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Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Mailbox in Lebanon County PA
We pass this colorful plow made into a mailbox post along Colebrook Road in southern Lebanon County.

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"Keep Your Hand To The Plow"

"But this is not true of my servant Moses; he is faithful in all my house" (Numbers 12:7). "No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for service in the kingdom of God" (Luke 9:62).

Each week I visit for a few minutes with a man who recently left a rescue mission and is now on his own seeking to stay on the straight and narrow path. He came out of a very rough background but he has fully committed his life to Christ and yet we know how the enemy is ever beckoning him to return to his old way of life. Each week after our visit as I depart his work area I place my hand on his shoulder, look him in the eye and say, "______, stay faithful."  And I mean it!

Amish work teamAs the weather gets warmer we enjoy watching the farmers as they are out in the fields preparing the soil for sowing seed.  In our area not only do we have huge modern tractors but the Amish still plow the soil behind a team of horses or mules. This requires concentration and perseverance for both the manpower and literal horsepower.

Initially in order to get a straight row you must fix your eyes on a fixed distant object. After you have a straight row you focus on the furrow or previous row as you continue plowing.

Photo of Amish man plowingMany of you who know me personally have often heard me say farewell with one of two phrases: "Stay faithful" or "Keep your hand to the plow."  I've done this for many, many years and I suppose for a few my repetition can be annoying but for others it's just who Steve Weber is. I am also blessed when people in turn respond to me by saying, "Stay Faithful."

Jesus uses an agricultural illustration to teach the vital importance of staying focused, persistent and faithful. "No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for service in the kingdom of God" (Luke 9:62).  The apostle Paul seems to share this same concept in Philippians 3:13: "Brethren, I do not regard myself as having laid hold of it yet; but one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead."

"Staying faithful!"  What a quality.  It's not dramatic.  It's not sensational.  But think with me for a few moments. Consider those who, over the long haul, have been a genuine and enduring blessing to you. Right at the top of the list of their qualities that matter most is that of faithfulness, isn't it?  I'll take faithfulness over flashiness any time.  God said regarding Moses, "He is faithful in all my house".  What a gratifying affirmation to receive from God Himself! 

Jay Kopp with mouldboard plowIn ministry we may be more and more conditioned to assume "results for God" take place quickly, shortly after sowing the seed.  But in many cases it's just not that way. A ministry I have greatly respected for a long time is the work of Bible translators, such as those working with Wycliffe and New Tribes Mission. I recently came across an inspiring video that shows the fruit of their labors.

Their work of Bible translation is extremely labor intensive and time consuming although computers certainly have helped in this area. In many cases the work takes many, many years and often with little evidence of fruit.

Try to set aside a few minutes and watch the video we place at the end of today's message. It is the actual reception of the Kimyal Tribe in Papau, Indonesia when they receive the first shipment of Bibles in their own language. Let your heart break and burn, weeping with joy along with brothers and sisters you will meet only in heaven.  It will also make you freshly aware of the privilege we take for granted of having Bibles in our own language.

In a parable in Matthew 25:23 Jesus gives us a glimpse of what we'll hear when we finish the race.   "Well done, good and faithful servant!".  And in the book of Revelation we have a recognition of His "called, chosen and faithful followers" (17:14).

Friends, keeping our hand to the plow will bring about some blisters, produce sweat from our labors, and stir up some dust as we break the fallow ground. We'll learn the discipline of keeping our eyes focused on what lies ahead as we stumble over hardened ground.  A rock might surface and chip the sharp edge of our blade, but no matter what challenges come our way we must "stay faithful".  

Just like a honing tool is used to sharpen the blade of the plow after it gets beat up by the hardened soil, God's Holy Word keeps us refreshed, recharged, and resolved to put our hand to the plow and never look back.  Let us stay faithful in our service for Christ today!

Be encouraged today,

Stephen & Brooksyne Weber

Praying man Daily prayer: Father, there is so much to distract us as we start our heavenward journey, that we must settle once for all that we won't return to our former way of life or the world philosophies we once held or endorsed. Disappointments, unanswered prayers, loved ones who oppose us, spiritual lethargy, temptations and trials pull at our hearts and tempt us to look back just like the Israelites who were freed from slavery.  They who greatly rejoiced at their new found freedom found themselves longing to return after the going got tough.  Give us strength and firm resolve to plow through the hard soil and bumpy rocks of life all the while fixing our eyes on our eternal dwelling place as we hold unswervingly to the hope we profess in Christ Jesus our Lord.  It is in His name that we pray. Amen.   

Teaching note: In my view, which I very earnestly hold, among the disturbing trends in the modern church is the tendency for some modern "translations" to change the words of Scripture. I suppose it is intended to help people understand who may be unfamiliar with the customs and practices in the Bible times, such as plowing, that prompted the teaching and illustration in today's passage. For instance a popular modern "translation" renders this passage "No procrastination. No backward looks. You can't put God's kingdom off till tomorrow. Seize the day." Now that may indeed be the sense in the passage but that's not what Jesus said!  The translation should as precisely as possible render the original language to the language being translated into. A commentary or exposition may then, after fairly treating the original sense of the passage, elaborate the illustration to our modern ears and understanding.

I place "translation" in quotations because the version I am referring to is actually a paraphrase but often referred to as a translation.  A paraphrase is an author's rendering of the Scriptures in his own words based upon his understanding.  A translation should be direct from the original language.

Today's Suggested Music and Supplemental Resources

Kimyal TribeWhat Does It Look Like to Receive the New Testament for the First Time? Here's the video chronicling the reception of the Kimyal Tribe in West Papau Indonesia to the arrival of the first shipment of Bibles in their language.  This video is outstanding in regard to production quality and what a blessing to the church to have this recorded. Let your heart break and burn, weeping with joy along with brothers and sisters you will only meet in heaven. Here's a website devoted to the proclamation of the Gospel to the Kimyal Tribe.

"It'll Be Worth It After All"  Video Terry Terrell  Great song!

We need them spirit-filled preachers
To teach us right from wrong.
We need our old-fashion seekers
Who'll pray all night long.
We need some good gospel singing
To help us go another mile.
His church will triumphant
And go home in a little while.

"It Will Be Worth It All That Day"
  Video  Altogether Separate  

"It Will Be Worth It All"  Video  Traditional version

"Worth It All"  Video  Rita Springer

"He Leadeth me"  Video  Candi Pearson  I chose this song due to the line, "His faithful follower I would be!"

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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 I make it my life's goal to please the Lord. My mission in life is to honor God through my faith and obedience and to prepare myself and all whom I may influence for eternity."

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