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 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.
By Scott Hilgendorff / Cowboys of the Cross
It could be one of the hardest instructions from Jesus for a cowboy to accept, when he tells us to turn the other cheek.
I remember being at a rodeo a long time ago as a new Christian and I was just taking in everything that was said around me, especially if it was a bible-based conversation. I don’t remember what the conflict was about but I can still hear the young cowboy’s voice expressing his frustration about having already had to turn the other cheek. “I ain’t got but two,” he said, exasperated that whatever had been done to him, it had gone too far.
Stereotypes sometimes exist for a reason and many of them for rodeo cowboys are there for a reason. It’s typically easier for a cowboy to threaten a pop in the mouth or given one out than it is is to walk away from a fight.
Matthew 5: 38-40 “You have heard the law that says the punishment must match the injury: ‘An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth.’ But I say, do not resist an evil person! If someone slaps you on the right cheek, offer the other cheek also. If you are sued in court and your shirt is taken from you, give your coat, too”
In what’s known as the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus offers a vast amount of teaching and here in Matthew 5, he digs into the Old Testament.
And eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth is a common expression that many people no longer even realize comes from Scripture but it was an Old Testament description for what amounts to a legal system meant to stop situations from escalating into feuds. Basically, if I did something reckless to cause you to lose some of your livestock, I would be responsible for replacing the stock that was lost. If I took someone’s life, I would expect to lose mine.
But Jesus takes it a bit further. He isn’t asking us to let everyone walk all over us but he’s urging us not to seek revenge when someone wrongs us.
Just like when we looked at what it means to go the extra mile for someone, which comes later in this set of verses, Jesus is asking us to do more for people who would least likely expect us to treat them differently, or even better, than they have treated us.
If someone keeps hitting on our girlfriend at the bar, instead of waiting to have it out with him in the parking lot after, we simply leave and go somewhere else. That’s a pretty real example of what Jesus is suggesting.
It just goes against how we typically think we should respond to a situation like that. The Bible teaches different ways of handling conflict and many of them open the door to more easily pointing others to Jesus Christ.
It’s really hard to tell someone the good news after we’ve laid them out in the parking lot in the rodeo grounds after reaching what we felt like was the last straw.
By Scott Hilgendorff / Cowboys of the Cross
Bull team competitions are growing in popularity. To win, the team needs a bull that will score high enough but a rider who can also cover him because the scores will be combined to find a winner. Too rank a bull will score higher at that end but if the bull rider bucks off, they can’t win. Too easy a bull but the rider covers, neither will have high enough of a score to win.
Everything has to work together perfectly to win but the key word here is “together.”
The stock contractor can’t win on his own and the bull rider can’t win on his own.
The stock contractor brings his talents in breeding, caring for and training a good bucking bull. The bull rider brings the skills he’s developed to go from being one-jumped out of the chute to being able to spur a 90-point ride.
1 Corinthians 12:4-7 Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; 5 and there are varieties of service, but the same Lord; 6 and there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who empowers them all in everyone. 7To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good.
Throughout this chapter in his letter to the church at Corinth, the apostle Paul is telling them about who they all have different gifts given to them by God. In this instance, he is describing specific spiritual gifts, as he makes the point that each person is needed despite being different from the others.
We’re all working together for a common good. God’s good.
For Christians, we all have a part to play
1Corinthians 12:12-20 Just as a body, though one, has many parts, but all its many parts form one body, so it is with Christ. 13 For we were all baptized by one Spirit so as to form one body—whether Jews or Gentiles, slave or free—and we were all given the one Spirit to drink. 14 Even so the body is not made up of one part but of many.
15 Now if the foot should say, “Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,” it would not for that reason stop being part of the body. 16 And if the ear should say, “Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,” it would not for that reason stop being part of the body. 17 If the whole body were an eye, where would the sense of hearing be? If the whole body were an ear, where would the sense of smell be? 18 But in fact God has placed the parts in the body, every one of them, just as he wanted them to be. 19 If they were all one part, where would the body be? 20 As it is, there are many parts, but one body.
With descriptions of different body parts instead of different gifts, Paul is reminding the church how they all are part of the body of Christ. Even though we have different gifts, we all serve the same God who has put us where He wants us to be and will use each of us for His purpose.
A common argument that comes up between contestants and producers is when a fair board wants to charge the contestants admission. The cowboys are quick to point out there isn’t a show without them because the crowd is coming to see them. The producer has to point out there isn’t a show without the committee. And nothing happens for anyone without back pen workers and a crew to set the whole thing up.
Everyone has a vital part to play for the show to succeed.
Everyone has a vital part to play within the body of Christ.
As Christians, we know that even as a stock contractor, event producer or rodeo contestant, our tasks, given to us by Jesus, are to love others, share the gospel and teach others. We also know that in everything we do, we’re meant to glorify God. These are part of the “common good” we can be working toward together.
Just like we have all make up different parts in the success of a show, we all serve Jesus together in our own ways. You might be the person who is skilled at starting a conversation with strangers and your friend might be drawn to helping others. On the way to the rodeo, he stops to help the family whose car is broke down at the side of the road and while he changes a tire, you’re the person who ends up telling them about Jesus.
We all have a part to play but we all serve Jesus together knowing it’s God who puts all the parts together.
By Scott Hilgendorff / Cowboys of the Cross
There are things we do in advance to prepare before getting on a bull or even being ready to get on our roping horse. We have to do these things or our next steps are guaranteed to fail or get us hurt.
2 Timothy 3:16-17 All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, 17 so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.
Scripture is the same. This verse is where the idea comes from that the Bible is God’s living word, because it is God-breathed, meaning He gave life to it.
That alone should be enough to make us want to read our Bibles but then Paul tells us in his second letter to Timothy that the Bible prepares us for everything in advance. It teaches us what’s right and good, it can be used to give us correction when we’re wrong and it trains us to be more like Jesus. And, it prepares us for every good thing God has for us to do. Everything.
So basically, not just reading the Bible, but applying what we learn from it prepares us for what God has in store for us and prepares us to be used by God to help others learn from God’s living word.
Once we have a saving faith in Jesus and we’ve repented and asked for forgiveness of our sins, we’re still going to mess up and grace is there for when we do. God still loves and forgives us. We don’t have to do anything to earn His love, but just like there are things we have to do to succeed in the arena, God does have work prepared for us to do. Reading the Bible is what we need to do to prepare for what God wants us to do and to succeed in it.
Ephesians 2:10 For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.
Again, we can’t earn our salvation but once we’re saved, God didn’t mean for us to do nothing. We are His handiwork; He made us and through our relationship with Jesus, he wants us to do good things. He begins to help us become more like Jesus through the work of the Holy Spirit in us and he created us to do good works. Works are the actions we take that God prepared for us to do. They can be anything from sharing the gospel with a traveling partner going down the road to using the skills God gave us to help fix the car of a neighbor or a single mom struggling financially just to make it.
He’s prepared work for us in advance and we need to take steps to be ready to do that work. Reading the Bible is the first step to understanding what good works are; living out what it teaches is the next.