Growing up, I always wondered what it was like to climb down on a bull. To feel the potential energy contained in their muscles, to feel adrenaline pulsing as you lower yourself down on him in the chute. Baxter Black told his son: “The difference between a mechanical bull and a real one is the feeling you get when you look down!” The curiosity is something I dwelt on, but now that I have firsthand knowledge, my prediction, my thought of what it was like, was way off. When something is that close, when you can see it, touch it, feel it, and all an arms length away, what you thought was close to reality, turns out to be a faint whisper. Yahweh’s attributes were real
in the OT, but were high def. on the cross!
“For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross.” Colossians 1.19-20
The attributes of God were on display throughout the life of Christ, but never more clear than in his death and resurrection.
It was on Calvary, the Son of God hand’s were fixed to the cross, his power seemingly absent. During his ministry people exclaimed, “He does all things well” (Mark 7.37), now while on the cross he was mocked, “Be saved others, but he can’t save himself.” (Mark 15.31) Three days later, it was the power of God that left the tomb empty.
It was on Calvary, where Jesus face was looking down from the cross, displayed the blessing of God. During his ministry, Jesus face was before the outcasts and the downtrodden. Speaking in parables about the blessed Kingdom of God, preaching sermons that began with words like “blessed are you” and “the kingdom of God is like…” Now upon the cross, beaten and bloodied, what had been a blessing to this world, hung there as cursed (Deut. 22). Three days later, his face would appear before his disciples again. Some would recognize him and others wouldn’t, but it was no doubt that blessing took on a whole new meaning.
It was on Calvary, where the long nose of God, his patience with humanity was shown. Patience is that line between love and anger. Nowhere was God’s love and anger put on display more vividly in the work of his Son on the cross. God’s justice and his wrath mandated that sin be punished, therefore a sacrifice was needed. God’s love offered forgiveness and relationship, therefore a sacrifice was provided. In the cross we see his patience on display, understanding that the “fullness of time had come”, sin was to be taken away. Jesus offered both the sacrifice as needed and the sacrifice provided. Our sin was placed on him, as he took our place as needed. God’s love and our sin put him there. God had been patient with man, but his anger toward sin couldn’t wait any longer. Thank God for the sacrifice provided.
It was on Calvary, where the eyes of Jesus fell upon those gathered at the foot of the cross. Just as Yahweh’s eyes searched for those committed to him, Jesus eyes wandered from his elevated perch. During his ministry, Jesus looked into many people’s eyes, studying their attitudes and actions. The beaten and shamed eyes of the Samaritan Woman, the curious yet confident eyes of Nicodemus, the blind eyes in John 9, the proud eyes of the Pharisees. From the cross, he looked out and saw the condemning eyes of the Jewish Rulers, the dutiful eyes of the Romans, the tear-filled eyes of the women. Some renaissance painters used the cross in their paintings as a division line, placing believers on one side and unbelievers on the others. They used the cross in art in the same way that it works in eternity. But on that day, Jesus eyes from the cross scanned the crowd, the criminals, the soldiers, and knew what was in their hearts. “Father, forgive them for they know not what they are doing!”
It was on Calvary, the ears of the Son of God heard both taunts and desperation in the same way the ears of Yahweh heard the cries of his people. During his ministry cries of desperation rang out from the crowds: “Son of David Have mercy on Me!” Upon the cross, the shouts rang out in his direction: “Come down from the cross and save yourself!” and “He saved others but he couldn’t save himself!” But amidst the taunts, he heard the cry of distress: “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” A call came from a fellow condemned. The cross is where the desperate come to call out.
It was on Calvary, where the nails rested between his radius and ulna. The arms of Jesus, stretched out and fixed to the patibulum, saving men like the arm of the Lord had in the Old Testament. During his ministry, he reached out to people, offering salvation from blindness, muteness, deafness, and paralysis. On the cross, he saved us not from the physical that brings death once, but from the spiritual deficiency known as sin, that causes eternal death. With his arms stretched wide, Jesus displayed God’s arms of salvation.
On Calvary, God’s attributes were manifested in the death of Jesus Christ. His eyes, ears, hands, arms, face, and nose were all on display as Jesus bore the nails, the sins, and the cross and gave up his life.
It was the Invisible God made flesh, animated before His people.
I am of the opinion that very rarely is anyone remembered in a vacuum. In the rodeo world, Tuff Hedeman and Lane Frost will be forever linked. Tuff and Bodacious, Ty Murray and Hard Copy, Michael Jordan/Scotty Pippen, Bird/Magic, Jobs/Wosniak…you can probably think of many others. Very rarely is anyone remembered solely, but our interconnectedness is what makes legends and history. Sam Savitt wrote his book Midnight: Champion Bucking Horse, a fictional account based on history, about the collision course between two great figures whose connection would make them legendary. Before Tuff/Bodacious, Lane/Red Rock, Shivers/Yellow Jacket, Freckles/Tornado, before bullriding ruled the sport, legendary saddle bronc horses met up with legendary hands. Midnight met Pete Knight 4 times in their career, with the unridden-in-his-career Midnight coming out on top every time. This book sets the course for their meeting in Cheyenne in 1930.
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Its amazing to me how a vest and chaps can change a kids personality. Face paint and a bullfighting jersey can take a 2nd grade boy and turn him into a tough talking man. Watching the mutton busters, calf riders, and steer riders grow up behind the chutes is one of the joys of taking part in youth rodeo. I was trying to give some of our participants in the games a church service some candy this weekend and wasn’t able to find our two young men. I found one of their trailers and asked his dad where he was. Mr. McGee informed me that his son, a pretty handy steer rider, was “strutting around behind the chutes, sticking his chest out, and spitting…you know being a bull rider.” When you put these young men in a pair of chaps and a vest, they grow up quick on you. Just after my talk with Mr. McGee, I was headed back to the chutes when I was stopped by a young barrel racer who desperately wanted to know where my partner, the other bullfighter was. I told her I didn’t know where Daniel was. She got kind of upset at me and reiterated that she didn’t care where Daniel was, but where Judd was. Judd is our sheep and steer fighter. I learned from him later that he kind of likes her a little bit. Once you put a jersey on him, he becomes a different kid. Two kids living the rodeo life….in their mind behind the yellow chutes of Vegas.
Over the last few weeks, I have thought a lot about the attributes of God (I wrote about many of them on here). As I reflected upon the traits of God, I couldn’t help but notice them in the life of Jesus as well. Being as God is both Singular (“Hear O Israel, the Lord is one” (Deut. 6.4) yet plural in three persons (Father, Son, and Holy Spirit), the attributes of Yahweh are also seen in the incarnation and ministry of Jesus. Jesus, put on human flesh, when he arrived on this earth, and bore the attributes of Yahweh not just in the presence of humanity, but alongside humanity. Jesus “put on” human flesh (John 1.14), bringing the power of God in his hands as he healed the sick, lame, and paralyzed. He looked into the eyes of the broken and the prideful. His ears heard the shouts of adoration concerning his work. His arms reached out for those who needed his salvation. His long nose, his patience, was tested and on display as people lied to him, about him, and abandoned him. For many that encountered him, that saw his face, his blessing was shown to them. In all these things the attributes of God was shown as member of the Triune God-head.
The incarnation of Jesus, the missionary journey of God to humanity, is partially explained in Colossians 1.19-20
“For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven…”
Imagine the attributes of God, walking the dusty roads of Palestine, in cognito. With the look, the walk, the talk of God, in a brand new look.. God, clothed in flesh, interacting with man. Like a young man, who takes on a persona when the vest and chaps come on, God lived amongst us, clothed in flesh, living the life of a human.
As you read through the stories of Jesus, where do you see the attributes of God shown?
To be continued…
No one is there for me no cares no one listens
if only there would be on person in this world to care
I’d talk to myself but that does not get me anywhere
Lost in an unfamiliar world like an alien on earth no one to teach me their way
no one to show me how not to cry no one to take the pain away
on a road to nowhere is where I’m going I’m on my way.
A middle school girl wrote this the other day. She asked me to read it and I was blown away by two things: 1) she has a gift for writing; 2) the despair that a middle school student has to live with as this was written by someone who is really struggling as her loneliness drips onto paper. What do you say to that?
Tonight I received a message telling of a car accident involving a member of a rodeo association I am apart of. Her 6-year-old grandson was killed in the accident. She is having surgery Monday for a broken back and pelvis. They are an awesome family that serves the association and everyone around them. What needs to be said in this situation? What message needs to shine through?
In tracking through the anthropomorphisms of the LORD, I continually find myself in awe of the character and nature of God. But that awe is quickly replaced by the thought of His infatuation with us. At our loneliest, our most isolated, our darkest hour, when all glory has faded from our lives, God is still at work. When the noise of this world overpowers our song, the Lord’s whisper rules the day. When all strength has left our bodies and our will is held on with the thinnest of threads, it is the LORD whose power strains on our behalf. When we feel most lost, God’s salvation is our way home.
There wasn’t a time when Israel felt more lost than the Exile. As the people of God wasted away in a foreign land, ruled by a godless people, and stripped of their identity, it was the “arm of the Lord” who would save them. Isaiah writes:
“Because of your sins you were sold, because of your transgressions your mother was sent away. When I came, why was there no one? When I called, why was there no one to answer? Was my arm too short to ransom you? Do I lack the strength to rescue you? (Isaiah 50.1-2)
The “arm” [ zeroa] of Yahweh has shown up in some key places. But where this anthropomorphism really saturates the text is in the last third of the Book of Isaiah. It’s no coincidence that this metaphor for salvation comes through most often from the pen of a man whose name means “Yahweh is Salvation.” Isaiah’s ministry ran through the ups and downs of history. As his book starts out: “The vision concerning Judah and Jerusalem that Isaiah son of Amoz saw during the reigns of Uzziah, Jotam, Ahaz and Hezekiah, kings of Judah.” (1.1) Uzziah was a great king, who led Judah for 52 years of prosperity and stability. (2 Chron. 26.4) But the power and success went to his head and he turned his back on God (2 Chron. 26.16) Jotham, did his best to walk in the ways of God, even if the people didn’t. (2 Chronicles 27:2, 6) Ahaz forgot everything his father had done and made an absolute mess of the kingdom of Judah (2 Chron. 28.1-4, 22). His idol worship and child sacrfices took Judah to a height of unfaithfulness it had never seen! But his son Hezekiah would right the ship and lead Judah in repentance and faithfulness (2 Chronicles 29:2). One of Hezekiah’s greatest deeds of faithfulness was his prayer to God, as the armies of Sennarcherib of Assyria, a couple hundred thousand strong, encircled Jerusalem (Isaiah 37.14ff.). Because of his prayer, the Lord sent and Angel to kill 185,000 Assyrians and the siege was lifted and Jerusalem saved (37.36-37). Hezekiah carried the message of survival from God (37.21). But he also carried the word of destruction:
“Hear the word of the Lord Almighty. The time will surely come when everything in your palace, and all that your fathers have stored up until this day, will be carried off to Babylon. Nothing will be left says the Lord. And some of your descendants, your own flesh and blood who will be born to you, will be taken away…” (Isaiah 39.5-7)
He carried the message from God, that a country that hadn’t yet reached its full power, Babylon, will destroy Judah. A reality that will come to fruition in just over 100 years from this prophecy. Imagine if the book had ended there on that depressing note, with death, destruction, and depression. Isaiah, however, understands that the story isn’t over, God isn’t done with Judah. Exile to Babylon is not the final act of this play. The remaining 26 chapters are about the future that will become of Judah after their time in exile. It is in these chapters that Isaiah spins some beautiful poetic language and metaphor, with the arm of the Lord being a significant thread. Isaiah 50.1-2 says:
“Because of your sins you were sold, because of your transgressions your mother was sent away….Was my arm too short to ransom you? Do I lack the strength to rescue you? By a mere rebuke I dry up the sea, I turn rivers into a desert…”
The sin of Judah will put them in exile, but the “arm of the Lord” will bring them out. Yahweh is asking a rhetorical question: “Was my arm too short to ransom you?” It is a question asked two other times in scripture (Num 11.23; Isaiah 59.1) each time in the context of some act of saving. In classic Hebrew parallelism, He forms the question again in a different way: “Do I lack the strength to rescue you?” He asks the question twice expecting the same answer. To “ransom” [hb. pedut] and “rescue” [hb. nasal]. Isaiah loves the “rescue” idea (used 22 times in his book), however, in the rest of the book, nasal is usually translated “deliverer” with a clear nod to the Exodus story. As for “ransom”, it is used only 3 other places in scripture, each time with redemption in mind. So God asks the question, quite emphatically. It’s a question of capability. “Was my arm too short to ransom you?” In the Hebrew short is repeated twice for emphasis, an attempt by God to show the gravity of the situation alongside His ability to triumph. The arm of the Lord is there to save.
What was the length to which the LORD went to save us? It’s an incredible story. Are we ever too far from his grasp? It is a feeling that haunts many. Is the country ever to distant for His arm not to reach? Isaiah certainly understood it not possible. Isaiah 59.1-2:
“Surely the arm of the Lord is not too short to save…But your iniquities have separated you from your God; your sins have hidden his face from you so that he will not hear.”
It was our choice, our sin that distanced us, and the nation of Judah, from God. I for one am growing ever more aware of the sin, addiction, and depravity, from which I was saved. As my awareness increases, so does my understanding of what the world needs saving from as well. Just as in the poem that started this thought, the world is in need of salvation from despair, of release from bondage, and a shot of hope. Is God’s arm to short to save? I have seen many from greater depths than surround me, from more dire circumstances than I have known, from greater wildernesses than I have imagined, reached by the long arm of salvation of the LORD. The next 5 verses (Isaiah 50.4-9) was a prophecy about Jesus, the suffering servant, come to earth. A visual representation of the length of God’s love, the distance He would go to bring salvation to His people. How great is the arm of salvation of the LORD. An arm that is reaching out to a 7th grade girl, a grandmother in need of healing, wrapped around a 6year old boy as we speak, and embracing a sinner like me!
What is the arm of the Lord saving you from today? Do you feel His arms wrapped around you? Do you need to feel a hug from the Father today?
Lucas and I were walking through R Bar B last year checking out the inventory. Near the entrance Russ, the owner, has nailed up some old rodeo photos. I could stare at old rodeo photo’s for days on end. Everyone of them is a little bit different. Is the stock raring up or kicking out? the steer low or high headed? the loop going to catch or slide off? the rider in position? are the bullfighters in position? what is going through each persons mind? what are the connections between the people in the photo? Amidst photos of rides and runs and rodeos, there was one that stood out. The photo that we both studied for sometime was of 8 cowboys standing in front of a chute. From the looks of their attire, it was the late 70’s or early 80’s. Seven men stood in their pearl snaps and wranglers, but one stood out. It was Lucas’ uncle Doug who fought bulls during that period. He was decked out in baggies and face paint. Traveling partners and friends, who rodeoed together and supported one another on their quest and played major roles in each other stories.
A few years back, Baxter Black wrote a commentary on a photo taken by Jim Fain of bullfighter Wacey Munsell making a save. To this day, it may be my favorite article that I have ever read. He captures the stocism of Munsell, the chaos of the event, and the action of the picture with his words. If you get a chance, take a moment to read it (here). I love each and every picture because of their minute differences and the stories each one tells.
A picture might show a guy before the biggest ride of his life. At the NFR, with thousands of dollars down on the ride, 100’s of thousands of miles driving all year to get to this point…the picture is taken.
The image might be of another time when rodeo wasn’t as organized or professional as it is today. Riders getting on animals to win $2 or a suit. In the middle of a pasture with only bragging rights on the line. Check out all the guys in the backgroudn watching him make a ride, A simpler time where it all began.
It could be of a bullfighter risking his body to make the save…
a wreck in process…
or a winning loop…
but every picture is different and tells a different story of how the subjects came to be captured. Each and every image tells a story, a journey that every cowboy takes in rodeo. The picture is but a slice of an entire string of events that brought them to that point and will be shoved backward as new images come to the front. Each picture is part of the tale.
I am fascinated by the stories rodeo photo’s tell. Almost as much as the story that is being played out all over the world by God. In the same way that I am blessed to be part of some fun rodeo pictures, I am greatly honored to be part of the pictures of God’s work in this world. Each image tells a story of what God is doing or has done. Sometimes we are a central figure in the picture, sometimes a blurry face in the background, but our placement in the frame makes the work no less real.
For when one says, “I follow Paul,” and another, “I follow Apollos,” are you not mere men? What, after all, is Apollos? What is Paul? Only servants, through whom you came to believe–as the Lord has assigned to each his task. I planted the see, Apollos watered it, but God made it grow. So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God, who makes things grow. The man who plants and the man who waters have one purpose, and each will be rewarded according to his own labor. For we are God’s fellow workers, you are God’s field, God’s building. (2 Cor. 3.3-9)
Paul is writing to the Corinthians a letter about unity. One of his main ways of fostering unity is to remind them of the journey that they are on together. Part of what gives rodeo photo’s their uniqueness is not only the action, but the people in the picture. The background, the foreground, the blurry and the focused. Together, rodeo cowboys are journeying together, buddying-up, traveling the country, chasing those white lines. Paul reminds the Corinthians of the awesome journeys happening in their church, the awesome pictures being captured, if their unity can remain in tact. He is certain that we all have role.
Who are you partnering with today, to capture the images focused on the work of God? Are you seeing his action and involvement clearly? Do you recognize his handiwork? Is there a bond that needs to be forged in unity, to celebrate God’s activity? We are all part of God’s plan of redeeming the World, let’s journey together…