Category: College Football (page 2 of 9)

Everything New

Texas A&M is playing in the Chick-Fil-A Bowl tonight in Atlanta. These are the made-for-the-occasion, corporate sponsorship, special uniforms the Aggies may or may not be wearing:












“Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. See, I am doing a new thing!” ~Isaiah 43:18-19

Some of the most exciting phrases in Scripture are when our God declares with all of his power and promise, “Check it out! I’m doing something brand new!” As followers of the Christ, our faith is grounded in God’s mighty salvation acts of old. But our lives are also centered on the confidence that God is working right now to bring about something new. Our God is a God of limitless creativity, of exciting potential, of never-before-thought-of possibilities.

New life. New wine. New wineskins. New creation. New heavens and new earth. New festivals. New covenants. New hope. New songs. New heart. New spirit. New people.

“New things I declare; before they spring into being, I announce them to you!” ~Isaiah 42:9

Our God is the God who sees things that are not, calls them as if they are, and then continually shocks us by making them happen. This new year is another gracious gift from our merciful Father. It’s for making new commitments and turning ourselves more fully to our Lord, for resolving anew to live in the light of Jesus for the sake of others.

“…to be made new in the attitude of your minds; and to put on the new self

created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.” ~Ephesians 4:23-24

The new year is a time for reflection, for confessing sin, for expressing gratitude for blessings. And it’s the time for recognizing that our God is working in us and through us to do brand new things here at home and around the world we’ve not yet begun to imagine. God is with you and shaping you during every moment of this coming year. And, chances are, he’s planning something you’ve never even dreamed.

“I am making everything new!” ~Revelation 21:5

Let’s anticipate and be open to God’s new things. Let’s look for our God to reveal himself to us in exciting new ways in 2014. And let’s submit ourselves to him for his holy purposes and to his eternal glory and praise.



Around the Table: Part 7

Sports Illustrated’s Andy Staples has written an excellent article on Baylor football coach Art Briles that centers on Briles’ time as a high school football coach in west Texas and in the Texas panhandle. Briles developed his spread offense in response to a quarter-finals playoff loss to Panhandle’s Panthers back in 1984. Staples’ account of that game includes a vivid description of what high school football was like before the days of overtime. Back when tie games were decided by penetrations and first downs, it wasn’t uncommon for teams to play for the penetration instead of the touchdown. It’s a very entertaining read that references lots of our regional towns and teams, including Canadian’s outstanding coach who was a star running back for Panhandle in that 1984 win. You can get to the article by clicking here.


In addition, David Moore has written a nice column in the Dallas Morning News regarding the Cowboys’ chances at a playoff spot. You figure the Cowboys have to win three in a row to make the postseason. And this team hasn’t had a three game winning streak since 2010. I don’t know how the worst defense in the NFL and the statistically worst defense in franchise history is going to stop the Packers this week, regardless of whether Aaron Rodgers suits up for Green Bay. Josh McCown, Chicago’s back-up QB, looked like Jim McMahon Monday night. David’s article is here.


I would like to make the case in this space today that every single time the term “break bread” is used in the New Testament Scriptures, it’s referring to what we call today the Lord’s Supper. The phrase is never used to describe a common meal; it always represents or points to the Lord’s Meal. To illustrate this, we have to use a little Greek. Not a lot; just a little.

Klasas is the Greek word for “break” we find in our New Testaments. It’s the common word for “break.” There isn’t another word for it. It means “to break” like you would break your leg, break a toy, or break your mom’s favorite picture frame. Artos is the Greek word for “bread.” In both the common language and in our New Testaments, this word can have two meanings. The main meaning is simply a piece of common bread or a loaf of common bread. The secondary meaning is “food” or “a meal.” To “eat bread” in many places in Scripture is to eat food generally. The prodigal son in Luke 15:17 says his father’s hired men have “food” (artos) to spare. Jesus’ disciples are criticized in Matthew 15:2 for not washing their hands before they eat. Period. The NIV leaves out “bread” (artos). The Greek text says “…before they eat bread.” The same thing happens in Mark 3:20 when the disciples are so crowded in the house they are “not even able to eat.” Most English translations leave it at that: “eat.” The Greek says “…not even able to eat bread.” But the scholars understand that a full meal is meant by the context. There are a few other places in the New Testament in which “bread” means a meal. The last one I’ll mention is in 1 Thessalonians 3:8 where Paul claims not to have eaten “anyone’s food without paying for it.” The word translated “food” is artos. Bread.

You might think that the term “breaking bread” would be a fairly common term in ancient times, that it would refer, as it does in today’s English, to eating a common meal. When I say we’re going to the Bentleys’ house to break bread, you and I both know we’re having some kind of barbecue and fresh vegetables, peach tea, and a fancy dessert. Hasn’t it always been that way?


According to the Thesaurus Linguae Graecae (TLG) database, a record of every single written word in the Greek language from the very earliest writings dating to about 1400 BC through the year 1453 AD, no one in history ever used the term “breaking bread” before the New Testament. For fourteen centuries — every novel, every song, every poem, every play, every government document, every worship order, every instruction manual, every word of every thing ever penned in that language — nobody ever combined “klasas artos” or “arton klao” (breaking bread) until Paul and the apostles. They were the very, very first. After the New Testament time, the phrase is only found in the writings of the early church fathers, always in reference to the Lord’s Supper.

“Breaking bread” is not a common Greek phrase. It’s not an every day term. It doesn’t mean “have a meal.” It means “share a meal with Jesus.”

The term is used for the first time ever in the Greek language in the New Testament. We find it there eighteen times:

At the feeding of the 5,000 in Matthew 14:19, Mark 6:41, and Luke 9:16
At the feeding of the 4,000 in Matthew 15:36, Mark 8:6, and Mark 8:19
At the last supper in Matthew 26:26, Mark 14:22, and Luke 22:19
At the Emmaus Supper in Luke 24: 30 and 24:35
In Luke’s account of the first days of the Church in Acts 2:42 and 2:46
In Troas on the first day of the week in Acts 20:7 and 20:11
On a ship at sea in the middle of a storm in Acts 27:35
In Paul’s Lord’s Supper discussions in 1 Corinthians 10:16 and 11:24

In every case, this is Jesus eating and drinking at table with his disciples. The term is always used to describe the Messiah sharing a meal with his followers. This is the worship language of the early Church. Just like “born of water and the spirit” means “baptism” and just like “separate and apart” means it’s time to pass the collection trays, “breaking bread” means “Lord’s Meal.” It didn’t need any further explanation. Just like the sports page today doesn’t take the time or the space to explain what “touchdown” means in a story about the football game, the writers of the New Testament used “breaking bread” and all the hearers and readers knew what was meant.

Luke makes it easy to follow the thread:

When he feeds the multitudes, Jesus takes bread, blesses it, breaks the bread, and then gives it to his disciples (Luke 9:16).
At the Passover meal on that last night, Jesus takes bread, gives thanks, breaks the bread, and then gives it to his followers (Luke 22:19)
At the resurrection dinner in Emmaus, Jesus takes bread, blesses it, breaks the bread, and then gives it to the disciples (Luke 24:30)

“Jesus was made known to them,” Luke writes, “in the breaking of the bread” (Luke 24:35)

We shouldn’t be surprised to find the first church continuing the faithful practice of their Lord:

The disciples continued in the breaking of the bread (Acts 2:42)
The disciples broke bread daily in their homes (Acts 2:46)
The disciples gathered to break bread (Acts 20:7)

Knowing that the term “breaking bread” is an exclusively Christian term and refers only and always to Christ’s presence at the table where he eats and drinks with his disciples has some interesting ramifications. But I’m out of time and space today. Let’s continue the discussion tomorrow.



Luv Ya Bum!

I was thirteen years old on Thanksgiving Day 1979 when the Cowboys hosted the Houston Oilers at Texas Stadium. Being in different conferences, the two teams rarely played each other; being very, very successful football teams from the same very, very football crazy state made those uncommon occasions when they did match up really special. Dallas was coming off two straight Super Bowl appearances — they beat the Broncos for the 1977 title and lost to the Steelers the following season in Super Bowl XIII — and Houston was well on its way to its second straight AFC Championship Game. And on this day, with my grandmother’s turkey and dressing and no-cook strawberry pie churning in my gut, Earl Campbell ran all over the Cowboys and won the game 34-20.

This was before cable TV and the internet, before hour-long post-game shows. It wasn’t until the ten-o’clock news on channel 8 that night that I saw it with my own eyes and heard it with my own ears. Bum Phillips, the boot-wearing, ten-gallon-hat-wearing, tobacco-chewing, straight-shooting coach of the Oilers had looked right into the cameras after the game and declared, “I’d rather be Texas’ team than America’s team any day!”

I knew immediately that he had said a very clever thing. I also knew, deep in my heart of hearts, that he was right.

It was hard not to like those Luv Ya Blue! Oilers of the late ’70s. The faces of the franchise, the Tyler Rose and the coach called “Bum,” were Texas icons. Earl Campbell was an east Texas kid who had won the Heisman Trophy with the Longhorns in Austin and Bum was a Texas high school and college coaching legend. He has assisted Bear Bryant at Texas A&M and Bill Yeoman at Houston and Hayden Fry at SMU. Before that, he had actually been the head coach for our Amarillo High School Sandies, for three seasons from 1959-1961. It was during his time here in the panhandle that he came up with his defensive numbering system that is used by all coaches and fans at all levels of football from Pee Wee to the NFL. When a defense is described as a 3-4 or a 4-3, you’re using Bum Phillips’ original terminology. He invented the 3-4 defense and introduced it to Bear Bryant during the Junction Boys days. And he brought it to the San Diego Chargers when he made the move to the pros in 1967. All real football people in Texas knew about Bum Phillips. And with Phillips calling the plays and Campbell making highlight reel runs in his tear-away jerseys, the Oilers won a bunch of football games. And a whole bunch of fans.

They packed the Astrodome, waving their Columbia blue and white pom-poms, screaming and cheering wildly from the opening kickoff to the final gun. They were crazy, these Oilers fans, in stark contrast to the cheese and wine crowd at most Cowboys games. Their quarterback, Dan Pastorini, was a gun-slingin’ guy with long hair, who wasn’t afraid of getting into a scuffle with reporters or fans in a random parking lot. Elvin Bethea was a relentless sack-happy monster of a man. Billy “White Shoes” Johnson flaunted NFL convention with every outlandish touchdown celebration. Kenny Burrough. Ray Childress. This was a fun team to watch.

And it all started with their colorful coach who, quite honestly, was more cowboy than the coach of the Cowboys.

Bum Phillips is better known for his catchy quotes than for almost anything else. He once famously said of Dolphins coach Don Shula, “He can take his’n and beat your’n and then take your’n and beat his’n.” His fatalistic line about coaching rings true: “There are only two kinds of football coaches: them’s that’s been fired and them’s that’s gonna be fired.” When asked about Earl Campbell’s inability to finish a one-mile run at training camp, the coach replied, “When it’s first down and a mile, I won’t give it to him.”

Along with the line about being “Texas’ team,” the other Bum Phillips line I remember seeing and hearing the day it happened was, again, on the channel 8 news the day after the Steelers beat Houston in the 1979 conference championship game. A frenzied crowd had greeted the team on its return from Pittsburgh at a celebration / pep rally that had been planned at the Astrodome, win or lose. It was standing room only. Nearly a hundred thousand people with their Luv Ya Blue! signs stomping their feet and cheering their team that had come a couple of plays short of their first ever Super Bowl. Bum Phillips took the stage, leaned in to the microphone, and said, “Last year we knocked on the door, this year we beat on the door, next year we’re going to kick the #@!%&* in!”

And, yeah, I was hooked. I’ve always loved those old Houston Oilers who never quite got it done, but had a whole lot of fun trying.

Bum Phillips died over the weekend at 90-years-old at his ranch in Goliad. Under-appreciated for the innovations he brought to the game, maybe a bit caricatured by his over-sized hats and personality to match. I’ll say about Bum Phillips what he once said about Earl Campbell: “I don’t know if he’s in a class by himself; but I know when the class meets, it don’t take long to call roll.”



Life Together: Why?

We’re going to keep at it for a couple of days here on Christian commmunity. You know, we say the word “fellowship” today and we immediately think about a big bucket of fried chicken and a green bean casserole. And hopefully somebody brought banana pudding. But in the Bible “fellowship” is much more than just a meal. “Fellowship” is everything! Koininea means sharing. It’s not something you do every fifth Sunday with a crockpot. It’s something you do every single day. Sharing each other’s blessings and each other’s burdens as we grow together and glorify the Lord. This fellowship of the saints is not some ideal that we’re trying to realize; it’s a reality created by God in Christ in which we’re called to participate.

Why? Why love each other? Why serve one another? What’s our motivation? Why would we be so concerned about this?

Well, it’s nothing we have to guess at. It’s spelled out very clearly in all the Christian letters. Our life together reflects God’s work through Christ. It imitates God in Christ. It lives into and embodies what our God is all about.

Paul begins his community directives portion of Romans 12 with “in view of God’s mercy.” Or, in other words, because God has been so merciful to us, we should love and honor and serve one another. In Ephesians 4, Paul tells us to be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other just as in Christ God forgave us. In Ephesians 5, he directs us to submit to one another out of reverance for Christ. Colossians 3 tells us to bear with each other and forgive one another just as the Lord forgave us. On and on it goes. 1 Thessalonians 5. Hebrews 10. 1 Peter 1. What God in Christ has done for us and with us, we in turn do for and with others in Christian community.

God’s perfect love and sacrifice is fulfilled, it’s made complete, Scripture says, when we love each other with that same love. I forgive you because God forgives me. I serve you because God serves me. I give you what I have because God gives everything he has to me. I’m patient with you, I’m generous to you, I’m kind and gentle and compassionate with you because my heavenly Father is all those things to me. I submit to you because Jesus submitted to the whole world on a cross. I love and forgive my enemies because while I was God’s enemy, he put his only Son on a tree to save me.

That’s why we die to each other. We put to death our own selfish ambitions and vain conceits, we bury our own interests because of all the ways our God in Christ does that for us.

We know what it’s like to be stuck in sin. We know the misery. As C. S. Lewis describes in Screwtape, we know what it’s like to be trapped by the devil, to be drowning in sin, to have “an ever increasing desire for an ever diminishing pleasure.” We know what it’s like. I know what it’s like. And God through Christ saved me. He loves me and rescues me. I know what it’s like.

Why love and serve one another in Christian community?

Because I once was lost, but now I’m found; I was blind, but now I see.


Vickie dominated our second annual Central Staff Bowl Challenge, leading it almost from start to finish with an uncanny knack for picking all the right games and avoiding all the upsets. Down the stretch Vickie correctly picked eleven of the last fourteen college bowl games, maintaining the impressive lead she built before Christmas by picking the first six games in a row. On the far extreme other end of things, Connie finished dead last. And it wasn’t even close. For those of you who are really interested (sickos!), Hannah finished in second place (blame it on Baylor), Mary and Matthew and I competed for the top spot right into the final week, but our point values were a bit misplaced. Greg and Elaine and George all suffered very disappointing finishes in the middle of the pack. Gail was frustrated to be really bad, but not bad enough to compete for the last place prize. Adam made all his picks while driving his family from Houston to Amarillo at 3:00 in the morning; and it showed. Mark thought picking all the games A-B, A-B, A-B right down the column would be interesting; it wasn’t. Tanner and Kevin were the closest to Connie at the bottom of the pile but, in reality, she was never seriously challenged. Vickie has bragging rights for the next year and she and Connie both get a free lunch when our church staff celebrates the end of the football season and the beginning of the NHL season (what?) at the end of the month.

No sooner had the BCS Championship Game been decided last night (that was like about four minutes into the first quarter; what happened, I was watching the championship and an OU game broke out?!?) when the church staff moved on to the next big contest. With our own sister Mary about to drop anchor with the fourth little McNeil, we’ve all placed our bets on the day Mary dominos, the exact time she gives birth, and the gender of the little tot. This is such a competitive group; I love it! Guesses range from this Saturday (does Hannah have some inside, sister-in-law scoop?) all the way to January 23. I’m pulling for a girl at 10:15 Sunday morning January 20.



Dance With Who Brung Ya


Darrell Royal, co-inventor of the Wishbone offense and two-time national championship coach of the Texas Longhorns, has died at age 88. During his 20 years as UT’s head football coach, Royal racked up a record of 167-47-5, including eleven Southwest Conference titles, ten Cotton Bowl wins, and undefeated national championship seasons in 1963 and 1969. I was ten years old when Royal stepped away from the sidelines to leave college football to the Barry Switzers of the world. So most of what I know about him I’ve only heard second and third hand or read in books or seen on TV. I did enjoy the great privilege of meeting Royal at a hospital fundraiser in Burnet back in 1993. I had my picture made with the winningest coach in Longhorns history and he autographed my invitation. A good friend, Larry Pate, framed the 3″x4″ card for me and it hangs on my office wall today.

Royal is remembered for his hard-nosed running attack and his disciplined defense. But he also gained a lot of attention with his folksy quotes and quips. Some of my favorites:

“Three things can happen when you throw the football, and two of ’em are bad.” ~on his unwillingness to install a sophisticated passing game at UT

“You dance with who brung ya.” ~on his refusal to give up on the Wishbone after a couple of tough losses in 1965

“Only angry people win football games.” ~on recruiting

“No, he’s not very fast, but maybe Elizabeth Taylor can’t sing.” ~while defending a backup running back against a reporter’s criticism

Click here for a link to a whole bunch of other Darrell Royal quotes. Click here for the Sports Illustrated article on Royal’s life before, during, and after UT. In honor of the coach, order something off the menu today that sounds like “triple option.”


You might also be interested to know that the Houston Astros are going with a new logo and uniform design to mark their move to the American League. The new designs borrow quite liberally from the old historic ones — maybe only a die-hard fan could pick out the differences. But I like it. The orange star and the capitol “H” has always been cool. Someday, maybe during Spring Training in March, I’ll rant and rave about Houston moving to the AL West. It’s a travesty. It’s very nearly the abomination that leads to desolation. In the meantime, click here to watch a pretty cool video that highlights the Astros’ uni look from the old Colt .45 days of Larry Dierker, through the rainbow era of Ryan and Cruz, and the blue pinstripes of Bagwell and Biggio, to this brand new look worn by a bunch of players you and I have never heard of.


Carrie-Anne and the girls and I made the short drive to Tulia Friday to eat Mexican food with our favorite Ukranian missionaries, David and Olivia and Caleb Nelson. David and Liv are on furlough from their seven year commitment in Kharkov, spending several weeks with the Martins in Lubbock where Liv is about to give birth to their second child. The little boy (Luke? Lucas? Lucious?) is due in a week and Olivia needed some chili rellenos. We had such a great visit with this wonderful family. It was such a joy to get caught up on all the Christians and all the seekers C-A and I met during our two week trip to Kharkov in 2010. Re-living Victoria’s baptism into Christ, remembering Alexander, getting caught up with Valery and Andrei; it was such a blessing. We laughed together and we prayed. We marveled at their victories and sympathized with their struggles. We giggled at the mention of fish-flavored potato chips and gagged at the memory of a tall frosty glass of Kafir. I taught Caleb how to flip Froot Loops from the handle of a teaspoon. And we vowed to play a few marathon Phase 10 games together here in Amarillo before they head to Fort Worth after the baby is born.

God is using the Nelsons in a very difficult place. He’s working through them to spread the great news of salvation in Christ Jesus. He’s empowering their whole team by his Holy Spirit to advance the eternal Kingdom. We feel so very blessed to be their friends.

God bless his Kingdom outposts in Ukraine. God bless David and Olivia Nelson and their precious children. May our Father’s will be done in their lives and in Kharkov just as it is in heaven.



Super Bowl, Ben, and the Bone

I must draw your attention to an excellent Washington Post column written by Fort Worth native Sally Jenkins. It’s about the Super Bowl in Arlington. She mentions the plans to set the attendance record and the fiasco with the seats and the obscene prices of parking spots and nachos. But it’s not just about that. Her article is so much bigger and better than that. She claims that this Super Bowl at Jerry’s Place was, for her, the tipping point. This was the last straw. This was absurdity beyond belief. Beginning with the stadium itself:

It’s the cleanest, safest, nicest stadium anyone has ever visited. It is also the most extravagant and economically stratified. It cost double what Jerry Jones said it would, and taxpayers financed about a quarter of it, yet its innermost marble interiors are totally inaccessible to the average fan.

Jenkins cites the four Navy F-18s that flew over the stadium at the end of the National Anthem — over the domed stadium. At a taxpayer cost of $450,000. She observes that the state of Texas spent $31-million to host the football game while, at the same time, desperately making historic cuts in public education. Five thousand fans paid $200 each to stand in the rain in the parking lot! It’s just too much:

In the end, this Super Bowl taught me a lesson: Luxury can be debasing.

I’m telling you, it’s an excellent article. You can read the whole thing by clicking here.


I’m leaving Sunday afternoon for Searcy, Arkansas to spend a couple of nights with my brother and his family. The ocassion? A full day on Monday with New Testament scholar and theologican Ben Witherington III. (Carley claims that’s a made up name.)

Witherington has written more than 40 books, including an excellent commentary on Revelation that we used as a textbook at Austin Grad. I had the great pleasure two years ago of attending three of his lectures on Revelation at the Austin Grad Sermon Seminar. He paints beautiful pictures with his words. He speaks big. Very big. Grand. He’s an orator of the highest class. A brilliant  and complex man who might even break out into song in the middle of a speech to illustrate a point. And now Harding’s College of Bible and Religion is bringing him in to lecture on the topic of Christian ethics. Witherington’s just written an 1,800 page, two volume book, The Indelible Image, about the relationship between theology and ethics in the New Testament. Three seminars, a Q&A, and a roundtable discussion await us on Monday. I’m hoping Dr. Keith Stanglin is able to get me a seat at the private dinner with Ben before the final session.


Texas Longhorns offensive coordinator Emory Bellard drew it up on a napkin while he and Darrell Royal were having breakfast in an Austin diner in the summer of 1968. A brand new formation that included three running backs, a running quarterback, and offered them up to four or five options on every play. He called it the Wishbone. And it revolutionized football.

Royal used the wishbone to win the national championship in 1969. Bellard used it as a head coach at Texas A&M and Mississippi State. He beat Bear Bryant’s Crimson Tide with it and won a few conference titles, too. Won three state championships coaching high school ball, too.

After football, Bellard retired with his wife to a life of golf and fishing in Marble Falls. I met him in 1992. He was our backup color analyst  for the Mustangs high school football games on KHLB Radio. I worked two games with him in the booth. He was also the backup PA guy. When Dick Barkley, the legendary feed store owner, couldn’t make it, they called Emory. I had Emory on my talk show in Marble Falls several times to talk Longhorns and Aggies. He knew everything. All the history. Shoot, he WAS the history! He knew everybody — not because he called people and kept up with them, but because everybody called him and kept up with him. Extremely gracious.

Many times I called him to get some insight into a news story. When Chan Gailey was hired as the Cowboys coach in ’98, it was Emory who gave me the scoop first and then hooked me up with one of Gailey’s old high school girlfriends from Americus, Georgia. She, in turn, faxed me several pictures of Gailey from their high school year book and articles he had written at that time for the high school paper.

Helpful. Humble. Very “aw, shucks” about his place in football legend and lore. Generous and giving. What a great guy.

He died yesterday at 83. A great man. I was always proud to say I knew him. God bless his sweet wife, Susan.



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