By Jesse Horton / Cowboys of the Cross
One of the greatest plagues of Western Christianity is that so many who profess the name of Christ remain in perpetual spiritual infancy, and that many “Christian infants” are not following Christ at all, but simply wanted the fire insurance that is promised to those who belong to Jesus.
That’s why so often, you see one of the few, or even only times, you see a cowboy or bull rider pray is behind the bucking chutes before competing in sports that can get him killed.
As a retired bull rider now pastoring a church, when I started with them, I made it clear that my ministry would be focused on leading our congregation to pursue a mature faith in Jesus Christ as true disciples. One of the deacons told me he felt like that was a bold (maybe risky) way to approach what was essentially a job interview – to begin by suggesting we’ve been lax in pursuing maturity, content to be comforted with bottled milk and pacifiers rather than to graduate to the strength-giving meat and potatoes of a deep and growing dependence on Jesus. But, what else can you expect from a guy who spent ten years of his life riding bulls?!
But hard questions are important. Are you growing in your faith? Do you even care if you aren’t? Have you become satisfied with a little bit of Bible knowledge and a little bit of doctrinal understanding?
Satisfied. That’s where the audience of Hebrews was.
11 About this we have much to say, and it is hard to explain, since you have become dull of hearing. 12 For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the basic principles of the oracles of God. You need milk, not solid food, 13 for everyone who lives on milk is unskilled in the word of righteousness, since he is a child. 14 But solid food is for the mature, for those who have their powers of discernment trained by constant practice to distinguish good from evil. (Hebrews 5:11-14)
These people had heard the message of true discipleship so many times without acting on it that their ears had become dull, and their hearts had become calloused to it. It was time for them to be shaken awake in hopes that the scales would fall from their eyes, and they would realize the great reward of knowing Jesus – a reward that they were forfeiting by their complacency.
1 So put away all malice and all deceit and hypocrisy and envy and all slander. 2 Like newborn infants, long for the pure spiritual milk, that by it you may grow up into salvation— 3 if indeed you have tasted that the Lord is good.
4 As you come to him, a living stone rejected by men but in the sight of God chosen and precious, 5 you yourselves like living stones are being built up as a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. (1 Peter 2:1-5)
Notice here that Peter suggests that those who don’t “grow up into salvation” have not truly “tasted that the Lord is good.” You see, salvation is achieved at a moment in time when we truly believe (known as justification) but it is proved over time (from the moment of our justification to the moment we are home with Jesus, called sanctification). If there is no sanctification – a constantly continuing work throughout our entire lives – there was no justification either; and if there was no justification, there is no salvation!
Are you being built up as a spiritual house with your brothers and sisters in Christ? Together, are you becoming a holy priesthood – those who lead others into a relationship with God through Jesus Christ? Are you offering spiritual sacrifices? Are you eager and zealous to know Jesus more deeply today than yesterday and to become more like him tomorrow than you are today? Many people get offended or become defensive and deny the evidence when these types of questions are asked. Please remember: the grace of Jesus has freed you from the need to do that! All your shortcomings are covered by the blood of Jesus, so in Christ, you are free to be brutally honest about where you are right now. And what’s even better is that same grace is what will continue the work of God in you – not your own efforts! And that grace can be released to do its work when you get honest with God. “And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ” (Philippians 1:6).
Beloved, God’s work in you is not done yet, nor is it done in me. We are free to struggle with sin and failure, but we do not struggle to be free. And if indeed we have been set free, there is still growth ahead.
Are you growing in your faith?
By Scott Hilgendorff / Cowboys of the Cross
From nativity scenes to Christmas specials, we have the idea that the three wise men, or Magi, were there with the shepherds to see the baby Jesus in the stable.
Scripture tells us something different.
These men, called magi, were likely priests from an eastern culture like Persia, led by what appeared to be a star, to see the king they had heard about.
King Herod, like most, did not fully understand that Jesus was not here to replace his rule, but for a much greater purpose that would pave the way for all to be able to find salvation through his eventual death on a cross. He asked the Magi to report back to him the location of this king, lying about his intent to have the baby killed.
The Magi were warned in a dream to not return to Herod who was left without the location of Jesus.
Instead, what we have is a very grim part of the Christmas story in which Herod then ordered all children two years or younger to be killed.
Matthew 2:16 When Herod realized that he had been outwitted by the Magi, he was furious, and he gave orders to kill all the boys in Bethlehem and its vicinity who were two years old and under in accordance with the time he had learned from the Magi.
Verse 11 told us the ‘wise men’ arrived to see Jesus at a house, not a stable, and in this verse, we see it was as much as two years after Jesus was born.
Those who work in the rodeo and horse industries know how animal rights activists have extremely wrong ideas about the treatment of animals.
Much of their information is passed on from person to person and without digging in to learn from accurate information, they simply believe what they have been told, without question.
The lesson for us in this story about the wise men is the importance of taking our Biblical knowledge directly from scripture.
What we assume we know from what is passed on by others isn’t always true. It’s how most people generally overlook the fact that when we die, we don’t actually ‘get our wings’ or become angels.
Psalm 8:5 You have made them a little lower than the angels and crowned them with glory and honor.
The “them” being referred to in the Psalm is humans, while Genesis 1:25 describes the types of angels God created and 1 Corinthians 6:3 references people judging angels. The distinction is clear that people and angels are never the same.
Following these common misunderstandings about the Bible don’t cause harm to God’s plan for our salvation, but they show us the need to not just rely on what we think we know about the Bible, but to dig in for ourselves to all that God’s word has to offer us.
The Christmas story is a far more beautiful story when we understand it correctly and how it shows us just how much God loves us. We need to understand the story starts with the birth we are celebrating but it leads to Jesus’s death on the cross and resurrection so that through faith in who Jesus was and is and by asking to be forgiven of the sins that separate us from God, we can be given an eternal home with him in Heaven–not as angles but as the perfect creation God made us to be.
By Jesse Horton / Cowboys of the Cross
In every church – every local body of believers – you have apostles (the ones who are good at start-ups and new adventures), prophets (the ones who declare the word of God clearly), evangelists (the ones who share Jesus with others naturally in almost everything they do), the pastor-teachers (the ones who are gifted to lead other believers and to attend to the spiritual health of the body), and the saints (all believers, but including laypersons in the body of Christ). Most people reading this will find themselves in that last category – non-clergy who are members or attendees of a local church. I am thankful for you, and I want to encourage you today about your very important role in the body of Christ.
In 2 Corinthians 5:17-20 the Apostle Paul writes,
“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation. Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God.”
Here, Paul refers to himself and Timothy as “ambassadors for Christ.” They are set apart as Jesus’s representatives; their actions and words are Jesus’s command to them lived out before the eyes of the people of Corinth, a plea to them to “be reconciled to God.” Clearly, Paul and Timothy were ambassadors of Christ actively involved in God’s plan of redemption. Does God’s plan of redemption dictate that all who believe are ambassadors of Christ, or is there an allowance for spectator Christians – laypersons who aren’t involved in ministry?
In Ephesians 4:11-16, Paul wrote,
“And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes. Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love” (emphasis mine).
This suggests that everyone in the body of Christ – every believer – has a role to serve in the building up of the body of Christ. As “each part [of the body] is working properly,” the whole body becomes a healthier, clearer representation of God’s redeemed people. In Colossians 3:12-17, Paul instructs,
“Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God. And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him” (emphasis mine).
Not only should we be teaching, admonishing, encouraging, and building one another up toward mature faith in Jesus, but everything we do should be done in the name of the Lord Jesus! That’s precisely what it means to be an ambassador, but here it is applied not to Paul and Timothy, but every believer in Colossae!
According to Paul, every believer has a responsibility to every other believer to encourage spiritual health and maturity (Eph. 4:11-16), but every believer also has a responsibility to those who are still strangers and aliens to God’s kingdom to represent Jesus Christ before them, imploring them to be reconciled to God (2 Cor. 5:17-20; Col. 3:17).
Here’s what I want you to know: Paul didn’t present these instructions to the church as some radical new idea for God’s kingdom work. Rather, he presents the ambassadorship of every believer as the normal plan and expectation for members of God’s kingdom; there is no allowance for spectator Christianity. Such total missional involvement only seems radical because our churches have created and embraced a missional model that is far from God’s normal plan.
For many, many people who attend church, attendance is the spiritual equivalent of going to a concert. They experience the religious performance of ministry professionals, but they are not committed to the health of the church nor are they involved in its redemptive mission to the world. Their relationship with the church is self-serving (“This is the kind of church experience I want and the benefits it should offer”) and passive (“I’m thankful for the work the church staff and volunteers do”). That is far from God’s plan. God makes his invisible grace visible by sending his people (clergy and laypersons alike) – full of his grace – to reflect his grace to people who need it. And we know many in the rodeo community choose not to attend a traditional church for a host of reasons and excuses. But where you stand with church, Christ’s call on you is the same as everyone else.
If, indeed, you have been called by Christ, you have been called for this purpose. Your life no longer belongs to you, for you have been bought with a price. Everything you are, everything you possess, and all the time you have left belongs to God for his mission and his purpose. Run with me today to the throne of grace; be filled to overflowing, and then go serve as ambassadors for Christ wherever you find yourself. Thank you for serving with me in the kingdom of God!
Grace and peace be with you!
By Scott Hilgendorff / Cowboys of the Cross
Through Cowboys of the Cross, the most visible work I get to do is lead cowboy church, a short service with the contestants and sometimes fans before the start of rodeos and bull ridings. But a small team of us work together producer content for the ministry website and social media.
Most recently, we started doing something called The Short Go—short videos meant to teach and encourage.
But we mean short. We’re trying to work within a two-minute limit and that caused a lot of discussion about how we could do that effectively and still treat the word of God with the care and respect it deserves.
2 Timothy 2:15 Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth.
“Rightly handling the word of truth.”
Biblical teaching like that from Paul in his letter to Timothy is what caused a lot of discussion before we started to do these short messages last month.
Social media is pushing millions of people toward consuming short content through apps like TikTok. Instagram, that was started as a photo site is switching to short-format videos. All of it is creating a culture that is consuming information in short chunks when we know Scripture as a whole has incredible depth.
So, could we handle God’s word carefully and correctly in that amount of time? We all know the consequences if we don’t.
James 3:1 Not many of you should become teachers, my fellow believers, because you know that we who teach will be judged more strictly.
However, when we look at a typical church sermon, while it may be 40 minutes long, when someone in the sanctuary is scribbling down notes, it is usually because of a specific point the pastor has made from a specific verse.
That is partly how we’re trying to approach these short messages, by making sure that a clear and correct point is being taught.
We know we’re going to be judged by God if we’re reckless with His word and our genuine desire to teach and reach the cowboy community are strong motivators for us to be careful with this work. But we also see it as part of a bigger picture.
2 Timothy 3:16-17 All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work.
Paul shares with Timothy how important Scripture is for absolutely everything from how to live to making sure we’re prepared for everything God would have us do.
Everything we do through Cowboys of the Cross from a cowboy church-style devotions for a newspaper in Bandera Texas to our presence on social media or at rodeos is meant to be a part of that equipping.
Being part of a church community and doing our own Bible study are also huge parts. So even a two-minute message can contribute. We host all our past videos on the Cowboys of the Cross YouTube channel you can find with a simple search and we keep this site updated every other Thursday with new material we hope can be a part of equipping you for whatever God has planned.