By Scott Hilgendorff / Cowboys of the Cross
The past year, on top of the personal struggles we face, we were all dealing with struggles that the pandemic brought from lock downs to canceled rodeos and horse shows.
Lost work, lost business, lost time with family gave us a lot to feel angry about.
And everyone knows it.
Whether it be on social media or face-to-mask conversations, we all have had a lot to say about how we feel and very little of it has been positive or encouraging. In the rodeo and bull riding industries, we continually talk about mindset and keeping positive attitudes. We rarely talk about that from a faith perspective.
The apostle Paul does in many ways in several of his letters. In Philippians, his letter to the church at Philippi, Paul writes many encouraging passages about being cheerful and Christ-like in our mindset and responses to our situations including one encouragement about our attitude when life might be rough.
Philippians 2: 14-16 Do all things without grumbling or questioning, that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world,
When we have a saving faith in Jesus, we are given what’s known as the Great Commission to respond to at the end of the Book of Matthew. The commission commands us to tell others about Jesus and the salvation he brings and then to make disciples—teach others how to follow Christ.
That means being out there in an unbelieving world that generally rejects the messages of Jesus or sees him as no more than a positive teacher back in his day.
But if we are to convince others that Jesus was the Son of God who died in place of our sins that through belief and repentance of our sins, we can be saved from the punishment meant for our sins, it’s going to be a lot harder if they can’t see signs of Jesus in us.
The amount of complaining and fighting many of us have done over the past year would make it hard for others to see us as different than them. If our lives have been changed by a saving faith in Jesus, there are times when our actions or responses should surprise people by how different they are from everyone else.
Paul wanted the Christians in Philippi to be seen as ‘children of God’ that stood out among the evil that was around them and showed the light of Christ.
As Christians, we’re called to be like Christ, but we understand we’ll never truly be as perfect as him. We’re going to make mistakes. Admitting them to an unbelieving world and telling them that as Christians, we meant to do different is one step toward repairing any damage from our words or actions. Moving forward by ending our grumbling and taking a more joyful or kind approach to our situations can begin to show others that Christ lives inside of us.
By Jesse Horton / Cowboys of the Cross
Do you know that God loves you and cares for you like his very own child? No, really. Do you know that? I bet everyone who is reading this letter first-hand has heard it. Many of you have probably agreed with it and even affirmed it in your own words. But my question is, has this truth actually moved from your head to your heart and begun to affect your life? It almost seems like a totally different question because it is! Agreeing with the statement, “God loves and cares for me like his own child,” is entirely different from living out in our actions and thoughts that God loves and cares for us like his own children.
The Bible declares this truth over and again. Psalm 34:15 tells us that God’s eyes are on the righteous and that his ears are open to their prayers. He is with us wherever we go (Gen. 28:15). The Bible encourages us to take our cares to God because he cares for us (1 Pet. 5:7). It says in Hebrews 13:5 that he will never leave nor forsake us. Psalm 136 declares multiple times in its refrain that “his steadfast love endures forever.” The Apostle Paul testifies in Romans 8 that he is certain that nothing can separate us from the “love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord” (v. 39). It’s not even up for debate – God loves you and cares for you like his own child!
So, when life isn’t what we think it should be, why do we waste our time wondering if God has stopped caring for us? Why do we compare our lives to others to determine who God loves more based on outward appearances? It is tempting to question God’s love and care for us, especially when life isn’t what we had hoped for, but questioning God’s love never leads us anywhere good. I want to encourage you – when you are tempted to do so, run hastily to God’s Word for peace and reassurance.
But if the big question isn’t whether or not God cares, then perhaps it is this: will I recognize God’s care when it comes? Could it be that we have incorrectly defined what God’s care should look like in our lives? Are our expectations of our loving Father consistent with what he has promised to do for us? Has God promised to make our lives easy (John 16:33; 1 Pet. 4:12-17), or has he promised to be with us through the temporary difficulties we experience on this side of realized-eternity (Matt. 28:20; 1 Pet. 5:10), and that these difficulties are actually for our collective good and his glory (James 1:2; Heb. 12:5-11)? Beloved, just as with our earthly fathers, there are times when the very thing that causes us to question if our Father cares is the evidence of his care. The Scriptures tell us beyond the shadow of doubt that our Father cares for us; therefore, do not define too narrowly what God’s care should look like.
Take the time today to read through the verses above, and rest assured that your Father loves and cares for you completely and perfectly!
By Scott Hilgendorff / Cowboys of the Cross
When you mention the word love to a cowboy, it immediately conjures up thoughts around the emotion. A cowboy who starts seeing a girl he’s infatuated with quickly starts missing rodeos or events and the guys either make fun or genuinely complain that she’s messed him up and ruined the sport for him.
A cowboy in love starts to make dumb choices, or at least that’s how his friends see it.
For others, it’s an emotion they have a hard time expressing and even saying the words take effort despite the feelings of love that are there.
This is some of why understanding what love is in Scripture is so important.
The cowboy crowd is going to struggle with being asked to love others when their sense of what love is gets tied into warm, gushy emotions that go against the image of a tough cowboy.
While there are examples of couples in the Bible who are in warm, gushy love with each other, the Bible most often refers to love with the Greek word, ‘agape’, which is not an emotion but an action, or philia, which is a brotherly love.
When we understand both, we can see how the cowboy crowd should actually be able to relate well to each of them.
Romans 12:10 Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves.
A loving, devoted husband or wife is likely what first comes to mind when reading that verse on its own but what Paul is describing in Romans is philia. He is telling us to look out for one another in that brotherly love kind of way but with a commitment to doing that. He wants us to be purposeful about it.
Philia is a brotherly love—exactly what you see in a group of bull riders who have traveled down the road together for years. They would do anything for each other, tease each other endlessly because they know each other so well and have each other’s backs. Ultimately, in brotherly love, we put others before ourselves which also leads into what agape is.
Agape is even more active and has a lot to do with how we treat others and how we demonstrate it to God.
John 13:35 By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”
The love we’re being asked to show here is not an emotion but an action. We learn what those actions should be throughout scripture through the examples Jesus gave us and through the teachings throughout the Bible. Jesus says we will know who true followers of him are because people will see actions that show that they really do love others.
Asking how you can pray for a family who brought their kid up to get an autograph. Giving your last $20 to the Salvation Army Kettle because you know that at least your rent is paid. All of these can be acts of love. They can mean giving up some of your time or money, but that doesn’t compromising the image of strength and toughness a cowboy wants to hold on to. It takes a strong person to sacrifice for others.
By Jesse Horton / Cowboys of the Cross
All parents do it for their children. We do it when our kids don’t have the sense to do it for themselves. Most of the time, our children are unaware their parents do it. Parents gladly step in, knowing our children are unable, unconcerned, or unaware of the vulnerability of their hearts. As parents, we are committed to protecting our children from evil.
I know if I am not vigilant in my commitment to protect my children from evil, they will minimize or forget two very important realities. First, either they don’t understand or easily forget that they live in a fallen and broken world that does not function as God intended it to. Real evil exists in the world in which they live, and it often wears an enticing disguise; it rarely ever looks as dangerous and destructive as it truly is. Just by virtue of the broken world in which our children live, they will hear, see, and experience evil things that are able to warp their God-given identities and stain them with the brokenness of evil, covering the light and truth of God’s image in which they were created.
We try to do the same at Cowboys of the Cross, trying to protect those we have close enough personal relationships to be directly involved with and indirectly through the teaching we make available, cowboy church services at rodeos and bull ridings and our presence on social media.
Second, my children tend to minimize or forget the sin inside of them. They often don’t understand that the greatest danger they face is not the evil that lurks around them, but the evil that lives within them and entices them to pursue and justify their pursuit of the evil in the world. So, as parents, we realize that we must not only protect our children from the evil that exists in the world, but more importantly, we must protect them from the evil that is born in their own hearts. As parents pursuing a relationship with God, we understand the importance of our commitment to protect our children from evil. And our Father God knows we are no different from our own children; we are his children. We minimize the brokenness of our world and the power of sin, and so, we fail to guard ourselves from temptation. We need a protector to fight the battle against evil for us, even when we don’t recognize the evil we are supposed to fight.
1 Samuel 17:43-47
And the Philistine said to David, “Am I a dog, that you come to me with sticks?” And the Philistine cursed David by his gods. The Philistine said to David, “Come to me, and I will give your flesh to the birds of the air and to the beasts of the field.” Then David said to the Philistine, “You come to me with a sword and with a spear and with a javelin, but I come to you in the name of the Lord of hosts, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied. This day the Lord will deliver you into my hand, and I will strike you down and cut off your head. And I will give the dead bodies of the host of the Philistines this day to the birds of the air and to the wild beasts of the earth, that all the earth may know that there is a God in Israel, and that all this assembly may know that the Lord saves not with sword and spear. For the battle is the Lord’s, and he will give you into our hand.”
The Hebrew words often translated as “the Lord of hosts” (as we see here) are transliterated as “Yahweh Sabaoth.” It means “Yahweh (God’s covenant name) of armies.” David acknowledged Yahweh as the leader of the armies of Israel. The Philistines had Goliath as their champion, but Israel’s champion was Yahweh. He is their banner (Yahweh Nissi) going before them in battle, fighting their battles for them. Exodus 15:3 declares that “Yahweh is a man of war; Yahweh is his name.”
Sometimes, we don’t realize the constant battle we are in against evil and sin, but as God’s children, we need to remain acutely aware of this ongoing struggle. Fortunately, we have a Father who goes before us, who fights on our behalf, and who is a warrior whose prowess is unparalleled. Jesus – who is God in the flesh – bore my sin, your sin, and the sin of the entire world at the cross. His resurrection is unequivocal evidence that he defeated sin and death not only for himself, but on behalf of all those who would unite themselves to him in his death and resurrection. When we unite ourselves to Christ, we receive his warrior Spirit. Your battle against evil and sin is not futile, for we are more than conquerors in Him. His Spirit goes before us, fights our battles, and defeats the foes of evil without and sin within. Our Father protects his children; Yahweh Sabaoth is his name.
Now, may the God of armies protect you and wage war against the evils of the world and the sinful inclinations of our own hearts today.
By Jesse Horton / Cowboys of the Cross
We all do it. We scoff when others do it but fail to recognize how much we do it ourselves.
We all work to convince ourselves that we are better off than we are, that we are not that sinful after all. We compare ourselves to others who seem more sinful than we are when the truth is that we probably just hide our sin better than they do. We evaluate our holiness based on the sin we see around us and conclude that we aren’t so bad rather than evaluating our holiness through the perfect mirror of God’s word.
The truth is that any means by which we tell ourselves we’re okay with God is a form of sinful self-righteousness and self-atonement. They are all shocking denials of our sin and minimize our need for the sinner’s only hope – God’s amazing grace.
Listen to me: God knew this would be our tendency – to self-justify. So, he designed a means for us to be confronted again and again by the depth of our sin and by the expansive provision of his grace in the person and work of the Lamb, the Savior, the Redeemer – the Lord Jesus Christ. He ordained that we gather together on a regular basis to be confronted with our true identities, both as sinners and as recipients of grace and therefore, his children.
It is only when we admit the disaster of our sin that we become excited about the grace of Christ Jesus. Corporate worship (church) confronts us with the fact that we really are worse off than we thought, and that God’s grace is more amazing than we could have ever imagined. We will continue to need that reminder regularly until we are finally perfected by God’s grace, until sin is ultimately defeated, and we are glorified in Christ’s image. Corporate worship is not a thankless duty of the truly committed; it is another gift of mercy – evidence of God’s glorious grace to us so that we might live our lives in increasing faith and reliance on him.
Romans 3:9-20 What then? Are we Jews any better off? No, not at all. For we have already charged that all, both Jews and Greeks, are under sin, as it is written: “None is righteous, no, not one; no one understands; no one seeks for God. All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; no one does good, not even one.” “Their throat is an open grave; they use their tongues to deceive.” “The venom of asps is under their lips.” “Their mouth is full of curses and bitterness.” “Their feet are swift to shed blood; in their paths are ruin and misery, and the way of peace they have not known.” “There is no fear of God before their eyes.” Now we know that whatever the law says it speaks to those who are under the law, so that every mouth may be stopped, and the whole world may be held accountable to God. For by works of the law no human being will be justified in his sight, since through the law comes knowledge of sin.
Romans 5:1-11 Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God. Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us. For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die— but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God. For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life. More than that, we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation.
Grace and peace be with you! Pastor Jesse