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
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 Jesse Horton / Cowboys of the Cross
I find myself in awe moment by moment as I contemplate the consistent love of God. In fact, because God is immutable (he does not change; Malachi 3:6), in everything we know to be an attribute of God he is consistent. He is consistent because attributes, unlike characteristics or qualities, tell us who God is – not how he behaves (for instance, “God is love,” 1 John 4:8,16). Neither the passing of time, the changing of circumstances, nor our own back and forth responses to God change him in any way; God is who he is apart from any outside influence…otherwise, he would not be God.
And the Apostle John was absolutely correct – God is love! In fact, if we accept that Jesus Christ is the fullest revelation of God (Col. 2:9; Heb. 1:1-3), then the way Jesus reveals God to us is of the utmost importance. And how did Jesus reveal God? As the loving Father! Jesus frequently referred to God as his Father, but he also encouraged his disciples to pray to our Father; that means as God is to Jesus, so he can be to his followers!
Many attempt to explain God primarily as the Creator, Ruler, and Sustainer of the universe, and indeed, he is! However, Jesus revealed God first and foremost as our loving Father! “Father, I desire that they also, whom you have given me, may be with me where I am, to see my glory that you have given me because you loved me before the foundation of the world” (John 17:24, emphasis mine). Before God ever created, he was the eternal, immutable Father loving his Son. So much theology hangs on this fact. In fact, I’d say this needs to be the bedrock foundation for how you understand God – He is the eternal loving Father. To be eternally a Father means God has always had a Son, and so that Son must also be eternal, and if eternal, then also God! And since God is spirit, he gives all that he has to his Son; anointing the Son with his Holy Spirit is how the Father loves his Son. And if the Father’s love for his Son is eternal (and it is since the Father didn’t begin to love the Son but has always loved the Son), then the mode of that love (which is prior to any creative act) is also God; “God is love”!
Some of us in the cowboy culture didn’t grow up with the best fathers and it can make it hard to understand the full depth of what all of this means. It means something great for all of, us even if we were raised with the best father imaginable.
So, when we begin our understanding of God with the foundational attribute that God is a loving Father, all other Christian teaching can fit neatly together without contradiction and without downplaying God as some inwardly-focused sovereign who demands the obedience of his subjects. Above, we explained the reason God is Trinity. We can explain why a loving Father would create and give life to something other than himself. We can understand the mercy of a loving and holy Father on his wayward children. We can understand why the loving Father’s wrath against sin is severe because sin hurts his children and separates them from his love. We can even understand why a just and loving Father would separate rebellious, sinful children from the children whose desire is to live in submission to his kingdom.
God loves you, and if you are in Christ, he loves you with the same love Jesus has experienced for all of eternity. How wonderful! How beautiful! How amazing that the God who is all in all has set his affection on us! How can your heart not leap inside your chest at this great and wonderful truth!
Won’t you praise him with me today for his unspeakable love toward us? Won’t you join me in bringing the loving rule and reign of his Fatherly kingdom to our neighbors and to the earth? Hallelujah! God is love!
By Scott Hilgendorff / Cowboys of the Cross
Draw a picture of a horse. Mine will look more like a stick horse unless I have something in front of me to draw from, then it will get a little better. The next person will draw a picture with amazing shading and detail. Another will use unrealistic colors to create their own style. The next will ask, “What kind of horse?” And another will draw the horse and include a barn setting for a background.
Romans 12:4-8 For just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, 5 so in Christ we, though many, form one body, and each member belongs to all the others. 6 We have different gifts, according to the grace given to each of us. If your gift is prophesying, then prophesy in accordance with your faith; 7 if it is serving, then serve; if it is teaching, then teach; 8 if it is to encourage, then give encouragement; if it is giving, then give generously; if it is to lead, do it diligently; if it is to show mercy, do it cheerfully.
We all have a couple common tasks that Jesus gave us: to love others and to share the gospel and make disciples.
Through looking at scriptures about what Jesus did in his time here, we can get some idea of how he approached and treated others and we can pull from that just how it is that we’re supposed to carry out those tasks. But we also know that each of us has been given different gifts from God.
Just like how our task to draw a horse will be completed differently, how we love others or how we connect with them or even the methods we use to share the gospel will be different. But the result will be the same. A horse will be drawn. The gospel will be shared. In these few verses from Romans, it’s also made clear we’re to use the gifts we have to the best of our ability. My stick horse might be the best I can do but the horse will still get drawn. I can still take care to draw each line as straight and smoothly as I can.
But Jesus isn’t telling us to draw a horse or do something that doesn’t use skills God has given us. He’s telling us we all have different gifts and gives us examples like showing hospitality or mercy. You may not feel like you’re the best communicator, but you can still explain the gospel to a friend in the best way you know how to share it. A person whose gift is teaching may have an easier time of explaining the gospel to someone but it may be the kindness you show through your gift of hospitality that may be what God uses to make it easier for that person to really listen to the gospel message.