By Jesse Horton / Cowboys of the Cross
I find myself in awe moment by moment as I contemplate the consistent love of God. In fact, because God is immutable (he does not change; Malachi 3:6), in everything we know to be an attribute of God he is consistent. He is consistent because attributes, unlike characteristics or qualities, tell us who God is – not how he behaves (for instance, “God is love,” 1 John 4:8,16). Neither the passing of time, the changing of circumstances, nor our own back and forth responses to God change him in any way; God is who he is apart from any outside influence…otherwise, he would not be God.
And the Apostle John was absolutely correct – God is love! In fact, if we accept that Jesus Christ is the fullest revelation of God (Col. 2:9; Heb. 1:1-3), then the way Jesus reveals God to us is of the utmost importance. And how did Jesus reveal God? As the loving Father! Jesus frequently referred to God as his Father, but he also encouraged his disciples to pray to our Father; that means as God is to Jesus, so he can be to his followers!
Many attempt to explain God primarily as the Creator, Ruler, and Sustainer of the universe, and indeed, he is! However, Jesus revealed God first and foremost as our loving Father! “Father, I desire that they also, whom you have given me, may be with me where I am, to see my glory that you have given me because you loved me before the foundation of the world” (John 17:24, emphasis mine). Before God ever created, he was the eternal, immutable Father loving his Son. So much theology hangs on this fact. In fact, I’d say this needs to be the bedrock foundation for how you understand God – He is the eternal loving Father. To be eternally a Father means God has always had a Son, and so that Son must also be eternal, and if eternal, then also God! And since God is spirit, he gives all that he has to his Son; anointing the Son with his Holy Spirit is how the Father loves his Son. And if the Father’s love for his Son is eternal (and it is since the Father didn’t begin to love the Son but has always loved the Son), then the mode of that love (which is prior to any creative act) is also God; “God is love”!
Some of us in the cowboy culture didn’t grow up with the best fathers and it can make it hard to understand the full depth of what all of this means. It means something great for all of, us even if we were raised with the best father imaginable.
So, when we begin our understanding of God with the foundational attribute that God is a loving Father, all other Christian teaching can fit neatly together without contradiction and without downplaying God as some inwardly-focused sovereign who demands the obedience of his subjects. Above, we explained the reason God is Trinity. We can explain why a loving Father would create and give life to something other than himself. We can understand the mercy of a loving and holy Father on his wayward children. We can understand why the loving Father’s wrath against sin is severe because sin hurts his children and separates them from his love. We can even understand why a just and loving Father would separate rebellious, sinful children from the children whose desire is to live in submission to his kingdom.
God loves you, and if you are in Christ, he loves you with the same love Jesus has experienced for all of eternity. How wonderful! How beautiful! How amazing that the God who is all in all has set his affection on us! How can your heart not leap inside your chest at this great and wonderful truth!
Won’t you praise him with me today for his unspeakable love toward us? Won’t you join me in bringing the loving rule and reign of his Fatherly kingdom to our neighbors and to the earth? Hallelujah! God is love!
Hello, I’m Jesse McCarthy. I competed as a bull rider for 10 years, first in a local state circuit then in the PRCA. Currently I work on a ranch in Southeastern Montana, my boss is a former elder of the church I attend and I am blessed to have the opportunity to build a cattle herd of my own. In October 2021 God blessed me with the opportunity to marry an amazing woman who has a heart for God and His Church.
I grew up in Wisconsin where I was raised going to church and reading the bible on a regular basis. I was baptized at the age of 13 and though I believed in God and that Jesus died on the cross for my sins, I didn’t develop a true relationship and start to mature in my faith till I was in my late 20s.
Even though I believed, called myself a Christian, and went to church, I still liked to drink, pursue women in an ungodly way and do the whole rodeo after party scene. One of the events God used to show me how much I needed to trust and obey him with my life happened in my late 20’s. I was praying about getting engaged to the girl I was dating at the time and God spoke to my heart telling me not to do it. Well, not liking His answer I went ahead and got engaged. Three months later the relationship ended. I was hurt by this but what hurt more was knowing that I purposefully disobeyed God. This was a huge turning point in my life and it pushed me to get me back into reading my bible for wisdom and direction so I would be able to discern His guidance and instruction for my life.
By reading the Bible more I realized I needed to be a doer and not just a hearer of the word like it says in James 1:22-25.
With the help of my brother Josh McCarthy and some other fellow Christians I have grown more in my faith, and understanding of what it means to be a doer and to live that out each day.
God has transformed me from a guy who hoped he didn’t reek to much like alcohol at church to someone who has asked to preach on occasion and who shares a devotion and leads the congregation in prayer each week.
I no longer look at women, or relationships from a “how can they please me”, to a “how can I glorify God and best serve my wife” view point.
As I look back over the years, I’m so humbled and grateful that God never turned His back on me, even when I turned mine on Him. 2 Timothy 2:13 (NAS) says “If we are faithless, He remains faithful; for He cannot deny Himself. This verse has been proven over and over in my life and I praise God for His grace and mercy.
Though I have grown a lot in my faith and walk with Christ I still do struggle with sin from time to time but now I’m convicted and don’t ignore it anymore or brush it off as “no big deal.” Instead, I take it to the cross and repent of my sins.
Being a Christian is so much more than just being saved by God’s grace. Yes that’s the crucial first step. But just like only putting one ride on a colt and not having it develop into a horse that can be used in everyday work on the ranch. If we don’t continue to grow in our walk with God, we will be missing out on the joy, and peace and plans He has to use us in the every day work of growing His kingdom. As I continue to grow, I’m excited to see how I will be used in the lives of others for God’s glory!
By Scott Hilgendorff / Cowboys of the Cross
Who do we trust? Close family and friends? Our doctor? Our teachers? The foreman at the ranch we work at that’s been there 25 years longer than us? The rodeo secretary?
Proverbs 3:5-6 Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths.
There’s always the chance the person we would confide anything to could fail or betray us. We’re human, deeply flawed and deeply full of sin.
It’s God we can trust.
We’ve seen throughout the Bible that God has kept His promises from restoring the Israelites to Jerusalem to sending Jesus to die for our sins.
It’s Him we can fully trust.
If we started our day thinking about the instructions in Proverbs 3:5-6, we would be off to a good start. If we think about these instructions before every action during the day, it would do much more; it would change our life and the lives of people around us.
Why would it do that?
If we involve God in all our decisions, many of them would be different from how we handle bad service in the drive thru to major life decisions like a job change.
We can acknowledge Him by asking for His direction before we make decisions. And think about this: what if when we’re in a serious conversation or argument, we paused to ask Him to guide us before we even spoke?
It takes practice to get used to turning our thoughts to God before we do anything but we can at least start by seeking His direction before we make major decisions or have important conversations.
So how do we let God direct our paths?
A big way is by knowing what’s in the Bible. The more knowledge we have, the more we can automatically know what is right according to Scripture in a decision that we’re about to make. The Bible is the main way God is going to communicate to us.
2 Timothy 3:16-17 All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, 17 so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.
These verses teach us much but in the context of letting God guide our steps, it’s affirmation that the Bible comes from God and that it is necessary for us to be prepared to do whatever God wants us to do.
Sometimes God will speak to us through advice from one of those people we trust, but that advice will never go against what the Bible teaches. Sometimes circumstances will make a decision more clear but again, that decision will never go against Scripture. The circumstance could be finding someone’s wallet at the rodeo grounds when you don’t have entry fees. The circumstance might seem like a need being met but we know through Scripture that not turning that wallet in at the main gate would be sin.
By Scott Hilgendorff / Cowboys of the Cross
Where do you draw your strength from? Strength to achieve success against the odds. Strength to overcome adversity. Strength to just get out of bed when it feels like the world has crushed you to the point of defeat. Strength to break a habit or…. Strength to beat a sin.
As much as God allows it, we can find some success on our own strength, but personal strength isn’t limitless. Physical strength eventually runs out. So does emotional strength.
God’s love is limitless. He can forgive anything so long as we come to Him with genuine repentance, a desire to be forgiven and a belief that Jesus died for us to take the punishment meant for our sin.
And just like His love is limitless, so is His strength.
Job 36:22-24 “God’s power is unlimited. He needs no teachers to guide or correct him. Others have praised God for what he has done, so join with them.”
Many of us can make it on our own strength through much of what God will allow us to go through but I would much rather face this world with the hope that comes through a saving faith in Jesus and the strength that comes from God to overcome whatever trial or temptation He lets me face. Some bull riders, for example, who suffer a serious injury never come back and that can be the right decision for them. Others come back from physically and mentally stronger than before and with more determination than ever. But they’re still going it alone, ignoring God’s will for their lives.
If I rely on God, I’m going to learn and gain far more through Him, God’s going to be glorified and He’s going to make me more like Jesus in the process.
Psalm 73:26 “My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.”
That means, even those times we might think we’ve failed, that we weren’t strong enough, God’s strength is there to get us back up to serve and honor Him. Serve self and rely on your own strength and what genuine good comes of that for a Christian? Usually without realizing it, what we’re doing is robbing the glory from God. If we truly believe God is real, I don’t think that’s a good idea to take glory from Him.
Acts 12:21-23 On the appointed day Herod, wearing his royal robes, sat on his throne and delivered a public address to the people. 22 They shouted, “This is the voice of a god, not of a man.” 23 Immediately, because Herod did not give praise to God, an angel of the Lord struck him down, and he was eaten by worms and died.
When we realize our strength comes from God, whether we succeed or fail, He can still be glorified by how we handle our circumstances and showing others we are trusting and relying on Him through good and bad.