By Scott Hilgendorff / Cowboys of the Cross
‘Give thanks to the Lord, for He is good.
His love endures forever.’ Psalm 136:1
God’s love endures through all things and each of all 26 verses of this Psalm end with the words, “His love endures forever.” Each verse offers a reason the Psalmist is thankful, many of the reasons relating to all the lengths God went to in rescuing the Israelites from Egypt and taking them to the Promised Land. He also thanks God for everything He created.
Much like when families and friends go around the table describing what they are thankful for at Thanksgiving dinner or what gets shared in prayer before the meal, the Psalmist gives thanks for everything God has provided.
But in the Psalm, he reminds us of just how big God’s love for us is. It’s endless and will never stop. Never.
The Thanksgiving season is here and gives us an occasion to pay special attention to what God has provided for us but just as His love for us is always present, our thanks is always present when we realize what God did for us out of His love–sent Jesus to die on the cross for our sins. Out of that sacrifice comes a chance to repent of our sin and confess Jesus as Lord and Savior so that we can be forgiven our sins and made right before God. Without that forgiveness, that God freely offers those who ask for it, we face God’s judgement and punishment of our sin. His love is unending, but what God won’t tolerate is sin. It has to be judged, but in what is more than fair, God loves us enough that He sent Jesus to take the punishment for our sin. Through the realization of what he did for us and the salvation we can freely receive from that act of love simply through believing, repenting and asking to be saved, we become naturally thankful to God.
1Thessalonians 5:18 In every thing give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you.
Paul reminds us in his letter to the Thessalonians that we need to give thanks for everything. Knowing that God’s plan is perfect, that even means finding a way to be thankful for what we don’t think is fair or good or right the way we measure it. It means being thankful for all that He has given us that we love and take joy in, but also realizing that if everything works out to the goodness God intends, our own struggles can be part of that and we can be thankful for those as well. A bad wreck coming around the third barrel, a roping horse coming up lame before the finals or a broken femur bucking off a bull can feel like huge setbacks, but what we can’t see in what God is doing through those setbacks can turn out to be some of the biggest blessings, especially when He uses them to change us and draw us closer to Him.
God’s love for us is unending. Our reasons to be thankful can be too.
I found a link to a video of us team roping the other day at Cowtown (the oldest weekly rodeo in the United States in New Jersey) and it made me think a lot about this rodeo. I first showed up there as a 21-year-old bull rider, 21 years ago. My traveling partner, Craig, and I were getting ready, and next to us was a small tent outside of the entry office.
The lady there had some cowboy Bibles on the table with Lane Frost on the cover. Craig and her were talking on and on about Lane, who was one of Craig’s heroes, and she new Lane’s folks. Well I didn’t understand it at the time but she was telling Craig about Lane’s testimony. She then asked Craig if he was saved!? He said, “Yes, when I was 13.” I was just sitting off in the near distance listening. She then asked him, “Is your buddy over there saved?” He said I don’t know even though I had been raised in the church, went to a Christian school and my grandpa was a pastor.
Well I just sat there and thought, I don’t know!?!
Then she proceeded to bark at Craig, “What do you mean you don’t know? You guys travel all over the country riding bulls, and you don’t know If he’s saved?” Then she looked over at me and asked me if I was and I told her I didn’t know. She asked if I wanted to be, and I thought, “Why don’t I know?” and I told her I wanted to be. She read to us some out of Romans, Chapter 9 and then I recited what’s known as the sinner’s prayer with her and asked Jesus into my heart.
I was on fire from the star and I remember being in the bar that night that used to be there right next to the rodeo, I was telling people about Jesus. I remember the whole trip home whenever I wasn’t driving I was reading that Bible she gave me. I was definitely changed.
As an Ohio cowboy, I was just thinking though why I still go to this rodeo, it’s darn sure not because it’s so close to home or the amount of money. I think I’m actually drawn to it because it’s where I met Jesus my Lord and Savior. Suzie Grahm still has that little tent out back of the entry office, and she’s still standing back there telling the truth and offering salvation through Jesus!
By Scott Hilgendorff / Cowboys of the Cross
Just like Christianity insists there is only one true God and one path to Heaven, there is only one blessing that we should be seeking and that’s the one found through a saving faith in Jesus Christ.
Just as Adam and Eve brought a curse on us that saw us separated from God, facing His judgment and wrath against our sin, God also brought a blessing to us in the form of a covenant centered around Jesus Christ.
A covenant is a promise in the biggest possible way and one that doesn’t require anything from us in return. When we compete for a season to qualify for a rodeo finals, there is an assumed promise that the payout is going to be there when we reach the finals. Yet most of us know stories or have experienced either a finals that didn’t occur or prize money that wasn’t there after we did the work to get there. This covenant from God is a promise that you never have to worry won’t be kept and that you never have to earn.
God made one in the Old Testament with Abraham, promising him that he would make a great nation from Abraham’s descendants and that those people who followed the God of Abraham, would be blessed.
Genesis 12: 1-3 Now the Lord said to Abram, “Go from your country and your kindred and your father’s house to the land that I will show you. 2 And I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing.3 I will bless those who bless you, and him who dishonors you I will curse, and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.”
The Israelites, Abraham’s descendants, were lead to a promised land to fulfill that covenant (promise) but failed repeatedly to honor and follow God. As a result, the Israelites were exiled from that promised land and only a remnant of those people were given back Jerusalem, the land from which they had been exiled. Those descendants, now us, would go on to see God make a new covenant fulfilled through the New Testament and the coming of Jesus so that everyone (Gentiles), not just the Jews of Israel could be made right with God.
Galatians 3:7-9 Know then that it is those of faith who are the sons of Abraham. 8 And the Scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, preached the gospel beforehand to Abraham, saying, “In you shall all the nations be blessed.” 9 So then, those who are of faith are blessed along with Abraham, the man of faith.
Jesus died on the cross as a sacrifice and to take the punishment for our sins that God must deliver to be a just and right God. Through a saving faith in Jesus and repentance of our sins that separate us from God, we’re no longer seen as sinner but the perfect people God made us to be and we are assured then a place in Heaven for eternity.
That is the blessing found in Jesus Christ that was set up thousands of years ago in the Old Testament through that promise to Abraham and what is referred to in the blessings mentioned in the verses above.
Remember, often when we say we are ‘blessed’ and use that hashtag, what we really mean is that we’re thankful. Every good experience or gift or circumstance is something we can understand has come from God and is something we can be thankful for. But the ultimate blessing is knowing we can be saved through Jesus Christ and inherit a perfect eternity with God in Heaven.
Without Jesus, the good things we see as blessings do nothing for us when it comes to eternal life in Heaven. They are temporary good moments in this evil world but we remain under the curse and condemned to hell under God’s judgment and wrath unless we find the real blessing God gave us through Jesus Christ.
God made a promise to us through a covenant in the Old and New Testament that leads to us being able to trust that our salvation is found in Jesus Christ and that a perfect life in Heaven can be found through a saving faith in Him.
We may not always trust a promise made to us by someone in rodeo, but when God made a covenant with His people, He made a promise that the prize would be there at the end.
By Scott Hilgendorff / Cowboys of the Cross
Without Jesus, we’re cursed.
And that curse that we are now under goes back to Adam and Eve and a story many of us our familiar with. The couple had a perfect life, created to enjoy fellowship with God. They were given literally everything except for a single tree whose fruit they were instructed not to eat from. The serpent (Satan) used some tricky thinking to convince Eve that it would be good to eat from the tree and that God surely didn’t mean what He said. She was convinced to doubt God and she and Adam ate from the tree gaining the knowledge of sin from which they had been protected. God will not tolerate being in the presence of sin and Adam and Eve were cast out of the garden as He said, “cursed is the ground because of you.”
Genesis 3: 17 -19 17 And to Adam he said, “Because you have listened to the voice of your wife and have eaten of the tree of which I commanded you, ‘You shall not eat of it,’ cursed is the ground because of you; in pain you shall eat of it all the days of your life; 18 thorns and thistles it shall bring forth for you; and you shall eat the plants of the field. 19 By the sweat of your face you shall eat bread, till you return to the ground, for out of it you were taken; for you are dust, and to dust you shall return.”
Adam and Eve now knew what good and evil were and brought sin into the world which would see us all separated from God who, in His perfect goodness, must judge and condemn sin.
Instead of believing in God’s perfect word and trusting His instruction to them, they were deceived and believed a lie instead of God, much like the majority of our culture today. Believing that anything other than a saving faith in Jesus can restore us to God is also believing a lie and sees us trapped under this curse and ultimately condemned to Hell because we’re left with unforgiven sin.
Galatians 3:10 For all who rely on works of the law are under a curse; for it is written, “Cursed be everyone who does not abide by all things written in the Book of the Law, and do them.”
The law was what we are given in the Old Testament. The Israelites had to follow the law perfectly to be seen as right before God and not condemned for their sin. Because of the curse from Adam and Eve, it is impossible for us not to sin. Knowing it was not possible for the Israelites to obey the Law fully at all times, God gave them a system of sacrifices that could be carried out to atone for their sins. Eventually, He would send us Jesus so that through Christ’s sacrifice on the cross, we could all be saved from God’s judgment and punishment of our sins.
Galatians 3:13 Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us—for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who is hanged on a tree”
Christ became our curse, our sin, and took the punishment for it from God on that cross as he died as a final sacrifice for our sins that if we have a saving faith in him, we can be freed from the condemnation that comes from the curse of our sin.
Adam and Even brought the curse into the world, but Jesus frees us from it.