Alabama could have won the NFC East. They should have been allowed to. Watching the Crimson Tide host Tom Brady’s Buccaneers in Tuscaloosa would have been a lot more interesting than what we watched last night.
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.
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.
We’ve got seven months to learn how to pronounce Tagovailoa.
Jalen Hurts and the Alabama kicker have six months to pick out a dorm room at Texas Tech.
John the Baptist is preparing the way for the Lord. He’s getting all the people ready to meet the coming Messiah. He’s baptizing in the desert, people are repenting, and their sins are being forgiven. John the Baptist is doing what needs to be done so people can see the Lord.
“Prepare the way for the Lord, make straight paths for him.
Every valley shall be filled in, every mountain and hill made low.
The crooked roads shall become straight, the rough ways smooth.
And all mankind will see God’s salvation.”
Our job as a church full of Christians is to make it easier for people to see God’s salvation. We are in the business of preparing the way, making it easier for people to see and experience what God is doing. And these are the questions we need to be asking: How do we level the mountains? How do we straighten out the crooked roads? What can we do to smooth out the rough places? How do we make it easier for more men and women to see and experience God’s salvation?
Well, John the Baptist tells us:
“Produce fruit in keeping with repentance!” ~Luke 3:8
You’re repenting of your sins, John says. You’re being baptized for the forgiveness of your sins. Now make sure your lives reflect that. Make sure you’re consistent with that.
“What should we do then?” the crowd asked.
John answered, “The man with two tunics should share with him who has none, and the one who has food should do the same.”
Tax collectors also came to be baptized. “Teacher,” they asked, “what should we do?”
“Don’t collect any more than you are required to,” he told them.
Then some soldiers asked him, “And what should we do?”
He replied, “Don’t extort money and don’t accuse people falsely — be content with your pay.”
Share your possessions with others. Pursue economic justice for others. Treat others fairly.
Being baptized means you’re all in. Your sins are forgiven, you’re cleansed; but that’s not all. You’re commissioned, you’re charged with ministry, with living your life in such a way that others can see and experience the salvation works of God. The same thing happened when Jesus was baptized. He didn’t need forgiveness; this was the commissioning point of his ministry. His ministry was launched in the waters of baptism.
“When all the people were being baptized, Jesus was baptized, too. And as he was praying, heaven was opened, and the Holy Spirit descended on him in bodily form like a dove. And a voice came from heaven: ‘You are my Son, whom I love; I am well pleased!'” ~Luke 3:21-22
God anoints his Son with his Holy Spirit. He’s consecrating Jesus, ordaining him for ministry. God makes a public declaration of his relationship to his Son and at that point, verse 23, Jesus begins his ministry. He is full of the Holy Spirit (4:1), led by the Holy Spirit (4:1), and empowered by the Holy Spirit (4:14).
Through the rest of the Gospel we watch as our Lord Jesus shines God’s salvation light into darkness. Jesus lays his hands on the crippled woman and heals her. He eats dinner at the Pharisee’s house. He interacts with and serves the Samaritan lepers. He stays with Zacchaeus and calls him a son. Jesus looks at the sinful woman at Simon’s house and says, “Your sins are forgiven.” He says “Let the little children come to me with all their sticky hands and runny noses.” He holds them, touches them, blesses them.
Everywhere our Lord goes, everywhere he is, he shines the light of love and forgiveness. He brings the Kingdom of grace and hope. In a culture of hate and violence and lies, our Lord Jesus is love and mercy and truth. He brings it. He lives it. And people are blessed and the world is changed.
And on that last night, around the table with his closest followers, he looks us in the eye and says, “You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit — fruit that will last” (John 15:16).
By our baptisms and by the indwelling Holy Spirit, we are to go into our communities and do the same things Jesus did in order that more men and women might see God’s salvation. All of us are called to seek and save, to heal and forgive, to love and reconcile — to bear baptism fruit.
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!”
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!