It was a true delight to spend the last two months at home, fellowshipping with many precious brethren and friends, and I already miss so many of you already. I arrived in Logan, Utah very late on the 9th after a rather hectic day of flying; but I am now settled in and feeling quite well, excited about the work God has before prepared for this place.
Since arriving, the word "community" has been weighing upon my heart. I am seeking to build relationships with the saints here in Cache Valley, to know them and be known by them, so that we can as one body stand together in reaching out to our Mormon neighbors. The churches here are positive about preaching the gospel, but need direction in how to do that. God has given me some ideas to get the Christians united in practical outreach, so please pray for God's will to be done and for these plans to become reality. Utah is in desperate need!
Yesterday I have the privilege of talking for two hours with two Mormon missionaries. Beforehand I was a bit concerned that I wouldn't be as sharp when talking to Mormons having been out of State for three months, but in prayer God gave me such a love for these guys, and I knew I needed to speak with them as if I were in their shoes. Our meeting was a profound blessing. There was zero arguing; nothing but a real and challenging conversation about God's way of salvation ensued, and I could only bless the Lord as I watched the gears turning and the conflict of thought appear vividly across their faces as they saw the gap between Christianity and Mormonism widen. By the end of our time together these two dear guys came to understand the genuine Biblical gospel... though the next step is up to them: they can either suppress this knowledge or submit themselves to God. Please pray for Tyler and Jason, that they would see the seriousness of this choice, and that they would make the right one. Save them Lord!
Also, in my day to day activities, I've been learning the ropes of helping at the bookstore: working the cash register, encouraging people as they come in, etc. While I still have a lot to learn, I am enjoying my part in this all greatly. A certain fantastic opportunity has arisen for Brad and I here in Logan: a few weeks before I arrived in Utah, Brad got a call from a Mormon friend of his who is establishing a new cable television show in the little city of Logan, and he asked if Brad and I would consider doing a weekly Bible discussion show for the channel! This is truly an open door given by God! Not only will our ministry involve literature and preaching, but God has added (at a very convenient time) a television ministry as well. Of course, we are thrilled at the audience this will reach that would otherwise not be reached, and also how excellent a collaboration this will prove with our other activities. Please pray for us, saints, that God gives us wisdom and grace, and that we exalt a clear testimony of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ to this area. Praise God!
"I know thy works, and where thou dwellest, even where Satan's seat is: and thou holdest fast my name, and hast not denied my faith." (Revelation 2:13)
Thank you to all those who support and follow this ministry, I sincerely appreciate all your love and encouragement. Thank you for your prayers. May Jesus Christ be glorified, and souls converted unto Him. May the Lamb that was slain receive the reward of His suffering!
Your brother and fellow laborer in Christ,
Tuesday, January 01, 2008
"Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us." - Hebrews 12:1
The verse before us, Hebrews 12:1, gives the Christian a very practical application for winning the spiritual race that is "set before us", the race of faith which occupies every aspect of our lives. We often have a tendency to overlook key portions of Scripture to our great loss, and in this familiar verse the focus of our attention usually centers upon "the sin that so easily besets us", yet I'm afraid that such a focus has actually "beset" us from the deeper and more practical application of this passage.
Notice the division the Spirit makes between "weight" and "sin": "let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us". Without carefully reading, these two are often blurred together as one, but it should not be so. The Bible is speaking of two very different hindrances that bog us down and prevent us from running in such a way "that ye may obtain." (1 Corinthians 9:24) Most of us are well aware of the meaning of sin and its frustrations, but are we just as aware of this other besetter indicated here by the inspired apostle?
WHAT IS A WEIGHT?
A weight is anything and everything that slows us down from our prescribed run. The expression "every weight" tells us that weights are manifold; there can be many, and they can be diverse.
A weight is not sin. There are many things we do as Christians that hinder our run even though those things in and of themselves are not wrong. The apostle Paul put it this way: "All things are lawful for me, but all things are not expedient: all things are lawful for me, but all things edify not." (1 Corinthians 10:23) There are no rules about how you must dress when participating in a race, but simply because it is lawful for you to wear what you will, that certainly does not advocate donning a heavy coat and cumbersome footwear! Such choices, while legal, do nothing but oppress the runner from running to win.
Each of us know the things in our lives that are weighing us down from the race God has called us to. Perhaps you are wearing the heavy coat of an unhealthy friendship, or the burdensome shoes of idle entertainment. Perhaps it is your overzealous work ethic, or your all-too-undisciplined bed habits. Such things drain our physical, mental and spiritual energy. These things, while not sin themselves, keep us from fulfilling the will of God in our lives, and may become gateways that lead us into sin.
THE IMPORTANCE OF LAYING ASIDE EVERY WEIGHT
"Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses..." Let us learn a lesson from the lives of past saints. For every man or woman who fought the good fight of faith, finishing the race with glory and honor, not one can be found who did not live a life of discipline and devotion to the God who had called them. The late John Bunyan, who himself exemplified this kind of a life, wrote, "Surely Abraham, David, Paul and the rest of the saints of God lost all for this glorious kingdom." We are surrounded by witnesses who laid aside every weight to win that far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory. Let us too, with them, so run, that we may obtain!
It may be that if we do not obey this command of Scripture to "lay aside every weight", who knows that we may become so burdened and stumble under its heavy load? It is not inconsequential that the Spirit makes mention first of the "weights" before the "sins". Sin does not "so easily beset us" when we are free from the weights that restrict our maneuverability. We must, as David, remove the impediments of restrictive armor before heading out to face Goliath, otherwise we will indeed be quick prey. Oh, for a company of liberated able-bodied Christians!
"And let us run with patience the race that is set before us." The word "patience" tells us that the race itself will be a long and difficult one, requiring the full dedication of every faculty by the runner. Only those runners who, from the very beginning, are resolved to run the race with perseverance will actually cross the finish line. Unlike the foolish builder who starts building his tower without sufficient resources, or a foolish general who goes to war without considering his force of arms, these runners have counted the cost and know what it will take to achieve victory. It will require the laying aside of all those weights that would spoil their race and take their crown.
LOOKING UNTO JESUS
When Jesus faced the lonely cross, He had emptied Himself of every weight that might have kept Him from obeying His Father's will. The life of our Lord Jesus Christ is the perfect example of one who ran the race and won, and He is our forerunner. "Whither the forerunner is for us entered, even Jesus." (Hebrews 6:20) This new year, think about some of the 'weights' in your life that you need to lay aside, obey the Father, and run for the prize.
"Know ye not that they which run in a race run all, but one receiveth the prize? So run, that ye may obtain. And every man that striveth for the mastery is temperate in all things. Now they do it to obtain a corruptible crown; but we an incorruptible. I therefore so run." (1 Corinthians 9:24-26)