Sucking Mud

“. . .they have no idea how sweet the water is. And heaven forbid we go near the mud. . .”

voice of one

“The voice of one crying in the wilderness:
‘Prepare the way of the Lord; Luke 3:4

How can we be the voice of one, prepare the way of the Lord?

It’s just a matter of loving people for Jesus, of being willing to share what we have been so freely given. That’s all he wants from us, to tell people where the water is. Remember the Samaritan woman at the well whom Jesus once asked for a swig of water?

Jesus answered and said to her, “If you knew the gift of God, and who it is who says to you, ‘Give Me a drink,’ you would have asked Him, and He would have given you living water.” John 4:10

Sucking Mud-

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Several years ago when we were still raising cattle on the Heyu—cow Ranch we had a nearly snow-less winter, boy, those were the days—wouldn’t that be nice? Well it was till it was followed by a very dry spring and summer which would turn out to be just the start of several years of drought in Montana—the early 2000’s.

No snow followed by pathetic spring rains meant that there was no water in the reservoirs, reservoirs that we depended on to water the cows in the summer months. Donna and I had about thirty cow calf pairs when the water started disappearing. I remember we had gone away for the weekend, and when we got back we went to the upper pasture to check on our cows.

It had already been very hot for several weeks and when we went to check the reservoir in that pasture what we saw was a mud hole where there used to be water, with several cows standing knee deep in the mud sucking water out of the hoof prints.

We immediately went and hauled a big water trough up to them and I had to start hauling water to the cows every day with a tank in my truck. This was an expensive and time consuming proposition, a cow can drink 20 or 30 gallons of water a day when it’s hot out.  And a black cow in the summer sun won’t last long without water.  Finally we were forced to bring the cows back to winter pasture near the house so we could more readily get water to them but we did not have grass or water for that many cows.  We decided to sell about half of them.

Now the cows knew this pasture, they knew it had two water holes in it but they were both dried up to nothing but mud also, so I put a the water tank in the corner of the barn yard pasture and kept it full of cold clean water.  The cows knew what a water tank was so they didn’t have much trouble figuring out where the water was—so I thought.

A few days later I ran the cows up into the barnyard so we could sort out the ones we were going to sell, I noticed that one of the cows, was caked with mud from her feet to her belly, some dry, some still wet, her face was also caked with mud.  While I was trying to get her into the corral so I could load her into the truck, she ran by the water tank, suddenly stopped and dropped her head into the water and started sucking like she had not drank in days— I then realized she hadn’t.

She had spent three days down in the big coulee trying to suck water out of the mud in the place she knew there was supposed to be water.  My first thought was, “Why didn’t the other cows tell her where the water was?”  Now I don’t know how much cows can communicate to one another but I know they are herd animals and there are never too many secrets among them.

I decided she wasn’t going to town on that load and kept her around a couple more days so she could recover before being shipped.  I don’t even want to imagine how thirsty she must have been. That explains why she was covered in mud.

 

Share the water

That’s what the world is doing, sucking mud, trying to survive another day hoping that they can somehow, someday, finally quench their thirst before it’s too late. They might see us all huddled around the water tank doing things they don’t understand, not paying any attention to them except to maybe holler that they are killing themselves down there in the mud. But they have no idea what we are doing, they have no idea how sweet the water is. And heaven forbid we go near the mud. . .

When we find the water it’s tempting to just plunge our heads in and drink, to drink and rejoice that we have found what we needed forgetting the past but we cannot forget those who are still thirsty, who may not even know where the water is— or they heard rumors that it isn’t real, it’s just a big tank full of pamphlets that describe what water used to taste like—but it’s just a myth—there is no water anymore.

But there is plenty of mud, sweet wonderful mudjust keep suckingStupid Christians anyway.

We can no longer just hang out around the water tank and hope people come see what we’re doing. We have to bring the water to the people. Once they taste the sweet life giving water the mud will not look so good anymore.

We do that by loving people for Jesus, all people all the time.

We have to get away from the mob at the water tank (at the church) sometimes and be the voice of one.

We have to get over our aversion to people who are covered in mud, the mud of sin. In their minds they are only doing what they think they have to do to get through another day —without water.

living water

 

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The Riddle

“What did you go out into the wilderness to see? A reed shaken by the wind? 25 But what did you go out to see? A man clothed in soft garments? Indeed those who are gorgeously appareled and live in luxury are in kings’ courts. 26 But what did you go out to see? A prophet? Yes, I say to you, and more than a prophet. Luke 7

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Remember the old batman character the Riddler? He was always messing with Batman’s mind by giving clues to his true intentions in the form of a riddle.

Riddle me this caped crusaders; What is covered in camel’s hair but is not a camel? What speaks the words of God but is not found in a temple? What eats locusts and honey but is not a wild beast, and stands as sturdy as an oak but is not a tree. What is not concerned about being politically correct and not offending anyone yet draws hearers from far and wide?

Answer—A true prophet and more than a prophet, the voice of one—John the Baptist.

The crowds weren’t drawn to John because he was a smooth talker in fancy clothes. They were drawn to John because he was honest, because he spoke truth, and the people were hungry for the truth. Which is of course why they now followed Jesus—he also spoke truth—he could do nothing else because he is truth.

People were not drawn to John because he looked good in his designer clothes and impeccably groomed beard and stylish haircut, people did not walk miles in the hot sun into the middle of nowhere because they wanted to hear the message of abundant living, the secret to success, that some well-to-do preacher was offering. They went because they were hungry for truth, hungry for something real; because John was proclaiming, for no apparent personal gain of his own, with no pretense or fancy talk, that the Kingdom of God, the Redeemer was coming and coming now.

“The Redeemer will come to Zion,
to those in Jacob who repent of their sins,”
declares the Lord.

 “As for me, this is my covenant with them,” says the Lord. “My Spirit, who is on you, will not depart from you, and my words that I have put in your mouth will always be on your lips. . .  Is 59:20—21

They went to John because they were hungry for God, hungry to be right with God, hungry for the word and seeing and hearing this wild eyed man in the desert who cared not about his own pride or esteem, who wasted no energy worrying about whether he would look good enough and preach good enough to make people want to come back next week, hearing him tell them that he had a way for them to do that—to be right with God—'”repent and be baptized” and be ready.’ ‘Believe in the one who was to come, “the lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.’”

Peter would preach that same message on the day of Pentecost three years later—Repent and be baptized— but this time it was not to receive the one who is to come, but to receive the one who has come.

38 Then Peter said to them, “Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. Acts 2

This was a fulfillment of John’s promise that one was coming who would baptize them with the Holy Spirit and with fire.

But for now, on that day when Jesus asked the people, why did you go to see John?—No one else was offering them that hope for grace, no one else was telling them their sins could be taken away, let alone the sins of the world, or that they could soon even be immersed in the Holy Spirit.

The priests had made a business out of offering only temporary absolution, ‘keep coming back, keep buying the animals for the sacrifice we sell here, keep paying the temple tax and the tithe, keep doing everything the teachers of the law tell you to do, you dirty sinners, if not for you God’s Kingdom would have come a long time ago!’

Garments of righteousness

Jesus wasn’t trying to make the point that we need to dress modestly like John did. He was telling us that it is what’s on the inside that’s important.

I will greatly rejoice in the Lord, My soul shall be joyful in my God; For He has clothed me with the garments of salvation, He has covered me with the robe of righteousness, As a bridegroom decks himself with ornaments, And as a bride adorns herself with her jewels. Is 61:10

Here are the garments that we need to wear, the ones that are truly important, the ones that we wear out of respect and love for the one we stand before as a bride.

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I always tell the groom to be when we are preparing for a wedding I am performing when he is stressing over how he is going to look up there in his Tux or whatever as he is standing before a crowd nervous and self-conscious—”No one is going to be looking at you”, the minute that bride comes in, all eyes are on her. She even has her own song.

The bride is usually all decked out in a white dress that is made just special for her to dazzle and magnify her beauty. They spend hours on the hair and the makeup, the flowers and accessories, veils, trains, jewels, whatever and as soon as the groom sees her the last thing he is thinking about is whether or not he looks dorky.

He is awestruck and madly in love at that point and can never imagine ever feeling any other way about her, she is the very center of his universe.

Every time I gave away one of my daughters at their wedding I had the same thought, “Boy, you had better realize how lucky you are.”

That is how Jesus sees us—as the most beautiful thing he has ever laid eyes on and he is thrilled beyond comprehension that we have chosen to be his, that his Father has given us to him. He is honored and happy that we have accepted the garments of salvation, and me the robe of righteousness he offers to us and that we chose to wear them just for him.

The lamb of God who has taken away the sins of the world has made us his bride, and we are perfect and beautiful and he can never imagine himself loving us less. How can we not rejoice in that?

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It’s not luck that gets the groom the beautiful bride, it’s the unfailing, sacrificial love and devotion that the husband to be showers on the one he has chosen to be his bride—Jesus has chosen you.

 

 

 

Jesus Still Shows Up

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 “Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!”

Jesus doesn’t just appear on the river bank anymore, but he does still show up. I have seen it happen over and over again, when Jesus touches the heart of a person because of the witness I or someone else might bear, it is very evident, often very emotional and I never get tired of seeing it—it always makes my heart rejoice.

Seeing a hard heart melt, the fear dissipate like fog on a lake when the sun rises, seeing the tears of healing and joy flow, often leaving the person having the encounter wondering why they are even crying when they suddenly feel so full of joy. You cannot tell me that Jesus is not real and that he does not reveal himself to people today, I have seen it happen over and over again.

Jesus still shows up today—”Behold the Lamb of God” But this almost always happens after someone comes announcing that he is coming. Before Jesus can come into a heart, can be believed and received, before the Father can melt a cold heart there must be a harbinger, a messenger, a voice of one speaking with the voice of the one.

We are called to proclaim the Lord, just as John the Baptist—the first witness of Christ.

22 Then they said to him, “Who are you, that we may give an answer to those who sent us? What do you say about yourself?” 23 He said:

“I am

‘The voice of one crying in the wilderness:
“Make straight the way of the Lord,”’

as the prophet Isaiah said.” John 1

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The Apostle Paul would also quote from Isaiah later, a follow up question to this answer.

And how shall they believe in Him of whom they have not heard? And how shall they hear without a preacher?”

 And how shall they preach unless they are sent? As it is written:

“How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the gospel of peace, . . .“        

 Rom 10:14,15

Reminds me of a little story I heard years ago.

No Back Up Plan

After Jesus ascended back to heaven following his resurrection the Angel Gabrielle asked him how he was going to get the good news of his resurrection power to the world. He replied, “I left my followers to spread the news and all who hear it will share it as well.” Gabrielle replied, “Sounds kind of risky, what is your back up plan?” To which Jesus answered; “I have no back up plan.”

Obviously this is a made up story but there is nothing in scripture to contradict the truth of it. In fact, the scripture we just read asks the same question; ‘how shall they hear unless someone is preaching the Gospel?’

Who is willing to be the voice of the one? It can be hard, it can be intimidating, it can be a sacrifice, it can land you in trouble and in some places even cost you your life or your freedom—as it did John the Baptist. The eternal fate of humanity depends on it, on us and it often seems like a futile pursuit. But the rewards of seeing hearts set free are unmatched by all the riches and comforts of the world.

I didn’t want to be the preacher, I don’t want to be the odd man at work who doesn’t live and react like everyone else. I didn’t want to have to put others before myself, to give up my dream of ranching or having my own business, of being able to spend all my weekends fishing, camping and hunting.

I didn’t want to have to study and pray all the time to be ready to give an answer for the hope that is in me—and I am not talking about just being a pastor— I am talking about living a life devoted to Jesus Christ and being a witness of his mercy and grace, his offer of salvation for all who call on his name.

I would rather just look out for my kingdom, build a life for my family and not worry about anyone else—but that is not why I was put on this earth, it is not why any of us was put on this earth and the rewards of following Jesus, of being the voice of one “Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world.” And being the voice of the one;—“Jesus loves you and wants to heal your broken heart and make his home with you, he will never leave you nor forsake you.”

Getting to be that voice and seeing Jesus show up because he was proclaimed—there is nothing on this earth, no joy, no treasure, no stimulation, no drug, nothing can compare to the reward of seeing Jesus heal a wounded heart. I know that joy, so now I do want to be the preacher. If I could figure out a way to preach 6 times a week in every small town in Carbon county and make a living, I would do it. I might just do it anyway—but that’s me, I have a fire in my heart and shut up in my bones and I have to speak or it consumes me.

But he is calling you also to speak, to speak words of life, of healing, ‘proclaiming Jesus is Lord, he loves you and he is just waiting for you to recognize him.’  Jesus does the healing, Jesus does the saving, that is his part, he just asks us to let people know that he is coming to do just that, if they will just turn and look to him, if they will just cry out ‘Lord save me,’ if they will just believe.

Then we get to rejoice with them.

John (the Baptist) Replied. . .

29 The bride belongs to the bridegroom. The friend who attends the bridegroom waits and listens for him, and is full of joy when he hears the bridegroom’s voice. That joy is mine, and it is now complete. John 3:29

Let your joy be complete, be the voice of the One.

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The Mad Prophet

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“. . . clumsy, uncouth, crude, unsophisticated, redneck— that’s the words, those don’t bother me so much as the condescending looks and attitudes do. ‘

“The voice of one crying in the wilderness:
‘Prepare the way of the Lord;
Make His paths straight.’”

Now John himself was clothed in camel’s hair, with a leather belt around his waist; and his food was locusts and wild honey. Mat 3:3—4

I think we can learn a thing or two from John the Baptist that is relevant to where we are as a church family today. Just as John the Baptist prepared the way for Jesus, prepared hearts for the message of Jesus and the subsequent outpouring in his day, the last days will need harbingers as well—they could very well be alive today, they could even be you.

Chew on that for a minute. —If you are mentoring or teaching, encouraging or equipping someone, you may very well be preparing the next John the Baptist, or you are the next John the Baptist. Don’t discount that idea or think it could never be someone like you.

11 “I baptize you with water for repentance. But after me comes one who is more powerful than I, whose sandals I am not worthy to carry. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. Mat 3:11

“I am not worthy”  Biblical prophets never considered themselves worthy, they were seldom well known until they went mad in the eyes of the world, and most often those who thought themselves superior to them didn’t take them seriously and told them to back off.

We cannot make either of those mistakes, we cannot discount others and we cannot discount ourselves—in fact, we are all called to prophesy.

I would like every one of you to speak in tongues, but I would rather have you prophesy. 1 Cor 14:5

It’s what your prophetic role is that becomes the question and whether or not you are bold enough to fulfill it.

The Lord likes to call those who, to the rest of the world, seem the least likely to fulfill the role he has in mind for them. It’s like God looks through High School yearbooks to find those voted least likely to succeed and chooses them. It might not be officially written in our year books but we all get labeled, classified, nonetheless. No matter our station in life at any given time we always seem to be either running from or trying to live up to a label.

I only recently embraced and became proud of what I call my barbarian side but it is something that has followed me all my life. Since I was a kid I have been labeled at various times as clumsy, uncouth, crude, unsophisticated, redneck— that’s the words, those don’t bother me so much as the condescending looks and attitudes do. We are all very adept at pegging people and being pegged, often times without a word and it is always very evident.

welder

Construction worker

I have worked with my hands all my life and never saw a lot of benefit to just putting in time in a classroom if they are not teaching something relevant or new.

Because of that I quit school at the start of my junior year to go into Job Corp to learn a trade that would make me a living. I had always done well in school but by the start of the 11th year it seemed like we just kept relearning the same stuff so I decided to stop wasting my time trying to stay awake in a classroom and do something more constructive. So before my classmates got that piece of paper and a tassel to hang on their car mirror for sticking it out I had gotten a GED, completed a heavy equipment operating course with over a thousand hours of operating time and was certified in three different types of welding.

While my former High school classmates were either going to work for minimum wage or going into debt to fund a college education they would spend much of their lives trying to repay, I was running back hoes, bulldozers and cranes and welding on pipeline jobs making decent money. But in most of the world’s eyes I was, and am, an uneducated construction worker.

Those of you who get dirty for a living know what I am talking about. There is often a little bit of an air of superiority in the way those who wear suits and ties to work relate to you—if they even bother to try. People assume you work with your hands because you are too stupid to do anything else.

This stigma carries into the church also. It’s not overt, but it is there. This is relevant because it is often a factor in who we choose to invest in as leaders. Surely the educated sharp dressed handsome man or the tastefully dressed young woman from the upstanding church family with no tats or piercings is the best candidate for the salaried position of her dreams in the big church.

I’m just saying, we need to stop looking at people like we are choosing the next cover model for GQ or Vanity Fair, we need to stop judging people by whether or not they have grease under their fingernails or letters after their names. And that goes both ways. Not all suits are snobs, many wish they had my job and my skills, they ae going insane sitting behind a desk all day.

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We cannot judge a person by outward appearances and the church establishment is probably the biggest offender. It goes all the way back to King David, and King Saul. Saul won the people’s choice award and David wasn’t even invited to the party, yet David became the king whose throne would endure forever.

And for you, don’t ever think you have to somehow look or act a part to win that part in the Kingdom of God. If you are called to be the preacher, the teacher, the evangelist, the prophet, the harbinger of the coming of the glory of the Lord—then don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.

Forge on my barbarian friends.

BAR COVER

Barbarians in the Kingdom