One Animal’s Foolishness is Another Person’s Righteous Indignation

When the dairyman is late with the feed, what’s the best way to react? From a cow’s point of view the obvious answer is to turn over and destroy the portable feed troughs which the dairyman has provided to keep the feed clean, and readily available for her. That’ll teach the dairyman. Now he’ll have to pour the feed on the ground.

To most of us, this sounds foolish.  But is it not the way many react when they are disappointed by someone else?

A brother or sister in Christ hurt my feelings. I’ll show them. I won’t go back to church.

God didn’t answer my prayers the way I wanted him to.  I’ll teach him.  I won’t pray to him anymore.

One of my blood siblings disappointed me.  I’ll get them.  I won’t talk to them and I will separate myself from the whole family.

My government doesn’t function or react the way I believe it ought to.  I’ll make the leaders pay.  I’ll go out into the community which provides my needs, destroy my neighbor’s property, cause chaos and havoc for total strangers and public servants, and injure innocent people.

When a cow is forced to eat her feed off the ground because she destroyed her feed trough due to her disappointment in the tardiness of the dairyman, we call her actions foolishness and her consequences karma.  When we face disciplinary actions or devastation because we sullenly burn relationship bridges, destroy other people’s property, or hurt innocent people, we call the actions displays of righteous indignation and the consequences unjustifiable retribution.

One animals foolishness is considered another person’s righteous indignation.  Go figure.

“1 Remind them to be submissive to rulers and authorities, to be obedient, to be ready for every good work, 2 to speak evil of no one, to avoid quarreling, to be gentle, and to show perfect courtesy toward all people. 3 For we ourselves were once foolish, disobedient, led astray, slaves to various passions and pleasures, passing our days in malice and envy, hated by others and hating one another. 4 But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, 5 he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit, 6 whom he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, 7 so that being justified by his grace we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life.” (Titus 3:1-7)

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Anger and Cows Don’t Mix

When I first came back to the farm, I had a lot of pent up frustrations.  I was also controlling and felt that things ought to be done my way.  As a result, there were many mornings that were “ruined” by a cow that escaped from her stanchion before she had finished being milked, or that bypassed the stanchion as she entered the parlor.

Most of the time the problem was a direct result of my own error, and that made matters worse. In my mind, that cow had no right to take advantage of my mistake. I would be determined that she was going back into the holding pen to be reprocessed and milked correctly.

Anger, yelling, and a chase would inevitably follow.  And the majority of the time, the end results would be the same.  The cow would be in the pasture like she wanted, and I would be breathlessly dealing with high blood pressure and even more frustration.

But time and dairy cows have a way of taking a lot of negative attitudes out of a person. I learned that there are some things you just can’t control, and most things aren’t worth getting upset over.

By the time I completed my milking career 12 years later, if a cow escaped or bypassed a stall, I’d simply shrug and reason, “Why ruin a good morning? If we both live through the day, we’ll deal with our personality conflicts tonight; but chances are one or both of us will have forgotten why we were fighting anyway.”

My stress evel decreased tremendously once I figured out that anger and dairy cows don’t mix.

“ 33 For as churning cream produces butter, and as twisting the nose produces blood, so stirring up anger produces strife.”(Proverbs 30:33)

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Middle C Never Changes, Nor Do The Scriptures

“That my friend is middle C.”

This quote comes from an illustration used in a sermon by a good friend and brother in Christ.  The illustration involves a story of a music professor and his prodigy spending many delightful hours discussing music theory.  Since music is an art involving few established rules or standards, the debates primarily revolved around opinions, as well as likes and dislikes concerning abstract matters.  As each discussion drew to an end, the professor would strike his tuning fork, then  hold it up for both participants to hear.  He would close the debate by  proclaiming, “That my friend is middle C.”

What did the professor mean or what was his point?

After all the discussions, debates, and expressed viewpoints about theories and beliefs; after all the mulling over of opinions, and likes and dislikes (things which can never be proven); the best thing any of us can do is go back to that which is true, that which you can know without a doubt, that on which you can firmly stand. Go back to middle C.

Our spiritual middle C?

“It is written.” Anything else is quick sand. “I think”, “I believe”, “I feel” may be right, but they can just as easily be wrong. The Scriptures. That my friend is our spiritual middle C.

Jesus would say,  “It is written” (Matthew 4:4-10), “Have you not read?” (Matthew 19:4; Matthew 22:31), and “The scripture cannot be broken.” (John 10:35).

“14 Remind them of these things, and charge them before God not to quarrel about words, which does no good, but only ruins the hearers. 15 Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth. 16 But avoid irreverent babble, for it will lead people into more and more ungodliness, 17 and their talk will spread like gangrene. Among them are Hymenaeus and Philetus, 18 who have swerved from the truth, saying that the resurrection has already happened. They are upsetting the faith of some. 19 But God’s firm foundation stands, bearing this seal: “The Lord knows those who are his,” and, “Let everyone who names the name of the Lord depart from iniquity.” (2 Timothy 2:14-19) ESV

 

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Character Will Eventually Outshine Rumors

My family and I lived in Green County, KY for about 12 years. We have now lived in a neighboring county, Metcalfe, for about 15 years.  Some time back, I walked into a place of business in Edmonton, our current county seat. The store clerk noticed that the jacket I was wearing referred to Green County. He asked if I lived there and if I knew a specific man from that area. I will call the man, Jim.

I was familiar with Jim through the retail building supply at which I had worked.

“What kind of a name (reputation) does he have there?,” the young man asked.

I hesitated because from the first day Jim had walked into my former place of employment, I had been told by my peers, “Beware of him. He’s a miser and an ornery old codger. He may not cheat you or steal anything, but he will get as close to it as he can without crossing the line.”

The young man continued, “In my book, Jim is a man of character.” He then told how he had bought 3 beef cows from Jim at an admittedly high price, but their blood line made them worth the extra money. One of the cows died shortly after the purchase. The young man had not told Jim about it, but he heard the news of the loss through the grapevine. When Jim heard it, he contacted the young man and insisted upon giving him a replacement cow.

The clerk concluded with the simple declaration of, “That’s character.”

On that day, I entered that place of business with a long-held judgment of a man based upon rumors; when I left, my respect for the man was based upon an actual expression of character.

“Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.” (1 Corinthians 13: 6,7)

“Keep your conduct among the Gentiles honorable, so that when they speak against you as evildoers, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day of visitation.” (1 Peter 2:12)

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High Pressure Cleaning Leaves Unwanted Residue

When I was milking, I used a high pressure water hose to spray down the milk parlor after every  session. Several pipes on the metal stanchions were located 2-3 feet above my head.  When I would spray those pipes, the water would drive the crud upward, and not against the wall into the intended drains.

Often, I would find feed and other filth on the parlor ceiling. The first time or two I wondered how it had gotten there.  Then I realized that my own high- pressured efforts to clean had splattered the filth onto the ceiling.

Spiritually, we need to remember that when we clean up sinful messes using high pressure, often the over-spray will wind up in places we neither intended nor expected it to go. We may not realize that we have driven flakes of sin into those unexpected places, until it is too late; the residue has stained or hardened onto its new locations.

Cleaning up the results of the over-spray is often more difficult than washing away the original mess. Had we only been more careful at the beginning, the residue never would have splattered onto those isolated areas of the affected persons’ lives.

“And the Lord’s servant must not quarrel; instead he must be kind to everyone, able to teach, not resentful. Those who oppose him he must gently instruct, in the hope that God will grant them repentance leading them to a knowledge of the truth, and that they will come to their senses and escape from the trap of the devil, who has taken them captive to do his will.” (2 Timothy 2:24-26)

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A Father. The Man of a Thousand Faces. Until . . .

A father originally possesses many facial expressions with which he displays his emotions. There’s one for love, one for concern, one for elation, one for pride, one for anger, one for frustration, and so on.

When his first child begins adolescence, one by one, the father starts storing away these facial expressions, until about mid-way through the child’s teen years, the father exhibits only one; this is a bland, somber, serious expression. It’s his “Why am I not shocked or surprised?” look.

He wears this expression when he receives good news about his children’s accomplishments because he has told his offspring time and again that they can do anything they set their minds to do; their success does not surprise him. He wears the expression when he hears disappointing news of his children’s misbehavior or failures because he knows from experience that the adolescent years can be tempestuous and trying; their missteps do not surprise him. This bland, somber, serious look is the one the kids remember because it is the only one they saw for several years.

When the last child reaches adulthood and is on her own; and when the grandchildren begin to come along; the father begins pulling his old facial expressions out of the trunk and trying them on again. He finds the one for love, the one for concern, the one for elation, the one for pride, and so on.

The children’s response to these changes?

“Who is that? That’s not the man I grew up with!”

11 For you know how, like a father with his children, 12 we exhorted each one of you and encouraged you and charged you to walk in a manner worthy of God, who calls you into his own kingdom and glory.” (1 Thessalonians 2:11-12) ESV

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Take The Time To Listen.

Today, Sarah and I traveled a road that brought back 15 year old memories; memories of a former job and my termination from that job.

The memory that I most cherish from that experience occurred during my subsequent search for employment.  I filled out an application onsite at a cabinet and trim factory.  I gave the application to the receptionist and she immediately turned it in to the human resource agent.

A man about my age came out, shook my hand, and took me to his office.  He told me that he could put me to work the next day, but with my qualifications, he did not believe I would be satisfied with the work or the wages.  He gave me the same old spill that I had been hearing all day; you’re over qualified, prospective qualified employees are crawling out of the wood work, I’ll keep your file on record.

But then this stranger did something that no one else had done.  It was something that I believe he intended from the beginning. He said, “I see that you were just terminated from your last job. I want you to know that I understand your feelings right now.  I’ve been through the same things you are experiencing.  I can tell you, things will get better.”

That transparency opened the door for me to talk and to tell someone the disappointment, discouragement, and despair that I had been keeping bottled up. And he listened. For about 15 or 20 minutes, he did nothing but listen.  He watched me tear-up and work through the emotions I thought real men weren’t supposed to express.  He listened without making a judgement or trying to fix the problem. When I left, I did not have a job, but I did have new hope.

To this day, I don’t know the man’s name.  I wouldn’t be able to pick him out in a lineup. All I know is that he took the time to listen to me when I needed  it most.  And it made all the difference. Fifteen years later, I fondly remember that “interview” as the best one I ever had.

“Whoever restrains his words has knowledge, and he who has a cool spirit is a man of understanding.” (Proverbs 17:27) ESV

“Finally, all of you, have unity of mind, sympathy, brotherly love, a tender heart, and a humble mind.” (1 Peter 3:8) ESV

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Successful Advertising:The Art of Persuading the Consumer to Sell Himself

Successful advertising vaguely presents facts or evaluations concerning a product so as to encourage the consumer to draw his own positive conclusions about it.  Too much or too specific information and the potential consumer may begin asking too many questions, thus leading to the forced admission of  weaknesses within the product.  Too little or too general information and the potential buyer may believe the product possesses no qualities which sets it apart from the rest.

Case in point: place a drawing of a plain blue ribbon rosette on an orange juice jug label. Encircle that drawing with the words, “AWARD WINNING”, and, “Kentucky State Fair, Tennessee State Fair, and World Dairy Expo.” The consumer assumes the contents of the jug will taste better than the other brands because this orange juice was judged to be better than all the other entrees in these three prestigious regional contests.

But what does the consumer really know? Does he know when the award was won? Was it this year, two years ago, or 5 years ago? Was the juice in this container made from the same crop of oranges which produced the award winning juice?

What award was won?  Was the award grand champion, 1st in class, also-ran, or everyone-gets-a-ribbon/no-one-is-a-loser-here? In what event was the award granted; taste, texture and consistency, color, or best container and labeling design?

How much prestige do the  farmers and bottlers in the orange juice industry place upon receiving an award from the Kentucky and Tennessee State Fairs? What were the qualifications of the judges?

When buying and consuming this juice, most people won’t stop to ask these questions. They will simply see the drawing and arrive at the conclusion the advertisers were hoping for; according to qualified experts, it’s one of the best tasting juices around.

The ribbon and the words are eye-catchers.  They provide just enough vague information to produce interest. They allow the consumer to draw his own conclusions about the taste of the juice without any liability or possible false claims on the bottlers part; which is the genius behind successful advertising.

Mouse over scripture reference to view entire scripture text.

In the spiritual realm of christianity, God intended that there be only one faith, practiced and preached by only one church. (John 17:20-21; Ephesians 4:4-6; Colossians 1:18; 1 Corinthians 1:10-13).

Nevertheless, mankind has divided christianity so that there are many brands of faith competing for our interest and acceptance.  The leaders of many of these groups employ the genius of successful advertising in an effort to persuade us to buy into their brand of spirituality and religion.  They offer eye-catching buildings, worship services, and pageantry.  They preach a vague message based upon a few select passages, and then leave it up to the consumer to draw his own conclusions about the validity of the message.

Many sincere people choose their religion based solely upon “AWARD WINNING” advertisement without questioning for what and by whom the award was granted.

As truth seeking, salvation seeking human beings, we must be well informed, discerning consumers.  We must ask questions and not be satisfied until we get biblical answers.  We must search for the original church of the Bible, and not be content until we find it.  Then, and only then, can we know that we are in the body of Christ, a church which has been judged by God to be spotless and without wrinkle. (Ephesians 5:22-33)

“18 And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.” (Matthew 16:18) ESV

“28 Pay careful attention to yourselves and to all the flock, in which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to care for the church of God, which he obtained with his own blood.” (Acts 20:28)ESV

 

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I Don’t Understand, But I Still Love You.

The meaning of Jesus’ parable concerning leaving the 99 sheep and searching for the 1 lost sheep (Luke 15:1-10) is occasionally reinforced to the dairyman when a missing cow requires his immediate attention. If the search is successful, the dairyman understands the rejoicing at the end of Jesus’ parable when the one is brought back safely. However, the parable does not describe the mental monologue in which the earthly herdsman engages between the finding of the lost cow and his bringing her back into the herd.

Usually the silent conversation which keeps running through the dairyman’s mind goes something like this: “How in the world did you get yourself in that kind of shape? More importantly, why in the world did you get yourself in that kind of shape? Did you not see the fence and did it not bother you to jump over it? Don’t you think there’s a reason why no cow has ever gone here before? This is going to hurt us both in totally different ways, but I don’t know of any other way of getting you out.”

“Are you alright? Can you make it back to the barn? Do I need to bring water and feed to you here until you regain your strength? You’ve never done anything like this before, why now? Let’s get your washed off and checked out for injuries. Yeah . . . I know . . . I forgive you . . . But please don’t do that again!”

Mouse over scripture reference to view entire scripture text.

Spiritually, those who are faithful to the cause of Christ are told to restore someone who has been overtaken in a fault and to help him bear his burden. (Galatians 6:1-2; 1 Thessalonians 5:14). This is to be done with meekness and self-examination lest the faithful become caught up in the same sin. Love is to be the motivation. (1 John 4:21) To bring an erring brother back into the fold is saving his soul from death. (James 5:19).

When a faithful christian attempts to find his/her lost brother or sister, many times the conversation which runs through his mind will be much like the dairyman’s: “”How in the world did you get yourself in this kind of shape? More importantly, why in the world did you get yourself in this kind of shape? Did you not see the fence and did it not bother you to jump over it? Don’t you think there’s a reason why this is referred to as a place where angels fear to tread? This is going to hurt both of us in different ways, but there’s no other way of getting you out. ”

“Are you alright? Can you make it back to the fold? Do I need to bring water and feed to you here until you regain your strength? You’ve never done anything like this before, why now?”

This mental monologue will naturally occur, but the important thing is that it ends as the dairyman’s ended; “Let’s get your washed off in the blood of Jesus, and check you over for injuries. Yeah . . . I know . . . I forgive you . . . but please don’t do that again!”

“32 Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you. . .1 Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children. 2 And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.” (Ephesians 4:32-5:2)ESV

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Evangelism Must Be Intentional Or It Won’t Happen

Jesus commands his followers to make more disciples wherever they go, baptizing them in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. (Mt. 28:18-20) This is best accomplished in one-on-one, friendship settings. We find ourselves in this type setting almost every day.  However, if we do not determine ahead of time to be intentional in our evangelism, then it will not happen.

Several years ago, I took a calf to the regional livestock market. The market employees had not arrived, so I parked my truck and got out to stand beside it.  Another farmer pulled up with a load of cattle. We talked for 30 minutes while we waited for the market employees to arrive.

I can tell you many things about this man: He once milked, but at that time raised beef cattle. He also had a layer chicken house which produced the eggs that would hatch into broilers and pullets. Fifteen years prior to that time, when he built the chicken barn, it cost $250,000, but would have run around $350,000 at the time of our conversation. He had about 4-6 weeks down time each year in which he did not have chickens for which to care.

His wife worked as a custodian for a school district and stood a chance of losing her job within the next year due to the district’s outsourcing of the custodial work. He had a daughter who was about 10 years old . . . etc. . . .etc.

The reason I know most of these things is because I asked him about them. I was trying to be friendly, making conversation and demonstrating a casual interest in getting to know him.

However, the things I can’t tell you about this man are the most important ones. I can’t tell you his name, because I didn’t introduce myself. I can’t tell you anything about the condition of his soul. I can’t tell you if he considered himself a christian. I can’t tell you if he attended church. I can’t tell you if he believed in God or if he wanted to go to heaven.

Asking these questions never crossed my mind. Spiritually reaching out to some one was not my intent at that point. I simply wanted to unload the calf, go back to Glasgow to pick up some supplies, and go home.

If we don’t daily intend to offer the saving gift of God’s grace to others, rest assured, it won’t happen.

“28 Him we proclaim, warning everyone and teaching everyone with all wisdom, that we may present everyone mature in Christ.” (Colossians 1:28)ESV

“18 All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; 19 that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation. 20 Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. 21 For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” (2 Corinthians 5:18-21) ESV

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