One of the the things that we have done on this trip is attend the Home of Champions Rodeo in Red Lodge, Montana. We secured tickets well ahead of our trip and had decided to spend the afternoon of July 4th watching the cowboys rope and ride and demonstrate their incredible skills in the rodeo ring. It was quite an experience – and to think that it was on the anniversary of the declaration of our forefathers that they were breaking free of the tyranny of the King of England and claiming their independence on that July 4th 238 years ago.
The announcer of the event reminded the audience that this July marks the 200th anniversary of the writing of the Star Spangled Banner – our national anthem – with words penned by Francis Scott Key. Who would have thought that we ever would have the same anthem several centuries later? And some things never fail to surprise me. Aside from the anniversary of our anthem that I had forgotten, I had no idea that I would enjoy the rodeo so much. I believe that I once attended a small rodeo when I was very young, but this was the real deal – with cowboys representing many of the western states.
As much as I enjoyed the various competitions throughout the afternoon, the thing I enjoyed most was the prayer that opened the festivities at the Red Lodge Fairgrounds. The announcer of the rodeo offered one of the most beautiful prayers I have ever heard prayed in public. Aside from the usual petitions for safety and an enjoyable event, the appreciation of God’s creation and the freedoms that we enjoy in this country were also mentioned. But the thing that really got to me? The fact that among the freedoms that we enjoy, the freedom to worship God is high on the list and we were reminded of that in no uncertain terms. In fact, our Christian announcer thanked the Lord several times for allowing us to live in the USA where such freedoms exist. It couldn’t have been more appropriate to hear this message on the 4th of July.
When you hear God worshipped in prayer the way the announcer did, under the huge blue sky of Montana, I don’t see how anybody could deny the existence of a Creator – God! I also wondered what atheists or agnostics in the audience thought when this most beautiful prayer, invoking God and His Son, our Savior Jesus Christ, reverberated through the public address system in the rodeo ring, the fairgrounds and half the town of Red Lodge. It was truly awesome… There was no holding back like we are used to seeing in more “politically correct” environments – this was the real deal and people didn’t care if it was politically correct or not – they even cheered when the prayer concluded with a resounding, “Amen!”
These people were God fearing Christians and there is no other way to put it. They were proud of their beliefs and I don’t know if I have ever attended a public event that more overtly touted a belief in Jesus Christ. If you are Christian, you were swelling with pride – anything else and you would have had a real problem with the opening ceremonies. I think you would have been escorted out of the place if you had opened your mouth, though.
The verse for this evening is an “oldie” but “goodie.” We are told in Matt. 22:37-38, “Jesus replied: “ ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment.” The thousands of people we were with were all doing that on the 4th – no doubt about it. My encouragement this evening is that God wants you to be on fire for Him and to encourage others the way we heard people at the rodeo encouraged in their faith. My prayer is that you will use every opportunity you have to proclaim the Good News of Jesus Christ and make sure that you use whatever platform you have to advance the Kingdom of God on earth. Have a great day in the Lord, grace and peace…