by Will Ghormley
There are a lot of different ways to break horses, but one that works for me is borrowed from the wild mustang herds themselves. With any group of horses there is a pecking order. In the wild mustang herd, the dominant animal calls the shots and the rest follow. The dominant animal decides when and where the herd will water. The dominant animal, either a stallion or a mare, will decide where the herd will graze. The rest of the herd follows their lead.
The first thing I do when I want to break a horse is to catch ‘em. Often, it’s easiest to chase the horse into a trap corral where I can drop a loop over their head. Have you ever felt like life has you trapped – that the circumstances of your life have you backed into a corner? Life can be difficult, and a lot of the time we make it harder with the bad decisions we make. When our conscience tells us we have done wrong, our natural inclination is to run from God. We see this very thing in the Bible, back in the very beginning.
Genesis 3:8-10 Then Adam and his wife Eve heard the sound of the Lord God as he was walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and they hid from the Lord God among the trees of the garden. But the Lord God called to the man, “Where are you?”
Adam answered, “I heard you in the garden and I was afraid because I was naked; so I hid.”
Whether we want to admit it or not, we can’t hide from our conscience. We have all done wrong. We all feel guilty. And like Adam and Eve, we hide from God. Now most of us hide from God the way my little red headed boys like to hide. They cover their eyes and say, “You can’t see me!” As adults, we are more sophisticated. To hide our sins we say, “There is no God.” Or we say, “God is a good god, he wouldn’t send me to hell for the little things I’ve done wrong.” “I’m basically a good person!” But the result is the same. My little boys are in plain sight, even though they have covered up their little eyes. Adam and Eve’s sin was clear to God, even though they hid among the trees. And we have sinned, even if we want to rationalize it away. It is still there in plain sight. So we run from God. When we run from God, our lives end up being a trap we set for ourselves.
Once I’ve got the horse in the trap corral, I can usually drop a loop over its head within a couple dozen tries. As soon as the rope is around his neck though, you better have it snubbed off to a post or you’ll be doin’ some horse apple skiin’. You get the idea.
I’ll let that horse fight the rope until it figures out it won’t do any good. Sometimes its ten minutes, sometimes it’s several hours, or even days. The ones that never give up fightin’ the rope I just name “Alpo” and call the rendering truck. During this process, the horse learns to respect the rope. This is the first step to learning I’m the boss. But you know, the Word of God is like a rope he tosses around our necks to pull us back to Him. We hate it! We fight it! We strain against it! We want our freedom! We want to do things our own way! But fight as hard as we like, if we are truthful with ourselves, we can’t deny that God’s Word is true. I’m going to prove it to you. I want you to be as honest with yourselves as I am being with you. Let’s look at God’s Ten Commandments.
Exodus 20:1-17 lays them out. Here is a quick paraphrase. You will have no other gods before me. Don’t make any idols. Don’t use God’s Holy name inappropriately. Keep the Sabbath day Holy. Honor your Father and Mother. Don’t murder. Don’t commit adultery. Don’t steal. Don’t lie. Don’t desire other peoples possessions.
OK. Let’s go through the list. How many of you have put another god before the real God. I have. There was a point in my life where I was my own god. I made up the rules that I would live by, based on what I thought was right and wrong. I was basically a good person, but I didn’t want to follow the Ten Commandments, so I made myself god, and made my own rules. If you are honest with yourself, you will realize there have been times in your life you’ve done the same.
How about idols. Many have worshiped money, sought only gain. Others worship a wife or husband, father or mother, political leader, church leader. How about freedom. I use to worship personal freedom. The ultimate goal was to live free or die. I lived to be free, to be my own boss. That is an idol that I had set up in my life. I still struggle with being my own boss. It’s idolatry.
How about using God’s name in vain. You may not have used God’s name as a curse word, but how about as an exclamation of surprise? That’s inappropriate. How about using his name lightly, “Oh for the love of God!” That’s inappropriate. It doesn’t honor the Holiness of God, or the majesty of His name. It is using God’s name in vain. This alone would send me off to hell.
Then there is keeping the Sabbath Holy, set apart for worshiping God. How many of us have blown off church to do something else. Sometimes it’s unavoidable, but who hasn’t skipped church at least once in their life? Who hasn’t gone at least one Sunday without ever thinking about God? At some point in everybody’s life, I would bet that there has been at least one Sunday that wasn’t kept Holy, separated for the worshiping of God. Anybody want to take me up on that bet?
OK, how about honoring your father and mother. I’m going to guarantee that none of us made it through our teen years without breaking this commandment. Think back now. Think hard. I’m sure you can remember a time you were rude or impolite to your parents. If you say you weren’t, just wait a few more commandments, we’re going to get down to the lying one!
Don’t Murder. For those of you who have served in the military, the Bible makes a difference between killing and murdering. While the King James Version of the Bible translates it here as “kill,” the only accurate translation of the original Hebrew word is “murder.” That is taking a human life unjustly. It is different from the word used for soldiers killing during battle, or the justice system killing to eradicate an evil person because of their crimes. But that doesn’t let anyone off the hook!
1 John 3:15 Anyone who hates his brother is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life in him.
Now, right off the bat, I can’t recall ever hating anyone, but I’m sure at one time I have. That makes me a murderer in God sight.
How about committing adultery. No, I don’t want to see a show of hands. Here again, you may never have actually physically broken this commandment, but the Bible has further insight into what Jesus has to say on the subject.
Matthew 5:28 But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart.
I would bet my life there isn’t a single adult male who isn’t guilty of adultery. I’d also bet there are very few, if any, adult women who wouldn’t fall into this category. Let’s move on. No sense in beating a dead horse.
No stealing. No kid with brothers or sisters escaped childhood without taking something from their siblings that wasn’t theirs. Mom and Dad may not have let them keep it, but it was stealing none-the-less. A pen from the office, hours that you were on the clock getting paid to do your job when you were actually emailing your friends or taking a long lunch, a discrepancy in filing your taxes. You get the idea, we’re all guilty!
Then there is the lying thing. Big or little, as some point, everyone has told a lie. Somebody might say, “Well, I’ve never told a lie!” See! There you go again, lying your Wranglers off. I’d be lying if I tried to tell you I’ve never told a lie. It’s tax time, you’re going to sit there with a straight face and tell me you’ve never told a lie. “Oh, no! Not me. I’ve got an accountant for that sort of thing.”
The last of the “Big Ten” is not desiring other peoples possessions. Now this is very important, perhaps the most important commandment, because it shows how God feels about this whole “Right & Wrong” thing. God is saying, “It’s a sin to do this kind of thing in your heart too.” You notice, you don’t have to actually do anything to be sinning in this commandment. All’s you have to do is think about it. We’ll have to look at this one in the Bible.
Exodus 20:17 You shall not covet your neighbor’s house. You shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, or his manservant or maidservant, his ox or donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbor.
God has already told us not to steal and not to commit adultery. Here he is telling us it is a sin to even think about wanting these things. How many of us have ever wanted something that belongs to someone else. I have. Now, I’ve never specifically wanted someone else’s donkey or ox, but I’ve wanted a horse or two. That’s not specifically covered here, but we all know what God means.
Most people don’t want to admit they are sinners. They fight the notion that they aren’t good enough for God to let them into Heaven and into his glorious perfect presence. But the fact is, imperfection cannot co-exist in the presence of God’s perfection. Heaven wouldn’t be perfect any more with imperfect people there. Honestly, it’s no big incentive or reward to think about spending eternity with people like you. No matter how nice you may be, I’m sure you’d be getting on my nerves in an eon or so. If you knew me you’d be thinking the same thing. So what’s the big deal about admitting we are imperfect sinners who aren’t worthy of kneeling in the presence of God? Quite fighting the rope that God has dropped around your neck. You may not like it, but the more you fight that rope, the tighter it’s going to get. Eventually you’ll learn to respect the rope. Once you respect the rope, God can start teaching you things. And you don’t want to hear the voice of God saying, “I think I’ll name you Alpo.”
After the horse has learned to respect the rope, I have to establish my position as the dominant animal in the new herd. The herd that consists of me and the horse. To do this I imitate the patterns of the mustang herd. The dominant animal decides when it’s time go to water and where the herd will go to find new pastures. Because of the horses’ social structure, it is wired to submit. The horse understands the concept of submission. Like us, the horse wants to do things it’s own way, but it will submit to a dominant animal. This next step may seem cruel to some folks, but I believe it is one of the best ways to gain dominance over a horse without actually hurting or frightening the horse into submission. It’s simple. Deny the horse food and water. Let the horse get hungry and thirsty. When the horse get hungry and thirsty enough to allow you to lead it to food and water, or to bring food and water to it, you have established your role as the dominant animal in the herd.
This may go on for days, to re-enforce your role as the dominant animal, but the horse understands the concept and will accept it. It’s no different for me and you. We’ve all had times in our lives when we weren’t satisfied with our lot in life. We have felt empty, restless. We have thought to ourselves, “Surely there has to be something better than this!” And there is! What you feel is a longing for the presence of God in your life, or a closer relationship with your Creator.
Matthew 5:6 Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.
As humans, we are wired to have a relationship with our Creator. When that is missing in our lives, we can never be truly contented. Without Him we are driven and restless, dissatisfied with life, we feel aimless, our lives seem to lack purpose. And all of this is true, because we were created to have a relationship with God. And how can we find contentment in our lives and with our lives? Be a smart as a dumb horse! Submit to God, that’s how.
Psalm 23:1-3 The Lord is my shepherd, I will lack nothing. He makes me lie down in green pastures, He leads me beside quiet waters, He guides me in paths of righteousness, for His name’s sake.
Once you have learned to respect the rope – you understand God’s word is true; and you realize you need to have a relationship with God – you are ready to submit to God’s authority; what is the next step? The Bible has the answer.
John 14:6 Jesus said, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me…”
Why is Jesus the only way? In looking at the “Big Ten” Commandments, we have seen that none of us are perfect enough to even kneel in the presence of God. We aren’t perfect, and no matter how long we may live, we will never be perfect. It is because we are imperfect and can never become perfect, that Jesus is the only way. Jesus was perfect, and because God loved us so much, He sent His own perfect son to take our place.
John 3:12-17 I have spoken to you of earthly things and you do not believe; how then will you believe if I speak of heavenly things? No one has ever gone into heaven except the one who came from heaven – the Son of Man. Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the desert, so the Son of Man must be lifted up. That everyone who believes in him may have eternal life, For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.
But how did Jesus take our place? Remember in the Garden of Eden. Adam and Eve had sinned by disobeying God. What did they do? They hid from God. They separated themselves from the presence of God because they knew they had done wrong and couldn’t stand to be in the presence of the perfect God of Creation. Now look at your own life. When your conscience convicts you of wrongdoing, what do you do? You separate yourself from the presence of God. You run from God. You deny God exists. But none of this helps. Your life becomes a trap. But Jesus took your place. Jesus took my place.
1 Peter 2:24-25 He himself bore our sins in his body on the cross, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness; by his wounds you have been healed. For you were like sheep going astray, but now you have returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls.
While our sin separates us from God, Jesus had never sinned and had never been separated from God. But he took our place. While hanging on the cross, He allowed himself to be separated from God for us.
Matthew 27:46 About the ninth hour Jesus cried out in a loud voice, “Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani?” – which means, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”
God in Heaven, stood before His throne, and turned His back on Jesus, visiting on His Sinless Son the separation we all face for our transgressions. Jesus knew why His Father had turned His back on Him. But Jesus had never known an instant without the presence of God in His life. Now, suddenly, the presence of God had been ripped from His life – and in His despair and agony at loosing that life giving communion with His Father, Jesus cried out in pain. Because he did, we can all know what Jesus went through for us.
What do we do now? Jesus has taken our place on the cross, suffering separation from the Heavenly Father, so our sins will not stand between us and God. Do we go to the Father, or do we turn our backs and continue to run from God. You can run Alpo, but sooner or later you are going to die. Then there is no more running, just the rendering truck.
Romans 10:8-10 But what does it say? “The word is near your; it is in your mouth and in your heart,” that is, the word of faith we are proclaiming:
That if you confess with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you confess and are saved.
When I break a horse, that horse needs to submit to me to be of any use at all. If that horse won’t accept me as boss, I’ll never be able to trust it. That horse will be useless. It's life will be lived eating grass and making fertilizer - and in the end - there will be the rendering truck. But if the horse submits to me, I can begin to sack it out and get it ready to carry a burden. I don’t just throw a saddle on it and “let ‘er buck!” No, first I run my hands over the animal. Let it get use to my smell and the feel of my hands on its body. Next I bring in the horse blanket. I let the horse smell the blanket and get use to the sight of it. Then I gently rub the horse down with the blanket so the horse doesn’t fear it. Then the blanket will get draped over the horses back.
The horse needs to be introduced to the halter and lead rope, then to the bit. Eventually I’ll work the horse to the point it will accept a saddle on it’s back. Finally, I’ll ease myself into the saddle. If I’ve done my job right, the horse won’t pitch a fit. In a little while, I’ll be able to use the horse for whatever job I have in mind for it.
Mark 8:34-36 Then the crowd came to him along with his disciples and Jesus said: “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever gives up his life for me and for the gospel will save it…”
Have you ever noticed how much a well trained horse enjoys doing its job? A cutting horse going after its calf is an inspiration to watch, better yet to ride! A thoroughbred stretching it out down the track is a thing of beauty. The way a roping horse slides to a stop and backs up to keep the rope tight is just amazing. It’s not any different for a human being when they submit to the Creator and serve Him.
Isaiah 40:31 But those who serve the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not become tired.
Life isn’t easy. No one ever promised us it would be. In fact, if you live long enough, living will wear you out and kill you. But we don’t need to fear the failing of this mortal body, not if our life belongs to God. Living for God is a life of service and challenge, and in the end not death, but our reward and a new beginning. We won’t be punished for all the things we continue to do wrong; instead we’ll be rewarded for our faith in Jesus and what we’ve done to help others come to know him. We will go on to join those who have died in God’s service and gone on before us.
Hebrews 12:1-2 So, seeing we are surrounded with such a great crowd of heavenly spectators, let us lay down every burden, and the sin that so easily trips us up, and let us run with patient endurance the race that is set before us. Looking to Jesus for our inspiration, the author and the finisher of our faith, who, for the joy that was set before him, endured the cross, despising the shame, and who now sits at the right hand of the throne of God.
If you have a personal relationship with the Father, I hope this Easter message has strengthened your faith. If you are not sure about your relationship with the Creator, I hope this has helped clarify some things. If you have any questions, or you want to make the decision to serve God, be sure to get a hold of me and ask. When this life is over, I want you to hear God say, “Well done my good and faithful child, enter into my kingdom!” None of us want to hear Him say, “What do you think you’re doing here, Alpo!”