By Scott Hilgendorff / Cowboys of the Cross
1 Peter 3:8 Finally, all of you must live in harmony, be sympathetic, love as brothers, and be compassionate and humble. 9 do not repay evil with evil…
Reasons to be angry seem to be coming at us from every direction. As believers, we are instructed to live very differently from the would around us.
To live in harmony is the opposite of what a lot of us see in social media where we share our anger and add fuel to the flames of disunity instead of inviting someone to sit down and warm themselves by our campfire.
To be sympathetic would be to try to understand another person’s hurt and anger no matter how much we disagree with their reasons to feeling that way.
Loving as brothers is in action. Just like we would loan our rival in sudden need a bull rope or even a horse to mount, we are tasked to do good toward others who might even hate us.
To be compassionate and humble is to reach out help others who are nothing like us.
To be or carry out all of those actions and attitudes in the list isn’t just as simple as those illustrations but it gives us a place to start as we work to understand as Christians, we’re called to be different from the unbelieving world.
But wait, it gets even harder.
The second half of this chapter touches on being different from the world around us but it focuses on how being different can lead to suffering.
Jesus suffered on the cross on our behalf, taking the punishment meant for our sin. He did this so that by believing he was the son of God and did this for us, that if we would repent of our sin and ask to be forgiven, we could be saved from God’s wrath and instead have a perfect eternity in Heaven.
1 Peter 3:13-14 Who is going to harm you if you are eager to do good? 14 But even if you should suffer for what is right, you are blessed. “Do not fear their threats; do not be frightened.”
Because of what Jesus did for us, we should have a desire to do good. We may be all out feuding with someone at the rodeo but when we help them change out the flat tire on their stock trailer, they might have been the one that did it at the rodeo last weekend but this time, they aren’t likely to turn around and slash the tires on our truck. But take this as far as it can go, there are missionaries preaching the gospel in other countries who have been tortured and killed for preaching from the Bible. One of the worst things that could happen to us in North America so far could be a situation where a rodeo announcer loses a gig because the producer doesn’t want him doing an opening prayer or praying in Jesus’s name. Meanwhile there are Christians in Afghanistan facing an uncertain future in a culture that was already dangerous to begin with.
It’s hard for us to get our heads around it but the reality is, those who have lost their lives for their faith have gone on to their perfect life in Heaven while we’re still here in the sinful and broken world. Those who have suffered in other ways have Heaven to look forward to.
So what’s holding you back? Do good.
By Jesse Horton / Cowboys of the Cross
We’ve recently been studying the topic of how God communicates to us. We all want to know what God’s will for our lives is, but most of us are unsure how to determine what that is or if God will even communicate that to us. Let me assure you, God wants you to know him, and as you know him personally and intimately, his will for your life will become increasingly clear.
We’ve established that the primary way God speaks to us is through our study of and meditation on the Scriptures, and that the secondary way God speaks to us is through prayer. We conclude our examination of Jesus’s model prayer – called The Lord’s Prayer – today.
For yours is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory forever and ever. Amen.
This has given me such great comfort and perspective in my life over the past year or so. Why? Because it is so easy for me (and probably for you too!) to let my prayers be focused on either my needs or the needs of others. Someone is sick; we pray for them to get better. Someone is injured at the rodeo; we pray for their healing. Someone lost their job; we pray for them to find another one quickly. But couldn’t God be using some of these circumstances to achieve a more perfect faith for those affected? A person may be laid out in a hospital bed and on the couch for a few months, but God can bring about a lot of changes in that person’s life in that time. Jesus’s prayer began with an acknowledgment of the holiness of God and then moved on to the first request Jesus said we should make to God. Do you remember what it was? Your kingdom come. Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.
Let’s be honest. In my sinful, fallen, self-centered existence, I want to establish my own kingdom where I am sovereign, and everything works together for my personal definition of what is best…and you’re just like me because you’re a sinner too! The first request Jesus taught his disciples to make was that God’s kingdom would invade and overtake our world, which presently is the kingdom of Satan because Adam and Eve traded obedience to God for the lies of the devil. Now, at the end of this model prayer, Jesus teaches us to remind ourselves that everything we ask is in submission to God’s perfect kingdom rule.
Now by grace, we can set aside our selfish ambitions and welcome God’s kingdom rule in our lives, but Jesus didn’t call us to sit on the sidelines and wait for that to happen. He’s called us to be his ambassadors – to represent his kingdom in this kingdom! We have an active role in bringing God’s kingdom to earth. I don’t know about you, but that seems to me to be a huge task, the weight of which I am certainly unable to bear! But Jesus teaches us to remind ourselves that the power is God’s! That’s one of the most comforting truths about being Jesus’s disciples – everything he requires of us he accomplishes through his own power! It’s just like in Luke 5:4-11. Jesus asked Peter, a professional fisherman, to push out into the water and let his net down for a catch. But Peter had been fishing all night and caught nothing. Nevertheless, Peter chose to obey Jesus, and as a result they caught so many fish that two boats nearly sank trying to haul them in! When God asks us to do something, our part is obedience, and when we obey the results are in his hands.
Finally, Jesus’s model prayer reminds us that all we do, all we say, and all we pray should have as the core purpose God’s eternal glory. In Luke 6:40, Jesus teaches that “everyone when he is fully trained will be like his teacher.” As Jesus’s disciples, we are to be learning and training to love as he loved, serve as he served, and suffer as he suffered. And remember, he did it all with a purpose: “I glorified you on earth, having accomplished the work that you gave me to do” (John 17:4). Just as Jesus’s earthly life served the purpose of giving God glory, our lives should do the same, and our prayers should reflect that purpose.
Now that we’ve completed our examination of The Lord’s Prayer, I want to break it down into an easy-to-remember acrostic that will help you pray as Jesus taught us without having to say the same words he said. After all, he didn’t say, “Pray these words.” He said, “Pray in this manner.”
Praise – Jesus began his prayer by honoring the holiness of the name of God. God is your daddy who loves you faithfully even when you are unfaithful and rebellious. He is your provider, freely giving you all good things by his grace. Spend some time praising God for who he is.
Repent – The word repent means to turn around or turn away from one thing and toward another. Jesus’s prayer reminds us to repent of the desire for our own wills to be done and our own kingdoms to be established, and instead to submit to God’s will and his kingdom.
Ask – Jesus taught us to ask for daily provision (we do not live independently from God), forgiveness for our sin and a forgiving spirit toward others, and protection from temptation, sin, and the schemes of the devil. With the Father’s glory in mind, we ask for God to meet our needs and the needs of others especially in these three areas which have eternal consequences.
Yield – It’s all about God’s kingdom, God’s power, and for God’s eternal glory. Bookending your prayers with these reminders is a great way to make sure your prayers stay focused on these and do not slip into the self-centered me-ism of praying to God like he is a genie in a bottle who exists to do your bidding.
Now, may the grace of prayer to our loving Father strengthen and sustain you as you seek his will and his glory.
By Jesse Horton / Cowboys of the Cross
We’ve recently been studying how communication between God and man happens. We all want to hear from God and know his will for our lives, but we’re unsure how that happens or even if it happens. I want you to be certain of this: God wants you to know him! He wants a relationship with you, and all relationships require time and communication.
The primary way God communicates to us is through the Scriptures. Spend time studying what God has said about himself, about humanity, and about his mission of reconciliation. Study deeply and intentionally. The second way God communicates with us is through prayer. We have recently been studying the model prayer (the Lord’s prayer) and have come to the point where we make petitions; that is, we ask God for specific things. But what should ask for?
“Give us this day our daily bread.” The book of Joshua records the conquest of the promised land by the nation of Israel as they moved from slavery in Egypt to a land known for its abundant resources. Such a drastic change in station certainly requires spiritual preparation, and that is precisely what we see in the 40 years they spent wandering in the wilderness prior to the conquest of the land of Canaan. Take a moment right now and read Deuteronomy 8:2-11 to see what God reminded his people of as they were completing their spiritual preparation for the land that flows with milk and honey. God wanted to remind his people that they are not independent or self-sufficient. No! Yahweh was their provider, protector, and conqueror; Israel had been completely dependent upon the goodness of God to survive those 40 years, and just because they were now entering a land of plenty did not mean they could forget their dependence or his provision. God is the one who provided the promised land. Each and every day, we should depend on God to provide the resources we need to live and serve him. Just as the Israelites in the wilderness, we can find God faithful to provide what we need, maybe not in abundance or excess, but certainly enough for this day.
“Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who have trespassed against us.” One of the greatest sins those who follow Christ commit is the sin of forgetfulness. We are quick to forget the immense mercy and grace that assures us of our salvation, so when we are wronged, we respond with anger and wrath. Read Matthew 18:23-33. This wicked servant had been forgiven a debt that was so great he couldn’t be expected to pay it back in 10 lifetimes, yet when one of his fellow servants owed him a debt he could pay back over three to five years, the wicked servant choked him and threw him in prison. We who have been forgiven such a great debt against such a holy God should be quick to forgive others who have wronged us. Pray daily to remember the forgiveness you’ve received, for no one gives grace better than the one who is truly convinced of his own need for it.
“Lead us not into temptation but deliver us from the evil one.” Praying in this manner acknowledges three important truths. First, there is One who has ultimate authority and knows what is good and right for you to do and what you should not do. Regardless of who you are in your community, your church, or this world there is One to whom you must bow. Second, the One who has ultimate authority has revealed his moral will.
There are clearly defined boundaries in which believers should live. We do not make our own determinations of good and bad, right and wrong. Third, we live in a world full of temptation where we have an enemy whose method of destroying us is to persuade us to accomplish our own demise through the pursuit of things that keep us from experiencing God’s kingdom rule.
In Numbers 22-24, Balak king of Moab was fearful of the Israelites who were conquering kingdoms on their way toward him. He contracted a pagan priest named Balaam to curse Israel so that he might defeat them. However, God prevented Balaam’s cursing; no outside force was great enough to withstand Israel as they followed God’s command (You should read these chapters; a talking donkey is worth the time!). But in the 25th chapter, it is reported that the Israelite men pursued sexual relationships with Moabite women who led them into idolatry. This compromise of morality that led to idolatry caused a plague that claimed 24,000 Israelite lives. Though they could not be destroyed by the curses of their foes, they might quickly be overcome when they compromised their loyalty to God and his commands. God’s boundaries and requirements for our lives are for our own good and the good of our faith community!
Take note of Numbers 25:7-8; the plague was stopped when Phinehas took decisive action against the idolators by killing one of them and his Moabite mistress. You tell me: is it important that we hold the members of our faith community to moral standards, or should we compromise to avoid hurting someone’s feelings?
There are three things Jesus asked for in this model prayer. First, he asked for daily provision. God knows our needs and is willing and able to provide if we simply recognize our dependence on him. It might actually be a win at the rodeo because the finances or the confidence it gives is what we really need that week. It might be the struggle of a continued losing streak because how we grow from it is what we really need. Second, he asked that we would be forgiven as we are forgiving. Sin is a part of our experience in this life and recognizing our own need for grace will result in the extension of grace to others when they sin against us. It is by grace that we have peace with God, and it is by grace that we will have peace with others. Third, we live in a world of things that can tempt us to wander from the path God has set before us. The problem is not so much the things outside of us as it is the desire for sin inside of us. James 4:1 and following reminds us of this truth: “What causes quarrels and what causes fights among you? Is it not this, that your passions are at war within you?”
As you pray, ask God to provide for you needs today. Ask him to forgive you of your sin and from that grace empower you to be forgiving toward others. Finally, ask him to keep you from the things your sinful heart is drawn toward and from the tactful lies of the enemy of your soul.
By Scott Hilgendorff / Cowboys of the Cross
Do we believe in God or karma? It can’t be both. If God is real, there is no karma.
When someone finally gets what we think they deserve, so many of us call it karma. The stock contractor that did you dirty in a deal loses his best bull in an accident down the intestate. Your barrel racing rival’s horse comes up lame hours before the finals after always seeming to get the same coveted spot in the draw week after week. Your ex-girlfriend ends up spending a weekend in jail because of something she got caught up in with the guy she was cheating on you with.
Faith in God and belief in karma are two very different things. You simply cannot believe God is in control while some other force of nature is affecting outcomes at the same time.
Christians, even the ones you don’t like, actually don’t get what they deserve and those who choose not to believe and turn their back on God, actually do.
One of the core truths within what we call the gospel is the understanding that God will punish sin. All sin. Rigging the draw or beating your girlfriend. It all gets judged by God and God alone. But, through His son, Jesus Christ, He gave us all a way to be in good standing with Him, no matter what we have done. Jesus took the punishment meant for our sins so that by believing he was the son of God, died on the cross for us and rose again to be with God in Heaven, we can find a way to be saved from our sins. By believing in who Jesus was and is and what he did for us, and then by recognizing and accepting that we are sinners, genuinely repenting of that sin and asking God to forgive us, we can be saved from the punishment and assured an eternal, perfect life in Heaven.
The consequences of sin without salvation through Jesus are eternal separation from God in Hell. It’s an even playing field where we can believe in God and embrace His plan for us to be saved with an eternity in Heaven or we can believe in karma or whatever else we want to believe in, but any of the rest of it leads us to Hell.
So why does something bad finally happen to that dirty rotten so-and-so? Why do all his wrongdoings finally catch up with him? The same reason the nicest cowboy everyone knows dies in the night because the generator was pumping carbon monoxide into the camper.
Karma didn’t catch up with both of them. The consequences of living in a fallen world did.
We live in a broken world because of the choice Adam and Eve made in the very beginning. The world was perfect until they messed up and now seemingly good people can end up doing some pretty horrible things, entire towns can burn up in a wild fire and the person you’re closest to can end up with cancer.It can be hard for us to imagine a perfect eternity, especially when we’re struggling or at our lowest.
It can be hard to realize that through all the struggles and heartaches we face in between the good times, that all of this is temporary and we only have to go through it a short time.
Romans 8:28 And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.
We may not understand why we’re going through something that seems absolutely horrible but we can trust that while sinful harm might come to us, God will still use it for our good. I would rather trust in that than karma.
Revelation 4:11 “Worthy are you, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honor and power, for you created all things, and by your will they existed and were created.”
I’m going with God.