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Monday, February 20, 2012

Amish team plowing field near Mount Joy, PA
Click here for larger photo and to see just how straight the line is!

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"Hand To The Plow"

"No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for service in the kingdom of God" (Luke 9:62). "Looking unto Jesus the Author and Finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God" (Hebrews 12:2).

Lancaster Junction Trail near Mount Joy, PASaturday afternoon Brooksyne, Ester and I took a 3 mile walk along the Lancaster Junction trail, a former railroad grade turned to walking trail, here in Lancaster County. After getting along the trail a ways and leaving the loud noise of a busy 4 lane highway (RT 283) we enjoyed a peaceful walk through the countryside. It was a beautiful and relatively warm day for February. The dogs sure enjoyed getting out. We can let Roxie off leash as she obeys and stays near. Mollie on the other hand must be kept on a leash or no telling where she would run off to! (Ester was behind us when I took the photo on left.)

Along the way I noticed an Amish farmer plowing his field. On the way back I stopped to visit him as he approached the road where he was going to turn the team around. I greeted him with a big smile and then proceeded to quote our daily verse: "No man, having put his hand to the plough, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God" (I knew he was more likely to be familiar with the KJV). He smiled in recognition and said, "That's right." We visited a few minutes, having some mutual friends, and I commended him for his hard work and straight furrows. I was especially impressed that by a simple verbal command he could get the team to "back up".

Jesus often used agricultural allusions and illustrations to connect with his listeners. In many cases we must have some agricultural knowledge to understand them.

It takes a great deal of strength, concentration and perseverance to plow a field, especially using a team of horses. In plowing a field a farmer keeps the rows straight by focusing on an object in front of him, off in the distance (such as a tree).* If the farmer started to plow the furrow, but kept looking behind to see how far he'd advanced, he would never be able to make straight rows.

Jesus used the above illustration to emphasize the nature of genuine discipleship; counting the cost of following Him.
In our Christian life, we keep our eyes on Jesus in front of us, and never take our eyes off Him. Most importantly, we don't look back!

Many 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.

"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 good qualities 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! 

In Matthew's gospel Jesus gives us a glimpse of what we'll hear when we finish the race. It sure won't be "Great job, O thou flashy one." No, it will be according to the Bible, "Well done, good and faithful servant!" (Matthew 25:23). And in the book of Revelation we have a recognition of His "called, chosen and faithful followers" (17:14).

Indeed let us "stay faithful" and keep our hand to the plow today, not looking back but instead, "looking unto Jesus the Author and Finisher of our faith."

Be encouraged today,

Stephen & Brooksyne Weber

Praying manDaily Prayer: Father, it is the desire of every earnest believer to remain faithful to You. The world often uses the expression, "Be true to yourself" intending that people stand up for what they believe in, but those of the world, by and large, stand for causes and beliefs that often conflict with the holy Word of God. We are also subject to error and our emotions cannot be trusted, so with absolute resolve we choose to be true to You, rather than self. Once we put our hands to the plow we choose to cultivate Christian values and Biblical principles.  We fix our gaze on Jesus so that we don't lose our way. We join with others of the Christian faith who hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, even as we spur one another on toward love and good deeds. Amen.

* Farmers still use this method but many are also using GPS and in some cases the tractor essentially drives itself!  See this pdf or this video

A pleasant Saturday afternoon walk along the Lancaster Junction rail trail

Chiques Creek along Lancaster Junction Trail near Mount Joy, PA
The trail runs along Chiques Creek. I enjoy viewing white birch trees.

Bamboo stand Lancaster Junction Trail near Mount Joy, PA
A rare stand of Bamboo was refreshing given the stark colors of the winter season.

McCormick-Deering Threshing machine near Lancaster Junction Trail near Mount Joy, PA
Slightly off the trail (which is in the background) is this old McCormick-Deering threshing machine.

Amish team plowing field near Mount Joy, PA 2/18/12
Another photo of the Amish team approaching in the distance.
It was a large field and the work progressed very slowly.

For a custom google map of our walk along the Lancaster Junction trail along with placemarks with photos see here. For local readers this is a nice walk!

Today's Suggested Music and Supplemental Resources

"When All Is Said And Done"  Video  Geoff Moore  Last Friday's message was about having a good testimony and we shared links to three songs with a similar title as this and all with great messages but this is actually the one we were looking for! It fits well with today's message and we encourage you to listen to it.

"I Am Resolved"  Video  A local church with good old time singing!

"I'd Rather Have Jesus"  Video  Dallas Holm

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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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