Behind the Bucking Chutes
If you don’t know where you’re going, a GPS isn’t any help. Jesus directs us to our final destination.
With most everyone owning a smartphone now, road maps and guessing how long it will take to get to the rodeo or bull riding are long gone replaced by Google Maps and GPS. Replacing guesswork is a precise arrival time based on traffic, construction and alternate routes.
And out of that arrival time comes a new challenge. Beating it. Most of us joke about it but if we’re being honest, we love seeing that time estimate drop a minute or two juggling the maximum speed we can get away with without getting a ticket with the distance we’re traveling and the potential for an extra five miles and hour to beat that initial arrival time.
I wrote a social media post about it this week in fun because I knew the route I was on was taking me around a long city block with a bunch of traffic lights. If anything can cause you to lose the game and see the time kick up a couple minutes, it’s one too many red lights. So…I cut through a mall parking lot that I knew exited on the next road I needed.
At the end of the lot, the time dropped by four minutes.
(By the way, the dictionary definition for Booyah, by: used to express joy, especially over a well-played or victorious moment in sports.)
But regardless of how quickly you get to your destination, you’ve got to know where you’re going and how to get there or there’s no point starting out on the journey.
Working in rodeo ministry, I’ve met a lot of cowboys and bull riders who are either new to their faith or don’t know what they believe and struggle with what their purpose is.
They lack direction and it can lead to a lot of feelings of being discontent and unhappy. It can be bad enough to damage relationships and impact their rodeo and bull riding careers when it starts to affect their riding.
The most important starting place is the gospel.
It’s here that we learn that Jesus came to show us the way.
John 14:6 Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life…
The disciples were still trying to understand what was going on. They still didn’t understand that Jesus was here to die in place of our sins so that we could all, through him, have a place in Heaven, our final destination if we have a saving faith in Jesus.
Sin separates us from God and God is going to both judge and punish unforgiven sin, however big or small. It all gets punished equally and that is eternal separation from Him in hell. But, through a belief that Jesus was the son of God sent here to die for us and that he also rose again and through a repentant heart, asking for our sins to be forgiven through Christ’s sacrifice, we are assured a permanent future in Heaven.
All of John 14:6 says this: Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.
The disciple, Thomas, had just said he didn’t know where Jesus was planning to go as Jesus was trying to prepare the disciples for his pending death on the cross. Thomas said he didn’t know the way and Jesus made it clear, it would be through him.
Earlier, Peter had similar questions, letting them know that he would be leaving them for a time but was going to prepare a place for them (and us).
John 13:36 Simon Peter said to him, “Lord, where are you going?” Jesus answered him, “Where I am going you cannot follow me now, but you will follow afterward.”
It doesn’t matter what time we’re arriving or how quickly we can get there; when it comes to Heaven it simply matters that we are going to get there when we’re supposed to.
But for those of us that feel lost or discontent, when we can learn to focus on what is coming and our faith is put in Jesus, we find it’s that faith, through what we learn in the Bible, that guides our steps and helps us make decisions. We don’t know the route we’re going to take to get there while we’re here on Earth, but we know our destination is Heaven and we can learn to take comfort in that, no matter how hard this road sometimes gets or how lost we might sometimes feel.
And isn’t it nice to know that when you get to where you’re going, there’s someone waiting there for you, happy that you’re coming?
By Scott Hilgendorff / Cowboys of the Cross
Kyrie eleison means “Lord have mercy” in Greek and when I learned that as an adult, the 80s song Kyrie by Mr. Mister became a favorite all over again. It’s still a ‘play it loud’ song for me and is regularly on rotation traveling to rodeos and bull ridings. (link to the song in the comments since Facebook hates external links). While many readings and phrases that are repeated in Catholic church services are in Latin, the Greek words, Kyrie eleison, are, as I understand it, still used.
“My heart is old, it holds my memories
My body burns a gemlike flame
Somewhere between the soul and soft machine
Is where I find myself againKyrie eleison, down the road that I must travel
Kyrie eleison, through the darkness of the night
Kyrie eleison, where I’m going, will you follow?
Kyrie eleison, on a highway in the light”
Lord have mercy, down the road that I must travel.
Lord have mercy, through the darkness of the night.
Lord have mercy, where I’m going, will you follow?
Lord have mercy, on a highway in the light.
It isn’t straight-up biblical but there are biblical encouragements in this as we look at scripture and what we can take from the song.
Hebrews 4:16 — Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.
Every week, we’re out there on the roads together. Whether we’re in the same truck or rodeo wagon, we’re on the phone, texting or snapping but one way or another, we’re sharing the journey together talking about bulls, times, runs, judging, the ground conditions and sometimes even what we’re going through. More of then people realize, conversations about God and the Bible come up and sometimes we’re praying for one another.
But we’re also sharing a journey together that only God and people in this industry fully understand. “Lord have mercy, down the road that I must travel.”
His mercy and grace are there for all who want to receive it. Instead of punishment for our sins, we can be forgiven through repentance and a saving faith in Jesus Christ–that he died to take the punishment for our sins that separate us from God without the forgiveness He gives us (His mercy and grace) when we truly repent and ask for it.
As we travel this week and weekend, and any time, I just want to encourage us to take time to pray for one another and those who have not yet experienced God’s mercy and grace.
And I want us to take comfort, not in the song lyrics but in the verse from Hebrews that God is there for us in any time of need. No matter how hard it gets or how abandoned we sometimes feel, like we’re going down that road alone, He is always with us. #CowboysOfTheCross
Are we boasting about the “good we do” for attention? When we understand how much God loves us, we no longer need the acceptance of others
By Jesse Horton / Cowboys of the Cross
Micah 6:8 says this: Mankind, He has told you what is good
and what it is the Lord asks of you: to do justice, to love faithfulness, and to be humble walking with your God. (Translation mine)
We all generally know what is just – that good is rewarded and evil is punished; justice is the law of God, which also tells to abide by the law of the land. We are to love faithfulness – we keep the promises we make and are careful to follow and obey the instructions of those to whom we are accountable. Being humble in our walk with God means we don’t think of ourselves – we love God, we love people, and we don’t need accolades or point to ourselves at all. Humility is not thinking less of yourself, but thinking of yourself less – or not at all.
Humility is a hard thing to grasp. We can be generous, giving to the poor, purchasing and handing out tracts or Bibles, hospitable to the outcasts, care for the sick and elderly, and look out for the widows and orphans. But the moment we make much of our selflessness – even if only in our own minds – we are no longer selfless; we have forsaken a humble walk with God! At the core of everything we do, we can find the desire to be loved and accepted by our peers, overlooking the need for humility.
Jesus has some great advice on this in Matthew 6:1-4. “Be careful not to practice your righteousness in front of people, to be seen by them. Otherwise, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven. So whenever you give to the poor, don’t sound a trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and on the streets, to be applauded by people. I assure you: They’ve got their reward! But when you give to the poor, don’t let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.” (HCSB)
Jesus reminds us here that the problem is not that we want to be loved and accepted, but WHO WE LOOK TO for love and acceptance. We all struggle with feelings of inferiority – some more than others. The entirety of our adolescent existence seems to revolve around peer group-jumping to figure out which group we are most comfortable being liked by and associated with, and sometimes the decision is made based on who accepts us and affirms us the most; we’re really selfish!
Here’s the point: The beginning of knowledge and wisdom is the fear and respect of God. When you realize that the eternal creating Father of the universe set his affections on you before you were created – before you could even have a performance mentality – all this strutting about and posturing for ourselves and for others ceases. We know that our value does not lie in the way our peers perceive us, or even in the way we perceive ourselves. No, our value lies in who our Creator says we are, and he says our value is a direct result of whose image we bear (Gen. 9:6 – Whoever sheds man’s blood, his blood will be shed by man, for God made man in His image.).
God loves you. Now go out and do justice, love faithfulness, and be humble walking with God, and don’t let a lack of humility rob you of an eternal reward.
By Scott Hilgendorff / Cowboys of the Cross
Ever misunderstood something and felt pretty dumb about it afterward?
Sometimes it’s easy to misunderstand something in the Bible and I think that keeps many of us from reading it.
Seminaries teach pastors Greek and Hebrew to help them understand what you’re sitting there scratching your head to understand as you open up the Bible. I know many who decide they are going to read the Bible cover to cover and dig right in. Genesis goes okay until Chapter 5 when you hit the ‘begats’–a long list of genealogy that can be a quitting point for someone already struggling to understand what they’ve been reading.
There are more parts that ARE easier to understand than others and just like the awkwardness of learning to handle yourself in the bucking chutes or the first time you try to turn a rope over your head, it gets easier. We approach the Bible like any other book from a western to a text book, thinking we have to read it from front to back, chapter by chapter. That isn’t the case at all. While there is a very specific structure to the Bible, sometimes a great starting point is all the way up in the New Testament with the Book of John. Many recommend that as an easier start and a way to learn about Jesus and the plan of Salvation. I often point people to James as it is written in a very straightforward manner.
It gets easier with time and practice, just like any of the sports you compete with or how each branding can run smoother for you than the last.
Having a church helps where there are pastors and leaders that can help you understand it. I sometimes need that before I try to deliver a cowboy church sermon behind the chutes and am fortunate enough to have more than a dozen people I know that understand it better than me that I can run a section of scripture by to be sure I understand it right.
Context is very important. You may randomly point to a verse and read it but without knowing what happened in the verses ahead, and sometimes the books ahead of it, it is very easy to misunderstand it. But again, in time, as you learn more and more, the context is easier to follow and you will be amazed at how much deeper your faith becomes when you see for yourself just how well books of the Bible do fit together despite being written by authors hundreds of years apart. You see on the pages just how real God’s word is to us and why 2 Timothy refers to it as God-breathed (living word).
There are also great study bibles out there with notes that help explain it. Don’t get hung up on feeling dumb for not understanding something. Be encouraged by the work God and the Holy Spirit will do inside you through the parts you do understand and step by step, more and more of it will make sense. Step by step, you will see even more, just how big God really is as you see how the scriptures you just read are played out right in front of you. See what you can learn about the importance of reading your Bible from the two verses below and what else each section is teaching us. There’s a lot in just these two verses. Find at least five facts and truths you can understand from what Paul is saying in this letter to Timothy. The word “righteousness” is an important one that comes up again throughout scripture. Take some time to look up what it means through your Bible’s study notes or the concordance (at the back that helps you find other verses where the same word appears). This is a great way to help you get started understanding your Bible. It isn’t how much you read in a single sitting, it’s just taking your time to understand it piece by piece.
And before you start, pray—ask God for the wisdom to understand.
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, 17 that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good
By Scott Hilgendorff / Cowboys of the Cross
The month of January was bad for law enforcement. More than a dozen officers lost their lives in the line of duty with minimal coverage or follow-up, particularly in the case of an officer murdered in her home.
A year and a half ago, when similar incidents were occurring frequently and there was a negative focus on policing in general in the media, Cowboys for Cops was started. It was the name given to a special weekend particularly in the PRCA in which contestants were urged to where blue. We hijacked it as a hash tag and turned it into an ongoing initiative encouraging cowboys and bull riders to ask the police they encounter at events and on the road, how they can pray for them. They’re encouraged to take selfies with the officers and use the hashtags #CowboysForCops and #CowboysOfTheCross to help this initiative spread. The rodeo and bull riding community has more opportunity to connect with police than the average person. No, not because we get in trouble all the time, but because we’re at large and public venues which means a police presence becomes necessary. That means we have a great opportunity to be an encouragement to these men and women who risk their lives to protect us.
But let’s look at some Biblical reasons this initiative is important.
We know throughout scripture that praying for one another is seen as important. The following verse from Ephesians is just one example of why that’s important
Ephesians 6:18 And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people.
By choosing to pray with these officers, we are simply living out biblical illustrations of what the Christian life looks like. Daily prayer is a significant part of that. Most people, even if they do not believe in God, will not be offended if you ask how you could pray for them and it can become an easy way to talk to someone else about Jesus.
But more importantly, what I want us to see how easy it can be to carry out a simple verse from Galatians in which we’re shown the need to carry each other’s burdens.
Galatians 6:2 Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.
Just knowing someone cares about you and is willing to pray for your needs can ease a burden and leave a person feeling encouraged.
As we gather more photos from cowboys and bull riders interacting with police, we’ll share them to social media but also to the website www.cowboysforcops.com and encourage you to point officers to the site. Think of how encouraging it can be for them to see different pictures of you guys caring enough about them to pray for them. Through pointing others to the site, one person’s simple act of praying for an officer can go a long way to encourage even more when they see these photos.
You can also help by sharing this post and encouraging others to do this. We most recently had a chance this weekend (Jan. 25 and 26) to pray with one of the officers providing security at the Southern Extreme Bull Riding Association Finals in Murfreesboro, TN.
In the photo is Finalist, Tim Taylor with MTSU Police Officer Jason Hicks. Officer Hicks joined us in the locker room for cowboy church Saturday night and afterward, a couple of us prayed for him. He is hoping to lead a team of youth on a mission trip to Guatemala. Officer Hicks then turned the tables on us by asking how he could pray for us.
If you find it too uncomfortable praying with an officer on the spot, it’s okay to commit to pray with him after, but we do encourage you to try. It means even more and no one expects us to pray perfectly or have all the right words to say. It’s the action and intent behind it and God knows what’s in your heart as you stumble through it. The officer does too.
If you have ever worked with cows, horses, or family, I’m willing to guess you’ve let
your frustration show in various ways when things didn’t go exactly how you wanted them to.
Anger is one of those “acceptable” sins in our society. If we display it in moderation it’s fine; in
fact, our culture may even praise us for lashing out blindly at someone or something that dares to offend us. Let me specify here that when I say “anger,” I am talking about sinful anger, not
righteous anger. Examples of righteous anger are given in the Bible, such as God’s anger about sin. Sometimes we experience righteous anger about our own or our brother’s sin, but we need to take care to consider whether such anger stems from recognition of our own unrighteousness in the presence of a holy God, or simply our own wretched pride. Anger that originates in sinful motivations is still sinful, whether or not it appears to be justified on the surface.
Sinful anger is our “natural” anger. It’s what you feel when you think the judge made the
wrong call about you marking your bronc out. It’s what you feel when those cows want to keep
fighting you on which direction they should go. It’s what you feel toward that horse that won’t
keep his foot up so you can nail on that last shoe. It’s what you feel when your kid’s good-for-
nothing dog blows up the herd fifty feet from the corral gate, after you specifically TOLD him to
leave that disobedient so-and-so in the pickup.
I’m not saying that these things aren’t frustrating, but how we handle these problems tends to show us what’s going on in our hearts – which is the
heart of the issue.
Our hearts want to tell us we are the center of the world and I’d bet if you thought back to
times when you let your anger show or even just had those angry thoughts, you’d agree the
reason had something to do with things not going exactly how you had them in your head.
Another way to put it would be to say your pride put you in the place of God in that moment.
I’ve been there more than a few times. I’ve cussed out a bunch of cows that I was trying to
gather up because it didn’t go exactly my way – and did it go any better after that? Nope! Losing your cool while working with cows and horses usually just creates more work. But more
important than how your temper affects the animals – and people – you work with, is the fact
that you are allowing sin to have a stronghold in your life.
So how do we combat the sin of unrighteous anger? One of the primary adversaries in
this fight is our own pride. We need to realize that God is God and we are not. If we look to Scripture, Romans 9:20 for example, we are shown our place before our God. Seeing Him
correctly lets us see ourselves correctly, humbling ourselves before Him. Romans 9:20 But who are you, O man, to answer back to God? Will what is molded say to its molder, “Why have you made me like this?”
As we walk with Christ, we are called to recognize His rule and reign over every part of
our lives, even as our sinful flesh seeks that honor for itself. Paul, in Galatians 5:16-26, tells us to walk by the Spirit and in so doing to suppress the desires of the flesh, such as fits of anger.
Keeping our anger in check not only helps in all aspects of our daily lives, it most importantly
honors the God who saved us. As Christians, this is what our whole lives should be focused on
anyways: His honor, not our own.
Galatians 5: 16-26 16 But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh.17 For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do. 18 But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law. 19 Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, 20 idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, 21 envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. 22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. 24 And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.
25 If we live by the Spirit, let us also keep in step with the Spirit. 26 Let us not become conceited, provoking one another, envying one another.
Greetings from the Horton clan!
The past few months have been very eventful. While working full-time (and then some), I am also working through the latter part of my Master of Divinity degree via online classes with Moody Theological Seminary (Chicago). In addition, I completed a 6-month transitional interim pastorate at a small local church that is struggling with issues of identity and leadership. To say my plate has been full is an incredible understatement!
But through it all, God is working. He prepared me and equipped me in every circumstance for ministry opportunities, both locally and through Cowboys of the Cross. Then, just as my wife was diagnosed with uterine cancer and expecting surgery to address it, my class load dwindled to half the norm, my interim pastorate ended, and I’ve found myself with time to enjoy and care for my family. God’s sovereignty is clear in every circumstance of my life.
All of this, especially in this time of year, reminds me of the hundreds prophecies given to Israel through its prophets. Hundreds of years before the birth of Jesus, it was promised that Messiah would be born to a virgin, of the house of David, born in Bethlehem, exiled to Egypt, and all before the second temple period ended in 70 AD…and that’s only a handful of the specific things that were promised and fulfilled in Jesus.
Our God made promises to Israel, and he was faithful to keep those promises. Some of these promises, however, are yet to be fulfilled. We are told that Messiah’s governance would know no end, and that he would rule and reign over all the nations of the earth. Jesus promised that he would return to set up his kingdom, fulfilling those prophecies. Just as surely as we’ve seen hundreds of Old Testament prophecies fulfilled, we can trust the Jesus’ promise – and God’s yet unfulfilled promises about Messiah – will also be fulfilled.
What a blessed hope we have! Our King will reign, and his rule will know no end – a rule filled with justice, peace, and righteousness! That is the hope that makes enduring the drudgeries of life more bearable. I pray that you will cling to that hope with me this Christmas season and always! And if, by chance, you find yourself without that hope I’ve described, please contact us at Cowboys of the Cross to find out how you can begin your hope-filled relationship with God; do it now – don’t delay.
Grace & peace to you in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ!
Jesse & Sarah Horton & family
Merry Christmas from the McCarthys!
This has been an exciting year of changes. One of the biggest was getting married this spring to my wife, Julia. She is my biggest supporter and meets the biblical definition of a helpmate. (One specific way she does this is by proofreading all my Cowboys of the Cross articles so y’all can’t tell how bad my grammar really is.)
Another change for me has been gaining a new appreciation for Psalm 50:10 through ranching and cowboying in Idaho’s Salmon River country: “For every
beast of the forest is mine, the cattle on a thousand hills.”
While it’s easy to get caught up in the hustle and bustle this time of year, I pray we all take time to reflect on why we are celebrating. During this advent season, I am reminded of the faithfulness of God. Since the third chapter of the Bible, God has promised His people a Savior.
As I have heard it said, the entire Old Testament is like working cows in a set of well-designed corrals; each of God’s covenants narrowed the focus of His promise of a coming Messiah, much as the corral narrows as cattle move toward the chute. The ultimate focus of the covenants, like
this joyful season, is the Savior Jesus Christ. I hope that this Christmas, we can all remember God’s faithful love and grace for His people. Merry Christmas and as always, Soli Deo Gloria!
The past several days on social media up until Christmas, I’ve been sharing some “favorite things”. It’s been a chance to share a little more on the personal side and reveal some more of who I am. I may post a lot of goofy content and share some personal anecdotes or thoughts and feelings but outside of teaching or trying to give you guys some devotions to learn from and offering opinions, hopefully with a Biblical slant, on issues we’re facing, I keep a lot of my life pretty quiet. I don’t like the spotlight despite being the one who most often gets to stand in front of some of you leading cowboy church at rodeos and bull ridings.
That’s because it isn’t supposed to be about me. It’s about Jesus, the Savior whose birth we celebrate and recognize through Christmas. Because of that, it becomes a difficult struggle finding ways to get your attention on social media, but using that, ultimately to direct you to the content we prepare to try to teach and disciple you and, most of all, point you to Jesus.
It also isn’t about the ‘things’ I’ve been calling attention to or the ‘things’ that are unwrapped after being displayed under our Christmas trees. Unnoticed by most, I slipped an important Bible verse into the first picture I shared of my Charlie Brown Christmas record and the reflections on the significance that played in my childhood. The verse was Matthew 6:19-21 19 “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. 20 But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. 21 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.
It’s a simple caution to remember that what we have here is so temporary and what we should be focused on is Heaven, our eternal home, where we really belong. We celebrate the birth of Christ but we can’t focus on the ‘baby Jesus’. He grew up to be a man who died a horrific death, taking on the punishment of our sins so that with a saving faith in Jesus’ life, death and resurrection, with a repentant heart seeking forgiveness for our sins, we could be reconciled with God and ensured entry to our permanent home in Heaven.
We can get so focused on the ‘stuff’ that we forget, not the birth of Jesus, but its significance. That’s why in Matthew, we’re reminded that our hearts need to be focused heavenward. What a glorious time we have in the Christmas celebrations, as we spend time with friends and family and give and receive gifts, to let ourselves be reminded to do just that, look heavenward and praise and thank God for sending His son. It’s a cliche to say it, but Jesus really is the reason for the season.
Love you guys and look forward to serving you more in 2019.
By Scott Hilgendorff / Cowboys of the Cross
My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever. Psalm 73:26
It’s ok to fail.
You have goals you want to achieve. People in the rodeo and bull riding industry have unique sets of goals within the sport on top of the goals everyone sets for their lives. There’s a finals you want to qualify for, a time you want to beat, a bull you want to win a rematch with, a buckle you want to earn or a horse you’re training with goals for him.
When we don’t meet those goals, we can sometimes get frustrated or discouraged. It leads some people to quit. But if we look at our goals through a Biblical perspective, we don’t have to ever get discouraged, especially when we put God in front of them.
But here’s the kicker–that might change your goals completely. Once you look at how your choices can glorify and honor God or can carry out the Great Commission–that assignment God gave us all to share the gospel and teach and equip other believers–our goals or the reason for achieving them can easily be changed. That doesn’t mean you suddenly don’t try to qualify for a finals, but you find yourself putting God first in that journey.
Suddenly, the pressure is gone. You might even fail to achieve to accomplish what you set out to do, but the biggest accomplishment turns out to be how God used you in the process. Instead of being discouraged, you look back on the steps taken to achieve the goal, so the way that God was glorified in your choices and actions, and you find yourself feeling good about the experience.
Our failures can be God’s biggest success through how others can see Christ in us by how we handle a failure or how God uses our struggles with sin and temptation to help us. “My flesh and my heart may fail.”
Fail or succeed in our own minds, it’s His plan that will be carried out perfectly using us, His imperfect creation. Sometimes His plan is to let us fail to teach us and help us grow and sometimes that’s going to come out of us struggling with sin. As strong as we want to think we are, it can take real strength to admit how easily we let ourselves be tempted into sin…. That we weren’t strong enough on our own. We aren’t. That’s ok. Because God will be the strength we need to overcome what feels like a failure or a struggle with sin. And God’s grace will cover us when we mess it up. His love and grace is bigger than any sin or failure we feel we’ve experienced.
By Scott Hilgendorff / Cowboys of the Cross
‘Give thanks to the Lord, for He is good.
His love endures forever.’ Psalm 136:1
God’s love endures through all things and each of all 26 verses of this Psalm end with the words, “His love endures forever.” Each verse offers a reason the Psalmist is thankful, many of the reasons relating to all the lengths God went to in rescuing the Israelites from Egypt and taking them to the Promised Land. He also thanks God for everything He created.
Much like when families and friends go around the table describing what they are thankful for at Thanksgiving dinner or what gets shared in prayer before the meal, the Psalmist gives thanks for everything God has provided.
But in the Psalm, he reminds us of just how big God’s love for us is. It’s endless and will never stop. Never.
The Thanksgiving season is here and gives us an occasion to pay special attention to what God has provided for us but just as His love for us is always present, our thanks is always present when we realize what God did for us out of His love–sent Jesus to die on the cross for our sins. Out of that sacrifice comes a chance to repent of our sin and confess Jesus as Lord and Savior so that we can be forgiven our sins and made right before God. Without that forgiveness, that God freely offers those who ask for it, we face God’s judgement and punishment of our sin. His love is unending, but what God won’t tolerate is sin. It has to be judged, but in what is more than fair, God loves us enough that He sent Jesus to take the punishment for our sin. Through the realization of what he did for us and the salvation we can freely receive from that act of love simply through believing, repenting and asking to be saved, we become naturally thankful to God.
1Thessalonians 5:18 In every thing give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you.
Paul reminds us in his letter to the Thessalonians that we need to give thanks for everything. Knowing that God’s plan is perfect, that even means finding a way to be thankful for what we don’t think is fair or good or right the way we measure it. It means being thankful for all that He has given us that we love and take joy in, but also realizing that if everything works out to the goodness God intends, our own struggles can be part of that and we can be thankful for those as well. A bad wreck coming around the third barrel, a roping horse coming up lame before the finals or a broken femur bucking off a bull can feel like huge setbacks, but what we can’t see in what God is doing through those setbacks can turn out to be some of the biggest blessings, especially when He uses them to change us and draw us closer to Him.
God’s love for us is unending. Our reasons to be thankful can be too.
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.