By Scott Hilgendorff / Cowboys of the Cross
Psalm 119:105 Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.
Many of the Psalms were written by David. It’s less clear who wrote Psalm 119 but much of it describes the importance of following God’s commands, especially when life is hard. Our culture continues to be turned upside down with months of upheaval now and in the rodeo community as much as anywhere, a desire for life to be normal.
But as Christians truly saved by seeking redemption and forgiveness through their saving faith in Jesus, it’s important to remember that when compared to the culture around us, we’re anything but ‘normal.’
We’re still going to make mistakes but a life in Christ becomes a changed life and we begin to respond differently to the world around us no matter how much upheaval occurs or how much our culture or the rules we live by are changed. Doing what we know is right, even if it goes against how we feel or how everyone around us is acting, doesn’t earn us anymore from God.
Through repenting of sin and seeking forgiveness from Jesus knowing he took the punishment meant for us because of our sin through suffering and dying on the cross in our place, we’ve already been given everything –a promised eternity and perfect life in Heaven free from all the struggles and chaos we’re seeing around us now. But with a life in Christ, we look to respond to what is going on around us the way Jesus would, not the way our friends would or even our political leaders.
So how do we know how we’re supposed to respond?
We obey God’s word and we let it guide our steps and light our way. That means taking time to learn what’s in the Bible and stopping before we act to ask ourselves, is this social media post, conversation, action I’m about to take or choice I’m about to make, in line with scripture and what Jesus has commanded me to do? Even without having read or studied the whole Bible, it’s often easy to know the answer when most of us already know the basics: we’re to point others to Jesus and love one another, even the ones who hate us.
That’s where it gets really hard. It’s easier to try to share from the Bible or talk about Jesus with people who are at least similar to us in culture and values. It gets harder to to be heard among people who have strong values that conflict with ours. It gets harder still when those people actively work against our Christian values. But it can be hardest of all when, sometimes without even realizing it, we don’t like those people because of how they treat us or our beliefs.
We need God to shed light on our own sin so we can step past that obstacle and follow His light along a path that leads us to where we can share the Gospel with others including those we find ourselves struggling to love.
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.
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.
It’s through showing kindness and helping others that we’re able to show Christ to them but at the same time, it also lets us share the gospel, telling them about the need for repentance and a saving faith in Jesus. And it’s through keeping fellow brothers and sisters in Christ supported that we can help them to continue on sharing Christ with others.
But if we understand that we’re supposed to help others, then we also know that it’s okay to receive and accept that help.
And we can’t always know if someone needs something if they don’t tell us or ask.
We aren’t supposed to go through this life alone. Over and over verses illustrate helping others or receiving help. There are often bigger lessons and teaching points in those verses but they still demonstrate how we’re meant to be in community.
James 5:16 Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working.
Proverbs 31:8-9 Open your mouth for the mute, for the rights of all who are destitute. Open your mouth, judge righteously, defend the rights of the poor and needy.
Ephesians 2:10 For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.
Each of these verses are part of bigger teaching and messages but they also point to our need to help others from praying for each other to helping those in need or to understanding that God made us and through our saving faith in Jesus, to do good.
Since we know we’re supposed to help others, we know that means it’s okay to need help. That means if someone doesn’t know the internal struggle we’re facing, we have to be willing to reach out and tell others so they can do what God has asked us to do – help each other. And we have to let them.
By Scott Hilgendorff / Cowboys
There’s strength in knowing when to ask for help
of the Cross
Part 1 of 2
Struggles come and there’s nothing weak about knowing when you need to ask for help and getting it. Whether a ranch cowboy, rodeo cowboy or
bull rider, God made you to be tough but he didn’t make you stupid either; a cowboy needs to do things for himself but he also needs to know when it’s time to ask for help.
Our culture, the liberal one that dominates the messages we see from all directions, tells men to be weak, passive, in touch with their emotions and how ‘toxic’ we are because of the traditional ways we define ourselves. The rodeo and bull riding industry and the ranching and farming industries require men to be tough. Taking care of cattle isn’t for the feint of heart. Getting on the back of a bull or jumping off a horse to grab a steer take physical and mental strength. The image of a cowboy, no matter what form, is not of someone who is emotional
But there is real strength in getting help when you need it. You can continue fighting to get that serpentine belt back on your truck until there’s no skin on your knuckles or you can ask your buddy to drop by and help. And there is absolutely nothing weak about seeking professional help when the stress of bankruptcy and a fight with your wife has you feeling worthless and ready to walk away from everything.
Suicide is not the answer. It’s a quick solution for you and a lifetime of heartache for the ones left behind.
We need to grasp what it really means to be meek. Our culture suggests the word means being weak and walking away from taking a stand and while Jesus tells us to always forgive and turn the other cheek, he tells us in Matthew 5:5 Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.
We’re asked to be meek but absolutely do not mistake that for weakness. Jesus was God on Earth with the power to do anything include destroy those who would attack or undermine his ministry. Meekness is often defined as strength under control. That is real strength—being able to control yourself when you have the ability to use your strength and skills in a unChrist-like way.
Later, in Matthew 11:29, Jesus tells us: Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.
He doesn’t want us to be burdened. He wants us to let him carry our burdens and find peace in our relationship with him.
Jesus is supposed to be enough but sometimes the devil’s whisper in your ear gets so loud, you can’t hear the Savior calling to you. God’s word in scripture is supposed to be where we find hope, but sometimes we can understand the words but not bring them to bear fruit in what we’re going through.
God is sovereign. He gave us the system of government we have and while some of us were wired to be cowboys, he grew up other men and women to be health care providers for both our physical and mental health.
Knowing when to ask for help isn’t weak: it’s strength under control.