I needed this this morning, and I woke up singing it! I hope it blesses you guys too. Especially the pupster! We need a vacation kid!
Monthly Archives: January 2009
Category: * Signs of the Times
Source: Ray Yungen
In the days prior to Jesus Christ’s return, [f]amiliar spirits (fallen angels) will not just mislead a few individuals; they will deceive the whole world into embracing a new system. Satan (whose name means adversary) will be the power behind the “coming one”-the great Antichrist. The origin of the Antichrist-s religious system is clearly revealed by the apostle John in Revelation 17:5:
“And on her forehead a name was written: Mystery, Babylon the Great, the mother of harlots and of the abominations of the earth.”
Another word for Babylon in the Old Testament was Chaldea. The Chaldeans were renowned for their use of metaphysical arts. They began the first mystery schools. Daniel 4:7 says: “Then the magicians, the astrologers, the Chaldeans, and the soothsayers came in.” This Mystery Babylon, then, would be the original source or mother of what is now New Age metaphysics.
Thus, when the apostle John identifies the Antichrist’s spiritual format, he is making reference to the city and the people that first spawned occultism in ancient times. All of the other mystery schools flowed out of Babylon, teaching essentially the same thing–the higher self. John saw it as one unbroken line throughout history culminating in the Antichrist’s rule with hundreds of millions being given over to familiar spirits. Luke, who wrote the book of Acts, gave us an account of this activity as the first century believers were daily confronting spirits not of God:
But there was a certain man called Simon, who previously practiced sorcery in the city and astonished the people of Samaria, claiming that he was someone great, to whom they all gave heed, from the least to the greatest, saying, “This man is the great power of God.” And they heeded him because he had astonished them with his sorceries for a long time. (Acts 8:9-11)
Simon was a man whose activities appeared good; otherwise the people would not have declared, “this man is the great power of God.” But the truth of the matter is, he wasn’t of God–he just appeared to be. Fortunately for Simon, he repented from his Chaldean practice, and he and his household were saved.
Simon’s conversion (like all conversions) was a huge threat to the mystical agenda. Hence, it is easy to see why the coming of the Gospel to the town of Ephesus was a great hindrance to the practice of occultism. Once the people understood they had been deceived by what appeared to be spiritual truth, they repented and liberated themselves of all their collections of mystical recipes. The following describes this dramatic event:
“And many who had believed came confessing and telling their deeds. Also, many of those who had practiced magic brought their books together and burned them in the sight of all. And they counted up the value of them, and it totaled fifty thousand pieces of silver. So the word of the Lord grew mightily and prevailed.” (Acts 19:18-20)
The magical or metaphysical arts flew out their door when the Gospel of Christ came in. The two were not only incompatible but totally opposite. Further, what the new believers burned equaled the wages of 150 men for one year. The Ephesian believers gave up their wealth and mystical formulas for the truth found only in Jesus Christ. Unfortunately, the opposite is happening in the world today!
There is another account in Scripture that highlights what I am trying to say. It is found in Acts 16:16-19:
Now it happened, as we went to prayer, that a certain slave girl possessed with a spirit of divination met us, who brought her masters much profit by fortune-telling. This girl followed Paul and us, and cried out, saying, “These men are the servants of the Most High God, who proclaim to us the way of salvation.” And this she did for many days. But Paul, greatly annoyed, turned and said to the spirit, “I command you in the name of Jesus Christ to come out of her!” And he came out that very hour. But when her masters saw that their hope of profit was gone, they seized Paul and Silas and dragged them into the marketplace to the authorities.
Such events in Scripture illustrate several things critical to understanding the nature and aim of familiar spirits:
# The spirit was the source of her power, not some latent faculty inherent in her human makeup. When it left, her ability left with it.
# The spirit was accurate to a high degree. Otherwise she would not have brought her masters “much gain.”
# Deception often occurs when there is 99 percent truth and just 1 percent falsehood. It only takes a little leaven or white lie to leaven or taint the greater lump, which is truth.
# Paul and the spirit were not on the same side; all was not one here. This is quite evident due to the fact that he cast it out of her. Most important of all, the spirit tried to identify or associate itself with God by open acknowledgment. It was crafty when it followed Paul and Silas, for it was proclaiming the truth: “These men show us the way of salvation.” This reveals that Mystery Babylon and its spirit guide legions will try to appear as being on God’s side. Today, many of these types of occurrences are already happening in the name of Christianity.
For information on mysticism and contemplative spirituality in relation to biblical prophecy and the last days, read A Time of Departing by Ray Yungen, 2nd edition.
Pastor Rick Warren now stands at ground zero of a whirlwind, and he is likely to be there for some time. The announcement that President-elect Obama had chosen him to deliver the invocation at the inaugural ceremonies on January 20 came with formality but no fanfare. The first headlines speculated that Warren had become “the next Billy Graham” — for Billy Graham has missed praying at few inaugurations in recent decades.
Within hours, however, the story had quickly changed. Rick Warren had gone from being the next Billy Graham to being the next Fred Phelps — and in a media instant.
Joe Solmonese, President of the Human Rights Campaign, a group that promotes homosexual rights, sent a letter to the President-elect protesting the choice of Warren.
The letter began:
Let me get right to the point. Your invitation to Reverend Rick Warren to deliver the invocation at your inauguration is a genuine blow to LGBT Americans. Our loss in California over the passage of Proposition 8 which stripped loving, committed same-sex couples of their given legal right to marry is the greatest loss our community has faced in 40 years. And by inviting Rick Warren to your inauguration, you have tarnished the view that gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender Americans have a place at your table.
The outrage from gay activist groups and other liberal allies reached a fever pitch within hours. Blogs and news releases referred to Rick Warren as a “homophobe” and to his choice to deliver the invocation as a “hammer blow” and assault upon the homosexual community — a group that had enthusiastically supported the Obama candidacy.
The idea that Rick Warren would deliver the invocation at the inauguration after Obama had courted and received such support from the homosexual community was termed “abominable” and “despicable.” As The Advocate reported, “Even ardent Obama supporters seem to be up in arms. Progressive radio talk-show host Stephanie Miller — an Obama supporter from day one — took issue with the decision, saying he could have made a better choice. She told callers this morning that in light of eight years of a Bush administration and the passing of Prop. 8, having Warren deliver the invocation felt like a big slap in the face.”
Apparently stung by the criticism, the President-elect answered a reporter’s question about Warren by saying:
“I think that it is no secret that I am a fierce advocate for equality for gay and lesbian Americans. It is something that I have been consistent on and something that I intend to continue to be consistent on during my presidency. What I have also said is that it is important for America to come together, even though we may have disagreements on certain social issues. I would note that a couple of years ago I was invited to Rick Warren’s church to speak, despite his awareness that I held views that were entirely contrary to his when it came to gay and lesbian rights, when it came to issues like abortion. Nevertheless I had an opportunity to speak. And that dialogue, I think, is part of what my campaign has been all about.
“We’re not going to agree on every single issue. But what we have to do is to be able to create an atmosphere where we can disagree without being disagreeable and then focus on those things that we hold in common as Americans.”
Now here is an interesting point. The protest against Rick Warren is that he is an opponent of same-sex marriage. But when Candidate Obama was asked to define marriage during the Saddleback Civil Forum on the Presidency, he appeared to leave no room for same-sex marriage: “I believe that marriage is the union between a man and a woman. Now, for me as a Christian — for me — for me as a Christian, it is also a sacred union.” When asked follow-up questions by Warren, Obama endorsed civil unions and opposed a constitutional amendment protecting marriage as a heterosexual institution.
So, what’s the difference? Well, as Obama indicated, he is “a fierce advocate for equality for gay and lesbian Americans.” Even as he defined marriage in a way that apparently excluded same-sex marriage, he steadfastly refused to do anything to prevent same-sex marriage. Most pointedly, he opposed California’s Proposition 8 whereas Warren publicly endorsed it. Before the election, the Obama campaign also provided a message from Michelle Obama expressing hope for the eventual acceptance of same-sex marriage.
In other words, the gay rights community knows that the President-elect will be a reliable friend when it comes to policy. The President-elect virtually promised to do nothing to prevent or slow down the legalization of same-sex marriage.
The outrage directed at Rick Warren must be seen in this context. It is a genuine outrage expressed by gay activists and their liberal allies. To these Obama supporters, it is unthinkable that the President-elect could have chosen Warren for such a prominent role. As one letter to the editor in Friday’s edition of The New York Times expressed the sentiment, “Barack Obama’s choice of the Rev. Rick Warren to deliver the invocation at the presidential inauguration is as if Lyndon B. Johnson had selected a pastoral proponent of racial segregation to deliver the invocation in 1965.”
Here is the deep irony — Rick Warren has devoted enormous energy toward the goal of defusing the culture war and creating common ground. He has attracted the criticism of many conservative evangelicals who have been concerned about how these efforts have been positioned and for what often appears as comments at their expense. At times, Warren has even had to issue clarifications in order to make his generalized statements more specific. If the President-elect wanted to choose a figure recognized as an evangelical in the public eye, but sympathetic to much of his stated agenda to unite, he could scarcely have chosen a more recognizable figure than Rick Warren.
But now many of Obama’s own supporters attack Rick Warren as if he is a hate-driven homophobe, which he clearly is not. All that was necessary to bring on this opposition is Warren’s opposition to same-sex marriage and his support for Proposition 8. Now, he is grouped along with the most strident and careless apostles of hatred.
It doesn’t take much. We would all like to be considered cool. Cultural opposition is a tough challenge and bearing public hatred is a hard burden. Being cool means being considered mainstream, acceptable, and admirable. Believing that same-sex marriage is wrong is enough to turn “uncool” in an instant, at least in many circles.
I am not throwing Rick Warren to the wolves over this. He now finds himself in a whirlwind, and he will not be the last. Pastor after pastor and church after church will face a similar challenge in short order. No matter how cool you think you are or think that others think you are, the hour is coming when the issue of homosexuality — taken alone — will be the defining issue in coolness. If you accept the full normalization of homosexuality, you will be cool. If you do not, you are profoundly uncool, no matter how much good work you do nor how much love and compassion you seek to express.
Liberal Protestantism came to this conclusion long ago, and those churches desperately want to be considered cool by the elites. Having abandoned biblical authority, there is nothing to prevent them moving fast into coolness. The only barriers are outposts of conservative opposition, but they will not last long.
Many in the “emerging” and “Emergent church” movements also state their int
ention to transcend the divisive issues like abortion and homosexuality. Some of these represent the quintessence of cool in cultural identification. But for how long? Eventually, the issue of homosexuality will require a decision. At that point, those churches will find themselves facing a forced decision. Choose ye this day: Will it be the Bible or coolness?
Rick Warren has just found himself in the midst of a whirlwind. We must pray that God will give him wisdom as he decides what to do — and what to say — as he stands in this whirlwind. But every evangelical Christian should watch this carefully, for the controversy over Rick Warren will not stop with the pastor from Saddleback. This whirlwind is coming for you and for your church. At some point, the cost of being “cool” will be the abandonment of biblical Christianity. We had better decide well in advance that this is a cost far too high to pay.
Would I deliver the invocation at the inauguration of Barack Obama as President of the United States? Well, I have not been asked, but I can imagine that it would be difficult to turn down this invitation. After all, the inaugural ceremony is a national event, not a personal ceremony. Yet, in the end, the context of this inaugural ceremony would not allow me to accept. President-elect Obama has pledged to sign legislation including the Freedom of Choice Act, which would affect a pro-abortion revolution in this nation. He has also pledged to sign executive orders within hours of taking office that will lead directly to a vast increase in the destruction of human life. In particular, he has promised to reverse the Bush administration’s policy limiting federal funding of human embryonic stem-cell research. Sources inside the transition office have advised activists to expect a flurry of executive orders in the new administration’s first hours and days.
Knowing the intentions of this President-elect, I could not in good conscience offer a formal prayer at his inauguration. Even in the short term, I could not live in good conscience with what will come within hours. I could not accept a public role in the event of his inauguration nor offer there a public prayer, but I will certainly be praying for this new President and for the nation under his leadership.
I was interviewed about this question by The Wall Street Journal, and the article appears in today’s edition of the paper [see here]. From the article:
Some on the right were unhappy as well. R. Albert Mohler Jr., president of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, said he wouldn’t deliver the invocation for a president who supports abortion rights.
“It certainly doesn’t help the pro-life movement to…participate in this kind of public way in the inauguration for one who holds to a very radical pro-abortion position,” he said.
Late on Thursday, Rick Warren released this statement:
“I commend President-elect Obama for his courage to willingly take enormous heat from his base by inviting someone like me, with whom he doesn’t agree on every issue, to offer the Invocation at his historic Inaugural ceremony.
Hopefully individuals passionately expressing opinions from the left and the right will recognize that both of us have shown a commitment to model civility in America.
The Bible admonishes us to pray for our leaders. I am honored by this opportunity to pray God’s blessing on the office of the President and its current and future inhabitant, asking the Lord to provide wisdom to America’s leaders during this critical time in our nation’s history.”
We will discuss this issue on today’s edition of The Albert Mohler Program. Please call and let me know what you think.
Photo of Rick Warren and Barack Obama at Saddleback Civil Forum on the Presidency courtesy of http://www.rickwarrennews.com.
What is Christianity and what is a Christian. Those questions seem so easy, so time tested and so well defined two thousand years removed from the life and death of the Author and Founder of our faith. But there is much disagreement, and in fact rancor, concerning the answer to those two basic questions which should by now be settled but in reality continue to have a widening cross section of definitions. Let us examine the issues that surround what is Christianity and what is a Christian.
What is Christianity? That question must be answered fully within the context of who is Jesus of Nazareth. The exclusive source of authoritative information on this question comes only from the written Scriptures we call the “Bible”. All other supposed references are counterfeit and should not be given any weight, except those that add support to the Scriptures themselves. The postulate is this: If Jesus was God in the flesh and was sent to provide salvation for sinners, but He did not leave a clear and well articulated revelation concerning Himself and His mission, then how productive can it be to those who are in need of His redemption? The answer, of course, is that He did both – He came to die for the forgiveness of sins and offer eternal life, and He indeed left a written revelation of Who He was and what He did.
So a Christian is a sinner who has believed that Jesus was the Son of God, died on the cross for the forgiveness of sins, and rose from the dead. This sinner has embraced by faith Christ Himself as His only redemption and has decided to follow Him in his life. Christianity is the true collection of these believers and not the visual, organized, and labeled denominations which can contain a mixture of outward professors and true believers. Only God can accurately discern that important difference.
There is much debate on what outward manifestations, both in quality and in quantity, substantiate and give the assurance that a sinner who speaks words of faith is actually born again into Jesus Christ. There is also vigorous debate on what a person has to believe to be considered a genuine follower of Jesus Christ. These two main issues continue to divide the community of believers to varying degrees, ranging from friendly disagreement to fierce rancor and judgment.
Now many draw certain doctrinal lines in unmistakable detail while others seem to have vague and uncertain lines. There are arguments about the role of repentance, the immediacy of conversion, baptism, church membership, predestination, tongues, and a laundry list of other issues both core and subordinate. There are certain issues that most evangelical believers feel are absolute and without room for compromise which include the deity of Christ, the substitutionary core of the cross, the bodily resurrection, and even the authority of the Scriptures. And these issues define Christianity at its foundation since a person can be profoundly committed to a caricature of Christ and not the revelation of Jesus of Nazareth. Truth is important, and levels of compromise usually breed more dangerous levels of compromise which can eventually lead to complete falsehoods.
The purpose of my article will begin to unfold at this point since I will not be dealing extensively with these articles of faith but of the life which projects and obeys Christ and His Word. The general understanding of how a Christian reflects Christ, separate from verbally sharing the gospel, centers on love, forgiveness, kindness, and other similar attributes within that same interactive genre. There are many unbelievers who exhibit such generous traits among the community of humankind, so it becomes more difficult to distinguish a gracious believer from a gracious unbeliever. But is should be expected, even assumed, that a genuine follower of Jesus Christ would live a life of graciousness, love, and impartial and universal hospitality. And to be fair, all of us fall embarrassingly short of that goal but some have become blind to that goal in and of itself. And that is the centerpiece of this post.
How can we as committed Christians, dedicated to following and emulating the example of the Incarnate Master Himself, roam about the community called humanity with an arrogance and erudite dismissiveness that does not reflect the essence of Christ’s life, to say nothing of Christ’s cross? The hollowness of ungracious and disrespectful words only create the echo of an unspoken paradox that not only is incongruous to our faith, but is indeed counter- productive to Christ’s overall mission and profoundly misrepresents the Redeemer Himself.
I have disavowed the arena of politics for many reasons, however one good reason is the lack of respect and graciousness the candidates afford each other. Throughout the primaries there are lies, innuendos, malice, rancor, gossip, character assassination, personal attack adds, and many times an obvious display of distaste among the different players, only to be externally swept under the carpet after the nominee is chosen, and the viewing public is supposed to accept the mirage that they have always had a deep affection for each other. It is that kind of disingenuous metamorphosis that has led many to define politics as only a platform for self aggrandizement and permeated by manipulation without much real substance or truth.
But the body of believers known as the church should not mirror that political mess. How can we tell the world we love each other when many times discourse is filled with rancor and attacks and with an obvious lack of respect for the other? And when people read Christian blogs that contain malice, wounding sarcasm, self righteousness, and a stream of demeaning rhetoric that leaves the issue and attaches itself to a human host with the intention of draining the God given life out of them, are we not mirroring the political process and calling it “Christian”? No one who engages in such behavior can claim to be doctrinally pure or Biblically faithful since the Scriptures are replete with admonitions of humility, grace, mercy, and the cornerstone – love.
There are these days many doctrinal truths that are being questioned and even dismantled, but in the midst of all of that there are other, more unrecognizable and clandestine truths that are being abrogated and dismantled. These are the core issues of Christlikeness that extend far beyond the average systematic theology library, these are the actual issues of the very life of Jesus Christ being translated through the prism of a believers life. It is surely not enough to pass a theology test and claim that in and of itself showcases the Savior in our lives, because the dark and unregenerate world knows nothing of Biblical theology, but just as the thief on the cross recognized, the world understands love, forgiveness, and supreme humble sacrifice for others.
The church continues to fracture concerning God’s Truth, however we who hold to the core elements of that truth must not ignore other truths as a way of substantiating our faithfulness to these selected and foundational truths. Like the builder who establishes a concrete and sure foundation for his house, but then proceeds to build upon it with paper mache, so are we if we align ourselves with the foundational truths of Christ and His redemption and then present them upon a platform of smugness, personal rancor, and an ambiance of self righteousness. In many ways that suggests that God’s truth needs our help and without the addition of our oratorical malice that truth lacks the power it needs.
“Speak the truth in love” is our comma
nd, and these backyard blog brawls must be rejected even when the truth that is promulgated is pure. The finest steak covered in arsenic sauce must not be eaten and arsenic covered by steak must similarly be avoided. As a follower and representative of Jesus the Christ our mission is to both spread the gospel of Jesus Christ and live the life of Jesus Christ as well. Both are not only partners, they must be Siamese twins, each completely dependent on the other for life.
Let us be ambassadors for Jesus Christ in word and in deed, to His eternal glory.
Posted by Rick Frueh at 11:51 AM
Two very important articles in my humble opinion pointing out Mr. Warren’s “bridge building”. The second one is from lighthouse trails research.
Rick Warren’s Invocation Invokes Judaism, Islam
January 20, 2009 03:40 PM ET | Dan Gilgoff | Permanent Link | Print
By Dan Gilgoff, God & Country
The Rev. Rick Warren’s invocation might have featured the full Lord’s Prayer, the prayer that best cuts across many Christian denominations, but for those listening closely, it also included clear hat-tips to Judaism and Islam. The references came right up top, six lines into Warren’s invocation:
The Scripture tells us, “Hear, O Israel, the Lord is our God. The Lord is One.” And you are the compassionate and merciful one. And you are loving to everyone you have made.
The first half of that paragraph—Hear, O Israel, the Lord is our God. The Lord is One—is the Shema, the most important prayer in Judaism. Many Jews recited it on the way to their deaths during the Holocaust.
The second half of that paragraph—”You are the compassionate and merciful one”—echoes the opening of all but one chapter of the Koran. Those chapters begin Bismillah al-Rahman al-Raheem, which translates into, “In the name of Allah, the most compassionate, the most merciful.”
“After the actual name Allah, Rahman is the one name that’s unique to God,” explains Jonathan Brown, assistant professor of Arabic and Islamic studies at the University of Washington. “It’s this intense compassion and mercy you can’t find in a human being.”
That means Rick Warren’s invocation was more ecumenical than many expected it to be. The interesting thing now will be to watch whether and how Warren’s shout-outs are greeted in the Jewish and Muslim communities. Yet again, Warren is trying to be a bridge builder, even as the media focus on his ability to sow controversy.
Inauguration: Rick Warren Prays in Name of “Isa,” Muslim False “Jesus”
I humbly ask this in the name of the one who changed my life, Yeshua, Isa, Jesus, Jesus (hay-SOOS), who taught us to pray, Our Father who art in heaven hallowed be thy name, thy kingdom come, thy will be done on Earth as it is in heaven. –Rick Warren, from inauguration prayer
Commentary by Daniel Cordell
Love for the Truth
[I]n his Presidential Inauguration prayer, Rick Warren prayed in the name of “Yeshua,” “Isa” and “Jesus.”
It seems, the three names Warren used were to imply the three “Abrahamic Faiths” (as they are so-called), Judaism, Christianity and Islam.
What’s significant is the name “Isa” being prayed by the “evangelical” Warren. Isa is strictly Koranic and used by Arab Muslims. Even Arab Christians don’t refer to Isa, but to Yesua. I’ve lived and studied Arabic in one of the same Muslim countries that Warren has visited, and I think he probably knows that the Arab Christian communities only refer to Jesus as “Yesua” and not “Isa” as the Muslims.
Isa was not Jewish, but Palistinian. Isa did not die on the cross but instead had someone die in his place. Isa is a Muslim prophet. Isa is only found in the Koran. The name Isa doesn’t have any Biblical support or any meaning found in Biblical scholarship. Yet, Rick prayed in the name of Isa.Click here for source and links to Warren’s inauguration transcript.
This article or excerpt was posted on January 21, 2009@ 5:51 pm .
This is from Jan Markell, from Olive Tree Ministries:
The Obama administration and America are heading into treacherous territory. There are certain kinds of behavior that seem to anger God more than others and at this point, America is already on shaky ground. President-elect Obama has asked V. Gene Robinson, the openly gay Episcopal bishop of New Hampshire, to deliver the invocation at a pre-inaugural event this Sunday on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial.
Bishop Robinson said he had been reading inaugural prayers through history and was “horrified” at how “specifically and aggressively Christian they were.” He states, “I am very clear that this will not be a Christian prayer, and I won’t be quoting Scripture. The texts I hold as sacred are not sacred texts for all Americans, and I want all people to feel that this is their prayer.”
Robinson said he might address the prayer to “the god of our many understandings,” language that he said he learned from the 12-Step program he attended for his alcohol addiction. I’m sure that will please God and He will pour out His blessings upon this nation. Actually not. Source.
Please everyone keep Kari in your prayers. She is working 60 hour weeks right now.
We love you speckled pupster! This ones for you.
Gainesville State players douse head coach Mark Williams in celebration.
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.
“I WOULDN’T EXPECT ANOTHER PARENT TO TELL SOMEBODY TO HIT THEIR KIDS. BUT THEY WANTED US TO!”
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.
Anyway, with the economy six feet under and Christmas running on about three and a half reindeer, it’s nice to know that one of the best presents you can give is still absolutely free.