Tuesday, February 4, 2020

2/4/2020 - One Yard Short

“One Yard Short”

Super Bowl XXXIV had an epic finish with the St. Louis Rams hanging on to beat the Tennessee Titans 23-16, and Kurt Warner winning the MVP. Warner may have been the best player, but the key play involved Rams’ linebacker, Mike Jones, actually hanging on for the final tackle.

The Rams jumped out early to a 16-0 lead before the Titans scored 16 consecutive points and tied the game with 2:12 left in regulation. Warner responded by throwing a 73-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver, Isaac Bruce, to take the seven-point lead. The Titans got the ball back and quickly moved down the field to the Rams’ ten-yard line.

With six seconds on the clock and down seven points, Titans’ quarterback, Steve McNair, stepped back to pass and hit his receiver, Kevin Dyson, for the catch. But as Dyson ran and extended his arm toward the end zone, Mike Jones prevented the touchdown causing Dyson to fall one yard short.

Jones was the hero for his tackle and the Rams were the Super Bowl Champs. The Titans can look back at that game and realize just how close they really were, but ultimately they ran out of time and fell short by one yard.

This momentous Super Bowl memory is a wonderful illustration of the Gospel. Before we receive Jesus as our Lord and Savior, we all fall short of the glory of God. We can never do enough in our own strength to earn salvation and eternal life. All of our efforts fall at least one yard short. We can spend our entire lives trying to be a good person in our own strength, but that still results in being separated from God.

The only way to close that one-yard gap is through Jesus. He came to earth, died on the cross, and rose again. When we place our faith and trust in Him, then we are saved. It’s not by our works, but it’s because of God’s love and grace.

The Titans ran out of time in their attempt to get in the end zone. Today, let’s make sure we have given our life to Jesus, so that we no longer have to worry about being “one yard short.” I’m Bryce Johnson and you can unpack that!

PRAYER: Heavenly Father, thank you for sending Jesus. I believe He is who He said He is and I recognize I need Him for salvation and eternal life. I’m thankful it’s not based on my own efforts because I know I fall short of your glory. Thank you for your love and grace. In Jesus’ name I pray, amen.

Monday, February 3, 2020

2/3/2020 - New Orlean Saints

“The Surprise Onside Kick”

In Super Bowl XLIV, the New Orleans Saints amazingly knocked off Peyton Manning and the Indianapolis Colts 31-17 with Drew Brees winning the MVP.

After the first half, the Colts led the Saints 10-6 in a surprisingly low-scoring start to the game. But the game totally shifted when the second half began. While the Colts eagerly waited to receive the kickoff, the Saints made an astonishing and risky decision that caught everyone off guard. Their kicker successfully executed an onside kick that bounced off of a Colts’ player, and put the Saints in position to recover the ball.

The Saints’ gamble paid off. After taking over on offense, the team marched down the field to score a touchdown. The rest of the game was competitive, but that unpredictable kick ended up being the turning point for the Saints. The Colts paid the price by not being prepared for an onside kick.

As followers of Jesus, it’s crucial that we remain alert to the schemes of our enemy. Satan is out to get us, and if we aren’t careful we can be caught off guard by an attack. That’s why we must remain faithful and reliant on God to equip us for whatever comes our way.

We are told in 1 Peter 5:8-9, “Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. Resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same kinds of suffering are being experienced by your brotherhood throughout the world.”

The unexpected onside kick turned out to be very costly for the Colts, and their lack of readiness allowed the Saints to capitalize. As we follow Jesus, let’s remain watchful and on guard by trusting Him for the strength we need to resist attacks from the enemy. I’m Bryce Johnson and you can unpack that!

PRAYER: Heavenly Father, help me to rely on your strength and power when dealing with the devil’s schemes. Please equip me so that I’m not surprised, but ready instead. I pray this in Jesus’ name, amen.

Sunday, February 2, 2020

2/2/2020 - Most Spectacular Plays

“The Helmet Catch”

One of the most spectacular plays in NFL history happened during the final two minutes of Super Bowl XLII when New York Giants QB, Eli Manning, slipped away from New England's defense and threw a 32-yard pass to David Tyree.

On 3rd down the Giants were losing 14-10 to the undefeated Patriots when Tyree made an astonishing catch by somehow hanging onto the football. He pinned it against his helmet to hold it secure while Patriots’ safety, Rodney Harrison, tightly guarded him and tackled him to the ground. Miraculously, the ball stuck with the receiver and kept the drive alive. A few plays later, the Giants scored a touchdown and won the Super Bowl.

Tyree’s extraordinary ability to finish the catch is something we can be encouraged by in our own lives. When we receive Jesus as our Lord and Savior, it’s an incredible reception when you consider how unworthy we are to catch the grace that God throws our way. Just as David Tyree not only had to initially catch the ball, but cling tightly to it until the play was completed, we must also hold firmly to the message and truth we’ve been given about Jesus.

Colossians 2:6-7 tells us, “So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live your lives in him, rooted and built up in him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness.”

Once Tyree made the reception, the team was strengthened by the catch and able to continue their drive. Today, let’s be strengthened by the power, truth, and faith we’ve received.

I’m Bryce Johnson and you can unpack that!

PRAYER: Heavenly Father, thank you for sending Jesus and thank you for giving me salvation through Him. I pray my life would reflect what I’ve received. Please continue to provide the strength and faith that I need. In Jesus’ name I pray, amen.

Saturday, February 1, 2020

2/1/2020 - Great Losers

“The Buffalo Bills Were Great Losers”

One of the most impressive feats in NFL history is the Buffalo Bills making it to the Super Bowl four straight times, but losing each game. The Bills did the unimaginable during their run from 1990-1993, and they just couldn’t get over the hump to win the big game…despite knowing how to get there.

In sports, it’s rarely viewed as a good thing to lose – especially at the Super Bowl. The Bills must have experienced great disappointment when they repeatedly lost on the largest stage. Most people probably view the Bills losing over and over again as a bad thing, but as hard as it must have been, great value was found and many benefits resulted.

Those Bills teams now have seven members inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame, including the owner, GM, coach, and multiple players. Also, the Bills are a more memorable team than most one-time Super Bowl winners, and continue gaining more respect for what they accomplished during their stretch of Super Bowl appearances. I’m sure they would rather be known for winning than losing, but the Bills will always be legends for playing in four straight Super Bowls.

When it comes to our life and faith journey, we don’t usually associate anything positive with losing. We always want to win and gain something, instead of lose anything. However, Jesus provides an approach to losing that actually results in true life. He says in Matthew 10:38-39, “Whoever does not take up their cross and follow Me is not worthy of Me. Whoever finds their life will lose it, and whoever loses their life for My sake will find it.”

We end up finding life when we lose our selfishness, let go of our own way of doing things, and pass on what the world considers winning. When we lose our desire to chase the pursuits of the flesh and the world, we find true fulfillment in losing ourselves and gaining Jesus. I’m Bryce Johnson and you can unpack that!

PRAYER: Heavenly Father, it’s hard to embrace the idea of losing, but I pray that you would change my heart so I can experience the joy of finding true life in Jesus. Help me to die to my selfish desires each day for the sake of Jesus, and give me the strength to let go of worldly pursuits. In Jesus’ name I pray, amen.

Friday, January 31, 2020

1/31/2020 - Most memorable games ever

“When the Super Bowl Lost its Power”

Super Bowl XLVII was one of the most memorable games ever. Facing off on the big stage in 2013 were the Baltimore Ravens and San Francisco 49ers – a marquee matchup between brothers, Jim and John Harbaugh. But what took place in the third quarter to make that night so unforgettable couldn’t have been predicted by either of these competitive head coaches.

The Ravens were winning 28-6 when almost all of the lights in the New Orleans Superdome went out. The most important football game of the year was stopped for 34 minutes because of a crazy power outage.

The reality is, a Super Bowl can’t effectively operate unless it has the needed power. There can be players, coaches, TV cameras, and fans, but without power and light, they are just left in the dark.

When the power returned, the game’s momentum changed, but the Ravens held off the 49ers’ comeback with an epic 34-31 win. This unusual situation can serve to remind us how important and valuable it is to have power in our own lives. When we surrender our lives to Jesus and pursue His will, God’s power is readily available to us.

If we try to operate in our own strength with limited power, we end up finding ourselves in the dark. But if we want to walk in the light and accomplish amazing works for the Lord, we must rely on His power to lead and strengthen us.

Ephesians 3:20 says, “Now all glory to God, who is able, through His mighty power at work within us, to accomplish infinitely more than we might ask or think.”
Many saw the difference between a Super Bowl with power and a Super Bowl without power. Keeping that in mind, let’s choose to live with God’s full power working in us and through us.

I’m Bryce Johnson and you can unpack that!

PRAYER: Heavenly Father, you are powerful and wonderful. I pray that I wouldn’t try to live life in my own strength, but instead submit fully to your power that’s inside of me and available to help accomplish much more than I could ever imagine. In Jesus’ name I pray, amen.

Thursday, January 30, 2020

1/30/2020 - People Pleasing

I admit it: I’m a people-pleaser. (You too?) I’ve realized there’s something incomplete about that title, though. Being a people-pleaser also means I’m a people-disappointer. Working late to please your boss means disappointing your workout buddy by skipping the gym. Joining the book club to please your friends means disappointing your spouse by missing family dinner. See? Every yes to please someone is also a no that may disappoint someone else. If you’re like me, you pay for this people pleasing by giving up your breathing room and trying to do it all. I’ll eat dinner at home and just be a few minutes late to book club!  As we wrap up our look at breathing room, I want to share an Old Testament story—specifically one verse—that changed an entire season of my life. Hundreds of years before Jesus, the city of Jerusalem had been conquered and pretty much destroyed. Rebuilding the walls of the city was urgent, and Nehemiah was the guy leading the project. One day, he received an invitation, and his response became a defining verse for me. Nehemiah said, “…I am doing a great work, and I cannot come down. Why should the work stop while I leave it and come down to you?” At the time I first heard this verse, I had three little kids at home, I was homeschooling the oldest, and my husband was launching a church. We had zero breathing room. And yet, it was so hard for me to turn down invitations and opportunities. What I found in Nehemiah’s statement was permission to prioritize the most important people in my life. Being a mom was my “great work.” I couldn’t “come down” to join that committee or to speak at that women’s event. Saying yes to these things would mean saying no to the “great work” of my family.  Ladies, we can give ourselves, our time, our money, and our breathing away until there is nothing but leftovers for the ones we love most. Instead, let’s bring back our breathing room by giving our loved ones first dibs. And to everything else, we can simply reply, “I am doing a great work and I cannot come down.”

Wednesday, January 29, 2020

1/29/2020 - Let's talk money

Money isn’t just money to God. It’s more than dollars and cents and loans and budgets. To God, your money’s direction shows your heart’s affection. How you spend it (or as we’ll see today, whether you’re willing to not spend all of it) shows God how committed you are to being able to follow him. This is why having margin—or breathing room—isn’t just the best way to manage your calendar, it’s the best way to manage your money too. So what does it mean to manage your money with margin? It means you don’t spend every dollar that you make. You leave some breathing room between the money coming in and the money going out. Today’s verse from Luke explains why managing your money this way matters so much to God. At the end of a long parable, Jesus is making sure his audience understood the point he was trying to make and he says, “You cannot serve two masters . . . You cannot serve both God and money.” Two thousand years ago, the folks in Jesus’ audience could be literally enslaved for an unpaid debt. Today, your master may be a credit card company or a mortgage lender. But the result is the same: someone else gets to call the shots in your life. God may be nudging you to move to a new city, but if you’re upside down in your mortgage and can’t sell your house, you’re not free to follow him. He may be calling you to adopt, but if you’ve spent instead of saved and can’t afford the cost, you’re not free to follow him. Or maybe you feel like it’s time to leave your job, but your family can’t afford to lose your salary because you’re currently spending every dollar that comes in. How you manage your money matters to God because the bottom line of your bank account may keep you from being able to say yes to what he’s calling you to do. This is why you need financial breathing room. Managing your money with margin (i.e., staying out of debt, reigning in your spending, limiting your standard of living) gives you the freedom to be generous, to serve others, to say yes when he says go. It gives you the freedom to follow God right into the very best version of your life.