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Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Blue Mountain pass 5/9/17

"Reduce Gear"

Message summary: Today we consider the importance of reducing gear!

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"Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us also lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God" (Hebrews 12:1,2).

Yesterday, following an early morning chaplaincy visit, we hiked several miles on the Appalachian Trail. It was a beautiful spring day and we met several serious hikers who were doing extended portions of the trail which runs 2200 miles from Maine to Georgia. Over 2 million people walk at least a portion of the trail every year.

In this part of Pennsylvania the trail runs along the ridge of Blue Mountain and is accessible at various points along gaps in the mountain. We parked our van at a gravel lot and left the main highway. After you get off the highway several hundred yards no longer will you hear any man-made noise, only birds singing,
the chirping of insects, and the rustling of tree branches and fallen leaves either due to the wind or squirrels scurrying here and there. Due to the distance from machinery, human sounds, and thick foliage it's a very natural, peaceful and relaxing walk.

After we completed our hike and got back in the van we headed down the mountain toward Pine Grove and saw a sign that prompted a memory from early in our marriage. Both of us grew up in relatively flat areas of the country.

Early in our marriage we lived in a mountainous section of northern PA where we planted a church. In that area when driving down a long mountain grade we grew accustomed to seeing a sign such as in our lead photo, "Trucks Reduce Gear" meaning to lower their transmission gear for the long downhill grade.

We recall an understandable yet humorous question a visitor asked when she visited us. Upon seeing the sign she asked, "What do they do with the gear they take off the truck?" She took "gear" to mean the load (weight) that was on the truck and assumed the truck driver was being instructed to reduce the truck's cargo before heading down the mountain! We often chuckle about that when we see "Trucks Reduce Gear" signs on the highway. But in her defense she had only driven an automatic transmission, and was unfamiliar with the terminology associated with a standard, so her question was valid. Better for her to ask than not know the correct answer.

Considering the theme of reducing gear let us note this phrase from our Hebrews text, "lay aside every encumbrance" (NASV). Other versions translate this, "lay aside every weight" (KJV), "lay aside every impediment" (Mounce), "stripping off every unnecessary weight" (Amplified).
This verse has long been meaningful in part due to my younger years of running. In fact, during my running days, I was concerned with how much my running shoes weighed, as I wanted to be very light on my feet. The writer of Hebrews is drawing an illustration from running a race to illustrate the Christian life. In the context of a race extra weight is, of course, a hindrance to efficient running.

In today's text twice we have the heartening phrase "let us". Bible teacher Harry Ironside contrasts the "let us" of grace, being so different from the "thou shalt" of law. Whether I listen to a preacher or I am the preacher I like hearing or repeating the phrase "let us". It conveys "We are in this together".

The word "lay aside" translates the Greek word "apotithemi" which is used elsewhere in the NT to instruct what we are to lay aside.

"deeds of darkness" (Romans 13:12)
"old self" (Ephesians 4:22)
"falsehood" (Ephesians 4:25)
"anger, wrath, malice, slander, and abusive speech" (Colossians 3:8)
"all filthiness and all that remains of wickedness" (James 1:21)
"all guile and hypocrisy and envy and all slander" (1 Peter 2:21)

David Guzek writes, "Sin can hold us back. But there are also things that may not be sin (every weight) but are merely hindrances that can keep us from running effectively the race God has for us. Our choices are not always between right and wrong, but between something that may hinder us and something else that may not. Is there a weight in your life you must lay aside?"

Be encouraged today,

Stephen & Brooksyne Weber

Praying manDaily prayer: Father, there are many sins and vices that weigh us down, slow our spiritual maturity, throw us off stride, cause us to stumble and to be a stumbling block to others.  And yet the enemy of our soul makes them so appealing, seemingly irresistible. But You call us to lay aside the deeds of darkness that were part of our old self, to put off falsehood, anger, wrath, malice, slander or abusive speech, anything of wicked origin that would make us who claim to be children of the light to be caught up in the evil deeds of darkness from which we were delivered. We pray for those struggling in this choice between light and darkness, that You will show them the way to victory as You undergird them with Your strength. May their resolve be the same as that of Paul who declared, "I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength." Through the power of the Holy Spirit and in the name of Jesus we pray. Amen.

Yesterday we shared a message based on Romans 12:1,2. Our friend David Penley shares this thought: "The Bible is clear that the way we think will impact how we live our lives. So if God's Word is in our minds, we'll live His way - the best way. If it's not, we can't hope to live the best way. I always use your central passage for today in my counseling along with Ephesians 4:17-24 and Philippians 4:8-9 to show them how God will work in our lives and give them the hope only He can give no matter what they are dealing with. Any of us can use these words from God to help ourselves and our friends."

Appalachian Trail 5/9/17
A portion of the Appalachian Trail we hiked yesterday. The dogwood peeking out at the top right of this photo was a much brighter stand-out than the photo conveys!

Appalachian Trail 5/9/17
Green, green, green!

Blue Mountain overlook 5/9/17
A view of the Lebanon Valley below.

Bindnagle Lutheran Church, Palmyra, PA 5/9/17
The Bindnagle Lutheran Church near Palmyra, PA  built in 1802.

Bindnagle Lutheran Church parsonage, Palmyra, PA 5/9/17
We assume this is the Bindnagle Lutheran Church parsonage and like the colorful chairs on the wraparound porch.

Country View Greenhouse 5/9/17
Before we returned home we stopped at the Country View greenhouse developed in the last several years by some Amish neighbors. A huge selection meticulously presented. We have rarely entered a greenhouse with cement flooring which made for a very nice, steady and clean walk.

Today's Suggested Music and
Supplemental Resources

"Welcome To Heaven"
  Video  The Triumphant Quartet

"Love Came Calling"  Video  The
Triumphant Quartet

For additional study on Hewbrews 12:1 see here.

Finally today:
Appalachian Trail 5/9/17
Yesterday we passed this rock placed on another rock.
Was it nature or a human intervention?

Duke, a Delaware friend sent me this thought yesterday from the book "Science Speaks" by Peter Stoner: "The Old Testament prophets declared, among many other things, that the Messiah would be born in Bethlehem (Micah 5:2) to a virgin (Isaiah 7:14), be betrayed for thirty pieces of silver (Zechariah 11:12,13), die by crucifixion (Psalm 22), and be buried in a rich man’s tomb (Isaiah 53:9). There was only one person who fits all of the messianic prophecies of the Old Testament, who publicly performed countless miracles, made the crippled walk and the blind see, resurrected the dead, taught the most profound words ever uttered, and then died for the sins of the people, all before AD 70: Jesus of Nazareth, the Son of Mary. Couldn’t Jesus have “accidentally” fulfilled all the dozens of prophecies? No. The scientific probability that any one person could fulfill just eight of these prophecies is 1 in 10 to the 17th power. Now let’s try to imagine the likelihood of that. If we took that number of silver dollars (100,000,000,000,000,000), drew a black X on only one, and laid them over the state of Texas, they would cover the entire state two feet deep. Now blindfold a man and tell him to go as far as he wishes and then pick up only one silver dollar, and it must be the marked one. What chance would he have of picking up the right one? It would be exactly the same odds that just eight of the messianic prophecies would all come true in any one person—yet they all came true in Christ."

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Scripture references are from The Holy Bible: New International Version. © 1984 by International Bible Society; NEW AMERICAN STANDARD BIBLE®, Copyright © 1995 by The Lockman Foundation, New King James Version (NKJV) Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. and the King James Version.

Personal Mission Statement: "I am created by God to bring Him glory. Through God's Son Jesus Christ I have been redeemed and make it my life's goal to please the Lord. My mission in life is to honor God through my faith and obedience and prepare myself and all whom I may influence for eternity."

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