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Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight. —PROVERBS 3:5-6
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Early in the 1929 Rose Bowl, with the score tied 0–0, Roy Riegels plucked a fumble from the air and rumbled untouched toward the end zone. Like all young men, the California linebacker dreamed of making the big play in a big game. In the confusion of the moment, however, he turned the wrong way and headed for his own goal line rather than his opponents'! Teammates chased after him, yelling for Riegels to stop. Benny Lom caught the runaway Golden Bear around the 3-yard line and wrestled him to the ground. Cal kept the ball, but it rested on the 1-yard line.
California chose to punt on first down, but a Georgia Tech lineman broke through to block it. The safety gave the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets a 2-0 lead.
Both teams scored touchdowns later in the game, but the safety provided the winning margin in an 8-7 Georgia Tech victory. Because of his mistake, Riegels forever gained the nickname "Wrong Way."
So many things influence our lives, it's sometimes hard to know which ones are good and which ones are bad. In the excitement of the moment, it's easy to turn the wrong way.
God's Word is a road map we use to lead us on the right path. He guides us through Bible study and prayer. If we rely only on our own strength and intelligence, we will eventually become "Wrong Way" Christians.
Detours happen, and hazards appear on life's journey. Sometimes the path is clearly marked. Other times, it's blurred and fuzzy. But having faith in God and obeying His teachings keep us from going astray.
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Make sure your family has an up-to-date road map in the car or somewhere easily accessible. Be certain you know how to use it as a guide. Make sure you also have a copy of God's road map, the Bible, on hand at all times. Pray for God's guidance on this New Year's Day so that, unlike Roy Riegels, you will head in the right direction.
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We continually remember before our God and Father your work produced by faith, your labor prompted by love, and your endurance inspired by hope in our Lord Jesus Christ. —1 THESSALONIANS 1:3
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Coach Don Shula could hardly believe the scoreboard. The opening quarter of the 1982 playoffs had not ended, but his Miami Dolphins already trailed the San Diego Chargers 24–0.
By the end of the third quarter, substitute signal caller Don Strock had tied the score. Miami's mood changed from despair to hope. After watching the lead evaporate, the sleeping Charger offense finally woke up.
It was anybody's game, with the tide turning back and forth toward San Diego or Miami. Finally, with only sixty-seven seconds to go, James Brooks made the tying touchdown at 38–38.
Strock moved the Dolphins into position for the winning score. At the Chargers' 25-yard line, Shula called for a field goal. As the ball arced toward the goal posts, Kellen Winslow's outstretched arm batted it away and forced the game into overtime.
San Diego's drive stalled on Miami's 9-yard line, and Rolf Benirschke attempted a field goal, but the ball mysteriously went wide. The Dolphins reached the San Diego 16, but, unbelievably, the Chargers blocked a second kick, and the game stayed tied. The tables turned when Dan Fouts reached the Miami 10. Coach Don Coryell called on Benirschke once again. This time the kick sailed true. One of pro football's longest playoff games finally ended.
Either the Dolphins or the Chargers could have given up during the game. But the desire to win inspired them.
Christians often consider giving up, too. Temptations and pressures make us wonder if our faith is worth the price. In difficult times, prayer brings us closer to God and sees us through. Prayer does not require fancy words or lots of time, just a brief moment with God. Like most things, prayer becomes easier with practice.
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Practice kicking field goals in your backyard. While you're at it, practice some prayer. Thank God for always being there and seeing you through the hardest times.
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For everyone born of God overcomes the world. —1 John 5:4a
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The Houston Oilers and Buffalo Bills tangled in an AFC wild card playoff game in 1993. Houston quarterback Warren Moon performed brilliantly in the first half, connecting on four touchdown passes. The Bills could muster only a field goal and trailed at halftime, 28-3.
Safety Bubba McDowell of the Oilers appeared to nail the victory early in the second half, returning an interception 58 yards for a touchdown. Never in NFL history had a team overcome a 35-3 deficit.
But Bills quarterback Frank Reich, subbing for an injured Jim Kelly, refused to quit. A 50- yard drive, capped by Kenneth Davis' 1-yard run, gave Buffalo its first touchdown.
Kicker Steve Christie recovered an onside kick, and Reich threw a 38-yard touchdown pass four plays later. Following a short Oiler punt, another four-play touchdown drive put Buffalo within striking distance.
Henry Jones intercepted a Moon pass to set up an 18-yard scoring strike to Andre Reed. Trailing 35-31, the Bills needed one touchdown to take the lead.
Reich engineered a 74-yard, seven-play drive late in the fourth quarter. The substitute signal caller connected on a 17-yard pass to Reed for his fourth touchdown pass of the second half, giving Buffalo the lead, 38-35.
Moon rallied the Oilers to a last-second field goal, sending the playoff game into overtime. But on the first possession in the extra frame, Henry Odomes intercepted the Oiler quarterback.
Steve Christie kicked a 32-yard field goal three plays later. The Bills had overcome the largest deficit in NFL history for a 41-38 victory.
Buffalo made an improbable comeback. Every Christian can do the same. Faith in God gives us the power to overcome impossible odds. We may feel inadequate. But God has promised that if we call on Him, He will help us do great and mighty things. The key is having the faith to call.
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Look around your home for items that lock and need a key to open. How many can you find? Ask God to help you use the keys of faith and prayer to overcome the world.
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Enter his gates with thanksgiving and his courts with praise; give thanks to him and praise his name. —PSALM 100:4
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College basketball scouts drooled as they watched Cheryl Miller. The older sister of Indiana Pacer Reggie Miller could do it all—dribble, pass, shoot, and rebound. In 1982, the prep forward set an unbelievable mark.
Miller's high school, California's Riverside Poly, faced Norte Vista. The senior hit 46 of 50 from the floor, a sizzling 92 percent. At the charity stripe, she went 13 for 15. The high school All-American set a scoring record of 105 points. Riverside defeated Norte Vista by a stunning 179-15.
No one doubted that future stardom awaited Miller. She quickly established her reputation as one the nation's top college players.
Her school, the University of Southern California, won NCAA basketball championships in Miller's freshman and sophomore seasons. She received final-four tournament MVP honors both times.
The four-time collegiate All-American led the United States to a gold medal at the 1984 Olympics. In 1986, she anchored the U.S. team to the Women's World Basketball title in Moscow.
Following graduation, Southern Cal retired its superstar's jersey, the first basketball player so honored. Miller's university hired her as head coach, and she went on to television as a commentator.
If anyone ever entered the basketball courts with praise, it was Cheryl Miller. Imagine scoring 105 points in a single contest and hitting nearly 90 percent of your shots, both field goals and free throws. Picture yourself with 2 NCAA basketball championships, 2 final-four tournament MVP trophies, and an Olympic gold medal. See yourself accepting the thanks of your university by having your jersey retired. Awesome!
But God is even more amazing. He created the world. He made each person. He cares for us individually. He deserves all of our praise and our thanks.
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Read Psalm 100 out loud as a prayer of praise and thanksgiving to God.
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They will lift you up in their hands, so that you will not strike your foot against a stone. —LUKE 4:11
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Kickers lead roller coaster lives. They perform for only a few seconds, but every eye focuses on them. If they succeed, people praise them. If they fail, others ridicule them. In a 1986 playoff game, New York Giant punter Sean Landeta fell victim to the high-profile pressure.
The Chicago Bears hosted the Giants at Soldier Field. Midway through the first quarter, Chicago forced a New York punt from deep in its territory.
Landeta lined up near his own goal line for the snap. The Bears came with a massive rush.
The Giants punter caught the ball, dropped it, swung his leg, and missed. The pigskin barely grazed his instep and trickled off to the side.
Chicago defensive back Shaun Gayle grabbed the loose football at the 5-yard line. He scampered into the end zone to put the Bears in front, 7-0.
The play demoralized the Giants. Their offense never regained its poise. New York lost the game, 21-0.
Officially, Landeta's kick went into the records as a minus 7-yard punt. Unofficially, it should have been a swing and a miss.
The punter might as well have struck his foot against a stone. He was embarrassed and largely blamed for ending the Giants' season. Landeta must have felt awful. We feel awful when we make terrible mistakes like that, too. But God lifts us up after we fall. He gets us back on track and enables us to move forward. He helps us to regain our footing when we stumble.
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Take a short hike with a friend or relative. Be aware of rocks in the path that cause problems. Pick up a small stone as a reminder of God's helping hand.
This is the one I meant when I said, "A man who comes after me has surpassed me because he was before me." —JOHN 1:30
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A coach experiences many victories and defeats during a career. In 1995, the Atlanta Hawks' Lenny Wilkens reached the pinnacle of his profession.
Wilkens began his NBA journey as the mentor of the Seattle Supersonics in 1969. After three seasons, he moved on to the Portland Trailblazers.
Seattle brought their former coach back in 1977. He remained there until 1985. Head positions in Cleveland and Atlanta followed.
In his twenty-second season, Wilkens tied Arnold "Red" Auerbach for the most NBA victories with 938. Another win would surpass the legendary Boston Celtics coach for the record.
The Hawks failed three times to push their headmaster to the summit. For attempt number four, the Washington Bullets traveled to the Omni. Wilkens' team jumped on the visitors for a quick double-digit lead. Washington never closed the gap, and the Hawks collected win number 939 for their coach, 112–90.
Coach Lenny Wilkens' name moved ahead of Red Auerbach's on the all-time coaching victories list. Wilkens came after Auerbach but surpassed him. Others will eventually surpass Wilkens, but no one surpasses God.
In the Bible, Jesus was born after His cousin, John the Baptist. But Jesus surpassed John because He was God from the beginning of time. Christ was the greatest man who ever lived. No one will ever surpass Him.
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Look for information about Lenny Wilkens and Arnold "Red" Auerbach in a sports encyclopedia. Then read John 1:1 in your Bible. Note that the "Word" refers to Jesus. Thank God for sending Jesus to the earth to give His life for all people.
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All men are like grass, and all their glory is like the flowers of the field. —ISAIAH 40:6b
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The Philadelphia Flyers blazed the ice to open the 1979–80 season. After splitting the first two games, the hockey team put together a streak unparalleled in professional sports.
From October 14, 1979, to January 6, 1980, coach Pat Quinn's charges never lost. During that period, the Flyers recorded 25 victories and 10 ties.
On January 7, Philadelphia traveled to Minnesota to engage the North Stars. A standing- room-only crowd of 15,962 filled the Metropolitan Sports Center to watch two of the NHL's best in action.
Bill Barber gave the Flyers an early 1-0 lead. But North Star goalie Gilles Meloche shut the door on Philadelphia the rest of the way.
Minnesota tied the score on a late first-period goal and quickly tallied 2 more for a 3-1 lead. The Flyers never recovered. The North Stars won easily 7-1, and the streak ended.
The Flyers learned the sad lesson that all things in life must end. Their glory faded. Other stars replaced them in new seasons. Their feat moved to memories.
The Bible tells us that people are like grass. Our accomplishments bloom for a while but eventually fade like flowers. Other flowers replace our blossoms.
The good news is that Isaiah spoke only of our earthly lives. If we trust Jesus and give ourselves to God, we live on with Him for eternity.
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Go outside and look at the grass. Is it covered with snow? Picture it green and lush several months from now in the springtime. Plant a tulip or daffodil bulb. Depending on your climate, plant it outside or in a pot inside. Care for it, and watch it grow. Thank God for His gift of eternal life.
That night the Lord appeared to him and said, "I am the God of your father Abraham. Do not be afraid, for I am with you." —GENESIS 26:24a
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In 1982, two small California colleges, UC Santa Cruz and West Coast Christian College, met on the basketball court. The Knights of West Coast suited up only eight players due to injury.
The Sea Lions of UC Santa Cruz trailed by 15 midway through the second half. Foul trouble, however, began to reduce the West Coast roster.
When the fourth player received violation number five, the Knights played one short. Players five, six, and seven soon fouled out. Even with the advantage, the Sea Lions narrowed the gap to only 70–57 at the 2:10 mark.
West Coast Christian had a single eligible player left on the floor, junior guard Mike Lockhart. Since NCAA rules allow a basketball team to play with one player if the team leads or has a chance to win, the game continued. But if Lockhart fouled out, the Knights would lose by default.
The solo player's greatest problem was inbounding. Rules forbid the inbounder to touch the ball until another player makes contact. The Knights' guard solved the dilemma by bouncing the ball off an opponent or rolling it on the floor and going for the steal.
The Sea Lions lost their composure and made stupid mistakes and turnovers. Amazingly, UC Santa Cruz fouled Lockhart and gave him six tries at the free-throw line. Five went through the hoop.
The full strength squad scored only 10 points against a lone defender. At contest's end, the Knights, led by a lonesome guard, won 75–67.
Surely Lockhart felt fear when he realized he would be playing one-on-five. He knew he had to do it all—shoot, rebound, dribble, inbound, and play defense.
But the guard put his fears aside. God was with him, win or lose. God promises us His presence. We do not need to be afraid.
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Sometime during the week, practice free throws. As you finish, try six. Can you make five like Lockhart did?
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The tempest comes out from its chamber, the cold from the driving winds. The breath of God produces ice, and the broad waters become frozen. —JOB 37:9-10
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Terrible weather conditions plagued the 1982 AFC championship between the Cincinnati Bengals and San Diego Chargers. The thermometer registered minus 9 degrees. The wind gusted to 35 miles per hour, making the wind chill factor 59 degrees below zero. NFL commissioner Pete Rozelle considered postponement.