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?
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
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.
By Scott Hilgendorff / Cowboys of the Cross
Part 2 of 2 We don’t belong here
We all want to fit in. In kindergarten, you want to be friends with everyone. In middle school through high school you work your way through social orders, pecking orders, bullying and just trying to figure out who you are. In rodeo and bull riding, putting your spurs on upside down just once can be enough to get you ostracized in some circles as you try to be taken seriously as a cowboy, cowgirl or bull hand.
As Christians, we aren’t supposed to worry about fitting in. This isn’t our home and it isn’t supposed to feel comfortable or like we belong. Once we have understood who Jesus is as the son of God and that he died on the cross to take the punishment for our sins so that if we would repent and ask to be forgiven, we can be saved. Once forgiven for our sins through Jesus’ sacrifice, God no longer sees us as anything less than perfect no matter how many mistakes we might still make. That means we are guaranteed to be welcomed into Heaven, our real home where we belong, are wanted and fit in perfectly.
But until we get there, we not only have to accept that we don’t fit in here as we talked about in Part One, but we’re supposed to avoid looking like we do.
1 John 2:15-17 Do not love this world nor the things it offers you, for when you love the world, you do not have the love of the Father in you. For the world offers only a craving for physical pleasure, a craving for everything we see, and pride in our achievements and possessions. These are not from the Father, but are from this world. And this world is fading away, along with everything that people crave. But anyone who does what pleases God will live forever.
When we think about what John is saying and look at the world around us, how many people do we know or see that identify themselves as Christians but other than the fact they might pray before they ride or eat, everything else about them seems the same.
We don’t immediately become like Christ the minute we make him Lord and Savior of our lives. We begin a process that is called sanctification. God sees us as perfect, forgiven of our sins, but the process of sanctification sees us becoming more like Christ. That means becoming less like the world. So for sure, we’re still going to make mistakes or choices that don’t set us apart from anyone else, but the more time we spend learning about Jesus through church, resources like Cowboys of the Cross and especially our own Bible study and time with other believers more mature than us, we will begin to see how much we don’t belong here and the people around us will see that we don’t fit in. That’s a good thing!
And the Bible gives us lots of instruction on how to help strengthen our faith while separating ourselves from the world around us.
2 Corinthians 6:14 Do not be yoked together with unbelievers. For what do righteousness and wickedness have in common? Or what fellowship can light have with darkness?
In Paul’s letter from 2 Corinthians, we’re being instructed to stay apart from the world. That doesn’t mean we isolate ourselves and no longer interact with others that don’t believe in Jesus or aren’t committed to being changed by our saving faith in him; it means we don’t tie ourselves tightly to them. If we do, it holds us back just like an ox on a plow will be held back if he is yoked or tied to another ox that isn’t as strong.
We need to actively pursue non-believers to show Jesus to them through our words ( telling them or teaching them about Jesus) and our actions (showing them we’re different by treating them the way Jesus would). But Paul is strongly emphasizing we can be in a non-believer’s life, but we shouldn’t be pursuing the same pleasures they pursue which John mentions in the verse above. We can compete in rodeo and bull riding or western sports and shows. We can even enjoy a lot of what it means to be a part of the western or rodeo culture, but when it comes to embracing the aspects of it that lead us to sin and seek personal sinful pleasures, we’ve crossed the line. We no longer are able to show people Jesus in us but instead, look no different than us.
If we don’t see differences growing and the life we live becoming more like Jesus and less like everyone else, it becomes very important to evaluate what we believe and ask ourselves if we’ve truly repented and received the forgiveness that God has offered us through his son’s death on the cross.
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!