Faith IS Action

We’ve defined faith according to the stories and examples in Hebrews 11 as bold action in response to the promise of God regarding an unseen future. That’s the thing the people and the stories in this Faith Ring of Honor have in common. These people demonstrated their faith by living into and through some powerful verbs.

In each one of these familiar stories, the hero of faith was facing overwhelming odds. They were each huge underdogs. From a human standpoint, they had little or not chance to come out on top. But, by faith, they each took their eyes off the obvious, they turned their eyes away from the physical things they could see, and they did something.

Noah refused to focus on the clear skies and sunshine. He took God at his word and focused on the promise. Abraham refused to look at the 100 candles on his birthday cake and the fact his wife had been reading AARP Magazine for 45 years and by faith looked instead to God’s promise. Moses was not deceived by the glitter of the Egyptian palace or the security in his royal position; he acted boldly, motivated only by God’s promise to love him and reward him in the future.

God’s people ignored the archers and warriors perched on the Jericho walls, Daniel walked into a den of lions, the Hebrew exiles stepped into a fiery furnace — not based on what made sense, not based on what seemed smart, not based on anything they could see. They were motivated solely by the greatest reality of all: we serve a faithful God, a God who makes promises and keeps them, a God who is forever faithful to his Word and forever faithful to his people. And for the most part, that ultimate reality is unseen. But people of faith, God’s people of faith, understand — we know — just because we can’t see something doesn’t mean it’s not real. We fix our eyes not on what is seen but on what is unseen; for what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.

But the seen things — that seen reality — can be so overwhelming.

I could name a dozen people I know who’ve lost their jobs this year or are afraid of losing their jobs in the next few weeks. They see the numbers and they see the savings account dwindle and they see the dead-end job listings.

I know a dozen people who are battling life-threatening diseases with everything they’ve got. And they’ve tried everything. But every day is more painful than the day before. And less sure. They see the test results and the doctors’ reports and there’s not any good news.

Your family’s a mess. Maybe your marriage. You see the hateful emails and dirty looks and empty chairs.

Maybe you’re in a spiritual desert right now. The Bible’s not speaking to you. Your prayers aren’t getting through. You feel lost. Maybe you’re caught up in sin. You feel a long way from God. You feel abandoned.

Like Abraham: one man and as good as dead. You’re outnumbered, out-muscled, out-smarted, and out of options. Out of luck. You’re staring into the teeth of lions, you’re tiny compared to the giant walls that are blocking you out, you’re feeling the heat of the furnace — all those things.

This is exactly the time for your faith to show itself in some verbs.

See, faith is not belief. It’s not even strong belief. Faith is never: Yes, I agree with those theological points, I believe these spiritual suppositions, these sets of religious principles make sense to me. That’s not faith. Faith is action. Faith is proven by verbs.

“Faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead… I will show you my faith by what I do.” ~James 2:17-18



It’ll Have to Grow on Me

They did it. They named our AA baseball team the Amarillo Sod Poodles. It’s official, it’s despicable, and it’s not going to change.

I was in attendance yesterday in the Yellow Rose Ballroom at the brand new Embassy Suites Hotel downtown when the San Diego Padres AA affiliate unveiled the disturbingly absurd moniker. I thought it was a joke right up to the very end. I thought they were telling us Sod Poodles and showing us all the logos, giving us this moment that was anti-climactic at best and humiliating at worst, in order to switch gears and unveil the real name. I kept hoping they would give us a name we would all be surprised by and proud of, a name we’d all hang around and talk about, a name we’d be excited to share with our friends and plaster on the backs of our pickup trucks.

No. It’s Sod Poodles.

To make things worse, they also encouraged us to refer to our new team as the “Soddies” and revealed another logo to go with it. As a writer at CBS Sports noted, “The Sod Poodles can also go by ‘Soddies,’ which is miraculously worse than Sod Poodles.”

When the black curtain came down and the Sod Poodles name was announced to the packed ballroom, the disappointed man standing next to me said, “It’ll have to grow on me.”

One of the many disturbing aspects of this whole thing is the way the national media is blindly parroting the team’s insistence that Sod  Poodles is a pioneer-era Texas slang expression for prairie dog. I’ve yet to see any proof. The 70-80 year residents of our city I’ve spoken to have never heard the term. I’m also bothered by General Manager Tony Ensor’s spinning of the city’s response to the name. He’s being quoted everywhere today as saying “the community created the buzz” around Sod Poodles and “this is the direction everyone wanted to go.” He’s using derisive Chick-fil-A signs and tongue-in-cheek lawyer ads and goofy sermon titles from Terry Tamplen at Polk Street United Methodist Church as evidence that Amarillo citizens have endorsed and embraced this move from the start. Like somehow we’re responsible for this!

The defense for Sod Poodles has always been that all minor league teams have goofy names. My argument is that you know what all those other names mean. In New Orleans, you know what a Baby Cake is. A Chihuahua is a real dog. You know what a Lugnut is. And a Biscuit. And Sand Gnats. Just like a joke is not funny if you have to explain it, the team name doesn’t work if you have to explain what it means.

I’m not a PR guy. I’m not a marketer. Maybe they’re onto something huge. Maybe this is genius. Maybe it won’t matter on a sunny afternoon in April at that beautiful gem of a downtown ballpark.

No. It’s Sod Poodles. It’ll have to grow on me.



Definition of Faith

The eleventh chapter of Hebrews gives us the biblical definition of faith: bold action in response to the promise of God regarding an unseen future. Any casual stroll through the Faith Ring of Honor in this chapter confirms what a life of faith looks like, precisely the kind of life that pleases God.

By faith, Noah built. That’s action. He built. Noah built when he was warned about things not yet seen. Noah had no physical, tangible evidence that building an ark was a good use of his time and resources. He’d never seen a flood. Most scholars believe he’d never even seen rain. For Noah to build an ark made no sense. But Noah builds. He acts boldly, motivated by what the Word of God told him was going to happen even though nobody had ever seen anything like it before.

By faith, Abraham went. Abraham acted on God’s promise even though he didn’t know where he was going. God had told Abraham he’d be given land in the future and that his descendants would be too many to count. And there was no physical evidence to suggest it might come true. He’s 100 years old! His wife’s 90 and barren! But by faith, Abraham went — bold action. He left the certainties of what he knew to take his family into the unknown, relying only on the Word of God. This is the very essence of faith. This is what faith is: a bold action in response to the promise of god regarding an unseen future.

By faith, Isaac blessed Jacob and Esau in regard to their future. By faith, Joseph spoke about the exodus of the Israelites from Egypt and gave instructions about his bones. They acted on things that were going to happen in the future. Not today. Not tomorrow. Not next year. The Word of God, the promise, was going to be fulfilled after each of them died. But they each acted by faith anyway.

By faith, Moses chose to be mistreated along with the people of God. Why? Because he was looking ahead to his reward. It made no sense for God’s people to put blood all over their doors. But they did it because they had faith that God was going to keep his promise. Walking down into the middle of the Red Sea, are you kidding me? But had promised to deliver them, so in they went. Same thing with marching around the walls of Jericho. Their only motivation for doing this thing that made no sense was that God told them to. God was doing something. Otherwise, it’s pointless.

In Mark 2, four men dig a hole through a roof and lower their paralyzed friend on a mat down to Jesus. And the Gospel says Jesus saw their faith. He saw their faith! Faith is not believing that Jesus can heal; faith is digging through the roof! Faith is not believing God can save; faith is walking into the Red Sea, faith is marching around Jericho, faith is getting up and going where God calls you to go and doing what God is calling you to do! Faith is in the verbs: bold action in response to the promise of God regarding an unseen future.







We received more than six inches of snow overnight here at Stanglin Manor, more snow in the past 12 hours than we’ve received total the past two winters combined! It never gets old; I still get excited about the snow up here.


The construction on the west side of our church building at Central is finally going up instead of down. Over the weekend, they framed out the arches for the new main entrance. It’s really starting to take shape. The new ground level ministry space is so much bigger than I could realistically imagine. The new welcome center is going to make a big difference. And the main entrance to our building will be obvious for the first time since the mid ’80s!


Tomorrow is the day Amarillo baseball fans have been anticipating / dreading for several months. The San Diego Padres AA affiliate, scheduled to begin play in April 2019 at our brand new downtown Amarillo baseball stadium, is announcing the name of the local team. The press conference is at 1pm.  Please don’t be Sodpoodles! I’d rather it not be Long Haulers, Boot Scooters, Bronc Busters, or Jerky, either. But please don’t let it be Sodpoodles!



Dear Jerry Wayne

On this day the Cowboys are certain to fall to 3-6; on this day that begins a stretch of games in Philadelphia, in Atlanta, against Washington, and against the Saints; on this day when Dallas is a full touchdown dog against the Eagles: I can’t say it any better than seven-year-old Rylan Wood of Mansfield.

Dear Mr. Jones,

My name is Rylan Wood. I am a 7 year old 2nd grade student in Mansfield, Texas. My family has been Dallas Cowboys fans since the team was started. I have a lot of Cowboy gear and I have met Zeke, Taco, Jason Witten, and two other players who play on other teams.

You have made my mom very mad because WE SUCK! Every game day she is yelling at the tv and turns off the game. We are wanting to believe in the boys but its hard. I hope “Coach Garrett” is clapping if this letter gets to you. See what happens when Dez X is gone??  The cheerleaders are better than the team this year. I do not want to hurt your feelings.

Thank you, Rylan



According to Eddie Sharp

A definition of preaching: the art of talking in someone else’s sleep.

Sooner or Later

“Sooner or later, someone must take his courage in one hand and his Bible in the other, throw all concern regarding his own pursuits to the wind, and say what needs to be said!”

                                                                                                                                         ~N. T. Wright

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