By Scott Hilgendorff / Cowboys of the Cross
Faith says to trust God’s plan, wisdom says to wash your hands.
Most of us know not to lick a doorknob. Somewhere, we’ve been taught that it is dirty and could make us sick. Yet many of us have had to be told of the importance of washing our hands recently because of the spread of the coronavirus.
Proverbs 3:5-6 Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; 6 in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight.
Proverbs offers us just one of dozens of verses and teachings through scripture that tell us to trust God and have faith. When life is challenging like it is now with so many unknowns from economic to health concerns, we know God has a bigger plan in store for us. We know how His plan ends, with those who have put their faith in Jesus having a perfect life with Him for eternity, but we don’t know what happens between now and then. When it gets hard, it can be harder to trust in Him but that, again is what faith is—believing in Him and His word and believing His promises to be true.
We can’t see Him, the world doubts Him and yet we believe in the evidence we have, largely through Scripture and historical supports of it.
Faith tells us to trust His word to us in the Bible and that becomes where wisdom kicks in.
Throughout scripture, we’re given instruction and counseled to be wise. That means application of what we learn from scripture but also in life.
Proverbs 13:10 Pride only breeds quarrels, but wisdom is found in those who take advice.
We can misapply faith into thinking that if I have enough, I won’t get sick—the poison from the snake bite won’t hurt me or the coronavirus won’t affect me.
So where most of know not to lick doorknobs, we still don’t always know or understand how to handle every situation we face. We can choose to simply trust God and blindly walk through life as if nothing bad could happen to us, or we trust God and the brain He gave. In that case, we make decisions based on information from what we know to be true in the Bible but also what we know from our experiences and the knowledge we’ve gained as we’ve grown. When we don’t have the knowledge we need, we seek and advice, use wisdom to assess and apply that information. We can come to the conclusion that the medical experts know more than me and that not only shouldn’t I lick a doorknob, but I should really wash my hands after I touch it, especially when out in public when the flu or other illnesses are spreading like the one we’re currently facing.
Faith and trust in God should give us peace instead of fearing what’s yet to come but wisdom is needed to navigate what happens on our path to wherever God is taking us.
It’s through showing kindness and helping others that we’re able to show Christ to them but at the same time, it also lets us share the gospel, telling them about the need for repentance and a saving faith in Jesus. And it’s through keeping fellow brothers and sisters in Christ supported that we can help them to continue on sharing Christ with others.
But if we understand that we’re supposed to help others, then we also know that it’s okay to receive and accept that help.
And we can’t always know if someone needs something if they don’t tell us or ask.
We aren’t supposed to go through this life alone. Over and over verses illustrate helping others or receiving help. There are often bigger lessons and teaching points in those verses but they still demonstrate how we’re meant to be in community.
James 5:16 Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working.
Proverbs 31:8-9 Open your mouth for the mute, for the rights of all who are destitute. Open your mouth, judge righteously, defend the rights of the poor and needy.
Ephesians 2:10 For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.
Each of these verses are part of bigger teaching and messages but they also point to our need to help others from praying for each other to helping those in need or to understanding that God made us and through our saving faith in Jesus, to do good.
Since we know we’re supposed to help others, we know that means it’s okay to need help. That means if someone doesn’t know the internal struggle we’re facing, we have to be willing to reach out and tell others so they can do what God has asked us to do – help each other. And we have to let them.
By Scott Hilgendorff / Cowboys
There’s strength in knowing when to ask for help
of the Cross
Part 1 of 2
Struggles come and there’s nothing weak about knowing when you need to ask for help and getting it. Whether a ranch cowboy, rodeo cowboy or
bull rider, God made you to be tough but he didn’t make you stupid either; a cowboy needs to do things for himself but he also needs to know when it’s time to ask for help.
Our culture, the liberal one that dominates the messages we see from all directions, tells men to be weak, passive, in touch with their emotions and how ‘toxic’ we are because of the traditional ways we define ourselves. The rodeo and bull riding industry and the ranching and farming industries require men to be tough. Taking care of cattle isn’t for the feint of heart. Getting on the back of a bull or jumping off a horse to grab a steer take physical and mental strength. The image of a cowboy, no matter what form, is not of someone who is emotional
But there is real strength in getting help when you need it. You can continue fighting to get that serpentine belt back on your truck until there’s no skin on your knuckles or you can ask your buddy to drop by and help. And there is absolutely nothing weak about seeking professional help when the stress of bankruptcy and a fight with your wife has you feeling worthless and ready to walk away from everything.
Suicide is not the answer. It’s a quick solution for you and a lifetime of heartache for the ones left behind.
We need to grasp what it really means to be meek. Our culture suggests the word means being weak and walking away from taking a stand and while Jesus tells us to always forgive and turn the other cheek, he tells us in Matthew 5:5 Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.
We’re asked to be meek but absolutely do not mistake that for weakness. Jesus was God on Earth with the power to do anything include destroy those who would attack or undermine his ministry. Meekness is often defined as strength under control. That is real strength—being able to control yourself when you have the ability to use your strength and skills in a unChrist-like way.
Later, in Matthew 11:29, Jesus tells us: Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.
He doesn’t want us to be burdened. He wants us to let him carry our burdens and find peace in our relationship with him.
Jesus is supposed to be enough but sometimes the devil’s whisper in your ear gets so loud, you can’t hear the Savior calling to you. God’s word in scripture is supposed to be where we find hope, but sometimes we can understand the words but not bring them to bear fruit in what we’re going through.
God is sovereign. He gave us the system of government we have and while some of us were wired to be cowboys, he grew up other men and women to be health care providers for both our physical and mental health.
Knowing when to ask for help isn’t weak: it’s strength under control.
A bad day with cattle can be turned around by an encouraging prayer
By Scott Hilgendorff / Cowboys of the Cross
Two of three heifers delivered dead calves, the transmission just went out on the truck and it’s only two years old and now the weather has turned worse and three days of rain is turning into six with pastures looking like swamps. You haven’t prayed in weeks, it’s just been so busy and now, when you go to talk to God, you just feel angry and decide not to pray at all.
That’s when a friend sends you a text that says, “Hey man, I just want you to know my wife and I prayed for you this morning.”
They may or may not have known everything that was going on or what you needed but at a minimum, it feels pretty good knowing others are even thinking about you and, even better, you feel like you have something you can thank God about and it opens the door to pray again.
Part of Matthew 6:6 says, But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen.
We’re cautioned not to be like the Pharisees whose actions were often about calling attention to themselves as the religious elite that tried to control much of the behavior of the people of that time when it came to their relationship with God.
But we’re also called to encourage one another.
1 Thessalonians 5:11 Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing.
The church was doing a good job of this but in his letter to them, Paul was encouraging them to keep it up.
Sometimes we don’t know how to help someone but praying for them can be the encouragement that gets a person through a day. Sometimes, it can be a moment where someone who isn’t a believer sees Christians in a positive light instead of the negative perceptions they had. Even asking someone how you can pray for them can be a non-intrusive way to open the door to talking about your faith. But I know at least one instance where telling someone they had been prayed for was the between life and death. It was answered prayer for them when they were asking God to show them that someone cared.
We have to trust the Holy Spirit to lead us to when it’s good to share that we’ve prayed or when we need to keep it behind a closed door. When we know it will encourage someone and it isn’t about seeking attention or appreciation, that’s usually a good time to tell the person it was done.
The armour of God can help in our fight against sin.
The Battle Against Sin Part 4
By Josh McCarthy / Cowboys of the Cross
So we finally made it to the part of the series where I tell you the one trick to defeat sin in your life for good. Well, pard, I have some bad news: that’s not how this works at all. God didn’t design life that way. Like anything worthwhile, it takes effort and a whole lot of time. You can’t just become the next Wade Sundell, Trevor Brazile, or Juan Ulloa just because you decided one day you wanted to.
Being the next world champion in the sport of rodeo takes time and a lot of practice. You have to lay aside bad habits and cultivate good ones. It’s like working with a young horse: getting a good handle on him is a process that you’ll be working on and refining for the rest of that horse’s life. So how then do we get the upper hand in this fight against the world, the flesh, and the Devil? Well, like in roping or riding you can never stress the basics enough.
So what are the basics in this fight? Read your Bible, pray, and find accountability.
Read your Bible
2 Timothy 3:16 tells us, “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for instruction, for conviction, for correction, and for training in righteousness,”
Whether you compete in rodeo or are out ranchin’ somewhere, one of the most obvious ways to get better at your trade is to talk to some top hands. Maybe that means going to a practice pen where they hang out, going to a horsemanship or stockmanship clinic, or seeking out some of the older, wiser folks in the area. We need to have someone to help us with our issues and be honest and straightforward when we need it. We seek out these people because we know they can be trusted. They’ve been there, done that, and know how things work.
If we want to know how things work in our fight against sin, we need to go to the most trustworthy source: the Word of God. 2 Timothy says, “all of Scripture is God breathed.” That means the whole Bible is the very Word of God and because God is perfect and cannot lie, His Word can be trusted.
Since the beginning of creation, the Devil has been trying to get us to doubt what God really says and sometimes reading through our Bibles can be confusing, but if we want to truly know God and how to fight our sins we need to use “the sword of the Spirit which is the word of God” (from Ephesians 6:10-18).
In the gospels, when Jesus was tempted in the wilderness, His response always started with, “it is written.” He always brought to mind the truth of Scripture and the God-glorifying nature of it. Speaking for myself, it’s easier for me to fall to temptation and roll over to sin’s demands if I haven’t been reading my Bible. It always reminds me of who I am and who God is.
I strongly encourage getting into the habit of daily Bible reading of some kind. I confess that I’m in a stage right now where I don’t sit down and “read” mine daily, but I instead listen to the day’s passages in the YouVersion Bible app (the #keepthefeast reading plan) while I feed cows in the mornings.
So this one seems pretty simple, right? To sum it up, it’s how we talk to God. We use prayer to worship God, to thank Him, to repent of our sins, and to ask Him for things. Jesus is our example in this life and when asked how to pray he gave this model:
“…Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name. Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.” Matthew 6:9-13
Now, this doesn’t mean we just repeat this prayer and that’s the only prayer God will hear. This prayer should be used like the tree on a saddle: it provides the form and shape, but we can add our own personal touch to it. When we are really struggling with temptation to sin, praying to God with this form in mind will be helpful. This prayer reminds us God is holy, our wants should be what God wants, He supplies our needs, He forgives us of our sins, He will help us in our struggles, and He will deliver us from the power of the world, the flesh and the devil.
“Our prayers might be awkward. Our attempts may be feeble. But since the power of prayer is in the one who hears it and not the one who says it, our prayers do make a difference,” Max Lucado
I personally think this one is going to be the hardest to apply. Most people don’t like having to rely on others for anything, especially something like dealing with the sin in our lives.
If you’re on the rodeo road or out in the saddle moving cows somewhere you might be able to get by alone for a while but you won’t go very far trying to make a hand if you’re the only expert in any room. God didn’t design the Christian life to be lived out alone. It’s made so that we will be in friendship with other Christians. Just like we need other people to help encourage us and give us pointers if we’re going through a bad stretch of buck offs or if we can’t get that heel trap to lay just right in the branding pen, we need other people to help us fight the sin in our lives. This is why being a part of a church is so important. “For just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, so in Christ we, though many, form one body, and each member belongs to all the others.” Romans 12:4-5.
As Christians, we are a part of Christ’s universal Church that covers the whole world. But if we follow the example given to use in the Bible (specifically the New Testament), we are called to be involved with a local church wherever we call home. With rodeos on the weekends or feeling like you can’t leave the ranch for any number of reasons, it’s easy to make excuses about why going to church on Sunday isn’t that important. But it is. Being a part of a church isn’t just showing up on Sunday to check it off the list or to do it because “that’s just what we do.” It means being under the authority of a pastor and elders that will hold us accountable and having friends in the congregation we can be `100 per cent honest with about our lives and about our daily battle with sin.
As we jerk the saddle off this series and turn it out to pasture, I hope and pray this has been an encouragement to y’all. We all have good days and bad days in this fight against our sin but remember
“being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.” Philippians 1:6
The Battle Against Sin Part 3
By Josh McCarthy / Cowboys of the Cross
Last time around, I said verse 4 in Ephesians 2 gives us the answer as to why we should fight sin: “But because of His great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ, even when we were dead in our trespasses. It is by grace you have been saved!”
I’m going to focus here on the part “because of His great love for us,” or God loving us by saving us from our sins (which is to say, God saving us from the World, the Flesh, and the Devil). Author and teacher, Matt Chandler, when he preached on 2 Corinthians 5:14-17, made the point that “the love of Christ compels us,” so God’s love for us should be the Christian’s primary motivation for obedience (i.e. fighting sin). This is the same love we see in Romans 5:6-8: “You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous person, though for a good person someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”
God loved us so much that even when we were sinners, (i.e. traitors, haters of God), Christ died for us. If God loved us that much, shouldn’t we love Him in return?.
Think about the people you love or care about: your spouse, family members, the crew you work with, or your traveling partners. How do you treat them? Do you purposefully hurt them or disrespect them? Do you ignore them when they ask you to do something? If we are called to love God over everything else, do we treat Him like these others (when we should treat Him better than anyone else)? Or does the way we live our daily lives show that we don’t really love God and therefore don’t fight sin – we just act like my heeler when he gets disciplined, rolling onto our backs and letting sin run all over us? If you hear someone say they really love getting on broncs but you’ve never seen them on one and don’t even know if they own a saddle, you’d question the truthfulness of that statement. Well, if we say we love God but never attempt to show it or fight the sin we know He hates, it makes those words pretty hollow. John 14:15 gets straight to the point: “If you love Me, you will keep My commandments.”
Before becoming a Christian, I saw things like the Ten Commandments or commands in the New Testament as expectations I could never live up to. After God saved me, I now see these commands as ways God loves me – like a father instructing his son on how to handle life or the cow boss helping out the new hire on the ranch. Those commands are for our good.
In that sermon I mentioned above, Chandler says that we don’t always love God the way we should. Sometimes we struggle or doubt in those seasons of life. That’s when secondary motivations come in. Two that I think are important are knowing the cost of sin and noticing our drift toward sin.
The cost of sin
As Christians, we know the punishment for sin is the death of the sinner. We know that punishment should be against us, for our rebellion against God – but praise Him for the grace He extends on His people! In the Old Testament, God used the death of animals to atone for sin in the sacrificial system as a foreshadowing of Christ’s death.
Imagine for a moment having to watch something die because of the sin you committed. I don’t know about you, but for me one of the most nerve-wracking things about calving time is if you have to tube a fresh calf to give it milk to keep it alive. Even with plenty of experience there’s always the chance that if you screw up, that calf will have to pay for your mistake by drowning in the milk you’re trying to give it . In ranching or rodeo, we know death is a part of life. When you have a sick cow or an old horse that’s been your work partner for years but won’t survive the winter, sometimes the best option is a bullet. It’s a tough but necessary part of the job. Most of the world doesn’t see that side of ranching. Instead, they just see some nice clean packaged steaks by the time their meat arrives in the store.
Just like the people in the store, I think most of us miss what sin actually costs. This cost wasn’t just any death though. It was bloody and gruesome. Just go look at the sacrificial system in the Old Testament or the crucifixion of Christ in the New.
1 Peter 1:18-19 tells us: “For you know that it was not with perishable things such as silver or gold that you were redeemed from the empty way of life you inherited from your forefathers, but with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or spot.”
I think we cheapen the price God paid for us in our salvation. We need to remember, especially in moments of temptation, to think of how bloody and awful it must have been for Christ on the day of His crucifixion. Remember how much pain He endured to save us when it was pain we deserved. That should make us think twice when we are ready to roll over to sin’s demands.
Our natural drift toward sin
If you’ve dealt with cattle in steep country, you know that if left on their own for very long they will eventually drift down to the flattest spot or along a waterway. Much like cattle, if God would leave us alone we would just drift down further and further. Cows don’t just appear at the bottom of the draw and we don’t just “happen” to go deeper and deeper into sin. We make decisions that don’t seem that bad at first but will eventually trap us in our old sinful way of life. If we don’t fight our sin it will just keep growing, kind of like my horse’s feet. If I don’t trim them up or put shoes on him, they’re just going to get worse and worse. As John Owen put it, “be killing sin or it will be killing you.”
While as Christians, we have a new heart and a new nature, our old nature and old habits are still with us.
In Romans 7:21-25 Paul is talks about his flesh or the sin that is in him and how it wages war against his new nature in Christ. “So this is the principle I have discovered: When I want to do good, evil is right there with me. For in my inner being I delight in God’s law. But I see another law at work in my body, warring against the law of my mind and holding me captive to the law of sin that dwells within me. What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death? Thanks be to God, through Jesus Christ our Lord!”
Praise God we have been rescued, and don’t have to drift towards sin. God gives us the ability as Christians to fight our sin and honor God with our daily lives.
I pray that on the days when we are really in a knock-down, drag-out fight against our sin – or heck, any day – we’ll remember how much God loves us and that His love will compel us to keep up the good fight. I’ve heard it said that practice doesn’t make perfect, but perfect practice makes perfect. So in the next and final part of this series we’ll get into the “how to” in this fight against sin.