Month: June 2007 (Page 2 of 4)

Jesus as Our Dictionary & Encyclopedia

Earth’s crammed with heaven.
And every common bush aflame with God.
But only those who see, take off their shoes.
The rest just sit there and pluck blackberries.

                        ~ Elizabeth Barrett Browning

Paul Dennis sent me this quote a few days ago. And it reminded me of the premise of Eugene Peterson’s great book Christ Plays in Ten Thousand Places. In it, Peterson explains that Jesus Christ is at the very center of everything—every single thing that has ever happed, is happening, and will ever happen. Everything that was, is, and is to be is because of the Son of God. Everything that happened before the Incarnation was pointing toward Christ. And everything since that moment is because of Christ. Peterson writes that Christ is “behind and in” all of living creation. And he states that “Jesus is the dictionary in which we look up the meaning of words.” Everything around us exists in and through and because of the power of Christ.

As for recapturing the wonder we used to have about our world and our place in it, nothing works better for me than experiencing it through my daughters. They never cease to be amazed at the things they see and smell and touch and taste at the zoo, at the park, down by the creek, or on the short walk from the driveway to the front porch. I’m assured of at least one excited shriek of delight from one of them every time we’re together. They find the greatest pleasure in the simplest things.

And it helps to remind me that every single thing we experience is given to us by our God. The yellow butterfly that Carley can’t quite catch was sent to our backyard by our Father to make me smile. The chimpanzees that make Valerie laugh were created by the Creator for me. The thunder and lightning that cause Whitney to jump in my lap are gifts from above.

Peterson says we should live this wonderful life with all its experiences and gifts and wonder with Christ. Our lives should not be a performance for Christ, but a life lived with him. And as a minister of the Word of God, I’ve got to try to get people to see the same thing. The Son of God is present in every single breath we take and in everything we see and do. And an increased awareness of that will strengthen our faith and increase our joy as his followers.


I just started last night reading another Peterson book, Working the Angles, on the three fundamental, inescapable daily practices of the preacher upon which every single thing the preacher is called to do is built: fervent prayer, reading of Scripture, and giving spiritual direction. His premise is that preachers can fake all three of those things and still be respected and regarded and highly paid as great gospel preachers. The introduction and the first 43 pages are gold. I can’t wait to share my thoughts with you on all of this next week.


There are 69 days left until football season. And #69 on the all-time jersey number countdown is Denver Broncos great Mark “Stinky” Schlereth. StinkySchlereth won three Super Bowls as an offensive lineman, one with the Redskins and two more with Denver. He was the first ever Alaskan-born player in the NFL. He actually played both ways—on the offensive AND defensive line in college at Idaho. And now he works as a very popular football analyst on ESPN TV and radio. But the thing that distinguishes Schlereth and gets him on my list is his medical record.

28 surgeries plus a kidney stone procedure.

That’s a record.

20 of those surgeries were on his knees—15 on his left knee, five on his right. He’s had surgery on his elbow, back, ankle, and one for a nerve disorder. And they never really slowed him down. He played a Monday night game about six hours after the kidney stone procedure. He lasted 12 seasons and played in 156 games, about twice as much as the average player with no surgeries!Schlereth

But don’t expect me to write about his nickname, “Stinky.” You have to look that up on your own.



Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord

“Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord.”  ~Revelation 14:13

What a week it’s been.

It started when Erna West passed away Sunday afternoon. Erna is the grandmother of John West, the friend who is helping me almost daily with this blog. He’s the tech guy here at Legacy, but I feel like since I’ve been here he’s been my personal computer guy. Love him. His wife, Suzanne, is our secretary here. The sweetest, kindest, funniest, most sensitive lady you’d ever meet. Love her. And they were both extremely close to their “Granny.”

Tuesday one of the dear sweet ladies of this congregation, Doris Burleson, was taken from a rehab center where she’d been since a recent car accident to the HEB hospital for a scope to determine the extent of a staph infection and blood disease. I prayed with her and her son, Fred, and her grandson, Taylor, about 30-minutes before the surgery. And then yesterday, I prayed with her and six of her kids and grandkids about 30-minutes before she died.

 That was about three hours before Erna’s funeral down in Hillsboro at which John & Suzanne both spoke of their love for their “Granny” and had the whole house in tears and laughter at the same time. And now I’ll be preaching Doris’ funeral on Saturday in Bedford.

What a week it’s been.

Death is our enemy. Hebrews 2:15 says the devil uses our fear of death as a terrible weapon against us. He holds the power of death, it says, and holds us in slavery, paralyzes us, by our fear. But praise God, death is no match for the Lord of Life! Thank God that for Erna and Doris and for you and me death does not have the last word. Death is not the bottom line. Jesus Christ is the ultimate power with the ultimate authority, and he always writes the last chapter.

Our Savior said he was the light of the world. And he made that much more than just a concept when he gave sight to the blind. He called himself the bread of life. And that became much more than just an abstraction when he fed the 5,000. Christ also called himself the resurrection and the life. And he proved it by raising Jairus’ daughter, the widow’s son, and Lazarus. But the fullest meaning of that—the resurrection and the life—is realized completely in the ultimate defeat of the forces of sin and death and Satan and all the things that work so hard to separate us from our God.

Christ is the one who personifies life & victory & resurrection as a powerful reality, an indisputable truth, an undeniable fact. And those truths, those promises, those guarantees belong to us! Death is swallowed up in our Lord’s victory!

“Don’t you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life. If we have been united with him like this in his death, we will certainly be united with him in his resurrection.”   ~Romans 6:3-5


SammySooserI hope the Rangers are happy. They brought an aging and selfish has-been with a tainted reputation to join a clubhouse of young and selfless superstars with reputations beyond reproach. They knew going in that all the focus of the entire season would be on their newcomer and that his pitiful self-centered chase for #600 and personal redemption would overshadow everything else the rest of the team would do. They knew that. And they chose to do it anyway. And they joined in, promoting Sammy Sosa and his quest above all else. And last night he did it. A solo shot in the bottom of the 5th with nobody on and two outs in a meaningless game in Arlington. Meaningless, because the Rangers are 27-44, 18 games back, and completely without hope. The Ballpark was packed with nearly 38,000 fans last night. And all their flashbulbs were popping to capture Sammy’s historic blast. But 22,000 of those fans won’t be back today. And they won’t be back next week or the week after. I hope the Rangers are happy.


Wow. That was harsh and cynical. Sorry. That’s one of the reasons I got out of the business.


On to much happier things: there are only 70 more days until football season. And there are SO MANY great #70s to choose from. Many of the giants of the game wore #70. Some of my favorite players of all time wore #70. And they all wore #70 in college, too, so I can’t play around with the numbers like I did with Bob Lilly and Merlin Olsen. The legendary Jim Marshall and the great storyteller and pioneer Art Donovan each wore #70. Ernie Stautner, the long time Steelers great who once punched a Giants punter, Tom Landry, in the nose and then coached the Cowboys defensive line to five Super Bowls wore #70. And so did the Big Cat, Rayfield Wright. BigCatWright was maybe even better than John Hannah on leading the backs on sweeps. He was just so big and fast, a former basketball player like Too Tall Jones. And such a nice guy. I had the pleasure of getting to know Ray during his two tumultuous years of Hall of Fame induction votes and Ring of Honor honor. His stories have made it into a couple of my sermons. Great guy.

But the all-time greatest player to ever wear #70 has to be New York Giants great Sam Huff. SamHuffHuff actually played for Tom Landry and Vince Lombardi on those Giants teams of the ’50s when Landry was the Defensive Coordinator and Lombardi the Offensive Coordinator. Huff was a fierce tackler, a super hard hitter, and the first defensive player in the NFL to gain national attention. He made the cover of Time magazine in 1961 following a national TV documentary titled “The Violent World of Sam Huff” that glorified the vicious hits and the bone-rattling colissions he was making famous. He played in six NFL title games and five Pro Bowls and became the first great middle linebacker of the NFL, the ancestor to Butkus and Lambert and Singletary. Sam Huff is the best of the great #70s.



This Culture Is Overrated

“In leaning over to speak to the modern world, I fear we may have fallen  in.” 

                                                     ~William Willimon, 1997

Willimon’s article from the Winter 1997 issue of Leadership should be required reading for every preacher and elder, and probably for every church member. I try to read it at least once or twice a month to remind me of what’s important and to shape my approach to Scripture and to preaching. I hear so often, daily it seems, that we need to reach the culture, we need to speak to the culture, we need to adapt what we do and how we do it to the culture. I find that a lot of the decisions we make regarding “church” are made in reaction to or in an effort to reach out to or even reflect our culture.

Willimon says, “the Bible doesn’t want to speak to the modern world; the Bible wants to convert the modern world.” Most of the time, I think, we treat our culture as if it were a fact, a reality to which we’re obligated to adjust, instead of merely one way of looking at things or doing things with which we might argue.

Again, Willimon: “Christianity is a distinct culture with its own vocabulary, grammar, and practices. Too often, when we try to speak to our culture, we merely adopt the culture of the moment rather than present the gospel to the culture.”

“The point is not to speak to the culture, “Willimon continues, “the point is to change it. And God’s appointed means of producing change is called ‘church.'”

And I think the apostle Paul would agree.

“Since you died with Christ to the basic principals of this world, why, as though you still belonged to it, do you submit to its rules?”         ~Colossians 2:20

 May we see our culture for what it is, a set of systems and values that are opposed to Christ and his Church. And may we strive together to change the culture for him and the Kingdom, not adapt to it.


The Fort Worth Star-Telegram yesterday led off the front of the Sports section with a question: are these ’07 Rangers the worst team in the history of DFW professional sports? They compared the team to Jimmy Johnson’s first Cowboys squad that went 1-15 in 1989. (Troy Aikman was the second leading rusher on that team with 300 yards. Yikes!) And they also brought up the Mavericks ’92-93 team that went 11-71 under the leadership of Richie Adubato AND Gar Heard. The Rangers are 26-44, 18 games back, and it’s not even July. Everything Jon Daniels has touched has blown up in his face. And Hicks just gave him the dreaded two-year contract extension / vote of confidence. I don’t think they’re the worst team ever in DFW. Probably not even the worst team ever in Arlington. Not yet.

Talking about the futility of past teams reminds me of the futility of our current teams. The Stars can’t get out of the first round, the Mavs embarrased all of us with their historic flop, the Cowboys coach is Wade Phillips, and the Rangers are marketing Sammy Sosa. A great friend already here at Legacy, Paul Dennis (two first names! That’s a radio thing!) pointed me to Jeremiah 12:5 and related it to the false hopes of the sports fans who think our teams are just one player or one tweak away from winning a championship. “If you have raced with men on foot and they have worn you out, how can you compete with horses?”


Finally, there are only 71 more days until football season. And my all-time #71 is the undisputed leader of the Fearsome Foursome of the Los Angeles Rams, Merlin Olsen. MerlinOlsenHe played tackle on the left side with Deacon Jones for most of his 15 NFL seasons and went to a record 14 straight Pro Bowls. Olsen pioneered the art of stunting and looping from the tackle position to get to the QB. He was big, he was fast, he was agile, and he was super smart. And he dominated. And, amazingly, he never once played in a league championship or a Super Bowl. Of course, my girls only know Merlin Olsen as Jonathon Garvey on Little House on the Prarie. He was also Father Murphy and the long-time spokesman for FTD Florists.LHOP

And I know he wore #74 while he was with the Rams. But he wore #71 as a two-time All-America and Outland Trophy winner with the Fightin’ Aggies of Utah State. That’s not cheating. That’s making sure I get Olsen and Bob Lilly on the list.



The Power of Prayer

“To clasp the hands in prayer is the beginning of an uprising against the powers of the world.”   ~Karl Barth

In Exodus 17, Joshua is fighting the Amalekites at Rephidim. Moses has taken Aaron and Hur to the top of a nearby hill where Moses lifts his hands to God in prayer on behalf of Israel’s warriors. As long as his hands are up, God gives his children the victory. When his hands fall, the enemy prevails. It doesn’t take long for Aaron and Hur to recognize this. So they position themselves on either side of their aging leader and hold his arms up for him until Joshua and his army have defeated the foe.

Two pictures of the power of prayer are obvious here.

One, while the battles and skirmishes and fights are taking place in the valley, the real war is being waged on the hill. That’s where the ultimate outcome of the conflict is decided. God is the one controlling the entire situation. And his response is directly, unambiguously, related to the attitude and the practice of continual prayer.

Two, prayer is a team effort. It’s never just one person praying on behalf of the whole congregation of God’s children. It’s all of God’s people working together to lift up the arms of those who are weary, to pray with those who are burdened with the fight, to support those who love us and intercede for us with our own prayers.

After the battle with the Amalekites, Moses calls the place “The Lord is my Banner” because “hands were lifted up to the throne of the Lord.” May our lives reflect a constant attitude of prayer to our Father on behalf of those in the fight.

72 days until football season. And my greatest all-time #72 is NOT the flash-in-the-pan Fridge.Fridge To me, William Perry stands for everything that has corrupted professional football. Mike Ditka’s single worst coaching decision was to allow Perry the TD plunge in Walter Payton’s only Super Bowl. Perry became literally and figuratively bigger than his team and larger than life.

 It’s also not long-time Cardinal Dan Dierdorf DanDierdorfwhose TV analysis and commentary aren’t quite bad enough to detract from his outstanding Hall of Fame playing career.

My #72 will always be Ed “Too Tall” Jones. TooTall

The first time Jones ever played organized football was in college at Tennessee State. He was a 6’9″ basketball player!  But the Cowboys drafted him #1 overall in 1974 and he dominated the defensive end position in the NFC East for 15 seasons. He still today holds Cowboys records for most starts (203), most games played (224), and most fumble recoveries (19). Opposing quarterbacks couldn’t see over him and couldn’t run around him. He singlehandedly changed the other team’s gameplan. He racked up 106 career sacks despite playing ten years before the stat became official. He  blocked seven field goals, collected 1,032 tackles, and in his one year out of football to try his hand at professional boxing he went 6-0 with 5 knockouts! One of my most prized possessions is an autographed practice jersey that Jones wore during the ’83 season. It’s been washed. Too Tall Jones had one of the best nicknames in sports. And he’s the all-time #72.toonice.jpg



More Cowbell!

“Prayer does not equip us for greater work, prayer IS the greater work.”

                                                                                                             ~E. M. Bounds

I miss a lot of things about Marble Falls. Roy Swann’s smile and encouragment. Yoko Ezell’s sweet spirit. Brian Jamar’s dry humor. Jim Dobbs’ vision and wisdom. Marti Futrell’s laugh. I could go on for pages about the things I miss. The thing I miss most, however, is the 30-minutes before Bible class every Sunday morning. Jim Gardner and I would pray together every Sunday morning in one of our offices. Jimmy joined us once he moved in. And the three of us together would pour out our thanksgiving to God and ask his blessings on the entire church. We would pray for each other’s wives and children and families. We would ask God to be present in our assembly. We would ask for courage and boldness and confidence as we preach / teach / lead singing that day. And it was always a powerful way to begin each Sunday. I always left those times of prayer feeling so uplifted and so certain of the Lord’s blessings and presence with us.

With two Sunday morning worship services at two different times, it hasn’t been as easy to get that same kind of thing going with the ministers here. Our two youth ministers, Jason and Lance, are only here for Bible class and the second service. Our involvement minister, Jim, needs to spend that 30-minutes before the first service meeting and greeting those who are coming in the doors. So I’ve been praying on Sunday mornings with that day’s worship leader. And I must say that praying with Gordon and Howard and Lance those days has been special.

And then Friday night at the Cotton Belt (that’s another story, hang on) Mark Richardson and Paul Brightwell approached me and asked if I would join them Sunday morning for prayer. They had a group of half a dozen men who had committed to praying for 30-minutes every Sunday morning and wanted me to be there with them. What a blessing! I’m never more encouraged than when I’m praying with a small group of godly men. I accepted their invitation with much enthusiasm and anticipation. And Sunday morning we sat together in the conference room and one-by-one poured our hearts out to our Savior. I’ve always said you can learn more about a person praying with them than in doing just about anything else. And it’s true. I’ve come to love and appreciate each of those six men after just one 30-minute prayer session, listening to them open up to God and express their feelings and dreams and concerns and desires. I’m so grateful for their friendship and for their invitation. I’m amazed at how our God keeps putting great men of faith into my life to encourage me and push me and walk with me.

There are several members of the Legacy church family who play in various bands. Ronnie Bates, the brother of my good friend from college, David Bates, has a band. Kent Garrison, the son of one of our elders, Russ Garrison, just signed a record deal with the Universal / Motown label and is touring the midwest and northeast, doing something like 60 shows in 75 nights. And Friday night we were blessed to take in the band “Ain’t Misbehavin’,” led by our own Vic Akers and Shanna Byrnes with Kevin Hart on drums and Sam Anderson on guitar and vocals. The Cotton Belt has a great family-friendly outdoor venue for concerts. And we had a blast with all of our new friends. MoreCowbellAt one point Vic got Carrie-Anne and Carley up on the stage to sing backup vocals on “Mustang Sally.” It was easy getting Carley up there. And if you know C-A, it was murder getting her up there. Being on a stage anywhere in front of any kind of crowd is not her cup of tea. But she finally gave in and belted out “Riiiiiiiiiiiide, Sally, Ride!” with the rest of them. And Carley played the cowbell. Not quite as enthusiastically as Will Ferrell in the “More Cowbell” sketch from SNL fame. But almost.MoreCowbell

JohnHannah73 days until football season. #73 in our countdown is longtime New England Patriots guard John Hannah. Coming out of Alabama where Bear Bryant called him the “greatest lineman I ever coached,” Hannah was a ten-time All Pro during a 13-year career with the Pats. He was their #1 draft pick in 1973 and retired immediately after the Patriots loss to the Bears in Super Bowl XX. He was the first ever Patriot to be inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame. And he was certainly one of the best, if not the best, run blocker to pull out on a sweep ever. If you’re younger than 30 years old, you don’t even know what a pulling guard leading on a sweep is. And that’s a shame.

 BobLillyGetting caught up from the weekend: #74 is Mr. Cowboy, Bob Lilly. The Dallas Cowboys’ first ever draft pick, out of TCU where he was a two-time All-America, Lilly made eleven straight Pro Bowls, played in five NFL or NFC title games, and two Super Bowls. He only missed one game in 14 years. It was Lilly who chased Bob Griese down for that long sack in Super Bowl VI. He was the first Cowboy inducted into the Ring of Honor and the first Cowboy in the Hall of Fame. Longtime Lion Doug English and old Houston Oiler Bruce Matthews get honorable mention. But Lilly is a no-brainer at #74.


Finally, #75 is Mean Joe Green. He was the Steelers #1 pick out of North Texas State in 1969 and became the cornerstone of the great Steel Curtain defense that dominated the decade of the ’70s. He was a two-time NFL Defensive Player of the Year, went to ten Pro Bowls, and won four Super Bowl trophies. Even with his Hall of Fame career, Green is probably best remembered for the Coke commercial he filmed in the tunnel at old Three Rivers Stadium. Remember? The kid offers Green his Coke and, after Green reluctantly accepts, he smiles and tosses the kid his jersey. “Here kid, catch!” They made a movie off that commercial.



Concerning Fin, Dad, and The Toe

FinWinsThe picture says it all. OK, not all. I’ll say something more. I love Michael Finley. And I’m so happy today to know that he now owns an NBA Championship ring. More than Dirk and Nash, I’ve always liked Fin. I’ve always admired his humility and his attitude and his hustle. Nobody worked harder, nobody practiced longer, and nobody took it more personally when they lost than Finley. For as long as he was in Dallas, the Mavericks were his team. Maybe it’s because he was the best player during those years when the Mavs were the Tampa Bay DevilRays of the NBA. Maybe it’s his maturity and leadership skills. Maybe it’s that it was so obvious he was the only one for so long with any talent on that squad. He was just so intense. FinSpursDedicated. Passionate. He could score a double-double, but if the Mavs lost, he’d blame himself for not doing more. He could also go 2-20 with 10 turnovers and he’d still be one of the first ones in the lockerroom to answer questions and talk with us about his performance. I was calling for the Mavericks to cut him or trade him a year before they did. He was becoming more frequently injured, his injuries were taking longer to heal, and it was taking him longer and longer each time to find his shot. They needed to get younger and more athletic. And they did. And I’m glad. But I’ll always love Michael Finley. And I was so glad last night to see him get the ring. And he got it before Dirk and Nash.

 I didn’t watch hardly any of the series. It’s been way too busy at church and at the house. But we all sat down and watched the 4th quarter of last night’s clincher. Whitney’s my sports buddy. She watches it all and eats it up. Valerie and Carley will only watch when they can sense it’s something important, when a “big trophy” is involved. At one point last night, when the Cavaliers’ crowd was chanting “Deee-fense! Deee-fense!” Carley asked me, “Are they saying Cheetos?” That’s what it’s like watching a game at our place.

Four titles in nine years. The Spurs are the oldest team in the NBA. How do they keep doing it? And why can’t the younger, more athletic, more talented Mavs do it? Concentration. Intensity. Passion. With 30-seconds to play and the game virtually over, there’s Manu Ginobili diving into the bench to save a ball off the baseline. Tim Duncan had done the same thing on the sideline a couple of possessions earlier when they had an eight-point lead. It was just the opposite of watching the Mavericks get outhustled and outefforted (I just made that word up) against Nellie’s Warriors. The Spurs are not my favorite team. I’m not a big Duncan or Popovich fan. But they play ball the right way.

 Now let me introduce you to my dad. JohnEdward

Dad loves talking about the weather and gas prices. He’s the one who taught me the importance of having a rain gage in the backyard. He taught me how to throw a spiral, how to shoot a free throw, and how to hold a tennis racket. He taught me how to drive and how to change the oil in the car and the filter in the air conditioner. My dad taught me how to lead singing and how to pray. He showed me how to love my wife and how to care for my children by the selfless way he loved my mom and showered us kids with blessings. He faithfully studied the Bible with us every morning and night. I’m so thankful for my Father and for the legacy of his name and his faith that I diligently strive to uphold. I love you, Dad. Happy Father’s Day!

There are 76 days until football season. And #76 is Lou “The Toe” Groza, the best kicker to ever wear double-digits on his uni.TheToe He played for the Cleveland Browns from 1946 – 1967—a 21 year career during the time pro football was in the formative stages. He played in nine NFL championship games and won three. He’s still the all-time leading scorer in Browns history. He’s a pro football Hall of Famer. And it’s the Lou Groza Award that every year goes to the best kicker in college football. The Toe was the NFL’s first great kicker. And he’s our #76.

Finally, our coyote is still at-large. I saw her at 7:15 this morning crossing Mid-Cities Blvd coming onto church property near our sign. She likes to hang out in the amphitheater area on the west side of the building. I don’t think she’s there to pray.



« Older posts Newer posts »