Don’t be a Christian gunsel

Don’t be a Christian gunsel

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.

Queen or struggling horse owner, we all submit to God’s authority

Queen or struggling horse owner, we all submit to God’s authority

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.

Rodeo and exchange students could share the gospel around the world

Rodeo and exchange students could share the gospel around the world

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.

There’s no way out but that’s a good thing

There’s no way out but that’s a good thing

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.

First we need to become disciples ourselves

First we need to become disciples ourselves

Part 6 of 7 The Company You Keep

By Scott Hilgendorff / Cowboys of the Cross

Just like bull riders will tell you that to get better, you want to be surrounded by better bull riders, we know that the Bible teaches us there are times we have to be careful who we tie ourselves to. If we spend all our time with unbelievers, we can see our own faith suffer. At the same time, we have to spend time with unbelievers in order to share the gospel with them—how to be saved from the punishment meant for our sin by a belief in Jesus Christ, repenting of our sin and asking to be forgiven.

But before we can worry about finding the balances there, we first need to become disciples.

John 8:31-32 So Jesus said to the Jews who had believed in Him, “If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”

Jesus tells us that when we have truly become a Christian—a follower of Jesus—then we will ‘abide’ in his word. That means that we will live it out. Our desire to do that is the proof of our salvation.

While there is a lot to being a disciple that the average Christian seems to ignore throughout the New Testament, we know that in its simple form, a disciple is someone who follows Jesus.

In rodeo, most of us have successful cowboys and bull riders who we follow to learn their style, techniques and how they became successful.

Jesus tells us that we will live out his word but he knows we don’t immediately know or understand everything there is in the Bible.

That’s why, even though Jesus calls us disciples, we still need to be discipled.

The Great Commission in Matthew 28:19-20 tells his disciples to go into the world and make make more disciples with clear instructions to teach others about what Jesus taught them. That means right now, there are people out there with knowledge and wisdom we haven’t achieved yet who are following, or should be following, the command to make disciples. There are people we need to have teaching us what they know from the Bible.

At the same time, we read our Bibles on our own, attend church services, learn where we can and pray in order to learn and put to practice what it means to live out our faith.

And Jesus tells us it isn’t going to be easy.

Luke 9:23 And he said to all, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.

There can be a cost to following Jesus and while there is much we can study on being disciples and what it means to follow Jesus, we’re focused right now on making sure we have the right people in our lives to be successful followers of Christ.

By linking with other believers who are more mature and experienced in their faith than we are, we can be discipled by them while we also begin the process of teaching others about Jesus. As we learn, we teach, regardless of how experienced we are. If I’ve just started learning how to throw a rope and you teach me a better way to guide my loop to the roping dummy’s head, it doesn’t matter whether I’ve won a rodeo or even entered one; once you’ve taught me how to do that much, I can teach someone else that much too.

(Supporting photo of the Bible provided by John-Mark Smith of Lviv, Ukraine)

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