Category: College Football (Page 2 of 10)

The Lord is On Our Side

Thank you, Georgia!
If there’s any justice in this broken world, baker mayfieLd will be drafted number one overall by the Cleveland Browns.



“If the Lord had not been on our side — let Israel say —
If the Lord had not been on our side when men attacked us,
when their anger flared against us,
they would have swallowed us alive;
the flood would have engulfed us, the torrent would have swept over us,
the raging waters would have swept us away.
Praise be to the Lord, who has not let us be torn by their teeth.
We have escaped like a bird out of the fowler’s snare;
the snare has been broken, and we have escaped!
Our help is in the name of the Lord, the Maker of Heaven and Earth!”
~Psalm 124

Angry mobs and flash floods and fatal traps. As disciples of Christ, we are always surrounded by danger, always facing threat, under constant attack by those with different views, overwhelmed by a flood of cultural elitism, trapped by society’s cynics and skeptics and compromisers who demand our Christianity be a private thing we keep between us and God. That’s where we live. And you know it.

We put our faith on the line every day. We have never seen God. We live in a world where almost everything can be seen and studied and weighed and measured and explained and subjected to psychological analysis and scientific control. But we insist on making the center of our lives a God we can’t see our touch. That’s a risky way to live.

We put our hope on the line every day. We don’t know anything about the future. We don’t know for sure what’s going to happen between now and when we wake up in the morning — we’re not guaranteed we’re going to wake up in the morning! We don’t know our future. Sickness, pain, rejection, loss, death — we don’t know. Still, despite our total ignorance about the future, we say God will accomplish his will and nothing can ever separate us from his love and promises. That’s a dangerous way to live.

We put our love on the line every day. There’s nothing we’re less good at than love. We’re much better at competition than love. We’re better at responding by instinct and ambition and selfishness than trying to figure out how to love people. We’re trained to get our own way. Our culture — the whole world! — rewards us for trying to get our own way. Yet, we make the decision every day to put aside what we do best and try to do what we’re not very good at: loving other people. And we open ourselves wide open to hurt and frustration and rejection and failure. That’s not an easy way to live.

We live on the edge. Every day as Christians we walk a tightrope on the edge of disaster and defeat. We live on the edge of the flood, surrounded by angry men and sharp teeth and deadly traps. That’s where we all live.

But Psalm 124 is not about the hazards, it’s about the help.

The hazardous work of following Jesus and walking in the way of the Lord is the setting, it’s not the subject. The subject is the help of the Lord.

The TV show Cheers was not about the bar. It was about Sam and Diane, Norm and his wife, Cliff and his mother, and Coach and Woody. The TV show Friends was not about the coffee shop. It was about six good-looking, young, lazy, spoiled rotten, single people. Central Perk was the setting, not the main point.

Our walk with the Lord takes place in a hazardous setting. But that’s not the focus. It’s not the subject. The main point is that the Lord is on our side. God is our help. That’s the reality of our situation.

God’s deliverance is always a surprise, but it’s always certain. God’s rescue is always a miracle, but we always know it’s coming.

You can look up into the sky and see a billion stars or beautiful clouds or an inspiring sunrise. And, if you’re a Christian, it can easily lead to praising God. “Thank you, Lord, it’s beautiful.” A brand new baby can be born into your family, perfectly healthy, perfectly wonderful. “Thank you, God, this is so good.” A stable job? A loving family? “Thank you, Father, I’m so blessed.”

Psalm 124 looks the other direction. It looks into the troubles, the trauma, the conflicts. It acknowledges the problems, it points out the dangers and loss. And it sees that God is on our side. God is our help. God is always with us and God always saves us.

We declare our words of faith in an unbelieving world. We sing our songs of victory in a world where things get messy. We live our joy among people who don’t understand us or encourage us. But that’s the setting of our lives, not the subject. The main subject is God and God’s salvation in Christ Jesus our Lord.

You may be lost in the darkness of sin and doubt, but you’re going to be found in the light of Christ. You may be trapped behind the bars of despair, but very soon those gates are going to swing open wide. You may be drowning in a sea of bitterness and conflict, but tomorrow you will be lifted up to dry ground.

Our God is rich in mercy and strong to save. His help shapes our days and his deliverance defines our lives. Praise be to the Lord!



The Good News

A Texas Longhorns football legend and the best two-way player Darrell Royal said he ever coached died yesterday. Tommy Nobis, a two-time All America and the only sophomore starter on the Longhorns’ 1963 National Championship team, passed away at 74. In my view, he is the greatest football player to ever wear the number 60, edging out contemporary linebacking cohort Chuck Bednarik. Nobis played both offensive guard and middle linebacker for the ‘Horns for three years, leading Texas to a 27-5 overall record and that national title. He was named All Southwest Conference twice, he was the team MVP twice, and in 1965 Nobis won the Maxwell Award as college football’s best all around player, the Outland Trophy as college football’s best lineman, and finished seventh in the Heisman vote. The expansion Atlanta Falcons made Nobis their overall number one pick in franchise history, outbidding the AFL’s Houston Oilers who also drafted him number one. And in that first NFL season, Nobis racked up an average of 21 tackles per game and won the league’s Rookie of the Year honors. He played in Atlanta for eleven years, leading the team in tackles for nine of those years, making the Pro Bowl in five of those seasons, and earning the nickname “Mr. Falcon.” From Thomas Jefferson High School in San Antonio to the College Football Hall of Fame and the cover of Life Magazine and the Falcons’ Ring of Honor, Tommy Nobis was the consistent picture of rich character, immense talent, and deep loyalty. God bless Tommy Nobis and his family.


There’s a difference between advice and news. Advice is concerned about what you should do; news is a report about what’s already been done. Advice tells you to make something happen; news tells you something’s already happened and compels you to respond. Advice says it’s all up to you to act; news says someone else has already acted.

Let’s say there’s an invading army coming to town and they’re bent on killing all of you and destroying everything you have. What you need is advice. You need advisors. You need someone to explain, “OK, we need to dig the trenches down here and put the snipers up there. We need to move our troops in that direction and place the tanks over in this direction. We need to do these things to be saved.”

But what if a great and powerful king intercepts the invading army and destroys it? What does the town need then? You don’t need advisors, you need messengers. And the Greek word for messengers is angelos: angels. And these messengers don’t say, “Here’s what you need to do to be saved.” They say, “I bring you good news of great joy that’s for all the people! Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you. He is Christ, the Lord!”

In other words, “Stop running, stop hiding, stop building fortresses, stop stockpiling weapons. Stop trying to save yourself! The King has already done it! The King has come to save you!”

Something has happened, something has been done, and it totally changes everything.

Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to all people!


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.



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.”



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