An encouraging word strengthens a relationship

By Jim Bull / Cowboys of the Cross

Jim Bull is a horseman from Kentucky who writes, The Bull Pen for the Cowboys of the Cross website, devotions meant to teach and encourage through illustrations from life.

Jim Bull is a horseman from Kentucky who writes, The Bull Pen for the Cowboys of the Cross website, devotions meant to teach and encourage through illustrations from life.

I finally worked up the nerve to talk to my now wife, Laura, on September 22, 1999. Just over three months
later was New Years Eve and we, along with her roommate, were hosting an End of the Millennium
party. Some of the girls’ closest friends were there and I had come to know and respect them. During this
party, one of their friends pulled me to the side to tell me how happy she was for Laura and me; how
great we were for each other and how great I was to her.
I remember the feeling of the grin that spread across my face. The assurance, from a woman I barely
knew, was a great boost to my ego but, more importantly, made me want to do better. A little
encouragement goes a long way to building relationships, your own, as well as people you know or
encounter.
Hebrews 10:24-25 says “And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good
deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another-
and all the more as you see the day approaching.”
My wife and I have been married for 16 years. In that time, we have had great moments of expressing
our love for each other. We have also had times of complacency, when we knew we loved each other
but failed to make the effort to show it unashamedly. I have had times when I felt I was a failure as a
husband because I knew my wife was feeling lonely and abandoned because I was wrapped up in work
and not putting forth the effort to show how much I needed her; how much I loved her. I have also felt
lonely, like a hired worker or a servant. It is in these times we were lacking communication and the
expression of our love, not that we were ever lacking the love itself.
Proverbs 31:28 says “Her children arise and call her blessed; her husband also, and he praises her”
We are to tell our wives how blessed we are to have them. We should tell them all the wonderful things
we see in them; not just their outer beauty but inner beauty as well. We should tell them of the great
care they take of us, tell her you see her hard work and that you appreciate the effort she puts in daily
to take care of the family and household. Be sure to acknowledge her being a lady so she will continue
to be a lady.
After all this time together, after all the changes we have both made with our interests, habits and
looks, we are still blessed to have each other and work to acknowledge each our need for each
other. My advice to anyone in a relationship or looking for that special someone in the future is to not
be afraid of stepping outside your comfort zone when telling that person how you feel about
them. Also, we need to not be ashamed to tell friends that we see the way they are with their spouse or
girlfriend. Be supportive in the relationships of people you are around. You never know when you will
say something that they need to hear to motivate a fresh start to a stale relationship.
1 Peter 4:8 tells us “Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers a multitude of sins.”

TESTIMONY – Nate Camper, Genoa, Ohio – Nate was saved at Cowtown Rodeo, the longest running weekly deal in the country

TESTIMONY – Nate Camper, Genoa, Ohio – Nate was saved at Cowtown Rodeo, the longest running weekly deal in the country

I found a link to a video of us team roping the other day at Cowtown (the oldest weekly rodeo in the United States in New Jersey) and it made me think a lot about this rodeo. I first showed up there as a 21-year-old bull rider, 21 years ago. My traveling partner, Craig, and I were getting ready, and next to us was a small tent outside of the entry office.

The lady there had some cowboy Bibles on the table with Lane Frost on the cover. Craig and her were talking on and on about Lane, who was one of Craig’s heroes, and she new Lane’s folks. Well I didn’t understand it at the time but she was telling Craig about Lane’s testimony. She then asked Craig if he was saved!? He said, “Yes, when I was 13.” I was just sitting off in the near distance listening. She then asked him, “Is your buddy over there saved?” He said I don’t know even though I had been raised in the church, went to a Christian school and my grandpa was a pastor.

Well I just sat there and thought, I don’t know!?!

Then she proceeded to bark at Craig, “What do you mean you don’t know? You guys travel all over the country riding bulls, and you don’t know If he’s saved?” Then she looked over at me and asked me if I was and I told her I didn’t know. She asked if I wanted to be, and I thought,  “Why don’t I know?” and I told her I wanted to be. She read to us some out of Romans, Chapter 9 and then I recited what’s known as the sinner’s prayer with her and asked Jesus into my heart.

I was on fire from the star and I remember being in the bar that night that used to be there right next to the rodeo, I was telling people about Jesus. I remember the whole trip home whenever I wasn’t driving I was reading that Bible she gave me. I was definitely changed.

As an Ohio cowboy, I was just thinking though why I still go to this rodeo, it’s darn sure not because it’s so close to home or the amount of money. I think I’m actually drawn to it because it’s where I met Jesus my Lord and Savior. Suzie Grahm still has that little tent out back of the entry office, and she’s still standing back there telling the truth and offering salvation through Jesus!

#BLESSED Part 6 — God’s biggest promise is  His biggest blessing

#BLESSED Part 6 — God’s biggest promise is His biggest blessing

By Scott Hilgendorff / Cowboys of the Cross

Just like Christianity insists there is only one true God and one path to Heaven, there is only one blessing that we should be seeking and that’s the one found through a saving faith in Jesus Christ.

Just as Adam and Eve brought a curse on us that saw us separated from God, facing His judgment and wrath against our sin, God also brought a blessing to us in the form of a covenant centered around Jesus Christ.

A covenant is a promise in the biggest possible way and one that doesn’t require anything from us in return. When we compete for a season to qualify for a rodeo finals, there is an assumed promise that the payout is going to be there when we reach the finals. Yet most of us know stories or have experienced either a finals that didn’t occur or prize money that wasn’t there after we did the work to get there. This covenant from God is a promise that you never have to worry won’t be kept and that you never have to earn.

God made one in the Old Testament with Abraham, promising him that he would make a great nation from Abraham’s descendants and that those people who followed the God of Abraham, would be blessed.

 Genesis 12: 1-3 Now the Lord said to Abram, “Go from your country and your kindred and your father’s house to the land that I will show you. 2 And I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing.I will bless those who bless you, and him who dishonors you I will curse, and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.”

The Israelites, Abraham’s descendants, were lead to a promised land to fulfill that covenant (promise) but failed repeatedly to honor and follow God. As a result, the Israelites were exiled from that promised land and only a remnant of those people were given back Jerusalem, the land from which they had been exiled. Those descendants, now us, would go on to see God make a new covenant fulfilled through the New Testament and the coming of Jesus so that everyone (Gentiles), not just the Jews of Israel could be made right with God.

Galatians 3:7-9 Know then that it is those of faith who are the sons of Abraham. And the Scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, preached the gospel beforehand to Abraham, saying, “In you shall all the nations be blessed.” So then, those who are of faith are blessed along with Abraham, the man of faith.

Jesus died on the cross as a sacrifice and to take the punishment for our sins that God must deliver to be a just and right God. Through a saving faith in Jesus and repentance of our sins that separate us from God, we’re no longer seen as sinner but the perfect people God made us to be and we are assured then a place in Heaven for eternity.

That is the blessing found in Jesus Christ that was set up thousands of years ago in the Old Testament through that promise to Abraham and what is referred to in the blessings mentioned in the verses above.

Remember, often when we say we are ‘blessed’ and use that hashtag, what we really mean is that we’re thankful. Every good experience or gift or circumstance is something we can understand has come from God and is something we can be thankful for. But the ultimate blessing is knowing we can be saved through Jesus Christ and inherit a perfect eternity with God in Heaven.

Without Jesus, the good things we see as blessings do nothing for us when it comes to eternal life in Heaven. They are temporary good moments in this evil world but we remain under the curse and condemned to hell under God’s judgment and wrath unless we find the real blessing God gave us through Jesus Christ.

God made a promise to us through a covenant in the Old and New Testament that leads to us being able to trust that our salvation is found in Jesus Christ and that a perfect life in Heaven can be found through a saving faith in Him.

We may not always trust a promise made to us by someone in rodeo, but when God made a covenant with His people, He made a promise that the prize would be there at the end.

#Blessed part 5 — #Cursed. Why we have to understand the curse of sin

#Blessed part 5 — #Cursed. Why we have to understand the curse of sin

By Scott Hilgendorff / Cowboys of the Cross

Without Jesus, we’re cursed.

And that curse that we are now under goes back to Adam and Eve and a story many of us our familiar with. The couple had a perfect life, created to enjoy fellowship with God. They were given literally everything except for a single tree whose fruit they were instructed not to eat from. The serpent (Satan) used some tricky thinking to convince Eve that it would be good to eat from the tree and that God surely didn’t mean what He said. She was convinced to doubt God and she and Adam ate from the tree gaining the knowledge of sin from which they had been protected. God will not tolerate being in the presence of sin and Adam and Eve were cast out of the garden as He said, “cursed is the ground because of you.”

Genesis 3: 17 -19 17 And to Adam he said, Because you have listened to the voice of your wife and have eaten of the tree of which I commanded you, You shall not eat of it,’ cursed is the ground because of you; in pain you shall eat of it all the days of your life; 18 thorns and thistles it shall bring forth for you; and you shall eat the plants of the field. 19 By the sweat of your face you shall eat bread, till you return to the ground, for out of it you were taken; for you are dust, and to dust you shall return.”

Adam and Eve now knew what good and evil were and brought sin into the world which would see us all separated from God who, in His perfect goodness, must judge and condemn sin.

Instead of believing in God’s perfect word and trusting His instruction to them, they were deceived and believed a lie instead of God, much like the majority of our culture today. Believing that anything other than a saving faith in Jesus can restore us to God is also believing a lie and sees us trapped under this curse and ultimately condemned to Hell because we’re left with unforgiven sin.

Galatians 3:10 For all who rely on works of the law are under a curse; for it is written, “Cursed be everyone who does not abide by all things written in the Book of the Law, and do them.”

The law was what we are given in the Old Testament. The Israelites had to follow the law perfectly to be seen as right before God and not condemned for their sin. Because of the curse from Adam and Eve, it is impossible for us not to sin. Knowing it was not possible for the Israelites to obey the Law fully at all times, God gave them a system of sacrifices that could be carried out to atone for their sins. Eventually, He would send us Jesus so that through Christ’s sacrifice on the cross, we could all be saved from God’s judgment and punishment of our sins.

Galatians 3:13 Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us—for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who is hanged on a tree”

Christ became our curse, our sin, and took the punishment for it from God on that cross as he died as a final sacrifice for our sins that if we have a saving faith in him, we can be freed from the condemnation that comes from the curse of our sin.

Adam and Even brought the curse into the world, but Jesus frees us from it.

DEVOTION

DEVOTION

By Scott Hilgendorff / Cowboys of the Cross

Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it.Proverbs 22:6

When you realize how much they watch us and how much they absorb, one simple proverb from the Old Testament can point us to Jesus and how much we need them to see that is the direction he should go, and just how easy it is to point them there.

 

When you consider the proverb was written over 2,000 years ago, the pictures featured with this show us how God’s design for us to be hungry to learn and grow is consistent throughout the ages and cultures.

In the photos, you see a young bull rider praying, something he learned to do from being at events where he saw that was how the older cowboys prayed. Then you see Ohio bull rider, Hayden Townsend teaching one of the young bull riders what he needed to do to improve his skill after watching the kid take on a junior bull. But in the background, there’s that young kid who was praying, now quietly watching and listening to Hayden.

Hayden and I talked about this a little bit afterward. As someone who is becoming an influencer as he continues to move up in the sport, Hayden can be a bigger influence on these young cowboys than I ever could be in terms of showing them Jesus.

I encouraged him to look to where Jesus can come first, even above his bull riding career.

To succeed in bull riding, the sport requires a lot of dedication. Hayden works out and practices daily, works hard to keep a positive attitude and can’t think of anything else he would like to do with his life.

For most of these bull riders and rodeo cowboys, timed event side, barrel racing or bull riding, there are dangers that require intense focus and skills that have to be developed to win. But it very unintentionally becomes an idol where so much focus shifts to success at the sport that it can distract from seeing how God comes first in it all.

These young kids give us that example. As much as they will listen to what Hayden has to say about bull riding, we talked about how putting Jesus in front of all of that gives him a chance to do both: to teach them to ride but to do it in a way that opens the door to also share his faith.

It was an opportunity to show Hayden how his actions and attitudes in front of these kids can really show them a Christ-like way of living but that as he grows more confident in his faith and knowledge of who Jesus is, he can start to share that with these kids and anyone else.

The goal for me is to always help these guys to see themselves not just as bull riders and rodeo cowboys but as Christians first, looking at everything through the lens of a Christian.

Hayden and I talked about how that doesn’t have to distract from what is needed to succeed in the sport. Instead, it will only help as he learns to see everything as a chance to glorify God and how that priority will drive all the rest forward as well.

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