Behind the Bucking Chutes

Behind the Bucking Chutes is where cowboy church usually takes place at a rodeo or bull riding. Here, we give you a growing collection of Biblical devotions or stories meant to help disciple and teach you or help you to become closer to Christ with illustrations and applications drawn from the cowboy and rodeo culture.
We can be fully engaged in rodeo while fully engaged with God

We can be fully engaged in rodeo while fully engaged with God

By Scott Hilgendorff / Cowboys of the Cross

From teachings from Jesus, Paul and Peter to how God instructed the Israelites to remain separate from the other cultures around them, the Bible shows us in many ways that we are not meant to be a part of the world and culture around us.

The Israelites were commanded to completely destroy entire nations and when they failed to do so, they experienced the consequences of it.

Judges 2:1-3 The angel of the Lord … said, “I brought you up out of Egypt and led you into the land I swore to give to your ancestors. I said, ‘I will never break my covenant with you, 2 and you shall not make a covenant with the people of this land, but you shall break down their altars.’ Yet you have disobeyed me. Why have you done this? 3 … they will become traps for you, and their gods will become snares to you.’”

By allowing some of the nations to survive, the Israelites were eventually influenced by their false gods and beliefs, leading them to stray from following God and eventually to God temporarily taking the Promised Land away from them and exiling them for 70 years to Babylon. God wasn’t fooling around when He said He wants all of our attention.

1 John 2:15-17 Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, love for the Father is not in them. For everything in the world — the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life — comes not from the Father but from the world. The world and its desires pass away, but whoever does the will of God lives forever”

Worldly things can be just about anything from money and sex to filling a tack room with more equipment than we’ll ever be able to use. All of it is temporary. Instead, John is reminding us that we need to pursue God, who, through the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross, made a way for all of us to be able to repent and be forgiven of our sin so that through belief in Jesus, we could have an eternity in Heaven. Pursuing our own desires based on what the culture around us tells us we need or wants, takes our attention away from God.

One of the main reasons we stay apart from the world is so that our focus is on God.

Psalm 1:1-2 Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked, nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of scoffers; but his delight is in the law of the LORD, and on his law he meditates day and night.

In the Psalm, we’re being told the person who follows God and not the non-believers around him is going to be the person who is better off and stresses the daily commitment we’re to put into following God. The Bible is full of teaching that points us toward obedience to God but the selfishness of the world around us can tempt us away from that.

We can be fully engaged in our rodeo sports while not being engaged with those who tempt us to sin. That can be as simple as not going to the bar after a show to as complicated as having to remove some people from our lives because they pull too hard on us to ignore our faith.

Just like hanging around better cowboys and bull riders can make you a better rider, Christian partners help us grow in our faith

Just like hanging around better cowboys and bull riders can make you a better rider, Christian partners help us grow in our faith

Part 2 of 6 on who we surround ourselves with

By Scott Hilgendorff / Cowboys of the Cross

“If you want to be successful, surround yourself with successful people.”

Quotes like this are common among the rodeo crowd and they are embraced by competitors because of that desire to succeed and get ahead.

It makes sense.

If you spend more time with competitors who are better than you, you might learn something from their attitude, skills or way of living that helps you to also succeed or become a better bull rider, barrel racer, roper or horseman.

It’s like this in Proverbs 27:17 Iron sharpens iron, and one man sharpens another.

This is a common verse many people can quote and often not realize that it even comes from Scripture. It’s point is simple: we can help make each other more effective.

But when it’s coming from the Bible we understand it’s referring to Christians. Another Christian friend can help me be more effective in my faith and I can help him to be more effective tool.

Conversations about the Bible and living out our faith with each other help us to be ‘sharper’ believers.

And we’re encouraged throughout Scripture to spend time together as believers from when the church first started in the historical account we seen in Acts to to the letters Paul writes to different churches as he tries to encourage them or confront conflicts he has learned about within their communities.

Hebrews 10 24-25 And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, 25 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.

Paul is telling church they need to encourage one another to show love and do good and to encourage one another as if we are near the very end. If we knew for sure these were the last days before Jesus came back, we would be rushing to make sure others knew who Jesus was. Paul is telling the people in the church to encourage each other and live as if that day was almost here.

Again, what we’re seeing is a push toward working together to do a better at living our our faith.

He tells the church at Colossae that we are to work together as well.

Colossians 3:16 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.

We’re to teach and correct each other while worshiping God together so that the teachings of Jesus would become a big part of who we are.

Just like the Bible warns us not to be unequally yoked with unbelievers who will wear us down and weaken our faith, we see that by being connected together with believers, our faith will be strengthened and better equipped to share that faith with others.

We seem to understand this idea outside of the Bible when it comes to wanting to be better competitors and seeking personal success. We don’t realize or overlook how much a similar teaching is is commanded through Scripture to be connected to other believers with the focus being on our becoming stronger in our faith and able to lead others to Jesus.

A Christian dating to save a buckle bunny or rowdy cowboy rarely works

A Christian dating to save a buckle bunny or rowdy cowboy rarely works

Part 1 of 6 on who we surround ourselves with

By Scott Hilgendorff / Cowboys of the Cross

Working in rodeo, when cowboys or bull riders share advice, it’s often focused on how to be more successful at the sport. A common piece of advice I’ve seen shared among the cowboy crowd is about just that—the crowd you’re in. They advise to spend more time with better, more successful competitors otherwise you risk being brought down by others.

The Bible has something to say about that as well when it comes to growing in our faith.

2 Corinthians 6:14 Do not be unequally yoked with unbelievers. For what partnership has righteousness with lawlessness? Or what fellowship has light with darkness?

Despite being written about 2,000 years ago, this is an illustration that should be easy to understand for cowboys, whether on the rodeo or ranch side of the industries.

What happens when an ox or team of horses is yoked together but one is not as well equipped, well trained or strong as the other?

The team can’t work as a team. The stronger horse is having to pull harder. The horse working harder is going to wear down. The horse working harder is going to be held back.

Sure, there are always exceptions, but when it comes to dating, it is common to hear a Christian think he or she can maintain a healthy relationship with a non-believer. The Christian thinks he or she will win that person over to Christ and will justify staying in the relationship. He or she might even get the person to study the Bible with them a little and at the start, will get asked lots of questions. That will encourage the Christian to push harder, even seeing it as ministry or what God would have them do.

The intentions are good for sure.

As the relationship heats up, the Christian compromises and moves in. I mean, even more time together means an even bigger chance to win the person over for Jesus, right?

But after that initial bit of interest, what typically happens is, the non-believer begins to fight against the changes the Christian hopes to bring about. As they begin living more daily life together, the Christian ends up sleeping in Sunday mornings with the non-believer because it’s easier than fighting to get the other to go to church. The Bible study stops as they get busier living life but soon the Christian wears down and instead of the non-believer digging into a Bible he or she never had any interest in, the Christian begins reading his or her Bible less, praying less, spending less time thinking about life from a Christian perspective as they become a couple.

The Christian wears down and is no longer the force for Jesus that he or she was. His or her light dims.

Being unequally rarely works and the ox will sooner or later stumble and fall and be taken down by the weaker ox.

Cowboys make a big mistake by thinking meekness is weakness

Cowboys make a big mistake by thinking meekness is weakness

By Scott Hilgendorff / Cowboys of the Cross

Be Strong.

Weakness is not having the strength to do something. Meekness is having the strength and power but holding it back. Do not confuse meekness for weakness.

We all have power over someone. A parent has power over a child, a trainer in the arena with a whip has power over a horse, a rodeo judge has power over the contestant.

Matthew 5:5 Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth

Sounds like Jesus is telling us there’s a lot to be gained by holding back, even when it feels justified.

If we have strength over others, we can abuse that strength by taking more, living excessively, intimidating others or being abusive while putting our needs above others. Strength can lead to selfishness when it isn’t controlled.

The ideas Jesus was sharing in his Sermon on the Mount are challenging to the cowboy community. We’ve looked at how Jesus tells us to turn the other cheek to stop us from pursuing vengeance and giving us an opportunity instead to show others the power of forgiveness. That can become an illustration that can lead others to wanting to know about why we walked away from a situation and lead to a discussion about our saving faith in Jesus.

That’s why it is important to understand that choosing to turn the other cheek can be a sign of meekness that has absolutely nothing to do with being weak.

A person of great strength has the power to intimidate or abuse others but think about how much better a leader is if, instead of abusing that power, they treat someone with kindness and gentleness. By keeping strength under control, well, that takes even more strength than lashing out.

John 18:10-11 Then Simon Peter, who had a sword, drew it and struck the high priest’s servant, cutting off his right ear. (The servant’s name was Malchus.)

11 Jesus commanded Peter, “Put your sword away! Shall I not drink the cup the Father has given me?”

Peter lashed out when guards came to take Jesus away and Jesus commands Peter to put the sword away. While we know God’s plan for salvation was meant to unfold and Jesus would soon die for us on the Cross, Peter didn’t and his rash response, strength over that priest, would potentially have interfered with the need for Jesus to be arrested, tried and sacrificed for us on the cross.

Our self-control, or meekness, can set an example people are not expecting the way our culture normally handles situations and can lead to important discussions about salvation by showing a Christ-like response to others. That offers a great inheritance of eternal life in Heaven to others.

Does it bring God glory to use your power to lash out or does it bring Him glory for others to know you could have made hamburger out of a guy’s face, that he had it coming, but you held back your anger and spared him. That shows Jesus to the guy and opens the door to talk about salvation. THAT is something we’re all commanded to do but few of us ever do.

It can be hard for a cowboy, bull rider or outlaw to accept this but again, meekness is having real power but keeping it under control. Holding back takes more strength than letting loose. Be strong.

But I’ve only got two cheeks to turn

But I’ve only got two cheeks to turn

By Scott Hilgendorff / Cowboys of the Cross

It could be one of the hardest instructions from Jesus for a cowboy to accept, when he tells us to turn the other cheek.

I remember being at a rodeo a long time ago as a new Christian and I was just taking in everything that was said around me, especially if it was a bible-based conversation. I don’t remember what the conflict was about but I can still hear the young cowboy’s voice expressing his frustration about having already had to turn the other cheek. “I ain’t got but two,” he said, exasperated that whatever had been done to him, it had gone too far.

Stereotypes sometimes exist for a reason and many of them for rodeo cowboys are there for a reason. It’s typically easier for a cowboy to threaten a pop in the mouth or given one out than it is is to walk away from a fight.

Matthew 5: 38-40 “You have heard the law that says the punishment must match the injury: ‘An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth.’ But I say, do not resist an evil person! If someone slaps you on the right cheek, offer the other cheek also. If you are sued in court and your shirt is taken from you, give your coat, too”

In what’s known as the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus offers a vast amount of teaching and here in Matthew 5, he digs into the Old Testament.

And eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth is a common expression that many people no longer even realize comes from Scripture but it was an Old Testament description for what amounts to a legal system meant to stop situations from escalating into feuds. Basically, if I did something reckless to cause you to lose some of your livestock, I would be responsible for replacing the stock that was lost. If I took someone’s life, I would expect to lose mine.

But Jesus takes it a bit further. He isn’t asking us to let everyone walk all over us but he’s urging us not to seek revenge when someone wrongs us.

Just like when we looked at what it means to go the extra mile for someone, which comes later in this set of verses, Jesus is asking us to do more for people who would least likely expect us to treat them differently, or even better, than they have treated us.

If someone keeps hitting on our girlfriend at the bar, instead of waiting to have it out with him in the parking lot after, we simply leave and go somewhere else. That’s a pretty real example of what Jesus is suggesting.

It just goes against how we typically think we should respond to a situation like that. The Bible teaches different ways of handling conflict and many of them open the door to more easily pointing others to Jesus Christ.

It’s really hard to tell someone the good news after we’ve laid them out in the parking lot in the rodeo grounds after reaching what we felt like was the last straw.

Peace is more than we think it is when Jesus talks about it

Peace is more than we think it is when Jesus talks about it

By Scott Hilgendorff / Cowboys of the Cross

Most would say the opposite of war is peace. Peace in many Biblical contexts is something much different.

As we learn more about our faith in Jesus Christ, it can lead us to pursue ways to avoid causing conflict, to find ways to reconcile with others and it can lead some to a firm belief in pacifism when it comes to war.

War is something that has been on our minds a lot lately as we watch the news unfold in Ukraine and our allied countries, at the writing of this, work to avoid being drawn into a full-blown war with Russia.

It’s a good time to talk about peace, but this is the kind of peace that helps us to not feel worry about escalating conflicts. It is a kind of peace that helps us to be okay when the truck breaks down, cattle prices bottom out and a member of our family has chosen this week to pick a fight over who gets dad’s piece of hunting property in the will.

John 14:27 Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.

John 16:33 I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.

Both verses were part of Jesus’s words to his disciples as he was preparing them for his death on the cross. The disciples still didn’t understand and thought Jesus was meant to take over rule from the Romans.

While the Bible stresses in both the Old and New Testament not to feel worry, in these verses, Jesus is offering us a peace that is more profound than how we understand the word in English. In this context, Jesus is offering us more than just an absence of conflict and strife, but in a way, a kind of blessing for us through a stronger peace that comes from our saving faith in him and our assurance of an eternity in Heaven.

It would be much better as individuals to not to be in conflict with one another over personal disputes or to be feeling stress and worry over personal struggles at a job. It would be better as nations for us not to be at war with one another over our borders. But Jesus is offering us a peace that lets us exist in the middle of these conflicts with a sense of hope for what comes after.

When we understand that through our belief in his life here as the Son of God and his death on the cross and resurrection and that through repentance and asking to be forgiven for our sins, we can be sparred God’s punishment of our sin, then we can feel the peace that Jesus is offering. That peace is knowing a perfect eternity is waiting for us where there isn’t conflict and sin.

Who do you trust? Letting God take you down the trail

Who do you trust? Letting God take you down the trail

By Scott Hilgendorff / Cowboys of the Cross

Who do we trust? Close family and friends? Our doctor? Our teachers? The foreman at the ranch we work at that’s been there 25 years longer than us? The rodeo secretary?

Proverbs 3:5-6 Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths.

There’s always the chance the person we would confide anything to could fail or betray us. We’re human, deeply flawed and deeply full of sin.

It’s God we can trust.

We’ve seen throughout the Bible that God has kept His promises from restoring the Israelites to Jerusalem to sending Jesus to die for our sins.

It’s Him we can fully trust.

If we started our day thinking about the instructions in Proverbs 3:5-6, we would be off to a good start. If we think about these instructions before every action during the day, it would do much more; it would change our life and the lives of people around us.

Why would it do that?

If we involve God in all our decisions, many of them would be different from how we handle bad service in the drive thru to major life decisions like a job change.

We can acknowledge Him by asking for His direction before we make decisions. And think about this: what if when we’re in a serious conversation or argument, we paused to ask Him to guide us before we even spoke?

It takes practice to get used to turning our thoughts to God before we do anything but we can at least start by seeking His direction before we make major decisions or have important conversations.

So how do we let God direct our paths?

A big way is by knowing what’s in the Bible. The more knowledge we have, the more we can automatically know what is right according to Scripture in a decision that we’re about to make. The Bible is the main way God is going to communicate to us.

2 Timothy 3:16-17 All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, 17 so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.

These verses teach us much but in the context of letting God guide our steps, it’s affirmation that the Bible comes from God and that it is necessary for us to be prepared to do whatever God wants us to do.

Sometimes God will speak to us through advice from one of those people we trust, but that advice will never go against what the Bible teaches. Sometimes circumstances will make a decision more clear but again, that decision will never go against Scripture. The circumstance could be finding someone’s wallet at the rodeo grounds when you don’t have entry fees. The circumstance might seem like a need being met but we know through Scripture that not turning that wallet in at the main gate would be sin.

Our strength to ride a bull, get through a work day or overcome adversity comes from God

Our strength to ride a bull, get through a work day or overcome adversity comes from God

By Scott Hilgendorff / Cowboys of the Cross

Where do you draw your strength from? Strength to achieve success against the odds. Strength to overcome adversity. Strength to just get out of bed when it feels like the world has crushed you to the point of defeat. Strength to break a habit or…. Strength to beat a sin.

As much as God allows it, we can find some success on our own strength, but personal strength isn’t limitless. Physical strength eventually runs out. So does emotional strength.

God’s love is limitless. He can forgive anything so long as we come to Him with genuine repentance, a desire to be forgiven and a belief that Jesus died for us to take the punishment meant for our sin.

And just like His love is limitless, so is His strength.

Job 36:22-24 “God’s power is unlimited. He needs no teachers to guide or correct him. Others have praised God for what he has done, so join with them.”

Many of us can make it on our own strength through much of what God will allow us to go through but I would much rather face this world with the hope that comes through a saving faith in Jesus and the strength that comes from God to overcome whatever trial or temptation He lets me face. Some bull riders, for example, who suffer a serious injury never come back and that can be the right decision for them. Others come back from physically and mentally stronger than before and with more determination than ever. But they’re still going it alone, ignoring God’s will for their lives.

If I rely on God, I’m going to learn and gain far more through Him, God’s going to be glorified and He’s going to make me more like Jesus in the process.

Psalm 73:26 “My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.”

That means, even those times we might think we’ve failed, that we weren’t strong enough, God’s strength is there to get us back up to serve and honor Him. Serve self and rely on your own strength and what genuine good comes of that for a Christian? Usually without realizing it, what we’re doing is robbing the glory from God. If we truly believe God is real, I don’t think that’s a good idea to take glory from Him.

Acts 12:21-23 On the appointed day Herod, wearing his royal robes, sat on his throne and delivered a public address to the people. 22 They shouted, “This is the voice of a god, not of a man.” 23 Immediately, because Herod did not give praise to God, an angel of the Lord struck him down, and he was eaten by worms and died.

When we realize our strength comes from God, whether we succeed or fail, He can still be glorified by how we handle our circumstances and showing others we are trusting and relying on Him through good and bad.

Will Jesus say he never knew you? We want our rodeo and cowboy families to really know him

Will Jesus say he never knew you? We want our rodeo and cowboy families to really know him

By Scott Hilgendorff / Cowboys of the Cross

Only few will find it.

Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. 14 But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.” Matthew 7:13-14

When most everyone we know in rodeo and bull riding identifies as a Christian, how is it possible then that only a few will find their way to Heaven?

What Jesus is saying is that a lot of us really don’t know him in the sense that we’ve experienced a real relationship with him where we’ve truly believed in him, his death for us and his resurrection and truly repented of our sin and asked for forgiveness. And if we don’t have a genuine relationship with Jesus, he’ll also say he doesn’t know us.

Matthew 7:22-23 On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ 23 And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’

Whether we do what look like great things or commit terrible sins, those actions don’t give us or destroy a relationship with Jesus, only belief in him, true repentance, confession of our sin and asking to be forgiven can save us. The good we do becomes evidence of our saving faith in Jesus.

Most of us believe a mixture of ideas of what a Christian is, but those ideas aren’t the gospel that God uses to save them. That also means that many of us care so little about our faith that we’re not seeing this potentially soul-saving post. That’s because nothing in us has been changed by Jesus to drive us toward learning more about him and God’s word to us in the Bible.

While we don’t profess to be the best teachers, too many people are not reading their own Bibles and not seeking knowledge from other teachers, whether it be this ministry or anywhere else. That breaks our hearts because we want everyone to experience a real, saving, life-changing relationship with Jesus. In rodeo and bull riding, we’re a family, and because you’re family, we love you and want you to understand the gospel of Jesus Christ. But we know the truth of Jesus’s words and for those verses above to be true, most of the people needing to hear this have scrolled on past and the ones reading it are the ones we’re already blessed to get to know and serve through this ministry

What are you putting into 2022?

What are you putting into 2022?

By Scott Hilgendorff / Cowboys of the Cross

What are you going to put into 2022?

Some of us worry about the future. Some because of difficult circumstances,  some because it’s just what we do. Some of us don’t give much thought to anything and plunge forward into whatever comes next. Some face what’s ahead fearlessly with a mature understanding of verses like Matthew 6:25-34 that go to great lengths to assure us not to worry because God will take care of us.

Matthew 6:25-27 Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? 26 Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? 27 Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?

Matthew 6: 34 Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.

This can feel impossible to some of us and the reality is,  it takes a lot of maturity in our faith that some of us may never even reach to be able to let go of worry.  But at a minimum, these verses should be a comfort for what they tell us about how much God values us over everything He has created. 

But regardless of how we face the coming year, as Christians, there are a couple truths we can focus on. God is in control and His will, will be done.  Nothing happens without Him but what He commands us to do through Jesus is this:

John 13-34-35 “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. 35 By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”

Matthew 28: 19-20 Therefore go and make disciples of all nations,  baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you  always, to the very end of the age.”

If we focus on those commands, whatever challenges, trials or struggles we face,  we can still see such positivity in the world around us because of what God can do with what we put into it. In and out of the rodeo and bull riding circuits, in and out of the cattle markets, in and out of the job you do or the school you attend, what are YOU going to put into 2022?

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