Posts Tagged ‘Tim Tebow’

Devotional Podcast #21: “Don’t Bring Me Down”

March 13, 2018

I’m going to spend a few podcast episodes talking about the Bible’s most famous verse, John 3:16. In this episode I only scratch the surface! But I talk about why this verse isn’t just for “beginners” or “baby Christians” or people who haven’t yet become Christians. It’s for all of us!

Devotional Text: John 3:14-16

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Hi, This is Brent White! It’s Tuesday, March 13, and this is devotional podcast number 21.

You’re listening to “Don’t Bring Me Down,” a Top 5 hit song for the Electric Light Orchestra in 1979. I recorded this from their 1979 album, Discovery. And I thought of this song because I’m going to be talking about a subject that is considered to be a downer, at least among most people: It is a downer that we are helpless sinners, that we deserve God’s wrath, and that, apart from a miraculous intervention of God, we are bound for hell.

And I’m going to talk about this downer of a subject as it relates to the most popular verse in the Bible, which is John 3:16. And this may surprise you, because it doesn’t seem like a downer at all. People love this verse! If you go to a major sporting event, you might see a sign or banner hanging from upper deck guard rails that reads “John 3:16.” Quarterback and Heisman winner Tim Tebow famously wrote “John 3:16” in his eye black when he and his team won the 2009 National Championship. Professional wrestler “Stone Cold” Steve Austin and his fans often wore apparel emblazoned with the slogan “Austin 3:16.” (I’m not sure why, come to think of it, but he’s referring to this verse.) If you go to the famous West Coast fast-food chain, In-N-Out Burger, and look at the bottom of their soft drink cups, you will see “John 3:16” printed in small letters on the inside rim.

When Christians display the words “John 3:16,” it’s as if they’re saying, “This is all you need to know.” And I hardly disagree with them! If John 3:16 isn’t the most important verse in the Bible, it is at least, in my opinion, the one verse that best summarizes the gospel message—if not the entire Bible. The verse’s fame is well-earned.

I have so much I want to say about this one verse! So I’m going to spend the next few podcasts talking about it—reflecting on some of the key words in verse.

But before I get into it, I want to clear up a misunderstanding about this verse, which is this: that John 3:16 is a Bible verse for beginners—for baby Christians or, especially, for those who aren’t yet Christians at all; that John 3:16 is something that we need to hear before we’re converted, before we believe in Jesus as a our Savior and Lord.

And then after we’re converted, after we are justified—that is, after God forgives us of all our sins, after God imputes Christ’s righteousness to us, and after God gives us new birth by the Holy Spirit—then John 3:16 is something we can sort of leave in our past. Sure, it becomes a pleasant reminder of what God has done for us in the past. But we ourselves—having understood already how much God loves us and what he did for us through Jesus to give us eternal life—we don’t really need it anymore.
Read the rest of this entry »

Sermon 02-07-16: “He Must Increase”

February 16, 2016

John Sermon Series Graphic

In today’s scripture, John the Baptist is not like most of us: Instead of being unhappy that his own work is declining in popularity, he’s happier than he’s ever been. Why? Because he understands that what matters most isn’t his own personal glory, but Christ’s glory. He understands that in spite of this apparent setback, God is in control and God is working his plan for him and the world. If this is true for John, it’s true for us as well. God is always working his plan for our lives, even in the face of mistakes, failures, and setbacks.

Sermon Text: John 3:22-36

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

Show of hands… How many in here are rooting for the Broncos? How many are rooting for the Panthers? How many are rooting for the commercials? I am 45, so I’m cheering for the guy who’s very close to my age, Peyton Manning. I’m sentimental; I would love to see him get his long-sought-after second Super Bowl ring before retiring riding and off into the sunset. It would be a storybook ending to his career; it would seal his legacy as one of the best who ever played the game; it would silence all the skeptics who wonder why he wasn’t more effective in the playoffs.


But what if he doesn’t get the storybook ending? What if the Broncos lose? How will Peyton live with the disappointment, the sorrow, the heartbreak, the failure?

How do we handle these things in our own lives? We all want to be happy, after all, yet doesn’t life often seem to put obstacles to happiness in our way? How do we deal with them, while at the same time rejoicing in the Lord always, the way Christians are supposed to? Read the rest of this entry »

Sermon 09-22-13: “Back to School, Part 7: The Model Prayer”

October 1, 2013
Do you worry that God has bigger things to worry about than a football game? Don't.

Do you worry that God has bigger things to worry about than a football game? Don’t.

One of the challenges many Christians face when it comes to prayer is believing that God cares enough to hear from us about our “small” problems. Yet, if the first words that Jesus gives us to pray are true—”Our Father”—then we have no reason to doubt. God is not less of a father than any human father. Quite the contrary!

This sermon encourages God’s children to pray, and to do so with boldness.

Sermon Text: Matthew 6:5-13

The following is my original sermon manuscript.

Michael Bleecker leads worship at a megachurch in Texas. On Twitter, he recently asked his fellow worship leaders around the world to document some of the theological blunders they’ve accidentally made while leading worship or singing in church under the hashtag “#worshipheresy”. Of course, yours truly has never made mistakes when I preach or pray! Yeah, right! I once preached a sermon on Noah, and throughout the entire sermon I referred to him as “Jonah.” Or vice versa.

Many of the funny mistakes that worship leaders made were related to extemporaneous prayer, and here are a few of them: “Father, thank you for dying on the cross.” And “Father, we thank you for rising from the dead.” And “Jesus, we thank you that the tomb is not empty.” But some prayer mistakes might be more accurately characterized as Freudian slips, if you know what I mean. They reveal a bit more about us than we’d care to admit. Here are a few if them: “We’re just trying to repay You for what You’ve done.” Or “God, that you would decrease so that I may increase.” Or my favorite: “Lord, align Your will with ours.”

Lord, align your will with ours. Read the rest of this entry »

You mean virginity isn’t an impossible ideal?

May 25, 2012

The biggest news on sports-talk radio this week was Lolo Jones’s admission in an interview that she’s still a virgin at 29. Jones is a world-class hurdler who will compete in the London Olympics this summer.

“Google her picture if you don’t know who we’re talking about,” various talk-radio hosts told us. “She’s hot!” The subtext was, “How could this bright, attractive young woman, who seems to be so normal and have so much going for her, still be a virgin?”

Regardless, I was pleased that the guy-talk surrounding Jones was universally positive. Men—at least the men who listen to sports-talk radio—approve of this young Christian woman’s decision to wait until marriage to have sex.

It does expose a curious double-standard: earlier in the year, they discussed fellow athlete Tim Tebow’s virginity as if he were an alien from outer space—or gay. (Meanwhile, as if to illustrate how sexually confused our culture is, the online adultery service, Ashley Madison, has offered $1 million to any woman who can prove that Tebow is no longer a virgin.)

Jones says that postponing sex until marriage has been harder than graduating from college or training for the Olympics.

It’s hard, by all means. But she also wants the world to know that it’s not impossible—or weird. As Jones and Tebow both know, waiting is the Christian thing to do. It’s a part of what it means to be a faithful follower of Jesus.

Shame on us pastors, youth ministers, or church leaders if we communicate anything other than that to our young people.

“Linsanity” and Christian faith

February 17, 2012

If you receive our church’s weekly E-News mailing, you may have noticed that my cover letter was about new basketball sensation Jeremy Lin. I based some of what I wrote there on this New York Times piece, written by Michael Luo, an Asian-American and Harvard graduate who, like Lin, is also a Christian.

Like Lin, I’m a Harvard graduate, albeit more than a decade ahead of him, and a second-generation Chinese-American. I’m also a fellow believer, one of those every-Sunday-worshiping, try-to-read-the-Bible-and-pray types, who agreed with Lin when he said to reporters after the Jazz game, “God works in mysterious and miraculous ways.”

Being a believer can mean different things in different circles. In a lot of the ones Lin and I have traveled, it can mean, essentially, you are a bit of a weirdo, or can make you an object of scorn.

Not that any of you are necessarily Asian-American or Harvard graduates or residents of New York City, but is this true for you? I feel at times that my faith makes me “a bit of a weirdo,” although I doubt I put myself out there enough to be an “object of scorn.” I wonder how willingly I would let myself be an object of scorn.

But I’m glad Luo said it. Because it can happen. After all, we’ve all witnessed Tim Tebow become an object of scorn in the eyes of some (by no means most) Americans. As I’ve written before, I find nothing objectionable or hypocritical about Tebow’s public religiosity.

When this writer makes the inevitable Tebow comparison, he offers this insight:

Some have predicted that Lin, because of his faith, will become the Taiwanese Tebow, a reference to Denver Broncos quarterback Tim Tebow, whose outspokenness about his evangelical Christian beliefs has made him extraordinarily popular in some circles and venomously disliked in others. But my gut tells me that Lin will not wind up like Tebow, mainly because Lin’s persona is so strikingly different. From talking to people who knew him through the Harvard-Radcliffe Asian American Christian Fellowship, and watching his interviews, I have the sense that his is a quieter, potentially less polarizing but no less devout style of faith.

Interesting article. Well worth a read.

All Christians fake it a little

January 11, 2012

The only highlight of my NFL-viewing last Sunday (keep in mind, I’m from Atlanta) was watching The Pass—Tebow to Thomas in the Broncos’ stunning overtime victory over the highly favored Steelers. It helped that former Georgia Tech great Demaryius Thomas caught the pass and outran all those defenders (I’m a Tech alum).

Skye Jethani has a worthwhile post on Tebow—and, specifically, Tebowing—over at HuffPost. As I’ve blogged and preached before, I see nothing wrong with Tebow’s public prayer gesture. Jethani clears up the meaning of “hypocrisy”: As he points out, Jesus doesn’t prohibit public prayer. Tebow’s praying, he writes, would only be a problem if Tebow were doing it to win the favor of others. More often than not, Tebowing would seem to have the opposite effect, given how outspoken some of his critics have been.

Besides, I haven’t heard even Tebow’s fiercest critic complain that he’s faking it.

But what if he were faking it—at least a little? Don’t all of us Christians fake it?

Do our hearts not condemn us as frauds the moment we call ourselves “Christian”? None of us, after all, has the heart of Jesus. None of us trusts God the way Jesus did. None of us loves with Christ-like love. We know we ought to. At our best we earnestly desire to. But even at our best we’re failures and phonies. In spite of this, God loves us, forgives us, and gives us the power to change. Christian living is an ongoing process of change.

At some point, on the other side of resurrection, we will fully become what we say we are now. Until then, it’s O.K. to fake it a little. It’s O.K. to bear witness to Christ’s love, even as we fail so often to live it out.

Sermon for 01-01-12: “Journey to Bethlehem, Part 5: The Magi”

January 9, 2012

"Adoration or the Magi," Giotto di Bondone (1267-1337)

We conclude our sermon series “Journey to Bethlehem” by turning our attention to the Wise Men, or magi. These royal astrologers followed a star from Persia to Bethlehem in order to find the newborn king of the Jews.

Do you believe that God still gives signs today, which draw people to Jesus Christ? Have you ever considered that God may be calling you to be a compelling sign to others?

Sermon Text: Matthew 2:1-12

The following is my original manuscript.

Occasionally, when my children were babies, I had the privilege of giving them a bottle in the middle of the night and feeding them. While I was feeding or rocking them to sleep, I would listen to a syndicated radio show that comes on in the middle of the night called “Coast to Coast.” Some of you know this show. It features guests and callers who often talk about UFOs—including Area 51 and Roswell and various conspiracy theories purporting to show how aliens from outer space have visited our planet, and our government has covered up the evidence. I wish I could suspend my disbelief and buy into these conspiracy theories because it seems like fun! It’s fun to speculate about intelligent life on other planets, although scientifically it seems very unlikely. It’s fun to speculate, for example, how aliens living trillions of miles away are reacting to the Beatles now that the radio waves from the first Ed Sullivan Show appearance are reaching them. Read the rest of this entry »

Let me be a religious columnist for a major newspaper!

December 31, 2011

Let’s say you’re a well-known columnist for one of the two or three most influential newspapers in the country. Say you’ve studied the principles of good journalism  at some point in your life. Say your column is entitled “On Faith,” which according to its subtitle is a “conversation on religion and politics.”

You don’t have to be a religious believer to do your job well. But aren’t you obliged to know something about the religion about which you’re conversing? If so, how could you possibly write the following paragraph without citing even a single fan who “seriously” believes it?

There are a lot of fans out there who believe that Tim Tebow may be the Second Coming of Jesus Christ. I’m serious.

It could be that Sally Quinn is “serious” that some fans believe, in a figurative way, that Tim Tebow is the Second Coming of Jesus Christ—which is another way of saying that some fans think that Tim Tebow is doing remarkable things on the football field. Or does she imagine that the people wearing Tebow’s jersey with “Jesus” on back really believe that he’s Jesus?

That can’t be it, but then why bother writing a column about it at all? How is it interesting or newsworthy that many Denver Broncos fans like Tim Tebow? In other breaking news, water is wet.

No, she even called some of her Bible scholar friends and asked them what they thought about it. She must believe that some people literally believe that Tebow is Jesus, but who? Where? How many? Certainly not “a lot,” right?

Still, since there are always people who believe nutty things, I wouldn’t be surprised if a tiny subset of them believe that Tebow is Jesus. It still wouldn’t be worthy of a column, but they could be out there. If so, Quinn doesn’t bother to find them. Would that be too much like work?

The entire column is space-filling drivel. I assume the Washington Post pays Sally Quinn to write this column. So my question is: Can I have her job? I can do it on the side. As far as I can tell, it is the easiest job in America.

I wish I Tebowed more!

November 10, 2011

Why does this image offend anyone?

If your name has become synonymous with kneeling in prayer, then I suspect you’re doing something right.

Here’s a recent New York Times article on the swirling controversy surrounding Denver Broncos starting quarterback Tim Tebow. The article says that Americans are more divided than ever over Tebow’s outspoken Christian faith. The controversy came to a head recently after a Detroit Lion defender sacked Tebow and, in a tasteless, mocking gesture, knelt in faux-prayer.

Whatever… Tebow’s a tough guy. I’m sure he’s taking it in stride.

The article suggests that you either love Tebow or you hate him. If that’s the case, put me down in the “love” column. I would be bothered by Tebow’s public displays of faith—not that they seem any more prominent than those of many other Christian athletes—if I sensed that there was anything phony or self-righteous about them. But I don’t.

And I think this lack of hypocrisy is what bothers some people more than anything else! Suppose Tim Tebow genuinely believes what he says he believes? Is he for real?

Of course he is. That Tebow’s sincerity bothers so many people is a measure of our phony and superficial culture.

I aspire to be as real as Tebow!