By Scott Hilgendorff / Cowboys of the Cross
Part 2 of 2 We don’t belong here
We all want to fit in. In kindergarten, you want to be friends with everyone. In middle school through high school you work your way through social orders, pecking orders, bullying and just trying to figure out who you are. In rodeo and bull riding, putting your spurs on upside down just once can be enough to get you ostracized in some circles as you try to be taken seriously as a cowboy, cowgirl or bull hand.
As Christians, we aren’t supposed to worry about fitting in. This isn’t our home and it isn’t supposed to feel comfortable or like we belong. Once we have understood who Jesus is as the son of God and that he died on the cross to take the punishment for our sins so that if we would repent and ask to be forgiven, we can be saved. Once forgiven for our sins through Jesus’ sacrifice, God no longer sees us as anything less than perfect no matter how many mistakes we might still make. That means we are guaranteed to be welcomed into Heaven, our real home where we belong, are wanted and fit in perfectly.
But until we get there, we not only have to accept that we don’t fit in here as we talked about in Part One, but we’re supposed to avoid looking like we do.
1 John 2:15-17 Do not love this world nor the things it offers you, for when you love the world, you do not have the love of the Father in you. For the world offers only a craving for physical pleasure, a craving for everything we see, and pride in our achievements and possessions. These are not from the Father, but are from this world. And this world is fading away, along with everything that people crave. But anyone who does what pleases God will live forever.
When we think about what John is saying and look at the world around us, how many people do we know or see that identify themselves as Christians but other than the fact they might pray before they ride or eat, everything else about them seems the same.
We don’t immediately become like Christ the minute we make him Lord and Savior of our lives. We begin a process that is called sanctification. God sees us as perfect, forgiven of our sins, but the process of sanctification sees us becoming more like Christ. That means becoming less like the world. So for sure, we’re still going to make mistakes or choices that don’t set us apart from anyone else, but the more time we spend learning about Jesus through church, resources like Cowboys of the Cross and especially our own Bible study and time with other believers more mature than us, we will begin to see how much we don’t belong here and the people around us will see that we don’t fit in. That’s a good thing!
And the Bible gives us lots of instruction on how to help strengthen our faith while separating ourselves from the world around us.
2 Corinthians 6:14 Do not be yoked together with unbelievers. For what do righteousness and wickedness have in common? Or what fellowship can light have with darkness?
In Paul’s letter from 2 Corinthians, we’re being instructed to stay apart from the world. That doesn’t mean we isolate ourselves and no longer interact with others that don’t believe in Jesus or aren’t committed to being changed by our saving faith in him; it means we don’t tie ourselves tightly to them. If we do, it holds us back just like an ox on a plow will be held back if he is yoked or tied to another ox that isn’t as strong.
We need to actively pursue non-believers to show Jesus to them through our words ( telling them or teaching them about Jesus) and our actions (showing them we’re different by treating them the way Jesus would). But Paul is strongly emphasizing we can be in a non-believer’s life, but we shouldn’t be pursuing the same pleasures they pursue which John mentions in the verse above. We can compete in rodeo and bull riding or western sports and shows. We can even enjoy a lot of what it means to be a part of the western or rodeo culture, but when it comes to embracing the aspects of it that lead us to sin and seek personal sinful pleasures, we’ve crossed the line. We no longer are able to show people Jesus in us but instead, look no different than us.
If we don’t see differences growing and the life we live becoming more like Jesus and less like everyone else, it becomes very important to evaluate what we believe and ask ourselves if we’ve truly repented and received the forgiveness that God has offered us through his son’s death on the cross.
Heaven is where we belong. We’re just passing through
By Scott Hilgendorff / Cowboys of the Cross
Part 1 of 2 We don’t belong here
This isn’t our home.
It’s something important to understand each time we lose someone we know or love in this world, we’re reminded that as believers in the gospel—that our sin separates us from God and must be punished, that Jesus as the Son of God, died on the cross to take that punishment for our sins, that by believing in him, confessing that we know we’re sinners and asking to be forgiven of those sins, we can be made right with God and be welcomed to Heaven—this isn’t our home.
1 Peter 2:11-12 11 Beloved, I urge you as sojourners and exiles to abstain from the passions of the flesh, which wage war against your soul. 12 Keep your conduct among the Gentiles honorable, so that when they speak against you as evildoers, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day of visitation.
Peter calls us sojourners and exiles, meaning we’re just traveling through here in a place we don’t belong. An exile is someone kept from their real home. The Israelites were exiled from the chosen land and forced to live in Babylon for a time as punishment for not following God and as a way to get them back on track. Adam and Eve’s original sin in the garden of Eden forced them to be separated from God and, because of them, we come into this world separated from Him also, by our own sin.
But through Jesus, we can be reconciled with God and welcomed home when we pass from this life.
When we’re part of larger communities like those that form in the sports of rodeo and bull riding or other equine sports and competitions, we actually see more loss than the average families. We have extended families that give us more opportunity to grieve but also more opportunity to remember, this isn’t our home.
As believers, we’re part of an even larger community of travelers who are just passing through this life and Peter doesn’t just ask, but urges us live in a way that those who encounter us in our journey here, could come to know Jesus by seeing that we’re set apart from the rest of the world. When they see that we don’t fit in, it’s because it’s strange to them that we take joy in our struggles, that we help others without personal gain or that we’re always encouraging someone else. In a culture that can often be selfish, it shows how much we don’t fit in and that we really don’t belong here.
It can be hard as we go through the struggles we face here to understand just how temporary this place is for us and that wherever we try to put down roots or however long we travel from place to place, rodeo to rodeo, all those places will never last. Eventually, sooner than we think, as believers we’ll find ourselves where we’re meant to be—where we’re wanted so badly that God sent Jesus to die for us to make a way that we could be there with him.
Hebrews 13:14 For here we have no lasting city, but we seek the city that is to come.
The author of this book is reminding us the same thing. Our place here isn’t going to last and that we’re not just waiting,but wanting to reach the place we’ll spend eternity.
It can be hard as we go through the struggles we face here to understand just how temporary this place is for us and that wherever we try to put down roots or however long we travel from place to place, rodeo to rodeo, all those places will never last. Eventually, sooner than we think, as believers we’ll find ourselves where we’re meant to be—where we’re wanted so badly that God sent Jesus to suffer and die for us to make a way that we could be there with him forever.
By Scott Hilgendorff / Cowboys Of The Cross
We are slowly coming out of a period of, for many, self-isolation but reflecting on that time, we’ve seen almost everything we normally give our attention to put on a pause.
Things that distract us like sports and entertainment have been put on hold with the PBR (Professional Bull Riders) being the first sport to come back to stadiums in the past couple of weeks. We’ve been isolated from our churches and families, from shopping and hobbies and interests. All of these things can become idols to us—anything we give attention to before God.
Jonah 2:8 “Those who cling to worthless idols turn away from God’s love for them.
We often think of idols as being that golden calf statue the Israelites were worshiping in place of God.
But as we head out of this giant pause, it’s worth thinking about how we spend our time.
Christians understand that sickness and disease are a result of sin and this being a fallen and broken world. What we’re enduring in this pandemic is not a punishment from God but He is allowing us to go through this.
If He’s allowed us to go through this and has allowed many of our idols to be temporarily removed from our daily lives, it seems God is giving us a chance to give Him more attention than we have in the past.
Jonah 2:9 9 But I, with shouts of grateful praise, will sacrifice to you. What I have vowed I will make good. I will say, ‘Salvation comes from the Lord.’”
Jonah’s words are coming from the belly of a whale. He had ignored God’s commands, tried to go his own way, but God sent a whale to get him back on track and that’s ultimately what Jonah did, praising God and following His commands.
This pandemic may not have been sent by God the way He sent a whale to get Jonah’s attention, but it is a chance for us to get back on course for those of us who may have been more distracted than we realized by the trappings of our culture. Our western society has blessed with technology to access church services from across the country and we can literally open the Bible from our phones. Many of us are fortunate to have multiple copies of the Bible in our homes while people in other countries have to smuggle Bibles and are lucky to get their hands on a single copy.
Let’s take advantage of the opportunity we have to refocus our attention back on God through prayer, time in His word and gathering together to worship Him, online and in our churches as we’re allowed to gather together again.
By Jesse Horton / Cowboys of the Cross
2 Corinthians 4:8-11
We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies. For we who live are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh.
Too often, people come to faith in Christ expecting that their relationship with God will make everything come up roses; God will fix all our problems and give us the happy lives he wants us to have. While it sounds nice, that’s a false gospel. Jesus promised we would have trouble (John 16:33) and that we would even be hated for our faith (John 15:18-19). The fact is that we live in a fallen world…one where “thorns and thistles” (Gen. 3:18) frustrate us, steal our productivity, and even choke us out altogether if we aren’t careful to cultivate our hearts to receive God’s word (Matt. 13:1-9, 18-23). So how does a relationship with God make things better?
Justin McKee recently said in a YouTube devotional called “Mud mud mud” that God isn’t about changing our circumstances. He’s about changing our hearts by giving us a warrior’s heart that can face the challenge of any circumstance. That’s really important, because everyone, regardless of their faith, will face hard times. If you aren’t currently on hard times, you’ve either just come out of something or you’re on your way into something that will challenge you…maybe even rock you to your core.
The passage from 2 Corinthians above tells us the result of our hearts being changed by God. Christians experience all the hardships of life that everyone else experiences…maybe even more; but we have been given the Holy Spirit so that we might show the world the conquering Spirit of Jesus. Jesus conquered hate with love, calmed the wind and waves with His words, and rose victorious from a death of shame and ridicule. “Cowboy up” doesn’t even come close to describing the grit demonstrated by His life, death, and resurrection…and that’s the kind of grit he wants to demonstrate in our lives through faith in Him (demonstrated by obedience), not so that everyone will see how tough we are, but so that everyone will see that there are no circumstances into which the grace and power of God cannot reach.
Becoming more like Jesus is not for sissies! When the pain seems too much to bear, remember there is a sweet and eternal reward for faithfulness that is WORTH IT! The next time your circumstances seem to be more than you can handle, remind yourself that Jesus didn’t die to make your circumstances better; He died to make you better for your circumstances! Be faithful, and trust God with the results!
By Josh McCarthy / Cowboys of the Cross
Unless you’ve been practicing your social distancing in a hole somewhere, chances are that you’ve heard some interesting ideas about the cause or who’s behind the coronavirus pandemic. Everyone from right, left, or center of the political scale has some idea or theory as to who’s to blame and why.
I want to first go on record saying that I personally think there has to be a middle road between thinking, “This is just like the flu or not even real,” and, “We need to buy every store out of toilet paper and if you step out your door you must hate everyone else on the planet!” To paraphrase ol’ Martin Luther, most people are like drunks: they fall off one side of a horse only to climb back on and fall off the other side. I think we all need to sit our horse right and get a little balance.
One thing this pandemic has brought to light is our fascination with conspiracy theories. Now the more harmless of these “what if” stories are interesting and some may be fun to ponder, but I think as Christians we need to be careful how much we let wild speculation on past and present events affect our thinking and everyday lives.
The thing about most conspiracy theories – like those surrounding the coronavirus – is that the people who believe in them usually think they have some secret knowledge that most “sheeple” don’t see (which is pretty prideful, don’t you think?). They can also involve a lot of accusations against people we either disagree with politically or just plain don’t like. On that last point, I want to remind us as Christians of a couple Scriptural principles. Luke 6:27-28 says: “But I say to you who hear, Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you.
Or consider 1 Peter 2:1: So put away all malice and all deceit and hypocrisy and envy and all slander.
Now, do I think people with a lot of power, politically or otherwise, probably do some shady things? Yeah, sure: they’re sinful humans like the rest of us, and hold power in a fallen world. But we already know Planned Parenthood murders babies. We already know the DNC supports abortion in a variety of ways. We know some Republicans have fallen into the sin of greed. We know certain celebrities, sports stars, and various influential people support a lot of sinful lifestyles, so why do we need to add the idea that they must all be working together in some massive plot to destroy the American way of life? As Christians, we believe God is in control of all things.
Colossians 1:16-17 tells us: For by Him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through Him and for Him. And He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together.
History has an over-arching theme throughout all of it. It all serves to bring God ultimate glory in the saving of His people through the work of Jesus Christ, His only begotten Son. Jesus’s death on the cross on Good Friday was for the sins of His people. He received the punishment for sin that we deserved. He rose from the dead three days later, on Easter Sunday, to bring us, through the work of the Holy Spirit, into God’s family as sons and daughters of the Most High God.
You want to know the whole plan behind everything? That’s it. We don’t need to dig into some article on the internet to figure it out, because God put it all in the Bible. Maybe we all (myself included) should be taking this time we have in self-isolation to be focusing on that. I’m not suggesting you spend your time reading the book of Revelation or Daniel to try to figure out if Trump or Obama is the anti-Christ, but that we actually take time to read the Scriptures for what they are, and do our best to read them in the proper context. They are God’s Word to us, in which He tells us the way to know and love Him. And in loving Him, we learn to love our neighbors, whether they are hacking up a lung or just filled their cart with more toilet paper then anyone could ever use.
So wash those filthy hands, cover your mouth when you cough, and take this time to be reading your Bible and going in prayer to the God who holds all things in His hands, including the interesting times in which we live. And for goodness’s sake, only buy toilet paper when you need it.