Your Hands on The Plow…

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Luke 9:61-62 (KJV)

61 And another also said, Lord, I will follow thee; but let me first go bid them farewell, which are at home at my house.
62 And Jesus said unto him, No man, having put his hand to the plough, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God.

Very few people in this day and age appreciate Jesus’ use of the plow as an illustration of a life dedicated to the Lord.

The ancient plow, shaped much like the antique version of more recent centuries, was a single wooden blade attached to two handles. A mule did most of the work by pulling the apparatus forward, but the farmer held on to direct the path of the blade.

I tried out an old-fashioned plow once and discovered that using it was no easy task.

The simple machine bumped and jerked under my hands as it tore up the ground. There was only one way to make a straight line, and that was to stay focused on the work and keep my eyes forward every single second.

When believers trust Jesus Christ as Savior, they “put their hand to the plow.”

The idea is for us to follow the Lord in absolute obedience—always keeping our eyes focused on Him. That’s how we reap a harvest of faith.

Discouraged believers oftentimes plow a crooked row, because they’re looking over their shoulder to dwell on past regrets or peering around to see what pleasures await.

Their field of faith looks like a disorganized mess.

Moreover, distraction slows them down, with the result that spiritual growth is sluggish, if they mature at all.

Give up whatever draws your attention away from the heavenly Father.

Believers who focus on past failures and present distractions end up all over the place in their Christian life; peace and joy are elusive and prayers go unanswered.

Follow the Lord earnestly, and He will bring forth much spiritual fruit.

Not One to Speak in Generalities….

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James 1:23-25 (KJV)

23 For if any be a hearer of the word, and not a doer, he is like unto a man beholding his natural face in a glass:
24 For he beholdeth himself, and goeth his way, and straightway forgetteth what manner of man he was.
25 But whoso looketh into the perfect law of liberty, and continueth therein, he being not a forgetful hearer, but a doer of the work, this man shall be blessed in his deed.

God is not one to speak in generalities.

When He whispers from the pages of Scripture or confronts through a friend’s words, the Father directly addresses issues in His children’s lives. With that in mind, let’s look at His three goals for communicating with believers–namely, for us to:

  1. Comprehend the truth.

    God wants us to learn His ways and principles, to recognize our own frailty, and to identify the needs of others. He does more than offer this as head knowledge–He makes truth applicable to our lives. For example, the Lord assured Paul that His strength was sufficient to carry the apostle through anything (2 Cor. 12:9). Circumstances taught the apostle that God’s Word was true.

  2. Conform to the truth.

    Our lives are shaped by our belief system. What we hold as true influences our thinking. In turn, how we think affects our character, conduct, and conversation. God is determined to mold His children into Christlikeness so that they reflect His gospel to the world.

  3. Communicate the truth.

    Every child of God is called to make disciples (Matt. 28:19). Believers can know the Lord and walk in His light but still fall short of this expectation.

    We must share the gospel by sharing God’s truth with others and explaining how His words played out in our lives.

Are You A Believer or A Follower?

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Mark 8:34-35 (KJV)

34 And when he had called the people unto him with his disciples also, he said unto them, Whosoever will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me.
35  For whosoever will save his life shall lose it; but whosoever shall lose his life for my sake and the gospel’s, the same shall save it.

I like to use the word believer when talking about God’s children, as it specifically refers to those who have trusted Jesus Christ as Savior.

That is a much smaller population than those who label themselves “Christian.” But did you know that even fewer people could rightly be called “followers”?

These are the people who passionately pursue the Lord’s will in all things.

Are you a believer or a follower?

Trusting in Jesus Christ is fundamental, but doing so is the first step, not the culmination, of a person’s faith.

Our primary purpose is to take a life-long journey following in the Lord’s footsteps, honoring Him with our actions and speech, and always increasing in biblical wisdom.

A follower’s life is summed up in the phrase complete obedience.

In fact, Jesus defined true Christians as those who prove their love for Him by keeping His word (John 14:23).

When it comes to obeying God, there are really only two responses—“I will” or “I won’t.”

It’s tempting to say, “I will, but …” as some of Jesus’ would-be disciples did, but that’s a roundabout way of saying no.

Followers remain faithful to the Lord’s plan whether doing so is easy or hard.

Not only that, but they proclaim Him in both blessing and calamity, and go even when they don’t like where He leads.

Followers pursue the Lord because they know that the reward is a deeper, more passionate relationship with Him.

They are not just waiting to spend eternity with God in heaven.

They realize that eternity begins now, as they accompany Him on the righteous path He has set before them.

The Divine Teacher…

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1 Corinthians 2:9-16 (KJV)

9 But as it is written, Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him.
10 But God hath revealed them unto us by his Spirit: for the Spirit searcheth all things, yea, the deep things of God.
11 For what man knoweth the things of a man, save the spirit of man which is in him? even so the things of God knoweth no man, but the Spirit of God.
12 Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the spirit which is of God; that we might know the things that are freely given to us of God.
13 Which things also we speak, not in the words which man’s wisdom teacheth, but which the Holy Ghost teacheth; comparing spiritual things with spiritual.
14 But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.
15 But he that is spiritual judgeth all things, yet he himself is judged of no man.
16 For who hath known the mind of the Lord, that he may instruct him? But we have the mind of Christ.

One of the reasons that many people–including believers–don’t read the Bible is because they can’t understand it.

We would expect that to be the case for those who don’t know Christ, but why do so many believers fail to comprehend the truths of Scripture?

Maybe it’s because they haven’t asked for help from their divine Teacher.

One of the Holy Spirit’s chief responsibilities is to enable Christians to understand the things of God.

When looking at believers who know more than we do, we’ll sometimes think, I will never be able to reach that level. 

The issue, however, isn’t how much knowledge you have right now, but whether you are growing in your understanding. The Spirit will teach you what you need to know, not necessarily what others know.

Because He wants to make us godly people, He’ll give us enough truth each day to change our lives.

He will interpret the meaning and give an application designed specifically for each person.

The Spirit’s goal is not to fill your mind with information but to bring you to a deeper level in your relationship with the Lord.

He wants you to understand the truth so you will fall in love with Jesus.

Then you’ll long to spend time in the Word, thereby getting to know Him even better.

But all these treasures of God’s Word could remain out of reach if you never ask the Teacher to unlock them.

Each time you read your Bible, ask the Lord for understanding.

A wonderfully intimate love relationship with Christ awaits those who let the Spirit reveal to them the thoughts of God.

Our Comforter, Enabler, and Guide…

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John 14:16-18 (KJV)

16 And I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you for ever;
17 Even the Spirit of truth; whom the world cannot receive, because it seeth him not, neither knoweth him: but ye know him; for he dwelleth with you, and shall be in you.
18 I will not leave you comfortless: I will come to you.

Most of us don’t like being alone for extended periods of time.

In fact, we are not designed to live in isolation.

Even at the very beginning, God said, “It is not good for the man to be alone” (Gen. 2:18).

But sometimes situations in life leave us separated from others.

Or perhaps we simply feel lonely, even though we live with our mate or family. But whatever your situation may be, if you are a believer, you’re never alone.

Knowing His followers could feel abandoned after His crucifixion and ascension, Jesus promised to send them a Helper who would never leave them–the Spirit of truth.

The same One who came to them at Pentecost still abides within every believer.

He has been sent to walk alongside us as our comforter, enabler, and guide.

The Holy Spirit, unlike human companions, is perfectly adequate to meet our every need.

Since He knows us intimately, He can comfort us in pain and loss when no one else can.

Anytime we find ourselves in a quandary, He knows exactly what we ought to do.

Since the future is laid bare before His eyes, He’s aware of all the details that concern us.

What’s more, He promises to guide us each step of the way, calming our fears and overcoming our inadequacies.

Because we were created for God, only through His Spirit are we made complete.

He is the ultimate solution to man’s aloneness: He’s always available and will never forsake or forget you.

When others let you down, the Comforter is present to lift you up with the reminder that you’re not alone.

What Does the Cross Mean to You?

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John 19:1-27 (KJV)

1   Then Pilate therefore took Jesus, and scourged him.
2   And the soldiers platted a crown of thorns, and put it on his head, and they put on him a purple robe,
3   And said, Hail, King of the Jews! and they smote him with their hands.
4   Pilate therefore went forth again, and saith unto them, Behold, I bring him forth to you, that ye may know that I find no fault in him.
5   Then came Jesus forth, wearing the crown of thorns, and the purple robe. And Pilate saith unto them, Behold the man!
6   When the chief priests therefore and officers saw him, they cried out, saying, Crucify him, crucify him. Pilate saith unto them, Take ye him, and crucify him: for I find no fault in him.
7   The Jews answered him, We have a law, and by our law he ought to die, because he made himself the Son of God.
8   When Pilate therefore heard that saying, he was the more afraid;
9    And went again into the judgment hall, and saith unto Jesus, Whence art thou? But Jesus gave him no answer.
10 Then saith Pilate unto him, Speakest thou not unto me? knowest thou not that I have power to crucify thee, and have power to release thee?
11 Jesus answered, Thou couldest have no power at all against me, except it were given thee from above: therefore he that delivered me unto thee hath the greater sin.
12 And from thenceforth Pilate sought to release him: but the Jews cried out, saying, If thou let this man go, thou art not Caesar’s friend: whosoever maketh himself a king speaketh against Caesar.
13 When Pilate therefore heard that saying, he brought Jesus forth, and sat down in the judgment seat in a place that is called the Pavement, but in the Hebrew, Gabbatha.
14 And it was the preparation of the passover, and about the sixth hour: and he saith unto the Jews, Behold your King!
15 But they cried out, Away with him, away with him, crucify him. Pilate saith unto them, Shall I crucify your King? The chief priests answered, We have no king but Caesar.
16 Then delivered he him therefore unto them to be crucified. And they took Jesus, and led him away.
17 And he bearing his cross went forth into a place called the place of a skull, which is called in the Hebrew Golgotha:
18 Where they crucified him, and two other with him, on either side one, and Jesus in the midst.
19 And Pilate wrote a title, and put it on the cross. And the writing was, JESUS OF NAZARETH THE KING OF THE JEWS.
20 This title then read many of the Jews: for the place where Jesus was crucified was nigh to the city: and it was written in Hebrew, and Greek, and Latin.
21 Then said the chief priests of the Jews to Pilate, Write not, The King of the Jews; but that he said, I am King of the Jews.
22 Pilate answered, What I have written I have written.
23 Then the soldiers, when they had crucified Jesus, took his garments, and made four parts, to every soldier a part; and also his coat: now the coat was without seam, woven from the top throughout.
24 They said therefore among themselves, Let us not rend it, but cast lots for it, whose it shall be: that the scripture might be fulfilled, which saith, They parted my raiment among them, and for my vesture they did cast lots. These things therefore the soldiers did.
25 Now there stood by the cross of Jesus his mother, and his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Cleophas, and Mary Magdalene.
26 When Jesus therefore saw his mother, and the disciple standing by, whom he loved, he saith unto his mother, Woman, behold thy son!
27 Then saith he to the disciple, Behold thy mother! And from that hour that disciple took her unto his own home.

Rome used the cross as a brutal method for executing criminals.

Through Jesus’ sacrificial act, its message became one of hope and life for those who believe in Him.

The cross meant various things to different people in the gospel account.

To Pilate, Judea’s governor, it was the place where an innocent man had died. The Pharisees and Sadducees, on the other hand, saw the cross as the way to eliminate a problem—it meant that the radical rabbi was finished, and their position and authority were no longer threatened.

When Judas Iscariot heard that Jesus was condemned to die, he became greatly distressed.

I believe the betrayer had thought his actions would force Jesus to declare His kingdom, with Judas taking a high position in the new government.

Instead, his error in judgment crushed any personal ambition.

In that culture, the cross represented shameful crime.

Knowing the perfection of her son’s life and His identity as the Son of God, Mary must have been certain it was undeserved.

She also no doubt saw it as fulfillment of prophecy: When Jesus was just days old, Simeon had prophesied that a sword would one day pierce Mary’s soul. (See Luke 2:34-35.)

The cross brought that about.

To Jesus’ disciples, the crucifixion was the time when their beloved friend and Messiah died. Their close relationship with Jesus seemed to end, as did their dream of being freed from Roman jurisdiction.

What response would you give to the question, “What does the cross mean to you?”

Is it the place where a good man lost his life, a troublemaker was eliminated, or the Son of God died to save you?

Where Your Mind Goes, Your Feet Goes…

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Psalms 37:1-8 (KJV)

1 Fret not thyself because of evildoers, neither be thou envious against the workers of iniquity.
2 For they shall soon be cut down like the grass, and wither as the green herb.
3 Trust in the Lord, and do good; so shalt thou dwell in the land, and verily thou shalt be fed.
4 Delight thyself also in the Lord; and he shall give thee the desires of thine heart.
5 Commit thy way unto the Lord; trust also in him; and he shall bring it to pass.
6 And he shall bring forth thy righteousness as the light, and thy judgment as the noonday.
7 Rest in the Lord, and wait patiently for him: fret not thyself because of him who prospereth in his way, because of the man who bringeth wicked devices to pass.
8 Cease from anger, and forsake wrath: fret not thyself in any wise to do evil.

The Lord promises to give us the desires of our hearts.

But many people take this passage out of context, forgetting that their own mindset plays a vital part in bringing it to fruition.

As my mother once said, “Where your mind goes, your feet go, so be careful what you think about.”

What is your responsibility when it comes to claiming promises from God?

Delight yourselves in the Lord (Ps. 37:4).

Christians should rejoice in God and desire to walk in obedience.

The Lord must have first place in your life before you can claim the promise in this verse.

Commit your way to the Lord (v. 5). Allow God to change any aspect of your ambition that is not His will.

Remember that when He doesn’t answer a prayer as you wished, it is for a reason.

Trust in Him (v. 5). God is merciful, all-knowing, kind, and generous.

You can trust Him with your hopes and dreams.

Rest in Him (v. 7). Resting in the Lord means trusting Him to answer prayers in His timing or transform your aspirations so they conform to His will.

Wait upon the Lord patiently (v. 7). Jesus waited three decades before beginning His three-year ministry on earth.

According to His example, waiting is one of the key principles of Christian living.

Do your desires align with God’s purpose and plan for your life?

He longs to give His followers abundant blessings and fullness of joy. So allow your dreams to be conformed to the Lord’s will, and follow His guidance faithfully.

Only when you surrender to Him will you experience God’s best for your life.

Rest in His Grace, Not Worldly Yearnings…

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2 Peter 2:9-18 (KJV)

9 The Lord knoweth how to deliver the godly out of temptations, and to reserve the unjust unto the day of judgment to be punished:
10 But chiefly them that walk after the flesh in the lust of uncleanness, and despise government. Presumptuous are they, selfwilled, they are not afraid to speak evil of dignities.
11 Whereas angels, which are greater in power and might, bring not railing accusation against them before the Lord.
12 But these, as natural brute beasts, made to be taken and destroyed, speak evil of the things that they understand not; and shall utterly perish in their own corruption;
13 And shall receive the reward of unrighteousness, as they that count it pleasure to riot in the day time. Spots they are and blemishes, sporting themselves with their own deceivings while they feast with you;
14 Having eyes full of adultery, and that cannot cease from sin; beguiling unstable souls: an heart they have exercised with covetous practices; cursed children:
15 Which have forsaken the right way, and are gone astray, following the way of Balaam the son of Bosor, who loved the wages of unrighteousness;
16 But was rebuked for his iniquity: the dumb ass speaking with man’s voice forbad the madness of the prophet.
17 These are wells without water, clouds that are carried with a tempest; to whom the mist of darkness is reserved for ever.
18 For when they speak great swelling words of vanity, they allure through the lusts of the flesh, through much wantonness, those that were clean escaped from them who live in error.

God warns us against misguided desires, because sinful passions can lead to emptiness, suffering, disappointment, pain, and even death.

Wise believers let the Father direct their yearnings–and then make changes if necessary.

Impure desires have been part of the “flesh” nature since the fall of man, and they can be hard to see in ourselves.

Instead of obvious things like theft, drugs, or immorality, they often involve more subtle attitudes and behaviors, like hoping for a rival’s downfall, despising authority (2 Peter 2:10), obsessing about wealth (1 Tim. 6:9), or even speaking arrogant and vain words.

Since worldly passions can cause great damage (2 Peter 2:18), believers are to deny them (Titus 2:11-12).

But we can’t overcome these desires on our own. Submitting to God’s Spirit is the only way to live righteously.

The Lord knows what we really desire–and more importantly, what we need–even when cloudy judgment leads us astray.

And He understands honest mistakes. When a believer misinterprets the Spirit’s guidance or receives bad advice from a friend, God looks at the heart.

He may allow the consequences of a poor choice to play out, but He won’t shame His children for an honest mistake.

He can turn a bad situation into something good (Rom. 8:28).

God can save us from worldly desires, but we must be willing to commit ourselves to Him and trust that His response is the best thing for us.

When we put our lives entirely in the Father’s hands, we can claim the wonderful promises He has for us and then rest in His grace.