Heaven is where we belong. We’re just passing through
By Scott Hilgendorff / Cowboys of the Cross
Part 1 of 2 We don’t belong here
This isn’t our home.
It’s something important to understand each time we lose someone we know or love in this world, we’re reminded that as believers in the gospel—that our sin separates us from God and must be punished, that Jesus as the Son of God, died on the cross to take that punishment for our sins, that by believing in him, confessing that we know we’re sinners and asking to be forgiven of those sins, we can be made right with God and be welcomed to Heaven—this isn’t our home.
1 Peter 2:11-12 11 Beloved, I urge you as sojourners and exiles to abstain from the passions of the flesh, which wage war against your soul. 12 Keep your conduct among the Gentiles honorable, so that when they speak against you as evildoers, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day of visitation.
Peter calls us sojourners and exiles, meaning we’re just traveling through here in a place we don’t belong. An exile is someone kept from their real home. The Israelites were exiled from the chosen land and forced to live in Babylon for a time as punishment for not following God and as a way to get them back on track. Adam and Eve’s original sin in the garden of Eden forced them to be separated from God and, because of them, we come into this world separated from Him also, by our own sin.
But through Jesus, we can be reconciled with God and welcomed home when we pass from this life.
When we’re part of larger communities like those that form in the sports of rodeo and bull riding or other equine sports and competitions, we actually see more loss than the average families. We have extended families that give us more opportunity to grieve but also more opportunity to remember, this isn’t our home.
As believers, we’re part of an even larger community of travelers who are just passing through this life and Peter doesn’t just ask, but urges us live in a way that those who encounter us in our journey here, could come to know Jesus by seeing that we’re set apart from the rest of the world. When they see that we don’t fit in, it’s because it’s strange to them that we take joy in our struggles, that we help others without personal gain or that we’re always encouraging someone else. In a culture that can often be selfish, it shows how much we don’t fit in and that we really don’t belong here.
It can be hard as we go through the struggles we face here to understand just how temporary this place is for us and that wherever we try to put down roots or however long we travel from place to place, rodeo to rodeo, all those places will never last. Eventually, sooner than we think, as believers we’ll find ourselves where we’re meant to be—where we’re wanted so badly that God sent Jesus to die for us to make a way that we could be there with him.
Hebrews 13:14 For here we have no lasting city, but we seek the city that is to come.
The author of this book is reminding us the same thing. Our place here isn’t going to last and that we’re not just waiting,but wanting to reach the place we’ll spend eternity.
It can be hard as we go through the struggles we face here to understand just how temporary this place is for us and that wherever we try to put down roots or however long we travel from place to place, rodeo to rodeo, all those places will never last. Eventually, sooner than we think, as believers we’ll find ourselves where we’re meant to be—where we’re wanted so badly that God sent Jesus to suffer and die for us to make a way that we could be there with him forever.
By Scott Hilgendorff / Cowboys Of The Cross
We are slowly coming out of a period of, for many, self-isolation but reflecting on that time, we’ve seen almost everything we normally give our attention to put on a pause.
Things that distract us like sports and entertainment have been put on hold with the PBR (Professional Bull Riders) being the first sport to come back to stadiums in the past couple of weeks. We’ve been isolated from our churches and families, from shopping and hobbies and interests. All of these things can become idols to us—anything we give attention to before God.
Jonah 2:8 “Those who cling to worthless idols turn away from God’s love for them.
We often think of idols as being that golden calf statue the Israelites were worshiping in place of God.
But as we head out of this giant pause, it’s worth thinking about how we spend our time.
Christians understand that sickness and disease are a result of sin and this being a fallen and broken world. What we’re enduring in this pandemic is not a punishment from God but He is allowing us to go through this.
If He’s allowed us to go through this and has allowed many of our idols to be temporarily removed from our daily lives, it seems God is giving us a chance to give Him more attention than we have in the past.
Jonah 2:9 9 But I, with shouts of grateful praise, will sacrifice to you. What I have vowed I will make good. I will say, ‘Salvation comes from the Lord.’”
Jonah’s words are coming from the belly of a whale. He had ignored God’s commands, tried to go his own way, but God sent a whale to get him back on track and that’s ultimately what Jonah did, praising God and following His commands.
This pandemic may not have been sent by God the way He sent a whale to get Jonah’s attention, but it is a chance for us to get back on course for those of us who may have been more distracted than we realized by the trappings of our culture. Our western society has blessed with technology to access church services from across the country and we can literally open the Bible from our phones. Many of us are fortunate to have multiple copies of the Bible in our homes while people in other countries have to smuggle Bibles and are lucky to get their hands on a single copy.
Let’s take advantage of the opportunity we have to refocus our attention back on God through prayer, time in His word and gathering together to worship Him, online and in our churches as we’re allowed to gather together again.
By Jesse Horton / Cowboys of the Cross
2 Corinthians 4:8-11
We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies. For we who live are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh.
Too often, people come to faith in Christ expecting that their relationship with God will make everything come up roses; God will fix all our problems and give us the happy lives he wants us to have. While it sounds nice, that’s a false gospel. Jesus promised we would have trouble (John 16:33) and that we would even be hated for our faith (John 15:18-19). The fact is that we live in a fallen world…one where “thorns and thistles” (Gen. 3:18) frustrate us, steal our productivity, and even choke us out altogether if we aren’t careful to cultivate our hearts to receive God’s word (Matt. 13:1-9, 18-23). So how does a relationship with God make things better?
Justin McKee recently said in a YouTube devotional called “Mud mud mud” that God isn’t about changing our circumstances. He’s about changing our hearts by giving us a warrior’s heart that can face the challenge of any circumstance. That’s really important, because everyone, regardless of their faith, will face hard times. If you aren’t currently on hard times, you’ve either just come out of something or you’re on your way into something that will challenge you…maybe even rock you to your core.
The passage from 2 Corinthians above tells us the result of our hearts being changed by God. Christians experience all the hardships of life that everyone else experiences…maybe even more; but we have been given the Holy Spirit so that we might show the world the conquering Spirit of Jesus. Jesus conquered hate with love, calmed the wind and waves with His words, and rose victorious from a death of shame and ridicule. “Cowboy up” doesn’t even come close to describing the grit demonstrated by His life, death, and resurrection…and that’s the kind of grit he wants to demonstrate in our lives through faith in Him (demonstrated by obedience), not so that everyone will see how tough we are, but so that everyone will see that there are no circumstances into which the grace and power of God cannot reach.
Becoming more like Jesus is not for sissies! When the pain seems too much to bear, remember there is a sweet and eternal reward for faithfulness that is WORTH IT! The next time your circumstances seem to be more than you can handle, remind yourself that Jesus didn’t die to make your circumstances better; He died to make you better for your circumstances! Be faithful, and trust God with the results!
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.
I was born and raised in the small Minnesota prairie town of Maynard. My family attended a local church and I grew up in a Christian home. I devoted my life to Christ when I was a child.
Unfortunately, I did not fully grasp what it meant to be a follower of Christ and quickly I had a very legalistic relationship with Christ, that hinged on my performance and avoiding a whole list of things that were not acceptable by the church.
As a teenager, I really struggled with my faith. It wasn’t until my early 20s and after experiencing a few of life’s lessons that I started to realize that my “religion” was my salvation, and that I needed a savior. An untimely death of one of the church elders’ daughter at my new church really woke me up! Witnessing the need for Christ in my own life really opened my eyes to seeing the need for Christ and for His love in other people’s lives.
In 2010, I met and started to date my future wife, Sandra. Our life together has not been easy, but God has been at the center of our marriage and His grace and mercy have always been there for us. Sandra’s best friend died in a car accident in the summer of 2011, and it devastated both of us and pressured us to get our lives back on track. We struggled with sexual sin and with lies that came with it as we tried to hide our sins from our Christian families and our Church family. In the summer of 2011, we vowed to abstain from any sexual desire until we were married.
Unfortunately, we failed keeping this vow and broke it the night before we were wed, which lead to sexual tension within our marriage. I also struggled with an addiction to porn up to being engaged. Sandra refused to marry me if I could not break the addiction. It was not easy, but I praise God that I have been released from the hold of that addiction. By asking for forgiveness, and finally forgiving myself for my past sexual sins really closed the door on that issue in our marriage and it offered healing for both of us.
Paul knew what he was preaching about when it came to sexual sin the toll that it takes on a person. Thankfully, Sandra and I have been able to keep our marriage pure and it is a praise of His grace and mercy for that!
In the fall of 2013, my daughter Charlie was born and in the winter of 2014 my father in law David died. His death was extremely difficult to grasp, especially with the addition of my daughter that fall. David is dwelling in the Kingdom of Heaven and one day I will see him again!
In the winter of 2016 Sandra and I purchased our first house and we moved to Wood Lake, MN. Later that year, I moved my business to Wood Lake as well.
In fall of 2017, my son Zeke was born. After four months of bed rest, due to Zeke almost being miscarried and Sandra had to have a cervix stitch surgery to save the pregnancy. Sandra has infertility and had complications and had to receive a hormone regiment and we struggled to conceive for two years. We were very happy to see him, but something happened that we never expected. A couple of days after Zeke were born, Sandra was diagnosed with postpartum depression and she struggled to have a relationship with Zeke and even with Charlie at times. This lead to me taking extended time off of work at my full time job and stepping into a new role. All I can say, even in the worst of times, God is so good! That year was miserable, and watching my wife struggle with something that I couldn’t fix or quite understand just killed me inside.
God blessed us through friends and family and through my coworkers to help out where they could. I don’t know how many times I asked God to take it all away, to heal my wife, and the anger that I had from the effects of it. Sandra pushed through it and fought the depression the best she could, and one day it was gone… Thankfully we have our two kids, since we are not able to have anymore due the complications of the pregnancy Sandra had with Zeke.
This brings us to 2019. I am still making knives almost 12 years after the birth of Speh Custom Knives. Having this business has opened many doors for me to prompt Christ and to have contact with customers that have turned into very close friends. In Colossians 4:5-6, Paul tells us how to go about talking to others and I think its appropriate to share these verses as a new mission statement for myself.
Colossians 4:5-6 NIV – Be wisein the way you act toward outsiders;make the most of every opportunity.Let your conversation be always full of grace,seasoned with salt,so that you may know how to answer everyone.
We never know who God is going to put in our lives and simply showing the love of Christ to them is essential. Being accurate and loving with the Gospel is the goal that I am currently striving for in my own relationship with Christ. We can’t show someone Christ if we do not know Him ourselves, or if we don’t know the scriptures about His character, promises, and the hope Christ offers in salvation for all!