Jovan Belcher, Bob Costas and the Promises of Christmas

 

Last Sunday, we discussed the American tragedy of Jovan Belcher, the linebacker from the Kansas City Chiefs who murdered his girlfriend and mother of their 3-month-old son and then took his own life in front of his coaches at Arrowhead Stadium. I will refrain from recounting all the details as the story has been widely reported. What seems to be important in the week following the tragedy is pointing the finger. It’s what we do. And that’s not intended to be snarky criticism. Assigning blame is a critical component to healing. A proper diagnosis is a prerequisite to the cure.

Enter Bob Costas.

I have always had a great deal of respect for Costas. He is master in his profession and, in many ways, a voice to our generation. On the evening of Sunday, December 2, he had the unenviable responsibility to say something about the Belcher tragedy. With his trademark eloquence, Costas had this to say at halftime of the Eagles/Cowboys Sunday Night game:

 

You want some actual perspective on this? Well, a bit of it comes from the Kansas City-based writer Jason Whitlock with whom I do not always agree, but who today said it so well that we may as well just quote or paraphrase from the end of his article

 

"Our current gun culture," Whitlock wrote, "ensures that more and more domestic disputes will end in the ultimate tragedy and that more convenience-store confrontations over loud music coming from a car will leave more teenage boys bloodied and dead."

 

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Throwback Thursdays: A Grassroots and Bluegrass Christmas

 

Let’s keep the Christmas-themed “Throwbacks” coming!

I’ve been in a folksy, roots-y mood of late, and when I came upon Mitch Majeski’s Christmas teaching from last December titled, “The Kingdom of God Was the Original Grassroots Movement,” I felt all toasty inside. It’s a great teaching, and is actually a good warm up for this upcoming Sunday’s message in our “As the Father Has Sent” series. God chooses humble, insignificant people to start the biggest and truest of things. Audio and video are here.

So, while we’re on the subject of “grassroots” Christmas movements, let’s finish this off in grand style with some bluegrass Christmas music. (Get it? “Grassroots” … “bluegrass”? Both have “grass” in the words? I’M TRYING, PEOPLE.) And I gotta tell ya, YouTube is just a treasure trove of musical … um … treasure. Here, for your visual and auditory delight, is Third Day and Jars of Clay performing (live!) a very bluegrassy/bluesy version of – you guessed it – “Blue Christmas.”


Are there some special Christmas messages in the Summitview teaching archive that you’d like to see featured here? Leave a comment below and I’ll try to get it in over the next few weeks.

Birthdays, Basketball and Breakfast for Dinner: A Day in the Life of FFH



Editor’s Note: Summitview helps serve the homeless population of Fort Collins in tangible, Christ-exalting ways through Faith Family Hospitality (FFH).

FFH is a volunteer-led program that provides temporary housing, food and fellowship to up to four homeless families each week of the year. The participating churches take turns hosting these families, and Summitview’s third FFH rotation of 2012 was the week of November 18-25. Our volunteers are mostly coordinated by Discipleship Teams, and last week, several of our teams took time out of a busy holiday week to love those in a tough spot in life. For privacy concerns, all names of the families served have been withheld.



I am an FFH newbie.

Tuesday, November 20, was my first time serving alongside other Summitviewers serving homeless families from the Fort Collins area. The Bryan Morton D-Team, of which I am a part, signed up for Tuesday night host duties. FFH hosts prepare and serve dinner to the families staying at Summitview, then hang out with them for an hour or so afterwards. And because our D-Team loves breakfast (mostly because of the bacon), we had “breakfast for dinner” that night, which included pumpkin-flavored pancakes, egg casserole and, of course, bacon.

One of the four families staying at Summitview that week was a single mom and her daughter. The daughter’s birthday was that day, so after the pancakes and bacon were gone, we sang “Happy Birthday,” presented her with birthday balloons and ate cake. Breakfast for dinner plus cake? Everyone loved it, and the mom and daughter were grateful to be able to celebrate together. The daughter initially slumped down in her seat when we started singing and handed her the balloons, but her smile gave her joy away.

Most of my night, though, was spent in the gym with two brothers from another family. I connected with one of the boys before dinner when we discovered that we were both Dallas Cowboys fans. Travis Fry and I played catch and multiple games of H-O-R-S-E and P-I-G with the brothers. Lacking any real male authority figure in their lives, their hunger for attention and quality time with men was apparent, and Travis and I felt blessed to love them in this way. And they were pretty good ball players, too.

Near the end of our time, I was able to ask to the older brother what it’s like “living” in churches and what he thinks of God. He said that he goes to an Awana program at a local church, and he shared his thoughts on his faith and what Jesus had done for him on the cross. It was touching to hear him articulate some of the deep truths from the Bible. I was amazed and humbled at the certainty with which he spoke. I encouraged him that because of his faith in Jesus, he would always be a son of the Heavenly Father, and that he would always find acceptance there. He seemed to be receptive of these words, shooting baskets as we talked.

I don’t know if this is how most service days with FFH are, with birthdays and cake and bacon and H-O-R-S-E. I imagine many days are rife with difficulty and frustration. The mother of the two boys was relating to me how she’d been in Fort Collins all her life, and she was doing everything she could to go somewhere else, to start life afresh. But these brief reprieves from the bleaker realities of life have to be of some comfort to these families. FFH affords Summitview an amazing opportunity to showcase the love of Christ to those in need. This is a shining good work before our city.

Maybe you helped serve in this last rotation. Maybe you weren’t able to this time, but would like to in the future. Regardless, be praying for these families. Pray for these boys that they would find their identity and hope in God the Father. Pray for the parents, that they would find jobs. Pray that those who don’t know Jesus would have a better understanding of him because of the time they spent under our roof.

Ride Out with Me: Following God in Faith's Adventures

 

For fans of The Lord of the Rings, you will recognize “Ride out with me” as the appeal of the warrior Aragorn to king Theoden to take up arms against the forces of the evil lord Sauron.

Theoden is king of the people of Rohan who are known as skilled cavalrymen with agile and brave horses. As the enemy, bent on destroying Theoden’s kingdom, advances, he chooses to retreat and take his people to the safety and security of the fortified castle of Helm’s Deep rather than to “ride out and meet them” and lead his people and his warriors against the inevitable confrontation with evil. If you’re familiar with the story, you know that the enemy breaches the walls of the fortress and the people retreat further and further into the rock that the castle is built into. Finally, with nowhere else to go and the enemy battering down the last door, Theoden cries in desperation, “What can men do against such reckless hate?” Aragorn again responds, “Ride out with me.” This time the men mount their horses and charge the enemy, becoming the warriors they were always meant to be. Surprised, the enemy falters, reinforcements arrive, and the battle is won.

This story is presented in Neil Cole’s book Organic Church, which I read over the summer while leading the remnant of the Rock that was here in Fort Collins rather than on Infusion in Austin, Texas. God used that book to grow my desire to be involved in advancing the Kingdom throughout my life, and, in part, it became the inspiration to multiply the Nickell House Church (the Rock’s version of D-Teams) this past semester. I find the story above to be an astounding analogy of God’s vision for His people. The people of Rohan had a certain identity as elite warriors on horseback made for battle, not retreat. However, under Theoden’s leadership, they didn’t embrace that identity. They suffered greatly at the hands of the enemy before realizing what they were made for and, finally, gaining the victory.  

I challenged my House Church this semester with this story, encouraging them that we would do well to not miss out on what we were made for, what we were born again for. We were born again to be people of faith, people with tremendous courage because of the might of their God; to be his children and let him be our Father; to be with him and to let Jesus live his life through us. Jesus described himself as the “light of the world” (John 8:12) and told us to be the same (Matthew 5:14). I felt that God was asking us not to settle for the comfort of the living room in which our House Church was meeting, but to ride out with Him on an adventure in faith.  

It has been a very exciting semester for all of us, but from my vantage point I have been particularly thrilled by God’s goodness. I’ve witnessed how He paved the way for us. For many months, my co-leaders and I had been praying for the opportunity to multiply and he answered those prayers and many more related ones.

Here are a few of the ways God came through for us as we sought to multiply our House Church:

The first was in our leadership team. One of the challenges of multiplying was not having another man willing and ready to step into leadership. But since Faithwalkers of last year, I had watched God grow my very own brother into a man of increasing faith, and after returning from a very faith-filled summer in Austin, Cory was ready to let God use his life to lead a D-Team. God also provided two amazing ladies to replace the former female leaders on our team.

Secondly, God orchestrated the adventures and the structure for how our teams were to multiply. After reading Organic Church, God had laid the Alley Cat Café on my heart as a place full of college kids to outreach to, and I very much wanted to take a small group of people and begin having our House Church meetings there. So I had one dream to envision us with, but what about the other half of the team that wouldn’t be going to Alley Cat? I began asking God to give us a vision for the second half of our House Church.

He answered with two freshmen from Newsom Hall who joined our House Church at the beginning of the semester. I approached them with a plan to have the other half of our House Church meet in Newsom Hall, and asked them to play a big role as our point men in the dorms (something our team was severely lacking). They received the idea with enthusiasm, and so just after the Rock retreat in September, what was formerly one Nickell House Church became two Nickell-led task forces for the gospel: One meeting in the midst of the eclectic and often eccentric atmosphere of the Alley Cat Café, and the other right in the thick of things on campus in Newsom Hall! I could tell that God was leading by the overwhelming enthusiasm with which my team received the call to arms. I was fearful of backlash coming from separating close, godly relationships, but I found out that many of the team members were waiting for a new thing to trust God with.

 

  

 

Lastly, in a very personal way, God proved faithful. Toward the end of the summer, before much of what I described above took place, and when the dream seemed to wane in my prayers, God encouraged me with the message to “dream bigger wow” three times in one day. Perhaps it is a weakness of mine, but my engineering-trained mind is generally skeptical that God gives such direct personal “signs.” However, getting the same message three times in a day got my attention, especially when one of them was relayed through a completely random act of graffiti along a bike route I do not usually take. God backed up that literal sign in my quiet time with a verse, Ephesians 3:20: “[He] is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think.”

God is on the move, and has blessed us with much fruit! I hope this spurs you on to “Ride out with Him” on a grand adventure of faith!

Throwback Thursdays: A Light Shining in Darkness

 

It's a safe bet to expect Christmas-themed "Throwbacks" now through December. (Hey, any excuse I get to play "Silent Night" by Sixpence None the Richer, I'm going to take it. Stay tuned.)

For today's "Throwback," we turn to Aaron Ritter's message from December 2010, "The Light Shines in the Darkness." He opens this teaching on John 1 with a story about his blind friend, Noah, and how he actually took a challenge to go a whole day blindfolded. The Christmas season is an apt time to refresh ourselves on what it means to be saved from the darkness of sin's lies. Audio and video of the message are here. Also, congrats to Mr. Ritter for making his first appearance on "Throwback Thursdays."

I've long found Brave Saint Saturn's "Daylight" to be a particularly moving and poignant expression of this metaphor of Jesus being the light shining in the darkness. As always, leave your suggestions for "Throwback" teachings and music in the comment section of this post.

 

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