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 all have a part to play in the success of an event or bringing God glory

We all have a part to play in the success of an event or bringing God glory

By Scott Hilgendorff / Cowboys of the Cross

Bull team competitions are growing in popularity. To win, the team needs a bull that will score high enough but a rider who can also cover him because the scores will be combined to find a winner. Too rank a bull will score higher at that end but if the bull rider bucks off, they can’t win. Too easy a bull but the rider covers, neither will have high enough of a score to win.

Everything has to work together perfectly to win but the key word here is “together.”

The stock contractor can’t win on his own and the bull rider can’t win on his own.

The stock contractor brings his talents in breeding, caring for and training a good bucking bull. The bull rider brings the skills he’s developed to go from being one-jumped out of the chute to being able to spur a 90-point ride.

1 Corinthians 12:4-7 Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; 5 and there are varieties of service, but the same Lord; 6 and there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who empowers them all in everyone. 7To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good.

Throughout this chapter in his letter to the church at Corinth, the apostle Paul is telling them about who they all have different gifts given to them by God. In this instance, he is describing specific spiritual gifts, as he makes the point that each person is needed despite being different from the others.

We’re all working together for a common good. God’s good.

For Christians, we all have a part to play

1Corinthians 12:12-20 Just as a body, though one, has many parts, but all its many parts form one body, so it is with Christ. 13 For we were all baptized by one Spirit so as to form one body—whether Jews or Gentiles, slave or free—and we were all given the one Spirit to drink. 14 Even so the body is not made up of one part but of many.

15 Now if the foot should say, “Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,” it would not for that reason stop being part of the body. 16 And if the ear should say, “Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,” it would not for that reason stop being part of the body. 17 If the whole body were an eye, where would the sense of hearing be? If the whole body were an ear, where would the sense of smell be? 18 But in fact God has placed the parts in the body, every one of them, just as he wanted them to be. 19 If they were all one part, where would the body be? 20 As it is, there are many parts, but one body.

With descriptions of different body parts instead of different gifts, Paul is reminding the church how they all are part of the body of Christ. Even though we have different gifts, we all serve the same God who has put us where He wants us to be and will use each of us for His purpose.

A common argument that comes up between contestants and producers is when a fair board wants to charge the contestants admission. The cowboys are quick to point out there isn’t a show without them because the crowd is coming to see them. The producer has to point out there isn’t a show without the committee. And nothing happens for anyone without back pen workers and a crew to set the whole thing up.

Everyone has a vital part to play for the show to succeed.

Everyone has a vital part to play within the body of Christ.

As Christians, we know that even as a stock contractor, event producer or rodeo contestant, our tasks, given to us by Jesus, are to love others, share the gospel and teach others. We also know that in everything we do, we’re meant to glorify God. These are part of the “common good” we can be working toward together.

Just like we have all make up different parts in the success of a show, we all serve Jesus together in our own ways. You might be the person who is skilled at starting a conversation with strangers and your friend might be drawn to helping others. On the way to the rodeo, he stops to help the family whose car is broke down at the side of the road and while he changes a tire, you’re the person who ends up telling them about Jesus.

We all have a part to play but we all serve Jesus together knowing it’s God who puts all the parts together.

Worry can mess with our heads, peace reminds us God is in control

Worry can mess with our heads, peace reminds us God is in control

By Scott Hilgendorff / Cowboys of the Cross

Peace is a Fruit of the Spirit outlined in Galatians and is something that grows in us as our faith grows. To experience peace is to understand that God is in control. Our focus needs to be on Him and our knowledge that everything works out for His glory, even if it isn’t working out the way we want.

To not recognize God is in control or to put our own desires first, can lead us to a place of worry and even fear. How do we make a truck payment if we just spent $60 in entry fees and all our money on gas to and from the rodeo and bucked off?

Our peace comes from understanding what it means to have a saving faith in Jesus. We rest in the trust and comfort that God has saved us from the punishment meant for our sins and given us an eternity with Him in Heaven where there will be absolutely nothing to worry about.

Worry can mess with your heads and continue to add to the pressures that contribute to bucking off, not catching a calf or damaging our relationships. Many worry that an injury might not heal right and that their careers could be over. We worry about our family, our relationships, a doctor’s appointment for a recurring pain in our stomach.

As the fruit of peace grows in us as we continue to grow in our faith and become more like Christ, our reasons for worrying diminish and we learn to trust in God who, through Jesus, tells us in Matthew 6:25-34

“Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? 26 Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they?27 And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life? …33 But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. 34 “Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.

Jesus throughout the whole section of Scripture, describes in detail how well God cares for all His creation but emphasizes that we are the most valuable part and have a purpose.

God has put in front of us whatever it is He wants us to do or deal with today. From the verses in Matthew, we know God wants us to trust Him. Even when things aren’t going according to our plans, they are working for His good. Always. He will take care of what is coming tomorrow, we just have to face what is in front of us today.

We prepare to rodeo, we need to prepare to serve God

We prepare to rodeo, we need to prepare to serve God

By Scott Hilgendorff / Cowboys of the Cross

There are things we do in advance to prepare before getting on a bull or even being ready to get on our roping horse. We have to do these things or our next steps are guaranteed to fail or get us hurt.

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.

Scripture is the same. This verse is where the idea comes from that the Bible is God’s living word, because it is God-breathed, meaning He gave life to it.

That alone should be enough to make us want to read our Bibles but then Paul tells us in his second letter to Timothy that the Bible prepares us for everything in advance. It teaches us what’s right and good, it can be used to give us correction when we’re wrong and it trains us to be more like Jesus. And, it prepares us for every good thing God has for us to do. Everything.

So basically, not just reading the Bible, but applying what we learn from it prepares us for what God has in store for us and prepares us to be used by God to help others learn from God’s living word.

Once we have a saving faith in Jesus and we’ve repented and asked for forgiveness of our sins, we’re still going to mess up and grace is there for when we do. God still loves and forgives us. We don’t have to do anything to earn His love, but just like there are things we have to do to succeed in the arena, God does have work prepared for us to do. Reading the Bible is what we need to do to prepare for what God wants us to do and to succeed in it.

Ephesians 2:10 For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.

Again, we can’t earn our salvation but once we’re saved, God didn’t mean for us to do nothing. We are His handiwork; He made us and through our relationship with Jesus, he wants us to do good things. He begins to help us become more like Jesus through the work of the Holy Spirit in us and he created us to do good works. Works are the actions we take that God prepared for us to do. They can be anything from sharing the gospel with a traveling partner going down the road to using the skills God gave us to help fix the car of a neighbor or a single mom struggling financially just to make it.

He’s prepared work for us in advance and we need to take steps to be ready to do that work. Reading the Bible is the first step to understanding what good works are; living out what it teaches is the next.

Asking how a bull bucks is seeking wisdom, asking for godly wisdom will take you further

Asking how a bull bucks is seeking wisdom, asking for godly wisdom will take you further

By Scott Hilgendorff / Cowboys of the Cross

Leaves of three, come and see, so pretty, do touch me. Isn’t that how that goes?

James 1:5 If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you.

Sometimes wisdom comes from personal experience. We really can learn from our mistakes. We can also learn from the experiences of others. We don’t have to touch poison ivy ourselves and experience days of itching rash, we can trust the wisdom of others. That’s where the real saying comes from: leaves of three, leave it be. Someone offered that piece of wisdom to make it easier to avoid the rash. That’s why you hear rodeo contestants asking about what to expect from the stock or bull they drew.

Sure, the unexpected can still happen but seeking advice is both using the wisdom of others and being wise ourselves in doing that.

But when we don’t know what to do, James tells us to seek wisdom from God and more often than what you might realize, His wisdom and the direction you need will be right there in the pages of the Bible. Digging in and knowing what’s in there for yourself is best but just like asking a more experienced competitor for advice on how much reign to give a bronc or what bull rope might work better for you, it’s wise to seek the wisdom of other Christians you know can help point you to the right scripture.

Through Cowboys of the Cross, we’re a small group of men with ties to the rodeo and bull riding, equestrian or ranch cowboy industries, who are here to try to help you gain stronger biblical knowledge and wisdom. We have new content on the this website every other Thursday to teach and encourage you, use social media to do the same and are literally a phone call or text away from you almost 24-7.

We don’t have all the answers but we also have more mature and knowledgeable believers who we turn to when we need wisdom or guidance. As James instructs, first pray to God to ask for His wisdom, but then turn to the pages of the Bible to seek that. If you’re stuck, seek advice from a more mature Christian who you know has wisdom you haven’t gained yet.

Paul warns against tearing each other apart like we’re doing right now

Paul warns against tearing each other apart like we’re doing right now

By Scott Hilgendorff / Cowboys of the Cross

There’s a lot of opinions out there today about virtually everything and it’s arguable that we’ve never seen ourselves this divided in our lifetime.


It used to be we could agree to disagree and still be friends. And there was that old, unwritten rule about not talking about religion and politics. Of course for Christians, we understand we’re called to do the opposite when it comes to ‘religion’ and are actually commanded by Jesus to tell others about him. That can still be done without starting an argument.
But arguing is what we do these days. We circle the wagons around those who are like-minded with us. Like those exploring and settling the west,  we treat every encounter with a stranger as a potential threat.


We no longer keep our opinion to ourselves when that might be the easiest way to keep the peace.
We exercise our constitutional rights and freedoms to their fullest and understandably,  we are prepared to defend our freedoms. 


In Galatians, Paul talks about freedom too but he means something very different.


Galatians 5:13-15  For you were called to freedom, brothers. Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another. 14 For the whole law is fulfilled in one word: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” 15 But if you bite and devour one another, watch out that you are not consumed by one another.”

The freedom Paul is referring to here is what is found in our saving faith in Jesus. When we’ve repented of our sin and asked to be forgiven in the full understanding that Jesus died on the cross to take the punishment meant for our sins, we are set free. God sees us as perfect and we are set free from the guilt and condemnation that comes from God those who have not heard or ignored the gospel,  the message of salvation through Jesus Christ.


Knowing we’re no longer going to be condemned for our sin, Paul warns us not to take advantage of that to pursue our own sinful desires,  but instead, to help others.  He reminds us of the command from Jesus to love others the way we would want to be loved. 


But look how relevant these verses are to our culture 2,000 years later.  There are certainly amazing exceptions to this but one look at the news or especially our social media and personal conversations,  and it is easy to see we’re ignoring this advice. 


What do others see in our words and actions that would show them how great life is when you’re set free from the judgment of your sin?


Instead,  his final warning becomes even more relevant.  A non-believer looking at us at any given moment right now is more likely to see what Paul is warning about: people biting and devouring each other.  


It’s a graphic description when we actually think about it but it needs to be if it’s warning Paul wants people to take seriously. 
Paul was writing to a church facing divisions over false teaching that was creeping into the church body.  For us, we’re divided over almost everything within and outside the church and as issues like cancel culture arise,  we literally are destroying each other just as Paul warns will happen when we lose focus on what the gift and grace of our salvation truly is.  

If you’re angry and you know it…grumbling about a canceled rodeo doesn’t point others to Jesus

If you’re angry and you know it…grumbling about a canceled rodeo doesn’t point others to Jesus

By Scott Hilgendorff / Cowboys of the Cross

The past year, on top of the personal struggles we face, we were all dealing with struggles that the pandemic brought from lock downs to canceled rodeos and horse shows.

Lost work, lost business, lost time with family gave us a lot to feel angry about.

And everyone knows it.

Whether it be on social media or face-to-mask conversations, we all have had a lot to say about how we feel and very little of it has been positive or encouraging. In the rodeo and bull riding industries, we continually talk about mindset and keeping positive attitudes. We rarely talk about that from a faith perspective.

The apostle Paul does in many ways in several of his letters. In Philippians, his letter to the church at Philippi, Paul writes many encouraging passages about being cheerful and Christ-like in our mindset and responses to our situations including one encouragement about our attitude when life might be rough.

Philippians 2: 14-16 Do all things without grumbling or questioning, that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world,

When we have a saving faith in Jesus, we are given what’s known as the Great Commission to respond to at the end of the Book of Matthew. The commission commands us to tell others about Jesus and the salvation he brings and then to make disciples—teach others how to follow Christ.

That means being out there in an unbelieving world that generally rejects the messages of Jesus or sees him as no more than a positive teacher back in his day.

But if we are to convince others that Jesus was the Son of God who died in place of our sins that through belief and repentance of our sins, we can be saved from the punishment meant for our sins, it’s going to be a lot harder if they can’t see signs of Jesus in us.

The amount of complaining and fighting many of us have done over the past year would make it hard for others to see us as different than them. If our lives have been changed by a saving faith in Jesus, there are times when our actions or responses should surprise people by how different they are from everyone else.

Paul wanted the Christians in Philippi to be seen as ‘children of God’ that stood out among the evil that was around them and showed the light of Christ.

As Christians, we’re called to be like Christ, but we understand we’ll never truly be as perfect as him. We’re going to make mistakes. Admitting them to an unbelieving world and telling them that as Christians, we meant to do different is one step toward repairing any damage from our words or actions. Moving forward by ending our grumbling and taking a more joyful or kind approach to our situations can begin to show others that Christ lives inside of us.

Jesus says people can see who follows him by how they treat one another–what it means to love others

Jesus says people can see who follows him by how they treat one another–what it means to love others

By Scott Hilgendorff / Cowboys of the Cross

When you mention the word love to a cowboy, it immediately conjures up thoughts around the emotion. A cowboy who starts seeing a girl he’s infatuated with quickly starts missing rodeos or events and the guys either make fun or genuinely complain that she’s messed him up and ruined the sport for him.

A cowboy in love starts to make dumb choices, or at least that’s how his friends see it.

For others, it’s an emotion they have a hard time expressing and even saying the words take effort despite the feelings of love that are there.

This is some of why understanding what love is in Scripture is so important.

The cowboy crowd is going to struggle with being asked to love others when their sense of what love is gets tied into warm, gushy emotions that go against the image of a tough cowboy.

While there are examples of couples in the Bible who are in warm, gushy love with each other, the Bible most often refers to love with the Greek word, ‘agape’, which is not an emotion but an action, or philia, which is a brotherly love.

When we understand both, we can see how the cowboy crowd should actually be able to relate well to each of them.

Romans 12:10 Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves.

A loving, devoted husband or wife is likely what first comes to mind when reading that verse on its own but what Paul is describing in Romans is philia. He is telling us to look out for one another in that brotherly love kind of way but with a commitment to doing that. He wants us to be purposeful about it.

Philia is a brotherly love—exactly what you see in a group of bull riders who have traveled down the road together for years. They would do anything for each other, tease each other endlessly because they know each other so well and have each other’s backs. Ultimately, in brotherly love, we put others before ourselves which also leads into what agape is.

Agape is even more active and has a lot to do with how we treat others and how we demonstrate it to God.

John 13:35 By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”

The love we’re being asked to show here is not an emotion but an action. We learn what those actions should be throughout scripture through the examples Jesus gave us and through the teachings throughout the Bible. Jesus says we will know who true followers of him are because people will see actions that show that they really do love others.

Asking how you can pray for a family who brought their kid up to get an autograph. Giving your last $20 to the Salvation Army Kettle because you know that at least your rent is paid. All of these can be acts of love. They can mean giving up some of your time or money, but that doesn’t compromising the image of strength and toughness a cowboy wants to hold on to. It takes a strong person to sacrifice for others.

We’ve stayed six feet apart, God wants to be close to us

We’ve stayed six feet apart, God wants to be close to us

By Scott Hilgendorff / Cowboys of the Cross

Last year, I jokingly posted to social media an online order for a cattle prod. I don’t have cattle. It was a tool I wanted to carry with me to keep people the full six feet away from me that we were learning was part of the guidelines for dealing with the pandemic we were just beginning to face.

But all of Scripture isn’t about keeping people at a distance, it’s about God wanting us to be with Him, free from His judgment of our sin.

James 4: 7-10 Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. 8 Come near to God and he will come near to you. Wash your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. 9 Grieve, mourn and wail. Change your laughter to mourning and your joy to gloom. 10 Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up.

James gives us just one of several direct references in the Bible of God wanting us to draw near to Him. Here, he is stressing the importance of turning from sin and repenting, first by telling us to submit to God, fight the devil and the temptation of sin and to turn to God instead.

James tells us if we move toward God, God will come toward us but stresses we approach God with a heart purified of sin.

Regardless of how people have felt about the pandemic and how it has been handled across the country and around the world, we’ve spent the past year either fighting against being kept apart from each other in our communities and churches or we’ve been willingly staying apart in effort to protect people we care about like vulnerable grandparents. Either way, it’s been difficult and challenging for Christians who understand we’re meant to be in community together just like we’re meant to be close to God.

We’ve been dealing with a lot of situations that have felt contradictory to what we believe.

And James gives us another seemingly contradictory statement in verse nine.

Here, he tells us something that sounds like it’s contradictory. We know through other books of the Bible and through our own experiences that our salvation brings about joy, understanding that when we have a saving faith in Jesus, we have gained a perfect eternity in Heaven. Fruit of the Spirit is something that forms in us when our salvation is real and one of those fruits is joy. Yet James is telling us to grieve and move from joy to gloom.

But what James is telling us in this single verse is just how serious our repentance of sin should be.

Our sin separates us from God and He will judge and condemn it. But He sent Jesus to briefly live among us, close to us, fully God and fully man. While his disciples didn’t understand it at the time, Jesus was here to die and take the full punishment that was meant for them and all of us. Through his sacrifice, we could be restored to a right relationship with God. Through believing Jesus was the son of God, died for our sins and was resurrected, we must repent of our sin and ask to be forgiven. When our faith and repentance is real, we’re given a perfect, eternal life in Heaven instead of eternal punishment in hell.

James wants us to grieve our sin that has kept us separated from God. He wants us to be humble before God but with the understanding God will come close to us—close enough to ‘lift us up.’

How wonderful is that to worship God who despite all our mistakes and failings, wants to be that close to us?

Find the good, share the good

Find the good, share the good

By Scott Hilgendorff / Cowboys of the Cross

Instead of what was said by someone running their mouth about you, imagine it eventually getting back to you that someone was out there saying what a great person you were or what a great thing they saw you do.

When we have a saving faith in Jesus, he changes us and we begin to do good works. Works are the words and actions we put out there based on what we know the Bible teaches us is right and good and that we know will glorify God.

Instead of talking at Waffle House with your buddies about why ‘that gunsel’ keeps getting on bulls or entering the sorting when he can’t even sit right in his saddle, what a life-changing moment it could literally be

for someone to have it get back to them how you never see them without a smile or laughing, even when competing in the mud.

Find the good, share the good.

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

When Jesus is truly in us, good starts to come out of us as evidence our salvation is real. We start to do “good deeds.”

Jesus tells us that if we’re in Christ, we’ll produce good fruit. In Matthew 7, he’s specifically talking about how to tell if someone is a false prophet or not but we learn from him that those who are real followers o Christ will be producing good fruit, which again, would be the good works we do. The words and actions that show our faith is in Jesus because they follow his teaching.

Matthew 7:17-18 Likewise, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. 18 A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, and a bad tree cannot bear good fruit.

He also teaches us that all of it comes from God.

John 15:4 Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me.

None of the good we do can be accomplished without God doing the work in us and through us. It’s done together.

No one that competes in rodeo succeeds without some help. It can be the spotter behind the chutes, it can be borrowed equipment,the loan of a horse or it can be advice. Even the biggest loner determined to accomplish something on his ‘own’ power, has help somewhere along the line.

We need God to accomplish what He has planned for us. We may do the ‘good works’ but they are given to us by Him and it’s by His power we succeed and He gets glorified.

On one hand, when our faith is real we can’t help but do good as God works through us, but on the other, the author of Hebrews is telling also us to look for ways to help others do good. It’s still God through us, but the encouragement or help we provide helps someone else to do good. Find the good, share the good.

Scripture, so easy, even a cowboy can do it–when he puts the time in

Scripture, so easy, even a cowboy can do it–when he puts the time in

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. Try anyway.

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, the first time you try to load a horse on the trailer or the first time you try to turn a rope over your head, it gets easier.

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. When I’m not certain my interpretation or application is right, I can run a section of scripture by to be sure I understand it right. There are also great study bibles out there with notes that help explain it and an internet full of resources though you have to be careful what you follow.

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.

And step by step, you will see even more, just how big God really is. A passage in the Old Testament suddenly makes sense in how it points to Jesus in the New Testament. A passage in the New Testament’s Ephesians that used to be confusing begins to make more sense because you see how it builds on something Jesus taught in the book of Mark. The more you learn, the more you change and grow.

See what you can learn about the importance of reading your Bible from the two verses below.

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 work.

Scripture is God’s living word in how it’s described as being ‘breathed out’ by God. And we see clearly how important it is for so many parts of our lives, teaching us how to be more like Jesus as it describes training in righteousness. It shows us that it will help us with any good effort we take for God as it tells us it will prepare us for “every good work.”

I didn’t understand what a ‘good work’ was at first. I didn’t understand what righteousness was at first. But as I understood those terms and ideas, 2 Timothy is now a favorite verse to teach to others because it helps us understand the many different reasons the Bible is important for us.

The more time you give it, the more it will make sense and benefit you.

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