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

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

By Scott Hilgendorff / Cowboys of the Cross

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

By Scott Hilgendorff / Cowboys of the Cross

Without Jesus, we’re cursed.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

#Blessed Part 4 – The ‘blessing’ that comes through grace

#Blessed Part 4 – The ‘blessing’ that comes through grace

    You see things in our world today – especially on social media – like, “Won the round tonight! #blessed” or, “Thank God I’m blessed to live in America;” or someone will say, “Have a blessed day!” or (for the Southerners here), “Bless her heart!” We use this term blessed much the same as we use the word love: it has different meanings at different times. While I don’t think it’s bad or wrong to use this word, I think we need to make sure in using it that we don’t cheapen the word itself.

    When you see this word blessed today, it always seems to go with some earthly prosperity. We rarely see someone including a blessed hashtag on a post that reads, “Got called out for my sin, which led to repentance,” or, “Got bucked off at the two-second mark,” or, “Had a bunch of cows going great until we hit a hole in the fence and now I have to spend the rest of my day getting them out of the neighbor’s pasture and fixing fence!” Even though I know that all things work together for the good of those who love the Lord (Rom. 8:28), I must confess that “I’m so blessed” isn’t the first thing to come to my mind when I’m trying to get stubborn cows up a wooded draw.

    And in some cases, the person saying he is blessed when earthly prosperity does appear, doesn’t even know from whom the “blessing” is coming. He could be attributing it to the Christian God of the Bible or falsely to an unknown “higher power,” a god of another religion, or just the universe itself. Now you might wonder why God would give good gifts to people who don’t give him credit. If I trust God, shouldn’t I get blessings in the form of health, wealth, and prosperity? Well, to answer that question in short: no.

    When you become a Christian, you come to realize that you are a sinner, an enemy of God who deserves nothing but His wrath (Rom. 3:23, Rom. 6:23). This wrath is not limited to earthly death, but results in eternal damnation. However, God – in His goodness and mercy through Jesus Christ’s work on the cross (Rom. 3:24-26, Rom. 5) – gives you grace (something undeserved and which cannot be earned) in salvation. He opens your eyes to who He really is and enables you to trust Him as Lord and Savior.

    Scripture tells us that God extends His grace on all people during their earthly lives by giving them life and livelihoods (Eccl. 9:1-2, Matt. 5:45). This is called common grace. While common grace is extended to all mankind, it is still dangerous to assume that someone who is always having a great time, is therefore “blessed” by God. In God’s gift of salvation, He gives eternal grace which far exceeds any temporal gifts He may give in this world. Now this is a blessing!

    In the previous articles here, the Sermon on the Mount has been an important text, and it’s a good passage refer back to. In Matthew 5:3-12, I think it’s safe to say Christ is describing a believer as a recipient of blessing. Reading this list, the person doesn’t seem very “blessed” by our culture’s standards, does he? It’s because we have this “common grace = blessing” mindset. The world is all about the here and now, but that’s not how God operates. We focus on winning the next bull or bronc ride, getting that heel shot, utilizing that pasture to get a few more pounds on my calves come sale time, making the wisest decision about keeping or selling that extra hay. These are all good and right things to think about. The Bible is full of passages on being productive in whatever place God has us. Whether you win the round or miss your mark, the market jumps right before sale time or plummets; we need to remember God’s work in a believer’s life is on an eternal timetable. As a famous pastor put it, “being a Christian isn’t believing in God; it’s believing God.”

Regardless of all those variables the blessing of eternal grace is available to all who repent and believe in Christ, the only way of salvation.

What we really mean is #THANKFUL and that’s a great way to be

What we really mean is #THANKFUL and that’s a great way to be

By Scott Hilgendorff / Cowboys of the Cross

What do we really mean when we say we’re “blessed” or use the #Blessed hashtag?

For most of us, we actually mean we’re thankful for what we have.

When we use the word, “blessed” the wrong way, our intentions are absolutely good, but we run the risk of confusing people about the love God has for them.

If you just won the bull riding, barrel race or team roping, the first instinct of most cowboy and cowgirls is to acknowledge how blessed they are to say what a blessing it was. We say that about most anything that impacts us positively, not realizing that someone who is struggling and going through one of the trials God can let us experience can be left wondering what they’ve done wrong, why God doesn’t seem them as worthy of a break or wonder if they have any faith.

For someone who doesn’t already believe in God or is struggling to understand the Christian faith, it can leave them very confused about whether or not God loves or even cares about that.

We want them to come to a saving faith in Jesus, so we do have to take the confusion this can cause very seriously.

Some of us overlook the verses about finding joy in trials or the sermon on the mount that tells us we’re blessed when we struggle and most of us don’t understand that the struggles we face are opportunities to experience God’s blessing because at their root is an opportunity to seek God’s strength and wisdom and ultimately grow closer to Him. That is a true blessing.

But when we recognize it was through God that we received the gifts, the wins, the successes and every good thing we have, what we need to express is our thanks.

The Bible is filled with Scripture about finding joy in the Lord and being thankful. Here are three verses that describe a thankful heart just from Psalms:

Psalm 7:17 I will give to the Lord the thanks due to his righteousness, and I will sing praise to the name of the Lord, the Most High.

Psalm 9:1 “I will give thanks to you, Lord, with all my heart; I will tell of all your wonderful deeds.”

Psalm 118: 29 “Give thanks to the Lord for he is good, his love endures forever.”

And in Ephesians, Paul is encouraging in this part of his letter to the church in Ephesus that they avoid sin, celebrate the Lord with joy and then encourages them to be thankful in everything.

Ephesians 5:20 Always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.

We see Paul encourage thankfulness again in Philippians to his letter to that church as well, encouraging us not to worry but to trust God and always be prayerful and thankful in every situation.

Philippians 4: 6 Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.

That again points us to how there can be good in a struggle and how by changing the language we use when we’re thankful, we can help others to understand blessings can both be wonderful gifts from God but can come through struggles and hardship.

By working to start using the term, “thankful” we can remind ourselves to be thankful to God in all our circumstances, we can point others to the joy we have in our saving faith in Jesus when they see our thankfulness in the good and what we might see as ‘bad’ until we realize God is using that for His purpose and our ultimate good.

1 Thessalonians 5: 16-18 16 Rejoice always,17 pray continually,18 give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.

#Thankful for God challenging us through His word.

Being persecuted can show us we’re blessed

Being persecuted can show us we’re blessed

By Scott Hilgendorff / Cowboys of the Cross

How on Earth can being poor in spirit, acting meek, being persecuted or suffering personal loss mean we’re blessed?

It can be signs in our life that we belong to Jesus, have been reconciled with God and are looking toward a time, not long from now, that we will be living a perfect life in Heaven where neither the successes we achieved here or the struggles we went through, will matter anymore.

Our culture tells us the opposite. We daily throw out the hashtag “#blessed” on social media when we win, have something great happen to us or just want to say how happy we are the way a circumstance unfolded or with a gift or way we were treated kindly be a friend or family member.

Those are great things to be thankful for but Matthew gives us a list of blessings from what is known as Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount and in those, we see a long list of blessings that are anything but what we normally associate a blessing with.

Matthew 5:3-12

Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

4 “Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.

5 “Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.

6 “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.

7 “Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy.

8 “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.

9 “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.

10 “Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

11 “Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. 12Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.

Verse 3 Poor in spirit means to realize we need God. To not rely on our own strength but to realize we’re dependent on him and to set aside any pride to be willing to receive his help. Pride is one of the biggest reasons a cowboy won’t turn to Jesus for the salvation He offers because it feels like having to give up who we are and not allow Christ in us to change us.

Verse 4 In our grief, we can find comfort so it is considered a blessing but while grief and comfort can come through a personal loss, it can also be grief over our sin and our desire to be right with God.

Verse 5 Being meek, we still have everything to gain (Meekness is explained in important detail in a second section below).

Verse 6 Hungering for righteousness can be a sign of our salvation or our desire to be saved. When we receive forgiveness for our sins through Jesus’ death on the cross and our repentance, and faith in his resurrection, we are immediately made righteous before God. Jesus was a sacrifice to pay the price for our sins. Without Jesus, we can’t be seen as righteous. To seek Jesus, to be saved and to want to be more like him, righteous, brings about a pretty big blessing in our lives.

Verse 7 To be merciful is to show to others what God showed to us through Jesus. We deserve death. That’s just how sin and the nature of God works. God will judge and condemn all sin but He shows us tremendous and amazing mercy by sending Jesus to die for our sins so that if we seek him with a repentant heart, asking to be forgiven and believing he was the Son of God who died for our sins to then be resurrected again, we are granted mercy from God’s judgment of sin. Instead of being condemned to Hell, we are given eternal life and eternal happiness with God and Jesus in Heaven. So how then, can we not show mercy to others who may not deserve it from us? And how can we receive mercy if we’re not willing to give it to others?

Verse 8 Being pure of heart would require all our sin to be gone from our lives. While that will never be obtained, again it is Jesus’ death on the cross that makes a way for God to see us without any of the sin that remains as we begin a process of becoming more like Christ. But to see the face of God, guys, this is huge. It’s through our salvation that we can know we will get to see Him, be awestruck by it all and know we are being received by Him for a perfect eternity. We really need to stop and think about that to understand the true blessing that that is.

Verse 9 Being a peacemakers includes the understanding that we have obtained peace with ourselves, our sin nature, and God. When we have this, we know that we are part of God’s family, reconciled to Him through Jesus

Verses 10 to 12 show us that we can expect to be persecuted for being Christians. We see this in our current culture through people losing their jobs for expressing their faith publicly and in countries around the world where people are murdered, executed or imprisoned for their faith the same as they were 2,000 years ago when these words were first written.

When we set our own wants and goals aside and pursue what God wants for us, we can find true blessings, even when it involved struggles, hardship and pain.

Much of the blessings that Jesus taught here point to outcomes from our salvation. We’re blessed not by what we can accomplish here or what we are given, even when we know it’s a material gift or success coming from God, but by what Jesus accomplished for us through dying on the cross. The changes it brings to our lives, the fruit that appears as we grow more like Christ and the joy that can come even in a struggle, to know that this is temporary and a perfect, eternal life has been given to us who have repented of our sin and sought a saving faith in Jesus.

A little extra about meekness–it isn’t want you think either 

Just like we can easily misunderstand what it means to be blessed, there is a huge misunderstanding about meekness.

As rodeo cowboys, ranch cowboys or bull riders, you understand what it means to be tough and the idea of being meek is often associated with being weak.

Instead, think about it as strength under tight control. That isn’t easy.

Jesus had the power of God on Earth. He healed the sick and diseased and worked many miracles. But they were for the benefit of others. To restore them, help them, heal them and most importantly, to show them he was who he said he was. God among us, here to die for us and through his death, save us from eternal separation from God by our sins that would see us judged and condemned to hell. Through understanding we sin and seeking forgiveness through our faith in who Jesus was and is, we could be saved.

Jesus had the power to prevent himself from going to that cross but his death there served us. He put us before his own life.

For us, meekness is not using our strength for personal gain but to help others. It’s about being humble and in that humbleness, finding blessings from God.

BLESSED Part 1 Have hope, the blessing can be in the struggle

BLESSED Part 1 Have hope, the blessing can be in the struggle

By Scott Hilgendorff / Cowboys of the Cross


It’s arguably the most common hashtag used among Christian cowboys and bull riders but it’s also arguably the most misunderstood.

We place first, we get good results from the doctor, we celebrate an anniversary with our wife or girlfriend or we receive a gift worth sharing with everyone on social media and we immediately tell everyone with the accompanying hashtag or a comment about how blessed we are.

Let’s be clear, it’s not wrong to do that. Our friends care about us and, when we’re walking in Christ, they can celebrate with us. There aren’t too many bull riders or rodeo cowboys who don’t celebrate another guy’s win and they’re going to watch the video you post with the status: “God blessed me with a win tonight. My slump is over.”

There’s a hidden danger here that has greater impact than we realize because of how often we associate material successes and rewards with blessings.

The same beliefs we follow in Scripture are the same beliefs that are followed by Christians living in Nigeria where members of the Fulani people now outpace Isis and Boko Haram for attacks on Christians.

Where is the blessing if members of your family were murdered in their church by a group of Fulani raiders that came through your village and burned down your homes?

It’s there. It’s in hardship that we actually find a deeper understanding of what it means to be blessed.

James 1:12 Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial.

Throughout scripture, we see blessings associated with hardship or lower standing compared to our culture, not success.

But when we associate blessings with success, we are unintentionally creating a false idea that when we’re struggling, God is somehow not there for us. It creates questions for people. Where is God when you your cancer is healed but I’ve got three weeks to live?

It’s here that we need God the most, when the cancer comes, when the bills are due and you lost your job and haven’t won money at a rodeo in weeks or your girlfriend empties out the house and leaves while you’re on a three-day run two states away.

In our culture, we’ve taught ourselves not to feel very blessed when life isn’t going our way and other cultures, that observe ours, are taught to pursue God to receive the gains we have when our country’s poorest are still seen as rich compared to them.

The misunderstanding of what blessings are can actually take our eyes off of God but when we understand what they are, they show us how much we need and depend on Him.

When we remain steadfast, refuse to waiver or back down as we fight through a trial, we have an opportunity to rely on God for that strength. It is in that dependence on God that we are able to grow closer to Him, become more Christ-like and it is in that way that we are blessed.

A very quick look at part of the Sermon on the Mount that Jesus delivers as seen in Matthew shows us more of this dependence on God and shift away from material blessings. (We’ll get into more detail on these verses in a later part of this series.)

Matthew 5:3-12 Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

4 “Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.

5 “Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.

6 “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.

7 “Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy.

8 “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.

9 “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.

10 “Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

11 “Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. 12 Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.

For example, in verse 4, we see a blessing come when we are mourning or grieving—that in those hard times, our blessing can come in the comfort we find in relying on God.

Even more, we are told we can rejoice in being persecuted for our faith because the greatest rewards aren’t in material blessings here but in what is yet to come as we prepare for an eternity and perfect life in Heaven.

It’s on that understanding that we have to rely on when standing up for our faith costs us our job, a more common form of persecution in western culture right now, or when our African village is destroyed by another religion that hates us.

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