Friday, September 2, 2011

Travel light, Christian

[Jesus] sent them out to preach the kingdom of God and to heal the sick. He told them: “Take nothing for the journey—no staff, no bag, no bread, no money, no extra tunic." (Luke 9:2-5)

 What an odd set of instructions for Jesus to give his 12 disciples as he sent them out to spread the Gospel.  He could have told them not to pack a bunch of junk, but this was even more emphatic.  "Take nothing," he said.  Naturally I did a word study on this to better understand it, and "take nothing" actually means "take nothing."  Having failed to dilute this seemingly strange commandment to the 12, I now have to try to understand why such a bold instruction was made.

This is the same Jesus who said "But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well."  He was referring to our needs such as food and clothing.  If I need a staff, I'll find one.  I don't need a bag, because it is used to carry things I don't need.  I don't need to carry extra money, God will provide what I need as the need arises.  I don't need an extra tunic, I can clean this one as I go.

Several years ago I had the pleasure of meeting Mike Johnson, who was then Pastor of First Baptist Church in Albertville.  He has since moved on to Boone's Chapel, and the great folks at FBC have another fantastic Pastor, Chris Johnson (oddly, no relation).  FBC Albertville one of the largest congregations in our County.

As Pastor of FBC Albertville,  Mike Johnson lived in a trailer.  Now, it was a nice trailer, but nonetheless his home was brought in on wheels.  It wasn't a salary issue.  Mike is also a successful business man and could have afforded to live in just about any house in town.

Mike chose to live in a trailer, he said, so that if God called him to do so, he could follow right then.

That hit me like a ton of bricks because I am in exactly the opposite situation.  My wife and I own a large poultry farm, a fairly large home, and a mortgage to go with the whole thing.  My chicken contract and mortgage contract are obligations that I must in good faith keep.  While we've never lived extravagantly, we are definitely tied down to the farm.  I should not be.

As Jesus walked beside the Sea of Galilee, he saw Simon and his brother Andrew casting a net into the lake, for they were fishermen. “Come, follow me,” Jesus said, “and I will make you fishers of men.”  At once they left their nets and followed him.

Did you read that, fellow Christian?  "At once" they left their nets.  It was two years ago when Kim and I agreed on God's call in our lives, to go to Lebanon.  Unfortunately, we have a mortgage on our nets, and as the Bible says "the borrower is servant to the lender."  I have to sell my boat and my nets to pay off my mortgage.  I've compared selling a chicken farm to wrestling an octopus.  When you pry a few tentacles off, there's always another one to grab you.

The problem is not what we have, it's whether it has us.  Mike Johnson is not a poor man, but he is a man who is ready to follow God's calling "at once."  I want to be like that.  This has been a painful lesson in some ways, knowing I should be doing something else, but being unable to do it "at once."  I know that God will work out the timing according to his will, but I haven't worked out my part according to his will.

No more debt, or contract entanglements, will keep me from being able to follow God's will in my life.  This is my last round wrestling the octopus.

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