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Got Grass? Yes!!!

The sod arrived from Central Texas on massive trucks overnight Sunday and it was installed in the infield of our beautiful new downtown ballpark yesterday! Now it’s REALLY starting to look like a baseball stadium!

The wind in my baseball sails that was completely sucked out by the horrible team name choices is beginning to be revived.

Click on one of those hashtags above or the twitter link to see a time lapse of the installation.



The Urgent Need

People respond to the urgency of the need. If the need is severe and urgent — it’s bad right now! something’s got to happen right now! — then we’ll drop everything to get involved.

When Hurricane Harvey hit Houston, we immediately mobilized to help from way up here in Amarillo. We bought hundreds of Home Depot buckets and filled them with cleaning supplies. We rented trucks and filled them with food and bottled water. Men and women volunteered to drive those trucks ten-hours one-way to deliver the help. People drove their boats in from Georgia and Kansas to help save stranded flood victims.

The morning after that horrific mass-shooting in Las Vegas last year, thousands of people lined up for half-a-mile to donate blood. When we see the need as urgent, we always respond.

In case you need reminding: the need for people to hear the Good News today is urgent.

We live in a lost and dying world. It’s broken. This past week two people in this country were shot and killed because of their skin color, fourteen people were targeted with bombs because of their political beliefs, and eleven people were murdered for their religious practices. People are broken and desperate. The systems are broken and failing. People need the salvation of God in Christ, they need to hear the Good News!

And we don’t always know what to do. We can’t fix everything. We can’t solve everything. We might even lose everything trying. But the Church always tries. The Church is on a mission. We stand and walk alongside the crushed and the oppressed. We stand with our Lord Jesus Christ and we love the broken and we proclaim the coming of the Kingdom of God!

Say something to somebody today. Remind them that God is on his throne and that Jesus came to live and die and be raised again so all this can be fixed. God is solving all this. And he’s doing it with love and forgiveness, with grace and mercy, with kindness. It’s happening. It’s Good News. And the need for us to proclaim it is urgent.



Second Last Names

I’ve been a guest speaker at places where people have taken it upon themselves to inform me of everybody else’s second last names. I’ll be standing at the front of the room greeting folks and somebody will position himself or herself right next to me and tell me the second last names of the people I’m meeting.

I’ll say “hi” to Jim. Nice to meet you, Jim. Thanks for coming, Jim. And the person next to me will say in a loud whisper, “That’s Jim Smith. He’s a banker. He drinks a lot.”

Hello, Mark. Have a great evening, Mark. And then this in my ear, “That’s Mark Jones. He’s in insurance. He’s on his third wife.”

Hi, Emily. How are you doing, Emily? “That’s Emily Mitchell. She owns a restaurant downtown. She’s a terrible gossip.”

We’ve all got these second last names. We’re all labeled. But those identifiers, fair or not, do not say anything at all about who you really are. Your worth, your value, is not wrapped up in where you came from but in who came for you. Your identity, your destiny, do not rest in your own abilities, but in the power of Christ to heal.

The miracles Jesus performed and continues to perform today are not demonstrations against the natural order. They are a divine restoration of the natural order. Jesus doesn’t suspend reality or override the way things are meant to be. He’s fixing things. He’s returning the situation to what it was always created and intended by God to be.

The wind and waves were not created to harm people but to be safe and calm. Human beings were not made to suffer, but to be well and whole. Men and women were not intended to die, but to live forever.

Whatever is broken in us — you — and the people around us, whatever is wrong in our world and the world around us — Jesus is able and willing to fix it. That’s who you are in Christ. Your second last name is Redeemed. Restored. Saved. Your label in Jesus is Precious. Valuable. Loved. Child of God. Today and forever.



The Power of Jesus to Heal

TV game shows have two audiences. The studio audience is the primary audience. They’re right there in the room. They’re seeing and hearing everything, up close, in real time. They’re actually participating, cheering and clapping and trying to help the contestants. If it’s The Price is Right, the people in the primary audience may even be called up to play the game. It’s quite exciting, I guess.

But there’s also a secondary audience, the TV audience, the people watching at home. You’re watching from your couch, you’re watching from a long way off. You’re learning how the game is played, you’re getting to know the host and the contestants, and pretty soon you find yourself wanting to be a part of the show. That looks like fun. Hey, I think I could do that.

Then you start to visualize yourself on the show, you can actually see yourself participating. And winning. Come on! Everybody knows the coffee creamer costs more than the ketchup! I could win that Ford Focus and the patio furniture!

Next thing you know, you really are participating in the show, out loud, from your living room. You’re yelling at the TV. What is Bismarck? $935! Come on, baby, light my fire!

I think the Gospels are supposed to work the same way. I think we are intended to see ourselves in these stories, to see ourselves in the scenes with Jesus.

In Luke 5, you are the leper on the side of the road and you beg Jesus: “Lord, if you are willing, you can make me clean.” And Jesus looks you right in the eye. “If I’m willing? Yes! I am willing!” And Jesus reaches out his hand and he touches you. “Be clean!” Is there anything more wonderful, more Good News, than Jesus looking at your deepest hurt and saying, “I am willing.”

In Mark 4, we’re in the boat with those disciples. The storm comes, the boat’s about to sink, and the disciples are freaking out. Jesus says, “Quiet! Be still!” And everything’s fixed. And he says to his followers, “Why are you so afraid? Where’s your faith?” And I wonder: Is he smiling? Is he upset?  Is he disappointed? Maybe he’s amused. “Why are you so afraid? Yes, I control nature, I control everything! I’m willing for you to be clean and I’m able to make it happen. I want you to be well and protected and safe and whole. I have the power. Trust me. Give yourself to me.”

Jairus’ daughter has just died. Jairus’ servants say it’s too late. Tell Jesus not to come. Jesus ignores them and says, “Don’t be afraid. Just believe.” He walks through all the people crying and wailing loudly. “Why all this commotion and wailing? The child is not dead, she’s asleep.”

The world sees one thing. Jesus sees something different. He wants you to see different, too. He wants you to see yourself with him and give yourself to it. “Don’t be afraid. Just believe. My child, I say to you, get up.”

And she did.



American Girl

Today is Tom Petty’s 68th birthday. American Girl is the last cut on his 1976 debut album and a rock and roll classic by every conceivable standard. It’s hard to even imagine rock and roll music existing before this song. It’s in the canon. This is also the last song I heard him play live, from the floor at American Airlines Center in Dallas, with my youngest daughter Carley, four years ago. It’s impossible to choose my all-time favorite Tom Petty song. But I don’t like any better than this one.



The Power of God to Save

The Israelites are cornered. Trapped. They’re in a cul-de-sac, a bottle neck of disaster — the Red Sea on one side, the desert mountains on the other side, and the mighty forces of the Egyptian army barrelling down on top of them. They’re dead.

And our God shows his power over nature and history to split the sea right down the middle so two million of his people can pass through on dry ground. Israel saw the conquered Egyptians lying dead on the shore. They had proof. Their enemies were vanquished and powerless to ever do them any more harm. The escape is complete. Salvation is secure. And when they saw the great power displayed by the Lord, they put their trust in him, they swear their allegiance to him. And their lives are shaped by their utter dependence on the one who saves them.

That’s our story, too. That’s who we are. That’s the point of the Exodus story.

The point is not “The Lord will fight for you; you need only to be still” (Exodus 14:14). We’ll miss the whole point of this grand theological message if we reduce it down to some moral lesson like “Be faithful in a tight fix” or “Don’t be afraid in tough times, just be still and let God take care of you.” No, that’s not what this story is about. It’s so much bigger than that.

The story of the crossing of the Red Sea is not to tell us what to do. It’s to tell us how to think. This story is intended to shape our worldview. This story informs and motivates the way we see ourselves, the way we see others, the way we see and experience every person and place and thing and idea we encounter.

The Exodus is not a pep talk. The Exodus is our god moving his people from one kind of existence to another. It’s an understanding that God is your God because he’s acted in your life to deliver you. You get the idea when Jesus says, “I tell you the truth, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not be condemned; he has crossed over from death to life” (John 5:24).

When you go through the waters of salvation, you leave all your old stories behind. You see your enemies on the shore, your old enemies of sin and death and sickness and addiction and pain — all those things are eternally defeated in the death and resurrection of our Savior Jesus Christ.

“By his power God raised the Lord from the dead, and he will raise us also.” ~1 Corinthians 6:14

That is the Gospel: The power of God to save! The power of God to save two million Israelites through the waters of the Red Sea and the power of God to save you and everybody else in the whole world. The power is his. And he uses it to save.



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