By Scott Hilgendorff / Cowboys of the Cross
In the sport of rodeo, the term gunsel gets used to describe that person who wants everyone to know hes’ a cowboy by walking around the arena an hour before the show with his chaps and spurs on or he still has his spurs on at McDonald’s after the show. But he also gets one or two-jumped when his bull or bronc leaves the chute or hold on to the gate and lets go on his way out.
For a Christian, while it still can be about calling attention to himself, it can be a little less about that and more about doing the things he thinks makes him a Christian without ever understanding what it means to have a real, life-changing relationship with Jesus.
We see him praying before the rodeo, he has a cross around his neck and a tattoo of a Bible verse on his forearm.
These things aren’t wrong when they are just part of a person who is genuinely living out his faith but there’s a problem when that’s the beginning and the end of the cowboy’s faith. He never opens his Bible to learn from it and never applies a lesson he hears at cowboy church. Nothing in his life shows that he is becoming more like Jesus, which is evidence that our salvation is real, when our life is being transformed.
James 1:22-25 But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. 23 For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks intently at his natural face in a mirror. 24 For he looks at himself and goes away and at once forgets what he was like. 25 But the one who looks into the perfect law, the law of liberty, and perseveres, being no hearer who forgets but a doer who acts, he will be blessed in his doing.
James is teaching us how foolish it is to know what scripture teaches us and then to do nothing about it. He is stressing how important it is to actually live out what the Bible teaches.
It’s important to understand this doesn’t earn us anything from God. To be saved, we have to recognize who Jesus was as the Son of God and that he died on the cross to take the punishment that is meant for our sin. When we understand we’re all sinners and that God cannot allow us into his presence as sinners, we can be made right with him by confessing we know we have sin in our lives, believing what Jesus did on the cross for us to take the punishment meant for us, and asking to be forgiven.
It’s out of understanding and thankfulness for what Jesus did for us that we want to become more like Jesus and to do that, we do what James is saying and become doers of the word, living out what the Bible teaches.
Jesus called out the religious leaders at the time, known as Pharisees, who were making a show of their faith by carrying out actions that called attention to themselves while ignoring acting in important ways towards others that for us, become ways of showing Jesus to an unbelieving world.
Matthew 23:23 “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You give a tenth of your spices—mint, dill and cumin. But you have neglected the more important matters of the law—justice, mercy and faithfulness. You should have practiced the latter, without neglecting the former.
Instead of showing God’s love to others, they were becoming a road block getting in the way of people who were discovering Jesus was teaching a new way of living out their faith in God that allowed everyone to become closer to Him.
To just walk around wearing crosses and Bible verse tattoos and nothing more doesn’t help anyone come to a saving faith in Jesus. It just makes us Christian gunsels.
By Scott Hilgendorff / Cowboys of the Cross
With the recent passing of the Queen of England, a lot of strong feelings were expressed from both liberal and conservative views, either attacking abuses of colonialism or stirring the patriotic feelings of American independence and a desire to have nothing to do with the monarchy.
There’s a reason though for Christians to think bigger than those thoughts and to be reminded that while we have to fight to preserve our beliefs here, there’s more to our faith than that. The United States isn’t the only country where Christians exist and where non-believers need to hear the gospel, who Jesus was and is and how his death on the cross gives us a way, through belief and repentance, to be saved from our sin and given eternal life in Heaven.
The Constitution gives us the freedom to practice Christianity but it also gives people the freedom to celebrate other religions as well. That’s why it’s important that we share our faith with others both here and abroad.
And it’s the Constitution that gives us the freedom to carry out the Great Commission, which was Jesus’s call to all believers to tell others about him in the hope they would find a saving faith in Jesus and the salvation from eternal punishment meant for our sins that only he can give.
So why should we care about the death of a queen through all of this?
It can serve as a reminder of a couple important things about our faith.
Romans 13:1 Let everyone be subject to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God.
Whether we liked her or not, the Queen of England was placed there by God. The worst of the world’s leaders and the best of them are all authorities that have been placed there by God.
And whether they know it or not, they are to submit to His authority as well. That means, yes, we do respect their authority and even though we might not like all the rules and laws, we respect the ones that don’t contradict God’s commands for us and cause us to go against the Bible. That’s uncomfortable for a lot of us but again, in the United States, it means we have a Constitution that gives us the freedom to practice our beliefs and the right to tell others about Jesus. But it also means that our leaders, no matter what their beliefs, are still subject to God and face the eternal consequences of the choices they make in how they lead their people and whether they ever believe in salvation through Jesus Christ.
Philippians 2:10-11 that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those in heaven, and of those on earth, and of those under the earth, 11 and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
We like to see immediate consequences. It’s hard for us to grasp how short our time is here and what eternal suffering will be like for those who reject Jesus Christ.
Whether a king or queen, a wealthy oil baron or a person struggling to buy their first horse in southwestern Texas, we all have the same opportunity to believe in Jesus and in the end, when it’s too late for salvation, even those who didn’t believe will realize Jesus is Lord.
By Scott Hilgendorff / Cowboys of the Cross
Foreign exchange students are getting the chance to hear the gospel and Cowboys of the Cross is getting to play a small part in that—and you can too.
One of the great cultural changes of the times we’re in; that we’re all connected more easily wherever we are in the world. at Commission in unique way.
When the disciples were first given the what we know as the Great Commission, they were tasked with sharing the gospel everywhere from the people around them to “the ends of the earth.”
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, 20and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”
This was a command from Jesus to his disciples but it extends to you and me.
Then, travel to communicate or send a letter, it was primarily by foot. Today, there are still isolated parts of the world in which missionaries work to earn the trust of a community in order to minister to them and preach the gospel but at the same time, we can get a coded message to a missionary in China with a few taps on an app on our phone.
Technology makes it easy for Cowboys of the Cross to be partnered with cowboys from the ranch to the rodeo sides of the cowboy culture across the United States and Canada.
Jesse Horton was a North Carolina bull rider that has gone on to become the pastor of Bethel Baptist Church in Pink Hill, NC. He continues to work with Cowboys of the Cross contributing to The Short Go and other teaching series we put together. He is a valued ministry partner and part of what has shaped into a leadership team that works at helping each of us grow and stay accountable to God’s different callings in our lives.
The common ground our little group shares is our strong response to God’s call on all of us to share the gospel from the people around us to the ends of the Earth.
Jesse is currently getting a chance to do that as he, his wife Sarah and their children host two foreign exchange students for the next ten months.
One arrived last week from France and the other, a Buddhist from Vietnam, arrived this week.
But here’s the extra cool thing: while the program is not Christian-based, the woman seeking host families in this region of the United States, Meegan, is a Christian. Because of her belief in sharing the gospel with others, she tries to find as many Christian host families as she can.
Finding Jesse, his family and his church, was a windfall for Meegan and she expressed her excitement for it recently when she spoke with Cowboys of the Cross as a reference for Jesse. The two students will attend church with the Hortons and get to experience Christian living with a pastor. Having known Jesse for more than 15 years now, these students are going to not just be presented with the gospel in words, but they will see Jesse’s passionate desire to see others grow and be discipled in their faith, especially the extended church family God has given him to shepherd.
And not only has their first of the two students had a chance to attend a Bethel Baptist Church service, he’s also been with the Horton’s to a rodeo and seen Jesse lead cowboy church behind the chutes. It’s hard to find a better American experience than the pride-filled experience of a rodeo Saturday night and a worship service on Sunday in a 106-year-old church.
That’s where you come in.
These exchange programs are desinged to provide students from other cultures with an American experience but Education Travel & Culture (ETC) is looking for more Christian families as hosts so that they can also be presented with the gospel.
Imagine what God might do if a Buddhist student found a saving faith in Jesus and returned to Vietnam to share the gospel with family and friends there. The Great Commission was given to us by Jesus about two thousand years ago yet here it is being lived out across multiple countries through the intentional use of an exchange student program.
That’s something we can pray for together to help Jesse and Bethel Baptist Church in this mission and if you would like to learn how easy it is to host a foreign exchange student, just get in touch with us and we will share your contact information with someone at ETC who will contact you.
By Scott Hilgendorff / Cowboys of the Cross
There’s no way out.
Once you answer God’s call into ministry, I’ve realized there’s no way to back out again.
We can argue the finer points of this; that there are times someone like a pastor is asked to step down from preaching. But that pastor, whatever mistake he has made, is not released from telling others about Jesus.
The Great Commission often comes up in studies. It’s a command from Jesus to go into the world and teach others about him.
Matthew 4:19-20 “Come, follow me,” Jesus said, “and I will send you out to fish for people.” 20 At once they left their nets and followed him.
This was the moment in the Bible when Jesus called the first disciples. In it’s simplest term, a disciple is someone who follows Christ.
Ranching and farming or being a rodeo competitor can be seen as jobs and careers but they are also ways of life. Because it’s such a way of life for us, it makes it hard to walk away from it. We still can though. We can sell the ranch or farm and retire to a tropical beach or we can retire our horse and no longer call in to the rodeos in order to have time with our growing families. Whatever the reason, we can still leave.
Being a Christian is a lifestyle. We are forever changed by the salvation we receive through Jesus, no longer seen by God as sinners. While God sees us as perfect, we still mess up, we still sin and we still make mistakes but we also experience a desire to become more like Jesus and to live out the instructions he gave to us.
Romans 14:8 For if we live, we live to the Lord, and if we die, we die to the Lord. So then, whether we live or whether we die, we are the Lord’s.
Whether we turn to Jesus or not, we belong to God but it’s through Jesus that we can spend an eternity with God in Heaven. Before our final day here though, when our salvation is real, we start following Jesus’ commands.
While we can walk away from our rodeo or ranching lifestyles, however hard that is to do, we can’t walk away from Jesus’s call on our lives. What we too often seen in our Christian communities is people ignoring this call. We know what we’re supposed to do, but few of us put down our nets and simply follow Jesus and his commands.
We can ignore or avoid it, but the Great Commission that directs us to tell others about Jesus, never ceases to be something we’re commanded. Yet some of us make it through this life without having ever told someone else about our saving faith in Jesus. There’s someone out there you can tell right now. Put down your net and tell them. We’ve started a monthly video series here at CowboysOfTheCross.com to help you understand discipleship. Look for the heading Riding for the Brand.
By Scott HIlgendorff / Cowboys of the Cross
National Day of the Cowboy is our chance to celebrate the cowboy culture and its rich and storied history from the expansion of the America west to the rise of ranching and rodeo. That event is celebrating at the end of every July through the efforts of a non-profit organization that even received recognition for the day from the federal government.
It’s a time to celebrate who we are as cowboys whether it’s the ranch foreman or the rodeo rider. And regardless of the profession, both sides of the industry come with strong cultural identities and a sense of pride. Most of us live and breathe what it means to be a ranch or rodeo cowboy. We may also see ourselves as fathers and mothers or artists and leather workers. The biggest parts of our lives often become what defines us and how we see and describe ourselves. There is such uniqueness to the professions in rodeo and ranch work that we adopt many parts of those lifestyles into our home lives from how we decorate to the pictures we put on the wall. We surround ourselves with paraphernalia that represents the cowboy culture.
But what about our Christianity?
Many of us do the same things, particularly with the image of a cross from one hanging around our necks to one hanging on the wall in our homes. Who we are in Christ should be the most important way we see ourselves because of our understanding of what it means to be a Christian.
1Peter 2:9 But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.
Wow, that’s just part of who I am as a follower of Jesus, forgiven for my sin by a saving faith in Jesus. By believing who Jesus was and is and by repenting of my sin and asking to be forgiven, I’m made right before God and seen by Him in the way Peter describes in that verse. Any sin, big or small in our eyes equally separates us from God. But through that saving faith in Jesus, we no longer face God’s judgment and wrath that condemns us to Hell, but are given a perfect eternity in Heaven.
When our faith is real, we begin to see ourselves more like Jesus and less like we used to be. We have a desire to become more like Jesus, learning from the Bible what’s asked of us and wanting to do that, not because it can earn us any more than the salvation we’ve received but because of our understanding of what has been given to us. How can we not want to be more like the one who saved us?
We may start to make different choices in how we live or treat people, but we don’t give up being cowboys; instead, we become something more with the Holy Spirit working within us.
Part 7 of 7 The Company You Keep
By Scott Hilgendorff / Cowboys of the Cross
The cowboy crowd in particular doesn’t seem to be fans of being told what to do.
But one of the reasons we’re asked to be intentional about who we spend time with is because of Jesus’s command we know as The Great Commission.
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, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”
Being surrounded by like-minded and experienced Christians can help us grow in our faith and can help us stay strong as we interact with the world around us to tell them about Jesus.
It’s one of a handful of very specific commands that Jesus gives along with a command to love others.
One of the most loving things we can do is tell them about Jesus.
As Christians, followers of Christ, we know that our sin separates us from God and that God is going to condemn it. We also know he made a way for all of us to be in His presence and that was through the death of Jesus on the cross. Jesus came to live perfectly among us but most importantly to be sacrificed to take the punishment meant for our sin so we could enter into Heaven and be with God.
God won’t let us in our presence as sinners but through a faith in Jesus, who he was and what he did for us on the cross and by repenting of our sin and asking to be forgiven of it, God will no longer see the sin our lives. Instead, He sees us as perfect.
Anyone who works with bulls, cattle or horses knows how easy it can be to be brought to sin in the form of anger so we rely on what we understand as grace—God’s forgiveness even though we don’t deserve it. We can’t earn it, we can only receive it from Jesus. But knowing we have this forgiveness should compel us to want others to have it too.
This is why as Christians, Jesus commands us to tell others about him but he also commands us to disciple others. As we are discipled, we also should be discipling others—teaching them what we know from Scripture.
We look back to earlier in Mark and see the work of being discipled begin.
Matthew 4:18-20 As Jesus was walking beside the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers, Simon called Peter and his brother Andrew. They were casting a net into the lake, for they were fishermen. 19 “Come, follow me,” Jesus said, “and I will send you out to fish for people.” 20 At once they left their nets and followed him.
The reason he called them to follow him was so that he could equip them to go out there and lead others to that saving faith in him so that they also could be trained and equipped. The very first disciple was called almost 2,000 years ago. You now being asked to do the same comes because someone shared the gospel and discipled me while somone else had shared the gospel and discipled that person and so on and so on stretching back all the way to that day Jesus called Peter and Andrew to walk away from their boats.
How cool is that?