Trail Ride

Cattle in Texas and the southwest tended to stay around water holes and rarely strayed to mix with other herds. But when several owners drove herds to market together, branding was a must. And, the entire herd was branded with another “trail brand.”
In Montana, mass roundups of cooperating ranches were the rule. After 1880, overgrazing pushed herds together in search of new grass and water. Over 4,000 brands were registered to identify stock. Branding fires were build and irons heated to a dull red. Irons heated hotter burned too deep and set hair afire. The outer skin layer was burned to the color of a new saddle. Three hundred calves would be branded in one afternoon. In 1885, one Montana crew branded 130 calves in one hour, with just two cutters dragging them from the milling herd!
Read John 1:29-34
The next day John saw Jesus coming toward him and said, “Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!”
John 1:29 Ropin’ the Truth
Identification of God’s man Who would set humanity from sin was critical. Mankind cannot afford to be wrong about Who He is! His name is Jesus Christ. Immediately after His baptism by John the Baptist, Jesus had gone into the wilderness for 40 days of testing (Mark 1:9-12). He returned to civilization and four consecutive days of witnesses concerning who He is! On day one, the Jewish religious leaders questioned John about himself. On day two, John recognized Jesus as the “Lamb of God.”
Lambs were killed and eaten at Passover to commemorate deliverance from Egyptian slavery (Exodus 12). Every family must offer one. Lambs were offered every morning and evening in the temple (Exodus 29:38-39). Jesus Christ is God’s answer to Isaac’s question: “Where is the lamb for a burnt offering (Genesis 22:7-8).” John’s greeting was a vivid reminder of the cross Jesus would endure.
Throughout history, godly Jews awaited God’s promised Lamb who would turn away the anger of a Holy God and take away sins! Now, John says Jesus takes away the sins of the entire world! He came to die for everyone! All who receive Him and who believe on His name become children of God (1:12). Dr. Thomas Constable adds, “After you have trusted Him you’ll sing with the Heavenly choir, “Worthy is the Lamb (Revelation 5:12)!”
Though John and Jesus were cousins (Luke 1:36), John didn’t know Jesus was Messiah as they grew up. Jesus was always led by God’s Holy Spirit. When God visibly showed a dove picturing the Holy Spirit (Matthew 3:13-17), John realized Jesus was the Unique Son of God. There was no mistaking His “brand.” Jesus is God, the Son!
Don’t Get Bucked Off
Jesus is God.
How did John know who He was?
How do you know who Jesus is?
The Trail of Still Waters
What did you learn from John 1:29-34?
How will you apply it?
Read John 1:15-28
John replied in the words of Isaiah the prophet, “I am the voice of one calling in the desert, ‘Make straight the way for the Lord.’”
John 1:23 Native Americans knew there was a Great Spirit. Most tribes maintained religious traditions. To the Sioux, everything had a spirit (animism) and Wi (the sun) was the chief god. Dreams and visions were ways they talked with spirits. Their Sun Dance, lasting 8-10 days, was a sacred ceremony of self torture to communicate directly with Wi to ask for help. A willing warrior was suspended by rawhide thongs or cut strips of flesh from his arms until he went into shock, leading to hallucinations (visions), through which they believed spirits communicated.
The Cheyenne worshipped many gods and Ma’heo’o was creator of all. Birds, animals, and plants manifested spirit beings to them. The Cheyenne wanted to life a good life, which led to a good death. Otherwise, they would walk the “suicide road” of the Milky Way or else return to earth as an evil spirit. This tribe also danced into trances via the Sun Dance.
Apaches believed coyotes, birds, and insects used to be humans. Apache spirits, at death, were recreated into human form (reincarnation). The Apache were fierce warriors who loved raiding and war.
The Comanche lived for war. It was their religion. War brought glory and spiritual improvement. To die young was a goal. Growing old and weak was a terrible stigma, and often produced suicide. The Comanche sought visions also.
The Pawnee were the most religious group of Native Americans. Tirawa was the supernatural power which produced the world through storms. He also created star gods, which made humans. Religious leaders interceded between Tirawa and humans. Sacred bundles of religious objects were other mediums. Until the United States government outlawed it in 1838, the Pawnee annually sacrificed a human being to the Morning Star.
Ropin’ the Truth
God has indeed spoken to mankind, but not through self-torture, trances, or religious objects. Sadly, the Native American tribes hadn’t heard the good news of His love for them through Jesus Christ. God used men to speak His word. John the Baptist claimed to be a voice (“phone”) for Jesus Christ, Israel’s Messiah. He was the forerunner predicted in Isaiah 40:3. Like an Old Testament prophet, John boldly and unashamedly called people to Jesus. His cry from the barren wilderness of sin in Israel admonished the nation to “get cleaned up for a royal visit from the King.”
Many thought John (“gracious”) was the Messiah (Luke 3:15; John 1:19). But he was only a “witness” or a “record” in the court of public opinion. The writer of John’s Gospel, the apostle John, never referred to himself. He often referred directly to John the Baptist, a cousin of Jesus who was six months older than the Savior. John the Baptist was sent by God (v. 6). He didn’t try to gather disciples for himself, but sought to give his disciples to Jesus.
Jesus Christ gave “grace after grace (v. 16).” Like waves upon the shore, one blessing after another came from Him. He provides for all believers around the world day after day. Truth (complete information about God) also came through Jesus. He was Heaven’s best given to Earth’s worst!
The Law of Moses is good, but it contains no grace (v. 17). It curses all lawbreakers (Galatians 3:10). It shows us we are all sinners deserving of punishment. Grace comes through Jesus, who has revealed the invisible God (v. 18). Like a man trying to stand in the sun, no man can see the essence of God without being consumed. But Jesus is unique. He is God’s “One and Only,” equal with God. He is God in flesh (Colossians 1:15; Hebrews 1:3). We can’t know the nature of the Living God apart from Jesus. He has “exegeted” (interpreted) God to mankind.
Jewish religious leaders sent a delegation from Jerusalem to question John the Baptist (v. 19). Elijah was predicted to precede Messiah (Malachi 4:5-6). John wasn’t Elijah in person, but he was Elijah in function (Luke 1:17; Matthew 11:13; 17:10-13; Mark 9:12-13). John came in the spirit and power of Elijah.
Deuteronomy 18:15 said a great prophet would come to Israel. John wasn’t the Prophet. Jesus was! John was only a voice. The voice is meaningless without the Word!
Different baptisms mean different things. Jewish baptism identified Gentile converts with Judaism. But Jews did not think they needed to repent. John’s baptism of Jews was a sign of repentance (cleansing) to prepare for Messiah (1:31). Jesus was baptized to identify with sinful men (v. 29). The Holy Spirit baptizes us into the body of Christ today. Christian baptism is an outward sign of the inward baptism of the Holy Spirit. The baptism of fire means judgment.
Jesus was probably standing in the crowd unrecognized (v. 26). The well-known John was humble enough to give Jesus first place. John professed unworthiness to perform the duty of the lowest house slave—untying the sandal strap before foot washing of the householder. Even the rabbis (Jewish teachers) did not expect their disciples to untie their sandals! All this happened east of the Jordan River at a place called Bethany (“House of Depression”). The town has been lost.
Multiple witnesses were required to establish truth. John records multiple witnesses to the Deity of Jesus Christ. There is his own eyewitness account, John the Baptist’s testimony, the words of a Samaritan woman, the works of Jesus, God the Father’s word, the Old Testament record, the witness of crowds, the words of the Holy Spirit, and Jesus’ own claims. The purpose of witnesses is that all might believe in Him (1:7). Do you believe in Jesus Christ? Do you know He is God in the flesh?
If you believe in Jesus Christ, you can’t help but tell someone else. You will want them to know Him too! How will you use your voice for Jesus Christ? Don’t Get Bucked Off
How do you know what God is like?
Who is a credible witness for God?
How has God spoken to you?
How is Jesus the perfect blend of grace and truth? The Trail of Still Waters
What did you learn from John 1:15-28?
How will you apply it?
Cattle drovers, white settlers, and adventurers encountered dozens of Native American nations spread across North America in the 1800s. One small but resolute tribe of the southern plains was the Kiowa. The Kiowa may never have numbered more than 2,000 people, but they were valiant and resourceful fighters who lived in present day Colorado, southwestern Kansas, and the Oklahoma/Texas panhandles. Originally enemies of the Comanche, the Kiowa later became their allies.
Tribal legend said the Kiowa came into the world one by one by squirming through a hollow log until a very big woman got stuck in the log. No matter how hard she struggled, she couldn’t move and no more Kiowa could enter the world. That’s why there were so few of them! The name Kiowa came from “Kwuda” or “coming out.” The legend is almost as far from fact as the white man’s lie of evolution as the source of human and animal life!
Sadly, the Kiowa worshipped the sun instead of the sun’s Creator. The greatest of their many rituals was the midsummer Sun Dance, honoring the sun for providing great horse herds, plentiful bison, fine children, protection, and success in warfare. Central to the ceremony was the “taime” (a two-foot stone sculpture robed in white feathers and ermine pendants), which represented a young woman who climbed a tree to heaven, married the son of the sun, and perished when she fell to earth.
The 10-day Sun Dance Ceremony was held in a huge medicine lodge. Various rituals were involved. The Sun Dance priest and four assistants were joined by anyone seeking success. The leader stood at the lodge entrance and stared fixedly at the sun before beginning. The priest prayed to the taime. All desired to fall into a trance and to see visions. They painted their bodies and, facing the taime, danced in place by flexing the knees up and down to drum beats and female singers. Eagle-bone whistles clenched in their teeth aided the frenzied pace until exhaustion overtook them.
On the sixth day, dancers drank a medicinal potion and offered sacrifices (clothing or a horse) to the sun. The Sun Dance ritual revealed the darkness of the Kiowa religion. The last great Kiowa Sun Dance was held in1867.
Read John 1:6-14
The true light that gives light to every man was coming into the world.
John 1:9
Ropin’ the Truth
The Kiowa wasn’t the only tribe engulfed in darkness. Ever since mankind disobeyed God, the entire world has been blanketed by the dark night of sin. Morning light came only when the Lord Jesus took on human flesh and lived among us. We have the light of day only in His light!
Almighty God gave dominion over the earth to the first man, Adam. But Satan advised Adam to disregard God’s instructions and Adam sinned, giving his dominion to Satan. All mankind has since walked in darkness under the “ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who now works in those who are disobedient (Ephesians 2:2).”
Jesus Christ came to destroy the work of the devil (I John 3:8). Such conquest cost Him His perfect life on the cross. All authority is now His! One day, the Lord Jesus will place one foot on land and one foot on the sea, take the title deed of the earth, and roar like a lion (Revelation 10)! He will claim what He created and redeemed!
Jesus Christ came to give light to everyone enveloped in darkness--cowboys, soldiers, and Indians. By His Spirit, He gives light to every man, woman, and child! His light concerns the presence of sin, the availability of righteousness, and coming judgment (John 16:8-11). As William McDonald says, “He was not trespassing on someone else’s property. Rather, He was living on a planet which He Himself had made.”
The world did not recognize (acknowledge, receive) Jesus Christ. He is the Way many refused to walk in, the Truth they refused to believe, and the Life they crucified. His own world, even His own people, rejected Him. Even today, many churches organized in His name reject Him. How sad! But to all who receive Him, He gives the right to become God’s children (John 1:12)! He is God’s Gift, but He is not yours until you receive Him. How wonderful!
Receiving this “new birth” is not natural (“of bloods”). In other words, it doesn’t happen because one has Christian parents. It is supernatural! God does it when we believe and receive the Lord Jesus Christ. We must say “yes” to God, but the new birth is more than a human decision. We don’t just “turn over a new leaf” and decide to live better. No preacher can “arm twist” someone else to be born again. Likewise, it is not of a “husband’s will.” God isn’t a cosmic rapist! Salvation requires our consent. We must accept His gift!
Beginning with creation week, Jesus Christ (the Creator) revealed God to us. We don’t have to wonder what God is like. The Word, Jesus Christ, didn’t come into existence or become God. He always was God! He became flesh. Jesus became not only a man, but the God-man (Hebrews 2:14; 10:5). He “pitched His tent” (“tabernacled”) among us.
Jesus revealed God’s glory. The closer we get to other men, the more we see their flaws. But the closer we get to Jesus, the more we see His glory. The author, John, was an eyewitness of His life, miracles, death, and resurrection. Though Jesus veiled God’s glory in His flesh, He revealed His moral glory. And once, on a mountain with Peter, James, and John, Jesus revealed God’s splendor (Matthew 17:1-2). Jesus is the Perfect Balance of grace and truth.
We cannot see God’s spiritual essence (1:18). But Jesus is God’s “One and Only” perfect revelation of Himself. Some versions say “only begotten,” but that is an unfortunate mistranslation. The language suggests Jesus is the “One especially loved.” Jesus is unique. He is in a class by Himself. He is God and the Only Way to get to God, the Father.
All men have some light. Many reject the Light they have been given. In fact, the chief reaction to Jesus Christ is indifference. Others embrace the Light and become lights in this dark world. Which are you?
Don’t Get Bucked Off

Who does Jesus want to believe in Him (v. 7)?
How would it change your view of God if Jesus didn’t die for everybody?
What would you think of God if Jesus only gave light to a selected few?
Who has enough light to believe God (v. 9)?
Who is given the right to become children of God (v. 12)?
What does it mean that “the Word became flesh (v. 14)?”
The Trail of Still Waters
What did you learn from John 1:6-14?
How will you apply it?
Rodeos showcase the cowboy way of life, with emphasis upon individual achievement, physical toughness, family, and tradition. Rodeo developed from a desire to display and compare ranch skills. The first documented rodeo was a “round up” held in Santa Fe, New Mexico, in 1847. Only after Buffalo Bill Cody took his famous Wild West show on the road in 1883 did rodeos feature steer wrestling, trick roping, and bull riding. Later, cash awards were offered.
One of rodeo’s most anticipated moments is the release of a bucking bronco or bull with rider from the chute. Nobody knows which twist or turn the animal will take. The explosion of energy rivets the attention of the crowd as the cowboy seeks eight seconds of glory!
Read John 1:1-5
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through Him all things were made; without Him nothing was made that has been made. In Him was life, and that life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, but the darkness has not understood it.

John 1:1-5 Ropin’ the Truth
Jesus Christ came to earth to showcase God and His way of life! Right “out of the chute,” John makes sure we cannot miss who Jesus is! He is God’s Word to us! When everything began, “The Word” already was! “Was” is in past tense but it suggests continuous existence. The Word existed eternally!
A word is an expression revealing one’s thoughts. A word is a means of communication. Jesus Christ is the expression of God. He showed us what God is like. By dying for us, He showed us how much God loves us!
The Word was with God. He was in eternal face to face equality with the Father, while remaining a Person distinct from His Father. The Word was God. Jesus did not become God. He always was God. He didn’t have to learn to be God, or to work His way up into being God. William McDonald writes, “It is not enough to say He is ‘a god,’ that He is godlike, or that He is divine. The Bible teaches that He is God.”
Here is a philosophical question: “Why is there something rather than nothing? The answer is: “Because there is God who made everything!” The work of revealing God began with creation (Psalm 19:1-6; Romans1:19-20). Jesus Christ made everything (I Corinthians 8:6; Colossians1:16; Hebrews 1:2). Jesus, the God-Man who created all things, is our Elder Brother who came to dwell with us!
Life is only found in Jesus Christ. He created biological life (John 1:3) and He gives spiritual life (John 8:12). Real Christianity, not the façade presented by many Americans today, is Christ. He is Life and all life is in Him.
The Life was the light of men (v. 4). Light provides guidance in a fallen, ignorant world. Jesus revealed God in the darkness and He continues to shine in the darkness. But He was not understood or received by men. Most reject Him today. Yet, the awful spiritual darkness of this world did not and can not overcome Him! The revelation of the Living God and salvation through Christ are superior to ignorance and sin!
In the conflict between light and darkness, light cannot lose! When a lighted coal-oil lantern enters a room, darkness must flee! Jesus Christ is the Light of the world. He is also the Truth. The Truth, no matter how much suppressed by sinful man, keeps rising to the surface like a basketball in a swimming pool. He is God and the only Way to get to God (John 14:6).
Men and women respond to the claims of Jesus in one of two ways. First, we can believe in the Lord Jesus Christ. A minority believes in Christ with saving faith. Or, we can refuse to believe concerning the Light, the Way, the Truth, and the Life. A hardened heart will result. The majority of men and women remain in unbelief. Which will it be for you?
Don’t Get Bucked Off

How do we know what God is like?
Who made everything? (See I Corinthians 8:6; Colossians 1:16)
How does real Christianity differ from the version practiced by many people?
Does this world exist in “light” or in “darkness?”
Who is Truth? (See John 14:6). Does Jesus claim to be the only Way to get to God and Heaven?
To whom does Jesus give light (John 1:9)? How does the majority respond? How does the minority respond?
The Trail of Still Waters
What did you learn from John 1:1-5?
How will you apply it?