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Lessons I Learned from The Iron Bowl… #RollTide

Being a life-long Alabama Crimson Tide fan, watching last weekend’s Iron Bowl between Alabama’s Tide and Auburn’s War Eagles was both exasperating and exhilarating. For those of you who didn’t see it, let me recap…

RTR ShirtAlabama led early, but after two quarters and two interceptions thrown by Alabama quarterback Blake Sims, the #1 ranked Crimson Tide was behind going into halftime. At the beginning of the third quarter, Sims threw yet another interception right out of the gate, which Auburn soon after turned into another touchdown.

At this point in the game, Crimson Tide fans all around the country were screaming at their TV sets for Coach Nick Saban to replace Sims with backup quarterback Jake Coker. Enough is enough! Let’s get some fresh blood in there and get something going before the game is hopelessly lost!

However, to the chagrin of many watching the spectacle, when Alabama once again got the ball, Sims ran out onto the field, ready to take his spot behind the center.

Tide fans everywhere were befuddled. Had Coach Saban lost it? Was he purposely trying to lose the game? Was this going to be a remake of Iron Bowl 2013, and the famous “Kick Six“?

Three minutes later, Sims threw a touchdown pass, closing the score gap to six points. Auburn kicked another field goal a few minutes later, and Auburn’s score began to inch up once again.

Then it happened…

Bear BryantWith a new-found confidence fostered by a coach who believed in his ability, Sims began to connect with his receivers. Over the next 15 minutes of play, the Crimson Tide scored four unanswered touchdowns, and went on to win what would be the highest-scoring Iron Bowl in the history of that rivalry… 55-44.

Now, you might be saying, “Well Pastor, congrats on your team winning, but what in the world does that have to do with anything in my life? I don’t even like football.” Bear with me a minute…

What if Coach Saban had pulled Blake Sims out of the game after his third interception, or even his second? What if Blake Sims had lost all confidence because his coach and teammates lost faith in him? What if they had switched to another plan in the middle of the game?

The fact is that Coach Saban saw something in Sims that eluded the rest of us (and probably Sims himself). He probably knew that replacing Sims would mean deviating from a plan he believed in — a plan he believed would make them the winning team at the end of the night. Trusting his instincts and what he knew and believed about Sims, he defied “reason” and the mob mentality, and chose not to throw Sims under the bus, but to show him he still believed in him.

And it paid off. At the end of the night, Alabama fans everywhere had 55 reasons they were thankful for Blake Sims.

YOU are on a team, and you have a coach named Jesus Christ. You’ve had some victories, but you’ve stumbled, slipped, thrown bad passes, interceptions, and fumbled the ball on more than one occasion. You are bruised, bloody, and beaten down. Honestly… you’re not much to look at, and people around you have serious doubts in your abilities and worth.

But you have a Coach who believes in YOU. You have someone on your side who, over and over again, will pick you up, dust you off, and send you back out there into the fray.

“Why? Is Coach Jesus just sadistic? Does He enjoy watching me get beat up every time I turn around?”

Not at all. Sure, He knows you. He sees your flaws, knows your failures, and sympathizes with your struggles.

But He also knows what you are capable of. He has a plan in which you are an integral part. Paul said in Romans…

For the gifts and calling of God are without repentance. ~ Romans 11:29

That means God’s call on your life is not dependent upon your fumbles and missteps. His calling is irrevocable, and He makes no apologies for keeping you in the game. When we think it is difficult or impossible to trust our faithfulness, He reminds us that our relationship with Him is about trusting His grace. What we have to do is trust Him, and believe in His call and His wisdom for our lives and destiny.

So cheer up! You may be bruised and banged-up, but if you are reading this now, it means you are still breathing, still full of life, and still IN THE GAME! It’s time to start believing in the One who called you, for His calling is sure, and He’s never going to be sorry He did. Game ON!

Oh, and… ROLL TIDE!

Pastor Ron

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America Fresh Oil New Wine 2013 Living It Out In Real Time The Bible The Life of Faith The Secret Place Through The Looking Glass

What It Was Was Football Life

Through the Looking Glass“It’s football time in Tennessee!!!”

Ok… it’s a little late, and I’m actually an Alabama Crimson Tide fan (Roll Tide!), but if you live in Tennessee like I do, you are used to hearing those words in the fall of every year. Not just a declaration – it is a warcry. It is a call to Saturday football, friends gathered around television screens, popcorn and potato chips flying everywhere when your team scores, an occasional pilgrimage (for some) to Neyland Stadium, and lots and LOTS of orange.

Regardless of your persuasion of team choice (or what color you think you look good in), there is nothing quite like a good football game. When it is neck-and-neck, back and forth battling on the gridiron, the energy is contagious – the excitement nearly impossible to contain!

It reminds me of some quotes by icons of the game:

Football is like life – it requires perseverance, self-denial, hard work, sacrifice, dedication and respect for authority. ~ Vince Lombardi

I believe in getting a team prepared so it knows it will have the necessary confidence when it steps on a field and be prepared to play a good game. ~ Tom Landry

Never be too proud to get down on your knees and pray. ~ Paul “Bear” Bryant

Three different coaches. Three different quotes. One important message, not just for football, but for life…

Be prepared.

Just like a football team has to practice, condition, and prepare in order to have any chance of winning once it walks out onto the field, we have to prepare for the challenges and trials of life through education, dedication, hard work, and…

Prayer.

In the Bible, Paul stresses, over and over again the value of preparation…

“Run with perseverance”… “Endure hardship”… Hebrews 12

“Everyone who competes goes into strict training”… I Corinthians 9

“Put on the full armor of God”… Ephesians 6

In order for us to win in the “game of life”, we must prepare. As Christians, we do that through worship, prayer, studying the Word of God, and fellowship with other believers (just to name a few).

Years ago, the late Andy Griffith had a comedy routine called What It Was Was Football, in which he described the game of football from the vantage point of a “good ole country boy” who had never seen the game before, and didn’t understand the rules.

As we go through life, are our lives shining and crystal-clear examples of the love of Jesus, or something that is foreign to those that are observing our lives at arms-length? Do we point people to the love of Christ, or confuse them with an unconvincing and unattractive “performance” devoid of passion, love, or commitment?

Take the time today to assess your “game plan”. If you see that it needs work, a good place to begin is on your knees.