What are you putting into 2022?

What are you putting into 2022?

By Scott Hilgendorff / Cowboys of the Cross

What are you going to put into 2022?

Some of us worry about the future. Some because of difficult circumstances,  some because it’s just what we do. Some of us don’t give much thought to anything and plunge forward into whatever comes next. Some face what’s ahead fearlessly with a mature understanding of verses like Matthew 6:25-34 that go to great lengths to assure us not to worry because God will take care of us.

Matthew 6:25-27 Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? 26 Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? 27 Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?

Matthew 6: 34 Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.

This can feel impossible to some of us and the reality is,  it takes a lot of maturity in our faith that some of us may never even reach to be able to let go of worry.  But at a minimum, these verses should be a comfort for what they tell us about how much God values us over everything He has created. 

But regardless of how we face the coming year, as Christians, there are a couple truths we can focus on. God is in control and His will, will be done.  Nothing happens without Him but what He commands us to do through Jesus is this:

John 13-34-35 “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. 35 By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”

Matthew 28: 19-20 Therefore go and make disciples of all nations,  baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you  always, to the very end of the age.”

If we focus on those commands, whatever challenges, trials or struggles we face,  we can still see such positivity in the world around us because of what God can do with what we put into it. In and out of the rodeo and bull riding circuits, in and out of the cattle markets, in and out of the job you do or the school you attend, what are YOU going to put into 2022?

It isn’t just cussing in Yellowstone, words really do matter

It isn’t just cussing in Yellowstone, words really do matter

By Scott Hilgendorff / Cowboys of the Cross

“They’re just words.”

There’s recently been a lot of discussion and debate about the tv series Yellowstone, started by an article from RFD TV, about the language in the show.

People seemed evenly split on whether they watch the show or not based on the language and content of the show. But observations were made that when someone complained about the language in online discussions, it led to attacks against them by the people defending the language.

Reading through some of it, the most common comment I kept hearing about the language was that they were just words.

Thing is, many of the people on either side identify themselves as Christians and we do in fact need to be really careful that we understand the significance of words.

Why? Because of numerous verses across the Old and New Testaments of the Bible that tell us how important words are.

One verse to start with is this:

Ephesians 4:29 Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.

It makes it clear that language that isn’t wholesome shouldn’t be spoken. Instead, it directs us to speak words that would work toward making life better for another person. The words we speak should only do good.

Look at just a few ways Proverbs shows us the importance of good words.

Proverbs 16:24 Kind words are like honey–sweet to the soul and healthy for the body.”

Proverbs 15:4 “Gentle words bring life and health; a deceitful tongue crushes the spirit.”

Proverbs 18:4 “A person’s words can be life-giving water; words of true wisdom are as refreshing as a bubbling brook.”

Proverbs 20:15 “Wise speech is rarer and more valuable than gold and rubies.”

But it gets even more serious in the Book of James which has much to say about words and the importance of controlling our speech because of what it is capable.

James 3:6 The tongue also is a fire, a world of evil among the parts of the body. It corrupts the whole body, sets the whole course of one’s life on fire, and is itself set on fire by hell.

In this verse specifically, James warns us that we can be completely corrupted by our tongue, the words we speak. He describes our tongue as a fire and that we can basically release hell on earth through what we say to people.

Throughout the whole chapter, James warns us that we can speak terrible things and do great harm or we can use words to bring life to others. The most important words we can speak are the words that describe the gospel and how to find a saving faith in Jesus Christ.

This is why it’s important not to downplay the words we speak and the words we listen to. They can influence for good, the gospel and Jesus, or they can influence for evil.

The words we speak aren’t, ‘just words.’

I choose love–but what does that mean? Not what most cowboys think

I choose love–but what does that mean? Not what most cowboys think

By Scott Hilgendorff / Cowboys of the Cross

I choose love.

Not words you look to hear from a cowboy with a reputation of toughness to uphold. But that’s not the love I’m talking about. I choose this love.

John 13:34 A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.

Jesus loved me enough to die for me and take the punishment meant for my sins. All I have to do is believe, repent and ask to be forgiven and thanks to his love, I can have an eternal and perfect life in Heaven. His love was an action, not a feeling.

I choose love.

It’s a command from Jesus but in a world where we’re divided, fighting with and hating on each other, does he really need to command me?

I choose love. I choose to say, “Hey buddy, I know you barely scraped your fees together tonight to get jerked down like that. I’ve got some extra, let me buy your Taco Bell.”

I choose love. I choose to hold my tongue when the waitress just gave me attitude and instead, ask how I can pray for her when the check comes.

I choose love. I choose to spend some time coaching a gunsel instead of giving up on him or just laughing when he walks by with his spurs upside down and his chaps on an hour and a half before showtime.

I choose love. I choose to cheer for my rival who is about to win the team roping championship after my horse walked through barbwire this morning.

I choose love. I choose to stop by the hospital and check on the guy who got stomped even though he sucker-punched my traveling partner last week for talking to his girl a little too much after the rodeo.

I choose love. I choose to pray for you even though you may never know I’m doing it. I choose to tell others what is good about you or keep my mouth shut. I choose to help you without you knowing it isn’t convenient.

Do I blow it sometimes? Absolutely. Do I repent and apologize or make amends? I try to. Can I do better? Yep. Grace lets me mess it up but Jesus’s love motivates me to do better. I choose that love. I don’t have to like you to love you. You don’t have to like me for me to love you. This love is action and it’s a lot harder than hate or anger. It takes sacrifice, it takes time. It takes putting someone else first. I choose to do what’s hard. I choose to walk into the stampede of anger.

I choose love.

Asking for help can be a backward way into serving others

Asking for help can be a backward way into serving others

By Scott Hilgendorff / Cowboys of the Cross

It can become hard to serve others when your services makes them feel like they have to return the favor. The best advice I ever received about being able to serve others in our culture is to actually ask them to serve you first.

It sounds like it goes against what the Bible teaches but here’s what happens: if I’m the new guy in the neighborhood and I try to do something for my neighbors as a way to serve them and get to know them, we unintentionally put them in the position of needing to return the favor; they owe us.

Buuuuut, if you ask THEM to help YOU first, you are now in the position of owing them a favor and unless they are just horribly unfriendly people, most are going to be willing to help you when you ask. You still get to know them, a relationship with the neighbor can start and it will be easier to serve them when opportunities arise.

My friends that explained this to me had this happen with a new family that moved in the neighborhood. I don’t remember the details but they had an opportunity to just jump in and help the family with something fairly significant but after that, found the couple was avoiding them. It wasn’t until my friends tried asking them for help that they all then started talking freely across the street and my friends realized they were being avoided because the couple felt they were in debt for the help and felt awkward.

I’m still the new person on the mountain and have a handful of neighbors where I live near Gatlinburg. One of the couples are descendants of the original family that settled the mountain and eventually sold portions of it that have become a handful of homes and rental cabins that make up our little mountain neighborhood.

When I first got up there, I did a terrible job of meeting more than the closest neighbor who sits a bit behind and above me on the ridge we share.

For awhile, we were mostly just “hey neighbors” or “wave as you go by neighbors” so for the ones I waved “hey” to the most, I decided to bake some cookies as we got close to Christmas two years ago. It’s the only time I do something like that, making shortbread like my mom had made when I was little. I had put plates of them in three neighbor’s mailboxes with Christmas cards and a note with my contact information to sort of introduce myself.

One never said anything, another put a bunch of candy canes back in mine and another didn’t find theirs until a bear had knocked the mail box over that next summer because I put them in a long-since gone relative’s box by mistake. I got a panicked voicemail from the neighbor feeling terrible that they had never acknowledged the gift, not even knowing what it was that the bear had eaten. She apologized repeatedly when I called her back because she felt terrible and I ended up feeling terrible because it had made her feel like she was in an awkward spot.

So I tried the advice I had overlooked the first time around by dropping off cookies. With the neighbor closest to me I had an extended road trip that was taking me away for more than a few weeks and I was able to meet him by actually going over to ask him if I could get him to cut my lawn once while I was away. I offered to pay but he refused.

Perfect. I now owed him.

We have visited multiple times now since then and I’ve been able to help him pile wood with no sense of obligation anymore. We now are both comfortable asking for help if we need it.

But there was still that problem with the original mountain family. That wonderful old-timey culture is deeply rooted. The phone call about the Christmas card found months later at least opened the door for me to drop in the next time I saw them outside. Caught unprepared, the wife excused herself, went inside and came out with a jar of apple butter she had made back in the fall. I had created this need for her to give back. So after a trip home to visit family in Ontario, I came the next time with a box of cookies you can only get in Canada. Because I had expressed interest in it during our conversation, I left with the moon-phase guide to planting a garden they kept on their refrigerator. Next time, having learned she couldn’t eat much sugar, I came with some chips in a style you can only get in Canada and left with a wooden wagon planter from her porch.

Finally, a couple weeks ago, I was getting ready for another trip to Ohio and Ontario when my covid test for the border crossing came back inconclusive and I was going to have to go to town again to take another test. At the same time, my lawn tractor backfired and died on me right as the husband was driving by on his own to cut the lawns on the two rental cabins down from me. I really did need some help and was able to approach him to ask if he had enough gas and time to keep cutting one more while I ran back to town for the second test.

He wouldn’t accept offer of payment and also said he’d help figure out what was wrong with the mower when I get back.

My hope is that by finding myself in real need of help, this has broken the cycle of gift-giving and opened the door to where they won’t mind asking me for help or that I can pitch in when I see a need without having to be given something off their porch.

Philippians 2:3-4 Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, 4 not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.

The idea of asking for help instead of offering it seems contrary to scripture except it can be an effective way to build a bridge that opens the door to more easily serve those neighbors and develop a closer relationship that allows the gospel to be shared.

Rodeo and bull riding give us all a great opportunity to ask for help and I think in that environment, it’s easier for us to do it either way. If we need help, we’re going to ask for it and if we see someone who needs help, most of us are pretty good at stepping up and helping without being asked. It’s just a natural way of doing things so it doesn’t create that sense of obligation.

But what are some ways we can either serve or ask to be helped in order to build connections with others around us outside the sport? We help others so we can show Jesus to them but however we do it, we need to build connections so we can also tell them who Jesus is and what he did for them.

Around rodeo, we have much religious freedom

Around rodeo, we have much religious freedom

By Scott Hilgendorff / Cowboys of the Cross

1 Peter 3:8 Finally, all of you must live in harmony, be sympathetic, love as brothers, and be compassionate and humble. 9 do not repay evil with evil…

Reasons to be angry seem to be coming at us from every direction. As believers, we are instructed to live very differently from the would around us.

To live in harmony is the opposite of what a lot of us see in social media where we share our anger and add fuel to the flames of disunity instead of inviting someone to sit down and warm themselves by our campfire.

To be sympathetic would be to try to understand another person’s hurt and anger no matter how much we disagree with their reasons to feeling that way.

Loving as brothers is in action. Just like we would loan our rival in sudden need a bull rope or even a horse to mount, we are tasked to do good toward others who might even hate us.

To be compassionate and humble is to reach out help others who are nothing like us.

To be or carry out all of those actions and attitudes in the list isn’t just as simple as those illustrations but it gives us a place to start as we work to understand as Christians, we’re called to be different from the unbelieving world.

But wait, it gets even harder.

The second half of this chapter touches on being different from the world around us but it focuses on how being different can lead to suffering.

Jesus suffered on the cross on our behalf, taking the punishment meant for our sin. He did this so that by believing he was the son of God and did this for us, that if we would repent of our sin and ask to be forgiven, we could be saved from God’s wrath and instead have a perfect eternity in Heaven.

1 Peter 3:13-14 Who is going to harm you if you are eager to do good? 14 But even if you should suffer for what is right, you are blessed. “Do not fear their threats; do not be frightened.”

Because of what Jesus did for us, we should have a desire to do good. We may be all out feuding with someone at the rodeo but when we help them change out the flat tire on their stock trailer, they might have been the one that did it at the rodeo last weekend but this time, they aren’t likely to turn around and slash the tires on our truck. But take this as far as it can go, there are missionaries preaching the gospel in other countries who have been tortured and killed for preaching from the Bible. One of the worst things that could happen to us in North America so far could be a situation where a rodeo announcer loses a gig because the producer doesn’t want him doing an opening prayer or praying in Jesus’s name. Meanwhile there are Christians in Afghanistan facing an uncertain future in a culture that was already dangerous to begin with.

It’s hard for us to get our heads around it but the reality is, those who have lost their lives for their faith have gone on to their perfect life in Heaven while we’re still here in the sinful and broken world. Those who have suffered in other ways have Heaven to look forward to.

So what’s holding you back? Do good.

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