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ABOUT US: Welcome to Cowboys of the Cross: your resource for Christian cowboys. Cowboys of the Cross is the new home for Riding for Christ Ministries, providing cowboy church and outreach to the rodeo and cowboy community for more than 10 years. The new web site 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 also serves to minister to rodeo cowboys and bull riders by traveling to rodeos, bull ridings and equine events across Canada and the United States. Learn more about us here:   MORE ABOUT US HERE

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Center Gate Story

Strengthening your grip

Bull rider prepares to go overseas

to fight ISIS with Christian Kurds

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By Scott Hilgendorff/Cowboys of the Cross

1 Thesssalonians 5:6-8 “Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus.”   

Moving into the Bible belt, I honestly thought I'd see a lot more evidence of Christianity beyond the huge number of churches there are.   

You hear so much about this place or that place being the 'buckle” of the belt which creates the expectation that you'll see more outward signs of Christianity. And for sure you can be in public places and overhear a churchy conversations. However,    the greatest evidence I hear of Christian faith comes from the physical presence of mission organizations like homeless shelters or attacks against Christians in the news and our own efforts to defend the attack.     

Absolutely, there is evidence of the faith all around that goes unseen of neighbors helping neighbors but it always stands out to me how rarely I see people pray before a meal in a crowded restaurant.   

To keep prayer

 at rodeo, just pray

By Scott Hilgendorff/Cowboys of the Cross

Watching images of Christians being burned alive in the news, bull rider Branden Ramsey decided he couldn't sit back any longer.

“I have to do something. If we don't stop them over there, we're going to be fighting them here,” said, Ramsey who completed three tours in Iraq before leaving the Army a couple years ago. He researched online how to make connections with forces in Iraq and surrounding countries that are fighting ISIS.

“I've got a lot of experience to offer and am going to help train Kurdish Christians,” said Ramsey who expects to leave in the next couple weeks when his passport arrives.

The details he provided on the passport application prompted visits to himself, friends and family from the FBI verifying he wasn't attempting to leave to fight against the United States.

Ramsey and I connected a couple years ago at a bull riding in  Cincinnati where he came up to me after cowboy church and showed me the tattooed letters he had on his knuckles that spelled out, “forgiven” when he put his fists together.

We've been in touch on-again and off-again through email and seeing each other at bull ridings and he's shared with me his struggles with alcoholism and post traumatic stress disorder both of which he's sought treatment for at different times.

On his tours, Ramsey, said, “I kicked down doors in raids, did route clearance looking for ieds (improvised explosive devices), convoy security, taking people different place and protecting them, foot patrols, pretty much everything.”

Now, the Port Clinton, Ohio bull rider wants to take that experience and help train others in a Christian Kurdish unit in the Middle East or be involved in direct combat, whatever it is that they need him to do.

He sees being able to train and fight for other Christians there as a mission trip and honestly, it makes sense to me as much as I would hate to see him endure any more than he already has in combat situations.

Part of my own call into ministry came through hearing preachers talking about how God would use you through your life experiences and with the people and places God has placed you. For me, rodeo was a natural fit because it was the industry I was working in.

For Ramsey, as frightening or hard as it could be for some of us to understand, this is what he knows and where he believes he can help.

We spoke by phone last week where I felt like I was grilling him a little to understand his reasons for doing this and he truly feels like this is a call from God to be involved and do what he can to help. He said he has been praying about this and asking God to close any doors if this isn't the right thing to do.

Even visits from the FBI have left the door open for him to go and Ramsey said being in countries where alcohol is prohibited, he believes will help his sobriety as well.

Obviously this is something he would appreciate much pray for between issues with alcohol, being sure he's following God, for easy travels in connecting with the unit he would be working with and safety while he is there.

Read the full devotion HERE

Please Consider Giving

 By Scott Hilgendorff/Cowboys of the Cross

In an effort to keep up a positive attitude, we sometimes end up treating the authors of the Bible as motivational speakers.

We grab hold of a scripture without knowing the context of who it was written to and why, not really understanding what it means. A popular one is Jeremiah 29:11 For I know the plans I have for you, declares the LORD, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope. plans to prosper you.

It sounds great as a Facebook status or on a mug sold in a Christian bookstore, but we use it without thinking that it was written to the Israelites who had been exiled to Babylon for continually following false gods. God was telling them He was going to keep His word and restore to them all He had originally promised when they left Egypt. It isn't about promising us wealth today. But it is still an important message because it shows us, here and now, that God keeps His promises. His promise to us isn't financial success or rodeo wins, it's a promise of eternal life through His son, Jesus Christ.

In our effort to grab hold of what sounds positive or encouraging, we often short-change what the Bible is.

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.

How much more than some motivational verses is that? The Bible is meant for everything we do.

 Some of us will have heard the Bible described as God's living word to us. This is one of the verses that gives us that understanding when it describes the Bible as “God-breathed”, meaning God brought it to life; meaning the Bible is as relevant now as the original documents were thousands of years ago.

Then we learn the Bible is perfect for correction and teaching and preparing us for every good action we might carry out in this world. If we're following God's plan for our lives, we're going to find instruction in how to carry that out in His living word. Part of His plan is for us to carry out the Great Commission, which is sharing the gospel and making disciples to the ends of the Earth.  We learn how to do this through God's living word.

It's so much more than a source of motivation; it's our instruction manual for how to know Christ and how to live like Him. It prepares us to live a life for God and shows us how to be used by Him to do good and point others to Christ.

It's not wrong to want to encourage one another with Bible verses but we're better served learning what they truly mean and then teaching those truths to others—the most important being who Jesus is and how we can be made right with God through Him.

Let’s not short-change God’s living word

Part 1 of our new series encouraging digging deeper into the Bible

Relationship is the most important part

By Jesse Horton/Cowboys of the Cross

I rode bulls semi-professionally for 10 years.  I had a great time.  I got busted up a few times.  I won a handful of buckles.  All in all, I’d say it was a positive experience.  However, the things I value the most from those 10 years are the relationships with which I was blessed.  Some of my most favorite memories are when we piled four people in a three-seat truck and then had to pull over get our rigging bags out of the back when the rain started.  I’ll never know how we managed not to get pulled over…it must’ve looked like a truck full of luggage driving itself!

Likewise, the most important aspect of faith in Jesus is relationship; primarily our relationships with the God of the universe through the atoning sacrifice of his Son.  Genesis 3:8 indicates that it was common for God to fellowship with Adam and Eve in the garden.  God paraded all of the creatures of the universe in front of Adam to name them as he saw fit.  The CREATOR was at Adam’s beckon call.  You know how we all have that moment when we say, “When I get to heaven, I’m going to ask God…”  Well, Adam and Eve had that!  Imagine the questions they must have asked…and in turn the knowledge they gained!  But then, sin happened.  Adam and Eve doubted God’s intentions and ability to give them all good things, so they decided to “play god” for themselves.  God would not allow our sinfulness to cohort with his holiness, so Adam and Eve were cast out of the garden.  We have been separated from fellowship with God ever since.

Thankfully, God had a plan to reconcile us to himself…to restore our broken relationship.  We are all familiar with Romans 6:23…”the wages of sin is death…”  But if that’s all you get from that, you missed the point!  The last half of that verse is the important part…”but the gift of God is eternal life through Christ Jesus our Lord.”  The Old Testament and Mosaic law (Moses…10 Commandments) are examples to us that we are doomed in the power of our flesh to sinfulness and to suffer the wages of our sin.  Countless times, the people of Israel would try hard, do good for a short period of time, then fail and wallow in their sin until a prophet called them to repentance…then they would repeat the process.  We simply aren’t strong enough, disciplined enough, or good enough to keep God’s laws without error.  And God, being just, must punish sin.  Think of this: if someone blatantly shot and killed someone you love – your mother, wife, brother, child, etc. – would you want the judge to forgive the shooter and send them on their way, or would you want justice?  God is a just God!  And our sin must be judged.  God has promised that whoever would believe in the name of Jesus would be saved…the believer’s sin has been judged when Jesus was crucified on the cross.  He suffered the wages of sin, even though he had not sinned himself.  He was the perfect sacrificial lamb, and God saw fit to accept his death in place of yours.  Now, we who were once dead in our sins and transgressions against God are made alive because we do not serve a dead, rotting corpse…we serve a risen Savior!  Being the firstborn from the dead and the only being in existence is both completely righteous and has suffered (and defeated death), he reaches into the grave and takes the hand of all who will reach for him while stretching his other hand to the Father and pulls us back together.  It is through this action that we can once again have a relationship with God.

To achieve this, we must have a daily relationship with Jesus.  Cognitive belief that Jesus is God/God’s Son who died on the cross for our sins and was raised on the third day is not enough.  Salvation is evidenced by baptism of the Holy Spirit (a.k.a. Jesus coming into your heart).  The Holy Spirit has two functions: 1) To pray to God for you when you don’t know what or how to pray and 2) to make you more like Jesus.  Either you are a child of God and are becoming more like Jesus little by little or you are still lost in your sin and dangerously close to spending eternity separated from God and all that is good.

It takes relationship.  In Matthew 7:23, Jesus says of people who have cast out demons, performed miracles, and done mighty works in Jesus’ name, “Depart from Me, you workers of iniquity.  I never knew you.”  Now, these people have a really impressive résumé by any standard…and they’re going to hell because Jesus doesn’t know them.  Now, Jesus is God, right?  So he is literally their Creator who knows the number of hairs on their heads.  I think it’s a safe bet he knows everything about them.  The problem is that he doesn’t know them the way I know my wife…we talk daily, laugh together, cry together, love one another (sometimes even unselfishly), and fight like cats and dogs on occasion.  We do life together and know one another intimately.  That’s what Jesus says you need to do with him in order to go to heaven.  

Let’s take the marriage analogy a little further.  God’s relationship with the nation of Israel is often compared to a marriage with God as the husband and Israel as the wife.  Jesus’ relationship with the church is often described in that same light, with the church being his bride.  Ephesians 5:25-26 says that Jesus died to make the church holy.  The Husband gave his life to make his bride holy.  In much the same way, our relationships are intended to sanctify us (make us holy); all relationships, but especially our marital relationships and our relationship with Jesus.  Intimate relationships cause us to acknowledge selfish habits and expectations and either deal with them accordingly or risk dissolving the relationship to continue our self-serving ways.  At the heart of all sin is idolatry whereby we make a god of self.

Paul speaks in Hebrews of Christians who are drinking spiritual milk – baby Christians.  Their understanding of the gospel is simple, as it should be: Christ crucified to reconcile us to God through faith in Jesus.  However, to know anything of righteousness we must begin to eat spiritual meat.  That is the purpose of this devotional material: that you would go beyond simply knowing the basics of the gospel and progress into a meaningful LIFE-CHANGING relationship with the God of the universe through his Son, Jesus Christ.  May you be blessed in your pursuit of this worthy goal!


TESTIMONY

I recieved a message from Scott asking me to write my testimony for Cowboys of the Cross, I was stopped in my tracks for a few minutes; the irony, I was talking on the phone at that time to a pastor friend of mine, Don Mayberry. He was asking if I would announce a bull ride for their cowboy church so I stopped him in midsentence and asked, “How do you write your testimony?”

He said to just start typing and it will come; it was that simple.

I was born and raised in a Christian farming and cattle

Read the full Testimony HERE

Storm Denison,

Wichita, KS

Rodeo Announcer