TEAM FAMILY SERMON SERIES
CREATING THE FAMILY PEP-RALLY
MAY 10, 1998
This morning we have a very special guest with us. He is the head coach of the Dallas Cowboys, Chan Gailey. Chan and his wife, Lori, have been married for a number of years. They have two sons, Tate and Andrew. Let’s give Chan Gailey a Fellowship Church welcome.
CHAN: Thank you very much. I hope we are clapping that hard again a year from now. I got a note from Ed earlier in the week. It said, “As I mentioned earlier, plan to speak approximately 10 to 12 minutes per service covering aspects of your relationship with Christ, how you came to know Him, the impact your mother has had in your life. You may want to include your role as a Cowboy.”
I couldn’t talk about all that in an hour and 10 to 12 minutes. But I do want to share a few things about my life. First I would like to share some things about my life. I grew up in a Christian home and was baptized at age eleven. I was fortunate to be around a lot of Christian teachers and coaches. I was blessed in many ways but for 17 years I really didn’t have a relationship with Christ. I was doing a lot of things that good Christians do. I was going to church, reading my Bible and praying. I sang in the choir. I spoke for FCA. I did all those things.
Let me read you a little story that is found in I Samuel 4. It is a story about the Philistines and the Israelites. They were two groups of people that fought a lot. If you look them up, you can’t find any use for the Philistines in the Bible except for fighting the Israelites. They are kind of like the old Oakland Raiders. You know, all they were good for was a fight.
“The Philistines deployed their forces to meet Israel and as the battle spread, Israel was defeated by the Philistines who killed about 4,000 of them on the battlefield.”
- So we got the good guys and the bad guys. The good guys go out and the bad guys kill 4,000 of them. Then they returned to their encampments at night. There must have been some kind of honor in battle back in those days. So the Israelite leaders were asking themselves what was the matter, why did they lose.
“Why did the Lord bring defeat on us today before the Philistines?”
But they had an answer. They had a game plan.
“Let us bring the Ark of the Lord’s covenant from Shiloh, so that it may go with us and save us from the hands of our enemies.”
Everybody remembers the Ark of the covenant, Raiders of the Lost Ark. You know. That one. OK. Do you also remember the walls of Jericho when they marched around and blew the trumpets? Well the Ark of the covenant was there also. And another time when the Israelites were being chased by their enemies, the guys carrying the Ark put their toes in the water of the River Jordan. I know some are thinking that I am confusing this with the Red Sea. No, this is another story. They put their toes in the water and the river spread and they went through. The Ark was the last to pass through and once that happened, the waters closed again and they were saved from their enemies on the other side. Those are two situations where the Ark was present and it seemed to give them the winning edge. So they decided to go to Shiloh and get the Ark to take into battle. They make battle the next day and this is what happens.
“So the Philistines fought and the Israelites were defeated and every man fled to his tent. The slaughter was very great. Israel lost 30,000 foot soldiers and the Ark of the Lord’s covenant was captured.”
Now, what is wrong with this picture? They thought they had the answer. They had a game plan. They did everything the way they thought they were supposed to do it. They got the Ark. They brought it back. It was supposed to save them. But it couldn’t save them.
You see, the bottom line of that story and of my life are very similar. In some respects, they thought “it” could save them. In some respects, I thought reading my Bible, praying, going to church, giving money could save me. The answer is not it, the answer is Him. And that is the answer in my life. I finally realized that it takes a relationship with Jesus Christ, a relationship with the Heavenly Father to make this life work. It is not just going through the motions. It is not trying to do as many things as you can. It is not the dos and don’ts of Christianity. It is not following a list of commandments that makes us Christians. It is a relationship with Jesus Christ that makes us Christians, that allows us to have the abundant life that we read about in the Bible.
I feel very fortunate that I found that out. You can look at things that happen to you in life and question why. I could have gone through my whole life trying to do the right things to be a Christian. What happens now that I have a relationship with Jesus Christ is that I enjoy getting up and reading the Bible. It is not a burden. It is not something I feel I have to do. The Baptist church may be one of the worst about encouraging that. For those of you who grew up in the Baptist church, do you remember those little envelopes we used to have? They had a lot of boxes printed on them. Attended worship service. Read my Sunday School lesson. Gave to the church. Called someone and invited them to church. Remembered to bring my Bible. And if you checked enough of those boxes, you felt like you were a Christian. You could strut around all day. And it didn’t have anything to do with it. Sure that was the result of the relationship with Christ.
Someone asked me, “What is more important, walking the walk or talking the talk?” I answer that by saying, “Which is the most important wing on an airplane, the right wing or the left wing? You have got to have them both to fly.” I always encourage people not to look at a man, or look at me or look at Ed. Don’t look at some Sunday School teacher, some TV evangelist. Man will fail. We all come short. Christ is the answer and that is who we look at.
It is great to be here this Mother’s Day. Obviously I can’t be with my family today. They are in Pittsburgh. I am a little envious of you gathered here today. It just worked out with my schedule that I could be here with you today and I appreciate you having me here. But I do want to talk about my Mom since it is Mother’s Day. She is an unbelievable lady. I like to read Romans 12:2. “Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is, His good and pleasing and perfect will.” The first part of that says, do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world. In your home you have both a thermostat and a thermometer. The thermometer registers what the environment is. It tells you how hot or how cold it is. The thermostat regulates what the temperature is going to be, what the environment is going to be.
My Mom, she was a thermostat because she set the tone. Talk about strong and steady. She has had her share of adversity in this world but she’s never strayed from basing her life on the rock. She lost her mother and her sister and her dad at a young age. She is the only member of that family left. She has been through divorce. My parents divorced when I was a senior in high school. She has been through financial problems. She has moved all over the country. She has had it tough. But I will tell you, she is strong. And she will tell you why she is strong. It is because Christ lives in her. It is not hard to see the peace, the compassion, the love, the care that she possessed. When the church has a dinner, she cooks for 20 in case there are some who can’t bring anything. She and five other ladies for the next three months are going to take a day a week to serve as receptionist so the permanent woman can take three months off to have her baby without losing her salary. That is what I grew up with. The love, the compassion, the peace, the encouragement. So I feel very blessed.
I am here today to encourage you to be a thermostat. As Christians we have a choice. We can be a thermometer and register what the environment is in the world or we can be a thermostat and set where it ought to be.
Thank you again for having me here in the Lord’s house. It is a real opportunity for me to be here in Dallas, to be your head coach, to be involved with the young men who are on our football team but more importantly, to be involved in God’s work.
ED: I would like to begin on this special day by taking an informal poll. Would you please respond to my questions with an uplifted hand. How many of you call her, Mom? How about, Mama? Last but not least, Mother? Well today I want to challenge you to add another title to Mom, Mama or Mother – Cheerleader. Cheerleader, because that is what she is.
My first assignment after being ordained into the ministry fifteen years ago was to give the pastoral prayer during a morning service. I was nervous about this task so I went out and read some books on prayer. I had a nice prayer memorized. The pastoral prayer was rather lengthy and then I had to lead the entire congregation in reciting the Lord’s prayer after I had prayed the long prayer. I had scribbled out the Lord’s prayer on a piece of paper so I could take it up there with me. Finally, on Sunday I was informed I was to deliver the prayer after the solo. So there I was in one of those throne chairs on the platform waiting my turn. The solo ended. The organ music began to play softly. I was going over and over the prayer in my mind. I tentatively walked to the pulpit, put down the Lord’s prayer and began to pray. The first part of the prayer went great. I was thinking to myself that it was pretty easy to pray in front of a couple of thousand people. Not so bad. Then I thought to myself that I was home free since all I had to do was look down and read the Lord’s prayer. And here is what I said. “As our heads are bowed and our eyes are closed, please follow me as I lead in the prayer that Jesus taught His disciples to pray, saying..Our Father who art in heaven. Hallowed be Thy name. Thy kingdom come.” And then it happened. I had a melt down. I couldn’t read any more. I froze up. I locked up. And some people looked at me wondering who is this young preacher? I finally just said, “For thine is the kingdom, forever. Amen.” And I picked up the Lord’s prayer, turned 15 shades of red. Beads of sweat broke out all over my body. All eyes were on me. I went and sat in the pew on the front row. And I just happened to sit beside, of all people, my Mom. And Mom leaned over and she whispered words to me that only a Mom could whisper. “Ed, your voice sounded real good.” That was a prayer only a mother could love.
Mom is now 60 and she spends a couple of hours a day on the internet. She will drive hundreds of miles just to see my youngest brother’s alternative Christian rock band perform. She will join hundreds of cap-wearing, goatee-sporting Gen Xers to jam to the tunes of Caedmon’s Call. I like to say that she is the only 60-year-old groupie I know. I call her almost every Saturday. And she will always ask me about the message. I find myself, now and then, delivering the message to her over the phone. Always interested, always complimentary, always a cheerleader, always Mom.
It is a Mother’s cheer that inspires us to attain heights that we never thought possible. It is a mother’s cheer that we latch onto when the going gets tough. It is a mother’s cheer that comforts us during a time of questioning. A mother’s cheer is what we are wired up to hear.
Something supernatural takes place in a woman’s body when she discovers that she is going to be a Mom. Her body changes. Emotions change. There is a hormonal change. Morning sickness. Food cravings, some of which are caused by pregnancy and some excused by pregnancy. Her self-esteem suffers. Her tummy begins to expand and then one day a defining moment occurs in her life. She is kicked in the ribs from the inside. It is the first feeling of life. Guys, we check out here. There is no parallel. No gas, heartburn or angina can compete or match this moment. Yet for a woman, for a Mom, she knows that God is performing a miracle inside her body. God is so kind and so wonderful. He has given Moms the opportunity, the job description, the sphere of influence to impact and to mark children throughout their lives. In essence God is saying, “I want you, Moms, to become the consummate cheerleaders.”
Today I am concluding a series called Team Family. We have been comparing sports to certain aspects of the family team. Today we are comparing motherhood with cheerleading. Cheerleaders and mothers are a lot alike due to the fact that they both cheer and they are both the ultimate fan. So in the few brief moments that we have together, I want to share with you three things that every mother needs to do during their lifetime of cheering in order to create a family pep rally.
First, seize every opportunity to cheer your children on, and also you spouse. Think back to high school or junior high. For some of us it is not very much of a reach because we are there. It is a big deal for someone to make cheerleader. For young ladies to discover that they are part of the squad, that they have been chosen, they get all excited. Mothers, I have great news for you. You have been chosen. You are part of God’s team. You are on His squad. He wants you to become the ultimate cheerleader. I don’t care if you have one child or fifteen. It doesn’t matter if your children are natural, blended or adopted. You are a cheerleader. And you are to seize every single opportunity to cheer your children on, and also your spouse.
How do you accomplish this? First, you had better learn how to cheer with your mouth. Moms, how are you doing? Are you cheering with your mouth? Are you on the sidelines, in the stands constantly cheering your children on, constantly telling them that they matter to God, that they are valuable, one of a kind made with an agenda, a purpose and plan. Are you saying that? Are you doing that regularly?
I have fond memories of my childhood spending a couple of weeks every summer in Laurel, MS visiting my grandparents. I can see now my cousins and me playing football in the front yard on one of those humid Mississippi afternoons. We would get going, tossing the nerf football here and there and then we just couldn’t stand it anymore. We began to scream. “Grandmother, do the cheer. Do the cheer.” And my grandmother, who has a booming voice like I do, would walk out on that little porch and she would say these words. “Once I heard my grandma say, the Laurel team is coming this way. With a viv-o, with a vive-o, with a viv-o, vive-o, vum-bo and a rittail, rattail sitting on a cattail, bom, bom, bom. What is the matter with the team that they can’t see, they can’t play as well as we? With a viv-o, with a vive-o with a viv-o, vive-o, vum-bo and a rittail, rattail sitting on a cattail, bom, bom, bom.” That used to fire me up so much, words can’t describe it. Then I could throw that nerf football 50 yards, Man. Touchdown. She would do the cheer a couple of times and ten minutes would roll by and we would say again, “Grandmother, do the cheer again.”
Mom, whether they are kneehigh or treehigh your children are saying to you in a real way, do the cheer. Are you cheering for them? Cheer with your mouth.
Also cheer with your eyes. Have you ever considered the fact that the first reflection a child ever sees of himself or herself is in the reflection of his or her mother’s eyes? Are you giving your children looks of love? Looks of value? Looks of compassion? Looks of meaning? When we look at our children in a loving way, it does something to them. It can change the course of their lives. Cheer with your mouth. Cheer with your eyes.
Also cheer with your eyes. James 1:19 says that we are to be quick to listen. When your children talk to you, do you listen? If you listen when they are toddlers, they will talk to you when they are teenagers. And as you listen, summarize what they are saying. Repeat it back to them. And when they hear you repeat it back to them, when they see you locking eyes with them, when they understand that you are hearing them, it really takes them to another level. Listen to them.
A group of teenagers was asked recently, what do you think about when you see your Mom? The answer was that when they think of their moms, they think of a big Mick Jagger type mouth. A big old mouth. Then they were asked what they would like to see. And they answered, a big ear. Listen, use your ears to cheer.
Also, cheer with your hands. UCLA did a study which they said was revolutionary. They discovered that children need 8 to 10 hugs or embraces a day for emotional health, for balance, for them to really understand life and relationships. I have a recent copy of Newsweek magazine on my desk and it says the same thing. Breakthrough research. Well, the Bible has been talking about this for thousands and thousands of years. We are to embrace, to touch, to hold our children appropriately. Read the gospels, Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. See how many times Jesus touched people appropriately. A third of our five million touch receptors are in our hands. Hug and nurture and cuddle your children. Use every opportunity to cheer your children on.
But don’t forget your spouse. Wives, mothers, do you realize that your husbands get so much of their self-esteem from you? Are you cheering them on with your mouth, with your eyes, with your ears, with your hands? I enjoy my mother complimenting a message that I am going to deliver. We also like it when you tell some of us that you enjoyed the service. But nothing impacts me like when Lisa, my lovely wife, tell me, “Honey, God really used your words today to speak to me.” There is nothing like it. Moms, cheerleaders, seize every opportunity to cheer your team on.
But there is something else you need to do. Moms you need to be the one to champion spiritual values. Motherhood is the perfect contest to communicate those spiritual values. Moms are usually the first ones to teach their children how to pray. Have you done that? Are you praying for your children? I challenge you, Moms, to go into their rooms at night when they are sleeping and to pray for them. Grandmothers, pray for your grandchildren. Moms are also the ones who read and introduce their children to the Bible. Just by virtue of being a Mom, you have this opportunity. Are you exposing them to God’s truth in an age-appropriate way? There are so many, many wonderful tools out there that you can use to communicate in a creative and compelling way the exciting and vibrant word of God to your children.
I can still see that Children’s Bible that my Mom used to read to me. I was two, three years of age. I can still see that picture of David and Goliath, the giant ready to take out the little Hebrew hillbilly. I remember it. Don’t think your children don’t. Here is what the Bible says. Deuteronomy 6:7, “Commit yourselves wholeheartedly to these commands. Repeat them again and again to your children. Talk about them when you are at home and when you are away on a journey, when you are lying down and when you are getting up again.” We are to get involved, Moms, in championing those spiritual values, in capturing those teachable moments. And you never know when a teachable moment will occur.
Moms are usually the ones who take the initiative to bring the family to church. I know today that we have a lot of men here. And you are here because of the special invitation presented to you by your wife, the mother of your children. You might not realize it but multitudes of you guys have been prayed for for a long, long time. I know that you will give the mother of your children the roses, the Hallmark card and maybe a day at the spa or whatever. And those gifts are fine and dandy. But the greatest gift that many of you could ever give her would be the reality that you have received the gift of Jesus Christ into your life. That you have established that personal relationship that Coach Gailey was talking about.
You see, guys, a lot of you have toys and trinkets and trophies and corner offices and positions and money and all this stuff. But in the grand scheme of things, it doesn’t matter. You are not really ready to live until you are ready to die. You don’t want to think about it very much, men. You kind of what to put it off, but you are one heartbeat away from spending an eternity either in heaven or in hell. And right now you can put off what I am saying. You can count ceiling tiles and lights and think about the brunch, but it comes down to this. You are a much loved man. You are loved so much that God respects your private decision. Even though you have sinned, even though you have messed up, even though you have fallen short. And let me strop right here and say. Men, we have the uncanny ability to contrast ourselves with others. We say, “Oh, I sin much less than him. I am doing a lot better than that person.” And we always compare ourselves to other people who aren’t doing quite as well as we think we are. But the Bible say to stop comparing yourselves.
We have to compare ourselves to Christ. Christ is holy. He is perfect. We are sinners. I don’t care if you have had one off day, one bad mood, said one curse word when you whacked your thumb with a hammer, you are a sinner. And because of your sin there is a cosmic chasm that separates you and God. And, men, you cannot get to God by being a nice guy, by checking off all the boxes at Sunday School or at church, by giving to the United Way, by being a moral person, by being religious, by being a Baptist, by being a Methodist, by being a Lutheran, by being a Catholic. You can’t do it. It will not get you where you want to go. Even being a good person will cause you to fall miserably short. I heard Billy Graham say recently, “I have fallen miserably short.” So if you are trying to work your way into heaven, whoa, you are going to be miserably disappointed. No one here will ever get past Billy Graham as far as good works go. But you know what Dr. Graham said? “I have fallen short but the good news is that Jesus has made up the difference. He died on the cross for all of my sins and rose again. And even though I have fallen short, I have received Him.” And that is the option, men, that you have today. Right here before you. It is unbelievable. There is nothing like it. Don’t put it off any longer. I wish I could force you to make it, but I can’t. I can just put it out there and say, it is up to you.
I have been praying like crazy that many men today would say, “I want to step up and go God’s way.” Maybe today is your day and at the conclusion of this service I want to give you an opportunity to establish a personal relationship with Christ. It will change your life, it really will.
Let’s go back to Moms for a second. Moms, as you champion those spiritual values, realize the impact and the influence that you are having. You might think that you are kind of confined to the home, that you have three or four toddlers biting at your heels now and then. You are wondering if you are really having an influence, being a difference maker, being a cheerleader. I have some wonderful words for you. The book of I Samuel tells about a woman names Hannah. Hannah was an ancient woman with a modern day problem. She was dealing with infertility. The women were making fun of her, abusing her. Her heart was broken. Hannah, though, was a woman of prayer and one day after prayer God said, “Hannah, I am going to give you a baby.” Then Hannah promised God that she would give Him the child, dedicate the child to Him. Hannah had the child for three years. And during that three year time span she championed those spiritual values. And today, relational experts and developmental experts tell us that 90% of a child’s personality is formed during the first three years. Then Hannah took Samuel to the temple and gave him to Eli. Now you are saying to yourself that he had a great life. He got to hang out in the temple with Eli. I am sure that it was a very godly environment. Hey, get off that train. Eli had two of the meanest, badest preacher’s kids you have ever seen. Their names were Hophni and Phinehas. They were swinging from the rafters of sin. They were abusing the sacrificial system. But because Hannah had championed those spiritual values in Samuel’s life, Samuel developed and emerged as one of the great judges in the nation of Israel. Why? Because he had a mom who marked him. Champion those spiritual values.
Moms, we are to do one more thing. We are also to team up with other cheerleaders. Have you ever been to a basketball game or a football game and there is a break in the action? Do you see one solo cheerleader come out? No. Cheerleaders hang around in groups. They feed off each other. They get boldness and risk taking from each other. Oftentimes, moms feel like they are alone, isolated, cheering by themselves. The evil one likes to come up to a mom and say that no one feels like they feel. No one is going through what they are going through. But don’t buy those lies. Team up with other cheerleaders.
You have got a junior varsity and a varsity. The junior varsity feed off and learn from the varsity. Team up with other like believing cheerleaders, Moms, who are going through the same seasons that you are going through. Moms you can open up to, moms you can express your frustrations with, who will cry with you and laugh with you and pray with you. Are you doing that? If you aren’t, what is going to happen when the roof caves in? What is going to happen when there is a problem in preschool, in grammar school or in high school? I Thessalonians 5:11, “Therefore encourage one another and build each other up.” We do this by taking advantage of the myriad of opportunities that the church offers moms. We do so much around here just to match moms up. We have parenting classes that are offered. We have play groups. We have small groups. We have in-depth Bible studies. Get involved. Take the step. If God is leading you here to the Fellowship Church, we would love to have you. There is a place for you. If He is leading you somewhere else, that is great too. There are a number of wonderful churches here in the Dallas/Ft. Work area. But don’t ever get off by yourself, isolated, and begin to believe the lies from the evil one. Team up with other cheerleaders.
So, Moms, how about it? Hey, on this weekend, we just cheer you on because you have cheered us on. And more importantly than that, God, Himself, is cheering you on. Seize those opportunities to cheer for your children and your spouse too. Champion and mark those little ones with those spiritual, transcendent values. Team up and get into community with other cheerleaders. And I am going to make a promise to you. You will become the leader of your very own family pep rally.