Fence Crawling

“The answer is always the word of God—it’s really that simple—live it and live, or ignore it and die.”

The Double Edged Sword

Last week we talked about the rest that is offered by God, the rest from our striving and anxieties caused by having to try and earn our way into the Kingdom of God and by facing this life’s challenges alone. We discovered by studying chapter three that our rest is a result of trusting in God’s grace through Jesus Christ and his righteousness rather than in our own. It is also rest from our fears and worries knowing that we do not have to face this life alone and that his grace is power and freedom.

In other words—stop trying to do everything yourself and let God be God, cling to his promises and live in the joy and the hope that that confidence brings. Faith is freedom—faith is rest.

Faith in what? That’s the million dollar question. We find the answer in God’s word, and the answer is God’s word. We must trust God’s word, we must know God’s word and we must live God’s word. I can say without hesitation that every evil perpetrated on mankind, every fear, every malady, every grief—every struggle we face and issue we fear—has it’s roots in sin somewhere, the failure by someone, somewhere, to live according to God’s word.

It really is that simple. Whether it was a decision you made five minutes ago to do something contrary to God’s word, or as a result of the original sin back in the garden of Eden that opened the floodgates of death and decay on God’s perfect world, it could have all been avoided by resting in God’s word and not having to try the boundaries just to see what will happen. “It seems right to me, what can it hurt?”

—Everything.

That’s why the first few verses of Hebrews four warns us, as did chapter three for that matter, not to harden our hearts, not to walk in rebellion and disobedience—to what? To God’s voice, to God’s word.

Since therefore it remains that some must enter it, (His rest) and those to whom it was first preached did not enter because of disobedience, again He designates a certain day, saying in David, “Today,” after such a long time, as it has been said: “Today, if you will hear His voice,
Do not harden your hearts.”

For if Joshua had given them rest, then He would not afterward have spoken of another day.

Heb 4:6-8

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Thinking about this, ‘trying the boundaries and hardening our hearts to God’s voice’ I was reminded of back when we were ranching and we still had a good part of one of our summer pastures fenced off with electric wire. Parts of the original ranch had been subdivided so Donna’s dad had just put up electric fence to keep the cows off the sold parts.

The fence was pretty remote so he had a solar charger hooked to a 12 volt battery powering the fence, which worked great—most of the time. One summer the cows all decided they really wanted to get through that fence and into the neighbors pasture, you know the old saying; “The grass is always greener on the other side”—A cow first said that, and it is one of the primary cow rules of thumb.

Up there with; Never go graze when there’s a hay yard to stand next to all day while we wait for food. Never start calving until it’s storming and cold and; Make sure you do most of your pooping in the barn so the rancher has something to do in the spring. Important lessons that cows pass from generation to generation.

So, after finding the cows in the neighbors’ field a couple times and the electric wire down I started keeping a closer eye on them. I would go up the hill to find them all standing along that fence a few feet back making sure they didn’t touch it because cows really do hate being zapped, as does anyone, but their calves—well they didn’t know better.

So, cow’s aren’t as dumb as they pretend to be, they would let their curious calves get between them and the wire and about the time they were sticking their noses out to sniff at this strange little wire their momma’s all seemed so intrigued by, the cows would nudge the calf from behind pushing it through the wire, or at least causing the calf to jump and maybe snag the wire pulling it down or breaking it. As soon as the wire hit the ground it would short out and voilaParty time—’let’s go girls!’

No more boundaries, they didn’t even care if I was watching them, rebellious ungrateful cows. Ranchers call these kind of critters “fence crawlers”

They had a 150 acres behind them  and they had to obsess over the 20 acres next door.

The problem I ran into was the more the wire got knocked down, the more charge it would take out of the battery and it would take the solar charger a few days to charge it up well enough to put the fear back into them. So after a while it was, hey, this zap ain’t so bad—let’s just do it. They wouldn’t even bother pushing the kids through first anymore.

Seek first meme

Thots

Sounds like us. ‘Rules schmules’, I been beyond those boundaries many times, I don’t even feel a twinge anymore. And we’re off where we shouldn’t ought to be and then wondering why we are being chased by a frazzled shepherd and we’re not being blessed in our wanderings—we have stopped even realizing that we are wandering. ‘Oh, that fence has been down for a long time—nobody pays attention to that!’ Abstinence till marriage? Pshaw! Closing down the bars and shaking my bootie for all to see? Don’t body shame me!

Watching porn and shows that glorify sexual pursuits, fantasizing? So what? Ignoring God’s call to use my time, talents and money to glorify him? That’s old school, I have a career and a dream to pursue—I need to take care of me right?

But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you. Mat 6:33

Those fences have been down for a long time—nobody pays attention to that!’— God does.

His ways never change, his word is eternal. “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today and forever.” And what is Jesus? The word of God, the one who also wields the sword of judgement. We need to wake up church and look at where we’re at. Are we even close to the right pasture anymore or are we in the neighbors hay field bloating on alfalfa because it just tastes so good.

A cow loves green alfalfa—but it will make a cow bloat up until it can’t even breath—and then it dies. That’s not in the cow rule of thumb hand book and that’s why the rancher builds fences. I replaced that electric fence with barbed wire by the way. God won’t do that, we are not livestock, we are his children, created in his image with the understanding of what is right and wrong—because he puts it in our hearts and teaches us with his word—but he leaves it to us to obey or not to obey. A caged child is an abomination and God loves us too much to do that to us.

The question is, do we love him enough to obey and stay in the pasture he has prepared for us knowing that he will always lead us beside the still waters? One thing I noticed about wandering cows, they usually come back when they get thirsty enough. There are only so many watering holes in cow country Montana, as there is in life. God always puts us where we can be taken care of, we just need to stay there.

How do we know where that is? Again, the answer is, the word of God. The answer is always the word of God—it’s really that simple—live it and live, or ignore it and die

Sorry if that’s not a feel good sentiment but the church has had too many feel good sentiments fed to her as a steady diet of; platitudes and catchy sayings that fit well in a song posing as the word of God and we are about ready to bloat and suffocate as a result. It is already too late for many.

Therefore, since a promise remains of entering His rest, let us fear lest any of you seem to have come short of it. Heb 4:1

If you are reading this, it is not too late for you.

Grace meme

For we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin. 16 Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need. Heb 4:15—16

BAR COVER

Barbarians in The Kingdom

Be blessed my friends!

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Jesus- One of us?

“Why is it all so hard? –Because we fear God and we believe the lies that we are not worthy and that God does not care about us.”

Secure

Last week we looked at who Jesus is in light of Hebrews chapter one. Hebrews starts out by making it clear that Jesus is God, God the Son, creator and redeemer. The second chapter then explains how Jesus became on of us–and why.

17 Therefore, in all things He had to be made like His brethren, that He might be a merciful and faithful High Priest in things pertaining to God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people. 18 For in that He Himself has suffered, being tempted, He is able to aid those who are tempted. Heb 2:17—18

Bottom line, Jesus became one of us to destroy death for those who are willing to accept the life that he offers. And that is of course huge!

But there was another reason. He also became one of us because we just were not listening before. (Heb 1:1) God had sent prophet after prophet, even angels to speak for him. He appeared as a burning bush, a pillar of fire and smoke, He even gave us stone tablets that he wrote on himself, but we just weren’t getting it. We kept turning his living word, meant to turn our hearts to him and each other into just a set of rules and demands. We even used them to lord over, control and condemn one another.

So Jesus came as one of us, a common man with a ready smile, eyes to look into ours, hands to hold and ears to hear, and explained to us what it was all about, what his Father had intended all along and how we could be restored to the life that was lost so long ago, he revealed the love in the word and showed us his Father’s heart.

Jesus came to show us the way.

The One Calf

brown and black cattle
Photo by Brett Sayles on Pexels.com

Back when we were big time ranchers—not really, we had about thirty pair—I learned a lesson one day about how cows think. Or,  should I say, don’t think. They just do what they do and if you want them to do otherwise you are a lot better off if you can make them think it’s their idea.

It was spring, calving was done, the calves were branded and we needed to move them off the hay fields around the house and into the hills—their summer range. So I enlisted the help of my nephew Mike on his dirt bike and I got on my trusty cow pony Randy, and we gathered up the cows and calves and headed them for the gate at the upper end of the pasture to push them out, across the neighbors field, across the county road and through another gate from there they could be pushed up into what we called “the hills”.

All was going well, we got the cows and calves rounded up fairly easy and headed to the gate, most of them knew what time of the year it was and where they were headed. Cows might be dumb but they have great memories. We got them through the gate, all except for one calf—there’s always one—who just couldn’t figure out the concept of there suddenly being an opening where there had not been in all her many weeks of life before. She peeled off and ran the other way.

I doubled back to cut her off but she just kept getting around me in spite of Randy’s enthusiasm for cutting. I finally had to just let her go because the rest of the herd were on the move and out the gate and we needed to make sure they went where they were supposed to. Mike and I got the herd where they were going easy enough, once they got through the gate across the road they took off up over the big hill towards the sheltered ravines, green grass and water they knew was up there.

Once the cows were out of site and well away from the gate we headed back for the errant calve, Mike on his bike and I on my horse. We chased that calf around on that forty acres for way too long, up and down hills, through coulees and brush—all to no avail, she was not about to go through that gate. “Just let me stay here where I’ve always been, I’ll be fine.” I suppose if I was a real cowboy I would have just roped her and dragged her over. I’m lucky if I can rope a fence post with both my feet on the ground.

filtner+cowboy

Give me a break, I grew up in Minnesota, on the water, not a horse. I had a good horse though; Randy had a great instinct for herding cows and cutting, but this calf was determined. It’s amazing how they can suddenly find the steepest hills and the thorniest bushes when they don’t want to be pushed.

Well, after  a long frustrating exercise in futility Mike’s bike was running out of gas and so was Randy. I finally said, “We’ll have to just leave her for now, maybe she’ll have a change of heart when she gets hungry.”

I thanked Mike and went back to the house. Later that afternoon I went out to see where my renegade calf was hanging out and I heard a distant mooing being answered by a much closer bawling calf. I realized that the cow who belonged to this calf had come all the way back from over the hill and was standing at the gate across the road mooing for her calve who was now standing at the gate she had refused to go through all day, mooing back. All I had to do was open both the gates and the cow came, retrieved her calf and led her back across the road, up the long trail over the hill and rejoined the herd. Huh, that was easy.

‘’Why couldn’t I do that?’ I had tried all morning to get her through that gate, persuasion, force, trickery—“It’s wide open, just go!—Trust me!” What was the difference? I knew what was best for this calf, all I wanted to do was get her back home with her herd, back where she belonged, but she just wasn’t getting it. I was that big scary guy whooping and hollering on top of that much bigger snorting beast. And then there was the other guy on that roaring metal beast kicking up dust and making a stink.

“I’m not going that way, it can’t be safe!” Then along comes a cow, a lumbering lowly bovine, calling her name, beckoning her come, in her own language, flesh of her flesh and bone of her bone—just like her in every way.Oh, okay, now I get it, just follow you and I’ll be okay.”

close up photography of cows
Photo by Kat Jayne on Pexels.com

I just had to get out of the way and let her go where she was led.

Thots

That’s what Jesus did. The Father had tried time after frustrating time to get us to go the right way, to push us, lead us, entice us but we failed to listen to the shepherds, the prophets and the angels who came to show and teach us the way. The Father even came himself but the people were afraid—”we cannot bear to be in his presence, go up and speak for us!” That’s why we got the written law, because the people were afraid of God when he came down on the mountain to be with them so they sent Moses up to bring back a message. Because of our own ignorance and sinfulness people hid from God—Adam, Adam, where are you?

And then came the promised one, Jesus. He came to us speaking our language, flesh of our flesh and bone of our bone, a strong, hardworking yet gentle man with a ready smile and a heart for the hurting who said simply, ‘This is the way, walk in it. Small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life. Follow me.’

narrow path

Why is that? Why is it so hard? Because we fear God, we fear our own sinfulness and we believe the lies that we are not worthy and that God does not care about us. Jesus is still calling out your name and he has opened wide the gates and the way is clear. Stay on the path, stay in him, he will never let you go, you are secure.

27 My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me. 28 And I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; neither shall anyone snatch them out of My hand. 29 My Father, who has given them to Me, is greater than all; and no one is able to snatch them out of My Father’s hand. 30 I and My Father are one.” John 10

Jesus does not plan on failing. He was sent by the Father to round up all his ch

ildren, his lost sheep, and he is bringing them home where he will present us to his Father with a smile proclaiming to all the heavens:

“Here am I and the children whom God has given Me.” Heb 1:13

Our hearts are safe in his care so long as we just keep following him up that hill. On the other side are green pastures, clear pools of water and the rest of the family who awaits us.

 

 

Double Barrel

“When your child is in imminent danger thirty feet is like a mile.”

Surely twomen-drivers-virgil-stephenshe arm of the Lord is not too short to save, nor his ear too dull to hear. Is 59:1

 


A while ago, back when we were still ranching on the Heyu-Cow, we needed to move some cows from one pasture to another. We had what was called the lower pasture where we would pasture some cows in the spring and then move them a mile or so up the road to the upper pasture. This involved a little round up to get all the cows and calves out of the pasture, through the gate and onto the road. This usually required a few people on horses and a pick up or two.

Most years this meant that we would have to get a couple neighbors or a friend or two to come help with our little cattle drive. One particular year we were kind of short on horses so some friends from church offered to bring out a few horses and help out. So on round up day they showed up bright and early with their horses in tow, including one big gelding named Silas, that my wife, Donna, rode. Everything went well, we got the cattle in the lower pasture—a hundred acres of badlands—all rounded up, out the gate, up the road, and into their summer pasture. Then everyone rode back to the house to let the horses cool off and have some lunch.

Once back at the house our daughter Jessie, who was two at the time, asked if she could ride the horsy. Donna had been riding the big gelding all day and they had gotten along well, so trusting the well broken horse she set Jessie up on the saddle and starting leading him to the trailer. After they had gone a few feet Donna asked Jessie if she was having fun. Jessie said in her little girl voice; “Uh, huh.” All of a sudden that horse came uncorked and starting bucking like there was a mountain Lion on his back.

Jessie, hanging on to the saddle horn, started screaming and this only made Silas even more determined to rid himself of this shrieking creature. The only thing we could figure out was that she was so light that Silas didn’t know she was there until she said something and that just freaked him out. I’m seeing all this from about thirty feet away and I started running towards them knowing there was little chance of getting there in time. When your child is in imminent danger thirty feet is like a mile.

At the same time I’m trying to cover the impossible distance, Donna is holding on to the lead rope with one hand trying to control the panicked horse, and reach for Jessie with the other hand. She was wishing her arms were longer— but you know what? I will never forget this sight as long as I live. While still holding that bucking horse with her left hand she grabbed a hold of Jessie’s arm with her right hand and pulled her right up out of the saddle—which wasn’t hard because she was about to be launched—letting go of the horse the instant Jessie was clear so she could hold her in both arms, at this moment the horse spun around and aiming for the screaming little girl let loose with what Donna called later, both barrels, and hit Donna just above the knees on both legs with a terrible whap!.

Just then I got there, and Donna breathlessly said “Take her” as she handed me Jessie, terrified but wholly unscathed. Then Donna staggered over to the edge of the driveway, laid down in the grass and passed out for a few moments from the pain of the blast she had just taken from the massive beast who suddenly was not her buddy anymore.

After a few moments Donna was able to shake it off and was okay. She had some nasty bruises for a while but she had saved her daughter and that was all that mattered. Thank God for super human mommy powers.

Thots

Surely the arm of the Lord is not too short to save,
nor his ear too dull to hear. Is 59:1

 

We are blessed to know, because we have the stories and incredible history recorded in the Bible covering many thousands of years, that we have a God who is involved in a very real way in his creation even though it seems sometimes that all is just chaos with no possible way out. But there is always a plan. And we are also blessed to know that there is always a plan for us as individuals too.

We are blessed to know that, God hears one cry at a time and reaches out to take your hand.  He can do that in a very real sense, with nothing hindering him being there for you, because of what was accomplished on the cross so long ago. No longer can our sins cause our Father to turn away, no longer do we have to wait for the promised one, he has come, he is here, his arm is not too short to save nor his ear to dull to hear.

Donna knew when her little girl was screaming in terror that nothing was going to prevent her from getting her off that saddle. To Jessie, that 8 second or so ride probably seemed like an eternity, I know it did to me as I was trying in vain to get there in time. But then the arm reached her, in spite of the pain that Donna had to suffer when that huge, out of control horse turned on her, she rescued her little girl.

I know Donna would willingly do the same thing over and over without hesitation and in fact she still bears the marks on her legs from those kicks, but to her it is just a reminder of her love and an assurance that her daughter is safe, and still here.

Jesus did that for you. He grabbed a hold of that which threatened to destroy you, reached out and snatched you from certain death and he would not hesitate to do it again, even knowing the great pain it will cause him. He still carries the marks, and they remind him of his great love for you. When he opens his hands and see the scars he is reminded of his great love for you, he knows that you are safe, you are in the palm of his hands.

Do not fear, he hears you.

He said to his disciples, “Why are you so afraid? Do you still have no faith?” Mark 4:40