Category: 4 Amarillo (Page 7 of 9)

To This You Were Called

Maundy Thursday. Yeah, I wasn’t overly certain of what it meant until I was asked by Howard Griffin, my neighbor and friend and senior pastor at First Presbyterian Church here in Amarillo, to preach their traditional Maundy Thursday service this evening. The communion gathering remembers that last dinner Jesus had with his disciples the night he was betrayed. The traditional text is John 13, specifically Jesus washing the feet of his disciples. And I’m so honored and blessed to be bringing the message this evening.

Part of the reason Howard asked me to do this, he says, is because we Church of Christ folks have a pretty good handle on communion. I like to think that we do. And that’s another reason I’m so excited about tonight.

It’s a communion service. It reminds us that Christ’s table is an open table, that all are invited to participate together in his presence, that we are all one people together in his death, burial, and resurrection. There are no divisions at the table of our Lord. When we gather around the table there are no barriers to fellowship, no differences in our status or standing with one another or with our Savior. We are all accepted, all justified and sanctified, all saved by the same faith in the same risen and coming Lord. And we eat together and share the meal together as a universal symbol and reminder of that blessed unity.

So, naturally, this became a “4 Amarillo” event.

We’re expecting a full house at First Pres tonight. Baptists and Methodists and Presbyterians and a bunch of CofC’ers sharing the Lord’s meal together, lifting praise to our Father together, praying together, and committing to serving one another and considering the needs of each other more important than our own.

I’ve always known that this is the way it’s going to be in heaven. What a glorious blessing, an unexpected gift, to experience this sliver of eternity in downtown Amarillo tonight.



4 Amarillo Video

Scattershooting while wondering whatever happened to Tom Henke…

The video from our “4 Amarillo” Thanksgiving Service at First Baptist back on November 24 is finally up and running now on our Central church website. To see the 67-minute service, from Burt Palmer’s welcome (“Take a moment to greet your neighbor because this is what heaven is going to look like!”) to the acappella singing of “The Lord Bless You and Keep You” at the close, just click here. Burt’s welcome comes at the 6:30 mark after the opening hymn. At the 11:25 mark, you can watch me jump off my seat in the front row to attend to Chloe. The cameras missed her nearly blacking out and stumbling off the stage, almost nailing the piano and taking out the strings section on her way to a stair well at the side of the room. She was OK. But we keep bringing it up at small group. You can watch Kevin lead the 130-member combined choir and the rest of the congregation in “Mighty to Save” at the 12:30 mark. And, yeah, as always, he finished it strong. Really strong. My sermon, “So the World May Believe” starts at the 34:50 point. Burt totally takes things over and freaks out all four worship leaders at 62:00. And we sing “The Lord Bless You and Keep You” at 65:00 . And, by the way, you Central folks will be shocked at how many times you’re going to see yourself. First Baptist has half a dozen cameras just on the crowd. They did a great job recording and editing this thing.

Whoa, what a night. More than 1,100 in the room on a freezing cold evening with snow and ice and on the streets. It was significant. It was historic. It mattered. And, just like our Lord promised, people have noticed. It’s funny, our churches have tried for centuries in a variety of ways and with varying levels of success to evangelize the world and expand the Kingdom. The only thing we’ve never tried is the one thing our Lord promises will work. Unity. Christian unity. Putting aside our minor differences and celebrating the countless things we share in common in Christ. The city of Amarillo is noticing. Christ is being preached in word and deed and our Father is receiving the glory. Amen.


One of the classiest professional baseball players I ever had the privilege to know and to cover, Michael Young, has retired from baseball. After fourteen years in the major leagues, thirteen of them with the Texas Rangers, Young is calling it quits. He hung ’em up today at the Ballpark in Arlington with a .300 career batting average, 2,375 hits, seven All Star appearances, and one Gold Glove. He is the all-time — ALL-TIME!!! — Rangers franchise leaders in games played, hits, doubles, triples, and runs scored. He never went to the disabled list one time in his career. He was arguably the most consistent player in baseball during the past 14 years. And one of the all-time nicest guys.

Click here to read Sports Illustrated’s excellent article about Young’s career achievements. Click here to read Evan Grant’s article about Young always being a Texas Ranger. Click here to Richard Durrett’s outstanding piece on Young’s leadership in the Rangers clubhouse.

When I first began covering the Rangers as a reporter and then Sports Director at KRLD in 2001, Michael Young was the quiet, unassuming newbie, willing to play wherever and whenever it could help the team. I worried when A-Rod was assigned two lockers in that corner of the clubhouse right next to Young. I worried when Rodriguez and Young would sit quietly in that corner after every single game, win or lose, and talk together for ten or fifteen minutes before they would speak to any of us reporters. I would think to myself, “Please, don’t let A-Rod rub off on Michael!”

No way.

Young quickly developed into the leader of the Rangers franchise and stayed that way to the very end. Not one arrogant or self-serving bone in his body. Never. He always took responsibility for miscues in the field and always deflected praise when things were going really well. He would talk to us and answer our lame questions after 11-3 losses and after four-game sweeps of the Yankees. He was always there. Always good. Always right.

Congratulations to Michael Young on a great career. And thanks to Michael Young for doing everything the right way.


For your pre-Super Bowl reading, I highly recommend this interesting and insightful article by Kate Hairopoulos of the Dallas Morning News regarding the use of the term “12th Man” by the Seattle Seahawks. The Seahawks are only able to use the term, which has long been trademarked by Texas A&M, by means of an exclusive licensing agreement with the Aggies. In the agreement, consumated by a $100,000 payment to A&M and maintained by a $5,000 annual fee to the school, the Seahawks and the NFL acknowledge the rightful ownership of the term by Texas A&M. And the Aggies hold full decision-making control over how the Seahawks can and cannot use it. Kate’s column outlines all the do’s and don’t’s of the deal, including some of the ways Texas A&M polices the arrangement. Apparently, the deal expires in 2016 and, with the Seattle franchise doing quite well for themselves, the Aggies are already devising ways to benefit even more.



Members of God’s House

People are looking for a connection. We have a human need to belong to something, to be a part of something, to be a part of some group. We get our identity, in large part, from the groups to which we belong. And that something, or some group, should be successful and popular. Even if it’s only a sports team, that drive to identify with something is enormous.

So we buy the jerseys. We refer to “our” teams as “we” and “us.” We have a need to belong, to connect, to have some sense of fitting in this world. And it’s from this sense of belonging — at work, at school, at the club, at the football stadium — that gives us the confidence and ability to relate and accomplish things. Our own families, of course, are foundational in giving us a true sense of belonging.

“You are no longer foreigners and aliens, but fellow citizens with God’s people and members of God’s household, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone.” ~Ephesians 2:19-20

We do belong. We belong to God and to God’s family. That’s our connection.

Christ has brought us home to God. We live in God’s house as his much-loved sons and daughters. We belong with God and are involved in what he is doing. The other people in the house are family with us. This home defines us. Christ gives us a place in this world. And from that connection, that sense of belonging, we grow in our abilities to relate to each other and accomplish great things for the Kingdom.

Remember where home is. Remember who’s your family.


The “4 Amarillo” cooperative coalition among the four downtown Amarillo churches made the list of the year’s top “headliners” in the local Amarillo Globe News. You can read the article in yesterday’s paper by clicking here.



Mood Matters

Indulge me one final word or two today as I continue to reflect on the first “4 Amarillo” Thanksgiving service last Sunday night at First Baptist. It’s been eight days now since that historic evening and I’m still receiving at least two or three texts, emails, cards, and calls about it per day. It seems that even through the short work week, the Thanksgiving holiday weekend, hectic trips to the mall, and Auburn’s 109-yard return, you are still processing it, too. Allow me to address the mood of the worshipers in the building that night and how I believe it profoundly impacted not only what happened during that hour but how it has significantly framed the conversations since.

I’ve heard from more than a few of you who believe the sermon I preached during that service was the best sermon I’ve ever preached in my life. Some of you have only heard me preach a couple of dozen times, but others of you have listened to me about a hundred times. My best sermon ever? And you don’t stop there. You’ve been telling me for a week now that the singing that night was the most beautiful singing you’ve ever heard. Really? The responsive readings, the Scripture readings, the prayers, the fellowship — it was all so moving, so awesome, so inspirational, so perfect. I’ve been reading this and listening to this for seven straight days. Best ever? Really?

Yes, I’ll give you the fact that, maybe especially for us Church of Christ-ers, the evening was highly significant. A watershed event. As some of you have written, it truly was “a defining moment,” “a sea-change for us,” “the beginning of something very different and very good.” I acknowledge all of that. Yeah, it was big.

But I’m convinced that the mood of the worshipers had a whole lot to do with it.

The truth is that every single person in that room — Howie reports 1,150 in attendance; that’s a preacher’s count, a Baptist preacher’s count! — wanted to be there. Everybody there had to put forth a greater than average effort to get there. The roads were slicked over with snow and ice. It was cold. It was dark. None of us have regular Sunday evening assemblies anymore. And the Cowboys-Giants game was still going on. Nobody was there because they felt some kind of a grudging obligation. Everybody in the room really wanted to be there.

In addition, every single person there was anticipating something really special happening. We all entered the worship center expecting to be moved, expecting to feel the presence of God, expecting to be inspired. After all, we had been praying about this night for months. We all knew that we were taking some risks in bringing four different denominations together for a worship assembly, but we were all convinced that it was God’s holy will. We anticipated that he would bless us richly as we worshiped him together.

We had gathered with a purpose. We were — each of us and all together — on a mission, even. We were coming together for the sake of an unbelieving world, expecting to be profoundly blessed, expecting God to reveal himself to us in significant ways. I’m of the belief that preparation and attitude have a whole lot to do with corporate worship.

I’m afraid that when most of us gather in our church buildings on Sunday morning, there hasn’t been a whole lot of prep time. Our hearts and our minds haven’t been focused on the coming encounter with God and communion with his people. We probably haven’t prayed much about it. And most Sunday mornings, I’m not sure we’re expecting much to happen. Some of that may be the fault of an unimaginative preacher or a lazy worship committee. Maybe. But a lot of it has to do with every man, woman, and child in the pews. If we don’t expect it, we might miss it even if it happens right in front of our faces. If we’re intently looking for it, searching for it, anticipating it, expecting it, then the smallest little glimpse of glory will slam us to our knees in joyful praise. Preparation and attitude matter.

I think it would be impossible to try to plan 52 straight Sundays of special events. We couldn’t come up with 52 different ways to pray, observe the meal, illustrate the sermon, or arrange the music to provoke the kind of energy and anticipation we all experienced that night at First Baptist. I’m not sure we’d even want to try; that kind of thing can quickly turn into an idol or a spectator-only affair. But I do believe we can do much better at entering the worship center on Sundays expecting to hear a powerful word from God. Anticipating God revealing himself to us in a new and exciting way. Expecting something really great to happen. Having spent time in prayer, preparing our hearts and our minds to encounter our Father and his people in significant and eternal ways.

It mattered for the “4 Amarillo” Thanksgiving service. The mood in the room had a lot to do with the success of the evening. It matters this coming Sunday morning at your church, too. It matters a lot.



4 Taste of Glory Divine

The more I read and study Scripture and assimilate those holy words into my soul, the more I explore and discover about the unfathomable love and grace of our Father, the more I preach and teach and sing and pray about our King and his eternal Kingdom, the scope of which pushes our imagination to its very limits, the more I’m convinced that denominational lines that divide his Holy Church must sicken our God. Our King who prayed for our Christian unity the very night he was betrayed, our Christ who destroyed all the barriers between God and mankind and between all men and women when he died on the cross, our God who spoke through the prophets and his servant Jesus to foretell the great banquet feast when “every tribe and language and people and nation” will be gathered together on that last day, our Lord who is reconciling all people to himself and has ordained us all as his ministers of that reconciliation, must be nauseated at the historic line-drawing and fellowship-testing and debating and dividing that have characterized us as his children.

What a refreshing wind of Holy Spirit life we experienced together Sunday night at the first “4 Amarillo” Thanksgiving service! What an unflinchingly strong statement about our four churches’ refusal to be divided by insignificant issues, preferred practices, or pet peeves! What an undeniable witness to our city of the unifying will and power of the Prince of Peace who transcends all of whatever differences may keep us apart! What a foretaste of glory divine! What a spectacular preview of what is to come on that day of glory!

Boy, was Sunday night significant. Highly significant.

Yes, I know, for years now we have worshiped with other kinds of Christians in a variety of settings. I’m sure you have, too. At retreats and conferences, youth rallies and Bible camps, before and after service projects. No doubt we’ve all prayed and read Scripture together around sick beds in hospitals and at funerals of loved ones without checking who’s in what denomination. We’ve crossed denominational lines to sing and pray together for a long time now. But there is something different about that ‘sacred hour” in our worship centers on Sunday. If you think about it, generally it’s what happens during that worship hour that divides us. The ways we sing and pray, the particular methods we use to baptize and commune — this is generally where we debate and put up walls, where we draw our lines of fellowship.







Most of us have always been able to worship God with Christians from other denominations at a wedding or a patriotic gathering or down at the homeless shelter. But Sundays in our buildings are different. Theologically, of course, that’s a bunch of hooey. Practically, though? Like it or not, it’s true. Sundays in our worship centers are different. It’s that last piece of turf we’ve never surrendered to the grace of God. It’s the one thing we hold on to in order to protect what distinguishes us from other Christians, instead of emphasizing the countless ways we are just alike. Sunday is different. And if we’re truly going to embrace the will of our Christ as expressed so clearly in his prayer for unity, if we’re going to practice what Jesus says so plainly is a foremost  method of reaching a lost and dying world, we’re going to have to express our one-ness with all his followers in worship.

We did it Sunday night. Presbyterians and Baptists, Methodists and us CofC’ers. For almost 75-minutes on a freezing cold night in Amarillo, we did it. Our God was praised. His people were edified. And the city is taking notice.

Again, I may take another post or two to sort it all out. There’s a chance we could do a lot of processing together in the comments section of the blog. That would probably be preferable. But in an effort to continue the post-service debriefing that’s been happening around here since about 7:15 Sunday night, allow me to share just a couple of the more than 50-emails and texts I’ve received from our own Central members in the past 48 hours. I won’t attach their names to the comments, because I haven’t asked any of them for permission. But here’s a sample:

“God has used this to set me free from the bonds of the old confused thinking I grew up with… like, why do we think we (CofC’ers) are the only ones following God’s ways, when my friends and family worshiped differently, but all seemed OK with me, from what I was taught, and more importantly the Christian example they gave me??? Last night all I could do was praise God and thank him for what he is doing. I will say, it has been a long time coming!!! Thank you!”

“I cannot seem to articulate the warm, emotional experience that we had. It took my family 1.5 hours to drive in due to the ice, but we were not going to miss this historic restoration act! Yesterday was so effective in helping me to emotionally release so much of my legalistic baggage from my true, old school Church of Christ rearing in the late ’60s and ’70s.”

“What a night! What a special gift for the four churches to move forward and grow together. The powerful theme of unity and oneness in Christ came through loud and clear. You reminded of Ronald Reagan’s famous theme for ending the cold war, ‘Tear down this wall!’ Tonight, there was NO wall! We were all one in spirit!”

“Thanks so much for articulating our feelings so well.”

“I cannot wait until we all worship together again. I think this is the beginning of something really big — I can just feel it!”

“Tonight was a great blessing to many. I hope it felt as good as you hoped and dreamed it would.”

For more than ten years now I have been praying that someday my children would be able to worship our God together with Christians from other denominations on a Sunday. I’ve begged God that, whether my children are my age and have kids of their own or whether they are old and gray, they will get to experience on earth the kind of unity with other disciples that we’re going to experience in eternity. To realize over the past year that it might actually become a reality in my lifetime, that I might actually get to experience it myself with my wife and kids, has been a tremendous blessing. To actually be the one preaching when the dream came true was an unexpected honor I did not deserve nor will ever forget. It was far better than I had ever hoped.

To those of you who were there Sunday night, I would encourage you to share your thoughts and feelings by clicking on the “comments” at the top of this post. To those of you who were not there, whether you live in Amarillo or somewhere else in the world, I’d like to get your reactions, too.

I’ll write tomorrow about the sermon, about preaching it in that historic setting, and about the spirit of the room on that incredible night. Then, depending on how things go this weekend, I’ll try to find time before Sunday to reflect on our morning service here at Central with Howard Griffin from First Presbyterian.

I don’t know where this is headed. I’m not sure what this turns into over the coming months and years. But I do know it’s significant. It’s important. In our post-modern, post-Christendom, post-denominational world, it’s more important than ever. And I’m so eternally grateful to belong to a church that is determined to jump into these kinds of expressions of faith and grace like Central.



Un 4 Gettable

(Click here for Monday’s Amarillo Globe News story about the “4 Amarillo” Thanksgiving service. Click here for the AGN slide show which contains a whole lot of Central folks.)

I was very, very nervous last night and feeling wholly inadequate for the task of bringing God’s Word to the “4 Amarillo” assembly at First Baptist. Alone with our God in the worship center here at Central yesterday afternoon and then an hour later with Steve and Judy, John Todd and Kami, and Kevin in meaningful prayer, I was almost overcome with the significance of what God was doing with us and through us for the Kingdom here in Amarillo. It would be an historic night, yes. It would be uplifting to all those gathered. And it would be important on about seventy-nine different levels.

It was truly marvelous how our very different traditions and practices blended together so beautifully in praise to God. It was fascinating how our variations in theology and distinctions in belief melted almost seamlessly into a unified voice for re-orienting our priorities to love God and neighbor together. What a night!

It was interesting, too, that we CofC’ers were the last ones to leave the building last night. Typical, right? A full 30-minutes after the service concluded, there were still about 30 or 40 of us in the room, still talking, still laughing, still sharing life and processing together what we had all just experienced. Dan Baker, the worship minister at First Baptist, hollered at us as he walked out a side door, “Hey, you Church of Christ people! Just turn off the lights on your way out!”

It may take me two or three more of these posts to really process what happened yesterday and last night. As I told several people this morning, I’m still not sure where God is taking this and what’s going to happen over the coming months and years, but it felt / feels highly significant. In the meantime, for today, please indulge me while I address just my brothers and sisters here at Central:

I’m so proud to be your preacher. I’m so honored to represent you in settings like yesterday’s. I’m so proud of you for the warm welcome you extended to the senior pastor at First Presbyterian, Howard Griffin, and his family as he preached here at our place yesterday morning. I’m so proud of the way you are embracing our brothers and sisters in the other Christian denominations downtown. I’m so proud of the way you lead others by your singing, by your greeting, by your handshakes and hugs, by your great joy, and by your genuine expressions of God’s grace and Christ’s peace to everybody you meet. You represent our Lord very well. Very well. And I’m so honored to be your preacher.

Thank you for a spectacular day in our God’s Kingdom. Thank you.


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