Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Week Four - Carry

“Carry neither purse, nor scrip, nor shoes: and salute no man by the way.”
Luke 10:4
Out they go.  Jesus is sending the seventy disciples out into the world filled with wolves, to take the gospel story.  “Take nothing with you”, he tells them, “”no extra funds, no extra clothing, and no other intention.”  He means that they are not to be burdened down as they go on their mission. These disciples were taking brave steps.  In the world to which they were being sent, they will face rejection and even persecution, but that was not to be their focus or concern.
Think about it.  If they went out laden with provisions it would slow them down.  It would also be a temptation for thieves.  If they seemed to be self-sufficient it would inhibit the blessing of receiving provision the Lord through caring individuals. And, carrying stuff requires tending, so it would take time away from their real purpose of giving out the gospel and preparing the way so He could come along behind them.
Tiegreen comments, “He is our provision and we will not succeed on this mission until we are stripped of everything that might distract us from that fact…Those who go through life carrying sacks of provisions find themselves powerless: they have unwittingly confessed a mistrust in His provision.”
Wow!  “A mistrust in His provision”?
We have to honestly ask ourselves.  How much “stuff” are we carrying around with us that inhibits our spiritual walk?  Stuff can be physical,  like material possessions, sentimental collections, or just loads of things.  Or, it can be emotional stuff like anger, jealousy, unresolved conflicts, etc.  Both kinds of stuff burden us down and steal our time and energy. 
The real question we probably should really be asking ourselves is this – “Do I keep all this stuff because I don’t trust Him to provide for me?

“For we brought nothing into this world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out.” 
I Timothy 6:7
For all our lifelong effort to improve ourselves, to educate ourselves, to advance ourselves, it is only temporary.  Just as we entered this world, helpless, we will also leave this world helpless.  Kind of morbid, huh?
But the truth of the matter is, all that we gain during our life are gifts of God for this earthly realm only.  They are all temporary.  Our houses will decay, our children will grow up and move away, our cars and belongings will come and go.  We will retire from working and find that our bodies decline no matter how hard we try to preserve them.  In the end, all of these things will be left behind.  We go to our Maker just as we came.
But between birth and death we don’t have to focus only on these temporary components.  We can be laying up treasure in Heaven that cannot be taken away from us by decay or age.  And what would these treasures be?  Salvation - a confidence and surety that our title to eternal life through Jesus Christ is confirmed.  Fruit – abounding through the service we have given to our Lord.  Reward – the great recompense.  Souls – the winning of them.  Crowns – earned by diligence and sacrifice.  These are to name but a few of the things that will not pass away, decay or fade with time, but which will be waiting for us in our eternal home.
Certainly we cannot carry them out, for they are already stored away.  They are not a part of the temporal, but of the eternal. To have them requires us to live with Heaven in view, to be seeking for and affectionately desirous of those things that are from above.
Is your life all about the here and now?  Have you begun to lay up treasure in Heaven?  Best start doing it now!

“Be not carried about with divers and strange doctrines. For it is a good thing that the heart be established with grace….”
Hebrews 13:9
“Don’t get carried away”, I used to be told by my parents.  They were warning me about the dangers of losing focus.  Like most young people I would get hold of an idea and really try to run with it.  I would take it too far and it would wind up giving me problems.  Like the time I told my mother that I just loved to eat flour.  She cured me by giving me a spoon and a bowl of flour to eat.  It wasn’t long before I lost my love of eating flour!
To be “carried about” is to be unstable.  It is shifting from one fancy to another, or, from one fad to another.  Sadly, our Christian community is full of fancies and fads.  If we are not careful and discerning, we can get caught up in them.
Being established with grace means that we have that levelness of maturity and a solid measure of self-control that will keep us from following every whim.  It will give us the discernment that we need to not only understand what is temporary, fleeting and shallow, but also help us to understand what will happen if we follow these temptations.
Better to be an established Christian – one who knows his doctrine and stays faithful to God’s Word – than to be one always shifting and changing.  Being carried away all the time puts a bland taste in your mouth – like eating flour!

“Curse not the king, no not in thy thought; and curse not the rich in thy bedchamber: for a bird of the air shall carry the voice, and that which hath wings shall tell the matter.”
Ecclesiastes 10:20
“A little bird told me” is a colloquialism that is based on this verse.  The warning is to guard your speech so the little bird has nothing to tell.
How many times have you spoken something in private expecting that it would stay private only to find that before long others know what you said?  Proverbs 11:13 says, “A talebearer revealeth secrets…”  It is the greatest pleasure of some people to carry bits of gossip.  They love to think they have something to tell that will amaze their listeners and make them look like they know something no one else knows.  Some of their gossip might be truth, but it is still gossip if it was shared with the expectation of not being repeated.
Backbiters also love to carry news.  They love to repeat things said and put their own twist on the words.  They sing off-key and even that tone draws its own kind of listeners.
To keep these talebearers and backbiters at bay you must guard your heart and words.  Do not let your passions carry you away.  Do not let your frustration cause you to say or think things that would destroy your testimony.  Guard even the tone of your voice when you are dealing with these birds because they can hear the intonation and love to sing in a minor key!

“Verily, verily, I say unto thee, When thou wast young, thou girdedst thyself, and walkedst whither thou wouldest: but when thou shalt be old, thou shalt stretch forth thy hands, and another shall gird thee, and carry the whither thou wouldest not.
John 21:18
Old age is not for the fainthearted.  All of us would like to think that we could remain mobile and independent right up to the day we die.  But here, the Lord Jesus is telling the disciple that there may come a time when he will have to yield his care to another.  The caregiver will then be the one making the decision.
Matthew Henry takes an interesting slant on this Scripture saying, “Where trouble comes we are apt to fret the more at the grievances of restraint, sickness, and poverty, because we have known the sweets of liberty, health, and plenty.  But we may turn it the other way:  “How many years of prosperity have I enjoyed more than I deserved or improved?  And, having received good, shall I not receive evil also?  What a change may possibly be made with us, as to our condition in this world!”
It is all a matter of perspective.  Age will come to all.  Youth and vigor were at one time ours, but now is our time to be the old ones.  We should be thankful for the years of youth, but also accept the elderly years.
Matthew Henry goes on to say, “What a change is presently made with those that leave all to follow Christ!  They must no longer walk wither they will, but whither he will.”  This application challenges us to think about our attitude.  Are we trying to command our lives or are we allowing the Lord to be the commander – the caregiver – the maker of decisions?
I think the two thoughts go together.  If we say we are followers of Christ in youth and health, then why would we not still be followers of Christ in old age.  If we say that God has a plan for each of our lives and we spend our life fulfilling that plan, why would we not equally accept that the grey years are also a part of his plan?

Getting older?  Fearing the future?  No need.  Christ will still be there.  His plan for you is not finished until He takes you home.

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