I don’t like to brag but I have discovered a secret talent that I did not know I had. I can call cows. I know, I know. It’s hard for me to fathom as well but I am, deep down inside, a remarkably gifted cow caller. Doris and I went with our friends, Robert and Joan to my uncle’s cabin in central Kentucky last week. It is a beautifully secluded A-frame cottage surround by a couple of hundred rolling hills and meadows, right on the Licking River. And since it is surrounded by meadows, it is also surrounded by 40 or so cows that my cousin “runs” out there. A lot of calves, about two dozen cows and heifers, (hey, I know what heifers are) and a big ol’ bull that looks pretty grumpy.
One evening, I sat on the deck of the cabin and tried my best deep throated moo. To my surprise the whole herd started moving toward the cabin, I would moo. They would moo back and move closer to the fence. My friend Robert joined in the conversation. He would moo. They’d go his way. I would moo. My way. You get the picture. We spent the whole evening moooving the cows one way then the other. Of course, there is the distinct possibility that they are having a good laugh right now saying, “Do you remember the night we kept those two old men mooing back and forth the whole evening?”
Following is kind of a herd thing. Somebody moos and we head there. Another person has a better moo and we are off after them. Especially we who call ourselves believers. The latest Bible study comes out and off we trot. Young, hip pastor writes a book about heaven and “moo”, here we go. Like the cows at the River Farm we are easily drawn to the latest spiritual fad, the next Bible trend, the most recent theological persuasion. MOO, we are following the herd someplace else, if not physically then at least with our interest and our attention.
Jesus calls us to be followers, but not that kind of followers. We are not a herd of cattle, blindly responding to the familiar call we hear around the corner of the building. The call from Jesus is a hard call to respond to. It is about crosses, and suffering, and letting go of stuff. The call from Jesus is one that, frankly, we are constantly evaluating. He says, “If anyone would come after me, he must DENY himself (or herself) and take up his cross DAILY and follow me. (Luke 9:23) I don’t just fall in on the cow path with the rest of the heifers. I decide, really, every minute of every day, that I am willing to follow Jesus in a lifestyle that is marked as much by battles as it is by blessing, as much by rigor as reward, as much by pain as by promise. I decide every day to take up my CROSS and follow Him.
There are three words that come to mind when I think about the life that Jesus calls me to. The call of Jesus is to a life that is sacrificial. He says in verse 24, “Whoever wants to save his life will lose it, whoever loses his life for Me will save it.” Now, I don’t for a moment compare my sacrifice to the great saints that Jesus is actually talking to. He has just led Peter through that great confession of Christ that frankly, will end up getting Peter killed. This whole discussion is a lead up to the suffering and death of Jesus himself. But, while my sacrifice is not on that level it should cost me something or I probably am not really a follower at all. If I cannot look at my life and point to something that I have been willing to GIVE UP for Jesus then how do I know I am really a follower and not just a cow with her head down, trailing along behind the herd.
I grew up with a pretty simple theology, “We don’t smoke and we don’t chew. And we don’t go with the girls that do.” That’s about all you need to know. Following Jesus meant giving up snuff. Hey, I’m eight years old. I can do that. No, it’s more than that. It is choosing to live in such a way that every decision, every purchase, every career choice, every relationship is measured against the things that I think are most pleasing to God. (Remember Day 1: Please God!) So, my wife and I are having troubles. I think I’ll just chuck the whole thing, get a divorce and start all over. But wait a minute, I have decided to follow Jesus. I have sacrificed the ability I to do what I want, where I want and when I want. Paul says that, “all of us lived at one time…gratifying the cravings of our sinful flesh and following its desires and thoughts.” (Ephesians 2:3) He also says, by the way, that we were “dead in our transgressions and sins” at that time. (vs 1). But when we decided to follow Jesus, we gave that stuff up and “God…made us alive in Christ.” (vs 5) Now this is all done by the grace of God, “not by works, so that no one can boast.” (vs 9) But it still calls for me to choose to live in a sacrificial way that COST me something. I am called to live a life of sacrifice.
Another word that comes to mind, along with sacrificial is sacerdotal. Fancy word. It just means priestly, having to do with priestly things. In other words, if I am more than just a cow following the mooing in front of me, I choose to take on the responsibility to be priestly, to represent God to the world that I live in. Go back to Ephesians 2. Paul says in verse 10 that “we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus, to DO GOOD WORKS, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” Jesus said in John 14:12 that we will do what He has been doing. In fact, He says, “He will do even greater things than these, because I (Jesus) am going to the Father. Remember that little Sunday School ditty, God has no hands but your hands, God has no feet but your feet? It’s true. The call of Jesus to follow Him is a call to represent Christ to EVERYBODY that I come in contact with. (In contact means, in the Greek, in contact…talking, FaceBooking, driving beside in traffic…in contact.) So before I go off on my latest social media rant, before I flip off the guy beside me on the interstate, before I pick up the phone and blast the Comcast lady (well, maybe that one is justified) I think, I am a representative of Jesus to this person. Is this how Jesus would want to be represented?
Sacrificial. Sacerdotal. And the last word about this call is sacramental. When I become a true Christ follower, when I get out of the herd and start really answering the call of Jesus, then all of my life becomes sacred. God is present and active in every single aspect of every single moment of my life. , When things are wonderful and I get the raise and my kids make straight A’s, God is there. When the transmission goes out, and the doctor says I have bad news, and the blue light is flashing in my rearview mirror, God is there, too. It is ALL sacred. That has tremendous ramifications for how I respond, whether or not I give in to fear, how I handle the hard times. In fact, I believe I answer the call of Jesus best when I go through extremely difficult circumstances with grace, and faith, and praise for who He is and what He is doing. I see every distress as a sacred opportunity to answer the call of God and REALLY follow Him. Jesus says, back in Luke 9:26, “If anyone is ashamed of me and my words, the Son of Man will be ashamed of him.” In the hard stuff, when I want to moan, and whine, and gripe, as a Christ follower I instead “boldly proclaim the mysteries of God.” (Ephesians 6:19) I don’t understand all that I’m going through but I know God is good and I have decided to follow Him.
Well, there you go. Jesus says to “take up your cross daily and follow Him.” That means I live sacrificially, sacerdotaly and sacramentally. To do anything less is just to be a cow in the herd. And I don’t want to be no heifer. But I can call one if you need me to.
Have a blessed day,
(PS Sorry I’m late today. On Thursday’s I do a Bible study with a great group of men at Branches. If you are in the area, we’d love for you to join us any Thursday at 6AM.
Also, tonight I will be on Bridges on WCTN with Monica Schmelter.
Each Wednesday night in September I am teaching at Family Worship Center. You can go to their website and listen to the podcast.
September 22-24, Doris and I will be doing a marriage conference in Winter Haven, FL.
AND DON’T FORGET SIMPLY FREE. October 20-21 at FWC. Peace. Out.)