Find the good, share the good

Find the good, share the good

By Scott Hilgendorff / Cowboys of the Cross

Instead of what was said by someone running their mouth about you, imagine it eventually getting back to you that someone was out there saying what a great person you were or what a great thing they saw you do.

When we have a saving faith in Jesus, he changes us and we begin to do good works. Works are the words and actions we put out there based on what we know the Bible teaches us is right and good and that we know will glorify God.

Instead of talking at Waffle House with your buddies about why ‘that gunsel’ keeps getting on bulls or entering the sorting when he can’t even sit right in his saddle, what a life-changing moment it could literally be

for someone to have it get back to them how you never see them without a smile or laughing, even when competing in the mud.

Find the good, share the good.

Hebrews 10:24 And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds,

When Jesus is truly in us, good starts to come out of us as evidence our salvation is real. We start to do “good deeds.”

Jesus tells us that if we’re in Christ, we’ll produce good fruit. In Matthew 7, he’s specifically talking about how to tell if someone is a false prophet or not but we learn from him that those who are real followers o Christ will be producing good fruit, which again, would be the good works we do. The words and actions that show our faith is in Jesus because they follow his teaching.

Matthew 7:17-18 Likewise, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. 18 A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, and a bad tree cannot bear good fruit.

He also teaches us that all of it comes from God.

John 15:4 Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me.

None of the good we do can be accomplished without God doing the work in us and through us. It’s done together.

No one that competes in rodeo succeeds without some help. It can be the spotter behind the chutes, it can be borrowed equipment,the loan of a horse or it can be advice. Even the biggest loner determined to accomplish something on his ‘own’ power, has help somewhere along the line.

We need God to accomplish what He has planned for us. We may do the ‘good works’ but they are given to us by Him and it’s by His power we succeed and He gets glorified.

On one hand, when our faith is real we can’t help but do good as God works through us, but on the other, the author of Hebrews is telling also us to look for ways to help others do good. It’s still God through us, but the encouragement or help we provide helps someone else to do good. Find the good, share the good.

Scripture, so easy, even a cowboy can do it–when he puts the time in

Scripture, so easy, even a cowboy can do it–when he puts the time in

By Scott Hilgendorff / Cowboys of the Cross

Ever misunderstood something and felt pretty dumb about it afterward?

Sometimes it’s easy to misunderstand something in the Bible and I think that keeps many of us from reading it. Seminaries teach pastors Greek and Hebrew to help them understand what you’re sitting there scratching your head to understand. Try anyway.

There are more parts that ARE easier to understand than others and just like the awkwardness of learning to handle yourself in the bucking chutes, the first time you try to load a horse on the trailer or the first time you try to turn a rope over your head, it gets easier.

Having a church helps where there are pastors and leaders that can help you understand it. I sometimes need that before I try to deliver a cowboy church sermon behind the chutes and am fortunate enough to have more than a dozen people I know that understand it better than me. When I’m not certain my interpretation or application is right, I can run a section of scripture by to be sure I understand it right. There are also great study bibles out there with notes that help explain it and an internet full of resources though you have to be careful what you follow.

Don’t get hung up on feeling dumb for not understanding something. Be encouraged by the work God and the Holy Spirit will do inside you through the parts you do understand and step by step, more and more of it will make sense.

And step by step, you will see even more, just how big God really is. A passage in the Old Testament suddenly makes sense in how it points to Jesus in the New Testament. A passage in the New Testament’s Ephesians that used to be confusing begins to make more sense because you see how it builds on something Jesus taught in the book of Mark. The more you learn, the more you change and grow.

See what you can learn about the importance of reading your Bible from the two verses below.

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.

Scripture is God’s living word in how it’s described as being ‘breathed out’ by God. And we see clearly how important it is for so many parts of our lives, teaching us how to be more like Jesus as it describes training in righteousness. It shows us that it will help us with any good effort we take for God as it tells us it will prepare us for “every good work.”

I didn’t understand what a ‘good work’ was at first. I didn’t understand what righteousness was at first. But as I understood those terms and ideas, 2 Timothy is now a favorite verse to teach to others because it helps us understand the many different reasons the Bible is important for us.

The more time you give it, the more it will make sense and benefit you.

We can’t take words or advice at face value, from bull riding to Biblical instruction

We can’t take words or advice at face value, from bull riding to Biblical instruction

By Will Brunke / Special to Cowboys of the Cross 

One of my most consistently used metaphors is that “bull riding emulates life and life emulates bull riding”.  Likening the unique struggles and confrontations of life that are so often imitated on a minute scale in a sporting event is nothing new.  So, it came as a shock and with some disappointment in myself when I was hit in the teeth with an epiphany that seemed so obviously clear, considering my love and probable over-use of metaphors. 

 Teaching a bull riding clinic of young men and young boys on a cool weekend this fall, I settled into a gamut of trick questions in order to open up the riders ‘ thought processes and to give them examples of easy pitfalls that inexperienced riders can get bogged down in.  The premise was simple; be careful of the words that are tossed around the bucking chutes and how you apply them.  

  For example; a person may have the best of intentions when they are supporting you as you ride, all the while screaming at you, “REACH!!! REACH for the front!!”  In reality, this is probably some of the worst advice you can get and can dramatically increase your chances of an early buck-off as well as your chances for an injury.  There is almost nothing about “reaching” in bull riding that is mechanically sound.  Riders who learn a bad habit such as this tend to hit a brick wall in their riding that they can never seem to get around.  The point I was trying to express to the group was that it is imperative that you understand what words mean for better or worse.  How many of us take words and advice at face value without using our critical thinking to analyze and evaluate possible outcomes?  At this point, in jest, I banned the word “reach” from the rest of the clinic.  But what was more important is that I inserted a new vocabulary in place of the flawed one — this time with meaning. 

In short, after some constructive conversation, open dialog, and some examples and drills on the barrels, an overwhelming look of exuberance began to appear from most of the group.  They got it.  They were now hungry for more and fully engaged after having a proverbial blindfold removed.  The spoon-fed were now feeling like hunters after the realizations had past that not only did this new way make sense, but its truths cleared the thorny underbrush away and created a template that the riders could gauge their technique and future advices against.    The words in the Bible are like this for many.

In the Gospel of John, Jesus was telling those who began following him, and those who were trying to discredit them that his true followers would follow his teaching and not that of the religious elite that were using their position to hold power over people. John 5: 31-32 To the Jews who had believed him, Jesus said, “If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. 32 Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”

  The words of scripture can be an emancipator, setting you free. Used incorrectly the words can become an enslaver.  One person can lead or mislead many out of the truest intentions depending on the level of understanding the teacher possesses and the level of spoon-fedness to which the audience may be inclined.  Unfortunately, some are even led by false teachers with impure intentions.  How is this possible?  I believe an old bull riding adage can apply; The top 20% of riders haul in 80% of the prize money.  Which means 80% of bull riders are struggling with the sport and, more often than not, donators to the purse.  I believe the same is true on a more Christian front; 20% of Christians are hunters of the truth and can easily disseminate false teachings from Gospel truth.  However, that means that 80% of Christians are struggling with scripture, have a loose grasp of the Gospel and are easily swayed toward the fringes where words and phrases like, “prosperity”, “morally good”, or “you’re perfect just the way you are”, run rampant and the generalized vagueness of salvation are currently leading many to despair.

  I feel blessed to take a moment and think about some of my closest friends in my life and realize that they are also hunters of the truth who hold me accountable, ask tough questions, and point indiscriminately to scripture.  These people are my trusted traveling partners in my walk with Christ. But just like at the bull riding clinic, I believe my friends and I have a great template to measure ourselves and our technique against.  It’s the teachings from Jesus himself.  Everything in the Bible from beginning to end points toward Him.  During Jesus’ time on earth, he spoke only truths and eschewed many religious habits, fringe beliefs, and false teachers.  And just like then, today his truth is infallible.  It stands up against any test and strips the sheep’s clothing from the wolves.  

John 8:32 “Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves.

  In the end, the only way my students take the next leap in their bull riding career is if they take an infallible bull riding truth and continually apply that in practice until the correct reaction is near automatic.  Likewise, there is only so much a “come-to-Jesus” moment can give us unless we affirm that newfound understanding with practice in reading Jesus’ words of truth.  Therein lies the ultimate template to gauge yourself by.

Yes, your hometown church may be fine.  Your mega-church may be setting attendance records.  That unsubstantiated “preacher” with no church affiliation might be a likeable guy.  But just ask yourself, who or what is your template based upon?  It’s a fair question to spend some time on….. unless you are too busy being spoon-fed by a wolf.

Will is a retired Pennsylvania bull rider who occasionally gets back in the arena to teach bull riding schools or clinics.

Mindset matters in rodeo, it matters even more in your faith

Mindset matters in rodeo, it matters even more in your faith

By Scott Hilgendorff / Cowboys of the Cross

In the sports of rodeo and bull riding, there is so much weight and value put on having the right mindset.

Cowboys who would never pick up a text book in school will read through books that help them harness the power of their minds. They’ll watch video after video of their rides and runs to see what they can improve. They’ll focus on positive thinking. They’ll surround themselves with like-minded people to influence them toward success in their rodeo careers.

Do we put that same value on our Christian faith?

Philippians 4:8-9 Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. 9 Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.

Paul is encouraging the church to focus on what is good and to put to practice what he has tried to teach them as the early church was first beginning to spread. There were so many influences pulling at these new believers and Paul often intervened through letters to them. Paul wants them to be successful and for their faith to grow beyond any influences that could damage it. And he wants the good news of Jesus Christ to spread. We can see this in many of his letters that make up so much of the New Testament.

Just like we study the sport, we have to study God’s word…and put it to action. And we have to work on a Christ-like mindset.

All that comes from putting the effort into not just reading the Bible but putting the work into understanding it.

A lot of people start the new year off with a goal of reading through the entire Bible, some following a reading plan to complete it in a year. But it’s not a race and there’s no prize for completing it on time or early. It’s better to not just read the Bible but to take the time to understand it. Study Bibles are out there with plenty of notes to help you understand the verses. There are books called commentaries and there are Bible studies that lead you through a book of the Bible with questions and helpful thoughts. It can feel hard to understand at first but the more you work through it, the more the pieces come together and the easier it all becomes to understand.

Then comes the harder part. Once you’ve learned it, we need to put it into action. The Cowboys of the Cross website is starting a monthly video series that focuses on that part—what it means for a Christian cowboy to live out his faith. We encourage you to watch the series and use this site to help you grow in your faith while plugging into a church with even deeper teaching into God’s word.

What it really means to have your fees paid

What it really means to have your fees paid

By Scott Hilgendorff/Cowboys of the Cross

He paid your fees. It’s an expression used to suggest that Jesus paid our fees and we’re going to enter Heaven, but we forget an important part—we have to make the call-ins.

The expression is being used more in the rodeo community when someone has passed away to declare the person is in Heaven.

It’s taken from The Cowboy Prayer that many announcers use to open a rodeo. “Help us, Lord, to live our lives in such a manner that when we make that last inevitable ride to the country up there, where the grass grows lush, green and stirrup high, and the water runs cool, clear and deep, that you, as our last Judge, will tell us that our entry fees are paid.”

When we lose someone, we often take to social media and proclaim that person’s fees have been paid.But if they never entered the rodeo, that isn’t possible.Jesus died on the cross to take the punishment and pay the price meant for our sins. That’s where the idea comes from that Jesus paid our fees for us like getting to the rodeo secretary to find out someone else paid our fees on our behalf. Instead of being entered into the rodeo, we accept the idea we’ve been given entry to Heaven. That’s where we need to understand more of what’s known as the gospel.Our sin separates us from God. He will not allow it in His presence and He will punish it. We understand that punishment to mean we go to Hell instead of Heaven when we die where we suffer for eternity.

It’s a harsh thought during the warm and fuzzy holiday season that focuses on images of a baby surrounded by angels, shepherds and farm animals.But the baby grew to be our Savior so that by believing he was the Son of God that died for us, yes our fees could be paid by that death, but only by first recognizing our sin, confessing and repenting of it and asking to be forgiven.

We’re given reference to Jesus taking our punishment but also the need to repent in Acts 3:18-19 But this is how God fulfilled what he had foretold through all the prophets, saying that his Messiah would suffer. 19 Repent, then, and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped out, that times of refreshing may come from the Lord,”

By recognizing this and asking for forgiveness, God will never look at us again as sinners destined for punishment.

Our sins can’t be forgiven and we can’t be given a perfect eternity in Heaven if we have never truly been forgiven through Jesus. Our fees can’t be paid if we never entered the rodeo. It’s our job as traveling partners in this life, to make sure they get entered up by telling them the full gospel message.

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