, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, refused to change their religious habits. They refused to let their faith in their Creator diminish.

Our culture bombards us with information every day trying to get us to ignore our God. The off color jokes at the water cooler, do I participate or stand up for God’s standards of morality and equality among all people? The sexual innuendos toward the waitress by my table mates, do I let it slide or remind them that sex is God’s gift for married couples to enjoy intimacy in their relationships and not to be exploited otherwise? Do I fudge my travel expenses just because everyone else does, or do I provide honest and accurate accounting because God expects it of me?

You see, it doesn’t matter what the culture we live in might think or do because we live here as exiles. We are not of this place. Even though I was born and raised in the United States, my citizenship changed when I accepted Christ as my Lord. I entered a new kingdom and gave sovereignty and allegiance of my life to Jesus. So this place is no longer my home.

Peter tells us we are foreigners and exiles, just passing through this place. If we remember that and don’t get caught up in the culture of this place but remain true to the culture of our Father and His Son, we never need to worry. He will take care of us.

Does that mean we’ll never have trouble? No, by no means. Just look at these three young men. They were probably teenagers when their first test came. Daniel said, “I won’t defile myself by eating the king’s food. Just give us vegetables and water.” Then I love what his three companions told the king when they refused to bow to the golden statue made in his likeness.

“If we are thrown into the blazing furnace the God we serve is able to deliver us from it, and He will deliver us from your Majesty’s hand. But even if He does not, we want you to know, you Majesty, that we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up.”

That is faith. That is the testimony of so many thousands of martyrs who have given their lives for Christ through the centuries. It tells of the faith of so many today who are refusing to renounce their faith in Him even though they face the executioner’s blade or bullets. I would like to think my faith is strong enough to refuse to recant if faced with that situation. I’m afraid too many in our culture would not, just as was true in Daniel’s day.

Knowing I don’t belong here helps my faith. Knowing this place is just a temporary stopping point in my journey the garden God is preparing for us helps my faith. Knowing others have gone before me and have had the courage to stand before the crowd and kept their faith when others failed helps me to keep my faith. Knowing that if I can stand firm in the face of adversity that my testimony might help someone else stay strong as well helps me to keep my faith. Knowing God never fails and even though I can’t see how His upper story plays out in my lower story, I have the assurance that if I love Him and obey Him, all things work together for my good and His glory, I can keep my faith no matter what might happen around me.

We can go back to one of those very early lessons we had. Job never knew why he faced the adversities he faced. God never revealed to him the questions Satan raised or the contest God allowed behind the backdrop of heaven. God’s upper story encourages us because we know God will never allow us to face more than we can handle. God’s upper story encourages us because we know in the end we are rewarded for our faithfulness. But like Job, we often cannot see around the bend in the road and may never understand why we face the difficulties in life that come our way. But with God on our side, we can know that a better day is coming. We are only exiles in this world and one day He will come to take us back home to the place He has been preparing for us for an eternity. Take courage as an exile, a foreigner, a child of the King of kings. He will never let you down.

Jan 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.

Bible Reading Plan - www.Bible-Reading.com; The Story, Chapter 17; You Version Bible app Engaging God's Story Reading Plan Days 113 through 119

In a news report by Jacqui Goddard in Miami from 2011, we read: It was described by President Franklin D.Roosevelt as "a date that will live in infamy", a day on which the slaughter of 2,400 US troops drew America into Second World War and changed the course of history.

Now, on the 70th anniversary of Japan's devastating bombardment of the US Pacific Fleet at Pearl Harbour, Hawaii, evidence has emerged showing that President Franklin D.Roosevelt was warned three days before the attack that the Japanese empire was eyeing up Hawaii with a view to "open conflict."

The information, contained in a declassified memorandum from the Office of Naval Intelligence, adds to proof that Washington dismissed red flags signalling that mass bloodshed was looming and war was imminent.

"In anticipation of possible open conflict with this country, Japan is vigorously utilizing every available agency to secure military, naval and commercial information, paying particular attention to the West Coast, the Panama Canal and the Territory of Hawaii," stated the 26-page memo.

Dated December 4, 1941, marked as confidential, and entitled "Japanese intelligence and propaganda in the United States," it flagged up Japan's surveillance of Hawaii under a section headlined "Methods of Operation and Points of Attack."

If only…

What a different world we might be living in if President Roosevelt and the War Department had paid attention to the intelligence they received about the pending attack. But they couldn’t believe Japan could reach across the Pacific to attack the island paradise where America had its naval base. Their imagination didn’t stretch to the point of Japan’s planes fueling for a one-way flight and all their pilots willing to sacrifice themselves to attack Hawaii knowing there would be no return trip.

What a different world we might be living in if President Bush and the Department of Defense had paid attention to the intelligence they received about the pending attack. But they couldn’t believe Osama bin Laden could destroy national landmarks like the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. Their imagination didn’t stretch to the point of hijacking passenger jets and using them as missiles to carry out their terrorist activities.

In our culture we have a hard time understanding the mindset of suicide bombers, kamikaze pilots, terrorist willing to sacrifice their lives for their cause. To us, life is too precious to sacrifice it what we see as such wasteful purposes. So in our innocence or ignorance, we miss some of the signs that might come to us because we cannot imagine the horrific acts men can commit against other men. I think that is probably a good thing in a nation that honors God.

Unfortunately, we are becoming more like those nations around us and we can begin to stretch our imaginations to understand how our vulnerabilities to these acts today. Is it because we have experienced them? Partly. But it’s partly because we are following the pattern we see Jeremiah lamenting as he stood by the roadside and wept as his countrymen were carried away in chains.

You see, Israel had become like the nations around them. Thirty-four of their thirty-nine kings did not follow God’s teachings. Thirty-four of Israel’s thirty-nine kings did evil in God’s sight and led their people to do the same. Thirty-four of Israel’s thirty-nine kings failed to listen to the prophets God sent to turn the nation around and gave them opportunities to make things right with God.

For decades we were known throughout the world as a Christian nation. Founded by our forefathers on Christian principles. In fact, when George Washington was offered a crown, he refused it and an early motto in the country was “no king but King Jesus.” We were a Christian nation. But no more. As you look at the latest census questions, fewer than 50% of our nation claim any religious affiliation at all. Listen to that figure again. Less than 50% claim any religious affiliation. Not Christian, not Muslim, not Hindu, not Buddhist, nothing. 50% of our citizens believe they are their own god. They set their own moral standards and fear no higher power.

Of that 50% that claim some religious affiliation, less than a third attend to their faith on a regular basis, referring to reading, prayer, attendance at their church, temple, or synagogue. That means only 15% of our citizens are actively engaged with a god of any sort, real or false. Is there any wonder why our nation is in the shape it is in? Do we need to question why there is violence in our schools or workplace? Do we need to ask why we have mass killings in our country? It’s not the guns or the explosives or the knives or the weapons of any ilk that cause the problem. Our problem is the hearts of the people who live here.

Jeremiah stood by the road and lamented the tragedy that was happening to Jerusalem as the Babylon continued to exile its citizens. Do we have any Jeremiah’s left who can see what is happening to our nation and will spend time on their knees praying to the God of heaven and earth seeking His guidance for this place? Do we have any Jeremiah’s left who weep over the sins of the people? Do we have any Jeremiah’s left who declare God’s word faithfully even knowing no one will listen?

We need some Jeremiah’s today more than ever. We are in dire need of Christians who weep for our nation as we enter this new year. We need prayer warriors who will lift our leaders and men and women who will speak out for Christ even when they think no one will listen.

As we continue in The Story, I see so many parallels between Israel’s sins, their downfall, and ours as a nation and as individuals, I can’t help but think our future may look a lot like their history if we don’t change our ways. But we can change. We each have choices to make, but we have free will and can make those choices. The question is will we choose life or death? Will we choose the world or God? Will we choose obedience or damnation?

The choice is always ours to make. Make the right ones this year.

You can find me at richardagee.com. I also invite you to join us at San Antonio First Church of the Nazarene on West Avenue in San Antonio to hear more 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.

 

Jan 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.

Bible Reading Plan - www.Bible-Reading.com; The Story, Chapter 16; You Version Bible app Engaging God's Story Reading Plan Days 106 through 112

We are back to the study of The Story, God’s plan to restore us to a face-to-face relationship with Him as He had with Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden. He wants desperately to have that kind of intimate relationship with each of us. And He would and did die that He might have it. But relationships are always a two way street. God wants it, but we must want it too. We have a choice and The Story, His word, the Bible shows us His plan to guide us back to Him if we choose to do so.

This week’s readings tell us the story of Hezekiah and the Assyrian army’s plan to conquer Judah. The taunts of Sennacherib's field commander remind me of just how devious Satan can be with us. Remember some of the words he used?

“The gods of the nations we conquered didn’t save them, why do you think your God will save you?”

“Hezekiah tore down all the altars to your god and is making you worship him only in Jerusalem’s temple. Won’t your god be angry with Hezekiah for destroying his places of worship?”

“Surrender and live, we will give you homes, places to work, your sons and daughters can marry and have children in the new land we will take you to. Or you can stay here and starve to death.”

Hezekiah’s subjects heard all those words from the walls as they stood inside Jerusalem and the Assyrian army stood just outside the gates. I expect many of them more than toyed with the idea of passing the guards on the gates and doing exactly what the field commander asked. I expect many of their growling bellies made them long for those gardens promised by their enemy.

Satan works much the same way with us as Sennacherib did in his taunting of those hidden behind the walls of Jerusalem. He tells us half truths and twists the circumstances to make us think he has power to make things happen. He twists phrases to make his lies sound like truth but when you really examine his words, they are empty promises that don’t hold up to reality.

For instance, Satan told Adam and Eve they wouldn’t die if they ate the fruit of the tree in the middle of the garden. Partly tree, but only a half truth. They didn’t die physically right away, but we don’t know if they were eternal when created. We know they lived almost a thousand years before they died and death was one of the curses placed on them. We also know they died spiritually immediately. They lost their spiritual innocence as soon as they ate of the forbidden fruit as they disobeyed God’s command.

We hear half truths all the time and Satan tries his best to lure us into the way the world thinks and acts and tells us it’s okey. He wants us to absorb the world’s philosophy. He wants us to accept his moral values. He wants us to think God’s ways are too restrictive and arcane. He wants us, like those behind Jerusalem’s walls to long for the promises he makes to us instead of what God has to offer.

But Hezekiah, his prophets and priests, and the strength of his guard force kept the people loyal to him and to God. They stayed in the city and prayed to the God of the universe. The only one at this point who could possibly do anything about the tragedy that was about to befall them. They had no hope except in God. Surrender to this army really wasn’t an option anymore.

Sure they heard the rhetoric, but they also knew the stories about the brutality of this army and these were the last holdouts that kept these warriors from returning home to their wives and children. These were the last of the rebellious nations that caused them to risk their lives and suffer the harsh environment of a soldier’s life. These people would receive no mercy whether defeated or if they surrendered. The rest of the world would understand the power of Assyria and the consequences of rebellion against her. Yes, only God could save Jerusalem.

The people prayed. God listened. A miracle happened. 185,000 Assyrian soldiers didn’t wake up one morning. We don’t know how they died. We don’t know if God sent some viral disease or something poisoned their food or God sent an angel to kill them. The Bible doesn’t tell us how God performed this miraculous act. We only know that Sennacherib's invincible army was decimated in a single night without a single arrow fired from the walls of Jerusalem or a single sword swung by a Judean soldier. 185,000 Assyrian soldiers just died. The rest slithered home...as fast as they could go.

Then God executed the rest of His plan against Sennacherib and his two sons assassinated him. Assyria soon feel to Babylonia and became a vassal nation to Assyria just as all the other nations of the world had been to her. Sin has its consequences. They will come back to bite you and there is not much you can do about reaping the harvest you sow.

Hezekiah is one of five kings of the thirty-nine who ruled Israel noted as being a good king. All the rest are described as in God’s word. I don’t think any of our presidents have been described as evil in our press, but God tell us 34 of His chosen people’s kings were evil. What an indictment against those who were supposed to be showing us how to have an intimate relationship with God.

But don’t point fingers too fast. The Israelites are still God’s chosen people. It is still the nation He will bless and use to point us to Him and sue to bring us back into a face-to-face relationship with Him. So says His Story, His plan to redeem us from our sins. We’re getting close to those events in His word. The ones that will change the course of history and give each of us the opportunity to live with Him forever.

For now, be careful who you listen to and how you react to those half truths the world yells out to you over the wall. Satan wants desperately to have you open the gates of your heart and mind to him. He wants desperately for you to let him in and let him take charge of your life. You have a choice as to how sits on the throne of your life. It will either be God or Satan. Jesus told us you cannot serve two masters. You must choose one or the other.

Who will it be? God or Satan? It really is your choice. Make sure it’s the right one. Today.

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.

 

Jan 1, 2018

Bible Reading Plan - www.Bible-Reading.com; The Story, Chapter 15; You Version Bible app Engaging God's Story Reading Plan Days 99 through 105

Welcome back to our study of The Story, God’s plan to restore us to a face-to-face relationship with Him. If you’ll remember, we have been walking through His word looking at the four movements that permeate the Bible. His word opens with His face-to-face relationship with Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden as He walked with them in the cool of the day. They gave up the right to see Him face-to-face when they disobeyed His command to avoid eating from the tree in the middle of the garden, the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.

From that day forward, God has put in place a plan to bring us back into fellowship with Him. He built a special nation, Israel, to point us to Him and show us how to live in community together and with Him. This is the second movement in God’s story. The nation failed to live up to their side of the covenant God made with them, though, and went into exile in 598 BC and became a vassal of Babylonia. It didn’t become a self-governing nation again until 1948 when Israel’s borders were recognized after World War II. During the intervening 2500 years it fell under the auspices of some other nation’s rule.

The third movement comes in the form of a baby born to a teenage girl in a little village called Bethlehem. He would be called the King of kings and Lord of lords because He is God incarnate. The very Son of God foretold by the prophets centuries earlier. He was part of the Father’s plan to bring us back into that face-to-face relationship God desperately desires to restore with us.

The fourth movement in the story heralds the beginning of the church, the instrument that continues to share the message that God so loved the world that anyone who believes in Jesus as the Son of God would be saved and have everlasting life with Him in His perfect garden. We are part of that fourth movement and have the responsibility of sharing that message. The kingdom has come and we are to share the message with those around us.

The final movement of God’s story tells us of a restored relationship. A new heaven and new earth. A place where the redeemed will live in harmony with God and with each other because there will be no death, no pain, no sickness, no sin, no evil. It will be a perfect place. The place Jesus talks about as the place He is preparing for us to take all those who believe in Him when He returns to take us to be with Him.

So that is the story and today we look at Chapter 15 and what a strange story this is if seen only from our lower story point of view. The book of Hosea would make a terrible B-rated movie. The prophet hears a voice tell him to go marry a prostitute named Gomer.

Well, the first thing I think of when I hear the name, I think of Gomer Pyle from the Andy Griffith show. A little dumber than dirt and always in trouble. Probably not far from the truth in this marriage making idea that comes to Hosea, you might be thinking. But Gomer is a girl, a prostitute. But Hosea hears the voice and heads to the local corner where the call girls hang out. He waits for Gomer to walk by and flutter her eyelids at him, but instead of asking how much, He asks her to marry him. Now that’s a proposition she probably hasn’t heard before. Surprisingly, Gomer marries the prophet.

Things don’t change for Gomer, though. Prophets don’t make much money and she missed the baubles and trinkets her clients gave her. So it isn’t long before she looks up her pimp and goes back to work.

A few months or a few years go by and God tells Hosea to go get Gomer back. Here is that upper story at work again that we just don’t understand. From the lower story, it just doesn’t make sense. We would tell Hosea to cut his losses and run as fast and far away from this prostitute as he can and find a sweet girl with a few morals if he wants to keep his reputation as a holy prophet intact. But God tells Hosea to go back to the red light district and get Gomer back.

Can you imagine the look on her face when she hears the knock on her door expecting another of her clients, opens the door, and sees Hosea on his knees begging her to come back home? She goes reluctantly but still plays the harlot even when she goes back home. Hosea pleads with her more to give up her life of prostitution.

The lower story seems crazy to us. We see a prophet ruining his life chasing after this promiscuous woman. He has two children with her and even their names teach us what a terrible tragedies their marriage held. Their names meant God-scattered and unpitied, Jezreel and Lo-Ruhamah. Kids often live up to their names. How would you like to be Hosea’s kids growing up in their suburb of Jerusalem?

We don’t know the final outcome of Hosea’s marriage. We don’t know if Gomer ever straightened her life out or not. From the tone of the story and the message Hosea gives Israel, it doesn’t sound like it. You see, God used this unlikely lower story to share His upper story with His chosen people and all the nations who would hear about Hosea from that day on. He used Hosea’s life as an example of His indescribable love for us. A love that wants to rescue us from the deepest darkest sins and bring us back into His loving arms. A love that even when we run away from Him, He works diligently to bring us back and restore our relationship with Him.

Too often, like Gomer, we turn our eyes back to the old life and run away from God. We just won’t let Him care for us and provide for us the way He desires. Instead we turn to the pimp of the world thinking that life that leads to our ultimate destruction is more attractive. But like Gomer’s life, filled with temporary glitter and one night stands, it only leads to heartache and death.

We see again in these unlikely characters a lower story that seems to lead to No-wheres-ville. How could God ever use this mess in His march to bring us back to Him. But then in His upper story, we see His plan of redemption unfolding as He seeks the restoration of Israel through the demonstration of this prophet’s unusual life story. God wants us back. God chases us to redeem us. But we still have the final choice to make.

Did Gomer stay with Hosea and live happily ever after? We are not told. I’d like to think so, but we don’t know for sure. She may have wandered back to her life of prostitution. Or she may have straightened out her life and been faithful to Hosea the rest of their lives together. I doubt if it was a happily ever after in either case. The consequences of Gomer’s lifestyle would have continued to follow her through her married life with the snide remarks, the whispered gossip, the sly glances. Life for them as a couple would never be normal.

But God can do something so much better for us. Like Gomer, we may still suffer some of the consequences of the sins we commit before we decide to follow God, but He promises us everlasting life in His perfect garden when we follow Him. He tells us as His followers we will one day live walk with again face-to-face. What a great time that will 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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