First we need to become disciples ourselves

First we need to become disciples ourselves

Part 6 of 7 The Company You Keep

By Scott Hilgendorff / Cowboys of the Cross

Just like bull riders will tell you that to get better, you want to be surrounded by better bull riders, we know that the Bible teaches us there are times we have to be careful who we tie ourselves to. If we spend all our time with unbelievers, we can see our own faith suffer. At the same time, we have to spend time with unbelievers in order to share the gospel with them—how to be saved from the punishment meant for our sin by a belief in Jesus Christ, repenting of our sin and asking to be forgiven.

But before we can worry about finding the balances there, we first need to become disciples.

John 8:31-32 So Jesus said to the Jews who had believed in Him, “If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”

Jesus tells us that when we have truly become a Christian—a follower of Jesus—then we will ‘abide’ in his word. That means that we will live it out. Our desire to do that is the proof of our salvation.

While there is a lot to being a disciple that the average Christian seems to ignore throughout the New Testament, we know that in its simple form, a disciple is someone who follows Jesus.

In rodeo, most of us have successful cowboys and bull riders who we follow to learn their style, techniques and how they became successful.

Jesus tells us that we will live out his word but he knows we don’t immediately know or understand everything there is in the Bible.

That’s why, even though Jesus calls us disciples, we still need to be discipled.

The Great Commission in Matthew 28:19-20 tells his disciples to go into the world and make make more disciples with clear instructions to teach others about what Jesus taught them. That means right now, there are people out there with knowledge and wisdom we haven’t achieved yet who are following, or should be following, the command to make disciples. There are people we need to have teaching us what they know from the Bible.

At the same time, we read our Bibles on our own, attend church services, learn where we can and pray in order to learn and put to practice what it means to live out our faith.

And Jesus tells us it isn’t going to be easy.

Luke 9:23 And he said to all, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.

There can be a cost to following Jesus and while there is much we can study on being disciples and what it means to follow Jesus, we’re focused right now on making sure we have the right people in our lives to be successful followers of Christ.

By linking with other believers who are more mature and experienced in their faith than we are, we can be discipled by them while we also begin the process of teaching others about Jesus. As we learn, we teach, regardless of how experienced we are. If I’ve just started learning how to throw a rope and you teach me a better way to guide my loop to the roping dummy’s head, it doesn’t matter whether I’ve won a rodeo or even entered one; once you’ve taught me how to do that much, I can teach someone else that much too.

(Supporting photo of the Bible provided by John-Mark Smith of Lviv, Ukraine)

Who do you trust? Letting God take you down the trail

Who do you trust? Letting God take you down the trail

By Scott Hilgendorff / Cowboys of the Cross

Who do we trust? Close family and friends? Our doctor? Our teachers? The foreman at the ranch we work at that’s been there 25 years longer than us? The rodeo secretary?

Proverbs 3:5-6 Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths.

There’s always the chance the person we would confide anything to could fail or betray us. We’re human, deeply flawed and deeply full of sin.

It’s God we can trust.

We’ve seen throughout the Bible that God has kept His promises from restoring the Israelites to Jerusalem to sending Jesus to die for our sins.

It’s Him we can fully trust.

If we started our day thinking about the instructions in Proverbs 3:5-6, we would be off to a good start. If we think about these instructions before every action during the day, it would do much more; it would change our life and the lives of people around us.

Why would it do that?

If we involve God in all our decisions, many of them would be different from how we handle bad service in the drive thru to major life decisions like a job change.

We can acknowledge Him by asking for His direction before we make decisions. And think about this: what if when we’re in a serious conversation or argument, we paused to ask Him to guide us before we even spoke?

It takes practice to get used to turning our thoughts to God before we do anything but we can at least start by seeking His direction before we make major decisions or have important conversations.

So how do we let God direct our paths?

A big way is by knowing what’s in the Bible. The more knowledge we have, the more we can automatically know what is right according to Scripture in a decision that we’re about to make. The Bible is the main way God is going to communicate to us.

2 Timothy 3:16-17 All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, 17 so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.

These verses teach us much but in the context of letting God guide our steps, it’s affirmation that the Bible comes from God and that it is necessary for us to be prepared to do whatever God wants us to do.

Sometimes God will speak to us through advice from one of those people we trust, but that advice will never go against what the Bible teaches. Sometimes circumstances will make a decision more clear but again, that decision will never go against Scripture. The circumstance could be finding someone’s wallet at the rodeo grounds when you don’t have entry fees. The circumstance might seem like a need being met but we know through Scripture that not turning that wallet in at the main gate would be sin.

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.’

We know who owns livestock by their brand, we know who belongs to Jesus by their actions

We know who owns livestock by their brand, we know who belongs to Jesus by their actions

By Scott Hilgendorff / Cowboys of the Cross

Next to me was a metal tub roiling with a mixture of gasoline and dry ice. Set inside were several numerical brands being super-cooled for the process of cold branding bulls. The process causes their hair to fall out and then grow back with the pigment forever changed to white.

It’s thought to be a less painful form of branding verses hot branding that scars the hide to make the brand.

I was waiting for everyone to gather together for a cowboy church message as the tub was boiling away and it got me thinking about the guys that actually will shape a coat hanger into a brand, heat it in a campfire and brand themselves.

While it’s not an extremely common practice, it’s certainly tied most closely to the cowboy and rodeo communities and it becomes a pretty clear way to show to the world around you that you’re a cowboy.

When we become Christians, followers of Christ whose lives are changed by a saving faith in Jesus, we’re permanently changed by that experience the way the bulls’ hair was going to be permanently changed by that cold branding.

But there’s no outward mark on our bodies that shows we have been changed and while a brand shows what cattleman a herd belongs to, there’s no outward physical change that shows we now belong to Jesus.

John 10:28 I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand.

In this chapter of John, Jesus is describing us as sheep belonging to him and that no one can take us from him. We belong to him.

There is no need for us to be marked for Jesus to have to prove to anyone that we are his and that no one can take away the eternity Jesus bought for us with his death on the cross.

But, we still can’t help but outwardly show in other ways that we belong to Jesus. The Bible refers to that is fruit—the words and actions we carry out because of how much our salvation means to us and is changing us.

Matthew 7:16-18 By their fruit you will recognize them. Do people pick grapes from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? 17 Likewise, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. 18 A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, and a bad tree cannot bear good fruit.

Jesus is warning here against false teachers, letting us know that we can tell who they are but the fruit they produce. Bad will come about from a false teacher but those who belong to Jesus are going to produce good fruit. Sure, Jesus may not have put a brand on our arm to show we belong to him but we won’t be able to hide it either through our words and actions, especially if we carry out his commands to tell others about him and to love others the way he loves us.

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.

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