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Changed Minds

Updated: Apr 10, 2018

I always try to tie my devotional articles to something that is agriculture related. Sometimes it is a story about something that actually happened on the farm, while other times it may just be something that is just a part of living the farm life. After writing these articles for the Alabama Farmer's Cooperative News for over 10 years now, I have to confess that sometimes I find it difficult to find an Ag related illustration that fits the spiritual truth that I want to convey. Other times, like in this case, I think of an illustration that 'somewhat' connects with my story and my way of thinking, but I find it difficult to use in a way that is not offensive or that could be seen as a little 'graphic' for the lack of a better word. Well, here goes!

This past week, we were doing what has to be done every year at one time or another on any progressive cattle farm or ranch--especially those who retain their potential herd bull prospects along with their own replacement heifers. The fall born calves are getting old enough and large enough to wean, which means that a few of them are getting sexually mature enough to breed--be it male or female. Some breeds of cattle (especially Angus and Hereford) just become sexually mature a little quicker than others, so though this age will vary from farm to farm, at some point it has to be dealt with.

In addition to performance, pedigrees (genotype), calving intervals, temperament, etc., when deciding which bull calves to retain as potential herd sires and which heifer calves to keep as replacements, we also look at phenotype (their outward appearance: structure, depth, thickness, foot soundness, testicle size, etc..). All of these genotypic and phenotypic characteristics are important in making sure we retain the best animals so that our herd continues to improve each and every year. We always try to produce a heifer that will be better than her mama and a bull that will be better than his daddy--but this a process and it takes time, discipline, effort, planning, research and a lot of nothing short of God's blessing!

We have a certain criteria for replacement heifers since we want to keep a higher percentage of them to not only replace other females that need to be culled for one reason or another, but also so that we can continue to grow our herd, while also keeping the herd relatively young and as problem free and productive as possible. When it comes to choosing potential herd bulls to retain, since we only keep a few of the very best, the criteria is much more stringent. A cow is only going to affect her offspring and direct descendents. The herd bull however, because he will breed several cows, will have an effect on all of the offspring and a much larger pool of descendents. The bull's genetics and phenotype will influence the whole herd for years to come.

This brings us back to the point, I am trying to make. Using this year's numbers as an example, out of about 40 bull calves in our herd--many of which were good enough to make someone a good bull, we chose only 4 as 'potential' herd sires that we thought met all the criteria for what we would use in our herd and what we would want others to associate with the quality we are trying to raise if we sold them to be used in their herds. So what happens to the other 36?

Well, at just a few months of age, a bull calf already has his mind on the girls! He is just wired that way and his hormones are kicking in just like they are supposed to--even though his body may or may not be capable of accomplishing what his mind is telling him to do. So when a cow or a heifer comes into estrus (heat: ready to breed), all of the bull calves are chasing and trying to mount her for about a 8-12 hour period of time, until she goes out of heat. Multiply that number of hours by the number of cows in the herd, say 40, since that is usually the maximum number of cows that one mature bull would be expected to service, then you begin to see the problem.

Not only are the bull calves burning off weight as they chase the cycling cows around, they are also coming off feed and grazing, not gaining what they could be. This is money out of the ministry's pockets. There is also a chance that one or more of the earliest maturing bull calves in the group could be impregnating the cows or heifer calves, even though they may not be the bulls that we wanted to use to influence the future of our herd.

The only way to remedy these problems; to make sure that only the genetics of the superior bulls are passed on and to make sure the other bull calves we will be selling are focused on eating, is to change the minds of the other 36 bull calves! The only way to change their minds, is to change or take away that which induces their way of thinking--in this case, removing their testicles so that the testosterone hormone that gives them the desire to be attracted to the females is no longer produced. This castration process removes the testicles, which prohibits the production of Testosterone, which takes their minds off of the girls and puts it back on grass.

If I am going to make a spiritual application to this rigamarow, I better make it now! Because of the effect of original sin on mankind and all creation, we all, no matter our ethnicity, culture, upbringing, or origin, are born with a sinful nature. We are born with a heart defect that results in wrong thinking and wrong living. There has never been a child born that had to be taught to lie, steal, cheat, covet, or throw a fit! We are all beneficiaries of a sinful heart and a sinful mind resulting in a sinful life, which separates us from a Holy God and from one another. It even puts us at odds with ourselves because we can never live up to what we know or believe to be right and/or acceptable behavior.

What we need is a drastic change of heart and mind to become the people that God created us to be. We cannot change ourselves nor can anyone else do it for us. Only He can change us and make us into the new person He desires us to be. It is such a radical transformation that Jesus describes it as being "born again". It takes place not against our will (as in the case of the bulls), but only when we consent and are willing to repent, believe, and follow Jesus Christ by faith. We must be willing to die to the old life and to live for Christ. We must be willing to die to sin, self and the world and to live for Jesus.

God calls us to be holy people and to live holy lives. "Make every effort to live in peace with everyone and to be holy; without holiness, no one will see the Lord." {Heb 12:14).

Holiness, however, should not be confused with morality which changes from person to person and culture to culture. Morality is outward conformance to a set of standards--the cleanliness of one's conduct alone as they see cleanliness. Holiness, however, is an inward transformation--the cleanliness of our heart, mind and soul that manifests itself in obedient living to God's will which is revealed to us through His Word. "Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is--His good, pleasing and perfect will." (Romans 12:2).

The change and transformation that God makes in us is that which is His very best for us. What we gain is so much more and so much better than anything we give up. It is like giving up sickness to enjoy good health or giving up death in exchange for everlasting life.

All of this can be ours, but we can only find it when we are in right relationship with Christ. We can only be in right relationship with Jesus Christ when our sins are forgiven and when our hearts and minds are transformed into His likeness.

What He will make us to be is so much better than what we are, is so much better that what we can ever become on our own, and is the only way that we will be able to stand in His presence justified and forgiven. Ask God to make you who He wants you to be and allow Him to do in your life what He needs and knows to do. This transformation is a process, but one that you will never regret!

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