“The word patience means the willingness to stay where we are and live the situation out to the full in the belief that something hidden there will manifest itself to us. Impatient people are always expecting the real thing to happen somewhere else and therefore want to go elsewhere. The moment is empty. But patient people dare to stay where they are.” ~Henri Nouwen
Bill Parcells famously declared, “You are what your record says you are.” With that in mind, here is a list of the teams in the NFL who have not won a divisional playoff game in at least 25 years:
This is the worst of the worst in the NFL, the teams that have gone the longest at being the most irrelevant. This is the company the Cowboys have been keeping since 1995. The Cowboys are not one player or one coach away. The Cowboys are the Bengals and the Lions and the Dolphins.
At least it can be said that we are watching history with this current version of the Cowboys. Only three teams in the history of the NFL have given up more than the 218 points Dallas has given up in its first six games. The last time it happened was in 1961. Statistically speaking, we are watching the worst defense in the NFL in my lifetime! Arizona averaged almost seven-and-a-half yards per play last night!
But it’s not just the defense. Eighty-four of those 218 points given up this year have come off Dallas turnovers. The Cowboys committed four more in last night’s debacle against the Cardinals, two on fumbles by the highest paid running back in NFL history on back-to-back possessions. Andy Dalton looked lost. And the Cowboys may as well have set up five chairs on the line the way the Cards defense was running through to the backfield.
On this day in 1950, Thomas Earl Petty was born in Gainesville, Florida. At the age of 26, with his band of mostly childhood friends, The Heartbreakers, he released their self-titled debut album and I had a rock-and-roll companion I could grow old with. In his memory, check out this promotional video of a little-known deep cut from that first album, “Anything That’s Rock ‘n’ Roll.”
I love the rebellious teenage angst lyrics in that song. This is the young Tom Petty, but anybody could see he was already a genius at turning a phrase and writing a really good lyric:
“Your mama don’t like it when you run around with me / but we got to hip your mama that you got to live free.”
While we’re at it, here are my favorite lines from the other nine songs on that first Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers album.
“I can’t stop thinkin’ about how I dig rockin’ around with you.”
“There is no sense in pretending / your eyes give you away / something inside you is feeling like I do / we’ve said all there is to say.”
“Said it’s so good, said it’s unreal / might not last, but it’s no big deal.”
“Well, the moon sank as the wind blew / and the street lights slowly died.”
“A roar turned into whispers.”
“You never said you had no number two / I need to know about it if you do / If two is one, I might as well be three / it’s good to see you think so much of me.”
“You got ruby lipstick, rose petal rouge / dime store jewelry, cheap perfume.”
“White light cut a scar in the sky / thin line of silver / the night was all clouded with dreams / wind made me shiver.”
“Well, she was an American girl, raised on promises / she couldn’t help but thinkin’ that there was a little more to life somewhere else / after all it was a great big world / with lots of places to run to / and if she had to die tryin’, she had one little promise she was gonna keep.”
Great Cities Missions has released a really wonderful video that highlights the missionaries, church planters, and congregations they equip and support all over Latin America and in Spanish-speaking churches in the U.S. The video is hosted by Grant Boone of CBS Sports, a great friend of GCM, and it really captures the passion of Kelley and Brian and Chris and all our great partners in this extraordinary Gospel organization. Junior and Patricia Lira are featured at the beginning, Byron and Sandra Cana are seen passing out food and resources in Bogota, Max Lucado makes an appearance at the end, and our own Leon Wood’s surprise cameo steals the whole thing! Watch the video; you’ll be encouraged and inspired.
At Central, we are incredibly honored and blessed to be founding partners with Great Cities Missions for almost 50 years. And we love celebrating our friendships during Missions Month and giving the glory and praise to our God.
“We have heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and of the love you have for all the saints — the faith and love that spring from the hope that is stored up for you in heaven and that you have already heard about in the word of truth, the Gospel that has come to you.” ~Colossians 1:4-6
It’s interesting that Paul tells the Christians in Colosse that hope is the source of their faith and love. Their hope doesn’t come from their faith — it’s the opposite. Their faith is grounded in their hope. That means hope, at least in this setting, is not about their mood or their attitude. It’s about the thing that is hoped for. It’s the thing that is stored up in heaven. This future glory with Christ, these eternal promises of God we know are coming true.
Not hope in the things of this world. Not hope in our careers or family, not hope in degrees or scholarships, not hope in elections or supreme courts, not hope in science or technology — hope in what God is holding for us in heaven. That kind of certainty is what gives birth to a faith in Christ Jesus, a faith that our God has acted decisively in his Son as our Savior. It generates a deep love for all the saints, a love that’s increasingly for others instead of self. This kind of biblical hope is a strong knowing, a confident conviction that impacts our every thought and deed.
Christian hope is not blind optimism with no foundation to it. It’s not, “I hope the Cowboys win the Super Bowl.” That’s just baseless positivism. Like when George Lloyd addressed the House of Commons on Armistice Day in 1918: “I hope we may say that on this fateful morning came an end to all wars.” That’s just wishful thinking. It just means, “I hope so.” It’s not really based on anything concrete.
That’s what led Alexander Pope to write: “Blessed is the one who expects nothing for he shall never be disappointed.” In other words, don’t get your hopes up and you’ll never be let down.
For Christians, our hopes are always way up! We expect everything!
We expect that our God is at work in this world through Jesus Christ and that he is reconciling all people and all things together in himself. We expect that God is right now fixing everything that’s broken and making right everything that’s gone wrong. Our hope is secure because God himself has sealed it by placing his Holy Spirit inside us.
“All over the world, this Gospel is bearing fruit and growing, just as it has been doing among you since the day you heard it and understood God’s grace in all its truth.” ~ Colossians 1:6
That Christian faith and that mutual love and that common hope is changing our lives and changing the world and connecting us together forever.
Whitney and I took a quick road trip to Austin over the weekend to see our nephew, Isaac, play cornerback for the Brentwood Christian High School Bears. We also paid our respects at the Stevie Ray Vaughan statue at Auditorium Shores, ate some famous Austin barbecue at Oakwood BBQ, cruised the shops on South Congress, climbed Mount Bonnell for the amazing views of the Colorado River, and enjoyed a pre-game meal at the Chuy’s on Lamar. Isaac dominated and the Bears beat some Catholic school 24-0.
The current issue of Christianity Today contains an alarming nugget from the American Journal of Political Science that sheds some light on the disturbing ways our national politics get mixed in with our identities as followers of Jesus. According to the latest research, a small but significant number of Americans don’t vote based on their religion, race, or ethnicity. Instead, they switch those personal identities to better align with their political preferences.
Instead of identifying first as a Christian and voting for candidates and party platforms through that lens, more and more people identify as Republicans or Democrats first and shape their religious beliefs through those lenses. What one believes about the Bible and about Jesus as Lord is determined by that person’s political affiliations, not the other way around.
The research indicates that, over a four year period, the probability that a conservative Republican will start to identify as “born again” is one out of 25. And the probability that a Christian liberal Democrat will stop identifying as “born again” is the same, one in 25.
In other words, how a person’s political party leads on issues of immigration, race, violence, war, abortion, and sexual ethics is more and more forming how Christians interpret their Bibles, how Christians view their own Christianity. Instead of the Bible and the Church shaping our views on politics, our politics are shaping our views on the Bible and the Church.
Just as troubling is that this doesn’t simply impact the spiritual formation of American Christians and their fidelity to Jesus. This also impacts how non-Christians view the Church. The bottom line here is that the term “born again” is increasingly coming to mean “Republican.” God’s Church in this country is accelerating in lining up with a particular political party, its leaders, its methods, and its styles.
One of the best ways to shut down any conversation about our Lord with a person under the age of 40 is to tell them that being a Christian has anything to do with national politics. That following Jesus and belonging to his Kingdom means involving yourself in the ways and means and ends of this nation’s politics. If you do that, it’s over. And we’re doing it more and more and more.
What’s going to dissolve the troubling marriage between national politics and God’s Church in this country? What’s going to reverse the order so that we are convicted first of God’s ways and means and goals and then decide what we do and how we behave relative to national politics?
When we realize that being born again means being born into a whole new political body. We are citizens of an eternal Kingdom. We belong to a particular people. We serve a King who sits on a throne. We have rules and laws and codes by which we live and a political ethic that determines how we interact with others. That is our identity. First and always. Everything else runs through that.
Right now, our nation feels so fractured. Just turn on the news for about four seconds. Any channel.
Right now, our families and neighbors seem so separated. When’s the last time you saw your parents or went to a birthday party?
Right now, our churches are more scattered than gathered. There are people who used to sit by you who don’t anymore. Your church is smaller than it used to be. And your pastor doesn’t know what to do.
Right now, the whole world is focused on the distance and the differences between us. Just check out your Facebook.
Right now, it seems that if you don’t live where I live, look like I look, think like I think, vote like I vote, or worship like I worship; if we are of different ages, different races, or different nationalities; we can’t be together. If we don’t have these things in common, we must not have anything in common. We can’t.
This is decidedly not what Christians believe. We believe that by the grace of God we are all connected to one another. But it’s only by grace. It’s nothing we can accomplish on our own.
We live in a broken world. We are a fallen people living in a fallen world in which the systems and structures and supports and the people who operate them are broken. We cannot fix what’s wrong with us, what’s wrong with other people, or what’s wrong with the world. We can’t fix it because we are the problem. The solution can’t come from within us or our systems because we and our systems are busted.
We go to family counseling but, once the sessions are over, the family system pushes us back into the old habits. Black Americans suffer injustice and we all protest together but, give it time, and our society goes right back to where it was. We go to the polls for every election and vote for change every time, but we stay stuck in the status quo. It’s the old line: If voting could change anything, they’d make it illegal.
A fallen humanity in a fallen world offers no hope to anybody. We put our hope in our science and technology, but all the great advances have caused more problems than they’ve solved. We put our hope in our money, our kids, and our careers, and we wind up disappointed and empty. Every time.
We all need the grace of God that comes to us from outside our broken systems. We need a salvation from outside our fallen selves. And the Good News of amazing grace and everlasting truth is that God so loved the world that he came here to us. He came from above us and beyond us to save us. He redeems us by his blood, he restores us by his love, and he connects us together in himself.
Right now is the time to remember all the things we have in common and, by God’s grace, to live into them together.
Right now is the season to consider the countless ways we are attached and, by God’s grace, to work towards expressing and experiencing them together.
Right now is the occasion to acknowledge and prioritize the many ways we are connected to each other and to every man, woman, and child on this planet by the incredible gift of our faithful God’s amazing grace.
With the rising number of Covid-19 cases in Amarillo and within our church family, I was concerned that last night’s Central worship event at the city’s Botanical Gardens might be sparsely attended. “I Come to the Garden Alone” was not on the set list, but I was afraid it might be the reality.
Not even close.
Between 70-80 of us showed up last night to enjoy the beauty of the gardens and worship together in song, Scripture, and prayer. The weather was absolutely beautiful under that big shady oak tree, the butterflies were doing their thing, the fellowship was sweet even from behind our masks, and the fall decorations added a wonderful touch to the evening. A bird pooped on Hannah and a few of us got hit by falling acorns, but it was a really nice evening together as a church family.
The theme of the evening went along with our Missions Month theme: “Connected.” We are connected together in that we all need the same grace of God, we are all saved by the same blood of Jesus, we all share the same Holy Spirit, and we are all sent on the same mission. When our nation feels so fractured, when our families and neighbors seem so separated, when our church is more scattered than gathered, when the whole world is more focused on the distance and the differences between us, we need to intentionally remember all the things we have in common. Now is the time to consider the countless ways we are attached.
Worship does that. Singing the same songs together to the same Lord. Reading the same passages of Scripture together out loud as a community of faith. Praying together on behalf of those who are not with us, but to whom we are so connected. Being reminded of who we are and where we’re going and who’s getting us there.
All who attended, I think, really needed what happened last night. I know I did. I have to remind myself once or twice every day that so much of what’s happening around me is completely out of my control. Things with our church, things in our city, things in the world — I have no control over hardly any of it right now. So I shouldn’t worry about it. I shouldn’t let it stress me or get me down. The only One who is in total control is our Father and he wants nothing but good for me and for the people I love. I remembered that again as Whitney led us in prayer last night. What a blessing she was to everybody in the garden and what an immeasurable encouragement it was to her. I remembered it while watching Melissa struggle with her young son as she led us in worship. What a picture of perseverance and commitment to her kids and to her church family. I was reminded while we were singing “Amazing Grace” and “Days of Elijah” together last night with so many dear and faithful Christians. The days of great trial? The days of tribulation? Behold, he comes!
Worship connects us to each other and to our Lord and to his great promises. I’m grateful to God for meaningful times like last night.