Sunday, May 17, 2009

May 17, 2009

I read this on ESPN written by the Rick Reilly. This is a touching story and a perfect picture of what a church should be:They played the oddest game in high school football history last month down in Grapevine, Texas.

It was Grapevine Faith vs. Gainesville State School and everything about it was upside down. For instance, when Gainesville came out to take the field, the Faith fans made a 40-yard spirit line for them to run through. Did you hear that, the other team's fans?

They even made a banner for players to crash through at the end. It said, "Go Tornadoes!" Which is also weird, because Faith is the Lions.

It was rivers running uphill and cats petting dogs. More than 200 Faith fans sat on the Gainesville side and kept cheering the Gainesville players on—by name.

"I never in my life thought I'd hear people cheering for us to hit their kids," recalls Gainesville's QB and middle linebacker, Isaiah. "I wouldn't expect another parent to tell somebody to hit their kids. But they wanted us to!" And even though Faith walloped them 33-14, the Gainesville kids were so happy that after the game they gave head coach Mark Williams a sideline squirt-bottle shower like he'd just won state. Gotta be the first Gatorade bath in history for an 0-9 coach.

But then you saw the 12 uniformed officers escorting the 14 Gainesville players off the field and two and two started to make four. They lined the players up in groups of five—handcuffs ready in their back pockets—and marched them to the team bus. That's because Gainesville is a maximum-security correctional facility 75 miles north of Dallas. Every game it plays is on the road.

This all started when Faith's head coach, Kris Hogan, wanted to do something kind for the Gainesville team. Faith had never played Gainesville, but he already knew the score. After all, Faith was 7-2 going into the game, Gainesville 0-8 with 2 TDs all year. Faith has 70 kids, 11 coaches, the latest equipment and involved parents. Gainesville has a lot of kids with convictions for drugs, assault and robbery—many of whose families had disowned them—wearing seven-year-old shoulder pads and ancient helmets.

So Hogan had this idea. What if half of our fans—for one night only—cheered for the other team? He sent out an email asking the Faithful to do just that. "Here's the message I want you to send:" Hogan wrote. "You are just as valuable as any other person on planet Earth." Some people were naturally confused. One Faith player walked into Hogan's office and asked, "Coach, why are we doing this?"

And Hogan said, "Imagine if you didn't have a home life. Imagine if everybody had pretty much given up on you. Now imagine what it would mean for hundreds of people to suddenly believe in you." Next thing you know, the Gainesville Tornadoes were turning around on their bench to see something they never had before - hundreds of fans. And actual cheerleaders!

"I thought maybe they were confused," said Alex, a Gainesville lineman (only first names are released by the prison). "They started yelling 'DEE-fense!' when their team had the ball. I said, 'What? Why they cheerin' for us?'"

It was a strange experience for boys who most people cross the street to avoid. "We can tell people are a little afraid of us when we come to the games," says Gerald, a lineman who will wind up doing more than three years. "You can see it in their eyes. They're lookin' at us like we're criminals. But these people, they were yellin' for us! By our names!"

Maybe it figures that Gainesville played better than it had all season, scoring the game's last two touchdowns. Of course, this might be because Hogan put his third-string nose guard at safety and his third-string cornerback at defensive end. Still.

After the game, both teams gathered in the middle of the field to pray and that's when Isaiah surprised everybody by asking to lead. "We had no idea what the kid was going to say," remembers Coach Hogan. But Isaiah said this: "Lord, I don't know how this happened, so I don't know how to say thank You, but I never would've known there was so many people in the world that cared about us."

And it was a good thing everybody's heads were bowed because they might've seen Hogan wiping away tears. As the Tornadoes walked back to their bus under guard, they each were handed a bag for the ride home—a burger, some fries, a soda, some candy, a Bible and an encouraging letter from a Faith player.

The Gainesville coach saw Hogan, grabbed him hard by the shoulders and said, "You'll never know what your people did for these kids tonight. You'll never, ever know."

And as the bus pulled away, all the Gainesville players crammed to one side and pressed their hands to the window, staring at these people they'd never met before, watching their waves and smiles disappearing into the night.

Wow! Do people feel like that as they leave FWC on Sunday?

May 16, 2009

“Whoever claims to live in Him must walk as Jesus did.” I John 2:6

Discipleship is a walk, a very distinctive walk, patterned after the life and teachings of our Lord, Jesus Christ. Discipleship is taking a stand for what is right and what is healthy. Where does one get the strength to stand and to walk? From the nourishment that is received daily in the dining room!

I have been accused of having a distinctive walk.

One time Barbara and I were attending a large interdenominational conference in Colorado Springs. We were a few minutes late as we entered the huge auditorium where the evening service was being held. They had already brought the house lights down making it difficult to spot the empty seats. As we were cautiously making our way down the aisle I heard a voice whisper, “Brad! Brad Snyder! Is that you?” It was a couple that I had not seen in years! We quickly arranged to meet after the service.

As we came together later that evening, I asked them how they could recognize me in such a large crowd in a dark auditorium. They chuckled, “Are you kidding? We would recognize that walk anywhere!”

I was glad they did because it was good to see them and we had a great time!

If you had squatted behind the plate to catch as many baseball games as I have, you might walk funny, too!

Actually, I am not sure I can get off the hook that easily because unfortunately, my younger son walks that way, too.

Even more unfortunately, my daughter kind of does, too. You could pick them each out of a crowd.

Seriously, it does matter how we walk. It especially matters how we walk in our spiritual walk. People do notice. So does God.

Just as my kids have a walk like mine, God calls His children to walk like Jesus. People ought to be able to recognize us as His kids by the way we walk.

That walk is often referred to as “discipleship”.

Have you ever played “Follow the Leader”? I am sure you have!

What happens in that game? One person is designated as the leader and everyone else must do exactly what the leader does! Those who follow the leader win the game and those who don’t lose.

Can you see the similarity to discipleship? As disciples we are called to walk in the path of Jesus as we follow the Leader.

If you can win at “Follow the Leader”, you have what it takes to be a disciple. It will just require regular trips to the dining room!

Here at FredWes, we are committed to spending ample time with you in the dining room so we can give you an HD understanding of how to walk as a disciple and then, eventually, lead others in that distinctive walk.