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ABOUT US: Welcome to Cowboys of the Cross: your resource for Christian cowboys. Cowboys of the Cross has been providing cowboy church for the rodeo and cowboy community for more than 15 years. The website is your source for stories of faith and encouragement as well as devotions and news and information affecting cowboys of faith. Cowboys of the Cross leads cowboy church at rodeos and bull ridings in both Ontario, Canada and across the north and southeastern United States.   MORE ABOUT US HERE

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Time with God better in church or deer stand?

BOTH

Help Keep us on the road

By Scott Hilgendorff/Cowboys of the Cross

      My church is out in the pasture riding my horse.

     I feel closer to God in the river, fishing by myself, away from everyone.

     I pray more in my deer stand.

      For a lot of cowboys, being out in nature is a common experience because there's often a natural tie to the outdoors from hunting and fishing, farm work, ranching, cattle-raising, hiking and more. Most who live the cowboy lifestyle are at least in part, outdoorsmen.

 So it's only logical that the Christians in the crowd see that as a chance to spend some time with God.

Part of Matthew 6:6 tells us, But when you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret.”

One of the ways we're instructed to pray is in secret. The Pharisees, the religious elite, were criticized by Jesus for making a show of their prayers, calling attention to themselves and how great they were and close to God they were.

 Instead, Jesus says to have somewhere private to pray.

Out there by yourself in a pasture or sitting for hours in a deer stand makes for a great period of alone-time with God.

But that can't be the only time we spend with God.

There are a wide range of reasons cowboys and bull riders have for not wanting to be a part of church and, if we're being honest, the idea of being closer to God out in the wilderness, becomes a justification for not being in church.

We're called to do both.

The disciples began to spread the gospel and establish churches that worshiped God after Jesus' death and resurrection and the book of Acts documents much of this. The disciples were martyred (killed) for their work in spreading the church. That didn't happen because church was just a casual thing to participate in when we feel like it. The church we have today, when it is a true Bible-following church, is set up following a number of verses that teach us about church structure, leadership from teachers to elders, how to resolve conflicts and what our responsibilities are in coming together as a body of believers to worship God.

 To me, one of the most significant verses about the church though comes from Paul's teaching about marriage and the way a husband is to treat his wife.

Ephesians 5:25-27: Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish.

While the lesson in the verses is about marriage, the illustration is a very clear depiction of just how important the church is to Jesus. Christ loves the church, gave up his life to it and uses it to sanctify us (make us more holy and Christ-like).

Regardless of the experiences we've or other circumstances that keep us from church, those are pretty big reasons to be a part of one.

It's a both/and situation.

Out in the deer blind or standing in a river, talking to God in private? Absolutely. Do it more, do it often with the intention of spending time with God on your mind more than that buck or river trout.

Sunday morning, Tuesday night or whenever an organized church meets? Absolutely. Do it more, do it often with the intention of worshiping God on your mind more than that buck or river trout.


By Scott Hilgendorff/Cowboys of the Cross

When Kris Furr made Jesus the Lord of his life last month, he had no idea God would throw a challenge and learning opportunity at him just hours later.

It made it very clear that God was working in his life.

Kris, a bull fighter from Statesville, NC, was trying to sell his camper on Craig's list when he got a call from a guy who asked if Kris would consider trading the camper for the guy's van. It would have been at a $3,000 to $4,000 loss between the difference in the value of the van versus the camper but Kris was stuck—he had just made Jesus his lord and savior hours earlier and now he was being asked to help a family.

The man had explained to Kris that he and his wife had recently become homeless and were living in that van and a tent and he wanted to trade. The camper would give them a chance to have better accommodation, especially for their two kids that they were trying to home school.

But, $3,000 is a lot of money to give up when you're trying to make your living as a bull fighter, full time, traveling the roads to work events across the country for very little pay. In order to be the best at it and be one of the few to make it to the professional level and the pay scale that goes with it, you have to sacrifice a lot.

But, $3,000. Would God really be asking Kris to give the equivalent of that much money to total strangers? Was this a test from God?

Those are the questions he had for me when we talked about the situation.

The short answer, of course, was that God could very well be asking that of Kris.

“I always knew who God was but until today, I had never given my life to Him,” said Kris as we talked about his whole experience that day, leading up to the phone call.

Now he was afraid to make the wrong decision about the camper. We talked about the difference between feeling guilty or feeling the Holy Spirit's conviction, what the Bible teaches about giving sacrificially, what it can mean to follow Christ beyond that moment of salvation, being a good steward of the resources God gives you and how to know when God is answering prayer about what to do.

We also talked about how emotions can manipulate us and can be used by others to do the same—that he had to be careful.

In prayerfully seeking wisdom from God, Kris realized that a starting point would be to at least meet with the man who called and look into the story more.

When he did, praise God, Kris determined the story was a scam but also learned straight from scripture that he was willing to be obedient to God, even when it was difficult and it meant sacrifice.

And praise God, Kris and I are working out a study plan to dig deeper into God's word since being in church often is difficult for Kris as he's on the road so much.

 

Center Gate Story

By Scott Hilgendorff/Cowboys of the Cross

Most rodeos and bull ridings, if there isn't somewhere to lead cowboy church, you can almost be sure you will see a few guys getting together to pray or some praying on their own before the event starts. Only a few producers have fallen victim to the false but politically correct notion that prayer is offensive to the spectators and done away with the opening prayer.

Do you pray more than at a bull riding or rodeo? Do you pray before a meal? Do you pray before you go to sleep or when you start your day?

1Thessolonians 5: 16-18 Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God.

When Paul tells us to pray without ceasing, it sounds impossible. How can we be continually in prayer?

What we need to understand is that Paul is telling us to be ready to pray—to have a mind that is trained to turn thought to pray at any moment, not just those scheduled times like meals or before the rodeo. Our thoughts can always be mindful of God and involving Him in our daily life, reading to think or say a prayer to Him any time as the needs, praises and opportunities to talk to Him present themselves.

Just like muscle memory can help in a rodeo event or bull riding, we can train our thought-habits to be focused on God, ready to pray whenever it's needed.

Here are a few ways to help with this:

 1.) Many of us have traveling partners and we all have at least a few closer friends in the rodeo and bull riding communities. Partner with them to share prayer requests. It's often easier to remember to pray when we have someone else to pray for and for those of us who are newer to prayer, it sometimes feels easier to talk to God about someone else's needs than our own (though we should always be willing to bring our needs, worries or fears to God at any time). By having prayer partners, we can increase the opportunities we have to pray for one another and the more we are in the habit of praying, the more naturally it begins to come to us.

 2.) Make more scheduled times to pray in your routines. Before you leave for a rodeo or bull riding, whether on your own or with your traveling partners, stop before you put the car or truck in motion and pray. Not just about the event or for safe travels, but for those prayer requests your prayer partners have made, anything you have to be thankful to God for and anything you might want to share with Him. When you're traveling, it will feel awkward, but take turns praying for one another. Awkward or not, this is exactly what the disciples and their followers did. If you're traveling on your own or in a group, devote a portion of the trip to prayer time instead of smart-phone or music time. Find other ways to add prayer into your daily routines as well. How about after the rodeo in addition to before? How about scheduling an extra time for it each day and using your smart phone to remind you?

 3.) Most of us almost daily see prayer requests come through social media like Facebook, Snapchat and Twitter. Stop, right then and there and take a moment to pray for that request the moment you see it on your phone, tablet or computer screen. Use that as a moment to pray for others as well or again, to give God thanksgiving for what He has provided for you so far that day. When you have prayed for someone, message them privately to tell them so that you're not bragging about your prayer, but encouraging them by letting them know you saw their request for help, took the time to care about them that way and, most importantly, that they know you took their request to God who has heard those prayers on their behalf.

The more we make time to pray, the easier it gets for prayer and thoughts about God to become second nature and then, before we know it, we've developed a 'heart' for prayer and are living out what it means to be able to pray without ceasing.

How do you ‘pray without ceasing’?

Praise God, Cowboys of the Cross will be back in Ontario, Canada thanks to the willingness of bronc rider James Douma to serve along with his wife Jenn and son Mason.

The family will be attending rodeos in Ontario this summer and hosting cowboy church on the rodeo grounds at their trailer, mixed with food and fellowship, representing Cowboys of the Cross and their church, Disovery Church in Bowmanville, Ontario.

James and Scott met last spring at a bronc riding school in Ohio where Scott was leading a short Sunday morning service for the students at the school.

Since first talking about the idea of him leading cowboy church in Ontario, James was a little apprehensive but over the past year, he found encouragement  from his church and clear direction that God was leading him and his wife to minister at rodeos.

James, Jenn and Mason will mostly be serving at Rawhide Rodeo events where producer BJ Prince has also been encouraging of seeing ministry return there.

We'll have announcements on Facebook and through the Cowboys of the Cross website letting everyone know where James and Scott are this summer as Scott continues to minister in the United States. Scott first led cowboy church in Ontario with Rawhide before Cowboys of the Cross became a full time ministry and he moved to the United States to operate Cowboys of the Cross under LifeSong Family Church in Lewisburg, TN. While we have church affiliations, Cowboys of the Cross depends on the generous support of our donors. As we see the ministry grow and the work God continues to do through us, we thank you for your help keeping us heading down the road.

We couldn't be more excited to have James leading cowboy church in Ontario again. Please be sure to read his testimony below.

Cowboy church back in Ontario, Canada

thanks to James and Jenn Douma

Cowboys and bull riders use this verse all the time

yet it means so much more than we ever realize

By Jim Bull/Cowboys of the Cross

Jeremiah 29:11 “For I know the plans I have for you” declares the Lord “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”

Awesome! All I have to do is sit back and let God's plan happen to me and I'll be rich, successful, happy and healthy. Who could possibly ask for anything more? Oh, wait, I have to know the context of scripture? I can't assume every verse stands alone and speaks directly to me how I see fit? Matthew 4:4 But He answered, “It is written: Man must not live on bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.” Here Jesus clearly tells us that we cannot pick and choose the verses we like and only apply those to our lives. We must also chew on the meat of the Word; in other words, study the meaning of all the verses.

Joshua 1:8 This book of instruction must not depart from your mouth; you are to recite it day and night, so that you may carefully observe everything written in it. For then you will prosper and succeed in what ever you do. Again, we are told that it takes knowing every word and following those words to prosper and succeed.

 Now let's look back to Jeremiah 29:11. Why is this verse commonly misquoted? When we read this verse by itself it leads us to believe that God's plan is for each and every one of us to prosper and have hope and an implied great future. Yet when we read even the title of the chapter we find that Jeremiah is writing a letter to the exiled Isrealites that they are going to be punished for 70 years for their unfaithfulness to all of the Word of God. Then, after their time in exile, He is going to bring them back and let them prosper. Not quite the same thing as what we first thought, huh?

This is also stated in Jeremiah 29:4 ”This is what the Lord Almighty, the God of Isreal, says to all those I carried into exile from Jerusalem to Babylon.” Personally, God never carried me into exile from Jerusalem to Babylon.

Jeremiah had been telling the Isrealites for 40 years of the coming judgment and the need to repent their idolatrous behavior. However, there were false prophets telling of peace and prosperity. When we are being told of great things to come by some teacher and preachers, we tend to not listen to the possible negatives that may be coming from those that would teach God's word carefully, especially if what we are doing is what we like or want to do. It was the same then as it is now and will continue to be. The Isrealites were not believing that Babylon was where the danger would come from; after all, Assyria and Egypt were a lot bigger threats at the time. This is another reason Jeremiah wasn't believed. But it was to come that Babylon became one of the greatest powers in the world and they captured the Isrealites and took them into slavery in Babylon.

If we think on this and put ourselves in their shoes, Jerusalem and its Temple have been destroyed, those not taken into slavery are leaving everything behind and leaving. Even being separated from family. Things looked really bad for them. But God sends this letter of hope and promise through Jeremiah telling them that He will bring them back after their punishment is finished and they return to Him in their hearts. For now they need to continue on as a people and continue to grow and multiply. Pretty powerful stuff considering Jeremiah is more believable now that his earlier prophecy has come to pass.

What does this have to do with Christians today? One thing that it shows us is that God really doesn't like us to be idolatrous. He was serious about that commandment (as well as the others). Another aspect we can learn from this is about God's character. It is in Psalm 62:8 that we read “Trust in Him at all times, O people; pour out your hearts before Him; God is a refuge for us. Selah.” which shows God's unending love for us; that He is where we should have our hearts at all times and where we should go in prayer when the things of this world overwhelm us. Hebrews 13:8 Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever. I don't think it can get any clearer than that. We can confidently root our faith in Him that is everlasting and unchanging.

Ephesians 2:4-5 “But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ – by grace you been saved.”

 I hope now you understand that the bible must be read and studied to know you are using the correct verses you need to be using to strengthen your relationship with God and not wasting your time listening to false prophets that will lead you down the path to exile.

With this I would like to challenge you to take a few moments to think about areas you know you have sinned and admit that to God. Take time to be specific and ask God to help you refrain from committing these sins again. Then ask God to forgive you of those sins and to keep them behind you so that you may move forward without them. Go forth and actively seek the knowledge God spoke into the Word of the Bible.


Part One

Hey everyone, my name is James Douma. I have been involved with the rodeo for the past three years. I am a full time firefighter in Ontario during the week and ride bucking horses on the weekend. I am married to an amazing woman named Jenn and together we have a little boy, Mason.

Growing up I figured I was your every day average Christian. I grew up in a Christian home,  read my Bible, prayed every day and attended church every week. Life was great. My family did all kinds of things together. We camped, went fishing, hiking, we built all kinds of forts and tree houses together. We even took care of the livestock and farm chores together.

When I was in my early teens my parents started experiencing difficulty in their marriage. We ended up selling the farm and moving to a small town in hopes that the lighter work load would help patch things up. That didn’t end up working and a year later they split up and my dad moved out. It was a major shock to me and my siblings. Things just started to fall apart from there.

At 17 I started going to school (we were homeschooled up until then). I started hanging out with fairly questionable peers mainly because I didn’t really have any Christian friends. Slowly my morals and values started to slip and I found myself saying and doing things I had always said I wouldn’t.

 I felt my parents really didn’t care about us anymore, even though deep down I knew they did, so I stopped caring about everyone and everything else but myself. My relationship with God at this point was limited to a quick prayer before food and bed, if I even remembered, and attending church out of obligation.

In the summer of 2009, my poor choices and actions finally caught up with me and ended up  nearly costing me the only thing that mattered to me, my relationship with my girlfriend, Jenn.

To my absolute disbelief she forgave me for my indiscretions and together we decided to try and make things work. The only problem was we had no idea where to start. It was at this point in our discussion that my brother, who I hadn’t talked to in weeks, called me up and invited us out to his church. Reluctantly we agreed to come out Sunday.

I found that the people in this church accepted me for who I was, even though many knew of my history and the way I had been treating others. Their support along with actually hearing and applying the sermons to my life helped me want to change. I started praying and reading my bible more regularly and started to make friends who would build me up instead of tearing me down.

 It wasn’t long before Jenn and I became members of that church. For the first time in many years things started to look up.

Since recommitting our lives to God and His plan for our lives we have had many ups and  downs, struggles, temptations and joys. Living for God and trusting in His promises has given me joy and peace like I have never experienced before. Even though I continually let God down, He forgives me and blesses me so richly. I have found committing my life to God is tough, but following my own will and trying to do things on my own is a whole lot harder.

James Douma

TESTIMONY

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