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Wednesday, April 12, 2023

Amish farm on Harvest Road
Just after sunrise yesterday morning we passed this Amish farm on Harvest Road. Amazingly, the laundry is already hung on the line and many Amish women still wash using the ringer washer.
Click on photo to enlarge

"Reducing 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).

Appalachian Trail hikerWe had a beautiful day yesterday with temps in the 70's. Following an early morning chaplaincy visit, we took a walk on the Appalachian Trail ("hike" would be an overstatement). We met a serious hiker who was heading to Georgia on the trail, which runs 2200 miles from Maine to Georgia. Over two million people walk at least a portion of the trail every year. I guess we are two of them!

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, though you may hear the crackling of leaves under our feet as walk on the trail. Due to the distance from machinery, human sounds, and thick foliage it's a very natural, peaceful and relaxing walk. However the Pennsylvania portion is famous for being a rocky trail so you really have to watch your footing.

Reduce gear signAfter we completed our hike we got back in the van and 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 (Stephen in the Kansas City, MO area and Brooksyne in Tulsa, OK). After college we moved to 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 signs that alerted truck drivers, "Trucks Reduce Gear" meaning to lower their transmission gear for the long downhill grade.

My sister Genelle was visiting us and she asked an understandable yet humorous question. 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 mountain driving and the terminology associated with a standard transmission, so her question was valid. Better for her to ask than not know the correct answer.

Today let us consider another vital sense of reducing gear, noting a 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).

Hebrews 12:1

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, as being very 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. That includes:

"deeds of darkness" (Romans 13:12)
"the 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 but are merely hindrances (every weight) 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 and something that may not. We need to ask ourselves, is there a weight in my life that I must lay aside?"

Be encouraged today, (Hebrews 3:13)

Stephen and 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 end up being a stumbling block to others as well.  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. Help us as we struggle in this choice between light and darkness; show us the way to victory as You undergird us with Your strength and fill us with Your peace. May our 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 Christ we pray. Amen.

Yesterday we shared that apart from the resurrection we have a:

1) Lifeless Messiah (15:12,13,16)
2) Useless Gospel (15:14)
3) Truthless witness (15:15)
4) Worthless faith (5:17)
5) Hopeless eternity (15:18,19)

Fill in the positive outcome.

Because of the resurrection of Jesus Christ we have a:
1) ________ Messiah
2) ________ Gospel
3) ________ witness
4) ________ faith
5) ________ eternity

Today's Suggested Music and Supplemental Resources

"All Hail King Jesus"   Click to listen on YouTube  Calvary Church choir and orchestra (This was our opening song this last Sunday)  What a powerful way to begin an Easter service! Listen carefully to the words of the song and the narration.

Cross in flower bed
Driving to Lebanon County yesterday we passed this very nice display of the victorious cross amidst a mound of spring bulbs.
Click on photo to enlarge

Appalachian Trail
I find the view of the Appalachian Trail invigorating though I sure don't have the inclination to walk its entire length. We did walk the width yesterday!
Click on photo to enlarge

Appalachian Trail
We stepped off the trail and walked over to see if we could get a good vista point overlooking the Lebanon Valley but due to the treacherous footing and thorny underbrush this is the best we did. In several weeks the foliage will make a view like this impossible.
Click on photo to enlarge

Swopes Valley
On the other side of Blue Mountain we drove through the very remote Swopes Valley.
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Swopes Valley flowering tree
Swopes Valley flowering tree
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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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