From David, a follower of the Way and a disciple of the one true King,
To those brothers and sisters in Christ for whom, by the grace of God, I was permitted to shepherd during our time in the Holy Land:
Grace, peace, and understanding unto you from God our Father, Christ His Son, and the Spirit that grants discernment, alive in us right here and right now.
I want to begin by first thanking the Lord for my every moment shared with you, from the first encounters as strangers to the reluctant farewells by which we departed only a short time later. It is by His grace alone that we were brought together, and if I have come to know the character of the Lord at all, it would be left understood that He is not one who wastes any of the time He has allotted. For this reason, I believe that our short time together was a period instituted by God, and through that time I hope we found ourselves capable of bringing Him glory upon glory, living from faith to faith, from hope to hope, from joy to joy. Yes, He gave us this time that our spirits might be enriched and uplifted and our faiths strengthened all the more, but even more so, He gave us this time that we might return the glory back unto Him who provided us with our every breath. To Him be the praise for granting us such an opportunity, and even if such an opportunity had been lost, let us praise Him still more!
My time with you, though brief, has affected me deeply, and I find myself praying earnestly that the Lord will bring us back together that we might delight in one another’s company all the more. I pray that our time together was as beneficial for you as it was for me, and that through me the Lord might have provided you with a greater experience and a more fundamental and long-lasting enrichment by His Spirit as we encountered the places where He once walked and lay His head. If I failed you in any way – whether mighty or miniscule – or in some manner pointed you away from our Lord, I pray not only for yours but also for the Lord’s forgiveness, and hope that my contributions to your time in His land far outnumbered any detractions I might have provided.
Even as I urged you towards the conclusion of our time together, so now I urge you all the greater to cling to the faith, to run swiftly the race set before you, to take hold of your First Love – that is, Christ – and run with Him through the valleys of greatest intimacy, that your knowledge and love for Him might know no bounds. How many disciples have walked upon the same earth that you have now walked, have laid eyes upon the same things that you have now seen, have worshipped from the same hilltops from which you have now worshipped? And how many, upon returning to their homes, have returned to the lives of their former selves, have acted as those who look intently at their natural faces in a mirror, only to go away and at once forget what they were like? The things you have seen should ground you in the foundation of your faith and should bring you to certainty in your God, so why would you go home only to become but a shadow of your true self? Do not be a part of the statistic. Do not go home unchanged. No, but instead cling to the sights laid before you and the hopes now realized in your hearts, and use such experience to burn in zeal for the Lord our God. Fan the flame of Christ as you daily strive to love Him more, to desire – yes, desire – His statutes and call Him not only Savior, but also Lord. Fight the good fight; finish the race; keep the faith.
There are many of you that I took great delight in during our time together. Yes, many of you displayed the fruit promised us by our Savior and have begun to run with it into the distance, jogging until you ran and running until you sprinted. For some of the infants among you, I see you teething and longing for meat; for some of the mature, I see your enjoyment in the delicacies of holy communion with our Lord. It joys my heart to see your obedience and lifts my Spirit to think that perhaps I might have encouraged you down the narrow path, the forgotten Way. May the Lord God guide you by His will as you continue to grow and mature into the servants who tend to His calling.
But for some, I see infants who profess adulthood, the childish who profess to be childlike. Though you try to eat meat, you have not digested the milk; though you profess a deep hunger, you have never seen the profit of a fast. Though you should be light unto the world, you place that light under a bowl; though you should be salt, you have become stale. My brothers and sisters, this should not be! Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body. The unbelievers in this world, they stumble because they disobey the word, as they were destined to do, but you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for His own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light! So why do you long to blend in with the darkness? Why is your zeal not for the Lord’s temple but for the lusts of the flesh? If we of the faith are called saints and to be a saint is to be “set apart,” what I am to deduce when I see you blending in with the crowd? Where is your light? Where is your salt? Where is your faith?
My friends – my brothers and my sisters – do you not see that there is no greater delight than to rest in the shadow of the Lord’s commands? For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments, and His commandments are not burdensome! For everyone who has been born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world – our faith. We know that for those who love God all things work together for good, so why do you strive to do that which He has called you not to do? Has it not become apparent to you that His declarations are righteous and His intentions laced with affection, and that by turning towards your own sinful desires you are actually doing yourself more harm than good? Has it not become apparent that the most truly selfish person would in fact surrender Himself over the Lord in all things, because in doing so He would guarantee Himself the most rewarding life? (By no means should this be your motivation; far from it, but strive for selflessness, as demonstrated by our Messiah.) Yet even in our short time together, there were some among you who proved yourselves incapable of abstaining from the desires of this world for even a short amount of time. “All things are lawful for me,” but not all things are helpful. “All things are lawful for me,” but I will not be dominated by anything. Let us go on living as obedient children in humble submission to our Father, not living to the bare minimum of His commands, but striving to go above and beyond in doing all that we can to bring glory to His name. Should we take His grace for granted, and so pursue our sin as long as we can twist His Word to defend it? By no means! Shall we go on sinning, that grace may abound? Again, by no means! Instead, let us plant His Word in our hearts and delight in His decrees, demonstrating our love and our friendship with Him by obeying His commands and daily striving to walk in His footsteps.
Let Israel be nothing more than a voyage to the land of your First Love, a land that is special not because of a hill or a steeple or a sea or a people, but special to us because it is through that land that our Lord revealed Himself most clearly. As you go about your daily lives, do not leave the land behind you, but cling to it as a reminder of the Love who is always with you, the Love who will never leave you nor forsake you. Although you have left the land where Christ walked, you do not have to stop walking with Christ.
Finally, my brothers and sisters, find joy in all things. This world is too quick to steal the pleasure of life away through the desires that come from sin, hasty to seep away our energy by making us cling to the perishable. But our God is not so small, our Savior not so tiny. No, you have been called to be a light amongst the nations, and you can be such through joy and love. Peace He has left with us; His peace He has given to us. Not as the world gives did He give to us. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid. Our Lord is with us, and we do not need to conform to the emotions nor actions nor thoughts nor ways of this world. We have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer we who live, but Christ who lives in us. And the life we now live in the flesh we live by faith in the Son of God, who loved us and gave himself for us. We have been called to a higher calling; we are in the world, but not of it. The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. In the moments when you do not feel these things, remember our Lord to be true and repent. Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one receives the prize? So run that you may obtain it. Run towards Him who is our finish line.
Go unto the Lord for all things. Humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time He may exalt you, casting all your anxieties on Him, because He cares for you. Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. Resist him, firm in your faith.
Cling to the words of our brothers Robert and Clint, who the Lord used to teach us during our time together. Their teachings are founded upon the truth and you should use their passion as the embers to stoke your own fire.
I will see you very soon, my friends, with some sooner than others. Until then, remain true to your faith, devote yourself to the Word, and maintain your determination to find your true meaning through Christ Jesus our Lord. You will stumble and you will fall, but our Lord, the God of grace and mercy and goodness and love, will be there to catch you before your feet leave the ground.
I, David, write this to you hoping that you know that if you ever need anything at all, I am here for you and always will be. My prayers will be with you, as I hope yours will be with me. May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope.