Rededicating the Soul Requires Removing It From the Heavy Traffic Areas of the World

Yesterday, I helped a young man prepare a wildlife food plot located on top of a hill.  It reminded me of a time when I wanted to reclaim a hilltop, not for wildlife, but for dairy cattle.

Throughout the time that I operated the dairy, the hilltop where my barn is located had very little grass growing on it. The heavy, daily cattle traffic did not allow grass to thrive. Gypsum weeds, barnyard briars, polk stalks, thistles and other assorted weeds covered the five acres surrounding the milk barn.

For several years, I wanted to reclaim the hilltop. I wanted to reestablish a lush stand of fescue and clover. Each time I would get into the mood to undertake the task, I would ask a few older farmers if they thought the efforts would be successful. The farmers would unanimously respond negatively, saying the only way to reestablish the grass was to stop the cattle traffic. As long as the herd continually trudged over the land, any new emerging grass would either be smashed into the ground or pulled up by its roots.

One spring, I decided to give it a try, regardless of the older farmers’ advice. I sowed the hilltop fairly heavily with fescue seed and worked it in with a chain link harrow. Throughout the spring, summer, and fall months, it seemed as if I’d succeeded. Small blades of the desired vegetation shot up. These blades turned into tufts. The tufts seemed to intertwine, forming small islands of sod. From all appearances, I could claim that I had beaten the odds and had successfully showed up the old timers.

But then winter set in with all of its mud and extra heavy cattle traffic.  The herd spent far more time lounging around on the five acres.  Sweet smelling hay and fresh water were easily accessible.  The milk barn was located in the center of the lot. The weather was often cold and foreboding.  So the cows saw no need to travel off the hilltop to the pastures.

And the old timers’ prophecies came true. The success was temporary. The forces and circumstances which had destroyed the original stand of grass destroyed this crop as well. Spring brought about new growth, but the grass did not reemerge as I had hoped. Only the weeds returned.

My attempt to reclaim that five acres had failed because I had not removed the devastating forces and circumstances; the forces and circumstances which had originally ravaged the landscape, and which would continue to do so until they were banished.

Many times we find ourselves needing to be reclaimed spiritually. A life that once was covered with lush spiritual vegetation produced by the Word of God is now bare and muddy. The world treading around and upon us has taken its toll.

In an effort to reclaim our spirit, we go back to the Book, resowing the seed into our heart. At first, it looks as if we have succeeded as we begin to feel spiritually recharged and renewed. However, we do not try to remove ourselves from the forces that originally produced our unfaithfulness.  Instead we allow the world to continue treading around and upon us. Then, when the winter comes, as it always does, we find that all the growth we had experienced and felt so good about has disappeared. We are once again barren and void of the spiritual vegetation in which we so fervently desire to be clothed. 

Until I stopped the cattle traffic, I could never successfully reclaim the hilltop. Until we remove ourselves from the high traffic areas of worldly lusts and activities, we can never successfully rededicate our souls to faithful service of the Lord.

“Do not be deceived: ‘Bad company ruins good morals.’ ” (1 Corinthians 15:33) ESV

18 “Hear then the parable of the sower: 19 When anyone hears the word of the kingdom and does not understand it, the evil one comes and snatches away what has been sown in his heart. This is what was sown along the path. 20 As for what was sown on rocky ground, this is the one who hears the word and immediately receives it with joy, 21 yet he has no root in himself, but endures for a while, and when tribulation or persecution arises on account of the word, immediately he falls away. 22 As for what was sown among thorns, this is the one who hears the word, but the cares of the world and the deceitfulness of riches choke the word, and it proves unfruitful. 23 As for what was sown on good soil, this is the one who hears the word and understands it. He indeed bears fruit and yields, in one case a hundredfold, in another sixty, and in another thirty.” (Matthew 13:18-23)ESV

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Corn on the Cob: It’s as Good a Standard By Which to Judge Someone as Anything.

Yesterday, several of us from church made our annual trip to a christian Bible camp to provide the day’s meals for the campers and staff. The menu for the evening meal included corn on the cob. To facilitate the flow of the line, I stood at the end of the food counter offering to apply squeeze butter for the diners.

Keep in mind that when I was growing up, fresh corn on the cob was both a summer staple and delicacy. The question asked at the table surrounded by we 5 kids was not, “Do you want corn?” but “How many ears can each of us have?”

Once we received our allotment, each hot ear of corn was rolled on the top of a stick of butter until the butter dripped onto our plates. Salt and pepper was applied. And then the feast began. Some of us would eat typewriter style from end to end. Others would rotate the cob, eating all the kernels from a single section. But a meal was not complete unless we had to wipe the butter from our noses and we had sucked the cobs dry of their delicious juices.

With these memories in mind, I stood ready with two bottles of butter along with several packets of salt and pepper. I expected to be kept busy fulfilling the requests of the campers and staff. To my surprise, I had plenty of time for both maintenance of my supplies and contemplative observation of the dietary tastes of the diners.

At least half of all the people who came through the line did not request the corn on the cob. Of the half who did get the corn, at least half declined the offer of butter. Of those who did accept the butter, at least half declined the offer of salt and pepper.

As I stood there, I couldn’t help but ask myself, “What’s wrong with these people? Don’t they know what’s good? Why would anyone not like corn; especially corn on the cob? And if you do like it, why would you not like enhancing its flavor with butter, salt, and pepper? This just isn’t right.”

Needless to say, when I fixed my own plate after everyone else had been served, my plate contained plenty of corn smothered in butter and seasoned according to taste.

The question now arises, what was the flaw in my thinking?

I was basing my assumptions on my own agricultural background, my own rearing concerning the practices of consuming certain foods, and my own likes and dislikes. There was not a thing wrong with any of the choices which any of the diners made. The choices were just not in agreement to my likes and dislikes.

When something like this happens, it is easy for us to begin questioning the philosophy and reasoning of the other people. It is tempting for us to begin labeling those who are different than us as being crazy, nonsensical, odd, weird, unique, etc.

But the reality is that many times, we are the odd ones. We are the different ones.

Spiritually, God has given us some commands and doctrines about which we cannot differ or modify. Jesus’ being the only way to the Father is a prime example. (John 14:6). Baptism being the point at which one has his sins washed away and is saved is another excellent example. (Mark 16:15-16; Romans 6:3-7; 1 Peter 3:20-21; Acts 22:16)

However, God has given us the freedom to differ about culture, foods, family traditions, dress, etc. In these things, we must respect one another’s preferences and realize that we cannot use our own standards by which to judge one another. (Romans 14:1-12)

Yesterday, I wanted to use my opinion as the standard of judgment. But it turned out I was the oddball of the group. I’m sure glad opinions and majority rule aren’t the standard by which God will judge us.


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The Heart is a Great Follower, But It is a Terrible Leader

Follow your heart!  This exhortation constantly appears on social media news feeds around the world.  We hear it proclaimed on self-help talk shows and in about every speech designed to bolster self-esteem.  But is it biblical?

Through Moses, God told the Israelites to put blue tassels on their garments.  The reason?  “And it shall be a tassel for you to look at and remember all the commandments of the Lord, to do them, not to follow after your own heart and your own eyes, which you are inclined to whore after. So you shall remember and do all my commandments, and be holy to your God.” (Numbers 15:39-40) ESV

The Bible teaches that the heart is a great follower, but it is a terrible leader.[1]

Solomon said, “Before destruction, a man’s heart is haughty, but humility comes before honor.” (Proverbs 18:12)

He also wrote, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding.” (Proverbs 3:5)

When we follow our heart, allowing it to lead, then our life becomes turbulent and unstable.  The heart is fickle.  Its treasures and goals change from day to day, depending upon whatever glitters the brightest on that day.

A change in circumstances may change the loyalty of the heart. Experiencing a flood of emotions may push the heart off course and send it sailing in a totally new direction. The promise of experiencing a new level of excitement may cause the heart to hastily scrap that which filled it with joy just a few days before.

When we follow our heart, allowing it to lead, we may decide that we no longer love the beautiful spouse to whom we whole heartedly pledged our undying devotion just a short time ago; instead we now are completely enamored with that new gorgeous bombshell who has suddenly captivated our heart. We may flit from one job to the next, causing our family chaos and turmoil because we can never find the perfect fit.  We may spend everything we have in an incessant search for anything or anyone who can bring us happiness. When we follow our heart, allowing it to lead, we may be enthusiastically zealous for Christ today, and inexplicably apathetic tomorrow; because intentionally praising Christ on Sunday with the saints just wasn’t as exciting as becoming completely uninhibited with our friends in low places on Saturday night.

Jesus said, “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” (Matthew 6:21)

Paul wrote, “Seek the things that are above” and “Set your mind on things above.” (Colossians 3:1,2)

Notice the order; the treasure leads, and the heart follows.  In other words, we should determine with our mind what we treasure and then the allow the heart to follow that treasure. Jesus said, “The good person out of his good treasure brings forth good, and the evil person out of his evil treasure brings forth evil.” (Matthew 12:35)

The rich young ruler did not understand this principle.  When he asked Jesus what he must do to inherit eternal life, he hoped that Jesus would respond by telling him to do something that his heart was leading him to enjoy; or perhaps to keep on doing the things he was already doing.  However, Jesus told him to quit following his heart.  He was to sell the possessions in which he took such pleasure, to give the money to the poor, and then to follow the Lord. He was to change his estimation of what was important in life. Jesus promised the young man treasure in heaven if he would do so.  But the rich young ruler could not bring himself to obey. Instead, he followed his heart and sorrowfully walked away from Jesus. (Mark 10:17-22)

When we seek the things above, when we set our minds on things above, when we lay up for ourselves treasure in heaven, then Christ becomes our most sought after gem. We no longer follow our fickle heart.  Instead it steadfastly follows the treasure found only in Christ. And everything we do, we loyally do with the intent of glorifying the Savior.

“The heart is a great follower, but it is a terrible leader.”

[1] This post is based upon a lesson presented by Darrell Wallace at the Center Church of Christ on Wednesday night, June 21, 2017.  This and other statements are either direct quotes or paraphrases from that lesson.

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Life Got in the Way. Or Did it?

I posted my last blog about 6 days ago.  It seems longer than that.  I try to make a habit of posting every other day.  I love to write, especially when I am doing so for my own enjoyment and not for an assigned project.  I have desired to write over the last few days . . . but life has gotten in the way.

There have been trips in which I acted as a taxi driver for my wife as she kept appointments with an eye doctor in Louisville which is about 100 miles away. There has been a trip to retrieve a grandchild from Bible camp and then a quick weekend journey to and from Wisconsin to transport our granddaughter back to her home. This involved 12 hours on the road both up to and back from the dairy state. There have been social activities, church, and Bible studies. There has been 3 consecutive 15 hour days of babysitting our toddling granddaughter.  There have been 4 yards to mow between rain showers.

On top of the completion of these tasks, there has been concern and worry. There has been the concern of trying to work in prep time for the Bible studies.  There has been the strain of trying to schedule and keep appointments concerning a major business deal.

To put it bluntly, life has gotten in the way of my doing what I have wanted to do. And it has been frustrating. . . .Or so I thought.

Most of us can see the problem and irony in the attitude which prompted the above statement.  I have been caught up in wanting things to happen on my schedule around my life, so that I would be afforded the opportunities to do what enjoy doing.  By getting caught up in I, me, and my,  I forgot that those relationships and events which appear to be hindrances actually provide the substance of my writing.

Without life, there would be nothing for me to write about.

John Lennon, one of The Beatles, wrote, “Life is what happens to you while you are busy making other plans.”

Throughout the last six days, life has happened. It has presented opportunities for me to experience and enjoy a tremendous amount of love, laughter, and fun.  Life has allowed me to build closer relationships with my granddaughters, one of them living far away and growing up way too fast.  It has allowed me to witness my wife’s strength, stability, and patience. Life has allowed me to strengthen and share my own faith.

Life has happened. And instead of getting in the way, it has paved the way for me to more fully enjoy writing about it.

“1 For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven: 2 a time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up what is planted; 3 a time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up; 4 a time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance; 5 a time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together; a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing; 6 a time to seek, and a time to lose; a time to keep, and a time to cast away; 7 a time to tear, and a time to sew; a time to keep silence, and a time to speak; 8 a time to love, and a time to hate; a time for war, and a time for peace.” (Ecclesiastes 3:1-8) ESV



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County Fairs May Produce Traits of Character but Carnivals Never Will

County fair season has arrived. Yesterday, as we traveled the interstate to Louisville, a colorful assortment of assembled carnival rides caught my attention. They fulfilled their purpose in drawing my eye to an accompanying banner advertising the Bullitt County Fair. Immediately, my mind went back to a younger, more innocent, more naïve time in my life.

County fairs and the Kentucky State Fair formed some of the more anticipated highlights of my summers from the time I was about 8 years old until my late teen years. Each year, my family would travel the regional county fair circuit, exhibiting our dairy cattle in preparation for the State Fair.

When my siblings and I were younger, the whole family would hurriedly do our chores on the morning of the competition. We would load the truck, drive the miles to the fairgrounds, then wash and groom the cattle in preparation for the show. Immediately after the exhibit, we would reload the truck and head home in time to do the evening chores. This made for a very long day; a fun filled day; but a very long day.

These early days were not as enjoyable as the days to come. Primarily because they did not include time for visiting the carnival. And oh, how those colorful, twirling canopies and flashing lights made one want to walk amongst them.

Don’t get me wrong. As young kids, we did occasionally have opportunity to experience the midway, riding the rides and playing some of the “kid” games. Sometimes we would make a second trip back to the local fair to walk through the craft, cooking, and canning exhibits. Then Mama or another adult would take us out to the carnival. But we were always under the supervision of an adult. Any activities in which we participated were based upon the adult’s guidelines for spending money, time restrictions, morality, and safety. In other words, we weren’t free to experience the excitement which the carnival promised with all its spectacle.

As we grew older, Daddy started taking us to the county fairgrounds the afternoon before the competition on the next day. We would spend the night in the cattle barn, with the responsibility of watching the show string, and having them washed and groomed when Daddy and Mama would arrive the next day. This arrangement allowed for more freedom in our visits to the carnival.

We were free to roam among the rides, games, and shows when we wanted. We could spend the money we had earned mowing yards, hauling hay, or chopping out tobacco in whatever way we wanted. If we wanted to spend a quarter to turn a crank to watch a mechanical crane randomly drop its bucket in the middle of a pile of useless trinkets, we could do that. If we wanted to take a chance on a mouse “randomly” running into a hole circled by the color of our choice, we could place as many quarters as we wanted on our chosen color. If we wanted to spend 50 cents for a corndog or cotton candy and then wash it down with an equally expensive soft drink, the freedom was ours. If we wanted to spend 50 cents to go through a haunted house or freak show, who was to stop us. If we wanted to hop on a ride which catapulted us forward, then backward, all the while spinning us in crazy somersaults, then all we had to do was get in line.

On those nights, the excitement and thrills of the carnival was ours to experience.

And for a while, those nights seemed worth the cost and lived up to the expectations.

But through the years, the carnival excitement began to wane. The summer heat, coupled with the heat and exhaust produced by the gasoline engines powering the rides became almost unbearable. The corndogs and cotton candy just weren’t as deliciously filling as they were when we were younger, especially when we experienced their taste again after a few moments on the spinning rides. (Envision the carnival scene in the movie, “The Sandlot”.) We began to realize that the games weren’t worth playing since they were rigged in favor of the carnival owners and the trinkets offered were cheap and useless.

In short, we grew up. We began to realize that the promised hype and spectacle of the carnival just could not deliver. Any excitement which the carnival produced was only momentary and temporary. Any “prize” we carried away was a cheap reminder of our foolishness.

Looking back on those years of “riding” the county fair circuit, I don’t remember much about my experiences at the carnivals. And I don’t cherish any of the few memories that I do have of the carnivals.
But I do remember the nights in the show barns and the days in the show ring. I remember the responsibility of caring for the cattle. I remember the friendships developed as I interacted with our fellow dairymen and showmen. I remember the laughs and lessons which I learned about cooperation, sharing, trust, competition, fairness, honesty, responsibility, physical work, attention to detail, handling disappointment, family . . . and the list could endlessly continue.

These are the many memories I cherish of our county fair days.
As kids, we thought that experiencing the excitement of a carnival held the key to happiness. As maturing young adults, we learned that the excitement of a carnival is fleeting, and it can never deliver its promises. As adults, we realized that life’s carnivals do not produce the valued attributes of character, but those qualities come through the hard work of responsibility, the thrill of honest competition, and the love of family traditions.

Spiritually, experiencing the carnal desires of the flesh seem so exciting and fulfilling. However, roaming through and engaging in life’s fleshly carnivals will never produce the respected attributes of character which we desire. Living up to our christian responsibilities, fighting the good fight of faith, and lovingly fellowshipping our church family. These are the actions which produce the qualities we long to see in ourselves, and for which we seek in others.

“5 For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit. 6 For to set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace. 7 For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God’s law; indeed, it cannot. 8 Those who are in the flesh cannot please God.” (Romans 8:5-8) ESV

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Looking Good or Seeing Well? Which Should I Choose?

Looking good or seeing well?

Both are universal desires. People in every nation desire to appear attractive to others within their culture. They want to look good. They also want to be able to clearly see the world around them. They want to see well.

Looking good is based strictly on opinion. The opinion may be held by the individual or expressed by others, but beauty is only a judgment.  The opinion may be based upon personal standards or cultural standards, but attractiveness is strictly a judgment.  Ask any older person looking at herself in snapshots from the past, and she will tell you that opinions change as fashions change.

Seeing well is objective truth that is experienced. It can be accurately measured by others. The standard for clear eyesight has been established and does not change.  Doctors can meticulously measure one’s ability to see clearly, and then accurately prescribe corrections when needed.

Each year for the past 6 years, I have been blessed with the privilege of traveling to another country to participate in a medical campaign.  Doctors from the States voluntarily provide free medical exams and care for the residents of the host country.  In the optometry division of the clinic, each patient’s eyesight is accurately measured according to the set standard.  If a patient cannot see well, then he is sent to the eyeglasses department.

Through the years, several thousand pairs of used eyeglasses have been donated to be freely distributed to patients.  But since the variations and combinations of distorted vision are seemingly endless, it is rare that a patient will receive a pair of glasses with the exact prescription lenses that he needs. Often he will hear the words, “This is the only pair I have that is close to your prescription. It is the best that I have.” Usually, the lenses will sufficiently provide the needed correction.  The person can see well with the lenses.

But the patient will sometimes refuse the glasses; not based upon the corrective lenses, but based upon the frames in which they are contained.  Many of the frames are large, out of style, or clearly made for someone of the opposite sex. The person can objectively see well through the lenses, but he doesn’t subjectively look good in the frames.

Some choose truth and leave the clinic smiling, seeing the world clearly, but doing so through glasses intended for the opposite sex or that are too big for their faces. Others choose opinion, leaving the building disappointed, seeing the world just as blurrily and distorted as when they came in.

Looking good or seeing well? Opinion or truth? Another one of life’s difficult choices.

Spiritually, we face the same type choice.  The Bible contains objective truths and standards by which we can judge our spiritual eyesight.  When we fail the sight test, God has provided more than adequate corrective tools to help see well.

However, those corrective lenses are contained within Christianity, a framework which the world finds distasteful and ugly.  Since we live in the world, we too may find ourselves questioning whether or not we believe Christianity to be fashionable.   We may find ourselves choosing between looking good or seeing well, between truth or opinion.

“22 But we desire to hear from you what your views are, for with regard to this sect we know that everywhere it is spoken against.” 23 When they had appointed a day for him, they came to him at his lodging in greater numbers. From morning till evening he expounded to them, testifying to the kingdom of God and trying to convince them about Jesus both from the Law of Moses and from the Prophets. 24 And some were convinced by what he said, but others disbelieved. 25 And disagreeing among themselves, they departed after Paul had made one statement: “The Holy Spirit was right in saying to your fathers through Isaiah the prophet: 26 “‘Go to this people, and say, You will indeed hear but never understand, and you will indeed see but never perceive. 27 For this people’s heart has grown dull, and with their ears they can barely hear, and their eyes they have closed; lest they should see with their eyes and hear with their ears and understand with their heart and turn, and I would heal them.’ 28 Therefore let it be known to you that this salvation of God has been sent to the Gentiles; they will listen.” (Acts 28:22-28) ESV

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The Attitude of the Leaders Will Be Reflected by the Entire Herd

When the leaders of a dairy herd operate with an “I’m full, I’m satisfied, and I want to do just enough to get by” attitude, the whole herd develops it. In order to get them to the barn, the dairyman has to constantly zigzag behind the herd, encouraging each individual to take ten more steps toward the goal. Each trinket encountered along the way- a gap, a hay ring, a pad of concrete – becomes an obstacle that delays the whole herd until the leaders are persuaded to pass it by, continuing on to the goal. The dairyman has to persuade the last cows into the holding pen to push themselves in because no one wants to be the first to enter the milkroom. The gate at the back of the holding pen can barely be closed due to the backward press of the reluctant animals. From that viewpoint, it looks as if a 60 cow capacity holding pen is completely filled, even though it contains only 40 cows.

However, when the leaders have an “I’m hungry, let’s meet the dairyman at the barn” attitude, the majority of the herd voluntarily and easily enter the holding pen.  There are still a few stragglers that must be herded to the barn, but even they step lighter, and take a straighter path to the barn. Each new trinket encountered is passed by with little notice. The gate can be closed with ease and from the back, the 60 cow holding pen looks as if it can hold 80 cows because all are eagerly pressing forward in anticipation of entering the milkroom.

Spiritually, the attitude of the leadership can make all the difference in the outlook and personality of a congregation of the Lord’s church.  If the leadership is not hungry and becomes easily distracted, then the flock has difficulty understanding the need to feed on God’s word and to continue faithfully to the goal; drama and discord will characterize the flock.  However, if the leadership continually seeks the bread of life, and they themselves stop only long enough to deal with unavoidable major distractions, then the flock will readily, peacefully, and faithfully follow them to the goal.

As Julius said in “Remember the Titans“,  “Attitude reflects leadership.”

1 So I exhort the elders among you, as a fellow elder and a witness of the sufferings of Christ, as well as a partaker in the glory that is going to be revealed: 2 shepherd the flock of God that is among you, exercising oversight,not under compulsion, but willingly, as God would have you;not for shameful gain, but eagerly; 3 not domineering over those in your charge, but being examples to the flock. 4 And when the chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the unfading crown of glory.” (1 Peter 5:1-5) 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. 29 I know that after my departure fierce wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock; 30 and from among your own selves will arise men speaking twisted things, to draw away the disciples after them.” (Acts 20:28-30)v

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Just a Few Random Thoughts and Proverbs

Boys can destroy in minutes structures it took men days to build.

Who ever said, “You just as well say it as to think it,” probably never experienced a life-long relationship.

Be cautious of accepting a challenge to play checkers with a man who is carrying his own checker board.

“Doing wrong is like a joke to a fool, but wisdom is a pleasure to a man of understanding.” (Proverbs 10:23) ESV

“Every way of a man is right in his own eyes, but the Lord weighs the heart.” (Proverbs 21:2)ESV

“Whoever keeps his mouth and his tongue keeps himself out of trouble.” (Proverbs 21:23) ESV

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What Ever You Do, Don’t Look Him In The Eyes

I bought him from my brother as a two day old bottle calf.  He was always rambunctious and spirited.  His ancestry bloodline would definitely have been an asset to improving the quality and production of my herd.  He was a beautiful creature.

But he had to go.

Through the years, he had never mellowed like most bulls do.  The spirited young calf had grown into a mature, massive dangerous bull; sometimes bellowing in mock rage, sometimes silently slinking around in the shadows; but always acting as if he would attack given the opportunity.

So he went.

I remember the change in his demeanor and in his eyes when we loaded him on the trailer.  The bravado turned to meekness.  The fierceness turned to anxiety.

When you’ve raised a bull from his birth to adulthood, no matter how big, bad, ornery, mean, or rebellious he gets, a piece of your heart goes with him as they haul him away. Once on the trailer, don’t look him in the eye; those eyes that once showed hatred and a desire to do you harm now show fear and uncertainty; at least that’s what they appear to show as you view them through your own tear-filled eyes.

Often, a person who seems so mean, ornery, and rebellious, suddenly changes when he receives the just consequences for a destructive act which he has committed.  We may have wanted him to receive this just reward. But our hearts may well be changed if we ever have the chance to look him in the eye as he is being carried away; especially if we have played a role in his rearing since his birth. The tears we think we see in his eyes, may very well be tears filling our own eyes.

“You have heard that it has been said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven.” (Matthew 5:43-45)

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Warnings are Designed to Preserve Life Not Limit Life’s Enjoyment

The beautiful Maroon Bells and their neighbor Pyramid Peak provide a picturesque landscape for photographers and artists visiting the Colorado Rockies.  They also present a formidable challenge to hikers and rock climbers.  So much so, that the forestry department erected the following marker at the beginning of the trail which leads to the peaks:

The officials overseeing the maintenance of the park and trails have not issued this warning in an effort to limit tourists’ fun or enjoyment. They are not trying to deceive visitors in order to prevent them from first-handedly experiencing the beauty of the mountains. The sign is not a fence. It is a guard rail. The warning has been issued in an effort  to ensure the safety of the visitors.

Yet visitors and adventurers reading the warning do so with various reactions.   Some give heed to the admonition and wisely turn around. Some continue on with varying degrees of skepticism and caution. Some simply ignore the notification. Some don’t believe the warning applies to them.  Some overestimate their climbing and hiking skills.

Still others view the warning as a dare.  These are the ones who live for the thrill of looking death in the eye and coming away without a scratch. The ones who live for the adrenaline rush of walking on the edge, between glory or devastation, between living to brag about their success or providing headlines in their death.

Regardless of why people bypass the warning sign, should they suffer injury or death in doing so, they are responsible for their own fate.  A warning has been issued. They chose to proceed at their own risk.  The suffered consequences are the results of their own foolishness.

Spiritually, the Bible contains many warnings about the dangers of sin.  These admonitions are not written with the intent of limiting man’s enjoyment of life. They are not fences designed to keep us out of lush pastures. They are guard rails surrounding dangerous pitfalls.

People read these definitions and warnings concerning sin with various reactions. Some heed the warnings and willingly turn from the dangerous risks.

Some ignore them.  Some do not believe the warnings apply to them. Others overestimate their abilities to deal with the consequences of engaging in the wickedness. Then there are those who view the biblical warnings as a dare. They love living on the edge, challenging God and all that he has declared through his word.

Regardless of why we continue past God’s warnings; regardless of why we continue on into sin; the consequences for doing is always the same – spiritual death. Unlike bypassing safety warnings issued by man in that we may or may not suffer consequences, when we bypass God’s warnings, we are assured that we will die.

That’s why God strongly warns us:

Flee fornication.

Flee from idolatry.

Flee youthful lusts.

Flee the love of money.

Abstain from all appearance of evil.

“Love not the world, neither the things that are in this world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but of the world.  And the world passes away, and the lust thereof: but he that does the will of God abides forever.”

(1 Corinthians 6:18; 1 Corinthians 10:14; 2 Timothy 2:22;  1 Timothy 6:6-11; 1 Thessalonians 5:22; 1 John 2:15-17)

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