By Jesse Horton / Cowboys of the Cross
We continue this week with our discussion on how we hear from God through prayer. We’ve learned that the primary way we hear from God is through the study of his word. We can also hear from God and know his will through prayer, but prayer isn’t what we often make it out to be. It’s not about getting what I want from God; it’s about God getting what he wants from me. This week in our study of how we hear from God in prayer, we examine the phrase from the model prayer, “Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.”
If God alone is good (Mark 10:18 and Luke 18:19 both say: “Why do you call me good?” Jesus answered. “No one is good—except God alone. ; Luke 18:19 ) and therefore defines what a good life is, then a good life is not found in the success of my will but in the submission of all things to God’s will.
God alone defines what is good, true, wise, right, and loving, so our hope in life is never in getting our way. Hope in life is never in the realization of our own dreams. It is never found in gaining as much control as possible over the people and circumstances in our life. Hope is never found in my will being done. God has never not existed; his perspective goes beyond the origin of our past and beyond the future of our destiny, so he really does know what is best for all of his creation, including you and me. As such, true prayer is not getting the all-wise God to submit to your imperfect will but is an act of submitting your imperfect will to the all-wise God.
Unfortunately, we all slip from time to time into thinking we’re smarter than God. There are times for each of us when we believe that our plan and what we want is better for us than what God wants for us. We curl our lips at the “dish” God has lovingly and wisely placed in front of us and seek something we find more appetizing; but our idea of better will leave us empty, unfulfilled, unhealthy, and unable to receive the future good that God has in store for us.
So today, cry out for grace because the temptation to think you know better than God is still a powerful threat to your prayer life and your ability to hear from God; that puts us in the dangerous position of being our own hope – our own idol to which we pray, “My will be done.” Cry out to the Savior who submitted his own will to that of the Father to bring about the greater good for all mankind; He knows what it’s like to wrestle with wanting something different than the Father’s perfect will! Cry out to Jesus to save you from yourself. Pray for the sense to know that there is no safer, no better place to be than in submission to the will of your Father in heaven. Have the courage to pray, “Your kingdom come – let your kingdom’s reign begin in my life today. Your will be done – right here, right now, in my life – just like it is in heaven.” When we are joyfully willing to submit to God’s will for our lives, we know that his grace has entered our hearts.
Isaiah 26:3-4 (ESV):
You keep him in perfect peace
whose mind is stayed on you,
because he trusts in you.
Trust in the LORD forever,
for the LORD GOD is an everlasting rock.
By Jesse Horton / Cowboys of the Cross
We’ve been trying to understand how to hear from God and know His will. We noted that studying the Scriptures and prayer are two of the most frequent and consistent ways that God communicates with His people. We continue our examination of The Lord’s Prayer this week with the purpose of hearing from God. This is the prayer that used to be recited in school, taken directly from the Bible. The phrase we will examine is “Your kingdom come.”
The gospel Jesus preached in his ministry is summed up in Mark 1:15. “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.” Notice that there is no mention of what Christ did for us on the cross or the denial of self to follow Jesus; all this is true and very important, but it is the work of Christ and our response to his lordship that accomplish a specific goal: the fulfillment of God’s eternal and perfect kingdom. The grace extended to us by God through Jesus Christ is intended to capture us for a better kingdom–God’s kingdom. But when we don’t think about that first or understand it, we end up trying to get in the way
In Mark 9:30-37, Jesus told his disciples that he would soon be captured and killed. They didn’t respond with concern or remorse. Instead, they argued amongst themselves about who among them was the greatest.
Unfortunately, we all tend to pursue the establishment and glory of our own kingdoms where we are lords and rulers of all. In some sense, we all hope to accomplish a situation such as that described in the parable of the rich fool: And I will say to my soul, “Soul, you have ample goods laid up for many years; relax, eat, drink, be merry” (Luke 12:19). We want to create for ourselves some vision of our own utopia where we have all we need, our labor is easy and fruitful, our family members meet our expectations, and all things work together to keep us happy and fulfilled.
There are several problems with that model.
One problem is that we lack the ability to control circumstances and people (others and even ourselves). Look how hard we work to win a rodeo and look what happens to our attitude when we buck off a bull or bronc we were determined to ride or miss our catch after hours at the practice arena. We can do all we think we can to win, but it’s never guaranteed no matter what effort we put into it. As much as we try to control the outcome for a win, we can be badly hurt or killed. This is a fallen world, we are fallen people, and we are not Sovereign God! Another problem is that our perpetual happiness and fulfillment is rarely ever good for us or for mankind collectively, nor is it glorifying for God – the very purpose for which we were created.
In Luke 12:32, Jesus said to his disciples, “Fear not, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom.” Jesus didn’t come to exercise his authority and power to make my little kingdom work, but by grace to welcome me as God’s child into a much better kingdom than I could ever create under my broken leadership and pathetic power. Only in the kingdom that Jesus invites us to can we experience eternal life, peace, and joy.
God, I repent of trying to be a sovereign ruler over my own warped mini-kingdom. May your glorious eternal kingdom come in me and through me today.
By Jesse Horton / Cowboys of the Cross
Do you know that God loves you and cares for you like his very own child? No, really. Do you know that? I bet everyone who is reading this letter first-hand has heard it. Many of you have probably agreed with it and even affirmed it in your own words. But my question is, has this truth actually moved from your head to your heart and begun to affect your life? It almost seems like a totally different question because it is! Agreeing with the statement, “God loves and cares for me like his own child,” is entirely different from living out in our actions and thoughts that God loves and cares for us like his own children.
The Bible declares this truth over and again. Psalm 34:15 tells us that God’s eyes are on the righteous and that his ears are open to their prayers. He is with us wherever we go (Gen. 28:15). The Bible encourages us to take our cares to God because he cares for us (1 Pet. 5:7). It says in Hebrews 13:5 that he will never leave nor forsake us. Psalm 136 declares multiple times in its refrain that “his steadfast love endures forever.” The Apostle Paul testifies in Romans 8 that he is certain that nothing can separate us from the “love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord” (v. 39). It’s not even up for debate – God loves you and cares for you like his own child!
So, when life isn’t what we think it should be, why do we waste our time wondering if God has stopped caring for us? Why do we compare our lives to others to determine who God loves more based on outward appearances? It is tempting to question God’s love and care for us, especially when life isn’t what we had hoped for, but questioning God’s love never leads us anywhere good. I want to encourage you – when you are tempted to do so, run hastily to God’s Word for peace and reassurance.
But if the big question isn’t whether or not God cares, then perhaps it is this: will I recognize God’s care when it comes? Could it be that we have incorrectly defined what God’s care should look like in our lives? Are our expectations of our loving Father consistent with what he has promised to do for us? Has God promised to make our lives easy (John 16:33; 1 Pet. 4:12-17), or has he promised to be with us through the temporary difficulties we experience on this side of realized-eternity (Matt. 28:20; 1 Pet. 5:10), and that these difficulties are actually for our collective good and his glory (James 1:2; Heb. 12:5-11)? Beloved, just as with our earthly fathers, there are times when the very thing that causes us to question if our Father cares is the evidence of his care. The Scriptures tell us beyond the shadow of doubt that our Father cares for us; therefore, do not define too narrowly what God’s care should look like.
Take the time today to read through the verses above, and rest assured that your Father loves and cares for you completely and perfectly!
By Jesse Horton / Cowboys of the Cross
All parents do it for their children. We do it when our kids don’t have the sense to do it for themselves. Most of the time, our children are unaware their parents do it. Parents gladly step in, knowing our children are unable, unconcerned, or unaware of the vulnerability of their hearts. As parents, we are committed to protecting our children from evil.
I know if I am not vigilant in my commitment to protect my children from evil, they will minimize or forget two very important realities. First, either they don’t understand or easily forget that they live in a fallen and broken world that does not function as God intended it to. Real evil exists in the world in which they live, and it often wears an enticing disguise; it rarely ever looks as dangerous and destructive as it truly is. Just by virtue of the broken world in which our children live, they will hear, see, and experience evil things that are able to warp their God-given identities and stain them with the brokenness of evil, covering the light and truth of God’s image in which they were created.
We try to do the same at Cowboys of the Cross, trying to protect those we have close enough personal relationships to be directly involved with and indirectly through the teaching we make available, cowboy church services at rodeos and bull ridings and our presence on social media.
Second, my children tend to minimize or forget the sin inside of them. They often don’t understand that the greatest danger they face is not the evil that lurks around them, but the evil that lives within them and entices them to pursue and justify their pursuit of the evil in the world. So, as parents, we realize that we must not only protect our children from the evil that exists in the world, but more importantly, we must protect them from the evil that is born in their own hearts. As parents pursuing a relationship with God, we understand the importance of our commitment to protect our children from evil. And our Father God knows we are no different from our own children; we are his children. We minimize the brokenness of our world and the power of sin, and so, we fail to guard ourselves from temptation. We need a protector to fight the battle against evil for us, even when we don’t recognize the evil we are supposed to fight.
1 Samuel 17:43-47
And the Philistine said to David, “Am I a dog, that you come to me with sticks?” And the Philistine cursed David by his gods. The Philistine said to David, “Come to me, and I will give your flesh to the birds of the air and to the beasts of the field.” Then David said to the Philistine, “You come to me with a sword and with a spear and with a javelin, but I come to you in the name of the Lord of hosts, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied. This day the Lord will deliver you into my hand, and I will strike you down and cut off your head. And I will give the dead bodies of the host of the Philistines this day to the birds of the air and to the wild beasts of the earth, that all the earth may know that there is a God in Israel, and that all this assembly may know that the Lord saves not with sword and spear. For the battle is the Lord’s, and he will give you into our hand.”
The Hebrew words often translated as “the Lord of hosts” (as we see here) are transliterated as “Yahweh Sabaoth.” It means “Yahweh (God’s covenant name) of armies.” David acknowledged Yahweh as the leader of the armies of Israel. The Philistines had Goliath as their champion, but Israel’s champion was Yahweh. He is their banner (Yahweh Nissi) going before them in battle, fighting their battles for them. Exodus 15:3 declares that “Yahweh is a man of war; Yahweh is his name.”
Sometimes, we don’t realize the constant battle we are in against evil and sin, but as God’s children, we need to remain acutely aware of this ongoing struggle. Fortunately, we have a Father who goes before us, who fights on our behalf, and who is a warrior whose prowess is unparalleled. Jesus – who is God in the flesh – bore my sin, your sin, and the sin of the entire world at the cross. His resurrection is unequivocal evidence that he defeated sin and death not only for himself, but on behalf of all those who would unite themselves to him in his death and resurrection. When we unite ourselves to Christ, we receive his warrior Spirit. Your battle against evil and sin is not futile, for we are more than conquerors in Him. His Spirit goes before us, fights our battles, and defeats the foes of evil without and sin within. Our Father protects his children; Yahweh Sabaoth is his name.
Now, may the God of armies protect you and wage war against the evils of the world and the sinful inclinations of our own hearts today.
Difficulty is something we all experience. Each of us is either in the midst of difficult circumstances, just beyond something difficult, or will face something difficult in the very near future. Yet, for whatever reason, many Christians believe that accepting Jesus as our Lord and Savior is going to somehow exempt us from the trials that are common to every person’s life, or at least from the more serious trials. But the truth of the matter is that even Christians experience difficulty, and sometimes our troubles are more intense because of our faith in Christ! Many Christians will see trials as a failure of their faith, or worse, as God’s unfaithfulness or inattention. Often, our hearts are left crying out, “Why, Lord?!”
The answer? God is redeeming us from a broken world and misplaced trust and conforming us into the image of his Son. It’s often only through the pressures of life that our true character is revealed. It’s often only in loss, discouragement, and pain that the true object(s) of our hope is revealed. And it’s in those moments that God calls us to set aside our idols and our selfish responses to embrace Jesus as our rock and firm foundation, and to be transformed by the renewing of our minds into the very image of the Christ we claim to follow.
1 Peter 1:6-7 reads, “Now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, so that the tested genuineness of your faith – more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire – may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ.”
The only way our faith brings praise and glory and honor to God is if we find Jesus to be faithful, and we can’t find Him faithful if life is always pleasurable and comfortable. In Eph. 5:25-27 Paul reminds us that the reason Jesus gave Himself for the sake of the church, His body, was so that He might one day present the church to himself “in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish.” And James 1:2-4 tells us to, “Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.” The splendor and perfection Christ seeks to achieve for us is only produced through trials!
God is at work today. There is a purpose for this interim between Jesus’s ascension and His second coming. That purpose is the perfecting of the faith of the body of Christ so that we might bring Him praise and glory and honor. The difficulties we experience until our redemption is complete are evidences of the zeal of God’s redemptive love. God’s work today is not so much about providing us with predictable, comfortable, and pleasurable lives. He is not working to transform our circumstances; he is using hard circumstances to transform us.
Now, may the God of peace give you – even in the midst of these present circumstances – peace that surpasses all understanding through our Lord Jesus Christ who is our hope, our rock, and our firm foundation, the Author and Perfector of our faith!
Pastor Jesse Horton