Ephesians 4:32Be 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.
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 6:14For 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.
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 6:1-5Brothers 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?
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.
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 8:28And 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 16:13Be 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.
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