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Tim Tebow: Blasphemer?

By Collin Hansen - August 12 | Source: thegospelcoalition.org 


You don’t preach the gospel if you fear criticism. Same goes for playing quarterback. TimTebow evangelizes while playing quarterback, making him one of the most heavily scrutinized public figures in America. Following a legendary career in which his University of Florida Gators to two national championships, the first hint of failure in the National Football League was bound to bring out the naysayers. Before his second professional season has even begun in Denver, that time has come. Tebow’s outspoken Christian faith only makes him a bigger target. Signs that he may not succeed in the NFL have even called his theology into question.

CBSSports.com national columnist Gregg Doyel dissected a recent Tebow statement the wayanalysts have picked apart Tebow’s unorthodox throwing motion. The occasion was unexpected news that Tebow would not begin the season as Denver’s starting quarterback. Tebow defended the quality of his play, vowing he work hard, improve, and become the star so many hope and expect him to be.

“Others who say I won’t make it are wrong,” Tebow said in an interview with a Denver Post columnist. “They don’t know what I’m capable of and what’s inside me. My family and my friends have been bothered by what’s gone on, and I tell them to pay no attention to it. I’m relying as always on my faith.”

This last sentence prompted Doyel’s theological reflection. Brandishing his Christian bona fides, Doyel made it clear that he harbors no personal animus for Tebow, as so many others do. He lauded him as a person, as a Christian role model, describing Tebow as one of the nicest people he’s ever seen. He even granted that Tebow should—indeed, must—be confident if he wants to succeed in such a high-pressure position.

Still, Doyel wondered where failure fits in Tebow’s theological scheme. What if God wants him to back up starting quarterback Kyle Orton? Is that not a possibility? Must he become a superstar? Does faith entitle him to this coveted role? Lots of good God-fearing football players—never mind the rest of us who peaked in high school—never find success in the NFL.

“From the outside it looks like Tebow equates his love for God in heaven with tangible rewards here on earth,” Doyel wrote. “And that’s more than wrong. It’s blasphemy.”

I’m not sure if Doyel knows what blasphemy is, or the seriousness of the charge he’s leveling against Tebow. Meriam-Webster defines blasphemy as “the act of insulting or showing contempt or lack of reverence for God,” or “the act of claiming the attributes of deity.” I don’t see how he can get all of that out of one column, let alone a couple brief comments open to interpretation.

Less heretically, Tebow could be saying he relies on his faith to withstand criticism and pressure, not that he finds assurance in his future as a starting quarterback because God loves him. The point is that we can’t be sure of his intent, based on these comments alone. When Tebow says, “I know that all this (controversy) will have a way of working out,” he might be echoing the Christian hope of Romans 8:28, that God works all things together for good for those who are called according to his purpose. Good, here, does not necessarily mean on-field success as defined by football wins and signing bonus riches. As a Christian, Tebow presumably knows this. In fact, God sometimes works our good through loss and poverty.

Standing on the Rock

Already Tebow has earned many millions by virtue of his selection in the first round of the NFL Draft in 2010. He was already such a sensation in high school that his games sometimes appeared on national television. I stood near fans at one college who hoisted signs in front of ESPN television cameras pleading for him to play for their school. His Florida teams won two national championships. While he was still playing, the school commemorated one of his speeches with a plaque outside their football facilities. He won the Heisman Trophy, one of the most prestigious awards in college athletics.

There was real power in the words he spoke—not just because they were true, but because he delivered them in such difficult circumstances. Disappointment gave his words weight. The same may be true for Tebow, too, if he never succeeds in Denver. Faith amid failure may be the most powerful testimony to God’s unconditional grace he ever delivers.

No one would really fault Tebow if he struggled with life as an NFL backup. He has only known success. Well, almost. That acclaimed speech during his junior season followed an unacceptable loss to an underdog conference rival. It firmed his resolve to succeed. So he’s proven that he can overcome setbacks.

 

But something different happened his senior year in 2009. After being ranked number one all season, the Gators lost in the Southeastern Conference championship game to number two Alabama. Overcome with emotion, he knelt on the sidelines and cried. Rival fans mocked him. After all, this was the first the fierce competitor who only one month earlier had defeated Florida State while covered in field paint, looking like a Braveheart extra. There would be no passionate speech, no chance for on-field redemption. Only the bitter reality of unmet expectations, a story that didn’t end as it should have with the Gator hero on top.

Criticizing Tebow, Doyel missed the real story. Tebow doesn’t believe God has promised him success. He does worry, however, that if he doesn’t succeed in the NFL, he will disappoint his family and legions of fans.

“I know there are a lot of people who believe in me as a player and a person,” Tebow told the Denver Post, “and I don’t want to let them down.”

This fear is a powerful, if dangerous, motivator. Tebow puts a lot of pressure on himself. He wants success, because success means fans, and fans mean people will hear him preach the gospel of Jesus Christ. Some might even be compelled by his success as a football player and role model to believe what he believes. If he doesn’t play in Denver, everything falls apart. Or so Tebow may fear.

I pray this is not how he truly thinks, because no one needs this kind of pressure. Indeed, no one can stand it. Only Jesus is the perfect role model who never fails us, who triumphed over death even when the world mocked him as a failure. None can compare. Thankfully, we don’t need to. God has won the ultimate victory that secures eternal fellowship with him for all who believe.

If Tebow fails in Denver, he can learn from the example of his friend, former Texas Longhorns and current Cleveland Browns quarterback Colt McCoy. He lost that same season to Alabama, one month after Tebow did, in the national championship game. But his circumstances were even more painful. A crushing hit knocked McCoy out of his final college game. Clearly choked up and searching for words while talking with a reporter afterward, McCoy gave a reason for the hope in him (1 Pet. 3:15).

“I always give God the glory,” McCoy said. “I never question why things happen the way they do. God is in control of my life, and if nothing else, I know I’m standing on the Rock.”

Collin Hansen serves as editorial director for The Gospel Coalition. He is the co-author of A God-Sized Vision: Revival Stories That Stretch and Stir. You can follow him on Twitter.

Photos courtesy http://freeimagefinder.com/detail/5300399022.html

 

 

 

There Will Be a Sequel

I am writing these words three days after packing up the house my wife and I had made our home. 

Cindy passed away in early 2010 after a courageous but also very expensive battle against metastatic breast cancer.  Compounding our already difficult economic woes was the fact that the beautiful, master-planned community where we lived had become the vanguard for everything that’s wrong with our economy— and the poster child for the housing debacle.  Mix those realities in with the fact that I no longer benefitted from Cindy’s income and, well, I wasn’t able to keep my home.

 

The Shake

I’ve never wanted to do anything else from my life than to be a Pastor.And yet, there’s one part of this gig I’ve NEVER learned to love.  As a Preacher, part of my job involves trying to talk people outta doing stuff they really don’t wanna do, then again, they really DO wanna do it.  BAD.

Are you with me? 

A big part of them doesn’t wanna act the way they act, but they act that way…anyway.  Right? 

I liken my job to that of a frazzled security guard at Cricket Pavilion trying to keep concert-goers from smoking weed during a Dave Matthews Band concert.upup  Now with a job like that— you tend not to get invited to very many parties and people don’t talk about certain topics when you’re in the room—upup to the point you kinda feel like a wet, shaggy Sheepdog shaking himself dry in the middle of an otherwise idyllic garden wedding. 

But I keep shaking out God’s truth anyway, and I keep telling people that God has anointed me to do that “shake!” Besides, I’m just trying to help them avoid some really significant heartache, but do they listen?

They don’t listen! 

Preachers are supposed to help keep people from sinning; something I’m afraid I’ve haven’t been very successful at.  Sometimes I feel I’m standing right at the edge of a sheer-faced cliff where people have decided that’s where they’re gonna take up break dancing. So I tell ‘em,

“Break dancing is kinda risky under the best of circumstance, but right next to this sheer-faced cliff?  I’m just saying, ‘it’s a long way down…and the landing?  It ain’ta gonna be pleasant.”

That’s when, nearly every time, people look at me, thank me for a wonderful message of concern.  And then…they jump. 

Now because I’ve seen what happens when people reach the bottom of that cliff, I keep doing “the shake.” 

“Hold on!” I say to the next group who approaches.  “Not long ago, I saw some other people break dancing right here at the edge of this cliff— ‘cept they fell off.  In fact, if you wanna lean over and take a peak, you’ll see the bloody mess they made.”

Just like the others, they seem grateful for my concern.  And even touched by my transparent compassion and obvious wisdom. 

And then…they jump, too.

Can I be honest?  Cliff-preaching is no fun.  Cuz you kinda get tired of being everybody’s built-in babysitter.  And you grow weary of trying to prevent the unpreventable.  You wonder, “What’s the use of trying to talk sense into someone who refuses to listen!?”

 So what keeps me standing by the cliff pointing out the obvious to the oblivious?  My own scars.  See, even though I’ve told other people not to jump, the truth is— I’ve jumped, too! 

Talk about stupid!  What’s up with a “Don’t Jump Preacher” who jumps?

I’ll tell you what’s up:  I’m human, too.  Just like you.  And all of us humans have an insatiable appetite when it comes to jumping off cliffs.  We’re drawn to cliffs.  We’re enamored by the thrill of leaping out into the unknown [at least for the first half of the ride].  And no matter who tries to keep us from taking the plunge— or how much pain our leap may cause— we are ALL irresistibly drawn to see just how close I can get without taking a tumble. 

Part of the problem is upupwe actually believe we can fly!  And that maybe I’ll be the first in a long line of other people to actually touch the sky.  So we think about it every night and day— till we convince ourselves that flying is my DNA!

That’s when…we take the leap.  And yet, even though we DO eventually fall and though we DO invariably get hurt?  Despite the fact that the canyon floor is now forever painted with my blood, too— if, in fact I survive the jump?  What do I do next?  I climb right back up that cliff again— and I jump again. 

 

Now I’m gonna mix my metaphors a tad, but anybody here remember the parable of Felix the Flying Frog? It seems that a man named Clarence had a pet frog named Felix.  Clarence, a man of modest means, had come up with a get-rich scheme:  He was gonna teach Felix how to fly! 

Felix, terrified at the very idea, said, “I can’t fly, you twit!  I’m a frog, not a canary!”

But Clarence was determined, so on the first day of “flying lessons,” he could barely control his excitement and Felix, petrified, could barely control his bladder.  The plan was for Felix to jump from the first floor of their apartment building, they would analyze his flying technique and then, the followed day, he’d jump from the second floor— and so on, till Felix had finally learned to fly. 

So on Day One, Clarence opened the window and threw Felix out. 

Felix landed with a thud.

They went home and made some adjustments; then on Day Two— much to Felix’s chagrin, Clarence opened the window and tossed him out again.

Felix landed with an even bigger thud this time. 

It’s not as though Felix wasn’t trying.  One day, he flapped his legs like a banshee. 

Still…he landed with a thud. 

Another day, he tied a small red cape around his neck and envisioned himself as Superman.

It didn’t matter.  Thud. 

By Day 10, Felix, resigned to his inevitable fate, stopped begging for mercy.  Instead, he glared at Clarence and said, “You know you’re killing me, right?”

Clarence pointed out that Felix just wasn’t getting the concept…and he just wasn’t trying as hard he should try.  Felix, knowing that this was the end, said, “Shut up and open the window,” and then he leaped out, hit with a thud and sure enough— Felix went to that great Lily-Pad in the sky.

Clarence was extremely upset cuz his grand scheme had flopped at every level. Not only had Felix failed to fly, he hadn’t even slowed his descent.  Not one thing Clarence told him to do— did Felix actually do! 

But then, it hit him!  Clarence said, “I think I know what went wrong!  Next time, I’m using a smarter frog!”

 

So that’s how it feels to be “me”:  Sometimes I feel like I’m pleading with break-dancers who wanna see just how close they can get to the edge without taking a tumble.  Other times I feel like I’m trying to teach frogs how to fly— when everybody knows, frogs CAN’T fly! 

Then there are other times when I realize that for all my supposed insight regarding spiritual lift and thrust plus a hundred other navigational insights— despite my thoughtful analysis of proper pitch, attitude and airspeed— the fact is, I can’t even fly myself without falling! 

So that’s why I spent our time last week talkin’ ‘bout GRACE.  Cuz I knew this Sunday was coming!  I also knew that if a believer is less interested in becoming more like Christ than he is in finding out how much dancing he can get away with or how close he to get to the edge without falling— then all my talking and all my shaking will be in vain.

However, IF, or as Paul puts it:  “Since…you have been raised with Christ….”[2] When you were cliff-jumping,  you were “dead” but now that you’ve been made “alive with Christ”— you’re not a mere frog anymore— you have been fundamentally and even radically changed.[3] 

If you’ve been “raised,” you’re not just a slime-ball.  You’ve got the amazing grace of God— like a strong wind at your back— pressing you into an adventure far greater than any flight plan you could come up with.

However!  If your flight plan ISN’T driven by grace, then you will fall.  And you’ll keep falling. Hard.  Real hard.  I’m talking face-plant right into solid concrete…hard. 

But “since you have been raised”…instead of seeing just how close to the edge you can get without falling— instead of dancing your way toward disaster— and instead of slamming hard against the concrete of failure after failure and one flop compounded by yet another embarrassing flop?

I mean, if you BELIEVE in Christ…

…and if you claim to BE in Christ…

…then you have the power to grow to BEHAVE like Christ.

You do.  I do!  We are no longer just frogs.  Which means, we need to talk.  But as we talk, I wanna talk as one former frog telling a bunch of other former frogs where to find wings.  Fair ‘nuff?

 



[2] Colossians 3:1a

[3] Ephesians 2:5

This is an exerpt from  Why God Sanctions Violence. For more, log onto thecrossroadsaz.com.

 

Run to Him

I’m gonna do some confessing right now and I really hope you won’t leave me hanging.

“For you have died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God.”[1]

In these verses, Paul has urged us to set our minds AND hearts on things above.  But now he tells us why.  Cuz we have “died”[2] to ourselves— so the lives we do still live are to be all about making Jesus our pursuit.  Cuz my whole life is now hidden, it’s been swallowed up…by Him.

Which means…I must have a singular purpose and outlook— my whole life is to fold into— seeking Christ.  But I gotta be honest:  I wake up several mornings every week and I’m not doing that.

How ‘bout you?

I said…how ‘bout you?

Great.  At least I’m not entirely alone.

So I fail at this.  Often.  Maybe even daily.  I fail less often than I used to fail— cuz I’ve been following Jesus over four decades by now.  Yet, though I keep surrendering more and more into His care, and though I keep offering Him more and more of me to swallow over and to hide in Himself— I still care about earth-bound stuff more than I wish I did.  And way more than I should.

I figure Paul must’ve failed a lot, too.  Cuz he’s saying to us, what he probably told himself, too:

“Don’t forget:  No matter how long you’ve been following Him…or how many years you’ve been pursuing Him– don’t forget, your life is to hidden IN Him.

But don’t forget this, either:  You’re not justified by how well you follow.  Cuz you’re gonna fail.  You’re justified by faith alone in Christ alone.  So you can’t EARN salvation by never failing.”

And that’s why, a great mark of true Christian maturity is when you DO stumble and you DO fail— ‘cept when you do?  You freely admit it and then run like a banshee right into the arms of Jesus!  And you worship Him and love Him even more because of His amazing grace toward such a wretch as you.

But a mark of immaturity is when you stumble and fall— cuz that’s what earth-bound creatures do— ‘cept you fall…then you run.  Not to…you run from Jesus.  And you try to hide yourself, although you never really can.  And then you try to fix yourself— something else you can never do.

 

So what happens is— this strange tribal dance occurs, where you press into Jesus when you’re doing well, but you run away when you’re not.

But if your life is already “hidden,” WHY RUN?  Don’t you get it?  By running, your struggle only deepens.  Cuz it’s when you run from that your way becomes  even more difficult, the path feels dry and your heart is filled with despair.

But the mark of maturity is when you realize, “Dude, I’ve messed up!  I can’t believe I’ve failed Him again!  Yet, how good is God that He loves me even in this?  And how complete is Jesus’ covering that He would call me His own, and fully love me— even in this place of such utter failure!”

 

That’s what it means to “set your heart on things above.”  It’s not that you never fail…but when you DO fail, you run into His arms and find in Him a greater intimacy than you ever knew before.

That’s what I’ve done.  When I first lost Cindy, in those first weeks of utter agony, I began to realize that I was making an idol out of Cindy.  Cuz I was trying to clutch her, instead of setting my heart on Christ.  See, once she was gone, I doubted whether life was even worth living.  And one dark day, I even asked God if He’d be so gracious as to take me, too.

But because I kept seeking Him diligently, and because years ago, I determined that I was gonna set my heart and mind on things above— no matter how great the cost— I still remember that moment when I realized not even Cindy was a worthy replacement for Jesus.

So I set my mind on Him.

I did.

And that’s why, soon after that— instead of pouting and doubting…and instead of grabbing my pulpit and stomping home; I returned to my pulpit.

Once again, I died to my own wishes.  And I can tell you today that because I did, I am more passionately pursuing after Christ than I ever did before.

But here’s the most shocking part of my story:  Far from wallowing in grinding misery, my God has restored to me an enthusiasm for life I hadn’t known in a long, long time.

And now, I have a new love.  And I’m beyond grateful to Him for having given me my Chris.  Understand, I didn’t pursue Jesus so He’d give me a new love— I pursued Jesus as though I was already dead.

Yet, outta pure grace, He gave me, in exchange, the very thing I thought I might never experience again.

 

Don’t you get it?  Your life is ALL about Jesus!

It’s not about what you DO, but what He already DID.

It’s not about what you HAVE— but what He had in abundance, but so freely gave up.

Your life is simply not about you.  And there’s more to life than money or happiness or even new love.  But when you embrace the story He has written for you— and set your heart on things above…? It’s amazing how revolutionary “living your life as though hidden in Christ” truly is!

So you do— you submit to a husband that doesn’t deserve your love, not because HE’S worthy.  But because Jesus is.  And He wants you to do as He did for you…to love the unlovely.

Or when you lose a great love, you do it with a re-set heart that beats hard for Christ…even through the pain.

 

This is an excerpt from the message, "There's so much more."  Listen to it on the player to your right.  

[1] Colossians 3:3

[2] See also Galatians 2:20

 


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