Alf – Strangers in this World

John 14

emoyer alf

In 1986 Gorden Shumway, more familiarly named Alf, crashed into the garage of the Tanner family.  Each week the Tanner’s had challenges to disguise Alf and teach him about planet Earth. He would hide in strange places or put on all types of costumes when nosey neighbors and friends would pop in.

 

In the show, the Tanner family knew and actually saw Alf.  They always had to hide and disguise him when company arrived. In contrast, the disciples and people in Bible time are the only ones who have seen and experienced Jesus.  But we as believers need to hold firm to what is unseen and have faith in knowing that Jesus will be coming again.  We know that the Tanner family hid Alf from the outside world in the 80’s sitcom.  We don’t want to hide Jesus from others.  We want to share his love and the promise of his Father’s coming Kingdom.  We want to spread his love over and over until we hear the last trumpet sound. Jesus promises us so much as long as we are loving and obedient to his call.

-Emily Moyer

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Committed

committed

You are at battle. The lines have been drawn and shots have been fired. The life of a soldier isn’t an easy one. It was never promised to be easy; instead, it was guaranteed to be difficult and requiring sacrifice.

In Luke chapter 9, as Jesus walks through Samaria to Jerusalem, a man approaches Jesus, saying that he will follow Jesus wherever he goes. Jesus is quick to qualify what really following him means, saying “foxes have holes and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head” (Luke 9: 58). A home is often seen as a place of security and Jesus requires his followers to be willing to abandon everything else that has given security. Are you more committed to your comfort zone or Jesus?

Jesus calls on another man to follow him, but the man replies “Lord, first let me go and bury my father” (Luke 9:59). Jesus answers, “Let the dead bury their own dead, but you go and proclaim the Kingdom of God” (Luke 9:60). The things of this world aren’t as important as the things of this world. As citizens of the Kingdom, your whole life should be centered around its work. Are you more committed to this life or the next one?

The third man says he will follow Jesus, but must first say goodbye to his family. Jesus replies, “no one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for service in the Kingdom of God” (Luke 9:62). Jesus wants your commitment without delay. Do you understand the urgency of the message you have been told, the gospel? God has placed his treasure, the Kingdom message, in jars of clay, that’s you (2 Corinthians 4:7). Your time on this earth is fleeting, so you must do everything you can to spread that message. Are you more committed to the distractions around you or the sharing of the gospel?

God doesn’t want to share you, He wants all of you. He is jealous for your love and devotion. The God of the universe finds deep value in your love, and in that, you should find your worth and confidence. He sent his son to die for the purpose of having a committed relationship with you. You can’t just dabble in being a Christian. Your thoughts, speech, and actions must always be a reflection of your devotion. Being a follower is a full-time job; are you ready to make that commitment?

~ Mackenzie McClain

Who is the Son of God?

 

Luke 22

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Yesterday, in Luke 21 Jesus was warning the disciples (and those who would follow) of persecution while encouraging them to stand up under it.  And today, in Luke 22 Jesus himself is cast into a fierce storm of persecution.  He will now be showing – not just telling – the disciples, his contemporaries, and all those who would come after him how to stand up under persecution.

But first, a private dinner with his closest disciples to commemorate the Passover – when God saved his people from slavery by the blood of the lamb.  And very soon a new lamb would be sacrificed to save God’s people from slavery to sin.  Jesus tells his disciples that he will not eat the Passover meal, or drink of the cup again, until the Kingdom of God comes.  Communion services are a great reminder of this promise.  At the dinner, he uses the opportunity to remind them once again the secret to great leadership – be a servant.  Stop fighting over who is best…just serve.

I love how even though Jesus knew ahead of time that Peter would fail him, he had still prayed that Peter’s faith would not fail.  And even though Satan would have the opportunity to “sift all of you as wheat,”  Jesus saw a future for Peter in which Peter would be using those painful experiences to help strengthen his brothers.
And then, in the garden while Jesus is pouring his heart out in prayer – his disciples are sleeping.  I wonder how many times he would prod me and say, “Get up and pray so that you will not fall into temptation.”  How much better would Peter – or I – stand Satan’s arrows if he – or I – were fully filled up with prayer rather than whatever feels good or most urgent at the moment?

Enter, Judas – and the chief priests and the guards and the great betrayal!  And even in the midst of the hurt and personal persecution – Jesus gives healing as he restores the servant’s ear.

Early the next morning, Jesus is brought before the chief priests and elders and is questioned about who he is. Is he the Messiah?

Jesus answered, “If I tell you, you will not believe me, 68 and if I asked you, you would not answer. 69 But from now on, the Son of Man will be seated at the right hand of the mighty God.”

70 They all asked, “Are you then the Son of God?”

He replied, “You say that I am.”

They didn’t expect the Son of God to have appeared as a baby in a manger.  They didn’t expect the Son of God to have a rag-tag group of followers in the countryside.  They didn’t expect the Son of God to be persecuted at their own hands.  Beware of what you expect from the Son of God.  Keep reading the gospels – and all of God’s Word to see who God really is, and who the Son of God is!

-Marcia Railton

 

 

Counting the Cost

Luke 14

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As an elementary-aged child I remember having a very heightened appreciation for money.  Countless times I would pull the “M” encyclopedia just to look at all the pictures of the bills greater than $10 (which I rarely saw as a child), historical coins, or currency from around the world.  I may not exactly have known the value of a dollar, but I did know that there were few and far between opportunities to have cash on hand to call my own and spend on whatever I would like. I relished each one of these experiences.

On one occasion, I remember walking down the aisles of Walmart with my newly acquired birthday money secured in my blue Mickey Mouse velcro wallet.  There was no need to check inside to see how much I had.  I had counted the money at least a dozen times in the preceding days.  I was so remarkably aware of money at this age, I not only knew that I would be paying the advertised price, but a tax on top of it, which I knew needed to be included  in the cost.  In my care, I made sure that I calculated all the money I needed for checkout, so I would never have to disappointedly walk an item back to its place on the shelf because I couldn’t afford it.

At the end of Luke 14, Jesus asks the large crowd to consider the cost of being a disciple.  A faithful following was created by his miracles and teachings, but not all of them grasped the significance of what he was truly saying.  Undoubtedly to the surprise of many standing there, Jesus makes the most radical declaration in verse 26 when he states, “If anyone comes to me and does not hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters—yes, even their own life—such a person cannot be my disciple.”  I’m sure these words were followed by disapproval, murmurs, and shock.

Excuse me – HATE?  HATE my father and mother who I am to honor by God’s command? HATE my wife, who is to be called “blessed” and is my flesh? HATE my children who are my wealth and fortune? HATE my brothers and sisters with whom I share the same faith? HATE my very own body which should be treated as a temple?

It is alluded to us a few verses later that Jesus is not literally saying that we should hate the aforementioned family. Also, I don’t think that he is even saying that we should abhor them by comparison of love we have for him and His Father (this conclusion I come to by considering how God loves me as His own – I love others as children of God – the child of God = Jesus).  What Jesus is acknowledging is we must count the cost of following him.  We must be ready to account for every treasure, relationship, and ambition, and when it comes times to pick up our cross and drag it an uncomfortable direction, we are ready to abandon, sacrifice, drop, or pay up anything that isn’t the pursuit of him.  We open up our metaphorical velcro wallets, know the price – tax included – and hand over what has become so precious to us.  If we don’t – our fate will be much like the rich young ruler (Luke 18).  We look at the price, and not having glanced into our wallet for a time, simply think we have what it takes to afford our desire; however, we realize there is just a bit more that is taxed of us, so we walk away disappointed, knowing we can no longer afford our great treasure because we did not take it all into account.

So how much does the Kingdom of God cost?  Everything.  How much is it worth?  So much more.  Don’t be turned away in disappointment, but take stock and be ready by counting the cost.

-Aaron Winner

Living Simply

Luke 10

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In Luke 10 Jesus is appointing 72 of his followers to go out ahead of him and to spread the message and to see which towns will be open to his message.  Now I think that his instructions to this group of believers is unique to their purpose in aiding Jesus’ earthly ministry, but there are also some useful instructions for us today.  In verses 2 and 3 he tells them to pray that God will send his missionaries into the world, and then tells them that they are the ones that are being sent, but that it will be dangerous.  At that point in Jesus’ ministry I think that some of the disciples had been living in a bit of a bubble and hadn’t yet realized the kind of persecution that they would undergo in their lifetimes, and Jesus was preparing them for what was to come.  I think that similarly Christians in America, and especially those who have grown up in the church have been living in a bubble.  We have been a predominantly Christian nation for several generations, but our nation is quickly moving away from God and I personally believe that within my lifetime we will start to see a lot more persecution of the church.  So those of us that plan to be bold with our beliefs and plan on spreading them to those around us need to be ready and understand that there are dangers associated with being a Christian and being different from the world.

 

In verses 4-8 Jesus describes how they should move about and how they should act while they are staying in these towns they are visiting.  The summary of these instructions is that they need to move with haste and purpose and while they are staying as a guest in these towns they need to live simply and humbly.  They were to take whatever was given to them gladly and not complain about any food or accommodations.  I think that for us today we need to remember to live with a purpose and to not let ourselves be distracted by fancy living or money or other things of this world.  Our lives are relatively short and there is a great deal of work to be done for the Kingdom.  I’m not saying that we should go around without a wallet or purse or shoes like these disciples were instructed, but that we should lead simple lives so that we have more time for God.

 

At the end of Luke 10 in verses 38-42 we have the story of Mary and Martha, sisters who hosted Jesus while he was traveling and teaching.  Mary sat at Jesus’ feet and listened to all that he said while Martha ran about getting food and things ready for all of the visitors.  Finally Martha had enough and told Jesus to tell Mary to help her with the housework.  Jesus replied.

 

41 “Martha, Martha,” the Lord answered, “you are worried and upset about many things, 42 but few things are needed—or indeed only one.  Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.”

 

Again a lesson to live simply and to put spiritual matters ahead of physical issues in our lives.

-Chris Mattison

God’s Worldview

Luke 9

luke 9 26

So I want to start today’s devotion with a short story.  The past two weeks or so I was in China on a business trip.  While there my local guide/coworker asked me if I was a Christian and went to church.  Now I don’t know about you, but whenever I have heard about persecution of the church I think about the countries in the 10/40 window, including China, where Christians have been very persecuted.  This always leaves me with a bit of anxiety in the back of my mind while I am in China. When my guide/coworker asked me this I paused for a split second and was reminded of a passage from Luke 9:23-26.

“23 Then he said to them all: “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me. 24 For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will save it. 25 What good is it for someone to gain the whole world, and yet lose or forfeit their very self? 26 Whoever is ashamed of me and my words, the Son of Man will be ashamed of them when he comes in his glory and in the glory of the Father and of the holy angels.”

 

So I unashamedly told him about my church and explained some very basic parts of church to him.  He then told me about the government’s attempted control of churches in China and the persecution that he knew of.  It wasn’t much, but I tried to bring up church with him a few other times during my trip.  I hope that I helped to plant a seed as we looked at yesterday in Luke 8, we’ll see.  I encourage you to never be ashamed of Christ and to “always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have.” 1 Peter 3:15.

 

The other part I want to look at is a passage that I find funny, but it also can hit close to home.  It is Luke 9:51-55.  As Jesus is on his way to Jerusalem to die for the sins of the world he tried to stop in a village, but the locals did not welcome him, so the disciples asked Jesus if they should call down fire from heaven just like in the good old days, and he rebukes them and they move on.  The disciples asking Jesus to nuke a town of people that he is ready to lay down his life for is so jarring and odd that I find it funny at first.  I’m sure the disciples looked back on this moment in later years and shook their head, and laughed at themselves.  I remember praying for silly things when I was less mature, and then wondering why the things I prayed for didn’t happen.  If you ever feel like you are a little out of sync with God, that is OK, even the disciples missed the mark sometimes.  But I encourage you to work hard at figuring out where your worldview differs from God’s, by reading the scriptures, praying, and asking for advice from more mature Christians.  Maturity and wisdom take time and perseverance to develop.

-Chris Mattison

A Fisherman to a Fisher of Men: How to Follow in the First Apostles’ Footsteps

Luke 5 Pic final

 

Luke Chapter 5 introduces us to the first disciples of Jesus. By this point, Jesus’s ministry caught on fire! Multitudes of people were coming to listen to him speak. After he is finished speaking to the crowds, we are introduced to Simon, more commonly known to us as the apostle Peter.

 

What I love about this section of scripture is how real it is. All of us would like to say that if the Lord Jesus told us to do something as he told Peter in verse 4 of Luke 5, we would listen and obey. We wouldn’t ask questions and doubt. But, Peter does. He replies by saying, “We’ve worked all night long and caught nothing!”. Now, this does not stop Peter from being obedient; however, it is clear that he was slightly confused as to why the Lord would ask him to lift their nets. Because of this, imagine Peter’s reaction when loads of fish came out of the nets! In just a few minutes, Peter went from a plain, most likely poor, fisherman to one of Jesus’s close friends and disciples. It even says in Luke 5 verse 11 that “then they brought the boats to land, left everything, and followed him.”

 

This account brings to light many things the first being this: In order to make us trust in the Lord, sometimes he has to give us crazy signs. Peter needed to see their empty nets become full in order to completely believe and trust in the Lord. He needed that proof.

 

I say this because it is important for us to realize that it is okay for us to need that kind of proof. It is okay to pray that he will show us that he is there! Sometimes, we need that in order to know that he is still tangible in our lives.

 

This account also brings up this point: Peter was nothing more than a fisherman. When we read the work of these mighty apostles it is easy for us to start to believe that there is no way that we could ever emulate them. We make them heroes in our minds to the point where we forget that they we just simply people. They didn’t hold special jobs. They didn’t have any special talents. What made them special is that they were chosen by the Lord to share the word of God!

 

So, no matter how sinful, how small, and even how worthless you feel, get ready. Because, the Lord has the ability to call whoever he wants. In our weakness, he is our strength.

 

-Leslie Jones