Page 2 of 316

Tap the Brakes

I heard the broadcasters say the word “dynasty” before the players even got off the field. Not Troy, not Joe Buck; the studio guys on Fox and on ESPN. I heard it twice. Two different versions of “The Cowboys are building a dynasty” in reference to the “Triplets,” which I also heard twice.

Whoa, slow down.

Yes, Ezekiel Elliott is a monster of a running back. He runs hard, he picks up blocks, he catches passes — he’s for real. And the whole Cowboys offense runs through him. Amari Cooper is a really good receiver. He runs better routes than anybody who’s played for Dallas in the past twenty years, he’s got a knack for finding the open spot in a zone, and he makes tough catches look easy.  And both of those players make Dak Prescott better. Dak is a decent passer, his legs keep the defense spying and guessing, and he seems to give everything he’s got every week.

But “dynasty?” Shouldn’t the Cowboys win one divisional playoff game since 1995 before using that word?  Since when does a Wild Card win for any other team elicit this kind of hyperbole? It’s like these analysts haven’t watched any Cowboys games in the past 23-years.

And “Triplets?” Troy, Emmitt, and Irvin won three Super Bowls and are in the Hall of Fame. Dak still turns the ball over at the worst possible times, Cooper has played in Dallas for less than half a season, and Elliott needs another twelve years and 14,000 yards and 130 touchdowns before we start comparing him to Emmitt.

Now, let’s acknowledge that the Cowboys are stocked with some legitimate talent and are really fun to watch right now. That defense is stout. That front seven is solid. Jaylon Smith and Leighton Vander Esch absolutely fly to the ball. Nothing happens on offense without Elliott but, with him, they’re going to be in every game until the fourth quarter. Cole Beasley is clutch. Gallup is fast. Cooper is open. But Dak is a problem. He still misses wide open receivers, he still holds the ball too long in the pocket, and he still turns it over. I don’t think the Cowboys can win a divisional playoff game with this current version of Prescott under center. I also have questions about the reliability of their kicker. But the main concern ought to be at quarterback.

There’s a reason the Cowboys are seven-point dogs to the Rams on Saturday.


I’ve heard people say they just can’t get excited about tonight’s national championship tilt between Alabama and Clemson.  Another rematch. The same two teams. Like watching the Bills in four straight Super Bowls. Some people are not looking forward to the game.

What?!? Are you kidding me? There’s plenty to be excited about; let me count the ways.

~ These are clearly the best two teams in the country. Can you name any team that’s better? This is #1 versus #2! This is precisely what you and I argued and begged for the past 40-years! This game decides the true undisputed national champion!

~ It’s not like the Bills. Clemson’s beaten Alabama in this setting. And nobody will be shocked if they do it again. The Tide winning is not a foregone conclusion.

~ Tua’s story is fascinating. He’s going to have 400 friends and family in attendance at Levi’s Stadium tonight.

~ Rooting against Nick Saban.

~ If Alabama wins, Elaine takes first place in our Central office football poll; if Clemson wins, Mark takes the top prize.

~ It’s the last time I can justify eating nachos before baseball’s Opening Day.

~ Waiting for the moment Hunter Renfrow inevitably makes the huge play.

~ Watching history as one of these teams becomes the first team in college football history to finish a season 15-0.

~ Rooting against Nick Saban.



How Sweet It Is!

Bevo set the tone early for the Longhorns last night by aggressively “targeting” the head of Georgia’s bulldog mascot UGA a full hour or so before the coin was even tossed. I have no idea who came up with the idea of placing a live moving target wearing red in front of a bull —  whoever it was will never ‘fess up. But the mayhem it produced on the Sugar Bowl sidelines, on the national TV shows, and throughout all Twitter, Instagram, and Meme-dom was almost worth the innocent lives it nearly cost. By now you’ve seen the  best of the social media reactions to the unprecedented and never-to-be-seen-again Longhorn taking aim and charging the sluggish pup. This piece by Rodger Sherman of The Ringer provides an entertaining tale of the tape and blow-by-blow account.

It was the stuff of legend. Your grandkids are going to be hearing the stories and seeing the footage thirty years from now. ESPN will do a 30 for 30 for the twenty-five year anniversary, guaranteed. Instant classic!

The incident really was a precursor to the whole evening as the two-touchdown underdog ‘Horns out-coached, out-hit, out-hustled, out-executed, out-everythinged fifth-ranked Georgia. Texas bullied Georgia; they absolutely man-handled them. In the past two years, no SEC offense has scored more than 16-points in the first half against Georgia; Texas scored twenty! The Longhorns held the SEC’s number-one ranked rushing offense to just 2.4-yards per carry; the Bulldogs averaged 6.1-yards per carry during the season. Texas fans were chanting “S-E-C!” during large chunks of the second half. It was inspiring.

And, my word, Sam Ehlinger sure has a nose for the first down marker and the goal line. He doesn’t look like a runner, he doesn’t move like a runner. He just kinda tiptoes around and stumbles and starts and stops — he looks like he has no business running the ball at all. But when the Texas signal-caller runs those quarterback draws or scrambles out of the pocket, he somehow finds the line and achieves it. It’s uncanny. And unstoppable.

The upcoming spring and summer will be crazy with relentless hype for the ‘Horns. Texas has a ton of young talent returning from this ten-win team and should be ranked in the Top Ten nationally at the beginning of this next season. They have momentum. Tom Herman is doing something down there in Austin.

But what Bevo did last night is the stuff of legend.

Hook ‘Em,


Christmas Vacation

We are back home today after spending a wonderful four days snow skiing with the entire Stanglin clan up at Wolf Creek in Colorado. Mom and Dad got the condos, we all shared the cooking, Rhonda planned the games, and nobody died.

Carrie-Anne and Whitney didn’t brave the slopes, opting instead to hang out around Pagosa Springs and do some shopping and, mainly, chilling. Carley got a massive migraine halfway through our first day of skiing and so it was really just Valerie and me swooshing down the mountain together with my three siblings and all their kids and the one in-law. It snowed the whole time we were there — no wind, just perfect skiing conditions. And we just had a blast.









I regret not skiing for the past 29 years. I totally forgot how much fun it is. And it was so much more fun sharing it with my family: watching Isaac and Paul pick it up so quickly, re-living high school ski trip memories with Rhonda, listening to Keith curse the hill at the top of Windjammer, secretly reveling in the fact that there is one single specific thing  — one part of one slope — I can do better than Caleb, marveling at the first aid kit / pantry / pharmacy that is Sharon’s coat, sharing candy bars and beef jerky on the lifts, and laughing out loud with everybody about almost everything.

And I didn’t get hurt. The only times I fell was when I was trying to keep up with Valerie. I gave up on that after the first day; that little girl can ski! Well, also, the times I was just standing there on flat ground talking and got my skis and poles crossed up and took a couple of people down with me.

I wish we could have stayed another three or four days. I completely forgot how much I love skiing. Here in Amarillo, we’re only four hours away from New Mexico skiing and we’re just as close to the Colorado mountains as we are to Dallas. It won’t be another 29 years before I do this again. It might be Spring Break.



The Pool Guy

One last thing about this invalid at the Pool of Bethesda in John 5. I want us to notice today that the ultimate Healer always takes the first step in our salvation. And he always does whatever it takes to save you.

Jesus is heading into Jerusalem for a religious feast, but he takes a detour along the way. He decides to first visit the city’s most sick and disabled. He singles out the most destitute among them, a man who is sick on the inside and the outside. And Jesus heals him. He calls the man to immediate action and heals him! He changed him.

And Jesus initiated the whole thing.

This guy had no faith. There’s no confession. No cry for help. A couple of verses later we learn this guy had no idea who Jesus even was! But Jesus was looking for him. Jesus loved him and healed him. He changed him, made him whole. And then he followed up later with him in the temple to encourage him.

What a beautiful picture of the amazing love and grace and mercy of Jesus. Our Lord Jesus goes against the grain, he moves heaven and earth, he breaks the rules, to reach out to you and heal you.

And he’s the one who takes the initiative. Always. He’ll stop at nothing to save you. That’s his nature. That’s who he is and what he does.

Do you want to get well?

What’s wrong with us and this world is sin. We know that Jesus is the answer to the problem. But do we really want to be healed? Whether you’re experiencing the physical brokenness of this pool guy or his complacency that Jesus challenges with a call to action or the warped attitude of the religious leaders who valued their rules and restrictions over the healing of others, Jesus’ question is the same. So is his will and power to save.


The construction around our church building at Central is progressing up and out.  There’s a lot of scaffolding in play here.





The three arches of our new main entrance have all been encased in brick and the walls and beams of our new ground-level ministry space are almost complete. The chapel steps and wall that went down and then out to the sides have been torn out to reveal the original 1930 steps that went straight down to the street.  And pretty soon the beautiful cast stone will be installed on this west side front.






If you run into them, be extra kind to Mark and Kevin and Mary and Vickie. They’re losing their office windows in this deal and it’s just now starting to sink in. As the walls go up, there’s less sunshine coming in. Vickie’s is just that little “Laverne and Shirley” window, but she’s still going to feel it. Mark and Mary are going to have to be shown where their light switches are. And Kevin might actually go stark-raving-mad.




Church People on Church Days

Jesus heals the invalid at the Pool of Bethesda. The man was instantly cured. His life was eternally changed. Jesus made him well. Jesus made him whole!

But it was a church day. And because it was a church day, some of the church people got upset. The guy at the pool is not the only sick person Jesus ran into this day. There are some really sick church people in this scene.

“The day on which this took place was a Sabbath, and so the Jews said to the man who had been healed, ‘It is the Sabbath; the law forbids you to carry your mat!'” ~John 5:9-10

The church people, the self-appointed guardians of the truth, immediately put this man on trial. They’re in his face. This is an interrogation. “You’re not supposed to do that! Why are you doing that? Who said you could do that?”

It’s quite incredible, huh? A man is made whole and given new life by the will and power of God, and the opposition comes from church people. Not evil people, no. Good people who mistake their religious traditions for the will of God. These church people are sicker than this paraplegic ever was.

The Law of Moses was very clear that the Sabbath Day is a holy day and it needs to be recognized as part of the covenant between God and his people. It needs to be a sacred day and nobody’s supposed to do any work. But the Jewish teachers and scribes had added to it. It wasn’t specific enough for them. It wasn’t strict enough. It was too gray. How can we judge people, how can we know for sure who’s right and who’s wrong unless we make this more black and white?

So, to make themselves really happy and everybody around them really miserable, they came up with their own rules and restrictions as supplements to God’s Law. It came to be known as Mishna — pages and pages and books and volumes of their own interpretations they bound on all the people. Regarding the Sabbath Day alone, they had 39-different categories of things a person could not do. And they used these interpretations — and that’s all they are — to control people. It gave them power and authority. And if you threatened their interpretations, you were in for a fight. These church people were willing to kill to protect their interpretations.

So, after they publicly berate this guy, they go after Jesus. How dare you work! How dare you heal! How dare you help this man on the Sabbath! And Jesus’ defense is simple: “My Father is working today and so I am working today.”

Jesus goes on in the following verses to explain that every single thing he does, he does because of his Father. Jesus claims he is sent by God, he’s on a mission from God, he’s doing the works of God, he’s obedient to God, and he’s bringing glory to God. And that ticks them off even more! So now Jesus finds himself on trial and he starts bringing out the witnesses in verse 33: The Scriptures testified to me; John the Baptist testified to me; God in heaven testifies to me by these works he’s given me to do. But you…

“You diligently study the Scriptures because you think that by them you possess eternal life. These are the Scriptures that testify about me, yet you refuse to come to me to have life.” ~John 5:39-40

This is what upset Jesus the most. You know every letter of every word, you’ve interpreted every passage, you’ve memorized it, you argue to the death one verb here and one participle there — you think you have eternal life in the Scriptures. But you don’t!

Dear reader, eternal life does not come from the Bible; eternal life comes from Christ Jesus to whom the Bible points. Our trust and faith and hope is not in the Scriptures; our trust and faith and hope is in the holy Son of God to whom the Scriptures point.

These church people are sick. They know the Word of God frontwards and backwards, but they don’t know Jesus. Their disbelief was deliberate, their diagnosis was severe. They love their church life and their traditions and interpretations, but they had forgotten how to love God and the people God is healing and making whole. Their expression of church had become horribly twisted. They had turned their life-giving and soul-saving faith into something life-taking and soul-destroying. Instead of being a source of joy and light, they were using their religion to suppress and judge. They knew the Word of God, but they totally missed his will. They had counted every letter of the Scriptures, but they had totally missed the truth.

Does any of this sound familiar? Does any of this feel familiar?

I think we’re all — every one of us — susceptible to this sickness. It’s dangerous. It’s deadly.

Do we want to get well?

Sometimes our vigorous preservation of our church traditions counts more than the openness and spontaneity of faith. We know our Bible, but sometimes we use it to defend all the wrong things. We know our Bible, but sometimes that’s all we know. Our allegiance to the way things have always been done sometimes gets in the way of the healing and saving work of Jesus. We can’t appreciate or applaud the good that’s being done because it’s being done differently.

And Jesus deliberately challenges these rigid traditions. He goes out of his way to do things on the Sabbath, just to make the point. So much so, it becomes his habit.

When the apostles picked grain on the Sabbath in Matthew 12, the Pharisees accused Jesus of breaking the Law and Jesus said, “Relax. Look, we’re hungry. We need food. I desire mercy, not sacrifice.” Remember? In that same chapter, Jesus heals the man with the withered hand on a church day, in church, and when the church people tell Jesus, “Hey, that’s not how we do things in church!” our Lord says, “People are valuable to me. People! Their physical needs, their emotional needs, their spiritual needs — their souls are valuable to me. It is good to do good. On the Sabbath or any other day of the week, it’s good to do good for people.”

That’s his attitude.

And we should be constantly re-evaluating our own attitudes. Is our church so well-defined and so safe and so comfortable that if Jesus showed up with his attitude, we’d interrogate him? Would Christ’s attitude be OK in our church?

A Scriptural service is when people are healed and made whole. A correct worship service is when people experience the love and grace and mercy of God. What makes a biblical worship service is when God is praised and salvation from Christ is proclaimed and Holy Spirit people eat and drink together and encourage and bless one another. After that, in church, nothing else really matters much at all.



Not an Easy Question

The fourth Gospel gives us the account of Jesus healing an invalid at the Pool of Bethesda. The guy had been paralyzed for 38 years. But when Jesus asked him, “Do you want to get well?” the guy didn’t say “Yes!”

I don’t know how old this guy was — it doesn’t matter. But I do know he can’t move, he can’t walk. Unless someone moves him, he can only get around by dragging himself by his hands. What little this man has, he gets from begging. He’s dirty. He stinks. People stay away from him. He has no contact with normal society. The only community he knows is with all the other outcasts, the unclean people who don’t fit in. Every day this man lies on the ground and begs at the gate to the sheep market.

Why in the world didn’t he say “Yes!” when Jesus asked him if he wanted to get well?

The question must not be as easy as it seems.

This guy had been sick for so long that he’d stopped thinking about getting well. In fact, when he’s confronted with the possibility of being made well, it doesn’t even register. Instead, he blames his situation on others. He makes excuses. He points to his predicament, he points to the people around him and the conditions he’s in and he seems pretty content to just stay exactly the way he is. He was so focused on the reasons he wasn’t well, he couldn’t imagine ever being made well.

We all have a tendency to see things the way they are instead of the way things could be with Jesus. Where is our imagination? Why are we satisfied with our lives the way they are? Why do we allow our culture to establish our priorities? Why do we let our careers determine our goals? Why do we let our families dictate our futures? Why are we so reluctant to let the Lord Jesus show us what’s possible? Why can’t we give ourselves to Jesus and let him heal us so we can reach our God-ordained potential?

Some of the most exciting words in the Bible are found in Romans 4: “God gives life to the dead and calls things that are not as though they were.”

Our God sees what can be and his will is to make it happen. Our God sees you and all the good and all the great he intends for you and he alone has the power to make it happen. And he so WANTS to make it happen! But our situations blind us. Our circumstances paralyze us to the possibility.

Why are we so resistant to change? Why don’t we want to get well? Why don’t we want to be made whole, as some translations say?

Jesus asked the question because he knew the guy’s heart. He knows all of our hearts. He knows it’s human nature to resist change. Even if the conditions are atrocious and change would make things better for us, we don’t want it.

We hang onto the status quo even when all the evidence shows the status quo is killing us. I don’t know what it is. Complacency? Content to be in a bad spot? Resigned to your fate? Just bad timing or bad luck? Knowing full well that things should be and could be so much better. You could be made well. But you’re just going to keep doing what you’ve always done and hope something changes, which is the definition of insanity.

So watch what Jesus does. He totally ignores what this guy is saying about the people around the pool. And he tells this man who hasn’t been able to do anything for himself in 38-years, “Enough! You! Get up! Pick up your mat! Walk!”

And the man is instantly cured. His life was eternally changed.

This is what happens when you encounter Jesus. The rest of the Bible affirms what these Gospel stories show us: that in Christ, your old body is done away with and you live a brand new life; that in Christ, the old has gone and the new has come; that in Christ, you put off your old self and you’re given a brand new self! Jesus doesn’t give you pain pills or crutches or a wheelchair. He doesn’t give you a pillow or a fan. Jesus makes you well! Jesus makes you whole!

Do you want to get well? It’s not an easy question. But it’s still the main question. And Jesus is still the only answer.



« Older posts Newer posts »