Behind the Bucking Chutes

Behind the Bucking Chutes is where cowboy church usually takes place at a rodeo or bull riding. Here, we give you a growing collection of Biblical devotions or stories meant to help disciple and teach you or help you to become closer to Christ with illustrations and applications drawn from the cowboy and rodeo culture.
Forgiveness doesn’t mean getting to repeat a sin

Forgiveness doesn’t mean getting to repeat a sin

Part 5 on FORGIVENESS

By Scott Hilgendorff / Cowboys of the Cross

You get pulled over for speeding on the way to the rodeo but the cop is a fan and planning to take his family there the next night, so he decides to let you off with a warning. You cheat your mark out because you know the judge on the right side never pays attention to it and draw a check for second. The secretary messed up the payout and you knowingly leave with an extra $60 and since you got out of one speeding ticket, you keep a heavy foot on the accelerator on the way back out of town, texting your girlfriend that you’re going to be late because a buddy got hurt, but really, you’re heading for a bar where a girl you thought was hot, invited you during intermission.

The opportunity to do wrong, or sin, is constantly present. So is the opportunity to do right. It comes down to the choices we make.

The most important choice we can ever make is Jesus.

Through Jesus, we can find forgiveness in the form of grace that changes everything for us. God will punish unrepentant, unforgiven sin but through Jesus, God offers us grace. As much as it can be hard to understand, we deserve punishment for our sin because God is just and fair. All sin must be punished but He offered us a way to receive grace instead through asking to be forgiven for our sins as we confess we know we’ve sinned and by believing that Jesus was the Son of God who died for our sins and was resurrected to live forever in Heaven with God.

By the forgiveness found through Jesus, we receive unending grace. It means no matter what we’ve done on the past or how much more we screw up going forward, God will still see us as righteous—meaning he sees us as perfect despite our sin. It’s what people mean when they say we’ve been washed in the blood of Christ. Through his shed blood, we’re made pure.

So if forgiveness means we’re seen as perfect, why do I need to stop sinning?

Romans 6:1-4 What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound? 2 By no means! How can we who died to sin still live in it? 3 Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? 4 We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life.

Paul is reminding us that we’re made new. When our salvation is real, when we’ve truly been forgiven, our sinful selves died with Christ on the cross and we’ve been reborn into a life that when it ends here, takes us to an eternity with God in Heaven.

That forgiveness is not to be abused as an open invitation to keep living a sinful life. Grace may be endless but it’s there because God knows we will mess up, but it isn’t there so we can willingly choose to sin.

God knows we’re going to mess up When our salvation is real, we begin a process known as sanctification—becoming more like Jesus. We all progress at different paces as we learn what it means to be a Christian, a follower of Jesus, from the Bible, through church and our own time reading it. That means we’re not immediately perfect and that’s why we need unending grace to cover us when, even as someone made new through Jesus, we still make sinful choices. Sometimes, we don’t even know something is a sin in our lives until it’s revealed to us by reading and understanding something in the Bible for the first time. We’re being sanctified.

Hebrews 10:14 For by a single offering he has perfected for all time those who are being sanctified.

If we are knowingly living a sinful life, we may need to question if we’ve truly experienced a life-changing saving faith in Jesus. Have we truly been forgiven? We can rely on grace for when we get it wrong, but we’re potentially fooling ourselves if we’re telling ourselves we’ve been forgiven but never really repented.

Being forgiven through Jesus changes you, completely

Being forgiven through Jesus changes you, completely

Part 4 on FORGIVENESS

By Scott Hilgendorff / Cowboys of the Cross

“Let he who is without sin cast the first stone.” It’s a verse many non-believers can quote in an argument that you have no right to judge someone else’s actions. They quote it without knowing the whole section of scripture or where it comes from in the Bible. Or what it really means.

John 8:3-11 3The teachers of the law and the Pharisees brought in a woman caught in adultery. They made her stand before the group 4 and said to Jesus, “Teacher, this woman was caught in the act of adultery. 5 In the Law Moses commanded us to stone such women. Now what do you say?”6 They were using this question as a trap, in order to have a basis for accusing him. But Jesus bent down and started to write on the ground with his finger. 7 When they kept on questioning him, he straightened up and said to them, “Let any one of you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.” 8 Again he stooped down and wrote on the ground. 9 At this, those who heard began to go away one at a time, the older ones first, until only Jesus was left, with the woman still standing there. 10 Jesus straightened up and asked her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?”11 “No one, sir,” she said. Then neither do I condemn you,”Jesus declared. “Go now and leave your life of sin.”

The law at the time would have require the woman to be stoned to death for her sin. The Pharisees, who were powerful religious leaders misusing their power, were being undermined by Jesus’ messages of forgiveness and they were trying to put him in an impossible situation in order to bring him down. Here, they thought Jesus would have no choice but to break the law.

Instead, he exposed the need for forgiveness in all of us by turning the tables on them and allowing her to be stoned if there was anyone that hadn’t sinned that could throw the first rock. Every single one of them walked away.

Jesus was left alone with the woman who wasn’t denying her sin. Instead of condemning her to death, she was forgiven by Jesus and sent away. That’s the key point that those who misuse or misunderstand the verses all miss—Jesus sent her away but told her to leave her life of sin. He wasn’t punishing her for her sin, but he was still identifying it as sin and telling her to stop it. He judged her actions as wrong and commanded her to stop living that way. He didn’t tell her everything was okay the way it was.

Forgiveness is meant to change us. When we fully grasp Jesus did for us on the cross and how is death was in the place of the punishment for our sins, we want to change and we can’t help but be changed by our salvation. That comes through a faith in who Jesus was, and is, and by understanding our sin separates us from God, our sin must be punished, Jesus took the punishment meant for that sin and that be confessing our sin, repenting and asking to be forgiven, God will no longer condemn us for our sin.

By believing, confessing, repenting and asking for it, we’re forgiven and changed.

2 Corinthians 5:17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!

Once saved, we’re dead to our sin, no longer condemned to be punished for it, but instead, God sees us as a new and perfect creature, no longer separated from Him by our sin.

Forgiveness changes us. Forgiveness puts out sin behind us. Forgiveness gives us a perfect life in Heaven.

The value of forgiveness is shown through the worth of your soul

The value of forgiveness is shown through the worth of your soul

Part 3 on FORGIVENESS

By Jesse Horton / Cowboys of the Cross

If you’ve been a bull rider for very long at all, you’ll have at least one story about how a bull fighter saved your butt.

Most of us North Carolina riders know that Nathaniel Southern has one arm that’s inches longer than the other because many of us dogpiled a bull for him on a few different occasions so we could untie him. I was bad for hang-ups, but not quite that bad. One night I was on a Clint Haas bull he called 8-Ball. Around six seconds, he was spinning away from my hand; he got a little empty and I got a little stiff and wound up sliding off in the well before the eight seconds. I was able to wrap my free arm around his neck and dance with him until my riding hand was free, but he knocked me down as I tried to step out of the spin. Once I was on the ground, he put his head down on me and went to his knees to increase the amount of weight he could push me with. He pushed against the side of my head so hard my vision went dark. Justin Branch was a bull fighter that night. He leaned on 8-Ball’s head but ended up having to wrap himself around the bull’s neck to get him off me. I was thankful for Justin that night. He saved me from a bull who truly intended to harm me!

In the “Christian-ese” language, we use words that outsiders might not understand. What does it mean for a Christian to be saved? For most, it means we’ve got fire insurance – we are saved from eternity in hell and from God’s just wrath against our sin. To be “saved” we must be forgiven of our sin. But what does that require? How do we receive it? What is the value of forgiveness? To understand that, we must first understand the value of a soul.

In the Gospel of Jesus according to Mark (the book of Mark in your Bible), immediately after Peter has confessed that Jesus is the Christ, Jesus tells his disciples of his impending rejection by Jewish leaders, death at their hands, and his victorious resurrection. Peter responds by calling out Jesus for what he perceived as foolishness. Peter couldn’t imagine that the mission of the Messiah of Israel was to die. Then comes this passage:

34 And calling the crowd to him with his disciples, he said to them, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. 35 For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and the gospel’s will save it. 36 For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world and forfeit his soul? 37 For what can a man give in return for his soul? 38 For whoever is ashamed of me and of my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, of him will the Son of Man also be ashamed when he comes in the glory of his Father with the holy angels.” (Mark 8:34-38, ESV)

In verses 36-37, Jesus makes it clear that our immaterial souls are valuable. The reason our souls are valuable is because that is the part that God himself breathed into us which gives us life (Genesis 2:7). It is that immaterial part of us that is God’s image – the imprint of his Spirit on us. We are valuable to God because we are made in his image (Genesis 1:27; Genesis 9:6).

Not only are our souls valuable to God, but we are supremely more valuable than anything else we could ever possess. From an accounting perspective, Jesus goes straight for the bottom line in these verses. Take your assets, subtract your liabilities, and that’s the net value. Jesus says if the entire world and all it can offer are your assets and your soul is a liability (or the payment), your value is negative. He tells us there is nothing we offer in exchange for our eternal, supremely valuable souls.

Imagine if everyone in the U.S. decided collectively to sell our country. What would the price tag be? Well, in the first quarter of 2014, the net value of the U.S. was $128 trillion. No one person could ever possibly pay that price, and even if someone could do that, they couldn’t keep it. Someone with bigger guns or more nukes would rise up to take it away. In fact, we don’t really own anything the way we do our eternal souls. That beautiful home you recently built…someone else will be living there sooner or later. That brand new dually you bought…eventually you’ll trade it for a newer model, and someone else will drive it. Not to mention the fact that we all die eventually, and I’ve never seen a hearse with a U-Haul in tow.

I want you to notice that first verse (Mark 8:34) tells us that this is directed at both the crowd and the disciples; this is not teaching for only the most dedicated followers of Jesus – it’s for all of us who desire to follow Him. In fact, that might be a better translation of Jesus’ first words, “If anyone desires to come after Me…” Coming after Jesus represents following Him in a physical sense; as far as location goes, you’re following Jesus. But then He says, “…let him deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me.” Follow me here indicates following in a behavioral sense, or obedience. Paraphrasing, “If you want to walk with Me, the life you live will be one where I am the leader and you obey Me.”

Jesus is demanding a great deal from us here. He isn’t saying we should die for Him; that might be easier – at least it would be over and done! He’s saying we should live as though we were dead to our own desires and be as obedient to Him as He was to the Roman soldier who likely told Him after his scourging, “Take up your cross and follow me!”

Yes! The cost of forgiveness – of being saved – is high. But what else would you expect for something as valuable as your soul is to God? It cost God the life and blood of His eternal Son! Now, at this point I want to make something abundantly clear: though salvation and forgiveness is not cheap, it also cannot be earned! “What will anyone give in exchange for their soul?” The answer is nothing! Jesus is the one who paid the price for your forgiveness! “Even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve and to give His life as a ransom for many,” (Mark 10:45).

The forgiveness of our sin is not cheap, as acknowledged by the price Jesus paid to accomplish it. The price was high because of the value of our souls to God. The result of God’s forgiveness is also supremely valuable – our complete submission and obedience to Jesus; a life lived for ourself to gain worldly treasure while giving lip service to Jesus is not what the Son of God died for, and it is not valuable enough to eclipse the value of our soul.

Here’s a great application for you concerning the value of the souls of men: When you see others as Jesus sees them, you will love others as Jesus loves them and serve others as Jesus serves them.

Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends,” (John 15:13). Jesus’ mission was to die to save souls; ours is to die to self and live for Jesus by the power of the Holy Spirit for the same purpose.

You don’t have to reconcile to forgive

You don’t have to reconcile to forgive

Part 2 on FORGIVENESS

By Scott Hilgendorff / Cowboys of the Cross

Ephesians 4:32 Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.

The word forgiveness or illustrations of the act appear in the Old and New Testament repeatedly. It’s at the heart of the gospel.

God loves us completely but in His perfectness, He will not allow sin in his presence and instead, will punish it. Our sin separates us from God but He wants us with Him. That’s why He sent Jesus to die and take the punishment meant for our sin so that, through faith in Christ and repentance of our sin, there is a way to be forgiven and allowed in the Father’s presence. When we truly understand what Jesus did for us, the instructions from that verse in Ephesians becomes very powerful.

We’re to forgive others the way Jesus forgave us. That’s not saying we have to give our lives for someone; it’s saying those who have become Christians have to be willing to forgive others whether we think they deserve it or not. We’ve been forgiven for sins and there’s nothing we’re expected to do to make up for it other than put our trust in Jesus. It’s freely given to us no matter what it is we did wrong. So we are asked to forgive others.

The rodeo judge who always marks you at least a point lower because he didn’t like when we argued with him once two years ago about his judging. Yes, he’s in the wrong, but that’s sin he needs to deal with through repentance and Jesus. Our job is to forgive.

You leave money in your wallet on a bucket in your trailer that goes missing. You find out it was another team roper that stole it while you were warming up your horse. It isn’t wrong to get the money back and it isn’t wrong to call the law if that’s what you think needs to be done, but our job is to forgive.

You’re suspicious about some marks on your horse’s flank that the trainer explains away. You don’t buy it, get there early the next time and catch him beating your problem horse with a board. Of course you’re going to be angry, but as you haul your horse away, you forgive.

When we’re forgiven of our sins through Jesus, we’re reconciled with God. There can be consequences for our sins here on the Earth but God no longer holds it against us or punishes us.

Reconciliation isn’t being required in Ephesians, just forgiveness. While reconciliation is important and taught in scripture, it isn’t a necessary part of forgiveness to maintain a connection with the person who sinned against us.

When you catch the trainer abusing your horse, you must forgive him but why on earth would you ever let him touch your horse again? You don’t forget what he did, but you forgive, let it go, and move on as best you can.

If you’re forgiven, you must forgive others

If you’re forgiven, you must forgive others

Part 1 on Forgiveness

By Scott Hilgendorff / Cowboys of the Cross

You were working and your traveling partner forgot to call-in to the rodeo as promised and you missed a shot at a $5,000-added deal. You forgive him and move on.

He promises next week, he won’t forget. He does and you missed the next show too.

On the way to the next rodeo, you catch him in a lie about why he needed to borrow money from you that he still hasn’t paid back. He still owes you the money but you forgive the lie.

With your sister, it’s one thing after another and you wonder how you’re even related as you bail her out of jail. You’re getting tired of feeling taken advantage of. You may want to rethink who you use as a traveling partner and what the best ways are to help your sister, but you still forgive them.

But your anger is building and you’re thinking there must come a point where they’ve crossed a line and used up all their forgiveness cards.

Until you hear what Jesus tells Peter.

Matthew 18:21-22 Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, “Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother or sister who sins against me? Up to seven times?”22Jesus answered,“I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times.

Jesus isn’t saying 77 times is the specific, God-ordained number that you can finally stop forgiving someone. He’s using an exaggeration to say that there is no limit.

So why should we always offer forgiveness?

As followers of Christ, we trust what Jesus teaches to be true and good but it goes even deeper. Jesus died on the cross to take the punishment meant for our sins. Through faith that Jesus was the Son of God, died for our sins and rose again, and through understanding our sins will be punished by God without repentance and asking to be forgiven, we can be saved and forgiven for our sins.

God will not tolerate sin in his presence but once we have done repented and asked for forgiveness, we receive God’s unending grace, all our sins are forgiven and we’re welcomed into Heaven to be with Him forever when we die here on Earth.

Romans 6:14 For sin shall no longer be your master, because you are not under the law, but under grace.

Once we have been saved from punishment of our sins, we’re covered under grace and there is nothing more that we can do to be made right with God. If we mess up and sin again, we’re still forgiven. That doesn’t mean we can intentionally set out to sin and live how we want, it means when we mess up for the 78th time, we’re God is still going to forgive us.

Romans 6:1-2 What shall we say, then? Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase? 2 By no means! We are those who have died to sin; how can we live in it any longer?

As Christians, we want to start living more like Christ so we want to follow his instructions and continue to forgive others. We don’t want to just live in sin anymore.

But when we fully understand what Jesus did for us on the cross and the punishment he took that was meant for us, how can we not offer forgiveness to others. We’re forgiven through Jesus no matter how many times we mess up. We have to offer the same forgiveness to others.

Sometimes a hand is needed to get safely out of the chute

Sometimes a hand is needed to get safely out of the chute

The bull in the chutes is shifting and kicking the closed roll gate behind him and a hand reaches down to grab the cowboy by his shoulder, ready to help lift him out if the situation goes from rough to dangerous. The rider in the chutes is ranked number three in the association and the young man who is spotting him is ranked number four.

Both are fighting for to make the season championship and both need as big a share of the $3,000 added-money as they can get to push they were up in the standings. The one reaching out for the other needs a win to pay back money he borrowed for his fees and to be able to enter the next event.

Regardless of the outcome each of them needs, in that moment, the greatest need of the bull rider on the back of the bull is to be safe and his competitor knows that.

Galatians 6:1-5 Brothers and sisters, if someone is caught in a sin, you who live by the Spirit should restore that person gently. But watch yourselves, or you also may be tempted. 2 Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ. 3 If anyone thinks they are something when they are not, they deceive themselves. 4 Each one should test their own actions. Then they can take pride in themselves alone, without comparing themselves to someone else, 5 for each one should carry their own load.
That scene easily plays out at any given rodeo. It can be a steer wrestler borrowing a horse because his came up lame when they unloaded the horse trailer. Sure, there are lots of squabbles in the rodeo and equine industries, but there’s just as much hands helping each other.

When one person is struggling, we’re called to help each other. In this particular case, Paul is talking about restoring someone who is caught up in a sin, being careful not to get dragged into the sin, but to help pull the person out, just like the rider is literally ready to pull his friend out of the chute.

We have responsibilities given to us by God. Galatians 6:5 tells us we need to carry our own loads but sometimes we can’t do it alone and we need a helping hand from a friend. That’s what Paul is reminding Christians in Galatia in this letter. We have to help each other when simply can’t help ourselves. You’re on your own when the chute gate opens and bare the responsibility of completing the work (making eight) but someone has to help you in the chutes. Sometimes you nod for the gate without any complications and sometimes it gets pretty rough.

You can get down in there with more confidence when you know someone’s got your back, putting your needs ahead of theirs. Whose back do you have and whose got yours when it comes to living out your Christian faith?

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

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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