Covid creates chance to bring prayer back to ‘school’

Covid creates chance to bring prayer back to ‘school’

By Scott Hilgendorff / Cowboys of the Cross

Even though it’s been gone from most schools for generations of students now, adults often still call for prayer to be returned to school, particularly at times of great tragedy in our communities or the country. There are many times we find ourselves feeling like circumstances would be different if we honored God more through prayer in schools.

Many kids are back in school with many more heading that way in the coming weeks. But with the unpredictable nature of Covid and our responses to it, many have no choice but to home school right now while a lot of parents are choosing that option temporarily and even permanently. 

You can see where I’m going with this. Now is the chance to bring prayer back to ‘school’ wherever you’re teaching your kids. With a certain amount of control over your children’s time, having them at home more, you can start your day with prayer and spend time around their scheduled or required work, teaching your kids how to pray. You can even devote some time to Bible study.

Even if your kids are going back to a regular classroom and routine, let this be an encouragement to make time at home anyway to do this. Prayer may be formally gone from schools, but you can still send your kids to the classroom ready to respectfully pray for their classmates and teachers.

If you’re not comfortable with it yourself but believe it’s important, well, there’s never a bad time to learn to pray and learn how to study from your Bible. The Bible has no age requirements for when you start to learn from it.
Matthew 22:37 “And he said to him, ‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind’”

Throughout Scripture, we’re taught the significance of prayer.

But what a great verse in Matthew for us as we think about how important it really is to give God everything that’s in us. The education system is entrusted with our children’s minds but we can teach them privately how to love God with heart, soul and mind! That responsibility is ours given to us by God.

For the Christian cowboy and cowgirl, or however you identify yourself in our rodeo, ranch and bull riding industries, we’ve been struggling for months now with all the changes and politics going on around us. Here’s just one positive step we can focus on among all the negativity we’ve been staring down. While teaching our kids to love God with all their hearts, souls and minds, we can be teaching ourselves to do the same.

A child in kindergarten or a new Christian, we all have to start learning sometime and that can be done independently, as a whole family or both. If you’re new to it, that can feel intimidating, but for a lot of us, so was our first day at school. It gets easier the more time you give it.

Being fearless and wise, there’s a balance that comes from seeking God’s direction

Being fearless and wise, there’s a balance that comes from seeking God’s direction

There’s a difference between living fearlessly and living wisely.

We can stand on the edge of a cliff beside a waterfall to get the most incredible photo and fall to our death because it wasn’t wise to stand without being anchored to the slippery rocks. We can fearlessly enter a bull riding and refuse to wear any of the protective equipment (and yes, this gets more complicated when trying to decide if it is wise to enter any dangerous sport, recreational activity or even a dangerous job as a first-responder.)

What kinds of decisions can be made that require us to be fearless but not reckless? We can stand up for prayer at a football game when community leaders want it stopped. We can take a mission trip to help build an orphanage in Africa when we’ve never even flown on a plane, never mind left the state of Texas before.

We do know for sure that we’re supposed to share our faith fearlessly but we also know that in whatever we do, we’re supposed to be following God’s direction for us.

We’re to face whatever situation God puts in front of us without fear. That ultimately means trusting Him and His plan. But we’re to make wise choices as we pursue what He wants for us.

We’re here for His purpose.

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 should seek wisdom directly from God to know what it is that we should be doing or how we should be handling a situation or circumstance.

James 1:5 If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him.

We should be fearless in our faith and how we live out each day.

2 Timothy 1:7 For God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control.

1 Corinthians 16:13 Be watchful, stand firm in the faith, act like men, be strong.

The final two verses below shows us we need to be both fearless but wise, not careless. Are we making wise choices led by a heart and mind that’s self-controlled or are we making emotional choices? Are we being bold and fearless when it comes to living out our faith or are we abandoning self-control and wisdom to make reckless choices?

Knowing what He wants for us starts with time in Scripture. God has provided us with so much direction in the Bible that reading it is the most important step. Then there’s prayer and the guidance of others who have more Biblical knowledge and time in a relationship with God.

Whatever we decide to do, it’s meant to be part of God’s plan and asking for wisdom to know what that is and what we should do, well, that’s just being wise. 

Little effort can have a big impact when kindness is involved

Little effort can have a big impact when kindness is involved

By Scott Hilgendorff / Cowboys of the Cross

As people are taking frustrations out on store employees and each other over masks, now the term “Karen” is on track to finding itself in the dictionary to describe someone who overreacts and berates someone or complains to management.

If you truly want to reduce a store owner or business manager to tears, tell them something good about the job they, or especially their employees, are doing. Some of us seem to be trying to do it by speaking angrily, attacking policies we don’t agree with and simply rebelling while they are trying to do their jobs in a very difficult and even scary time. I mean, more than one person in retail has already lost their lives over mask arguments.

Even under normal circumstances, have you ever called a store or talked to a manager to complain about a horrible experience? Most of us have at least taken a complaint to Facebook. I know I have done all of those. I wish I could say it had never been in the heat of the moment but most of the time, it’s at least in an attempt to get something corrected. Sometimes you do have to speak to a manager to get something changed the right way.

Many of you know now when I refer to working at the “office” I mean McDonald’s. Getting to look after Cowboys of the Cross means getting to work from home when I’m not on the road and sometimes it’s just nice to get out of the house and work.

The Gatlinburg branch has turned out to actually be one of the best places to go. In other branches, I’ve listened to employees yell and swear at each other, treat the dining area like they’re hanging out in their buddy’s basement and even seen employees get into fist fights. Many fast food places, you’re lucky if an employee grunts a couple words at you but seldom with the words, “please” or “thank you”. It’s just our reality these days.

At the Gatlinburg branch, I’ve waited patiently for a girl to fix a problem with the cash register only to get a happy high-five when she successfully got my order entered and there is a woman in her 80s who cleans the floor and tables but offers to get everyone refills. The service is the fastest I’ve seen and everyone works as a team. No one yells. Ever. (Why does there ever need to be yelling in a workplace?)

Yesterday, I got a call from someone in McDonald’s management because last week, I finally had to do it and I used the number posted on the wall to call customer service.

An employee, Dustin by his name tag, was in over his head. They were short-staffed and he was working the front counter, getting drinks for both the counter and drive-through and getting orders together for both while keeping the fries going. I told them on the voicemail that what I’m describing just sounds like someone doing their job but it was the efficiency and attitude he had. He apologized to those of us that were waiting but despite him doing the work of two people, the wait didn’t seem a bit longer than it should have been. It really was more of a case of you having to be here to understand he was going above and beyond what you and I would think the standard should already be.

So when the manager called, she wanted specific details and her line of questioning had me worried she somehow misunderstood my call and that someone was going to be in trouble

Not the case at all. In a matter of just a couple months working as that region’s district manager, she told me she dealt with more than100 complaints serious enough to have to call people back. This was the first time anyone had ever called to say something good. The first time!

There’s something seriously wrong with our culture if that’s the case.

The reason she was making notes was that she wanted to have details to give as they prepare to do “something nice” for Dustin. I scrambled and told her, “But it isn’t JUST Dustin. They all work hard and are good to the customers like that. I don’t understand why this can’t be the standard.”

I’m not saying this to pat myself on the back. I’m saying this because I know it matters and it’s one of the simplest things as Christians, that we can do that actually has a positive impact on people.

As much as I’ve been willing to make a complaint, I’ve made it a point to praise an employee and now, with smart phones, it only takes a second to find a corporate number to call and it can be the reason someone gets promoted or a raise or just the encouragement they need to even get up the next morning.

I first realized how much this matters when I was in a Sears store years back to find buy a saw. I couldn’t find the one I’d come in to get and had to ask a “kid” for help, immediately lowering my expectations when I overheard him talking to a coworker about his hangover. Yet he was the politest most helpful employee I’d ever encountered and he found me a better in-house deal for a higher quality tool that he had an abundance of knowledge about. Again, it sounds like he’s doing the job he should be doing, but he went further than he had to in getting me that deal and saving me a bunch of money for something better.

I asked at another department for a manager and you could see she was preparing herself for another angry customer as she approached. I told her about my experience and she literally cried right there. The air conditioning had been down all week, customers were complaining about everything and she was at a breaking point. Turns out, she had trained that employee and that was the encouragement she desperately needed.

And it took only five minutes of my time.

There’s something seriously wrong if the only time a store manager hears from a customer is when there is something to complain about. As Christians, I think it’s something the majority of us have just never thought about; how much impact a praise (and that’s what the corporate McDonald’s woman called it) can have on an entire team of people.

There are times I’ve been hard on the cowboys and bull riders I get to minister to or and work with. Sometimes it’s been necessary and I believe the right way to approach a situation and sometimes, it’s turned out to be the wrong way. But I try that much harder to support and encourage these young men.

It’s easier for me to think to do that because they are the people I’m in ministry to serve. It’s easy to forget in our daily routines that a trip the restaurant or grocery store is a mission field that belongs to all of us and it’s easy to overlook just how much God can use us to impact the Kingdom and bring Him glory, just by giving a simple compliment.

A little action or word from us through a simple act of obedience to God and we may never see where God takes it. Just trust that good comes from doing good, whether here and now or after.

Love you guys and if you ever feel like you get a harsh word from me, especially now when I think most of us are struggling with anger more than usual, be sure to know it’s out of a desire to see you grow in your faith or to push you to do what’s right or good from what we know the Bible teaches us. But more than anything, I hope you have at least heard something from me that’s encouraging through social media or, much better, that you’ve heard it from me personally. #CowboysOfTheCross

From a missionary in Africa explaining American Christianity in light of the black lives movement

It has been an interesting week here in Zambia as we are watching, listening, and praying about what’s going on in America. I have had several Africans ask me what is happening in America and hoping I can explain it to them. I feel a great responsibility as I may be the only white American some of these folks will ever see, and my words will greatly shape and impact their understanding of this situation.

So, it has caused me to sit, think, pray, and process before I said too much. I don’t want to speak out of emotions, feelings, my experience, or simply what I think. However, I do think there are thoughts worth sharing as it relates to what God thinks and His Truth, especially as it relates to justice and the death of George Floyd.

As I watched the video of the policeman’s knee holding down Mr. Floyd, my heart and stomach were sick. I wondered how a human being could do such a thing to another human being as he cries out, “I can’t breathe.” And perhaps with that question I understand at least some of the answer. Perhaps he didn’t view Mr. Floyd fully as a human being. He certainly did not honor, respect, and show dignity to him as a person created in the image of a Holy God. Sadly, there will always be people who look at other people and determine in their heart and mind, that these people are inferior. They are not worthy or valuable, and do not deserve to be treated with honor and dignity. The Bible would call this INJUSTICE.

Justice involves meeting the basic needs of what it means to be human. The forces which deprive people of what is basic for community life are condemned as oppression (Mic. 2:2; Eccles. 4:1). To oppress is to use power for one’s own advantage in depriving others of their basic rights in the community (Mark 12:40). To do justice is to correct that abuse and to meet those needs (Isa. 1:17). Injustice is depriving others of their basic needs or failing to correct matters when those rights are not met (Jer. 5:28; Job 29:12–17). Injustice is either a sin of commission or of omission. At the very least Mr. Floyd was deprived of his basic need for air, which for a human is the most critical need.

However, when we use the word injustice, we create a conundrum in the culture. In an attempt to channel my inner Ravi Zacharias, to use words like injustice, evil, and wrong, we presuppose there are things that are just, good, and right. Therefore, if there is just and unjust, good and evil, right and wrong, there must be a standard. If there is a standard, then there must be a standard giver. Herein lies the conundrum. What is the standard and who is going to be the one to determine the standard?

Ravi Z explains there are three types of cultures:

  1. Theonomous – the law of God is embedded in our hearts. He is the standard giver and He alone determines what is just, right, and fair.
  2. Heteronomous – the standard is dictated by the leadership at the top: dictators, Kings, Prime Ministers, Presidents, Chiefs, etc.
  3. Autonomous – the standard is determined by each person and he/she dictates their own moral absolutes.

The Theonomous culture is not the path America wanted to go. We do not seem to want God, nor do we want God’s standard. There may have been a time when America had her foot, or perhaps toe, in creating a culture that lived in part by God’s standard, even though she consistently missed the racial equality issue. But that day has passed. However, Jesus followers should be living in this counter culture.

The Heteronomous culture is certainly rejected by Americans. Our founders left England to abandon this type of culture.

The Autonomous culture is where we have landed. Each person dictates their own moral absolutes and prerogatives. When we look at just and unjust, good and evil, right and wrong, each person has determined their own standard. The problem is they will eventually run into a collision because they do not like another person’s absolutes or beliefs. When everyone is determining the standard, there is going to be consistent clashes between what is just and unjust, good and evil, right and wrong. It creates a society where there is so much talk about rights, and so little talk about what is right? We talk about being on the right or left politically but few are talking about up or down spiritually. It rarely allows us to get to real solutions because come to the table with an agenda.

For example:

Person A says – That police officer committed an evil act of oppression and violence against an innocent person of another race. (Unjust)

Person B says – That police officer was simply doing his job and it is unfortunate the man died. (Just)

Person A says – Since Roe vs. Wade in 1973, there have been 62,000,000 (Million) unborn babies aborted. We have created a culture of death. Of course, there will consistently be unnecessary deaths in our society. (Unjust)

Person B says – Since Roe vs. Wade in 1973, we can celebrate the rights of women being heard, valued and affirmed. (Just)

Person A says – The issue at our southern borders is a violation of human rights. Parents should not be separated from their children and treated as inferior people. (Unjust)

Person B says – The issue at our southern borders is what happens when you violate the law. (Just)

In this subjective, relativistic, autonomous culture we recreate Genesis 3. Satan told Adam and Eve if you eat the fruit you will be like God, knowing good and evil. Paraphrase, if you disobey the Standard Giver, then you can become the standard giver, and you can determine in your own eyes what is good and what is evil. So, we become god and each person decides what is just and unjust, good and evil, right and wrong. Like Israel “everyone did what was right in their own eyes,” (Judges 17:16), and chaos insued. Is there any wonder why we have so much disunity, division, and conflict? We cannot reject the God of justice and then wonder why there is no justice. We cannot reject the God of peace and wonder why we have no peace.

Ravi Z reminds us that God gives you the sacred gift of the prerogative of choice. But God does not give you the privilege of determining a different outcome of what the choice entails. The consequences are bound to the choice. If people, cultures, or countries reject the One True God and His Son, King Jesus, as the Standard Giver, and His Holy Word as the Standard, they will experience the consequences. While they have the freedom of choice to reject God, they do not have the freedom to choose the outcome of that choice. The consequences are bound to the choice.

The world can be a scary place but Jesus will come when least expected

The world can be a scary place but Jesus will come when least expected

By Scott Hilgendorff / Cowboys of the Cross

Bubonic plague is up, on deck is Yellowstone super volcano.

Headlines recently pointed to a plague outbreak in a rural part of China and a pattern of earthquakes in Yellowstone that can be a warning of volcanic activity. We can joke but there’s no doubt we’re seeing a lot of crazy situations around the world. We’ve never been more connected so in North America, we can become more aware of a plague of locusts in India and in India we can be more aware of violent unrest in the United States. Those who like to study End Times from the Bible can certainly have reason to wonder about what’s going on and if we’re speeding toward the end of this life here.

But I think it’s important to focus on this from Luke 12:39-40 But understand this: If the owner of the house had known at what hour the thief was coming, he would not have let his house be broken into. 40 You also must be ready, because the Son of Man will come at an hour when you do not expect him.”

Jesus is telling the disciples to be ready. He shares a similar message in some of his parables, that we need to be prepared. It doesn’t matter when Jesus is coming back, he tells us to always be ready because that moment could come at any time.

The different emergencies and threats we’re seeing around the world can’t be ignored. We need to protect and care for our families, our neighbors and the resources God has provided for us so it would be foolish to ignore the impact a spreading disease could have. It would be foolish not to prepare your home and evacuate when a major hurricane is coming.

And we still have to plan our lives around what we see happening. There are road trips to rodeos to plan, horses to train and businesses to run.

So we don’t go through life ignoring the threats and dangers, but we trust God’s plan for us and we move forward in our daily routines living life ready for Christ’s return.

That starts with having repented of our sin and asked to be forgiven with the belief and knowledge that Jesus took the punishment meant for our sins, died for us and rose again so that we could be with him forever in Heaven when we pass on from here, whether tomorrow in our sleep or next week when a volcano erupts or at some point in the future if we’re still here when Jesus returns.

According to Jesus, regardless of the turmoil we see around us, he tells us he will come when we aren’t expecting it. That gives us the freedom to head to the rodeo with our hearts right, looking for opportunity to bring glory to God as we compete and travel and doing it all without worrying about what comes next. Live for God in the moment, be prepared for the future but trust that what comes next is in His hands.

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