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ABOUT US: Welcome to Cowboys of the Cross: your resource for Christian cowboys. Cowboys of the Cross has been providing cowboy church for the rodeo and cowboy community for more than 15 years. The website is your source for stories of faith and encouragement as well as devotions and news and information affecting cowboys of faith. Cowboys of the Cross leads cowboy church at rodeos and bull ridings in both Ontario, Canada and across the north and southeastern United States.   MORE ABOUT US HERE

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Help Keep us on the road

By Scott Hilgendorff/Cowboys of the Cross

When Kris Furr made Jesus the Lord of his life last month, he had no idea God would throw a challenge and learning opportunity at him just hours later.

It made it very clear that God was working in his life.

Kris, a bull fighter from Statesville, NC, was trying to sell his camper on Craig's list when he got a call from a guy who asked if Kris would consider trading the camper for the guy's van. It would have been at a $3,000 to $4,000 loss between the difference in the value of the van versus the camper but Kris was stuck—he had just made Jesus his lord and savior hours earlier and now he was being asked to help a family.

The man had explained to Kris that he and his wife had recently become homeless and were living in that van and a tent and he wanted to trade. The camper would give them a chance to have better accommodation, especially for their two kids that they were trying to home school.

But, $3,000 is a lot of money to give up when you're trying to make your living as a bull fighter, full time, traveling the roads to work events across the country for very little pay. In order to be the best at it and be one of the few to make it to the professional level and the pay scale that goes with it, you have to sacrifice a lot.

But, $3,000. Would God really be asking Kris to give the equivalent of that much money to total strangers? Was this a test from God?

Those are the questions he had for me when we talked about the situation.

The short answer, of course, was that God could very well be asking that of Kris.

“I always knew who God was but until today, I had never given my life to Him,” said Kris as we talked about his whole experience that day, leading up to the phone call.

Now he was afraid to make the wrong decision about the camper. We talked about the difference between feeling guilty or feeling the Holy Spirit's conviction, what the Bible teaches about giving sacrificially, what it can mean to follow Christ beyond that moment of salvation, being a good steward of the resources God gives you and how to know when God is answering prayer about what to do.

We also talked about how emotions can manipulate us and can be used by others to do the same—that he had to be careful.

In prayerfully seeking wisdom from God, Kris realized that a starting point would be to at least meet with the man who called and look into the story more.

When he did, praise God, Kris determined the story was a scam but also learned straight from scripture that he was willing to be obedient to God, even when it was difficult and it meant sacrifice.

And praise God, Kris and I are working out a study plan to dig deeper into God's word since being in church often is difficult for Kris as he's on the road so much.


Center Gate Story

By Jesse Horton/Cowboys of the Cross

Let’s face it. Relationships are hard. An 8-second bull/bronc ride can’t even begin to compare with the difficulty and emotional stress we experience in trying to make a life with someone who is desperately selfish and set in their own ways…and then you have to deal with her too!

     One of the first things I think we need to get out of the way in a biblical discussion of relationships is the counterfeit version. I’m well aware that people who handle money focus more on knowing the “real McCoy” versus studying the variations of counterfeit currency, but the problem with that analogy when it comes to relationships is that, in general, we have already accepted the counterfeit as legitimate. The pop-cultural practice of relationships goes something like this:

 1. Find the right person

 2. Fall madly in love

 3. Validate your feelings with physical intimacy

 4. Get to know your love-interest on a personal/social basis

 5. Move in together

 6. Make it official (get married)

 7. Live happily as long as they continue to fulfill your needs

 8. *If at any point this approach fails, go back to step one. The problem was that you found the wrong person.

I think most of us can either relate to this personally or have seen it in others we know. The premise is that finding the right person is what makes a relationship successful and that having found the wrong person is the only reason for failure. This approach is terribly unsuccessful and very risky. What if you are intimate with someone and a pregnancy occurs? You aren’t really committed, but are bonded for life. What about STDs? What if you buy a home, a car, or furniture together, or incur credit card debt together before you get married, then it doesn’t work out? There aren’t any provisions in the law for this sort of thing and it can ruin you financially! Aside from that, statistics prove that “shacking up” before getting married doesn’t help you have a successful marriage. It’s actually quite the opposite. People who live together before getting married are nearly twice as likely to divorce. Shacking up is just a way of planning for failure rather than planning for success. All you “positive attitude” guys should see that easily. If you plan for failure, you will fail. You can’t nod for the gate while you’re looking for a safe spot to get off! So let’s begin our discussion of relationships by discarding these views as illegitimate second-rate counterfeits of the genuine article.

“Shacking up is just a way of planning for failure rather than planning for success. All you ‘positive attitude’ guys should see that easily. If you plan for failure, you will fail.”

Real, legitimate relationships must begin with God. Left to ourselves, we are self-seeking narcissists concerned only with our own happiness, fulfillment, and success. To begin this part of the discussion, I want to point you to Ephesians 5:1-2. Beginning with 4:20, the Apostle Paul begins to affirm how we should relate to one another within the church (a body of believers, not a building); this can easily be extended to romantic relationships as it is applicable to all relationships. While the pop-culture approach to relationships begins with finding the right person, God’s instruction is that we should become the right person. “Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children. And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.” In your relationships, you should begin by imitating God, by trying to love people like Jesus who was willing to offer His very life to God on behalf of the people He loved.

So, step one: Be like God.

The importance of a relationship with God cannot be overstated. Seattle Pacific University Professors Les and Leslie Parrot write, “If you attempt to build intimacy with another person before you’ve done the hard work of becoming a whole and healthy person, every relationship will be an attempt to complete the hole in your heart and the lack of what you don’t have, and will end in disaster.” Being the right person means you don’t need someone to “complete” you apart from the indwelling Holy Spirit of God. But if you still have that God-shaped hole in your heart, every relationship you have will be an attempt to make some imperfect, sinful person fill that hole that only God can fill.

Notice that Paul also commanded the Ephesians to “walk in love.” How do you do that?! Well, 1 Corinthians 13:4-8 (commonly referred to as “The Love Passage”) can give you a clue. Read that through now for yourself and pay attention to the verbs. This will give you a clue as to why I hate the term “falling in love.” Love is not a “be” thing. It’s a “do” thing. It’s a choice you make. Feelings cannot sustain a long-term relationship, but acts of patience, kindness, gentleness, and acceptance can. So, step two: Walk in love. And step 3: Place your hope for fulfillment in God, who withholds no good thing from those who do what is right (Psalm 84:11). And, if in your relationships failure occurs, go back to step one…be like God.

Feelings cannot sustain a long-term relationship, but acts of patience, kindness, gentleness, and acceptance can.

Paul continues chapter 5 of Ephesians, verses 3-13, to give us a negative command (do not ­ ­ ­ ­ ____) followed by a positive command (Do this!). Here he points out some things that can spoil our relationships, and to be perfectly honest, some of these things I’ve struggled with myself. Some of these are even stronghold opportunities for Satan, wherein he can get a foothold (Eph. 4:27) and negatively influence your decisions and, in turn, your relationships for a long period of time. We’ll talk more about that in a separate discussion. In our next part, which will be Posted Feb. 23, we will look at how  marriage should work according to God.


Legitimate relationships must begin with God


By Scott Hilgendorff/Cowboys of the Cross

Let's give Ty Pozzobon's family huge credit for being willing to use the "S" word and prayers of encouragement as they face all the challenges that come from seeking understanding in a loss like this.

There's such an unfounded stigma to saying the word suicide and being able to talk about it, but the thing is, talking about it is HOW more people get access to help. If we're not afraid to talk openly about depression and our struggles, it can help others to be open as well and can help us to point each other to the support that can help us get through it before it spirals so deep that a person doesn't see any other way out.

Will every life be saved? Nope, even solid Christians shock their communities by taking their own lives when we think by being a Christian, we've got the strength of Christ to get through.

While we know it should be enough, sometimes it isn't and some lose the struggle. But if more of us understand suicide, the warning signs and how to encourage and walk through a struggle with someone, the more people will make it through.That's why, despite most guys being freaked out by it, a few years back at one of the Southern Extreme Bull Riding Association Finals instead of cowboy church, I brought in a team of people to teach us suicide prevention. At the time, many of our members had been dealing with the loss of two bull riders over the course of the previous year/months. The stigma (I'm not going to that, there's nothing wrong with me) kept a lot of guys out. At the same time, there's five or six of us with at least some training in what to look for and how to reach out.

That being said, our hope really is in Christ. Eternal security is found in a saving faith in Jesus who gives us hope that despite how painful and broken this world is, a perfect painless one awaits us for eternity if we make Jesus the Lord of our lives. But in the meantime, as Christians, we're all each other's brothers and sisters. I'm here to walk alongside whatever you're going through and I know many others who will too. If you're struggling, don't struggle alone and don't be ashamed, prideful, embarrassed or whatever else it is to keep you from asking for help.

It really is okay to talk about this stuff. If anyone connected with Ty's family can share these thoughts with them, please do if you think it will encourage them. It is so important that they are willing to share what has happened openly. It cuts down the speculation and gossip and allows the long process of healing to begin. Please, keep them and their friends lifted up in prayer.

Be encouraged

that Ty’s loss

has opened up conversation

about suicide

          My life began on June 4, 1949. I was born in Enterprise, Alabama. My mother, Grace Wilkins, was a God-fearing woman. She always told us to listen to that small voice inside of us and it would tell us right from wrong. That voice was Jesus Christ!

          Well, every time I was going to do something wrong, I heard that voice saying, “Don’t do that!”

        Mom used to get us dressed and take us to church every Sunday. Even if she didn’t have a clean dress to wear, she would take us and come pick us up. My dad had a bad habit of drinking alcohol and he would not go to church but he never stopped us from going. When I was 15 years old, my dad got sick. Me and my brother Glen helped daddy cut firewood and sell it to pay bills until he just couldn’t work anymore. He had drank so much his kidneys and liver were shutting down.

        He died that year and he was only 37 years old.

       On his death bed, a pastor friend of his lead him to the Lord and he got saved! After dad died, we went to live with my mom’s mother and father. They lived in New Brockton, Alabama. So me and my three brothers and my sister went to school there. I got saved that year. I knew I wanted to see my dad again in Heaven.

        Well, mom had never worked and she tried to find a job but it was hard. Me and my older brother worked and went to school. I had jobs like picking cotton, stacking peanuts, loading fertilizer our of a box car at the old depot in town, washing oysters at the oyster bar and delivering papers; anything we could do to make a dime. But during that time, I learned to buy and sell things like horses, saddles and tack.

        I looked at the successful people and I looked to the poor people. I noticed the people that were living for the Lord were blessed more that the people living for the devil. The people living for the devil were getting sick, paying fines and getting locked up, wrecking their cars and dieing young. I also noticed the boys that were disobeying their parents were always getting in trouble. The people that lived a God-fearing life were being blessed with health and riches, so I never drank alcohol, I never smoked cigarettes, never did drugs and always listened to my mom. I didn’t want to let her down.

         I am now 66 years old and I am in great health. God has blessed me with a great son and daughter and four grandchildren. I used to eat lunch on 20 cents a day when I was 15 and barely got by. Now I have six million dollars of property with houses and land in 12 states.

         But the most important thing I have is salvation in my Lord, Jesus Christ. For you see, we are only passing through this world, going home to be with our Savior, Jesus. I wish every young person would listen to that small voice inside them to do that which is right. For we are all on trial every day on this Earth to decide where we will spend eternity: Heaven or Hell. I pray that everyone will choose Heaven. For God gave His only begotten Son to die for our sins so all could have eternal life.

     Love Gary Wilkins

Gary has owned Horse World Saddles and Tack since 1979 and currently lives in Boyd, Texas.

Gary Wilkins, Boyd, Texas


The annual report

 Thanks for being a part of the adventure in 2016.

 Now a team of four on the road and three more that write for the website, the most significant event of 2016 was seeing first James Douma join the team, a saddle bronc rider I met at a Christian rodeo school I was involved with last year. James started to teach and host fellowship with his wife Jenn in Ontario with Rawhide Rodeo where Cowboys of the Cross got its start.

 James began this summer and was joined in the fall by Alan Burt and Dusty Whidden. Alan used to bull ride out of Michigan and Dusty is a bareback bronc rider who travels across the US, largely with the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association.

 Alan is currently teaching Saturday nights at a weekly bull riding series in VanWert, Ohio, where the ministry has received official recognition as part of the event thanks to the producer, Denny Kreischer. Dusty teaches randomly at rodeos he attends and James will be starting again in May or June, when the Ontario season begins again.

 The summer saw us praying for a police officer who is still recovering in hospital after being ambushed in Louisiana for being a cop. His cousin is a rodeo cowboy who reached out for prayer. That opportunity lead us to start Cowboys for Cops, a social media campaign focused on getting the cowboys to engage with the police they encounter at fairs and when getting speeding tickets (it happens often). While I would have loved to have seen it reach across the country, it was amazing  to see several cowboys take part in this simply because they had seen others doing it online. My biggest goal was to get the cowboys to actually pray for the officers and this is asking a lot of a large group of guys who mostly are uncomfortable with praying in public. It was heart-filling to see that a few of them took that step and really did pray with the officers. I heard from a few police officers who have found it encouraging and we will continue to do this into the new year. This led to a new series of messages on prayer while I spent six weeks in Ohio in August/September during fair season.

 One highlight was getting to lead service at Gateway Cowboy Church in North Carolina. I'm still pretty nervous teaching/preaching in front of a formal church body and this was the most comfortable I had ever felt so far.

 For the 9th year in a row, I got to lead the hour-long service at the Southern Extreme Bull Riding Association National Finals as well as the two, short locker-room services before each performance. The three sermons focused on following God, learning how to hear His calling and learning about the obstacles that sometimes keep us from following Him.

 Cowboy church was led in Ohio, Michigan, Tennessee (where I still continue to attend National Cowboy Association rodeo events as well) and Kentucky this year. I was in a few less states than normal but with an increase in the number of rodeos and bull ridings in Ohio, I spent two runs there at the beginning and end of the summer where we also did a couple Bible studies and cookouts.

 Some significant relationships were built in Ohio that led to several one-on-one appointments with some of the cowboys who reached out with questions from understanding the faith to life situations. I also made a hospital visit and led a small study with a producer and his wife after he suffered a seizure at the end of his event and is struggling with having to leave the industry because the events may be contributing to the medical condition. A bull rider who I met with in Ohio attributes some of that time and being at cowboy church at the events, to helping him get on track and find the motivation to start leading a Bible study at his home with some of the cowboys and friends in his area.

 I don't have an easy way to quantify this but there was more than the typical number of people reaching out with prayer requests or to talk, particularly in the last half of the year and that trend has already moved into this year with two people reaching out this week already, seeking Biblical advice for personal challenges.

 While getting content seen can be a challenge, we are still networked to more than 10,000 people on social media and have some access to the Southern Extreme Bull Riding Association facebook page which is networked to more than 13,000 people. I've concentrated on Facebook but in 2017, will return to Twitter and other platforms to try to boost visits to the website again.

 The website is back to the average of about 425 users a month. I'm still very happy with that number but we have got it has high as 700 and 800 when SEBRA allowed us to have a free commercial on its finals broadcast on a small horse-related cable network. The broadcast ran several times and we saw a boost in traffic. The site is still updated twice a month and promoted each time updates are done.

 In 2017, I'm going to try to network with others who get good social media attention to try to get them to help promote the site.

 Discipleship remains the focus of the ministry with being able to attend rodeos and bull ridings to lead cowboy church as the main way I'm able to connect and build relationships with the cowboys and bull riders. It appears 2017 will see some extra time spent in Ohio again. With the Southern Extreme Bull Riding Association allowing me to serve as its chaplain, the organization has seen many of the events it sanctions located in Ohio the past few years, an unusual state to see such a boon in the sport.

 With changes again church leadership last year, I now report primarily to administrator Laura Estes who also oversees Jr. Youth Ministry with her husband Johnny at LifeSong Family Church. While I'm an employee of the church, they have graciously allowed me to maintain the relationships with the Southern Extreme Bull Riding Association and National Cowboy Association and minister within those organizations as an outreach of LifeSong Family Church. While the Onsite Pastors and staff minister to the church body in Lewisburg and lead outreach programs in the community like their successful food ministry, LifeSong allows me to be the church to the cowboy community as their Pastor to Cowboys which means traveling to the events where they are. While onsite staff lead church on Sundays, I lead simplified church services on any given day of the week at rodeos and bull ridings in several different states.


If you haven’t read the first half of this, please cross down to find Part 2

By Jesse Horton/Cowboys of the Cross

What does a biblical marriage look like? First, we should be (not find) the right person.

We should be full of the Holy Spirit because God is the source of love (1 John 4:19 We love because he first loved us). Any love apart from God is selfish love and will not sustain a relationship. Now, on the wedding day, something miraculous should happen. Two people should leave their parents’ homes and direct influence and should cleave to one another, becoming one flesh (Gen. 2:24). This means that when they have their first fight, the Mrs. doesn’t run home to her momma to talk about what a selfish, inconsiderate oaf she married; instead, she stays home and works it out with her husband. Yes, you stay and hash it out – how we do this individually is unique, but there are some broad-stroke principles that can be applied to help us understand our roles. Let’s look at Ephesians 5:22-24 for some advice from the Apostle Paul.

Now, before anyone gets all bent out of shape over my use of the “S”-word in the following paragraphs, let’s back up half a verse to 5:21 where Paul says, “submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ.” Submit is not a bad word (what were you expecting???). Here Paul tells us we should submit to one another out of reverence for Christ. We should put our spouse’s needs ahead of our own when appropriate. That’s a great way to show them how much you love them. Again, love is a “do” thing; it requires action.

So, here’s the verse most women shy away from and many men use inappropriately to be some kind of dictator in their homes. “Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife even as Christ is the head of the church, his body, and is himself its Savior. Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit in everything to their husbands.” In Genesis 3:16, God told Eve that her “desire will be for [her] husband.” The Hebrew word translated here as “for” often communicates the idea of “to tend to.” Here’s why that is significant: Adam was already supposed to function in a leadership role being the more experienced of the two humans because of his existence before Eve. He was with her in the garden when Satan deceived her (Gen 3:6). Now, what kind of leader was Adam to let this serpent deceive the flesh of his flesh and bone of his bone? Not much of one! He was a passive and inferior leader.

In my opinion, that’s where sin began. Sin is described as “missing the mark,” and Adam certainly missed it in his leadership of his wife. But post-fall, the curse on Eve was that she would desire to tend Adam like she tended the garden…she would try to make him what he should be. She would try to make him into the leader God created him to be…and if he wouldn’t shape up, well, she’d do it herself. But, no, no. God told her, “he will rule over you.” You see, in every military unit, there is a leader who is ultimately responsible for all those under his command. Adam was supposed to be that leader for Eve. Men, we are meant to be that leader for our wives. But, let’s address this to whom it should be addressed as the Scriptures indicate: Women – submit yourselves to the leadership of your husbands. He is the one who will be held accountable for your family…not you. Equip him to lead. Encourage him to lead. And pray for him diligently as he does so.

“We should be concerned with the spiritual welfare of our wives”

Now it’s the men’s turn. Ephesians 5:25-30 gives us a charge that cannot be ignored and makes the job of submission much easier for our wives. “Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish. In the same way husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ does the church, because we are members of his body.” A man who loves his wife the way Jesus loved the Church is easy to submit to.

But what does it mean to sanctify your wife? From the time we are saved (justification) we are slowly but surely being made into the image of Christ – this process is sanctification. It’s the process through which we leave behind our sinful tendencies and put on the righteousness of Christ. We should lead our wives, not only as protector and provider, but as a priest and prophet (which just means we proclaim the word of God, not that we tell the future). We should be concerned with the spiritual welfare of our wives and with covering her sin with grace. As we do the hard work of becoming the right person, we have to realize that we are “one flesh” with our wives; we should cultivate in them the same things God is cultivating in us.

Paul sums up his instructions to husbands and wives in Ephesians 5:33. YOU SHOULD ALL COMMIT THIS VERSE TO MEMORY! “Each one of you is to love his wife as himself, and the wife is to respect her husband.” Dr. Emerson Eggerichs wrote a book called “Love and Respect” in which he writes about a situation he calls “the crazy cycle.” This is when couples get caught up in being inconsiderate of one another and it perpetuates like this: She is disrespectful to him, so he responds unlovingly toward her…so she’s motivated to disrespect him, which motivates him to be unloving. Men and women are made differently and respond differently to the same actions.

“Men feel loved by their wives when they are respected as the protector, provider, prophet and priest of their home”

Men feel loved by their wives when they are respected as the protector, provider, prophet, and priest of their home. Undermining them in any way in these areas will most often cause them to withdraw (because it’s not noble to fight with a woman).

Women, if you see your husbands withdrawing, ask yourself, “Have I disrespected him, maybe without even knowing?” And if your husband withdraws, don’t chase after him and especially don’t escalate the argument in an attempt to get him to engage – in “Man World” that’s looking for a fight, and he does not want to fight a woman. Men don’t treat other men that way unless they want it to come to blows.

Women feel connected to their husbands when husbands find ways to say, “I love you.” REMEMBER, LOVE IS A “DO” THING! We have to DO things for our wives that say, “I care about you. I appreciate you. I want to be here with you.” There are thousands of ways you can do this, and each woman is unique and will value things differently. My suggestion is to listen to your wife. If she says, “Those drapes look awful,” put aside some time, and take her shopping for drapes. If she says, “I really hate cleaning toilets,” catch her gone and clean them before she can get to it. Buy her flowers just because…it lets her know you were thinking of her and that she’s a priority in your life.

Now, one more thing about that “Crazy Cycle” thing. 1 John 4:19 says, “We love because he first loved us.” And Ephesians 5:25 says, “Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her.” When you put those two together, Christ loved us first and we’re supposed to function for our wives as a type of Christ. I’d say that gives us men a pretty good indication that, if we’re on the “Crazy Cycle,” we should take the initiative and be the first to step off by loving our wives. Don’t take the stance of, “When she respects me, I’ll show her some affection.”  

Don’t be a passive husband, like Adam was. Be a man. Lead your wife. Love her like Jesus does.

Love is a ‘do’ thing–it requires action