Posts Tagged ‘New England Patriots’

Devotional Podcast #7: “When the Agony of Defeat Isn’t as Agonizing”

January 24, 2018

In this episode, I talk about the upcoming Super Bowl, and what we can learn about God from the Eagles’ inevitable defeat… Just kidding! Like nearly every American outside of New England, I’ll be rooting for the Eagles!

This podcast features the Beatles’ “I’m a Loser,” which I recorded from their December 1964 Capitol album, Beatles ’65. (Yes, I know it originates on the UK album Beatles for Sale.)

Devotional Text: Genesis 50:20

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Hi, this is Brent White. It’s Wednesday, January 24, and this is Devotional Podcast number 7. Every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday I will release a new episode on this podcast channel, in addition to the sermons that I also post here.

You’re listening to the Beatles and their song “I’m a Loser,” which I recorded from their December 1964 album on Capitol Records, Beatles ’65. British people or Americans who came of age after the CD era will know that the song originated on the Beatles’ UK album Beatles for Sale.

Well, Super Bowl season is upon us. The game is set. And once again, for better or worse, Tom Brady and the New England Patriots have made it to the big game. This means that, come February 4, out of a population of 320 million Americans, about 315 million of them will be die-hard Philadelphia Eagles fans! Those of us living in Atlanta will be donning green and silver, that’s for sure!

Almost as inevitable as a Patriots victory is the likelihood that at some point—during the game, on the field, or after the game in interviews—a star player will do or say something to  acknowledge that Jesus Christ is the reason for his or his team’s success, and that Christ deserves all the thanks and praise.

Years ago, when I was going through a season of doubt in my life—long since past, I’m happy to report—this behavior used to annoy me: I thought, “Sure, It’s easy for this guy to thank Jesus… His team won! Would he be thanking Jesus if his team didn’t win?”

Now that I know better, I hope I can speak for Christian athletes everywhere when I say that, yes, by all means, win or lose, we always, always, always have reasons to thank Jesus!

If you look in your Bibles at Genesis chapters 37 through 50, you’ll read about a man named Joseph. Joseph was the favorite son of his father Jacob. Remember: Joseph was the one for whom his father made him the “coat of many colors”—and his older brothers were insanely jealous of their little brother. At first they wanted to kill him, but cooler heads prevailed. So they sold him into slavery in Egypt instead. But that’s just the beginning of Joseph’s troubles! Over the course of decades, Joseph suffers a lot. Until finally, he rises through the ranks and becomes, next to the Pharaoh himself, the most powerful man in Egypt. Thanks to his wise leadership during a famine, he helps save millions of people from starvation.

And finally, Joseph has a reunion with his brothers—the same ones who caused all his suffering in the first place! And, despite the brothers’ fears that Joseph would kill them, he forgives them instead. And he tells them something remarkable. In Genesis 50:20, he says, “You intended to harm me, but God intended it all for good. He brought me to this position so I could save the lives of many people.”

In other words, what Joseph’s brothers did to him was genuinely evil. The suffering he suffered was genuinely painful. The stuff that happened to him was genuinely bad. But that wasn’t the end of his story. God transformed that evil, that suffering, that pain—into something incredibly good. He used it ultimately to save the lives of millions.

We see this same dynamic at work in the apostle Paul’s life in 2 Corinthians 12. Paul describes what he calls a “thorn in his flesh.” We don’t know for sure what this “thorn” was—it could have been a physical affliction; or it could be related to the persecution he suffered. Whatever it was, it was a trial in Paul’s life that caused him pain, and it was evil. In fact, Paul says it came from the devil himself.

But once again, that wasn’t the end of the story… God transformed that evil thing from the devil into something very good for Paul. It was necessary, Paul said, to experience this thorn in order to keep him humble, to keep him depending on the Lord rather than trusting in himself.

The same principle applies: Satan intended to harm Paul, but God intended it all for good.”

What’s the worst thing that the devil or anyone else or anything else can throw at you? Whatever it is, if you only trust in Jesus Christ, he will transform it by his grace into something for your good.

Do you believe it?

I’ve talked in the last episode and in recent sermons about our need to “fall in love” with Jesus Christ again, or to “stay in love” with him. How can we do that if we don’t believe that he has a plan for the pain and suffering we’re experiencing—that no matter what—even when we’re experiencing something bad—God is somehow using it for our good?

And that’s why the hypothetical football star I mentioned earlier has the ability to thank Jesus—win or lose. Because God is doing something good for us in both victory and defeat.

So, see: we can pity New England Patriots players, coaches, and fans: They don’t often get to experience the genuine good that God can bring out of defeat!

But seriously, if you struggle to believe that God has the power to transform evil into something good, remember the cross: God used the greatest evil the world has ever seen—which was the death of his Son Jesus—to accomplish the greatest good the world has ever seen—which is the salvation of everyone who believes in Jesus.

Surely, surely, surely God can take every lesser form of evil, pain, and suffering and do the same!

Sermon 02-12-17: “What Reward Do You Have?”

February 16, 2017

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If last week’s sermon was about the sinfulness of anger, this week’s sermon is about its ultimate cause—which is implicit in Jesus’ question in verse 46: “What reward do you have?” Not counting “righteous anger,” which we don’t often feel, we usually get angry when someone messes with our “reward,” or our “treasure.” This sermon, therefore, explores that seldom mentioned motive for serving the Lord: that we will receive a reward. Is there something wrong in working for Christ’s reward?

Sermon Text: Matthew 5:38-48

[To listen on the go, right-click here to download an MP3.]

If it’s true that there are five stages of grief, this past week I got hung up on the second stage—anger. I’m referring, of course, to the anger that arose within me around 10:15 or so last Sunday night, when the Patriots broke an NFL playoff record and overcame a 25-point deficit to tie up the Super Bowl at the last minute. The anger I felt wasn’t kick-the-couch kind of anger. I’ve shared with you before how, back in the mid-2000s, when my children were very young, I got so angry when the Georgia Bulldogs took a last-second lead in the annual rivalry game with my Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets, and I responded by kicking the couch in frustration. Deeply shameful incident, which I had hoped my kids were too young to remember… but they enjoy reminding me—it’s hysterical to them—of that time when they saw their father kick the couch in frustration. Because of a football game.

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No, the anger I felt last Sunday night wasn’t that kind of anger. It was an anger that expressed itself as disgust… Resentment… I felt an urge to disown this team, which, mere minutes earlier, I was cheering for. “Who are these losers?” I thought. I didn’t want to be associated with their city!

I know some of you felt the same way. The difference is, no one in this room besides me preached a sermon about anger a mere twelve hours earlier! Seriously, I was sharing my frustration about the game with one of you on Wednesday night, and you rightly pointed out—in a joking sort of way—what a hypocrite I was. And you’re right!

Anger! Where does it come from? Why is it so pervasive? Why is it so hard to overcome?

In today’s scripture, which has to do with not retaliating against enemies but loving them instead, our Lord has given me an opportunity to take a second bite at that apple concerning this emotion of anger. Because let’s face it, if someone insults us, or physically assaults us, or persecutes us, or takes advantage of us, or steals from us, or exploits us, or mistreats us in any way—as Jesus describes in this text—what is our natural emotional response? Anger! And we retaliate against them, and we fail to love them, because we’re acting out of this anger.

So what is it that makes us angry? Why did I get angry at the Falcons last Sunday night—instead of feeling great compassion and pity and sorrow for them. While it’s true that they lost that game through any one of about two-dozen different mistakes, it’s not like I haven’t made plenty of mistakes that have cost me victories in my life. And it’s not like the Patriots had nothing to do with it! They are a great team!  Read the rest of this entry »

Sermon 02-05-17: “Are We Committing Spiritual Murder?”

February 15, 2017

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Jesus’ uncompromising words against anger in today’s scripture puts us on the defensive: “Yes, in most cases, anger is sinful and unjustified, but not in my case!” We often feel perfectly justified in our anger. What if we’re wrong? What makes anger sinful? What do we need to overcome anger in our lives?

Sermon Text: Matthew 5:21-26

[To listen on the go, right-click here to download an MP3.]

Big game today. Passions are running high. Even churches are getting into the spirit. Some of you may have seen on “Fox 5” news report that the St. Andrew United Methodist Church in Carrollton posted the following message on their church sign: “Even Jesus rose up. Rise Up, Falcons.” I know the pastor there! Then, the church sign in front of First Baptist Church of Sandy Springs reads, “God has no favorites, but this sign guy does. Go Falcons!”

Remember those happy days before the Super Bowl?

Remember those happy days before the Super Bowl?

And I’m excited, too. In fact, this week I even let myself get into an online argument about the Super Bowl. It started innocently enough: A Facebook friend posted his prediction for a Falcons victory. He said he really thinks the Falcons are going to win. And I replied to his comment—voicing my agreement, and offering a few reasons why I thought it would happen. A lot of it has to do with our team’s offense. And then one of his friends—someone I don’t even know—replied to my comment: “It’s easy to have a great offense against teams that don’t have a defense.” Read the rest of this entry »

Sermon 11-01-15: “The Risk-Taker and the Scaredy-Cat”

November 2, 2015

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This is a sermon on the biblical understanding of stewardship: “Stewardship means that you always have a why. It means that there’s a reason why you were put on this earth: why you have what you have, why you are what you are, why you do what you do. Stewardship means you live your life like the Daniel Murphys of the world, not for yourself but for Jesus Christ and his glory!”

As I say in my sermon, stewardship is much more than what we do with our money. But it isn’t less than what we do with it, either! Are you a faithful steward?

Scripture: Matthew 25:14-30

[To listen on the go, right-click here to download an MP3.]

If you follow the NFL, chances are you’re not a New England Patriots fan—I mean, unless you happen to be from the Boston area or New England. The Patriots are just too good, Tom Brady is too good, and their “evil genius” coach, Bill Belichick, is too good. And they’re all too good at cheating! Mostly, we’re tired of them winning Super Bowls all the time. Given how they’re playing this year, they’ll probably once again be contending for yet another championship.

Vladimir Putin admiring his new Super Bowl ring.

Vladimir Putin admiring his new Super Bowl ring.

With this in mind, none of us was very sympathetic back in 2012, when Patriots owner Robert Kraft revealed to the world that Russian president Vladimir Putin stole one of Kraft’s $25,000 Super Bowl rings. It’s true! But don’t feel too bad: Kraft has three more where that came from! But it’s true: back in 2005, when Kraft was visiting Putin at the Kremlin, he made the mistake of showing the Russian leader one of his Super Bowl rings. Kraft took it out and handed it to the Russian leader, who put it on his finger and said, “I could kill someone with this ring”—because it was so massive. Then, according to Kraft, Putin put in in his pocket, his KGB guys surrounded him, and they walked out—with Kraft’s ring! It even had Bob Kraft’s name engraved on it! Read the rest of this entry »

Sermon 05-17-15: “Honor God with Your Bodies, Part 1”

May 27, 2015

1 Corinthians sermon series graphic

This is the first of two sermons in which I look at the issue that threatens to split our denomination in two: homosexuality, or same-sex sexual behavior. In this sermon I begin examining some popular, though tragically misguided, arguments for changing our church’s doctrine in light of Paul’s words on the subject in 1 Corinthians 6.

Sermon Text: 1 Corinthians 6:9-11

No video this week, but click the playhead below to listen to the audio. To listen on the go, right-click on this link to download an MP3.

The following is my original sermon manuscript.

“Deflate-gate” was back in the news last week. An NFL commission determined that New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady knew that the footballs he used in the AFC Championship game against the Indianapolis Colts last January were inflated below the league minimum for air pressure: he knew they were under-inflated. So, the commission determined, Brady cheated—and he lied about about cheating. For one thing, in his smartphone contacts, the assistant equipment manager who deflated the footballs was nicknamed the “Deflator.” The NFL didn’t buy Brady’s explanation that he nicknamed him that because the man was trying to lose weight!

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In the minds of many, however, the NFL came down with a surprisingly steep penalty: a four game suspension of Brady without pay; a fine; and a loss of future draft picks for the team.

Was this penalty too harsh? Many people thought so, including Donald Trump, who tweeted: “People are so jealous of Tom Brady and the Patriots… They can’t beat him on the field, so this!”

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A few, like basketball commentator Dick Vitale, however, thought the penalty was too lenient. Vitale said that since Brady flat-out cheated, he should get a six-game suspension. And besides, if being suspended means spending more time with his supermodel wife Gisele, how bad can the punishment be? Read the rest of this entry »

Sermon 02-01-15: “Basic Training, Part 4: Give Us This Day”

February 11, 2015

Basic Training Series

Today’s sermon focuses on the petition, “Give us this day our daily bread.” This is the part of the Lord’s Prayer with which we’re most comfortable: asking God to give us things. But notice where in the prayer the petition falls: after we’ve spent time worshiping and adoring our Father and committing ourselves to his will. Also, notice the petition for bread is small, humble. How easy is it for us to take for granted that everything—large and small—comes to us as a gift from God?

Sermon Text: Matthew 6:9-15

Today is Super Bowl Sunday. Last week’s Super Bowl news had to do with “Inflate-gate.” This week’s news was all about Seattle Seahawks’ star running back Marshawn Lynch. Last Tuesday, during the Seahawks’ “media day,” all the team’s players were contractually obligated to appear before the media and answer questions about the game. Lynch showed up for media day, but it turns out he’s apparently media shy. He was only there because the NFL would fine him something like $100,000 if he didn’t show up. He showed up all right! But that’s about all he did. To every reporter’s question, he gave the exact same answer: “I’m just here so I won’t get fined.” “So how do you feel going up against that tough Patriots defense?” “I’m just here so I won’t get fined.” “So what’s it like appearing in your second consecutive Super Bowl?” “I’m just here so I won’t get fined.”

"I'm just here so I won't get fined."

“I’m just here so I won’t get fined.”

No matter the question, he gave the same response. Twenty-nine times he said those same words. At some point, you’d think the reporters would take a hint: he’s not going to give them what they’re asking for!

The good news is that our heavenly Father is not like Marshawn Lynch. When Jesus teaches his disciples to pray, “Give us this day our daily bread,” he’s giving us permission to ask our Father to give us what we want and need. Not only that, we ought to expect a positive response to our asking!

“Father, give us…” Read the rest of this entry »

Sermon 01-25-15: “Basic Training, Part 3: Thy Kingdom Come”

February 5, 2015

Basic Training Series

When we pray, “Thy kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven,” we are surrendering our will to the will of our heavenly Father. We recognize that he’s in control, that he’s working through every trial we face, and that he has the power to transform the worst things that happen in life into something good. Will we trust him today?

Sermon Text: Matthew 6:9-15

The following is my original sermon manuscript with footnotes.

Back in 1985, I had the pleasure of visiting the British Isles for a couple of weeks—England, Scotland, and Ireland. The best part of the trip was being excused by the principal at my school to miss two full weeks of classes without having to make up anything. The second best part was probably seeing the queen, Queen Elizabeth II. We didn’t plan on seeing her; it was a happy accident. We happened to be in London on a morning in which the queen was processing down a nearby street in a horse-drawn carriage. She was about as far away from me as this first row of pews [chairs].

What I liked best was not merely seeing the queen, as special as that was, but seeing an elderly man standing next to me—he was easily in his eighties. He was wearing his old army uniform, which was now too big for him on his shrunken frame. Maybe he was a veteran of World War I? Who knows? But he stood there, at attention, saluting the queen as she passed by. There was a tear in his eye. And I think—I hope—she saw him. It was so… sweet. So moving! Read the rest of this entry »