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
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 Scott HIlgendorff / Cowboys of the Cross
National Day of the Cowboy is our chance to celebrate the cowboy culture and its rich and storied history from the expansion of the America west to the rise of ranching and rodeo. That event is celebrating at the end of every July through the efforts of a non-profit organization that even received recognition for the day from the federal government.
It’s a time to celebrate who we are as cowboys whether it’s the ranch foreman or the rodeo rider. And regardless of the profession, both sides of the industry come with strong cultural identities and a sense of pride. Most of us live and breathe what it means to be a ranch or rodeo cowboy. We may also see ourselves as fathers and mothers or artists and leather workers. The biggest parts of our lives often become what defines us and how we see and describe ourselves. There is such uniqueness to the professions in rodeo and ranch work that we adopt many parts of those lifestyles into our home lives from how we decorate to the pictures we put on the wall. We surround ourselves with paraphernalia that represents the cowboy culture.
But what about our Christianity?
Many of us do the same things, particularly with the image of a cross from one hanging around our necks to one hanging on the wall in our homes. Who we are in Christ should be the most important way we see ourselves because of our understanding of what it means to be a Christian.
1Peter 2:9 But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.
Wow, that’s just part of who I am as a follower of Jesus, forgiven for my sin by a saving faith in Jesus. By believing who Jesus was and is and by repenting of my sin and asking to be forgiven, I’m made right before God and seen by Him in the way Peter describes in that verse. Any sin, big or small in our eyes equally separates us from God. But through that saving faith in Jesus, we no longer face God’s judgment and wrath that condemns us to Hell, but are given a perfect eternity in Heaven.
When our faith is real, we begin to see ourselves more like Jesus and less like we used to be. We have a desire to become more like Jesus, learning from the Bible what’s asked of us and wanting to do that, not because it can earn us any more than the salvation we’ve received but because of our understanding of what has been given to us. How can we not want to be more like the one who saved us?
We may start to make different choices in how we live or treat people, but we don’t give up being cowboys; instead, we become something more with the Holy Spirit working within us.
Part 5 of 7 The Company You Keep
By Scott Hilgendorff / Cowboys of the Cross
“Well Jesus ate with sinners!”
That can be the Biblical statement someone uses to justify the sinful actions that come from spending time with ‘sinners’ instead of other Christians.
And Jesus would have eaten with unbelieving rodeo cowboys or sat around a fire in the Old West with cowboys passing through on a cattle drive. But scripture warns us to not be unequally yoked with non-believers
2 Corinthians 6: 14-15 Do not be yoked together with unbelievers. For what do righteousness and wickedness have in common? Or what fellowship can light have with darkness? 15 What harmony is there between Christ and Belial? Or what does a believer have in common with an unbeliever?
Paul is clear that light, Christians, can’t have fellowship with darkness, non-believers. He isn’t saying we can’t spend time with them, but he’s saying we can’t be tied tightly to them or they will hold us back and draw us away from Jesus.
We know our saving faith in Jesus separates us from the world but Jesus also commands us to interact with that same world and that’s the example he set.
Matthew 9:10-13 While Jesus was having dinner at Matthew’s house, many tax collectors and sinners came and ate with him and his disciples. 11 When the Pharisees saw this, they asked his disciples, “Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?”
12 On hearing this, Jesus said, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. 13 But go and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice.’ For I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.”
People use these verses to justify engaging in sinful behavior or to criticize Christians for judging others when they stress the importance of not engaging in sin. Within the verses, the Pharisees, also criticize Jesus for sitting with sinners. They were the religious elite at the time that were trying to ruin Jesus because he was turning their power structure upside down with his teaching.
But the point of Jesus being with them was for them to be able to come to a saving faith and ultimately be forgiven of their sin so they could enter into Heaven. He uses the example of a doctor treating the sick, not the unhealthy to explain the need to spend time with unbelievers.
And he later commands us to literally go everywhere in the world to tell unbelievers about him in what we know as The Great Commission.
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, 20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”
To do this, we can’t just hang around with the handful of Christians we know at a rodeo or horse event; we have to get to know everyone to be able to tell them about Jesus. But you have to remember, Jesus wasn’t there just to have a good time; he was there with purpose and because he is Jesus, he wasn’t tempted to sin the way we can be.
That’s why it is important to be surrounded by other Christians, to help us grow in our faith while we’re engaged in the unbelieving world around us.
Part 2 of 7 The Company You Keep
By Scott Hilgendorff / Cowboys of the Cross
“If you want to be successful, surround yourself with successful people.”
Quotes like this are common among the rodeo crowd and they are embraced by competitors because of that desire to succeed and get ahead.
It makes sense.
If you spend more time with competitors who are better than you, you might learn something from their attitude, skills or way of living that helps you to also succeed or become a better bull rider, barrel racer, roper or horseman.
It’s like this in Proverbs 27:17 Iron sharpens iron, and one man sharpens another.
This is a common verse many people can quote and often not realize that it even comes from Scripture. It’s point is simple: we can help make each other more effective.
But when it’s coming from the Bible we understand it’s referring to Christians. Another Christian friend can help me be more effective in my faith and I can help him to be more effective tool.
Conversations about the Bible and living out our faith with each other help us to be ‘sharper’ believers.
And we’re encouraged throughout Scripture to spend time together as believers from when the church first started in the historical account we seen in Acts to to the letters Paul writes to different churches as he tries to encourage them or confront conflicts he has learned about within their communities.
Hebrews 10 24-25 And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, 25 not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.
Paul is telling church they need to encourage one another to show love and do good and to encourage one another as if we are near the very end. If we knew for sure these were the last days before Jesus came back, we would be rushing to make sure others knew who Jesus was. Paul is telling the people in the church to encourage each other and live as if that day was almost here.
Again, what we’re seeing is a push toward working together to do a better at living our our faith.
He tells the church at Colossae that we are to work together as well.
Colossians 3:16 Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God.
We’re to teach and correct each other while worshiping God together so that the teachings of Jesus would become a big part of who we are.
Just like the Bible warns us not to be unequally yoked with unbelievers who will wear us down and weaken our faith, we see that by being connected together with believers, our faith will be strengthened and better equipped to share that faith with others.
We seem to understand this idea outside of the Bible when it comes to wanting to be better competitors and seeking personal success. We don’t realize or overlook how much a similar teaching is is commanded through Scripture to be connected to other believers with the focus being on our becoming stronger in our faith and able to lead others to Jesus.