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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