Escape from…

There are a lot of things that people can escape from—work, responsibility, slavery, abuse, prison… The first thing I think of, and is kind of what inspired this title is Escape from Alcatraz, a movie title from 1979 based on the true story.

Then there was the more noble escape attempt from a German POW camp in 1944 during WWII, that has become known by another movie title The Great Escape. The camp was deep in the heart of Nazi occupied Poland.

It seems pretty much the entire prisoner population was in on the escape and they spent a year digging nearly 400 feet of tunnel to get past the outer fence and guard towers—but they didn’t quite get far enough.

This, their third attempt at tunneling out, got them just past, but dangerously close, to a guard tower where they popped out. But once they broke the surface they were committed—it was now or never— so they went for it.

76 prisoners made it through the tunnel and into the woods before the 77th man was spotted emerging from the ground, sparking a massive man hunt and prison shakedown. All but 3 of the prisoners, were recaptured and, sadly, 50 of those were executed. The other three, with help from forged papers and sympathetic civilians, made it into allied territory and lived to tell the story of their harrowing and daring escape from the clutches of the enemy.

Their story would become the inspiration for the popular ‘60’s sitcom called Hogan’s Heroes. A show I loved as a kid by the way. In the TV show version the Germans are all bumbling idiots who have prisoners coming and going at will via their underground network of tunnels by which they pull off all sorts of espionage and sabotage against the Nazis.

Of course the hapless commander of the camp, the monocle wearing Colonel Klenck, believes his camp to be unescapable and delights in declaring so to anyone and everyone, usually just after a caper has been pulled off right under his nose by the unflappable American saboteur and supposed prisoner—Colonel Hogan—’There’s no escaping Stalag 13!

Que the credits and play the music. Leaving the audience laughing to themselves—”’No escaping Stalag 13?’ That’s what you think!”

That is of course what anyone who holds someone else against their will wants their captives to think.

It doesn’t matter the type of captor, prison camp commandant, prison warden, jail guard, abusive spouse, drug pusher, porn peddler, the devil himself—if they can convince you that there is no escaping, their job of keeping you enslaved and imprisoned in much easier. Because a hopeless captor is one who is much easier to manage.

Corruption

“he has given us, … his precious and very great promises, so that through them you may escape from the corruption”— Peter here is largely talking about us escaping the most destructive captor of all—our own flesh, a flesh corrupt and all but dead by virtue of our having been enticed and ensnared by the lust for things the enemy throws in front of us to lure us to our destruction.

The enemy wants us imprisoned in the hopelessness of the corruption of our flesh so that we either cannot, or believe we cannot, be freed. He wants us to believe that even if we were free there would  be nowhere for us to go and to be ignorant of the potential for greatness we have by virtue of us being created in the image of the creator himself, an image that was corrupted by sin.

The enemy, and those he uses to speak for him, wants to keep us excluded from participating in the divine nature that we should be a reflection of. Paul said much the same thing to the Church in Corinth.

If we accept the redemption, the forgiveness available to us by the blood of Christ and strive to be those who live in the freedom of the spirit rather than in the bondage the flesh would keep us in, we will one day be free of this corrupt flesh entirely and be resurrected just as our Lord was—incorruptible.

We will be changed in an instant from spiritual beings living in a dying and depleted body and into eternal beings that are now clothed with eternal, regenerated and perfect bodies of flesh and blood—just as Jesus now is—the heavenly Man who has gone before us to prepare the way for us in his Father’s house.    

Yes Colonel Klenck, there is escape from your Stalag, it happens all the time and we are in the process ourselves.

God’s grace is our exoneration and our pardon all at once, and in that our peace is multiplied. And we have it in writing.

This promise  that we can escape from the world’s corruption, through God’s divine power and partake of the divine nature, is a promise that is ours by virtue of the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord.  Knowledge is power. Especially when that knowledge is of God.

And how do we get that knowledge?

Primarily from the scriptures. The Holy Scriptures are our official pardon, signed, stamped and dated by the Supreme Judge of the universe and we need to know what is in those papers because the enemy of our souls does everything he can to keep us from reading and knowing what is written there. And if we do, he wants to recapture or at least dishearten us so that we cannot lead anyone else into the light of freedom.

The Germans executed those 50 recaptured prisoners of war, against the laws of the Geneva convention, to send a message of discouragement to all the rest, that attempts to escape are not worth the consequences of failure. But it had just the opposite affect because the knowledge that three men had gotten free inspired the entire POW population and word spread like wildfire.

The story of escape to freedom of even one person can inspire thousands to keep hope alive.  We who know Jesus have those stories. And if you do not, you need to know the story—the message of freedom and hope found in the scripture that can and will set you free as well—free from the prison of corruption so that you can write yourself into that story.

The enemy, the devil, has and is slaughtering thousands— millions—of freed prisoners to stop them from spreading the message that there is escape, but his attempts to silence have always served to inspire others. If one is willing to die for something then it must be greater than this life or anything it offers, it must be eternal—and eternity is worth dying for—and living for.

Just the irrational killing of so many simply to stop a story being told tells you how dangerous and powerful they think that story is. We have a dangerous faith—dangerous to those who would control and enslave us because it reveals and releases us to our true nature—the divine nature.

If you are to be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust, you have to know the words of life. The words the enemy is bent on destroying and discrediting.

We have to know, know and believe, that everything we need to live a life of freedom, to live a life of purpose, peace and meaning—all that we need to live a life of godliness—free from the corruption that would destroy all of that—can be found in the scriptures—the very words of God.  

We have the words of freedom, we have the hope and the assurance of final victory, we have been declared free and we must live as those who have that hope and that promise and not give up and give in. We should rejoice and find great comfort and hope in the words of freedom that are ours to claim.

Our redeemer lives–and so shall we.

Leadman

As a good leader you know that everything that happens under your watch is your responsibility.

Years ago I was working on a project at Rocky Mountain College in Billings. It was an addition on the Student Union building. I showed up shortly after it started to help form the walls for the foundation and quickly realized that the guys who were doing the work did not have all the stuff they needed, namely whaler brackets, and they did not really know what they were doing —the hundred foot of wall they were forming was as crooked as a dog’s hind leg.

The foreman was off getting some parts at the yard so I made a phone call to the shop to try and catch him because the guys had told me what he was after and I knew it was not what we needed.

I was no expert but I had been on a couple of big concrete jobs by then and had learned from the best. This was long before everyone carried cell phones so the best I could do was call the office and hope someone could run out to the yard and give him the message.

I missed the foreman, he had come and gone, but somehow I ended up talking to the big boss and I explained to him what was going on and he agreed that ‘yeah, you need some whaler brackets to straighten that wall— why don’t they have any?’  

We soon had some whaler brackets. Of course then I was worried that the foreman would be angry that I had seemingly gone over his head to get the right parts. Instead he was grateful that I had set the wall and the crew straight—he admitted that he was not very experienced in doing concrete foundations. I had to admire his humility anyway.

As the job progressed it wasn’t long before the crew was looking to me for guidance on how to form the walls that got higher and more complicated as we worked around the building. I was just a carpenter, same as everyone else, but one day the foreman came to me and asked, “Dan, I would like you to run the concrete crew.”

I said, “That would be fine but if you want me to push these guys I need to get paid to make it worth the push back.” (Actually I said it in more blunt construction terms; “If I’m going to be an asshole, I need asshole pay”) He said he would talk to the big boss and see what he says.

A day or two later the big boss came out to take a look at the job and he came over to where I was working and looked at a corner in the twelve foot tall foundation wall we were forming. He saw some bracing he thought was inadequate and said, “You know the hydraulic pressure of that much concrete is probably going to blow out that corner the way it’s done there.”

I looked at it and said, “Well, yeah, you’re probably right. I didn’t form this corner, Randy and Monty did.” At this —and I’ll never forget this—he turned and looked me in the eye and said; “A foreman has to take responsibility for everything his crew does.”

I looked at him for a moment and simply replied; “I’ll make sure it gets taken care of.”

That was his way of telling me that I was now the official leadman and I did get an extra dollar an hour on my paycheck. And a couple years later I got promoted to foreman.

We all have those moments when something changes the way you think and set’s you on a better course that leads to favor and blessing—if we’ll humble ourselves and listen.

I remember that day well, standing there in that hole on a hot summer day some 25 years ago, covered in form oil, dust and sweat, and it was a lesson I never forgot. And I still live by that rule to this day, as a Job superintendent and as a leader in the church. With authority comes great responsibility and everything that happens under your watch is your responsibility. And you cannot throw people under the buss to make yourself look faultless.

In the end that only makes you look small, and the people you lead will stop respecting you and the quality of the work will suffer greatly. Carrying the load of others’ mistakes or failures is never easy but that is what those who would lead, whether in business or in the church, are called to do.

It’s not just taking the responsibility, it’s striving to help others avoid those mistakes going forward and to recover and recoup from the mistakes already made.

Heavy is the Head

There’s an old saying that was popularized by William Shakespeare in Henry the IV; “Heavy is the head that wears the crown.”

Everyone wants to be in charge, until they are. True leaders know that they are servants who get others to follow by showing them the way, not just telling—carrying the burdens with them, not just demanding that they be carried. True leaders have been there and done that which they are now expecting of others while knowing that if the job is not done he will likely have to do or fix it himself.

Am I talking about construction or ministry? —both. Heavy is the head that wears the crown whether it’s a white hard hat or the anointing oil of ordination. And the older you get, and the more you understand the significance and the reasons why, the greater the burden becomes and the more valuable your leadership.

If others will listen. It’s the fool who despises the words of their elders.

Which is why we are told to submit.

People who have earned their authority didn’t get there by being lazy or foolish.

It is not for naught that Jesus gives certain persons the gift of leadership and then has them earn their crown—pay their dues so to speak. Those who don’t are more likely to fall, or more likely be knocked off their high horses.

Grace and favor come to the humble.

Our humility today, our humble and faithful service, will gain us the crown of glory. We do not get to lord over anyone today as if we have already been glorified and all must look up to us. We have our greatest example of that, of course in Jesus. Jesus set aside his glory and became a servant, a suffering servant.

Exaltation through Humility. Jesus literally took the blame for everything mankind has ever done, he bore all our sins on that cross, exemplified love, grace and selflessness and is now wearing the crown of the king of glory over all the universe.

Certainly, his was a heavy head as it was crowned with thorns. But he did it because he knew that the end result was worth it, the end result being the redemption of those he loved.

The same thing that should motivate us.

The Pure Milk

Instinct

One of the things I miss most about not ranching anymore is the adventure of calving. It can be one of the most challenging and stressful times in a ranch operation but also the most rewarding because, that is after all, the whole reason that you do what you do as a rancher—to bring those calves into the world to either sell in the fall, or use to build the herd that your whole operation and much of your life is centered around.

But each calve that hits the ground on your ranch is more than just a paycheck, it is a miracle—another life, vibrant, warm and curious, looking at the new world with big dark eyes, and within minutes struggling to stand up and get on with the business of life.

The most fond memories to me to me are of the ones who came in the middle of the coldest and darkest nights. Memorable because I had a nice cozy barn where I could get them in if I knew a cow was about to calve. I would herd an imminent mother into a stall where there was warm straw on the ground and enough light that I could keep an eye on them.

No matter the weather or the lateness of the hour it always seemed warm and safe in the barn. There is just no way to describe the feeling of being alone in the quiet of a barn in the night with an animal who trusts no other human in the world besides you.

To either witness and assist, as in the case of a heifer having her first calve, or to find the new born calve of a seasoned cow struggling to it’s feet shortly after being born, it’s always wonderful and amazing to behold.

One of the things that never ceased to amaze me about the whole calving scenario, and to me speaks volumes to the undeniable fact that there has to be a creator, is the fact that every calf within minutes of hitting the ground knows where to find the milk.

Think of it. Here is a calf who has just seen the world for the first time, has no experience in anything whatsoever except being shoved through a tight dark tunnel and dropped unceremoniously onto the cold hard ground in a heap of slime that moments earlier had been it’s whole world, it gets licked off by this giant four legged creature with a familiar sounding moo.

And the next thing you know it is pushing its hind end up on wobbly legs followed by first one, then two front legs, being perfectly placed under the front shoulders to push the calf up the rest of the way. And what is the first thing it does? From there it could go in any direction or no direction at all. It could fall down and decide it’s just too much work to do any more.

But no, it heads straight for the tiny little space just under the belly of the giant creature standing nearby, and latches onto the even tinier little spigot tucked underneath and makes the prefect sucking motion with its never before used mouth to get the pure milk that will give it everything it needs to keep it alive and strong for the next few hours, and will sustain it for the next several months as it grows by several hundred pounds.

You can’t tell me that that little pea brained calf who doesn’t know a barb wire fence from a chokecherry bush, or an ice cold creek from a bed of straw at that point, yet knows exactly where to go for it’s first meal, was not given that knowledge by the God who designed and created her.

How about you? With all your vast knowledge and life experience, do you know where to go for milk? Is that calf smarter, more blessed than you? You know where to go, you just have to guard your heart against thinking that you have had enough or that there are other things that will help you more.

There is not.

The calf, knows right where to go, if it doesn’t—it dies.

And once that calf starts in on that milk, I have seen it happen again and again, you can see the energy start to flow through and into the body of that calf, the life giving colostrum rich milk warming from head to toe, the nutrients and antibodies surging into and through the blood stream and affecting and protecting every cell of it’s being.

You can see the lights coming on in the glazed and dazed eyes as they start to shine with life and the sucking becomes more voracious, the head starting to butt the bag above it, stimulating even more milk to be dropped down into the milk filled bag that will be her sole source of life for a good long time.

And she will come back again and again, each time more aggressive and needing more and more—”Milk, I need, I want, milk! I have tasted and seen that the milk is good and I need nothing more!”

That’s what Peter is telling us here. If you have tasted the pure unadulterated and unaltered milk of the word of God, been given life itself, you should want nothing more than to keep coming back to it for more nourishment, so that you can grow thereby.

The pure milk of the word that has given you life, pulled you from darkness to light, death to life, has to be—and this should not even be a question or something you need to be reminded of—your continuing source for strength, for healing nutrients and immunities.

As long as I have walked with the Lord it has continued to baffle me how a person can receive Jesus, be born anew, forgiven and regenerated, and not absolutely fall in love with the word of God and desire more and more of it.

As long as we walk this earth we are still growing and maturing in the Lord and we must keep going back to the place our hearts just instinctly know it must go, to find what you need to sustain that new life.  If not, perhaps you heard the wrong gospel and never truly tasted that the Lord is gracious. — IF indeed you have tasted that the Lord is gracious -Peter says.

There are a lot of false or incomplete gospels out there.

What is the gospel? It is as follows:

Jesus of Nazareth, a Man attested by God to you by miracles, wonders, and signs . . . you have taken by lawless hands, have crucified, and put to death; 24 whom God raised up, having loosed the pains of death, because it was not possible that He should be held by it. . . .

36 “Therefore let all the house of Israel know assuredly that God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Christ.”. . .

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. 39 For the promise is to you and to your children, and to all who are afar off, as many as the Lord our God will call.” -Acts 2

That’s the gospel, direct from the Holy Spirit through the lips of Peter mere moments after the church was born on the day of Pentecost . The pure gospel.  That is the pure milk of the word of God. That’s the colostrum that gives you life and delivers you from the old world of darkness and ignorance to the world of light and enlightenment. You want to be woke, live in and for the word of God.

All else is rubbish.

And that is the message the world has and is rejecting and why this world is such a mess. And the world, who has not left the womb of ignorance and darkness, is now trying to shame us into turning away from the pure milk of the word.

They are not just rejecting us, they are not just rejecting the word of God, they are rejecting the Lord himself, the precious living cornerstone.

But we who do believe, who do not reject the truth will by no means be put to shame.

I Will Let You Down

“…people can come to put too much of their hope in you. That’s a pitfall of ministry and of a life devoted to Jesus in general.

For years, prophets and God fearing people tried to piece together the means of our redemption, how would we ever be restored to a relationship with the creator who we spurned so long ago?

We now see the big picture, we know how the story ends, we have the box cover. But, it still seems our lives are one big attempt at trying to put together a puzzle complicated by the fact that someone keeps coming along and rearranging or undoing what we thought we had done. Some days it’s like; Please, whoever, stop messing with my puzzle, you’re not helping!

Years ago when our girls were little we were visiting my Dad and family in Minnesota and on one of our outings my Dad took us to see a cabin on a lake that belonged to his sister and her family. No one was there at the time but he knew where the key was hidden so we went in just to check it out.

In the middle of the main room a table was set up with one of those big 500 piece jig saw puzzles on it that was about half way put together. As us adults were getting the quick tour we didn’t realize that the girls had found their own entertainment and when I turn my attention  back to them I hear, “Look Daddy, we’re doing a puzzle!”

Well, much to my horror, they were not doing a puzzle, they were undoing a puzzle. Pretty much all the previously assembled puzzle had been disassembled. “AAAH! Girls, that’s not our puzzle to play with!”

We left shortly thereafter leaving me to only imagine what my cousins must have thought when they came back to the cabin to find all their previous work undone. Starting over. Hopefully it was not that big of a deal.

But in real life, when all we have accomplished, dreamed of and planned for gets undone, it seems like a big deal doesn’t it?

Our response is everything in those times. Because that is really what this life is, isn’t it? One big puzzle that we hope to get assembled into a beautiful picture before we run out of time, or the next unknown visitor comes along and “helps” us.

Look, we’re doing a puzzle! No your destroying everything!

But are they?

 What are they really messing with? If it’s this life, your plans, your schemes and dreams, your security, life and health—all of that is temporal and is not where your hope is supposed to lie. Remember what we learned from James, and Jesus recently? That to plan and think we have it all figured out, that our future is secure, eat, drink and be merry, we are arrogant fools and our very souls may be required of us before we even get to indulge in our hoard.?

Many of us have had the pieces of our lives rearranged or even stolen, probably more so lately than ever. But what is truly important, what really matters? How much of our lives do we waste worrying about things we cannot control?

These are the days in which we truly discover where our hope lies. We discover if it is living, if it is based on truth and planted in and by the Holy Spirit and faith, or if it was based on other things and other people.

Flawed Hope

We can grieve, if need be, but we must remember that in all of our trials, our lives, our souls, are secure in the hands of Jesus. We are kept, preserved, protected, secure, by the power of God. He is our living and perfect hope. All other hope is flawed and tenuous at best, including hoping in others.

One of the things that makes loving people for Jesus, the way Jesus loved, unconditionally and sacrificially, heartbreaking at times, is that people can come to put too much of their hope in you. That’s a pitfall of ministry and of a life devoted to Jesus in general.

It frustrates me more and more as the years go by and I build relationships with more and more people, and as my family grows, that I cannot be there for everyone as much as they nor I would like. I know there are people who are upset because they don’t feel that I pursue or keep up with them the way they would like.

Feelings get hurt and resentments build and it hurts, it hurts them and it hurts me. It hurts me because I have never stopped loving and caring for anyone whom I have ever invested in, and there have been many over the years; whether it’s blood family, married family, spiritual family, the many kids and grandkids, nieces and nephews I have spiritually adopted over the years, friends and fellow warriors from a multitude of ministries and churches—I love and cherish all of them and look forward to one day having forever to spend with all of them.

But today I just flat cannot. I may have eternal life, but today I am still on the clock.

I work 9 or more hours a day in construction, five days a week, I then go home and spend my entire evening working on my sermon for Sunday. I spend all day Saturday at the church finalizing my sermon, doing the bulletin and PowerPoint, these blogs and Facebook blurbs, taking care of whatever church business and building and yard maintenance needs done.

I go home and go over my sermon some more and then I spend most of Sunday getting ready for church, preaching, visiting with and praying for people, and then I go home, if I’m lucky, and take a short nap before I take care of whatever needs done at home.

In the few spare minutes I have around all of that I try to maintain a relationship with my wife, my daughters and my many grandchildren who are all the joy of my life. I also have a mother and father and various siblings that I seldom get to spend time with, and I feel guilty about all of that.

So if I don’t have a lot of quality time to spend with you, or pursuing a relationship or mentoring you, I’m sorry, I truly am, but that is my reality and I cannot change it unless I either quit my job and starve, or quit the church, and God has not released me to do that.

Now, I am not telling you this to make you feel sorry for me or brag about my busyness for Jesus, my point is, and this is the same for anyone; I will let you down. And if you are left feeling hopeless and alone, unloved and bitter, because I or anyone in ministry—anyone in your life— has disappointed you and not lived up to your expectations, than your hope is in the wrong place. Any hope that you derive from any human being is going to be flawed. Period.

Your joy and peace cannot be tied to whether or not I had time to visit with you or pray for you. Whether I called you when you were having a bad day or invited you to coffee. Whether I chased you to the ends of the earth when you decided to stop showing up.

I can only be in one place at a time and I can only spend quality time with one person at a time and there are people whom I have to prioritize that will get my time, and there are people who will try to hoard my time and prayers, making it even more difficult to share my time.

Everyone’s time is limited. But you know who does have all the time in the world for you? The Holy Spirit. He is your Living Hope.

And the Holy Spirit doesn’t get exhausted, he is the source, we are just vessels. And frankly I, and no doubt every pastor out there who preaches in the power of the Holy Spirit, is exhausted after pouring out his everything as he preaches the word of God, because this imperfect vessel of flesh is mostly empty by noon on Sunday. I know I am, because I have given you everything I’ve received. And I need the rest of the day to rest and recharge so I can start again on Monday.

Fortunately it’s not all up to me, that’s not the way Jesus established his church.

That’s why I have always encouraged people to hang around after church and visit with one another, pray for one another, because you have just been filled through the worship, the word and the Spirit. You are being equipped for the work of the ministry. Take care of one another—every day of the week— love one another, but remember, your hope must ultimately, and primarily, be in Jesus. That’s what all this is about.

I will let you down. Pastor fill in the blank will let you down, your best friend will let you down, your family will let you down. Your job, your banker, you car, your waitress, everything and everyone will let you down—if, and only if, you are putting the onus for your joy and sense of well being on them in a disproportionate way.

How do you like me now?

your faith and hope are in God. 1 Peter 1:21

Your faith and hope must come from God and God alone.

The living hope can only be the Holy Spirit, and only the Holy Spirit, can be your living hope.

Cross Welding part II

These are trying times and a lot of people have lost a lot in this season of social upheaval—jobs, businesses, freedoms, social lives, confidence, security. Many things have been and are being affected by this shutdown which we are just breaking out of and in many places is still in full force. And the full ramifications of it all are only beginning to be realized.

Enduring

It’s hard to be confident in the face of so much unknown; What businesses will survive? What freedoms will be restored? Will I or someone I love still get sick and maybe die? Will people who hate this country, hate the president and the church, use this to destroy as much or all of that as they can? Will we end up becoming even more divided as a nation as those who advocate a new normal come up against those who just want normal again?

Many want a choked down version of life as we knew it, a “new normal” which for most businesses is unsustainable and for most people induces great anguish.

Everyone just wants their lives back, but I’m afraid we are not going to get them back the way they were without a fight, as many are already convinced that we cannot go back.

Fine, I’m not going to argue that here and I only know what I know. The disturbing part for most is the unknown. What does the future look like? At what expense and who will suffer as a result long term and short? Will I? Will my family?

Those are the big scary questions and concerns that can make us want to give in to despair, that can push us over the edge and away from the Lord. Especially on the heels of whatever problems you were dealing with even before this shared upheaval started. Life is hard, isn’t it?

We have to focus on the good and we have to keep our eyes heavenward and we need endurance. And that is the message of Hebrews here.

yet a little while

Endurance

We need endurance if we are going to make it through this life and receive our enduring possession in heaven, that we may receive the promise. The promise of eternal life, the promise that Jesus is coming back, the promise that we will live—by faith.

We can and should have a heart full of joy in this life as we walk in the light of his love, but it is nothing compared to the hope we have, the knowledge that the best is yet to come.

Jesus is coming

Do not draw back, do not give up, endurance is what wins the day, and by patience possessing your souls. (Luke 21:19)

Paul gives the early Christians he is writing to here kudos for joyfully following Jesus, continuing in faith, enduring, even as their goods were being plundered. Many of those who chose to follow Jesus were severely persecuted, they lost jobs, homes and all their goods seized.

Yet they never gave up the one thing that could not be stolen, the one thing that was the reason they joyfully gave all to follow Jesus in the first place, and that is their souls. They had been illuminated from the inside, the Holy Spirit was witnessing to their spirits that they were now truly alive, and that the best was yet to come.

If they just endure a little longer, they will receive their enduring possessions, live forevermore in the kingdom of the one true God. They had put their trust in Jesus, the carpenter from Nazareth who died on a cross and walked out of the tomb three days later and returned to heaven with the promise that one day all would see him return in just the same way, to collect his bride for the wedding feast—and we are the bride.

That cross which once represented a death that all in the Roman empire rightfully feared and had nightmares about, became the symbol of hope, of life everlasting, of their promise that there is something much greater than anything this world could offer.

They just needed to be patient, and to keep trusting the one with whom they had become one.

One

That cross that I welded on top of St Agnes (see my last blog Cross Welding) is still standing, it has endured for 25 years now, because the cross has become one with the steel structure inside of that steeple. All you can see from the outside is the cross and the shell of the steeple. What you can’t see is the important part, the part that keeps it standing, and that is the framework that is permanently attached to the foot of that cross—as I said, it has literally become one with it.

church cross Red Lodge(St Agnes in Red Lodge MT)
The unique thing about welding is—unlike screws, nails, bolts or glue, which hold two separate things together—when you weld two pieces of metal together they are literally becoming one piece of metal.

It happens at a molecular level. When you heat a piece of steel with a torch or an electric arc, the molecules that make up the steel get excited and start moving around, the hotter they get the faster they move, until the steel, once cold and hard, actually becomes a liquid.

So if you heat two pieces of metal that are touching each other to that state of liquidity, the liquid flows together, the atoms within the two pieces of metal mingle together.

If you introduce some more metal, in the form of a welding rod, than not only are you causing the two pieces of steel to become one, you are introducing even more steel to make that meeting point even thicker and heavier than it was before. That is why the weld, if done right, is often the strongest point on the steel.one in spirit welding

So you’ve got all these super heated steel molecules dancing around each other and getting all mixed together forced into whatever shape the skilled welder manipulates them into that suddenly cool off when the heat source leaves, and they are now solid—cold hard steel again— and nothing can separate them again without extreme measures—they are one.

Through the cross of Jesus Christ, we are one with the Lord who died on that cross; by faith, The just shall live by faith, we are one with Jesus. Faith is the weld that has joined us with him. His Holy Spirit is welded to our soul and nothing short of extreme measures can separate us.

And that cross that becomes the symbol of who we are, the strength of what is a reality inside of us, the endurance and strength that others may not see but we and our God know is there, that cross will hold up as we are lifted up, lifted to our rightful place in the Kingdom of our God.

And he who is going to lift us up is on his way, “For yet a little while, And He who is coming will come and will not tarry…” So hang on, be patient and endure.

IMG_0809

You are not among those who draw back–You are a child of the King, a son or daughter of the Father, a Spirit filled, born again—’I can do all things by him who gives me strength’—untouchable, unflappable, enlightened and enduring  believer and nothing anyone can do or say, not all the wiles and winds, treacheries and sorceries, not all the trials and tribulations, prosecutions and persecutions, ‘nothing can separate me from my God’—follower of Jesus Christ.

And you have an enduring possession.

Stuck in Galilee

From the Vatican to Red Lodge MT, from Grandma’s backyard to the White house lawn, this Easter is resoundingly quiet, and reflective. A huge and unsettling departure from what we are used to. We are all stuck in Galilee.

strike the shepherd hammer

“The flock will be scattered” When Jesus said this he knew he was fulfilling what the prophet Zechariah had said, he knew the horror that he was about to be struck with and the terror this would strike in the hearts of his flock. But even so, he was giving them hope, if they would just listen—After I have been raised, I will go before you to Galilee.

Galilee, why Galilee? Have you ever wondered about that statement?

What was in Galilee? The homes of the disciples.

That was where Jesus met them, that is where Peter was reinstated, forgiven and given another chance after his dismal night of betrayal at the trial of Jesus.

Their own homes

We are in Galilee right now, listening, seeking, being reassured and assured by the risen Lord that he does have a plan for us. He is giving us a chance to repent, be reinstated, recommissioned and then he is going to tell us to come back together to be anointed afresh because we have work to do.

Work to do with boldness and in power because when we gather again it will be those who did not fall away, whose faith was proven to be real because it stood the trials of the storm that has befallen all of us no matter what station of life, faith or lack of faith, we are all in the same boat wondering if the next wave is going to roll right over us and suck us to the bottom of the sea.

But those who recognized that they are not in that boat alone, who did not depend solely on church programs, smooth talking, smiling preachers and professional performers to lead them in a sing along where you can’t even hear yourself sing—they will be the ones who come back to that big room in Jerusalem, gather with the faithful who listened to the Lord in their days of exile, who see, hear and taste the glory of the Lord in Spirit and in truth.

It will be a glorious day church, and it will be a new day for God is doing a new thing and all that was first will be last and all that was last will now be first.

And those who have toiled in obscurity, those whose righteous souls have been vexed by the state of things as they were, all those who have loved and longed for truth and recoiled at the ear tickling ‘you are all wonderful and nothing bad will ever befall you’ name it and claim it preaching that promises earthly wealth while ignoring the poverty of the soul, they will be the ones rejoicing as we bring in the sheaves.

Those who have been listening have been told over and over the last couple of years  that there is a great harvest coming. Well get ready because here it comes! But harvests don’t bring in themselves.

We need to be here–gathering to be fed, we need to be ready, and we need to be out there being the church.

We need to be Jesus to a scared and anxious world. People are seeking answers right now, people are reevaluating what is important—’who and what do I trust, what if I die tomorrow, who is the God I will meet on the other side and am I ready to stand before him?’

You, church, have the answers, we know the truth, that Jesus Christ, the way, the truth and the life, is risen and we can be as well. We do not fear and we do not bow to anyone but our God.

take heart

Many are going to show up in church as soon as the doors are open again because they have found truth, they have found answers, they have found hope on-line by watching those who have been preaching truth in a way that all of a sudden hundreds and thousands of people who have never been to a house of worship are able to hear.

A new church

I’m gonna be brutally honest with you here, I have been preaching here to a near empty building for the last several months as the church has been drifting away, finding excuses to not be here, finding other places where they have more to offer in the way of programs or events, taking offense in me or in others, and I was starting to wonder how much longer my church would be viable.

But I kept clinging to the promises and standing on the word. And now, suddenly we have hundreds— literally hundreds—of people watching our humble little church services on Facebook over the course of the week as it sits there beckoning people, and I believe it is the Holy Spirit beckoning people, come, click on this and listen to truth. Listen to hope, be renewed and reborn by the word of God.

And when the storm passes, and it may take some time, Lord I hope not, but it may be a storm that lasts longer than any of us hope or dare believe because there may have to be some real pain before many are ready to turn their hearts to the only one who can get them through the storms.

But when God’s purpose is accomplished in this, when the enemy, who is playing this for all it’s worth and thinks he is defeating us by striking us and scattering the flock, all away from the shepherds and back to their own fearful corners of the world, people are going to come back to church, many for the first time, seeking the love and the peace that they felt in their hearts when they stumbled upon those faithful servants who still speak truth in Jesus name.

And you, church, those who have been feasting at the troughs that the shepherds of the Lord’s flocks—shepherds that the enemy has been striking over and over and over again, yet have refused to fall—you who have been feeding at the troughs that they have toiled to keep full for you— you will need to be here to show them that the love and the joy that they felt is real, and that one of the greatest joys of being a part of the family of God is being a part of the family of God.

Little children, love.love in deed

The Lord is indeed doing a new thing, but he can only give us the opportunities, we must still do our part.

How long will this pandemic hysteria last? Probably until we have learned what we are supposed to learn, and or, until enough of the church contends through fasting and prayer, repentance and humility, for the healing of our land, of our hearts, our hands and our bodies.

When he see’s that we commit to seeking first the Kingdom of our God over our own, that we live for the fruits of the Spirit not the works of the flesh, that we are willing take up our cross daily rather than looking for ways to shirk it, that we answer the call instead of putting God on hold. If we can do that, this world would be a different place tomorrow. A place of health, blessings, and joy.

When the disciples finally burst forth from their homes they changed the world with those words—He is risen. It was a game changer for the entire world.

But that was that generation, God is now calling on us, getting our attention, it’s time to get serious about following Jesus again, taking up his command to go and make disciples of all the world. “Disciples”—not pew sitters or simple converts who never mature but always demand to be fed more milk.

God is going to do it, it’s time, perhaps the last time. Whether we are part of it is our choice.

If God does it in spite of us, it will be so that he can raise up a new army who will take him seriously and who will heed his command to take the good news that he is risen to the world while the old guard seeks out entertainment centers called churches. They will return to pat you on the head and tell you you’re wonderful preachers and then wonder why the next round of tribulation woes has not spared any of them a lick.

Happy Easter! Yeah, I’m a radical, but so is the Lord I follow.

But don’t miss the point; The disciples were all scattered for fear, when they came back together they were much different people with a much different outlook. That should stir your soul.

Game Changer

Everything is always different after a true Resurrection.

Now more than ever, you need to release your inner barbarian for Jesus!book cover

Perfect Love

Well, today is Palm Sunday, the anniversary of the day adoring crowds lined the main street into Jerusalem and waved Palm branches in celebration and welcome of their coming King. Ironic that if we did that today we would be arrested, but I digress.. .

The streets and the city were packed with people come for the Passover feast in the Holy City and to offer their sacrifices at the Temple of their God, like a St Paddy’s day parade in Butte MT, only with less beer.

The Israelites were ecstatic because they believed that, finally, here comes the long promised and much anticipated Messiah, the anointed king who would restore Israel to glory and power as God’s chosen people, the one who would overcome their enemies once and for all—at that point the enemy was Rome.

We find John’s eye witness account of this day in his gospel, chapter 12

The next day a great multitude that had come to the feast, when they heard that Jesus was coming to Jerusalem, 13 took branches of palm trees and went out to meet Him, and cried out:

“Hosanna!
‘Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord!’
The King of Israel!”

14 Then Jesus, when He had found a young donkey, sat on it; as it is written:

on the foal of a donkey

Their king had come, and they would now overcome all those who persecuted them so. The Romans were oppressing them, their own priests and the Pharisees were taking advantage of them, relishing their power and getting wealthy off of them. Their puppet king Herod was abusing them, the tax collectors cheated them, as did the merchants in the temple courts.

The devil himself was abusing them, everywhere Jesus went he was driving out demons from people who were driven to do horrible things to themselves and others. Jesus delivered people from their demons, their illnesses, and even forgave their sins; giving them renewed hope, loving them when others scorned them. He even raised the dead—surely this is our King, this is our time for glory!

But Jesus had not come to overcome Rome. He came to overcome a much more fearsome and dangerous enemy, death. Death and the fear of death. Jesus came to perfect love. And he did.

Because he was perfect love. Only a perfect love could have, or would have, done what Jesus did—for us. Jesus does not only ask us to keep our eyes on him as we walk the high iron of life, he takes the pain out of the fall if we should miss a step.

In the 1st letter of the Apostle John he writes a lot about perfect love:

12 No one has seen God at any time. If we love one another, God abides in us, and His love has been perfected in us. 13 By this we know that we abide in Him, and He in us, because He has given us of His Spirit. 14 And we have seen and testify that the Father has sent the Son as Savior of the world. 15 Whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God, God abides in him, and he in God. 16 And we have known and believed the love that God has for us. God is love, and he who abides in love abides in God, and God in him.

17 Love has been perfected among us in this: that we may have boldness in the day of judgment; because as He is, so are we in this world. 18 There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves torment. But he who fears has not been made perfect in love19 We love Him because He first loved us.

1 John 4:12—20

 

Perfect Love

“Love perfected—perfect love” We find perfect love four times in that section of scripture. What is perfect Love? Well, the short answer is Jesus.

Only a perfect love would have left the Father’s side in heaven, become one of us and taught us what love was even at the peril of his own life.

Only a perfect love would have ridden into Jerusalem on that humble little donkey that day knowing full well that he was a wanted man and would soon be facing a Roman cross.

Only a perfect love would have suffered and died as he did at the hands of those he loved, and begged forgiveness for those who nailed him to that cross.

Only a perfect love could have lived a life in this messed up world full of pain death and sorrow, temptations and seductions, greed and injustice, without ever having sinned.

Only a perfect love could have suffered the injustice of being falsely accused, beaten brutally for no good reason after being betrayed and abandoned by his closest friends, mocked and scorned as he suffered a horrific death on a crude wooden cross made from a tree he created.

Only a perfect love could have done all of that without ever having sinned, and knowing that he didn’t have to do it, that at any time he could have called down twelve legions of angles to take him away from the pain.

But that would have been a failure, that would have been selfish, that would have revealed a crippling fear that just did not exist in is heart, because perfect love casts out fear. And not only was Jesus perfect love, he knew he was perfectly loved by his Father and he chose to trust Him—no matter the pain.

And because of all that, perfect love raised him from the dead— perfect love overcame death. God is love, and in him there is no fear. And now that love abides in us, God abides in us.

Because he has given us of his Spirit.

How often do we forget that?

abide in him

Remember what it means to abide? It means to live in, reside in, to remain somewhere. We get to live in God, to live in his love. And his love, his very Spirit, lives in us. We who have confessed that Jesus is the Son of God, have no need to fear, for love has overcome.

It is a love that we can trust infinitely.

Our King has come, and he rules in our hearts–if we choose perfect love.

And by the way, have faith, He has overcome our enemies.overcome praying mother

I Am –The Punch List?

“I don’t need to check with someone else, I have the authority.  As far as you’re concerned—I am the punch list.”

The Apostle John refers to Jesus as being The Word. So, how can Jesus be the Word? How can a person, a real tangible thing, be a subjective intangible thing?

the word become flesh

And, that seems like kind of a strange thing to call someone, Son of God or no. I’ve thought about and studied this a lot over the years but as I followed the Lord into the head of his apostle John here, I think I had a bit of a revelation, or at least a better understanding, of what that means.

It kind of goes back to something I’m sure John heard Jesus challenged on many times; By what authority are you doing or teaching these things?

It’s hard to explain something that I fear I am only catching fleeting glimpses of myself in its magnitude.

But–lucky for you–I have a story, that I know will fall woefully short of being anywhere near adequate to explain what this all means but it might help you start to wrap your brains around it.

Punch List

As many of you know, I am a Superintendent for a commercial building contractor which means I am responsible for getting things built, built right and on time.

IMG_3945

A few years ago I was overseeing the building of a 40,000 sq. ft. warehouse addition for a chemical plant. It was largely what they call a pre-engineered metal building. Which means it’s a whole lot of steel beams and sheet metal that all bolts and welds together. This involves a lot of very large heavy beams, columns, purlins and girders, but it also involves a lot of small braces, nuts, bolts and screws. All of which have to fit together and all of which are important to the overall integrity of the building.

What got me thinking about this was a video I saw the other day, a nightmare video for anyone who builds for a living, of a large steel building going up, suddenly crashing to the ground while they are working on it, and there are workers everywhere.

You could see the big steel columns were all in place and they were setting the main roof girders when the roof steel just started to buckle under its own weight and soon came crashing down and taking the whole building, and the cranes that were still attached to it, along with it. It looked like everyone had a chance to run clear before it all hit the ground, but what a mess.

(Similar to this one– another builder nightmare GIF)

argyle+building+collapse

I thought; “Why would that have happened? It had to have been designed by an engineer to support the weight and then some?” Then it dawned on me. They were probably just setting all the big stuff, the main beams and columns while they had the cranes there—cranes are very expensive—without doing any cross bracing or supports—the little stuff that can be put on by hand off ladders and lifts later. Big mistake.

 

That’s when I remembered that huge metal building I had done in Billings, it was about three times bigger than the one in the video I saw— It didn’t fall over. But there was some corner cutting going on there, I discovered near the end.

As the Iron workers we had contracted to erect the building for us were telling me they were almost done, I started asking their foreman about all the left over parts we had and comparing what was built to the structural steel details of the plans.

IMG_3959

In particular we had pallets full of 3 or 4 foot long angle iron pieces. “Aren’t those the braces that go from the columns to the roof purlins?” I asked looking up at the 20 foot high ceiling with him. “Oh, yeah, I don’t think we need them, they’ll never notice. Let’s wait and see if they make the punch list.”

That was the wrong thing to say to me.

Now, for those of you who are not in construction, a punch list is a list that is generated at the end of a project when the contractors say they are done. It is a list of all the things that need fixed. The owner, architect, job superintendent and engineers who have authority to say what is acceptable or not, usually puts together this list of things that are not quite done, got missed or need repaired.

The list then goes out to all the different trades who worked on the project and they are responsible to either correct the item or plead their case as to why they believe it is acceptable as is. Either way, the job is not completed and no one gets paid until everything on that list is checked off.

And you know what? As the Superintendent overseeing a project for the General contractor who is responsible for making sure things get built on schedule and built right, I have the authority to put items on that list and in the end it is my responsibility to check items off of that list before submitting to the owner that it is done and getting his final stamp of acceptance.

So, I said to my little “No one will notice a few missing braces” iron worker buddy “I know that those missing braces will be on the punch list because I am going to put them there!” He just looked at me totally incredulous, but he stopped arguing with me at that point and guess what? He put on all the braces.

News flash, ‘I am not here to help you get by with doing a half-assed job, I am here to make sure it gets done right. And, not only will I put any of your unfinished or unacceptable work on the list, I will be the one who checks it off the list when it is complete.’

‘I don’t need to check with someone else, I have the authority.  As far as you’re concerned—I am the list.’

word with authority

Jesus is the final authority—in everything. ‘As far as your concerned’, he was telling all who challenged him, ‘I am the Word.’

John, who wrote in his gospel, his letters and in Revelation, that Jesus is the Word  got his theology from Jesus, from listening to him teach for three years, listening to him interact with others and then by having the promised counselor living in his heart reminding him of everything he heard, and teaching him all things. So when John refers to Jesus as the Word, he is encapsulating and distilling down what Jesus said and inferred over and over, that Jesus is the fulfillment, the author and the enforcer of God’s word.

Jesus was constantly being challenged by those who thought they knew the word better than he did. And they thought they could get away with what they were doing, that they could justify their way of thinking and acting, by the word, and even use it against him.

But time and again Jesus pointed out that He was the authority, the final say, the only and ultimate truth and the judge of what is right and wrong, finished and unfinished, acceptable and unacceptable. Judging by the word and saving by the word. He was the maker of the punch list, the one who saw that the punch list was carried out and the only one who can judge in the end as to whether or not the items called out were completed or whether they could be struck from the list as no longer being an outstanding issue.

Which of course is what he did on the cross.

Breach of contract

He fulfilled the contractual obligation and paid the penalty for failure to comply, thus releasing those whose names appeared behind those unfinished or substandard items from their obligation.

In short—either you fixed it or you put your hope in the one who could release you from it and thanked him for it.

Which is why the word had to come in the flesh, so he could pay the penalty for our breach of contract—so that we could be signed off as completed. “I am the author of the list, and only I can remove you from the list.” Until then you are not finished. That can be kind of scary—but then, come the words from the lips of the author of the list, the author of life, as he hung dying on the cross—“It is finished.”

It is finished Jesus

Perhaps the most beautiful and meaningful words the Word of Life ever uttered. None who heard it at the time knew what it meant, but now all those who believe and received, who abide in the doctrine of Christ—they rejoice in those words. Those words are life for us.

children of God recieve believe

Our striving is over, the condemnation that comes for failing to live up to and abide by the words of God spoken as prophecies, laws and historical lessons, is removed—we have been set free by that which all of that pointed to, and was intended to convey, confer and promote—Love.

Love for God, the Love of God, and our love for one another.Little children …Love.’

The doctrine of Christ is love— “For God so loved the world… Love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your souls and love your neighbor as yourself.  This is love, that while we were yet sinners Christ died for us. Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, … perfect love casts out fear, …above all of these put on love.”

I could do this all day—because God is love, his word is love, Jesus is the word and Jesus is love. All encompassing, sacrificial—”this is how much I love you ’Father forgive them for they know not what they do’—love.”

little children love 1 John

 

That is what the bible is about, that is what Jesus is about, and that’s what the writings of the disciple whom Jesus loved is about.

So, that needs to be what we are about.

 

The Substance of Faith

“nothing has never spawned something by the power of no one”

shutterstock_1135072541

     Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. Heb 11

Faith. We all struggle with faith at times don’t we? Of course that can be a pretty broad statement, “I struggle with faith.” That can mean anything from struggling to believe that God will fulfill a specific promise to you, to believing that he hears your prayers, to believing that he even exists. Faith is always difficult if we think we have to muster it all up on our own—we really don’t, depending on what you are trying to have faith in or for anyway.

Faith is an interesting and even puzzling thing. The simple definition of faith is that it is a belief in something or someone. It helps of course to have evidence for our faith, like; I have faith politicians in Washington will be adamantly opposed to whatever someone from the opposite party comes up with because they always are—that’s a pretty sure bet.

I have faith that the sun will come up tomorrow and that winters in Montana will be cold—and way too long. Faith—it’s not complicated, usually, unless you are talking about faith that comes from the heart instead of the head because the head always wants to mess it up.

Yet, here we are, many of us, Sunday after Sunday, gathered together for one reason—faith. Faith in a resurrection that we didn’t witness, faith in a God that we have never seen and faith in a promise that we will one day be resurrected also. But why would we believe in something that we cannot see or feel? Why would we waste our time and mental energy dwelling on and clinging to something that we believe just because?

Because the faith we enjoy as children of God, as those who believe that God so loved the world that “He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.”—is more than just a belief, it’s more then just a hope, it’s a gift from the God in whom we have put our faith.

When we take that small step toward God saying; “Lord I want to believe, I want to know you, I want to be have that hope of salvation, even resurrection kind of faith that knows that it knows”— he gives it to us.

It becomes real, it becomes tangible, it becomes a part of us—literally, because it is more than just a thought pattern, it is a Spiritual renovation that affects every fiber of our being. Jesus called it being born again. It’s a fresh start, a rebirth, a resurrection in it’s own right. A resurrection of the heart, a resurrection of the dead spirit that was killed off by sin and darkness, fear, doubt and rebellion—that spirit now replaced by the Holy Spirit of the Living God. You have to want faith to have it, “Lord I believe, help me in my unbelief!”  at that point faith becomes real.

Real

My faith is just as real to me, just as tangible to me, just as undeniable as my own flesh and blood—even more so. I sometimes look at myself in the mirror and think, are you for real? How can you be so stupid, so weak, so easily angered, fooled and tempted? And how can you be so old all of a sudden—seriously—who are you?

My flesh and blood lets me down quite regularly but my Jesus never does. Jesus is real, his Spirit within me is real and he sees the real me that wants, that yearns to be with  him, to live in his will and ways knowing that in him my flesh will be and is overcome. As long as I cling to Jesus, keep the faith, his peace and joy is always within reach. And I can look in the mirror and even like what I see—because I see someone who is loved, just as I am.

I can look into the eyes staring at me from the mirror and see the life behind them that is Jesus.

For now I see but a reflection of Jesus as though in a mirror, dimly. Now I know in part, but then I shall know just as I also am known. (1 Cor 13:12) But I can rest assured that I will one day see him face to face. Because our faith is real, our faith is alive, our faith is Jesus.

Evidence

Substance

I believe because my faith has substance. It has manifest itself in my life countless times. And my faith is my evidence, even in and of itself. Aside from all that just the wonder of this world, that there even is a world, is evidence. The one I have faith in created all that we can see. It only makes sense that it all had to come from somewhere—nothing has never spawned something by the power of no one—so it only makes sense that there had to be a beginning somewhere at which point nothing became everything at the word of someone.

Only God can speak substance into a vacuum and wind up with an entire universe, and only God can speak life into the vacuum of your heart and create hope. Our hope is found in Jesus, the Son of God, Son of Man.

Jesus gave his life to give you yours, claim your hope, claim Jesus as your own-he wants nothing more than to claim you.

Luke 4

You are Loved, just as you are.

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.