Using the glorious Faith Ring of Honor in Hebrews 11, we’ve defined “faith” as bold action in response to the promise of God regarding an unseen future.
Most of the heroes in Hebrews 11 never received the fulfillment of the promise until after they had died. The Scriptures tell us “They saw the promises and welcomed them from a distance” and “None of them received what had been promised.” They all died first. A lot of them died horribly.
I don’t know why some of God’s faithful children are delivered and rescued and made whole in this life and other children of God, just as faithful, are made to suffer and die. I don’t know. I do know that while none of these faith exemplars received what had been promised until after they died, they were given glimpses. They were all given little peeks of the ultimate fulfillment of God’s Word. A taste. Abraham was given a son. Joseph was told about the exodus. Moses saw the Promised Land.
And we get those same glimpses. Every time a person comes up out of that water, full of God’s Holy Spirit, forgiven and redeemed and restored — that’s a glimpse. Church potlucks and congregational meals are a holy preview of heaven where Isaiah says the Lord Almighty will prepare a feast of rich foods and the finest of wines, where death is defeated and all the nations are eating and drinking together. Those little glimpses sustain us. They empower us. They fill us with confidence that, yes, our God is alive and, yes, he is faithful to his word and, yes, his promises will all be fulfilled!
Faith is our bold action in response to those holy promises regarding the unseen future.
By faith, eighteen years ago, the Central Church chose to stay in downtown Amarillo and minister to the immediate neighborhood because God says he wants all men and women to come to him, he’s not willing that any should be lost, but that all will be saved.
By faith, in 2013, Central gave more money to foreign missions and committed to sending more missionaries because God’s Word says someday every knee will bow and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of God the Father.
By the faith, the Central Church partners in worship and service with First Baptist, First Presbyterian, and Polk Street United Methodist Churches because our Lord Jesus says if we are united together in him, if we’ll tear down the walls between us, the whole world will know.
See, when we live in the verbs of our faith, we treat the future as the present and we treat the invisible like the seen.
By faith, Doug and Mandi Richardson and Shane and Robin Self lead the Senior Huddle.
By faith, Bret McCasland preaches the Gospel in India.
By faith, Scott McNutt teaches the women at Gratitude House how to check tire pressure and oil levels in their cars.
By faith, Becky Nordyke cooks and serves the grieving, whether she knows them or not.
By faith, Ira Purdy shepherds.
By faith, Aleisha Malone prays with Middle School girls.
By faith, Todd Walker passes out candy every Wednesday night.
By faith, Hannah McNeill smiles and serves at Loaves and Fishes.
By faith, Peggy Blanton goes out of her way to complement and encourage everybody.
By faith, Etta Peters invites her friends to church.
By faith, Roger Kyzar and Pam Pearson praise God. Still.
“So do not throw away your confidence; it will be richly rewarded. You need to persevere so that when you have done the will of God, you will receive what he has promised.” ~Hebrews 10:35-36
We were blessed last night to host the 6th annual 4 Amarillo Thanksgiving Service at Central. Our brothers and sisters at First Baptist, First Presbyterian, and Polk Street United Methodist Churches joined us for an inspiring evening of combined choirs, ecumenical worship, sweet fellowship, and a powerful message on unity from my neighbor and partner in the Gospel, Howard Griffin from First Pres.
Our 4 Amarillo partnership in worship and service is intended to remind one another that we are all united by the common blessings we share together in our Lord Jesus Christ. We also gather to proclaim to the city of Amarillo and to the world that our Lord Jesus really is the Prince of Peace and we gratefully join him in tearing down the walls that separate the children of God and divide his eternal Church.
Howie Batson, the “Amarillo Pope” from First Baptist, opened us up with a call to worship reminding us that we all live by the same Christian confession: Jesus is Lord. I was privileged to lead us in a robust recitation of the ancient Apostles’ Creed, the tried-and-true litany of the non-negotiable elements of our common faith. Howard brought a stirring word from the opening lines of 1 Corinthians, pointing to the message of the cross as the truth that unites us. And before we closed with a congregational rendition of “The Lord Bless You and Keep You,” Polk Street’s Terry Tamplen blessed the assembly with Paul’s prayer from Ephesians 3, encouraging us to live in and through the power of our Lord Jesus Christ.
I am deeply thankful to belong to a church that is so committed to breaking down the denominational walls that divide Christians. I praise God that my family gets to experience this regular glimpse of heaven. And I continue to pray that 4 Amarillo proclaims the truth and faithfully lives into the holy will of our eternal Father for the sake of our city and the whole world.
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
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.
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!